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Old 19-04-2017, 05:31 PM
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Default What substrate should I use ?

One of the questions often asked is "what is the best substrate to use" for a given set up.

Over the years I've tried a few, and have just reverted back to orchard bark in all of my vivs. Why? well basically to raise humidity as on more than one occasion my royals began to suffer from poor shedding, so I wanted something that would hold humidity better.

Anyway, here is a short pro/cons for the types of substrate I've used over the years, and hopefully might help any newcomers to the hobby.

Paper:

I've used both kitchen paper towel for hatchings which is ideal whilst in tubs. needs changing frequently, but it's cheap and readily available. The small size sheets make it unsuitable for large vivariums. Sourcing a supply of chip-shop paper which is in sheets large enough for larger vivariums is ideal, and being plain looks better than newspaper. But it doesn't look like a natural substrate.

Aspen
Used once - didn't like it as it was full of sharp slithers of wood. Has the advantage that snakes can burrow in it, but the quality varies from batch to batch and supplier to supplier.

Petex cat litter
This is compressed wood pellets, originally (20 years ago) made from white wood, including pine, but as it had been kiln treated was free from resin. It was really good, allowed snakes to burrow, and if ingested simply broke down into dust. Later years in a bid to be seen as environmentally friendly they used recycled wood and thus you had no idea what actually was being used and the quality went down. When it got wet, it was very good at absorbing the moisture, but then when it dried out it would brake down and turn to dust, so required frequent changing. - It was also quite cheap, typically £9.99 for a 32 ltr bag. One drawback was humidity was often quite low as the pellets would suck up the moisture in the air.

Beech chips
Attractive substrate, and fairly practical, but not brilliant at absorbing moisture, such as water spills or urine. I also had a bad experience when a royal ingested a piece but was able to extract it without too much difficulty.


Snowflake supreme

This is really aimed at being a bedding for horses and small animals, but I tried it in the vivariums. The wife also uses it for the chickens, and most of the bails purchased were of good quality white wood shavings that were small and soft. None of the snakes that ingested any shaving had issues so it was safe in that area. Humidity was typically 45-56%, but could be misted and it would retain moisture for a while. However the last batch we got was well below par, with large chunks of wood, sharp spikes and lots of dust - I did send an e-mail to the manufactures who failed to respond.

So now I've reverted back to orchard bark some 25 years after I last used it. The issue I had last time, was that the bag I purchased from a reptile shop resulted in an outbreak of mites shortly after I started using it. However in those days we had vapona which dealt with that problem !!

So what about prices... well I just purchased 70 litres of "fine" (10-15mm) orchard bark from an online supplier for £27.90 including next day delivery. and VAT. The item price was just £22.95, making that less than 33p per litre. The quality is really good, and has a nice fresh woodland smell. Humidity has risen since it was placed into the vivs two hours ago, with 67% - 84% (the latter in in the boa's viv so there is more volume of substrate)

It will be interesting to see what happens when I feed, and any chips get attached to the food item, but then in the wild snakes can ingest all sorts of things so it shouldn't be a problem.

So hope that post helps. Like all things this is just my opinions based on my own experiences. Others may have their own preferences.
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Malc

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Old 19-04-2017, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malc View Post
One of the questions often asked is "what is the best substrate to use" for a given set up.

Over the years I've tried a few, and have just reverted back to orchard bark in all of my vivs. Why? well basically to raise humidity as on more than one occasion my royals began to suffer from poor shedding, so I wanted something that would hold humidity better.

Anyway, here is a short pro/cons for the types of substrate I've used over the years, and hopefully might help any newcomers to the hobby.

Paper:

I've used both kitchen paper towel for hatchings which is ideal whilst in tubs. needs changing frequently, but it's cheap and readily available. The small size sheets make it unsuitable for large vivariums. Sourcing a supply of chip-shop paper which is in sheets large enough for larger vivariums is ideal, and being plain looks better than newspaper. But it doesn't look like a natural substrate.

Aspen
Used once - didn't like it as it was full of sharp slithers of wood. Has the advantage that snakes can burrow in it, but the quality varies from batch to batch and supplier to supplier.

Petex cat litter
This is compressed wood pellets, originally (20 years ago) made from white wood, including pine, but as it had been kiln treated was free from resin. It was really good, allowed snakes to burrow, and if ingested simply broke down into dust. Later years in a bid to be seen as environmentally friendly they used recycled wood and thus you had no idea what actually was being used and the quality went down. When it got wet, it was very good at absorbing the moisture, but then when it dried out it would brake down and turn to dust, so required frequent changing. - It was also quite cheap, typically £9.99 for a 32 ltr bag. One drawback was humidity was often quite low as the pellets would suck up the moisture in the air.

Beech chips
Attractive substrate, and fairly practical, but not brilliant at absorbing moisture, such as water spills or urine. I also had a bad experience when a royal ingested a piece but was able to extract it without too much difficulty.


Snowflake supreme

This is really aimed at being a bedding for horses and small animals, but I tried it in the vivariums. The wife also uses it for the chickens, and most of the bails purchased were of good quality white wood shavings that were small and soft. None of the snakes that ingested any shaving had issues so it was safe in that area. Humidity was typically 45-56%, but could be misted and it would retain moisture for a while. However the last batch we got was well below par, with large chunks of wood, sharp spikes and lots of dust - I did send an e-mail to the manufactures who failed to respond.

So now I've reverted back to orchard bark some 25 years after I last used it. The issue I had last time, was that the bag I purchased from a reptile shop resulted in an outbreak of mites shortly after I started using it. However in those days we had vapona which dealt with that problem !!

So what about prices... well I just purchased 70 litres of "fine" (10-15mm) orchard bark from an online supplier for £27.90 including next day delivery. and VAT. The item price was just £22.95, making that less than 33p per litre. The quality is really good, and has a nice fresh woodland smell. Humidity has risen since it was placed into the vivs two hours ago, with 67% - 84% (the latter in in the boa's viv so there is more volume of substrate)

It will be interesting to see what happens when I feed, and any chips get attached to the food item, but then in the wild snakes can ingest all sorts of things so it shouldn't be a problem.

So hope that post helps. Like all things this is just my opinions based on my own experiences. Others may have their own preferences.
another disadvantage of paper is that it stops snakes burrowing, and is of course therefore unsuitable for obligate burrowers such as rosy boas and hogs.
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Old 20-04-2017, 12:42 AM
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I'm really loving the bioactive setup, but even if I wasn't I'd be using eco earth mixed with top soil. It's the best for humidity and not a problem if ingested ( I think) . I only have jungle type animals, but today I got a pair of Kenyan sand boas and using it dried out seems to work for them too. It's cheap and attractive. I'm really happy with it. Much better than the newspaper and corn cob stuff I used to use ( not in humid setups of course)


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