Substrates have become an extremely controversial topic. Opinions vary with experience and skill. Below we discuss bearded dragon accessories the possible substrates along with the pros and cons of each one.
Baby/Juvenile (0-12 months)
Babies are best kept on a non particle substrate material such as reptile carpet, shelf liner, butcher paper, paper towels, or ceramic tiles. By using a non particle substrate the chance of impaction from the substrate is gone along with possible bacteria harboring in the substrate.
Laying tile in the bottom of the vivarium will provide a clean environment for your bearded dragon. It can be found at hardware stores in the flooring section. Avoid smooth tile and purchase tile with texture. This will ensure your bearded dragon can get traction while walking and running around.
Tile is easy to clean and will assist in keeping the nails filed down. Tile is our personal favorite for a substrate. Lay papertowels under the tiles so that it makes deep cleaning easier. You can easily lift the tiles out to clean. Tile rout can be used to secure the tiles in the viv.
Non-adhesive Shelf Liner
We have found this to be an economically affordable and low maintenance substrate for baby bearded dragons. Clean up is easy with a simple wipe and replacement is inexpensive. Non-adhesive shelf liner can be purchased at larger stores like Wal-Mart and Target.
This is a good idea if you are concerned about ease of cleaning and cost. It is not the ‘prettiest’ set-up for your tank, but it works well. *The ink in the newspaper will NOT harm your dragon – its non-toxic. It may give them dirty-looking feet, but that is about all. Be aware that crickets will hide under the newspaper.
Paper towels or butcher paper can be used and replaced with each bowel movement.
This works well and looks nice. It is fairly easy to clean also – even easier if you have more than 1 piece cut to fit in the cage. The only downfall is that dragons normally pass a bowel movement every day – requiring the cleaning and replacement of the carpet on a daily basis.
To replicate the bearded dragon’s natural habitat, a sand mix can be created by mixing excavator clay (30%), washed play sand (60%), and loam (10%). We don’t recommend making the entire floor with the sand mixture. Put the sand mixture about ¼ of the viv’s floor.
Children’s Play Sand
Sand can be controversial among bearded dragon owners. We recommend not using sand until your dragon has reached 1 year of age. With sand, the risk for impaction increases, as well as, the possibility that bacteria can harbor in it.
If you choose to use sand, poops need to be cleaned soon after going. Avoid all pet store sand; these include Reptisand, Calcisand, Vitasand. Sand should be replaced monthly. If not, then bacteria can form, which will lead to a sick bearded dragon. Also, ensure you sift the sand prior to putting it in the viv.
This is definitely not a good idea. Crickets can hide under the bark, resulting in the dragon not getting its full meal and the possibility of the crickets coming out at night and bothering the dragon. Another major reason is that the dragon could accidentally ingest a piece of bark, which would result in terminal ingestion.
If you chose to use a particle substrate then please remember that the consumption of such a matter can cause impaction problems. The use of a separate feeding tank is recommended.
Adults may use any of the above mentioned substrates and can also safely live on sifted washed play sand purchased from your local retail store or hardware store. and Lizard Liter (English walnut shells).