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Reptile & Amphibian Substrates

Table of Contents

Sand Mat

Sand mats are a popular product because they are easy to install.  However, spot cleaning will be challenging.  And they may be challenging to fit into odd shaped habitats.  Although, our sand mat can be cut to fit specific sizes, which may make this one the best option.

Spot cleaning is critical in every habitat, and should be done daily.  But with this gritty substrate, you're pretty much dealing with sand paper.  Imagine cleaning up bearded dragon poop from some sand paper.  It will be very difficult getting your cleaning clothe into all the nooks and crannies.  If you're dealing with loose substrate, it's easy to spot clean the clump of sand or bedding.

But one declared benefit of the sand mat is that the substrate won't dislodge and get into your pet's digestive track.  It's well known that chunky sand granules can cause impaction, which can be a terminal problem for many reptiles.  


Reptisand is a popular product for many bearded dragon and leopard gecko owners.  The reptisand is a mixture of fine quartz sand and a few other objects.  This creates helps create a desert atmosphere for your desert-dwelling pets.  And this provides a good substrate for your pets who like to dig and burrow.  

Calcium Sand

This is going to trigger some people because calcium sand is controversial.  If you do any research on calcium sand, you'll get an equal amount of leopard gecko and bearded dragon owners who say it's terrible.  But then, you'll see an equal amount of people declaring that calcium sand is great!  So, you're going to have to make the judgement call on whether calcium sand is what your pet needs.  But here's the lowdown on calcium sand.

Calcium sand is basically calcium carbonate, which is the same material that Tums are made from.  So it's great for your heart burn!  But what makes owners so interested in calcium sand is that it's an ultra fine powder.  The reasoning is that this calcium powder is so fine that reptiles will be able to easily digest any calcium sand they digest.  Additionally, your pets need calcium!  So the thought process is that if your pet ingests the calcium sand, they will get the calcium their body needs to prevent metabolic bone disease.  

Now, if you are really concerned about metabolic bone disease, there are other ways to get calcium for your pet (such as black soldier fly larvae).  So if you're on the fence about sand substrate, calcium can be found in alternative sources.

Snake Substrate

Snake substrate is pretty simple - aspen or cypress.  Aspen is going to be the most popular snake substrate.  It is inexpensive and easy to find.  It is generally light colored, which will help snake owners quickly find the snake poop, and spot clean it.  But one draw back is that aspen shavings will hold moisture and can grow mold because of that.  So it is very necessary to change the aspen bedding routinely.

Cypress is great because it does not get moldy or grow mildew.  However, when it gets wet, it is very sticky.  it is also more expensive than aspen.

But for the most part, never use sand or cedar for your snakes.  Sand will get stuck on your snake's food.  And the snake will have a much more difficult time digesting the sand compared to a bearded dragon.  And cedar is too aromatic and will poison your snake.

Bearded Dragon Substrate

Deciding on a substrate for your bearded dragon is polarizing.  On one hand, many experts and communities forbid the use of sand.  And for good reason - if your dragon consumes the sand, this can cause impaction in his/her digestive track.  This is extremely painful and can be lethal for your dragon.   But on the other hand, there are just as many experts suggesting that sand is fine.  They do not dismiss that sand can cause impaction.  But they are dismissing that your dragon will consume enough sand to cause impaction, especially if your crickets and other feeders are offered in an area where there is no sand.  

If you want to avoid sand all together, this is a good idea, and there are options available  Slate tile and linoleum are great options.  These are common flooring solutions in residential and commercial construction.  But these building materials can also be used in your bearded dragon's habitat.  They are also easy to clean.  

Sand Mats are also good alternatives.  This is pretty much sand paper.  It will give your habitat a natural feeling.  But these sand mats are going to be difficult to spot clean.

You can decide for yourself which side of the fence to sit on.  But here are popular substrates for bearded dragons:

  • sand mat
  • calcium sand (do your own research - lots  of controversy in the reptile community)
  • reptisand
  • play sand and excavator sand

Leopard Gecko Substrate

Leopard geckos are naturally predisposed to dig.  So a loose substrate will get their jollies going!  But there is good loose substrate, and bad loose substrate.  DIY earth mix (potting soil & play sand) is a great option.  And there are many pre-made mixes as well.  Plain sand and coco coir are poor options due to how dusty they are.  And again, calcium sand is a controversial topic.  Many people say they never have issues.  Many say they do have issues.  So it depends on what side of the fence you want to sit on.