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Cricket substrate: How to satisfy your critter's substrate needs

Just like a human needs a house, a cricket needs its substrate.

If you have just recently bought crickets, you might be wondering:

How do I know which substrate to choose for my crickets?

Well, you’re in luck. The Critter Depot has researched several options that are proven to satisfy your critters substrate needs.

It gets better:

These substrates are also affordable, so you won’t be breaking the bank.

But, what is substrate and why do my crickets need it?

A substrate is the material or bedding on the floor of the crickets house. It is a platform they regularly walk on, lay eggs, and yes, poop on as well. Crickets can also start to give off an unpleasant odor if the crate has poor ventilation or if there is a large amount of crickets kept in one area. And, that is why your crickets need substrate. It helps to absorb waste produced by your crickets and lessen unwanted odors. Also, consider what type of substrate you might want to use.

Ask yourself:

Do I want an easy clean up or am I willing to put in a little extra time to clean up extra substrate?

Substrate also has other purposes:

  • Retains moisture
  • Maintains humidity levels
  • Provides space for hiding and laying eggs
  • Provides comfortability on a glass or plastic surface

Below, we’ve provided a list of substrates that are proven to be most effective for your crickets.

10 most effective substrates:

#1 Vermiculite:

An all-time favorite, vermiculite is a natural high absorbent mineral. The dryness of the material helps to prevent bacteria caused by rotting food, cricket poop and dead crickets. It also neutralizes any odors your crickets leave behind. Odors are mainly from an accumulation of cricket poop - so make sure you stay on top of that as well.

Crickets enjoy a semi-humid environment, and vermiculite is able to easily maintain that balance of not-too-dry and not-too-moist, but just right. Placing 1-3” on the bottom of the crate will give crickets a comfortable bedding to walk on. For larger colonies, it is suggested that the substrate be replaced at least once every one to six months. High-quality vermiculite substrate is proven to control the smell of up to 2000 crickets, and is not at all harmful to them.

#2 Coconut fiber:

Coconut fiber is a natural substrate sold as a dry compressed brick and is made up of the ground up fibers of coconuts. These fibers called ‘coir’ react well when placed in water. Once placed in water, the fibers expand, and become an excellent substrate for your crickets. Coconut fiber is a renewable resource, and does not need to be replaced very often if cleaned periodically.

These fibers also offer excellent water absorption, and circulation even when wet. It has antifungal properties, which is a plus since your cricket crates are bound to grow loads of bacteria in there. You can also mix this substrate with other substrate components such as moss, sand or pine shavings to create a blend that is perfect for your colony of crickets. If wet for long periods of time, coconut fiber can spoil, so make sure to keep an eye out on the dampness of the area. Your crickets will thank you later.

#3 Sand:

Sand is a loose granular substance that is usually of a pale yellowish brown color. This substrate can be used alone, but can also be blended with other substrate components such as soil, coconut fibers, or vermiculite in order to help the sand hold its form. Many people use play sand, which seems to work well with crickets. Try to clean out the crate weekly of any poop or debris so that odor buildup sets in a little slower.

#4 Moss:

There are several types of moss substrates available at your local pet and garden store. Peat moss, also known as Sphagnum is a very popular type of moss and is comprised of approximately 380 types of species of moss. It has great water retention, and can be found sold in bricks or bales. Other types of moss are not known to be very reliable in collecting water and may be used for decor purposes. Make sure you do further research on the type of moss you’d like to buy before you commit to the purchase.

If you decide to go with the moss, Sphagnum moss would probably be your best option. Use about a cup of the moss to spread onto the bottom of the cricket enclosure. You can also place the substrate under and on top of egg crates to allow crickets to burrow their eggs when breeding season comes. Remember that this type of moss has a high water absorbency rate, so be aware of the high humidity levels if you decide to go with this substrate, as crickets do not react well in these types of environments.

