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Snake Cage Substrates
One of the common questions I get asked about snake cages is what substrate to use. The substrate is the material that covers the floor of the snake cage. Snakes don't like sliding around on smooth surfaces and it's best to have something to absorb the mess when they defecate, so you have to put something in the bottom of your snake cage. There are several options available to you.
The most affordable and easiest to maintain snake cage substrate is newspaper. It's easy to take out and replace when soiled. It's cheap, and often times free. Of course, if you're looking for a nice looking display type enclosure, newspaper is not the most visually appealing substrate.
Some people use indoor outdoor carpet for their snake cages. Like newspaper, it's easy to take out and replace when soiled, but it looks much nicer. If you go with carpet, I recommend getting 2 pieces cut to size so you can take out the soiled piece then replace it with the clean one. This way you don't have to wait until it's cleaned and dried to replace it. I don't recommend carpet for snakes that like to burrow because they don't feel as secure when roaming the enclosure.
One of the best substrates you can get for your snake cages is aspen bedding. This stuff comes in the form of shavings or more of a mulch-like form. I prefer the mulch type because the snakes can burrow and will actually make tunnels throughout the enclosure. They love this because they can feel secure when cruising around the cage instead of being out in the open. This is great for young snakes and many smaller adult species as well. It's also more aesthetically pleasing than newspaper. Aspen is not a good idea for species who require periodic misting to keep the humidity higher. It tends to mold if it stays wet for too long.
Another good option for a substrate is coco bedding. It's made of coconut fibers and usually comes in a brick that you have to soak in water to expand it then dry it out. This is probably one of the more natural looking substrates you can put in your snake cages. It's also more mold resistant than aspen so it can be misted to keep a higher humidity level.
My favorite substrate, and the one I use in my snake cages, is cypress mulch. The same cypress mulch you get from your local garden center. I like it because it looks very natural and at about $2 a bag, it's very economical. Cypress mulch is also very mold resistant so it's a great choice if you need a higher humidity in your snake cages. Since it's not really sold for the pet trade, there could be insects in the mulch so you should bake it in the oven at about 250 for at least 30 minutes. This should kill off any bugs.
Sand is not a recommended substrate for snake cages, unless you have a sand boa or other desert dwelling snake. The sand can get into their nostrils, causing all kinds of possible issues. Stay away from it unless you have one of these desert dwelling snakes.
I hope this article will help you make an informed decision about what substrate to use in your snake cages. Whichever substrate you choose, make the well being of the snake your top priority. Your own personal preference should come second. Happy herping!