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Tips for Choosing the Right Substrate for a Ball Python Cage
Many different types of products are available to use as a substrate or bedding for reptiles, but not all of them are suitable for a ball python. When considering which substrate to use, take into account the type of setup or "atmosphere" you are trying to create in your snake's cage.
If you are going to have a utilitarian setup, then an easily managed substrate will do. Newspaper, pre-cut cage liners, indented Kraft paper, and other similar types of paper can be used as substrate for these cages. Paper is readily available, and if you already have the newspaper delivered to your home, it can not only inform you of events, but also provide your snakes with a good, inexpensive substrate. Another benefit of paper is that you can remove it and dispose of it easily.
Shredded or chipped aspen bedding is commonly used by many hobbyists. These substrates lend themselves well to spot cleaning—just cleaning the soiled area without the need for changing out the entire substrate (although eventually the entire substrate must be changed). Aspen discolors when soled, and this discoloration makes it easier to identify those areas of the substrate that need to be removed and cleaned.
Some people prefer to use indoor/outdoor carpeting or Astroturf. In the past, those were the only available options for a one-piece substrate. Now, cage carpets are available, made specifically for use in reptile enclosures. These pads are designed to be more absorbent and less abrasive to your pet than indoor/outdoor carpeting. If you choose to use this as a substrate, have a couple of pieces available, so that when one becomes soiled, you can quickly remove the soiled piece and replace it with a new fresh one. Make sure to clean up any fluids or fecal matter that may have seeped through the carpet onto the bottom of the enclosure.
Sand, aquarium gravel, corncob bedding, cedar wood products, and some pine wood products should be avoided. Sand can be abrasive to the belly scales of the snake, and if swallowed, can cause intestinal impaction. Aquarium gravel and corncob bedding can also cause intestinal impaction if ingested. The resins in cedar and some poor-quality pine shavings can cause respiratory distress in your ball python and should be avoided altogether.
You may wish to purchase two water dishes: one for everyday use, and a larger one for times when you may be out of town for a few days. This larger bowl will provide enough water to last your ball python for the duration that you are gone.
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