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Whats the Best Beardie Substrate?

substrates for bearded dragon

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When choosing a terrarium or tank for your bearded dragon, it’s also important to choose the best kind of flooring or “bedding substrate.”

Substrates are essential for absorbing your dragon’s feces as well as other waste products. This makes it easier for cleaning. These substrates also give your dragons a sense of the natural environment.

But although there are plenty of flooring options, not every one of them is healthy or safe for your pet. So if you’re choosing the best substrate for bearded dragons, you must ensure that it not only helps them feel right at home but also keeps them healthy.

Non-particle or solid substrates such as ceramic tile, newspaper, and reptile carpet are the safest options to use. Loose bedding like gravel, or play sand, are all right for adult dragons but could pose a set of health risks to younger ones.

In this article, we’ve talked about several kinds of substrates and their pros and cons to help you come to a more informed decision about the kind of bedding that is most suitable for your little friend.

Best Loose Particle Substrates

If you’ve ever researched bearded dragon info online most of them will tell you to keep away from using substrates that contain loose particles. But why is that exactly?

Don’t take this the wrong way, while loose substrates are added only for enrichment, they present a series of health problems especially for younger beardies.

Some of these health problems include:

  • Pathogens, especially walnut sands and other substrates like it.
  • Environment drying, or keeping in excess moisture like fluid spells.
  • Loose substrates can find a way in sensitive regions like wounds, eyes, or hemipenes.
  • If they are fed too much at a time, then some insects like meal worms or crickets will find an opportunity to hide before the dragon can finish their meal. Worst of all, crickets can also start nibbling on your beardie later on
  • Finer substrates can elevate dust levels which is not only irritating for the eyes but also very problematic for a dragon’s breathing.

Here are some of the most commonly known loose particles substrates:

1. Calcium Sand

Calcium Sand

If you’re asking whether calcium sand is okay for bearded dragons, then the answer is a definite no.

Most manufacturers market their loose particle bedding products as containing 100% digestible calcium carbonate. The only problem with this is that calcium sand is not meant to be ingested and doesn’t help with its digestion.

And if this was being used as a source of dietary supplement, then you couldn’t possibly tell how much your bearded dragon will consume of it. High amounts can be extremely toxic.

2. Bark or Woodchip


Another unsuitable flooring material for beardies is woodchip or bark.

These types are known for trapping fluids at the bottom of their layers. Finely-formed woods result in irritations and can be really deadly if or when consumed. Most dragons in heated environments can also experience fumes with this type of flooring.

On top of that, they offer plenty of opportunities for invertebrates to hide under and build up huge levels of pathogens along with moisture.

3. Play Sand

play sand

Even though play sand is a bit better than calcium sand, it still poses a risk to your little buddy due to its infection and ingestion risk.

If your pet dragon is known for constantly playing around, then the play sand is not going to hold up for much longer. Of course, you can raise the humidity to dampen the substrate a bit, but that would present a slew of other problems for your pet inside the tank.

Lastly, play sand can stain its skin.

4. Alfalfa Pellets

Alfalfa Pellets

Alfalfa pellets are the only loose-particle substrate that won’t be much of a problem when consumed.

These can still pose a problem for your dragon if it consumes a lot of them. Besides that, it is unhealthy to consume what is defecated on and the moisture within these pellets will result in mold. And like most loose particle substrates, the dragon’s feces and urine is attracting the attention of parasites. Still, it’s a better alternative than most.

Best Non Particle Substrates |Ceramic, linoleum, or slate

Non-particle or solid flooring material are much better bedding options for beardies because they remove the risk of impaction and small particles being kicked around. This could irritate your pet’s eyes or nose.

They’re also the simplest to clean up and don’t end up being invaded by parasites or run into any hygiene issues like you would have with loose particle options. Plus, solid flooring options keep your dragon’s little sharp claws in check without having to click them too often.

With all this in mind, here are some of the best non-particle or solid options available for your dragon:

1. Bearded Dragon Substrate Tiles

bearded dragon substrate tiles

Tiles are regarded as the best option for bearded dragons, be it ceramic, linoleum, or slate. Not only is this option incredibly affordable, but it’s also one that requires the least maintenance. You don’t have to replace it for a long time.

This kind provides plenty of other pros too, such as being easy to clean and disinfect, to eat off of and water surf on (since some bearded dragons are known for liking water sliding). The clean surfaces from tiles can also trim your pet’s claws. It’s fine as long as the surface isn’t slippery like glazed tiles usually are. Even despite all its benefits, it doesn’t come without its share of cons as well. One con is how slippery it tends to be.

You can get around this problem by making sure you put other things in the tank for your dragon to climb onto instead of just the tiles. To get the tiles some traction, you can add some sand, topsoil, or a bit of non-toxic adhesive. You dont have to worry about the sand, because it remains fastened to the tile, preventing any chances of impaction, or even getting into the nose or eyes of your dragon.

Be sure that whatever kind of tile you get for your dragon, absorbs light/heat instead of reflecting them.

2. Paper Towels and Newspaper

Paper Towels and Newspaper substrate

Paper towels or newspapers are also great flooring options, especially if you’re low on budget, or simply using these as placeholders for a more permanent one later on.

It might not have a grip for claws, but that isn’t much of an issue compared to other flooring and accessories. If invertebrates are going to be fed to dragons using this option, the invertebrates have plenty of places to hide.

Paper lack any natural environmental elements, but they are quite useful for quarantining dragons if they encounter any health issues while their more permanent flooring products are being disinfected.

3. Reptile Carpet

reptile carpet

Reptile carpet has a bunch of issues that keep owners from recommending it. These are a little bit better than some of the loose particle solutions mentioned before.

Sometimes your reptile can get stuck or the carpet can get peeled off. A backup carpet needs to be arranged to make cleaning removal easier. This is so that the carpet doesn’t end up smelling or attracting bacteria.

The carpet needs to be cleaned spotless whenever soiled and washed at least once every seven days. Use a hose to clean from the outside and then use a disinfectant solution to wash it. Abstain from using your washing machine for the job as it might increase the risk of zoonotic disease.

4. Excavator Clay

Excavator Clay

If your beardie loves tunneling and climbing often, then you can use the excavator clay to create tunnels and hills.

One of the reasons why this is a good option is that it gives owners as much time as they need to make their enclosure really amazing. You might to buy at least 20 pounds of excavator clay for the enclosure depending on its size.

Excavator Clay also doesn’t have any added chemicals or dyes that could be of any huge health concerns for your dragon. You may want to keep some dry clay with you to put over any smelly spots.


To quickly sum things up, there will be plenty of substrate options made available. These options will most often be loose particle or non particle.

I wouldn’t even bother with lose particle options because they come with various hygiene concerns and can make your dragon sick. This is why it would be better for you to shop around for solid or non-particle flooring. I suggest the tiles:)

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Best Flooring For Bearded Dragons

Honestly, if my apartment didn't allow dogs I never would have had the chance to see how cool Beardies were. Me and my little guy are best buds! I've done a lot of research over time, so I figured I'd just share some info to help others on their bearded dragon journeys.

Important: is for informational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always consult a veterinarian for bearded dragon concerns.

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