Bearded Dragon Substrate: Why You Should Only Use This
Before your read this article on bearded dragon substrate I want to point out, that the substrate I am going to show you is the best in my opinion. I do not say that it is the best in the world, I only tell you what I think. Let´s be honest, the best substrate you can find for your bearded dragon is out in the wild of Australia. Alright, hope you enjoy this article and I hope I can help you with it 🙂
There are a lot of totally different opinions when it comes to substrate for dragons (and for many other desert dweller). Needless to say that the substrate should be similar to the ground in the natural habitat of the bearded dragons. The terrarium should contain a layer of substrate of about 7 inches. However you can form small hills here and there and have a little less substrate in some places of the cage.
Do not do that!
I think before I tell you what substrate I use, I should tell you what not to do. Why? Well, I have seen a lot of bearded dragon videos and videos of other reptiles on Youtube and I was shocked!
I was shocked that so many people just buy a fish tank for their bearded dragon, put a few paper towels in there or even newspaper and that´s it. Why? There is no excuse for that. A lot of people say that bearded dragons might eat too much sand, if sand is used as a substrate, and die from that.
Well first of all, that is not completely true. Baby bearded dragons tend to lick on everything, since they want to explore everything. It can happen that they eat sand while doing this and then they can become constipaded and die from that. Adult bearded dragons, however, do not lick on everything. There is no real danger for them if you do not use sand which is mixed with calcium. If it is mixed with calcium your beardie might eat to much of it and become constipated.
Get started with Bearded Dragons in 5-Steps!
Secondly loose sand is also a very bad substrate. If you only use loose sand and do not give your dragon the possibility to get off the sand, it will cause damage to its joints over time.
To be honest, I am not a fan of reptile carpet. Many people use carpet, because they are afraid that their bearded dragon could die from eating loose substrate. However a carpet is not natural. When it comes to my beardies I like to keep it natural. I want to create a natural habitat for them. Do you think there is carpet in the wild?
Further you have to keep in mind that bearded dragons are passionate diggers. It is their normal behavior and with carpet, they can´t dig. Besides that their nails will get longer and longer if they do not have the possibility to dig.
I only would use carpet for a quarantine tank, or for small beginner terrariums for baby bearded dragons which will be in use for only a few weeks.
Clay Burrowing Substrate
The Clay Burrowing Substrate (Click Here) is the substrate I would go with. I used it several times and I never had problems with it.
Why do I use it?
- Bearded dragon can´t become constipated from eating substrate, since the clay gets hard.
- You can form hills and caves for your dragon.
- It is very close to a natural habitat.
- Bearded dragons love to dig, with this substrate they can even dig their own caves. Digging will make your beardie happy and your dragon will never have problems with long nails.
- No problems with damaged joints because of loose substrate.
- You can stick plastic plants and branches in this substrate before it dries. This way they will stick in the clay and can´t be knocked over.
- It will last longer then any other substrate.
- You can re-arrange it if you wet it down again. That means you always can create a new environment for your pet.
- It is easy to clean.
- Cheap and you most probably only have to buy it once, since you can re-arrange it.
How to use it
The substrate comes as sand. You have to mix this substrate with water, after that you pour it in your terrarium, form ways, tunnels, caves and hills and let it dry. Please note that you will need a little bit more of this clay to form hills or something like that.
I like to add a little bit of normal sand to the substrate, in my opinion it will be a little bit more loose when it dries. This way the dragons can dig their own ways and caves.
However other people who just use the clay say, that their reptiles were also able to extend their caves. So you do not have to mix it with a little bit of sand.
Read the instructions on the package to know how much water you need. I like to add a little bit less water than recommended, because it was a little bit too watery for my liking.
How to form caves and tunnels
If you want to form caverns, you need something to hold the shape while it is drying. You can use normal balloons for that and pop them after the clay dried.
I have tested the Cavern Kit for this substrate and for me it was really easy to create some great tunnels and caverns for my beardies.
The Cavern Kit includes:
- 12 lbs Excavator substrate
- 7″ Tunnel Tube
- 5″ Round Balloons (2 pieces)
- Balloon attachement assembly
- 10″ shovel
- Excavator Mixing Bag
- Full Installation Booklet
The cavern kit definitely helped me and it worked fine! However you don´t have to buy it.
A lot of customers on Amazon who bought this cavern kit posted some awesome pictures of the caves and hills they formed for their bearded dragons with this kit. Simply click here and scroll down to the customer images to see the pictures on Amazon!
So I hope this article on bearded dragon substrate helped you. If you use paper towels or newspaper as substrate, please keep in mind, that bearded dragons are diggers. Even if your beardies are fine, there is a difference between only existing and actually living.
What kind of substrate do you use and why? Would you suggest another substrate? If yes, why? Let´s discuss this in the comment section below, simply leave me your message and I will get back to you!
If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I will be more than happy to help you out!
All the best,
About the Author
Hey! I am Pierre. I own bearded dragons and many other reptiles for a very long time. I know from experience that it can be very hard to find the right information about a specific reptile, since there is so much misinformation out there.That´s why I created this website. To help other people to have the best time with their reptiles.