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Bearded Dragon Substrate Guide

Substrate may seem like such a small part of a bearded dragon’s husbandry (and it is), but it is also a very controversial topic. For this reason I have given substrate a whole category by itself.

There are many differing opinions as to what should be used for the bedding in a bearded dragon’s cage. Some of the opinions can be harsh at times, and all the differing ones can become confusing.

On this page you’ll find helpful information on substrate, so you can make the decision on which substrate to use for your bearded dragon.

There is somewhat of a controversy surrounding the subject of bearded dragon substrate. There are differing opinions as to what’s the best substrate to use for bearded dragons.

Some of the opinions can be very harsh at times. Don’t be surprised if you find others opinions a little pushy as well. Whatever you read or hear, make sure you take it all with a grain of salt.

The main reason that substrate has become a controversial issue is the fear of impaction. Some products that are used for substrate can cause impaction.

For this reason it is important to choose one that is less likely to cause an impaction. There are definitely ones out there that will work well with bearded dragons. Though, all of them have their advantages and disadvantages.

This is one of those areas where you are going to have decide what’s best for your dragon. With proper information on this subject, I think that you’ll have no problem choosing the substrate that is best for your reptile pet.

What is Substrate?

Substrate is the term used for the bedding used in reptile cages. Some places will refer to it as bedding. No matter what it is called, it is what lines the bottom of your bearded dragon’s cage.

There are numerous substrates on the market for reptiles. Not all the substrates that are out there are good for bearded dragons. The ones that are good for dragons, are the ones made for desert dwelling animals.

There are different types of reptiles that live in differing areas, because of this there are different types of substrates to use for them. Take care in making sure that you get one that is made for a desert reptile.

Don’t use bark, moss, or wood shavings. These do not benefit a bearded dragon at all, and also might harm them.


Some people have differing opinions as to which substrate should be used for a bearded dragon. The differing views can be very opinionated at times.

Some sources recommend sand, while others say avoid it all together. I think the best thing to do is find out as much information as you can and make the decision yourself.

I hope to provide you with valuable information concerning bearded dragon substrate, so you can weigh the options and make the decision.

Once you found what works for you and your dragon don’t be dissuaded by others opinions. This doesn’t mean ignore them entirely. Sometimes there are very valid points to the arguments, but always take them with a grain of salt.

Bearded Dragon Substrate Options

There are different types of substrates that can be used for bearded dragons. What you decide to use will depend on how much money you want to spend, whether you want a simple easy to clean cage or a naturalistic enclosure, and how much stock you put into others opinions.

Personally, I like to use playsand and other sand substrates like Repti-Sand by Zoomed. I tend to go with playsand more, because shelling out the money for enough Repti-Sand, to fill my cage, just isn’t in the budget.

If you’re wondering, Repti-Sand isn’t a calcium sand. It is just a fine grain, washed and screened sand for use in reptile cages. It’s kind of like using playsand with out having to do all the prep work like screening it. The cost probably wouldn’t be that bad with one cage, but I have more than one cage and also many baby dragon bins to fill. Using Repti-Sand would be really cost prohibitive for me.

These are just some random substrate thoughts on my part. My substrate choices might not be the best, but they work for me. What you choose to use is totally up to you.

Harsh Bearded Dragon Substrate Opinions

I mentioned others opinions earlier, because some can be down right frightening to a first time dragon owner. The last thing that you want to do is harm your pet, and some opinions can make it seem like you are if you don’t follow them. I know this from experience. I have let other peoples opinions dictate what I did.

I have since then found more information and learned from my own experience. I now take others opinions with a grain of salt.

I have found it best to really research and learn as much as I can, instead of just taking one side of the story.

I have found that the best sources of information come from breeders. Who else knows more about care of bearded dragons, someone who is a hobbyist or someone that breeds and cares for hundreds or even thousands of dragons?

What Substrates Can Be Used for Bearded Dragon?

Here are some of your substrate options. I have either tried or used most of these. I can recommend most of these, but not all of them.

The final choice of what substrate you’ll use will be yours. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them, so weigh them before deciding.

Some good substrate choices will be easy to spot clean, economical, pleasing to the eye and beneficial for your dragon. They also shouldn’t harbor bacteria.

