The Best Substrates for Bearded Dragons

Written by Samantha Miller | 5/14/20

bearded dragon tile substrate

The substrate is the floor of your bearded dragons’ enclosure. And choosing a substrate is one of the most difficult decisions every bearded dragon parent will make. After all, It’s where he will chase his next meal, play, and even sleep. Even though there are plenty of choices, their not all equal. In fact, some substrates are toxic and best to avoid.

If you are a new bearded dragon owner be sure to check our list of bearded dragon names

Particle Substrate

Many bearded dragon owners would advise that loose substrate should never be used.

Bearded dragons explore their environment using their tongue. By doing so they will be ingesting small amounts of their substrate. This loose substrate that gets ingested can cause impaction. So now you might be thinking “What is impaction?” Well simply put, it’s a blockage in the digestive tract of your bearded dragon. One of the main causes is ingesting foreign objects, oftentimes caused by particle substrates.

Particle Substrates

  • Sand- Causes impaction
  • Crushed Walnut Shells- Sharp edges, can cause internal damage
  • Wood Chips- Pine and Cedar are toxic to reptiles
  • Alfalfa Pellets and Millet- Easy to pass if ingested, but tend to grow mold.

Adding a dig box to his enclosure is a great way to allow him to dig. While also avoiding a particle substrate.

Non-Particle Substrate

While there is no “Best substrate for bearded dragons.” using a non-particle substrate is advised. It poses no risk of impaction or other illnesses. Additionally, solid substrates are easy to clean. For example, cleaning linoleum involves just wiping down with a wet sponge.

Non-Particle Substrates

  • Tile- Looks the most natural
  • Reptile Carpet- Non-slippery
  • linoleum- Easiest to clean
  • Excavator Clay- Alows your Beardie to dig
  • Newspaper- Cheapest option

1. Tile

Tile is my personal favorite substrate. It’s cheap, attractive, retains heat, impossible to ingest, and keeps your beardie’s nails naturally trimmed. And It’s a popular choice among many beardie owners. In fact, this is what I use in my Bearded dragons’ enclosure. For cleaning just wipe with a wet sponge or cloth. Super easy! I highly recommend using tile as your substrate, It’s a choice you will not regret.

Benefits of Using Tile for substrate

  • Easy to clean
  • Safe for Bearded Dragon
  • Long term cost-effective

Porcelain Tile

When using porcelain tiles I would suggest not using a high gloss or shiny tile. The gloss of the tile mixed with the water creates a slick surface. However using a matte or textured tile will not be as slippery, there’s more grip to it.

Unlike Slate, porcelain is nonporous so surface cleaning will be easier.

Slate Tile

Between slate and porcelain, slate tends to look more natural. And will retain heat better. The only downside is cleaning can more time-consuming. Also, slate is porous and will have to be taken out and scrubbed more often than porcelain. While either choice is good, It all comes down to personal preference.

Do I grout the tile?

Some bearded dragon owners will grout the tile. Doing so will stop the foreign matter from getting between the cracks. Others like to leave them ungrouted so they can be removed for cleaning.

Tips

Lows sells tile and most will cut it on the spot for free. Just make sure to measure the inside of your enclosure to avoid making another trip to have it recut. Home depo sells tile, although most will not cut it for you.

Also, lay down paper towels or a reptile mat first if you have an aquarium. By doing so, you will protect the glass, and aid in soaking up anything that gets between the tiles.

2. Reptile Carpet

Reptile Carpet is a good option for a disposable substrate. One of the advantages is it has no health risks. I used this in my bearded dragons’ enclosure for the longest time before making the switch to tile. overall its does the job and my dragons seemed to like it.

It’s advisable having two pieces of reptile carpet. When one gets dirty, just remove it for cleaning and replace it with the other identical one.

How to clean bearded dragon carpet

For cleaning, you can throw it with your laundry. Just make sure not to put it in the dryer. It best to let it air dry.

Or the second way is to wash by hand. You’ll need a bucket of soapy water, and let the carpet soak for 15 minutes. By now any debris should be loose and come off easily, use a toothbrush, and scrub the surface. After you scrubbed it and it’s clean, rinse out thoroughly. Finally lay flat and let air dry.

The carpet will generally last 2 months with biweekly cleaning. The only downside of reptile carpet is being harder to clean than other substrates.

Benefits of using Reptile carpet for substrate

  • Washable
  • Reusable
  • Safe for Bearded Dragon
  • Easy to use just cut to size

3. linoleum

linoleum Is the most low maintenance substrate. One of the benefits of linoleum is there are no cracks like you would find in tile. It looks good and is easy to keep clean. If you decide to go with linoleum, do not buy the self-adhesive kind. The glue is not good for your bearded dragon.

One downside is it can be slippery, your beardie might slide around trying to catch his food. Finding one with lots of texture will minimize the sliding. Within a few days, he will learn how to walk on it.

Benefits of using Linoleum for substrate

  • Easy to clean
  • Safe for Bearded Dragon
  • Easy to use just cut to size

4. Excavator Clay

Excavator Clay is a clay substrate for bearded dragons. It’s the substrate you will either love or hate. As for me, I hated it. My dragon spent the afternoon digging a hole for crickets to hide in and die. It’s terrible to clean poop off of! It was just not for me.

As much as I hated it you might love it. You can build caves, and mountains for your dragon and they enjoy digging in it. When it starts to dry out and crack, misting the area will allow you to smooth out the cracks. If you are looking for a substrate your dragon can dig in, this would be the best option.

If you have the time and patience it works for personalizing tanks.

Benefits of using Excavator Clay for substrate

  • Safe for Bearded Dragon
  • Hours of entertainment building caves for your dragon

5. Newspaper

Newspaper or butcher paper will work for your bearded dragons’ flooring. Whether you’re on a tight budget or waiting to get a more permanent setup. It’s the geo metro of substrates. And the best part is how easy cleaning will be. Just take out, throw away, and replace.

While it might not be the most appealing substrate, it’s the cheapest. The only downside is ink staining’s possible but not dangerous.

Benefits of using Newspaper for substrate

  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to clean
  • Safe for Bearded Dragon

Conclusion

Finding the right substrate is all about personal preference. Are you looking for low maintenance easy cleaning? linoleum is probably what you’re looking for. Going for a more natural look? tile will look the most natural. Also, don’t be afraid to mix and match the substrates. Tile and reptile carpet make a good combination. Your Dragon will have a soft area to lay down. Have fun and enjoy personalizing your enclosure.

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions in the comments below.

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