Choosing the best substrate for a bearded dragon’s habitat is one of the first obstacles to overcome.
The ideal Bearded Dragon substrate should have little moisture and be dry. Because they are native to Australia’s deserts, this is the case.
Loose substrates, such as sand or wood shavings, are often chosen by first-time keepers. This is a significant oversight that may result in impaction and other serious health concerns.
Thankfully, there are a range of safe and reasonably priced substrates. Keep reading to find out which substrates are suitable for your Bearded Dragon and which you should avoid.
Newspaper or Paper Towels
Your local grocery store can provide you with everything you need at a reasonable price.
One of the cheapest and simplest substrates is newspaper or paper towels. Paper towels cost around a dollar each roll, while newspapers are often complimentary.
This is often the finest substrate for a baby or juvenile bearded dragon. Younger dragons may produce a great deal of excrement and clutter. Paper products are simple to replace and cost little money. Any alterations in their feces are also easy to detect on this substrate.
Paper goods, on the other hand, are resistant to tank humidity changes and do not warpage when exposed to basking lamp heat. Certain materials may warp when the hottest section of their tank reaches around 100°F.
Unfortunately, beauty awards will not be given to newspaper or paper towels.
Paper products aren’t the best option if you want a “natural” looking enclosure.
Another issue is that this support isn’t particularly stable. It’s difficult for adult bearded dragons to keep their hands clean. You may still find yourself changing their substrate on a regular basis, even with heavy décor to weigh down the paper.
Newspapers or paper towels are one of the best substrate options, despite the two downsides. Any dragon under the age of one year is particularly susceptible.
Tiles and Slate Tiles
Tiles for bearded dragons, especially slate tiles, are the finest overall floor surface available. They may look aesthetically appealing to us and are easily cleaned and disinfected, eaten off, and given water.
Substrates and bedding, such as artificial turf, may also be built upon tiles as a base. This enables it to be utilized as the floor surface itself, or it can guarantee a floor surface is always accessible.
Seal off any gaps between the tiles of your bearded dragon home with silicone when you’re putting them together. This will keep water from seeping under the door and allowing insects to hide in spaces.
In quarantine cages and when illness has struck, tiles are also a wonderful flooring because they need to be cleaned at its best. Tiles, on the other hand, help to prevent illness because they can be cleaned so well.
Cons: Bearded dragons’ claws slip on the surface of tiles, which is a disadvantage. There isn’t much or any grip at all. This is no longer a problem when combined with other substrates, such as bedding substrate liners.
Reptile carpet is a type of felt or plastic-based fabric designed for reptile terrariums. It comes in brown, green, or tan and may be patterned or plain. Textured carpets look more natural with the addition of rocks or grass.
We always recommend reptile carpet when someone asks what substrate should be used for their Bearded Dragons.
For bearded dragons of all ages, reptile carpet is the best substrate. Because of its understated and natural appearance, many keepers choose reptile carpet.
The wear and tear of temperature changes and lizard activity are well-suited to the durability of a reptile carpet.
The need to remove the substrate from the enclosure to clean it is a disadvantage of using this substrate. Air-drying takes a long time as well. During cleaning, you’ll need to replace two carpets.
Linoleum flooring or artificial grass are both options that are less expensive.
Lino is simple to cut and install, and it can be found at any hardware shop. Lino is simple to clean with a washcloth, unlike reptile carpet. Unfortunately, it fractures and buckles when temperature changes occur.
Fake grass, which appears like reptile carpet, is a tempting substrate to use. The uneven surface can trap bacteria, making it extremely difficult to spot-clean fake grass. Artificial grass carpets may also contain tiny plastic loops that can catch your beardie’s toes or claws.
Remember that the same tiles that you put in your kitchen sink are one of the greatest beardie substrates.
Tile usage has been widespread among experienced property owners. In the beardie community, however, it is only recently becoming more common.
