Cypress Mulch as a Reptile Substrate? Is Cypress Mulch a good substrate? Is Cypress Mulch a bad substrate? Cypress Mulch Substrate for ball pythons? Cypress Mulch substrate.

Overview

Cypress mulch is a great Reptile substrate. Maintenance required with Cypress Mulch compared to other reptile substrates is minimal. I have found that the best use for cypress mulch is in glass tanks, but many keepers choose to use it in other enclosures too.

As with all posts here we will discuss pros and cons of using Cypress Mulch as a Reptile Substrate. Health risks or benefits. How to appropriately use Cypress Mulch in different enclosures. What Species of Reptile to use Cypress Mulch with to complete their husbandry. Whether or not to add moisture or dry it out. Mite prevention…. etc.

Cypress mulch is sold at local plant nurseries or garden stores. (If going this route will want to make sure no pesticides were used in production). There are various brands specifically designated for Reptile use like Zoomed’s Forrest Floor. Cypress Mulch is one of the more expensive Reptile Substrates.

A warning: almost all loose substrate you will have the risk of mites being in the substrate. To avoid infecting your animal freeze the substrate for at least 24hrs prior to use.

Health Risks Associated with Cypress Mulch as a Reptile Substrate.

A slight minor risk regardless of what animal you are using with.

Flesh Wound (scratch or puncture)

[Dry (Moderate) Moist (Low)]

If you have a species that likes to burrow or dig Cypress Mulch substrate contains small, shredded pieces of wood. Sometimes those pieces can splinter, be jagged, or pointy especially if you are using dry Mulch. When a reptile is digging or moving along the mulch, they can get minor abrasions. If you have a snake and they go to strike at their meal and they hit a piece of mulch it could essentially “stab” your animal. Not super likely to happen, but it has happened and happens more common than with say Aspen Reptile Bedding. It is always best to make sure you run your hands through the Substrate thoroughly to pick out as many of those pieces as possible.

Impaction

(Extremely low)

Similarly, as with the other risks if your husbandry is correct in every other aspect, you really should not have a hazard. Sometimes a piece of Cypress Mulch substrate may become temporarily lodged in the reptiles’ mouth (not throat) they usually will rub their face against something to try and brush it out. It is ok if they swallow a small amount of substrate. Reptiles are designed to overcome these types of obstacles in the wild. (Yes, I know there is nothing wild about captivity, biologically it is still there though) It is one of those things that will have to have a risk assessment done for the pet to weigh the pros and cons.

Hatchlings the Risk level is low-moderate for impaction. This is because they are not able to ingest and pass as well as adults.

Arid Dwellers anything ranging 0%-59% (humidity) Risk level: moderate

Another way to use Cypress Mulch substrate is by drying it out and using with an arid dwelling reptile. Lizards like bearded dragons are an example. Cypress holds humidity well which may result in issues with and arid species though. Though it is generally recommended for use with Tropical/Forest or high humid dwelling species.

Shedding Issues

(Moderate)

If you have an animal that is a “dry” shedder like a bearded dragon it can cause the shed to stick or prolong the period it takes for them to shed. Stuck shed can cause stress which can throw off coccidia levels in your bearded dragon causing more serious issues.

Alternately, Ball pythons will develop a stuck shed when kept in an environment too dry. Ball Pythons need humidity to shed as bearded dragons need arid environment to shed.

Respiratory Infection (RI)

 (Low)

Like with use of Aspen Reptile Bedding if Cypress Mulch substrate is dried it does contain a small level of saw dust. Though usually not as much as aspen. This is a common risk with Loose Reptile Substrates and Arid dwelling species of snakes. While some species of reptiles have biological measure in place to prevent dirt or dust from traveling through their air passage there are those who don’t and are often at greater risk. Make sure you know what the risks are for your species.

On another hand if the environment is too humid for your species it can also cause a respiratory infection.

Humid Dwellers ranging 60%-99% (humidity) Risk Level: Low

Cypress mulch substrate holds Humidity so is preferred for use with high humid need species of reptiles such as Ball Pythons. You may have to make further modifications to your enclosure based off your reptiles needs in addition to a Reptile Substrate that holds humidity well. Covering a screened lid with a towel or HVAC tape can further assist raising humidity.

