What substrate should you use for your bearded dragon?
There is a lot of debate on the substrate for your bearded dragon’s habitat. I remember a couple weeks ago I was at the pet store picking a Petco employees brain. I was asking questions about substrate and bearded dragons. To be honest with you I knew the answers to my questions but wanted to ask some questions just to drive home a point.
So, the following substrates will be covered in this article:
There are a lot of these carpets that you can buy online, and you can lay them across the bottom of the tank. The texture is not like these other substrates, but it is helpful when you are trying to give your bearded dragon a place to rest. Not to metion its pretty easy to clean and looks decent.
What I like about reptile carpet:
- Comes in different colors.
- Pretty cheap.
- Easy to clean.
What I don’t like about reptile carpet:
- Some might not like the look of it.
- Crickets, worms, etc. can hide under it.
Newspaper works great because it gives them something to walk on that is easy to clean out, and it has a nice texture and crunches when they walk on it. Someone who is trying to use newspaper needs to spread it before they put it in the tank, and they need to make sure that they have taken the time to make their substrate as heavy as possible. You need to get more newspaper to put in there because there is nothing else that you can do besides pile it up higher. This is the smartest thing for you to do because it makes your life much easier when you are cleaning up. They can also hide under it if they want to.
You can easily change out newspaper unlike anything else, and there is an abundance of it that you can have lying around so that you can use it when you need it. This is much smarter than just sitting around cutting up a newspaper that came in today. You can run it all through your paper shredder, and then you will be able to make the newspaper work. You can arrange it how you want, and you can give them a good hiding place at the same time.
What I like about newspaper substrate:
- Easy to clean. (Simply, just throw it away).
What I don’t like about newspaper substrate:
- Will have to get a paper shredder unless you don’t mind cutting up newspaper.
- Might not look that appealing depending on your taste.
I asked them at Petco if they recommended I use bark or mulch. I almost slapped them when they told me they were both good options for bearded dragons. Actually, this is not true at all. Bark and mulch should never be used for bearded dragons.
They could end up swallowing the bark or mulch. This would leave to impaction and they would die from it. Not, to mention they could end up cutting themselves on these types of substrate.
What I like about bark and mulch:
- Nothing. DO NOT USE IT.
Ceramic tiles will get very hot, and that is good for your bearded dragon because they need that warmth during the day. However, you don’t want it to get so hot that it burns them. Typically, it won’t get too hot because the lights will be 18 inches above it.
But, if you do use a heat emitter or heating pad you want to make sure the tile isn’t so hot that it burns them. You can purchase an infrared lightgun to check the temperature of the tiles, though.
However, you need to make sure that you have picked ceramic tiles to only use on part of the floor because you might need other kinds of substrate material so that you can give the bearded dragon a place to relax when they are not on the tiles.
You do not want them to get burned, and they need to be spread out so that your bearded dragon can go one place and then another depending on what they want. Not to mention it just looks aesthetically pleasing, too.
What I like about ceramic tiles:
- Easy to clean.
- Looks amazing.
- Lots of different patterns.
What I don’t like about ceramic tiles
- Can be costly.
- Conducts heat very well. (Can make the ground kind of warm or cool).
Remember at the beginning of this article when I mentioned that I wanted to pick the Petco’s employees brain. Well, one of the questions was do you recommend calcium sand for bearded dragons? The employee told me, yes they “highly recommend it”. Wow, is all I could think in my head. I know that you should avoid using calcium sand because bearded dragons are kind of unpredictable when they eat. Meaning they might go for a cricket and could miss and end up getting a mouthful of calcium sand.
Calcium sand can cause impaction which will kill your bearded dragon. The shards in calcium sand are very jagged and should never be used in your bearded dragons enclosure.
What I don’t like about calcium sand:
- Nothing. DO NOT USE IT.
A lot of bearded dragon owners do use washed play sand. It looks great and makes it look like you have a little desert in your tank. Obviously, this looks very natural to the bearded dragon. You can get it pretty cheap at Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store. It usually costs about $5 for a 50-pound bag.
Personally, I have used washed play sand for my bearded dragons over the years. I haven’t had a bearded dragon eat it and die from impaction. The grains are a lot finer than regular sand and pretty easy to clean. You just use a hermit crab scoop to scoop out the dead insects and poop. Also, make sure you give your bearded dragon a bath at least once a week in case they do swallow a little-washed play sand. If you do go this route make sure you switch out the washed play sand once every 3-4 months.
What I like about washed play sand:
- Looks natural.
- Bearded dragons can dig.
What I don’t like about washed play sand:
- Have to change it out every 3-4 months.
- Is a small risk for impaction.
Hopefully, this article has helped you in deciding which substrate you want to use for your bearded dragon. It’s important to remember that you do have a lot of different options. So, make sure you weigh the pros and cons to each.
If you have any questions please leave a comment down below.