What is a good substrate for a bearded dragon terrarium?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Let’s admit:


We all want our pet to be as comfortable in their cage as we are inside our home.

And with a bearded dragon, the substrate plays a crucial role in improving the comfort and health of your pet.

So what is the best substrate for a bearded dragon?

Bearded dragons love to live in sands and pebbles. But in a caged environment, you have to choose a substrate that your dragon doesn’t chew or swallows. The dragon also shouldn’t be able to sink in the substrate. A good substrate is that cannot be swallowed or chewed and is hard enough. You can choose from sand, pebbles, and newspapers to tough surfaces, even hard ceramic tiles. 

Best & Worst Substrates for Bearded Dragons!

So, let’s look at these substrates and know which is best for your bearded dragon’s terrarium. 

Good substrate for a bearded dragon terrarium

A substrate is the base or the floor of the cage or the terrarium as called in the case of bearded dragons. The surface of their terrarium is actually called a substrate. 

Your choice of substrate can differ depending on your bearded dragon’s age, overall environment including temperature, and your preference as well.

Before actually starting, you should know that:

  • Baby dragons needs more care so you have to choose a substrate that they can’t chew. In extreme cases, large bits of substrate can cause choking and even death. 
  • Bearded Dragons don’t like humidity. So, choose a substrate that doesn’t absorb water vapors and increases the humidity inside the compartment. 
  • Choose a substrate that doesn’t stick in the paws and jaws. It can be a real problem as in some extreme cases, the dragon loses its whole paw in the struggle to free itself. 
  • The substrate should be close to their natural habitat so that the terrarium feels comfortable. 
  • Look for a substrate that your bearded dragon can dig as they love to dig their substrate.

Here’s a video to help you choose the best substrate for your bearded dragon:

If you have no clue what kind of substrate is best for your bearded dragon, here’s a great reptile substrate from chewy.

You can choose between a variety of substrates, some of them are:

Sand 

  • A sand substrate is closest to a dragon’s natural habitat
  • Sand maintains a suitable temperature for bearded dragons 
  • Baby dragons can sink inside the sand, so be careful

Bearded dragons live in sand in their natural habitat. That is why they feel most comfortable in sand substrates. But sand substrates are dangerous in most cases. Bearded dragons can swallow the sand and other particles that are stuck inside of it. 

A sand substrate is not suitable for baby dragon terrariums as they will struggle to crawl in the sand. They can sink in the sand and will struggle to come out. 

Sand substrates look great as well. You can also use colored sand for a more appealing look. Make sure the sand has no large particles and is not very porous so that your dragon terrarium can easily roam around. 

Pebbles

  • Pebbles can be swallowed and can injure the jaws of the dragon. 
  • Pebbles can choke your bearded dragon if they chew upon them. 
  • Pebble substrates are not suitable for baby dragon terrariums. 

Pebbles along with sand also makes a great substrate for bearded dragon terrariums. They like to crawl in pebbles as pebbles are hard and there is no chance to sink. Pebbles are great for baby dragons as well. 

Pebbles do not make good substrates if your dragon likes to put everything in its mouth. You can easily imagine what would happen if the bearded dragon puts pebbles in its mouth. It can choke and you will end up calling a vet in severe cases. So, don’t go for a pebble substrate if you notice that your dragon tries to eat everything in sight. 

Newspaper

  • A newspaper substrate is great for baby dragon terrariums 
  • Newspapers can absorb water vapors and increase humidity 
  • Newspaper substrates are a good choice for both adult and baby dragons

A newspaper is an awesome recyclable and eco-friendly choice of substrate that will neither choke nor entice your dragon to eat it. Just shred up a few newspapers and see how it works wonders.

You can also go for the shredded old newspapers that vendors sell. They look great and your dragon will also remain happy as he will play with those shreds. The great thing is that newspapers don’t pose any choking problems but there is a downside to them as well.

Newspapers absorb moisture. So after a few days, the compartment would be quite humid. This is not good for the dragons. The compartment should be airy enough so that the dragon can breathe properly. If you already live in a humid place then a newspaper substrate is not a wise option.  

Reptile carpets 

  • Reptile carpets are great if they are weaved tightly. 
  • Reptile carpets can be dangerous if the paw of dragon gets stuck 
  • Reptile carpets produce the humidity that isn’t suitable if the weather is already hot

Reptile carpets are made from synthetic fiber. The fiber is twisted into a carpet or a cage liner. This cage liner is a great choice as it provides a rough and solid base to the terrarium so your dragon can easily roam around. But the cage liners also absorb humidity so you can’t use them for long. 

However, some reptile carpets have large loops which can make it difficult for the dragons to walk. The claw can get stuck in the loops and your dragon might injure itself. So, choose a Reptile carpet that is weaved tightly. 

If you’re having difficulty choosing a good substrate, here’s a video to guide you about the pros and cons of substrates:

Ceramic tiles 

  • Ceramic tiles are tough and dragons cannot dig it 
  • Ceramic tiles maintain a suitable temperature of the compartment 
  • There is no choking hazard with ceramic tiles

Nowadays, ceramic tiles are very common as substrate for bearded dragon terrariums. The advantage of ceramic tiles is that they don’t allow your pet to sink in. The dragon won’t chew the tiles and also tiles don’t absorb humidity. 

Ceramic tiles are hard so you have to watch your dragon whether it’s happy in there or not. Because bearded dragons want to dig their substrate as this is what they do in their natural habitat. You can provide some sand in the corner so that the dragon terrarium can dig and spend its time happily. 

Bark and Mulch 

  • Bark and Mulch are widely used substrates for bearded dragon terrariums 
  • This substrate builds lots of humidity in the terrarium which is not good for dragons 

Bark and Mulch can also be used as a substrate. But bark and mulch absorb a lot of moisture. So, this type of substrate causes humidity which is not suitable for bearded dragon terrariums. 

The Takeaway message 

If you are a new bearded dragon owner then you should know which substrate is suitable for them. Bearded dragons like porous substrate that they can dig easily.

But the substrates that can be chewed and can choke aren’t good for terrariums. Also, you have to choose a substrate that doesn’t cause humidity. Keep these things in mind and enjoy your bearded dragon!

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