The biggest mistake that I have seen everyone do when choosing bearded dragon substrate is choosing the wrong substrate. Did you know that most bearded dragons die within two years of captivity due to their owners choosing the wrong substrate? When choosing a substrate for your bearded dragon, you are going to want to choose something that is not loose, edible, problematic, or messy. Below are a few common substrates that I have seen everyone use and I am going to explain why each one is good or bad. This will help you decide in choosing the best substrate for your bearded dragon.
Sand as Substrate (Calci Sand & Repti-Sand)
Sand is the without a doubt the worst substrate you can use and is probably the most widely used substrate today, mainly by inexperienced bearded dragon owners. It’s loose, edible, problematic, and messy. All four of the things that I said you don’t want when choosing a substrate. Very often I will hear pet store workers say “you gotta get this sand, it’s called calci-sand, it’s safe for your bearded dragon to eat” but what they don’t realize is that it’s still sand. No sand is ever safe to eat. Sand gets clumpy when wet and can cause impaction when ingested by your bearded dragon. Impaction will stop your bearded dragon from digesting correctly and could possibly kill your bearded dragon over time. Imagine what would happen to your insides if you ingested sand. I bet you’d barely be able to breathe or swallow. Well this is how it would feel for your bearded dragon to. Not only does sand cause impaction, but it can also cause serious eye problems as well. Stay AWAY from sand.
Eco Earth, Coconut Fiber, or Sphagnum Moss as Substrate
These substrates have one thing in common and it’s that they’re awesome for frogs and a few other reptile species that love humidity. I would not recommend these as good substrates for bearded dragons because they retain too much humidity in the enclosure. Bearded dragons need a dry hot environment. These substrates will make the environment very humid and can cause respiratory infections.
Reptile Carpet as Substrate
Reptile Carpet also known as Repti-Carpet makes a good choice of substrate for your bearded dragon. It’s not loose, edible, problematic, or messy. It also makes the terrarium look awesome and it’s super easy to clean.
However, if you do choose to use repti-carpet as substrate, make sure to replace it as often as the package says too. I believe it’s about every 3-5 washes. Over use of the repti-carpet causes tiny strands to come undone and they can be used to trap your bearded dragon toes. You don’t want that happening. SO just make sure to replace them every once in a while.
Gravel & Rocks as Substrate
Most of the time, the choice of gravel or rocks that people choose are tiny pieces that are tiny enough to be eaten which is a big NO NO! Anything that can fit into your bearded dragons mouth is not something you want to keep as a substrate. Again, this leads to impaction which is very painful and harmful.
Newspaper as Substrate
This is a good choice as it is very easy to clean and replace. Newspaper is great because there’s no loose pieces that can be ingested and it’s something you will always have on hand to use. Your enclosure might not look as pretty, but it’s safe.
Paper Towels as Substrate
Paper towels as bearded dragon substrate is by far my favorite option. It’s clean, easily replaceable, and white. The reason why I include the color “white” is because you can see all the bad things growing (if there are any) like mold, mites, and etc. Yes, sometimes you might see the occasional mites. But it’s very hard to see mites in an enclosure if you are using a dark-colored substrate, which is why I love using paper towels. Do not worry if you see mites, just remove everything from the enclosure, give it a really good wash, and you’re good to go. One way to keep mites away is to keep the enclosure clean by doing spot checks and by cleaning out the enclosure weekly. A dirty enclosure is just bound to have mites.
Ceramic tile as bearded dragon substrate is starting to become very popular nowadays. The pros are that it is durable, long-lasting, non-ingestible, non-absorbent, and easy to clean. Cleaning is easy depending on how you setup the ceramic tiles (loose or grouted). Grouted ceramic tile might be easier to clean because you won’t have to clean in between the cracks. But if you grout it, it might be hard to fully remove later in the future from the enclosure. The choice is yours. But overall, ceramic tile is pretty good. Just make sure you choose one that isn’t too slippery for your bearded dragon to move on.
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