It’s not difficult to see why the benefits tile has such appeal when you look at them. Tile is a tough flooring product that can withstand practically anything. It’s no problem to make a wet or a dry mess. The tile may be wiped down or cleaned in the sink with ease!
It’s also very secure. There are no floating particles in the enclosure that your lizard can eat. Water isn’t retained by tile. There’s no worry about stains or odors, unlike reptile carpets and other absorbent substrates.
Ultimately, the tile’s low maintenance makes it the most attractive feature. It’s a stable substrate material that you don’t have to replace.
Although tile is less well-known than other substrates, it is exceptional.
Keepers who want a “natural” setup often choose ceramic tiles, but other tiles like slate are also popular. Ceramic or slate can be made to appear to be extremely rock-like and natural.
Tiles are heat conductors that are simple to clean.
Tiles are moistureless and will not affect humidity, which makes them very simple to clean. With high heat from the basking spot, they will not warp or bend. As a result, most basking spots are built with slate instead of rocks.
For your bearded dragon, ceramic tiles provide a simple to clean and secure flooring. Depending on size and color, they may be purchased for $10 to $40 at most home improvement or hardware shops.
While there are many benefits to tiles, one major disadvantage exists.
To fit typical terrarium sizes, the tile must be sliced. To cut and place the tile in a safe manner, you’ll need specific tools. Installing it becomes much more difficult without the appropriate equipment, resulting in hazardous, sharp edges.
As a result, beginners often select to include just one slate in their cage. This slate might also aid your bearded dragon manicure their claws and serve as a basking site.
If you have the time, money, and tools to install it, live rock is one of the greatest substrates for adults.
Sand and Similar Materials
Bearded dragons in the wild can be found on a variety of substrates. Bearded dragons may be found in sandy, pebble, or loamy soils.
Many bearded dragon owners believe that the use of sand as a substrate may increase the risk of gut impaction.
When the bearded dragon eats tiny foreign objects, which obstructs the gastrointestinal system, it is called gut impaction. If left untreated, these blockages have the potential to lead to mortality.
Pebbles or gravel are common beardspace substrates in many pet shops. If the beardie dragon ingests pebbles and gravel over time, it might cause impaction. When a person unexpectedly grabs a peebles while eating, it may harm teeth and the jaw. Pebbles and gravel are never recommended as a suitable substrate.
Without fear of impaction, use non-silica sands with adult bearded dragons. Make sure the sand is clear of foreign materials and debris. For baby and juvenile bearded dragons, we do not recommend using sand.
Reptile sands, such as Vita-Sand, are available that are manufactured of calcium. The reasoning is that after being swallowed, the calcium-based sand will be metabolized, allowing the beardie to pass it.
Calcium sands are used exclusively by a few bearded dragon owners, but they may still cause impaction in others. For baby and juvenile bearded dragons, we recommend avoiding calcium sands.
Rubber Shelf Liner
Paper towels and newspapers are inferior to rubber shelf liners in terms of durability.
Hardware and home goods shops sell Shelf Liners, which are a cheap substrate. They come in a variety of styles and thicknesses. Thinner mats are typically available in rolls that can accommodate numerous changes and may be cut with scissors.
Rubber liners are excellent thermal insulators and poor conductors, which is the biggest issue when using them as a bearded dragon substrate.
As a result, they heat up and cool down more gradually than other substrates. It’s difficult to keep a consistent temperature gradient across your bearded dragon’s habitat, which is required for their health.
If thin rubber liners are subjected to high heat, they might likewise shrink or split.
Then, choose a solid mat for your shelf liners. It’s difficult to clean perforated mats.
You should change your substrate every two weeks to avoid microbial development, since it may absorb waste over time.
Self-sustaining “ecosystems” with live plants and loose soil mix substrates are common in bioactive bearded dragon enclosures. They offer digging and enrichment possibilities to a beardie.
Bioactive enclosures are often made of a combination of sand, clay, and topsoil as the substrate. 50% washed and drained play sand, 40% organic topsoil, and 10% clay are common percentages. For larger bearded dragons that like to dig, more clay may be utilized.
