Your snake will spend his whole life with his belly on the ground, so choosing the right substrate for his habitat is particularly important. Sand is a common choice, as it is easy to find and generally comfortable for snakes to live in. Finding the right sand will improve your reptile friend's quality of life and health.
For many snakes, very fine beach sand can be too light, and may stick to snakes' tongues and eyes, causing severe irritation. However, desert varieties of snakes, tortoises and lizards are quite comfortable in beach sand. Additionally, very small snakes may need a smaller-grained sand until they grow. Keep in mind your snake's natural habitat and size before buying beach sand substrate.
Playground grade sand available at large hardware stores is generally the best choice for snakes -- it's coarse enough to not stick to eyes or tongues, conducts heat well, and can be bought in large quantities. When purchasing playground sand, look for a bag that is completely sealed and lacks moisture or condensation.
Gravel and Coarse Sand Substrate
Gravel can be a helpful addition to your snake's habitat, but should not be used exclusively. Pea rock gravel can be added underneath sand to drain away moisture and excrement. Wash pea gravel before putting it in the tank.
Lava rock, while often available at pet supply stores, is too rough to be used as substrate or decoration.
For interest, you may use polished stones around the exhibit, but again, do not use these stones exclusively.
There are other safe and comfortable substrate options available to snake owners. Paper towels or terry cloth towels are soft and easy to clean. They are also cheap and simple to replace. Astroturf is a newer material to the reptile world. Many enthusiasts note that it works well for snakes, and can be easily disinfected. Newspaper, paper mulch and reptile litter can cause respiratory irritation in snakes, so avoid them.
Olivia Kight is an experienced online and print writer and editor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2012, and has worked on education, family life and counseling publications. She also gained valuable knowledge shadowing a zoo veterinarian and grooming and socialize show dogs, and now spends her time writing and training her spunky young labradoodle, Booker.