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Choosing the best substrate, or floor covering, for your bearded dragon’s enclosure could prove to be an overwhelming task at first. You, like the rest of us, want what’s best for your dragon. There are a lot of choices, including substrates, and it can be overwhelming to know which one will be best.
What are the best substrates for bearded dragons? Reptile carpets, newspaper, and tiles are ideal substrates for bearded dragon terrariums. Reptile carpets simulate grass or deserts and can easily be replaced as needed, newspaper is the most cost-effective option, and ceramic tiles are smooth, visually appealing, and can be cleaned easily.
There is a lot to be considered when choosing the best substrate for your bearded dragon; in fact, choosing the best substrate for your pet is just as important as choosing the right food.
We have compiled a list of the best substrates available for bearded dragons and will explain what to look for in substrates, and why choosing the best substrate is important.
What are the Different Kinds of Substrates Available?
Reptile carpets are soft substrates that are not only absorbent but also gentle on the soft belly of your bearded dragon.
- Pros: visually appealing, many different colors available, cost-effective, and easy to clean.
- Cons: teeth and nails can get stuck (while this is typically not harmful to pets, it can prove to be stressful for them), carpets can harbor bacteria if not cleaned regularly.
If you’re curious about reptile carpets, what they look like, and how to add them to your terrarium, check out this video.
When choosing to use newspaper as your bearded dragon’s substrate, simply line the cage with large pieces of newspaper. No need to shred the newspaper as doing so may make it difficult to keep your pet’s environment clean.
- Pros: cost-effective, easy to clean (disposable), low impaction risk.
- Cons: needs replaced regularly, capable of harboring bacteria if not replaced.
This video shows an example of newspaper used as a substrate.
Some bearded dragon owners prefer using paper towels instead. Because paper towels are white, it is easier to see small insects, such as mites, in your beardie’s tank.
Choosing the best substrate for your bearded dragon can be as easy as a trip to the hardware store. Ceramic tiles can simply be purchased and placed in your bearded dragon’s terrarium.
- Pros: available in a wide range of colors and patterns, can look natural, long-lasting, risk-free from impaction, files nails.
- Cons: tile is not the most cost-effective hard surface. Also, not a good option if your beardie digs or burrows frequently.
Excavator clay is another option to consider for a substrate. This substrate is especially good for creating tunnels or hills for your bearded dragon. Excavator clay can be used by itself, or in addition to other substrates such as ceramic tile.
- Pros: excellent for digging and/or burrowing, low impaction risk, considered a more natural substrate for bearded dragons.
- Cons: may stain skin, can be expensive, not great when wet (most beardie owners wait until clay is completely dry to present it to their pet.)
Linoleum is another non-particle substrate that can be considered for your pet. Since linoleum typically needs to be glued down, it’s important to note that all fumes should be gone before exposing your bearded dragon to this substrate.
- Pros: easy to clean, long-lasting, no risk of impaction.
- Cons: not ideal for digging. Also, the smooth surface makes it difficult for bearded dragons to grip.
Why Choosing the Best Substrate is Important
When choosing a substrate for your bearded dragon, it is important to consider substrates that will be safe for your pet and make them feel at home.
Also, when choosing a substrate, it is important to consider where bearded dragons come from and how to create a similar environment for them. Bearded dragons are native to Australia.
In their natural habitat, bearded dragons are used to walking on a sultry ground and enjoy basking in the warm sunlight. When choosing the best substrate, these are important factors to consider.
A major health concern for beardie owners is known as ‘impaction.’ Simply put, impaction is the buildup of matter in the digestive tract.
The most common cause of impaction in bearded dragons is eating their substrate, which makes choosing the best substrate even more important.
What to Look for in Substrates
As a rule, it is best to avoid substrates that are considered ‘loose particle’ substrates, such as sand or gravel. Loose particle substrates present several health risks to your bearded dragon, including eye or nose infections, and impaction.
If you do prefer to use a loose particle substrate, be sure to keep a close eye on your pet to make sure they aren’t ingesting these kinds of substrates.
Healthier and safer options are the non-particle substrates, such as reptile carpet, newspaper, or tile–these will be the safest options for your pet.
It is also important to consider which substrate will be the most convenient for you to keep clean. While some pet owners prefer easily replaceable substrates, such as newspapers, others prefer substrates that can easily be wiped down and reused, such as ceramic tiles. Substrates can harbor harmful bacteria if not cleaned and/or replaced as needed.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Substrate?
Do bearded dragons need substrate?
Bearded dragons do need some type of substrate in their terrariums. Substrates are beneficial to bearded dragons for several reasons, including a good source of heat, digging, burrowing, keeping nails trimmed, and creating traction.
How often do you have to replace the substrate?
The substrate typically needs to be removed and replaced about once a month.
Can the substrate cause irritation?
Irritation caused by a substrate is typically seen when a loose particle substrate is being used. To avoid risking irritation, you should choose a non-particle substrate for your bearded dragon.
If you’re interested in reptile carpets, here are some great options:
If you plan on using ceramic tiles, here are a couple of options to consider:
Ceramic tiles can also be purchased at most hardware stores and offer a variety of styles and colors.
If excavator clay is what you’re interested in as the main substrate, or to simply add some tunnels or hills to your terrarium, check out Zoo Med Excavator Clay.
If linoleum/vinyl flooring seems like the best option for your bearded dragon, check out these options:
Choosing the best substrate for your bearded dragon is important for both their health and safety. Non-particle substrates such as reptile carpets, newspapers, or ceramic tiles are the safer options, as opposed to loose particle substrates such as sand or gravel that can harm your pet. After you purchase your substrate, there’s only one thing left to do: add it to your tank and let your beardie roam.