The biggest mistake that I have seen everyone do when choosing leopard gecko substrate is choose the wrong substrate. Did you know most leopard geckos die within two years of being bought because their owner chose the wrong substrate? When choosing a substrate for your leopard gecko, you are going to want to choose something that is not loose (sand) or messy (other loose type substrates). 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 leopard geckos.
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 leopard gecko 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 leopard gecko 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 leopard gecko. Impaction will stop your leopard gecko from digesting correctly and could possibly kill your leopard gecko. 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 is for leopard geckos as well. 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 reptiles that need high humidity levels. I would not recommend these as good substrates for leopard geckos. They are messy and just do not do well in a leopard gecko’s enclosure. The only place in a leopard gecko’s enclosure where I’d recommend these substrates to be used would be in a leopard geckos humid hide where high humidity levels are needed. But throughout the enclosure, these substrates will not do well.
Reptile Carpet as Substrate
Reptile Carpet also known as Repti-Carpet makes a good choice of substrate for your leopard gecko. It’s not loose, edible, problematic, or messy. It also makes the terrarium look awesome and it’s super easy to clean. It is what the owner in the above image is using for their leopard geckos substrate. 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 can cause tiny strands to come undone and they can be used to trap your leopard gecko 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 leopard geckos 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 leopard gecko 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.