Looking for a great bearded dragon substrate, but you just don´t know which substrate you should get since there are so many different substrates and opinions on those substrates? Let me help you!
The best substrate for a bearded dragon in captivity is the ZooMed Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate. It is easy to use, you can form hills and caves with it and your bearded dragon can digg its own caves with this substrate.
This article will show you why the Excavator Clay is the best substrate for beardies, which alternatives you can get and why you don´t have to worry about your beardie getting impacted.
The right bearded dragon bedding choice – Do not do that!
I think before I tell you which 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.
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 get impacted 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 too much of it and get impacted.
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.
Why is my bearded dragon eating sand?
Have you ever asked yourself the following question: Why do bearded dragons eat sand and why do they get impacted from that in captivity, but not in the wild?
At the end of the day, eating sand is a natural behavior in bearded dragons. Whenever a bearded dragon feels that it needs some minerals, it will eat some dirt. This way the bearded dragon balances its minerals.
This can happen if a bearded dragon doesn´t get enough food and water in the wild. As you see, this isn´t only a natural behavior in bearded dragons, it is actually a very important behavior.
If a bearded dragon doesn´t get enough minerals, it can get sick and if it is really bad, the beardie might even die from that.
So what does that mean for you and for your choice of the right substrate? Here is what it means:
How to stop your bearded dragon from eating sand
If your bearded dragon is eating sand all the time, it means that you have to offer some additional minerals. Those minerals must be available to your bearded dragon all the time.
If you offer minerals, it does not matter which substrate you use. You can definitely use loose sand partially, but you always have to make sure that your beardie can balance its minerals easily and that the minerals are not in the substrate, as known as calcium sand.
I said it before in this post, calcium sand is not the right choice as substrate nor as a mineral source.
So, you might ask yourself what kind of minerals your bearded dragon needs and how you can make sure that your beardie gets it easily. With minerals I mean that you have to offer calcium. That is it. Nothing fancy, just calcium.
If you already use a calcium supplement and think that you are on the safe side, you might be wrong. While it is great that you use a caclium supplement, it still might not be enough and your bearded dragon might eat sand nevertheless.
That´s why you should offer calcium seperately in a food bowl.
However, you should not just put calcium powder into the food bowl and that´s it. This way, your bearded dragon probably won´t notice that the powder is eatable.
You should offer small pieces of sepia.
Simply break it down into small pieces and put it in a food bowl, so it is available to your bearded dragon all the time. The good thing about this is, that you don´t have to worry about that your bearded dragon gets too much or too little calcium.
Your bearded dragon knows exactly how much calcium it needs. You might see your bearded dragon eat the sepia every day, or you might see your bearded dragon eat it once a week. Both is totally fine.
If you do that, your bearded dragon does not feel the need to eat substrate anymore as its minerals are balanced. If you need some sepia, I recommend to get this sepia here. It might be for turtles, but it is absolutely fine bearded dragons and other reptiles, too.
Can I use Reptile Carpet for my bearded dragon?
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 reptile 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.
Clipping a bearded dragon´s nails isn´t really fun. Not for you and not for your bearded dragon.
I only would use reptile carpet in a quarantine tank, or in small beginner terrariums for baby bearded dragons which will be in use for only a few weeks. If you want to use reptile carpet, I recommend to get this reptile carpet here. It is inexpensive and high quality.
Clay Burrowing Substrate – The best bearded dragon substrate?
The Clay Burrowing Substrate 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 dragons 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, since it is a great exercise for them. 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 digg their own ways and caves, but you don´t have to combine it with loose substrate.
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.
As you can see in the video below, the clay is absolutely amazing.
How to form caves and tunnels
If you want to form caves, 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 bearded dragon bedding, 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? Do you also think that the Excavator Clay is the best bedding for bearded dragons? 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!