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Using Shelf Liner as a Substrate for Bearded Dragon

Is shelf liner the answer to the bearded dragon substrate enigma? Could it be true? Is there really a cage bedding that all bearded dragon owners can agree on? Is this the miracle that beardie owners have been waiting for?!?

Hold up there for a second. Don’t go getting yourself all worked into a frenzy.

I know that it is an exciting prospect to have a safe bedding that can be used in our dragons home. I for one think it sounds terrific, but I have had no experience using it.

I think this is a very good substrate option for use in your dragons cage. Is it 100% fool proof? Well, not exactly, but it does come fairly close.

It seems to be a trend in the bearded dragon community to shy away from sand substrates. Which is fine, if that’s the way you want to go.

I also know that what might be praised today can be loathed tomorrow. This has happened with different substrates. Can anyone say Calci-Sand? This is the reason that I find it hard to put the ominous moniker of “best” on any substrate choice.

Though, I might not call shelf liner the “best”, it certainly is a worthy choice to line the bottom of your bearded dragon’s cage.

I have just recently changed over to shelf liner after getting frustrated with all the dust from play sand. So far the shelf liner is impressing me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on sand substrates, but the play sand I was buying was just too dusty.

It was making my home and dragons cages look horrible. Not to mentiont he health implications of all that dust for the dragons and my family.

Shelf liner has the advantages of newspaper, but without the drab, nasty look to it ( I’m usually a brown colored kind ). If you are looking for a substrate that will reduce the risk of impaction and dust, you might want to give shelf liner a try.

What are Some of the Pros?

The biggest thing that shelf liner has going for it, is that it reduces the risk of impaction. This in itself is a very big plus.

Though, it isn’t the only thing to look for in a good substrate. Impaction seems to be one of the most feared bearded dragon illness’ out there, although parasites are making headway.

Shelf liner appears to be fairly easy to keep clean. I have found that there are numerous types of shelf liner on the market, but the ones that are suggested for a bearded dragon substrate are the non-adhesive kind.

The shelf liner will also have a little padding and a smooth surface that are easy to wipe clean. Even though it’s easy to clean, you will still have to keep up on maintenance.

If waste is left, it will be run through and spread by your dragon. This point applies to every type of substrate, though.

It seems that shelf liner is fairly cheap. A very good selling point. I like nothing more than saving money and getting something of value.

I might be a little stingy, and you can call me Scrooge if you want to, but price does play a role in most things that we buy. A roll of appropriate shelf liner will run somewhere between $5 and $10 dollars (US).

Since shelf liner is economical, and it can be changed frequently without being a big financial burden. Though, newspaper just might be the end all of a penny pinching cage substrate.

Using a substrate that isn’t too pricey will ensure that it gets changed when it needs it. Being able to keep the substrate clean, and changed when needed, is a huge plus in my book.

What are Some of the Cons?

There are cons for just about every substrate, and shelf liner is no different.

The main con is that with older, larger dragons the harder surface can lead to bent toes. This might be lessened by the fact that there is a little bit of cushion with the shelf line. Even so, this can still be a risk when using a harder surfaced substrate.

Your dragon might also have overgrown nails. The shelf liner really doesn’t provide anything to help keep your dragons claws filed down. I have noticed that sand does an excellent job at this.

This isn’t a huge drawback, though. You can clip your dragon’s nails yourself. I have never done this, but my wife has. It seems too fragile a job for me, but my wife does an excellent job. I am going to have her write a “how to” on clipping dragons’ nails in the near future.

If you place rocks or similar items in your cage, this will help file down nails as well. This will also give your dragon some things to climb and bask on.


I think that using shelf liner is a good option. If you’re afraid of your dragon getting impacted than this might be your best choice (behind newspaper). If you want something that looks better than newspaper, then check this out.

As with just about every substrate choice there are pros and cons. It is up to us as bearded dragon owners to weigh these and choose what is “best” for our dragons. I really want to stress choosing for yourself.

Don’t let anyone choose for you or guilt you into using something that you don’t want to use. I have gone down this path, and it just brought frustration.

If you’re chasing the ever elusive “perfect substrate”, bearded dragon shelf liner isn’t it. If you want a good substrate that is readily available and affordable, you have found what you’re looking for. So far I really like using it in my cages.

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