Scale Rot

(Low to moderate)

Scale rot is an infection that occurs when the scales on the underpart of your reptile remain wet for too long and it breeds bacteria. Majority of the time Cypress Mulch substrate will come out of the bag damp. If you do not add water this is typically not a risk. When adding water to the mulch you must make sure to not add too much. Allow time for the mulch to absorb the water into the wood pieces. When you squeeze a handful, no water should drip from it.

Respiratory Infection (RI)

(Low)

With proper air flow around your reptile’s enclosure a respiratory infection is very low risk. Respiratory infections are caused by stagnant air in a humid environment allowing bacteria to breed. Another common cause is by being in an environment too dry irritating their lung. If the reptile is being kept in its appropriate humidity parameters, there should be no issues with an RI.

Why is Cypress Mulch a Bad Reptile Substrate?

Cost

Cypress Mulch can be one of the more expensive Reptile Substrates to use. Occasionally local garden stores will have more affordable prices than the specifically designed Reptile Cypress Mulch. Bulk orders can be much more affordable depending on the size of your collection. Ordering Cypress Mulch does add shipping charge as an additional cost. Sometimes owners only option is to order products though.

Environment

Production of cypress mulch is done by cutting down cypress trees. They do have a very important role to play in their natural homes. In Florida Cypress Trees that line the coast help to slow down or break up oncoming hurricanes. Cypress trees are a slow growing tree. This means the trees cannot be replaced as fast as they are being cut down. Eventually there will be a shortage that will last until more Cypress Trees mature.

Visibility

Not a super big con, but since Cypress mulch substrate is a brown color, it does make seeing bowel movements difficult. Since there is a level of odor control feces can remain unseen. Therefore, regular scheduled cleanings about once a month are very important to remove anything that may not have previously been seen.

Why is Cypress Mulch a Good Reptile Substrate?

Humidity

Cypress Mulch holds Humidity well. If the mulch does begin to dry out a simple cup of water mixed into it will rehydrate the wood. Since the wood does absorb the water, it slowly releases humidity into the air over time making it much more manageable for a humid dwelling species.

Mold Resistant

Cypress Mulch is probably the most mold resistant reptile substrate available. I have never met a person that uses Cypress Mulch that has had a mold problem occur. The wood absorbs the water or urine so there is not standing water left on the bottom of the enclosure or on the substrate for mold to thrive.

Odor Control

As stated above the wood absorbs liquids. It will absorb some of the liquidy parts of your reptile’s waste. It will not eliminate the smell, but Cypress Mulch does better than paper towels or Aspen in my opinion.

Aesthetics/Natural

Cypress Mulch is a natural substrate that these reptiles can and do live in and on in the wild. When owning an exotic, it’s important to recreate its original environment when possible. Reptiles tend to thrive when in an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat.

Ready to Use

Cypress mulch substrate comes ready to use in a back premoistened. Simply cut open the bag and pour out the contents. Whereas with coco husk you must add water and allow time for the husk to absorb the water breaking the coco brick down.

Final Recommendations

Why Cypress Mulch Works for Me

Cypress Mulch Reptile Substrate is the go-to for a higher humidity environment. I do not use Cypress Mulch dry for an arid species or environment.  It is more natural, and the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to using Cypress Mulch with Ball Pythons in glass tanks. I have not personally experienced any ingestion issues when feeding ball pythons. Never had any respiratory issues occur with any of my reptiles. While it is slightly more difficult in searching for feces since the smell is minor, I do routine cleanings every 30 days to avoid any missed piles. Glass tanks I highly recommend using Cypress Mulch. It really is one of the best Reptile Substrates for retaining high humidity levels.

For you

It all boils down to a matter of personal preference when it comes to reptile substrates. What your species is and what the requirements are. If you are wanting a reptile substrate that is high maintenance or low maintenance.

Only you can decide what will work best for you and your reptile in their enclosure. This information is just to help guild you the direction you want to go.

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