What can be said about using newspaper as a substrate for bearded dragons? Newspaper is a bare-bones, functional substrate. Though, it is far from attractive, it is readily available, cheap, absorbent, and easy to clean. It is considered by some to be the best substrate choice for pet bearded dragons.

Do I like it? Yeah, I think that it makes a pretty good substrate. The only thing that I don’t like about it is the way it looks. All things considered, it is a good substrate.

If newspaper is ingested by your dragon, it should pass through the digestive tract without harming them. I can’t guarantee this, but I have heard it more than once.

There are some people that say baby-bearded dragons should only be kept on a newspaper substrate. At least until they get older. This is just one opinion, and believe me there are a lot of differing ones out there.

I think newspaper makes a great substrate, if appearance isn’t going to matter to you much. However, if you are like me and want to show your bearded dragon off in a naturalistic enclosure there are better substrates to use.

As with any substrate that is a hard surface, bent toes can occur. You will also need to keep an eye on your dragons nails. They might need to be clipped periodically, because newspaper won’t wear them down like sand will.

This is definitely one of the safest substrates out there to use, but as I said earlier it isn’t all that attractive. It works really well when you want to quarantine an animal or when nursing a sick dragon back to health.

The ability to change often as needed is a plus. The fact that it is cheap to come by is an attractive feature.

  • Reptile Carpet :

There are different brands of carpet made specifially for reptile enclosuresReptile carpet is probably the second safest substrate to use for your bearded dragon. It has all of the benefits of newspaper, but with none of the ugliness.

Reptile carpet is fairly easy to spot clean, doesn’t cost too much, and can be changed out very quickly. It can also be washed and reused, something you can’t say for other substrates.

They aren’t a very naturalistic looking cage substrate, but they don’t look too bad. I believe that they come in different colors, but don’t quote me on that.

Using a plastic astroturf type or other carpeting, not specifically made for reptiles, is not recommended. They can be abrasive to the soft underside of a bearded dragon. The loose fibers can also be ingested by a dragon.

There really isn’t that much to say about using reptile carpet for bearded dragons. It is a fairly safe substrate that doesn’t look all that bad.

As with all substrate options that don’t offer cushion, your dragon can get bent toes. This will only happen with prolonged living on hard surfaces. I guess this is the only drawback to this substrate choice.

These are just some substrate options that I know about and have tried. I know that as time goes on, new products will be developed and come to market.

If you decide to use a certain substrate and it doesn’t seem to be working, you can always change it out and try something else. There might be some trial and error before finding what works best for you.

When you do find what works good and your dragon is thriving, don’t be dissuaded by others opinions.

Bearded Dragon Substrate: Things to Consider

There aren’t a lot of things to consider. Actually, there is one major consideration, the age of your bearded dragon.

I have heard people say to not keep a baby-bearded dragon on sand at all. Even though some people do and get good results, it seems that this is the time when they are more susceptible to getting impacted by sand.

I am not sure whether to support this or not. I am leaning toward not. There are breeders that use sand for their hatchlings with no problems. Whether you use it or not is up to you.

This is just some information that I wanted to pass along so you can make the best decision. Also, some of the same people say that there is no problem keeping your bearded dragon on sand after it gets a little older.

So, What’s the Best Substrate?

Ah…that’s a good question isn’t it? I guess there really is no best substrate to use, at least not at this time. There are a lot of suitable ones, but none of them stick out as the best. I can tell you what I prefer, but I know there are people that disagree with my choices.

My favorite substrate to use, not the best, is screened and washed play sand. I also like fine grain reptile sand like Repti-Sand. I see no problem in using either of these, especially as your dragon gets bigger.

If you choose to use washed playsand, you will need to screen it. There are some inconsistencies in the grain size. After it has been sifted you shouldn’t have any problems.


While this is only a little part of your dragons overall housing needs. I have seen enough things flying around to warrant a separate page dedicated to bearded dragon substrate.

I think that it can ease you a little bit knowing information on this subject. I have tried most substrates because others opinions scared me into changing what I was using. After awhile I learned that I could care for my dragon just as well as anyone else could.

I think that for subjects, that have controversy around them, like this one it’s best to research and find as much information that you can, and do what’s best for your pet.

Just like other websites, this is just my opinion. You can also take my information with a grain of salt. I am by no means an expert.

Even though there are a lot of things to consider, don’t let it overwhelm you. Choose what you think is best and try it. If it isn’t to your liking, you can always change it out.

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