Someone who wants a challenge and is interested in finding something more natural should choose this substrate.
Although they seem to be organic, actuated enclosures may be expensive and difficult for novices to put up.
Setting up a bioactive bearded dragon tank might cost anywhere from $400 to $400.
Your beardie dragon will need to be closely watched, and you’ll have to make sure they don’t eat their substrate. If the soil and sand are not thoroughly blended with the clay, impaction may occur.
Since you need to verify that the substrate is not retaining too much humidity, interactive enclosures are not suggested for starters.
Artificial grass is suitable for bearded dragon floors, with the following summary and advantages. It allows you to mix and match your bearded dragons’ substrate, as well as tiles underneath it.
The artificial grass can simply be hosed down and then immersed in a bucket of disinfectant solution to finish off, making it simple to keep clean.
To make it easier to change out the artificial turf at cleaning time, keep several pieces. If it isn’t kept clean, it will smell. Artificial grass, being close to the heating source, can become quite hot to touch.
If it becomes brittle or the strands get loose, replace it. Buy artificial grass with a firm foundation. Loose strands may bind toes and limbs, making them difficult to move.
For bearded dragons, alfalfa pellets are the preferred loose substrate.
Rabbits and horses are usually fed this substrate. It may, however, be used as a beardie dragon and companion lizard substrate.
These pellets can be securely digested if your dragon consumes them. There is, however, a chance of intestinal obstruction.
We do not recommend sand, wood chips, or alfalfa pellets because of the risk of impaction.
Alfalfa pellets, because they don’t absorb much moisture, decompose quickly and form mold when they get wet. They should be spot-cleaned every day as a result of this.
At pet shops, you may buy huge bags of alfalfa pellets, but purchasing a 120-gallon tank full of them might become costly.
Bearded dragons are considered to live in the Australian deserts on sand, however this isn’t really the case. They live on a sandbed substrate in the wild that is considerably more claylike.
This claylike substrate is not similar to reptile sand or calcium sand for bearded dragons. In their natural habitat, it is considerably different from what they would have. Sand substrate is a loose, fine-grained material that resembles beach sand rather than clay.
Calcium sand is commonly advertised as being safe, natural, and excellent for conveying heat. While it provides calcium, some pet shops say that bearded dragons can eat it because it is a loose substrate, however this is not true. The possibility of impaction exists with any loose particle substrate. They may also get irritated from the sand that gets into their nose or eyes.
As a result, bearded dragon substrates of any sort should be avoided.
It’s preferable to choose tiles or shelf liners in an orange color if you want sand for bearded dragons.
Hardware shops often sell beardie play sand for use in sand toy boxes. It’s simple to locate and inexpensive to buy this substrate. Some keepers say that since it is less likely to cause impaction, it is preferable than ordinary or calcium sand.
In bioactive enclosures, experienced keepers will include play sand as part of the mix.
While the impaction dangers and hygiene concerns associated with this substrate are not worth using it alone, it is affordable and simple to clean. You’ll likely leave little traces of left-over trash and bacteria when cleaning poop from the beach.
Wood Chips or Bark
Another substrate that poses a risk of impaction is wood chips and bark.
If any tiny or jagged pieces are removed from large adults, they may be kept on orchid bark. Because they include harmful oils to reptiles, pine and cedar shavings should never be utilized.
This substrate should not be used to house babies or juveniles. Splinters may irritate their skin, and they are likely to devour the shavings.
Wood chips absorb moisture from the air and help to reduce the overall humidity level in a tank. The humidity levels in bearded dragons should be kept low, but not too dry, to prevent respiratory problems and retained shed.
In a tank, bark and wood pellets look fantastic. Yet, it is your responsibility to weigh the visual appeal against the risk of impaction.
To prevent accidental ingestion, you’ll need to feed your bearded dragon from a dish or container located outside of the tank if you decide to utilize this substrate.