BP Dislikes Substrate?

Is it normal for a ball python to act different when switching out their substrate? He was on paper towel his whole life then I switched to reptichip. Ever since I switched he has been really jumpy and acts like the floor is lava. When I put him in his enclosure he would not touch the ground.

If I touch him now he flinches like a person unexpectedly being tapped on the shoulder though he knows i’m there and wasn’t jumpy before I added the coconut. He doesn’t ball up or hiss, just jumps really hard. He stopped poking his head out of his hide and I quit handling him. I almost didn’t feed him this week but decided to try. He took his food by coming out of his hide over his log. He usually slides across the ground to get it.

I don’t have any of the substrate under his warm hide where he stays during the day. He’s been climbing on decor instead of the floor. Every morning now I’ve been finding displaced plants that were ontop of decor. He didn’t used to do this. Do they sometimes just not like substrate?


I’d switch back to paper towels and see how he reacts.

If he’s eating I don’t think it’s necessarily a cause for concern. He may need some time to completely settle in to something new. Was the substrate the only change?

I think the biggest question is why you are trying out the reptichip. I personally use Reptichip over other options because I need the humidity boost for where I live, it has good odor control compared to paper, and it’s fairly sustainable environmentally compared to other woody substrates as far as I can tell.

I’d look at the pros/cons for your case, and as long as he is eating, it’s worth seeing if he will settle into what you choose.

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Substrate was the only change. I was using the paper towel so I could watch for any signs of problems since he is new. I switched to reptichip for the easy humidity control, it’s not dusty or carries a smell, and because it’s not ugly like paper towel.

I suppose I could wait another week and see if he goes back to normal or not. I didn’t think a snake would freak out over different substrate. :woman_facepalming:

If he keeps eating and the reptichip is going to help keeping things optimal for him I think you can give it a month no problem. I bet he will settle in and feel safe once he gets used to the new smells and feel.


Should coconut husks always be wet down? Is it too pokey when dry? I haven’t put any water on it because the humidity is fine where it is.

I caught him in the act last night. He came out unusually early and was cruising around. He absolutely would not touch the floor and was testing the top of the bin wherever he could. When he saw he me he kept extending his head up at me. I opened the lid and he slithered right into my hand. That’s a first. He just really wanted out? :man_shrugging:

Sorry for bad images. I didn’t want to blast him by turning on all the lights.

Why don’t you put him back on what he likes?

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If reptichip is too rough, you could try reptile prime or some other finely ground coconut substraight

I would put him back on paper towels honestly. No need to unnecessarily stress the snake with something it clearly doesn’t like for the sake of aesthetics. In rare cases (just like with humans) animals can be allergic to coconut, so maybe this is his way of telling you 🤷🏼‍♀. The humidity only needs to be around 50% unless they are shedding, and that is easy to keep. I keep my BPs on newspaper for ease of cleaning, and because they have never been on a loose substrate their whole lives. It also prevents impaction since I feed them in their enclosures. I personally wouldn’t keep my animal on something they clearly don’t like.


I’ll try one of those if he doesn’t acclimate. I haven’t been able to find anyone who has had the same experience with a ball python being picky over substrate. He’s an oddball.

I didn’t know they could be allergic to coconut. Do they break out or something that’s visual? Has that happened before?

Anything can be allergic to anything (you can even be allergic to the sun). I have heard about cats and dogs being allergic to coconut because they do breakout similarly to us, but a reptile being allergic would likely be harder to figure out given they wouldn’t break out. I would imagine longterm exposure would lead to respiratory issues. That said, I would imagine the substrate you chose is very uncomfortable. Imagine having to move around/lay on hard, pokey pieces of wood. Try a softer substrate, and if he still freaks out, just switch back to paper towels/newspaper.

Is your BP out all day like that? Is he constantly trying to get out of the enclosure as if something is irritating him and he needs to escape it?

Or is it just at night, when a normal, healthy ball python might come out to check on his new surroundings?

If you’re looking to maximize the feeling of security for him, one suggestion if you’re not already, is to cover the lid with something that blocks light. Most threats for ball pythons come from above, so removing the fear that something could come from that angle will help a lot.

Given it is out on top of the decorations that it would normally use as cover, threats from above can be ruled out as a problem. If they remove the substrate and they go back to normal BP behavior, then clearly it was a problem with the substrate. That and this started after they changed the substrate, so subjecting the animal to unnecessary stress from it is pointless.

No. He only comes out at night. During the day he stays in his hide. I cover half of his bin (side and top) with a towel, the side facing the window and over his hide that he always prefers.