Bearded Dragon Substrate: Why You Should Only Use This

bearded dragon substrateBefore 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 constipaded.

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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.

Reptile Carpet

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.

You can get carpet here at Amazon.

Note: Click on the link to see how this product looks!

Clay Burrowing Substrate

This is the substrate I would go with. I used it several times and I never had problems with it.

Note: Click on the link to see how this product looks!

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 can 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 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 continure to 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 from 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

Note: Click on the link to see how this product looks!

The cavern kit definitely helped me and it worked fine! However you don´t have to buy it.

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 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,

Pierre

 

Pierre

About the Author

Pierre

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.

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Terri

I love your tips, I’m getting a baby beardie soon for our annivery and would like to know if the excavator clay is good for the babies too? Also you say it’s good to mix with sand, what kind of sand?

    Pierre

    Hey Terri,

    I am happy to hear that, you must be very excited 🙂
    It really does not matter which sand you take as long as you do not take too much sand. Let´s say 90% cla and 10% sand.

    The excavator clay is definitely good for bearded dragon babys.

    Cheers,

    Pierre

Maryjo

I use linoleum because I can clean it daily. How do you get the urine and feces out of the clay?

    Pierre

    Hey Maryjo,

    yes linoleum is easy to clean.
    I remove the poop with a little shovel every day and then I clean it with a slightly wet sponge every week. I never had any problems with that method at all.

    Cheers,

    Pierre

Allen

Great article! I have a 1 year old bearded dragon and I am currently using alfalfa. The humidity love of her cage is extremely high. If I switch to the clay. Do you think the humidity levels will drop a little bit or is the clay pretty humid? Thanks

    Allen

    level

    Pierre

    Hey Allen,

    the humidity might drop, however you have to let the clay dry for a time.
    In the beginning the humidity can be a little bit higher with the clay, but as soon as it dries out completely it will be perfect.

    Cheers,

    Pierre

Dvest

Thank you for the tip! I am strongly considering trying out the clay!
I noticed that my bearded dragon (a little less than 1 year old) loves to dig and I was wondering about how well (or strongly) the clay/sand mix will harden so that the top of the burrow doesnt collapse but she can still dig as much as she wants?

Thank you!

    Pierre

    Sure, I am always happy to help 🙂

    That is the reason why I use and recommend this clay, because the clay is “soft” enough for beardies to dig, but it won´t collapse immediately. Don´t worry about it, I use this clay for some time now and there was never an accident.

    Very good that you observed your dragon and saw that it likes to digg. Bearded dragons are naturally diggers and that is why I am not the biggest fan of newspaper/ paper towel/ mats as substrate. They do the job, however if you want to build the best tank for your beardie, you should definitely go with the clay.

    Good job!

    Pierre

Heike

Hi Pierre I’ve had my dragon for a year and half now great reading as was going to get rid off sand ! Am going to get the clay stuff sounds great thank you
have a fab day .

    Pierre

    Hey Heike,

    good to hear that!
    Wish you an awesome day as well!

    Pierre

Kerry

Thank you this is the best and most relatable information I’ve found so far!! I’m getting my new baby soon and I’m so excited! I will definitely be using your advise thank you!

    Pierre

    Hey Kerry,

    I am happy that I could help.
    Wish you a lot of fun with your baby! Baby beardies are always great 🙂

    Cheers,

    Pierre

kobyakawa

thanks one of the most non bias site i visited man ….. i been looking for a while i just got my baby beardy just few days back … he is now living in a 3 feet long tank well paradise i think for him……. but seriously now i am scared coz i am using exo terra plantation soil for his substrate coz i am doing a bioactive setup for him i have been monitoring him for the past two days he seems fine and i know it will take him a few days to start eating fully
As u say baby tend to lick everything to explore should i change it or just use it coz like u i dont like carpet ,tiles or newspaper it dont look natural and the tank look like a mess if i used that as i spend like a quater of my salary to get him i dont want him to die?

    Pierre

    Hey Kobykawa,

    thank you for your comment. I am happy that you like my website. I am doing my best 🙂

    Great that you have a bio active setup. Keep monitoring your beardie. If he shows weird behavior bring him to a vet, but I doubt it.
    This soil is different from sand. Of course, your baby should not swallow soil the whole day, but it is okay if it happens from time to time.

    Cover your entire tank with leaves, that will help to avoid that the baby swallows too much substrate.

    Death to the repti carpet, newspaper and paper towels! Lol

    Hope this helps!

    All the best,

    Pierre

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