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The substrate is what lines the bottom of the bearded dragon enclosure. There are a number of different types of substrate available for bearded dragons. There are a lot of totally different opinions when it comes to the best substrate for bearded dragons. Some people are against certain substrates while others claim they are the best ones.
Bearded dragon Substrates can be a flat newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper and reptile carpet. A substrate should be selected based on the age of the bearded dragon and ease of cleaning. Do not use anything that is lose such as wood chips, cedar shavings, and crushed corn cob, etc.
Below are some of the substrate that can be used in a bearded dragon enclosure.
Sand and Similar Materials
Out in the wild, bearded dragons live their entire lives running on sand and pebbles. Many people in the bearded dragon community feel that using a sand substrate can increase the chances of gut impaction. Gut impaction is when a bearded dragon swallows an object, and it blocks his/her intestinal track. These blockages can cause death if not treated immediately.
Many pet stores offer pebble and gravel substrates. These gravel and pebbles can also cause impaction if the bearded dragon swallows it. Pebbles can also cause damage to the dragon’s teeth if grabbed accidentally while going after an insect.
You can use non-silica sand as a substrate for adult bearded dragons with a limited worry of the chance of impaction. Sands should be avoided for baby dragons at all cost.
Many pet stores also offer sand substrate made of calcium, called Vita-sand. The idea behind Vita-Sand is that it will become metabolized when a bearded dragon swallows it, reducing the chances of impaction. Some bearded dragon owners consider Vita-sand one of the best substrates for bearded dragon while other think it can still cause problems.
The newspaper is one of the most popular substrates for bearded dragons. They are free and easy to maintain, however, they are not as good looking as sand. If you are worried about the impaction issues, newspaper substrate is the best choice to go with. You will also find substrates made of washed and shredded newspaper available at different pet stores. You can use these type of substrate for dragons that love to dig without having to worry about the impaction. The only downside to newspaper substrates is that it retains humidity.
Another very famous substrate used in bearded dragon habitats is reptile carpet or Cage Liners. These are synthetic carpets made to simulate dessert or grass. Reptile carpets are simply laid across the floor of the cage/ terrarium to cover the bottom. Cage liners make the best substrate for bearded dragons except for one thing, and that is the loops of the liner can get caught in the dragon’s claw causing it to get snagged. The dragon may pull against the snag that can result in the claw to be ripped off. This can be avoided by using a cage liner that has a tight weave.
Bark and Mulch
Bark and Mulch can also be used as a substrate for bearded dragons however they are not highly recommended. One of the downsides to bark and mulch is that it retains humidity causing the humidity level to raise above the appropriate level.
Ceramic tiles are relatively a new addition to the list of bearded dragon substrates. Lowe’s or Home Depot that are usually used in bathrooms or kitchens can be used as a substrate for dragons. These tiles are easy to clean and look nice. They also eliminate the chances of impaction problems.