#5 Paper towels:

Paper towels are a good option if you would like to stay within a lower budget. It is also extremely easy to set up, as you just crumple them and lay it on the bottom of the floor. It is not only easy to change, but crickets seem to enjoy munching on it. Paper towels can also be mixed with moss, but as a reminder, make sure you keep an eye on the humidity levels in the crate. Because of its lack of density, paper towel substrates need to be changed often. If not, it can become a breeding ground for lots of bacterias and can lead to a bunch of dead crickets. Depending on the amount of crickets placed in a single crate, you may have to change the substrate weekly, if not daily in order to keep your crickets happy.

#6 Newspaper:

Newspaper, very similar to paper towels is also an easy substrate to set up. You can probably get these for free at your local supermarket or recycling center, or at least for a very low price. It is recommended to crumple or shred the newspaper substrate to increase surface area so your crickets can enjoy hopping around.

Newspaper substrate needs to be cleaned just as regularly as paper towels because it can easily host unwanted bacterias, which could prove as a nightmare for your crickets (and likely yourself as well). Place the substrate on the floor of the cricket crate and make sure it doesn’t accumulate too much dampness. An excessive amount of dampness can cause the newspaper to become soggy and heavy. If not placed correctly on the floor, the newspaper may bury or suffocate your crickets.

#7 Bark:

Bark substrate contains a mix of tree bark and material that retains water well. Commonly used material is peat moss, perlite or coconut husk chips. Fir bark is a popular substrate used among cricket owners. At one point, it was the only natural substrate option for certain types of animals. Fir bark, also known as orchid bark because it helps orchids to bloom, looks natural and is a great substrate for retaining humidity in your cricket enclosure. It has a great reputation in decreasing odor and only needs to be changed a few times a year. Make sure to let the bark dry out a bit before pouring it into the enclosure.

#8 Egg crates:

Egg crates have proven to be an extremely convenient substrate for crickets. Its three-dimensional structure provides shelter and spots to hide. This is important for crickets because if an enclosure is too crowded, it can cause crickets to fight and eventually eat each other. To prevent this, place this substrate into different areas of the cricket house which will increase the surface area for your crickets.

Egg crate substrates allow crickets to easily grip to them, and they aren’t difficult to find. You probably have a crate stashed right in your refrigerator.

Here are a few types of egg crate material:

  • Cardboard egg crates
  • Plastic egg crates
  • Mesh or fabric egg crates

#9 Pine shavings:

Pine shavings provide an excellent substrate for crickets, as it 100 percent naturally scented and has great absorption levels. Its scent leaves the enclosure smelling fresh, and suppresses the growth of mold, fungus, bacteria, and cricket poop. This substrate does not omit dust when poured into the enclosure, nor is it difficult to clean. Shredded aspen substrate is also another exceptional option for your crickets needs. Throw in some egg crates as well to make for an enjoyable and voluminous enclosure.

#10 Bare bottom:

Many cricket owners swear that using no substrate at all, or going bare bottom is most effective as a simple cricket substrate. For some, they actually recommend only using complex substrate when it is time to breed crickets, such as coconut fibers, vermiculite and cardboard egg crates. It can get difficult to go bare bottom though, because excrement of the crickets may become hard and dry onto the surface of the enclosure. This may make for a lot of cleaning.

But, which one is for me?

That one my friend, is up to you to decide. Do extensive research on each of these substrates. You may even find more that we have not covered here. Experiment with each substrate and figure out which one best suits your crickets needs. Leave a comment below and tell us what type of substrate you plan to use. Lastly, good luck on your cricket journey!



  • Coconut coir works well but freeze the brick for several days before using to kill off parasites. My tortoise got real sick and was told by the vet that its probably from the substrate and to freeze first. I use vermiculite in my cricket containers and havent had issues.

    Laurie on

  • You fail to mention that vermiculite although “ideal” contains asbestos and long term exposure can lead to lung issues. I’m also not sure that it’s inert for the crickets either and that you aren’t actually slowly poisoning the animals you are feeding with it.

    I’m not sure about the actual risks nor do I believe there is any actual research into the risks other than anecdotal but in full disclosure it needs to be mentioned

    Doug on

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