A redback coffee snake (Ninia sebae) exploring the forest floor at night in Belize.

Snake Substrate: What to Do About Vermiculite

Vermiculite has been found to be a potentially harmful snake substrate that you should be aware of. Click here to learn more about what to do with vermiculite.

Be it the shine of a rainbow boa or the colorful patterns of a corn snake there is always a great deal of preparation before bringing your new find home. One of the most controversial subjects is what snake substrate to use.

As pet owners and reptile lovers, it’s important that we do our best to provide a comfortable and safe environment. Reptile bedding is one of the best ways to make your snake comfortable; if you were on your belly 24/7 I bet you’d want a nice floor too!

Vermiculite is one of the many options available but as easy as it is to buy it has many drawbacks. Let’s take a look.

What Is It?

Vermiculite is a mineral that has found its use in insulation and as a medium for plant growth. Due to its ability to hold water and aerate the soil, it’s often found in potting mixes or on its own.

Vermiculite is odorless, non-toxic, and does not mold. It’s a component in many flame retardant materials and is often used to soak up hazardous materials.

So what’s the problem?


Much of the controversy around vermiculite comes from an instance in the 90s. Asbestos contamination in the largest vermiculite mine at the time in Libby, Montana began the scare. This vermiculite traveled across the country, used as insulation in thousands of homes.

The mine shut down and EPA testing of all vermiculite sources began. Asbestos is a concern for homes with old insulation but has little to do with the safety of your snake substrate.

Vermiculite in your local gardening center will not contain asbestos. But sometimes fertilizers get added to these products; be sure to check your labels!

Vermiculite, in small quantities, can be helpful for maintaining moisture in bioactive enclosures. As a primary reptile substrate, there is the risk of impaction.

Vermiculite as a Snake Substrate

Vermiculite can have its uses, unfortunately not as a snake substrate.

Even with water, vermiculite does not hold its shape well. This provides very little traction for snakes to travel on. Burrowing species will find their tunnels collapsing behind them. There is also a risk of breathing in small particles

For arboreal species, this is less of an issue as they will rarely come in contact with the vermiculite.

As reptile bedding vermiculite is a poor choice. For hatching eggs, however, there are few better options! Vermiculite controls humidity and resists mold making it a perfect candidate for incubation.

It’s a Hard Job

Caring for snakes can be as difficult as it is rewarding. The internet has made it much easier to find information but opinions always vary. One person’s experience can become fact and muddy the waters.

Reptiles are both fragile and sturdy creatures. It’s important to have the right knowledge on hand to avoid damaging mistakes. Even with something as simple as snake substrate.

No matter what facts you need it’s helpful to have one, reliable, source of information. Don’t worry, when you’re uncertain about the safety and care of your scaly friends my blog will be there for you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *