The substrate material is one of the key things in creating the perfect home for any leopard gecko. When purchasing a substrate for your gecko, there are many variables to consider. Remember, these lizards are native to dry, semi-desert areas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and northwest India and usually live on a mix of sand and small pieces of crushed bark.
There are many substrates to consider, but which is the best for these lizards? We’ve compiled a list of the best and worst substrates for leopard geckos. Keep in mind that this list is based on the preferences of leopard geckos in their natural habitat.
How to Choose Substrates for Leopard Gecko
Before we dive into the list of the best substrates for leopard geckos, there are a few factors you should keep in mind when choosing the right one. Some things to look for are the ease of cleanliness, whether it’s safe for your pet and whether the substrate will mimic your pet’s natural habitat. Check out the 6 best leopard gecko substrates below.
Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate
The Eco Earth substrate is made from coconut husks, a renewable and sustainable resource. The substrate is one hundred percent natural, meaning it is free from any artificial additives or chemicals. This makes it safe to use in terrariums, as there is no risk of toxic substances leaching into the environment or harming your pet.
It’s ideal for creating a humid terrarium that is both natural and comfortable for your reptile or amphibian pet. It helps maintain proper humidity levels, which is important for reptiles and amphibians that thrive in high-humidity environments.
In terms of ease of use, the Eco Earth substrate is very straightforward. If you are using it in brick form, simply place the brick in a water container and allow it to absorb for thirty minutes. Then, break it up with your hands and use it immediately to provide a welcoming and comfortable humid substrate.
Overall, the Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate is an excellent choice for those looking to create a natural and comfortable terrarium for their reptile or amphibian pet. It is made from natural coconut husks, helps maintain proper humidity levels, and is suitable for use with live plants. If you are looking for a high-quality, natural substrate, the Eco Earth is definitely worth considering.
- It’s suitable for natural terrariums
- It can naturally absorb and break down odors
- It’s effective for live plants
- You can choose between compressed and loose brick
- There’s a risk of being ingested
Zilla Reptile Terrarium Floor Liner
The Zilla Reptile Pet Terrarium Floor Liners are made from a non-abrasive, absorbent material that will not irritate your reptile. They are also treated with a bio-degradable enzyme that helps to reduce odors, making it easier to maintain a fresh and clean environment for your pet.
One of the key benefits of these floor liners is their ease of use. Simply place them on the bottom of your reptile’s terrarium, and they will help to absorb any waste or odors that may be present. When it comes time to clean the terrarium, the liners can be easily removed and disposed of, making the cleaning process quick and hassle-free.
In addition to being easy to use, the Zilla Reptile Pet Terrarium Floor Liners are also safe for your pet. The non-abrasive material will not irritate your reptile’s skin, and the bio-degradable enzyme is safe and effective at reducing odors.
Overall, the Zilla Reptile Pet Terrarium Floor Liners are a great choice for those looking to keep their reptile’s habitat clean and odor-free.
- Helps to keep the reptile’s habitat clean and odor-free
- Easy to use – place in the terrarium and remove when it’s time to clean
- Safe for your reptile – made from a non-abrasive, absorbent material that will not irritate the skin
- Contains a bio-degradable enzyme that helps to reduce odors
- Easy to clean and dispose off
- The teeth can get stuck in rare cases
Exo Terra Sand Mat
The Exo Terra sand matte is a high-quality substrate that is designed specifically for use in reptile and amphibian terrariums. According to the manufacturer, the sand matte is made from a special type of sand that is natural and non-toxic, making it safe for your pet to use.
One of the key benefits of the Exo Terra sand matte is that it is easy to clean. The matte surface is designed to prevent the build-up of bacteria and other dirt types, making it easier to keep the terrarium clean and hygienic. The sand matte is also easy to maintain, as it does not require frequent replacement like other types of substrates.
In addition to being easy to clean and maintain, the Exo Terra sand matte is also very natural-looking. The sand has a matte finish that gives it a natural and realistic appearance, which is important for creating a realistic and naturalistic terrarium environment. The sand matte is also available in a range of sizes, so you can choose the one that best fits your terrarium.
Overall, the Exo Terra sand matte is a high-quality substrate that is easy to clean, easy to maintain, and natural-looking. It is a great choice for those looking to create a comfortable and realistic environment for their reptile or amphibian pet.
- Made from natural, non-toxic sand that is safe for your pet
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Natural-looking matte finish looks appealing
- Available in a range of sizes to fit different terrariums
- Some users say the little stones pose an impaction risk
BNOSDM 2 PCS Reptile Carpet Mat
BNOSDM 2 PCS Reptile Carpet Mat Terrarium Liner Bedding Reptile Cage Mat Supplies for Tortoise Lizard Leopard Gecko Snake Chameleon 23.6’’ x 15.7’’
The BNOSDM 2 PCS Reptile Carpet Mat is a high-quality substrate that is designed specifically for use in reptile and amphibian terrariums. The carpet mat is made from a soft, non-toxic material that is safe for your leopard gecko to use.
One of the key benefits of the BNOSDM carpet mat is that it is very easy to clean and maintain. The mat is designed to be non-absorbent, which means it will not hold onto dirt or bacteria. The carpet mat is also easy to replace, as it is available in a set of two, so you can simply swap out the old one for a new one when it becomes dirty or worn.
In addition to being easy to clean and maintain, the BNOSDM carpet mat is also very comfortable and cozy for your pet. The soft, non-toxic material provides a comfortable surface for your reptile or amphibian to rest and relax on, and the mat is available in a range of colors to suit different terrariums. The carpet mat is also easy to cut to fit your terrarium, so you can customize it to the exact size and shape you need.
- Made from a soft, non-toxic material that is safe for your pet
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Comfortable and cozy for your pet to rest and relax on
- Available in a range of colors to suit different terrariums
- It may not be as effective at controlling odors
Hamiledyi Reptile Bark Bedding Habitat Substrate
Hamiledyi Reptile Bark Bedding Tortoise Habitat Substrate Natural Terrarium Bark Wood Chips Tank Supplies for Snake Spiders Bearded Dragons Hermit Crabs Geckos
The Hamiledyi Reptile Bark Bedding Habitat Substrate is a high-quality substrate that is designed specifically for use in reptile and amphibian terrariums. According to Hamiledyi, the bark substrate is made from natural, non-toxic materials that are safe for your pet.
The substrate is made from real bark, which gives it a realistic and naturalistic appearance that is perfect for creating a realistic terrarium environment. The substrate is also available in a range of sizes, so you can choose the one that best fits your terrarium.
In addition to being natural-looking, the Hamiledyi bark substrate is also very easy to clean and maintain. The substrate is non-absorbent and will not hold onto dirt or bacteria. This makes it easy to keep the terrarium clean and hygienic, which is important for the health and well-being of your pet.
Overall, the Hamiledyi Reptile Bark Bedding Habitat Substrate is a great choice for those looking to create a realistic and naturalistic terrarium environment for their reptile or amphibian.
- Made from natural, non-toxic materials that are safe for your pet
- Natural-looking bark substrate
- Available in a range of sizes to fit different terrariums
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Easy to replace – available in a large bag to refill your terrarium as needed
- Some users may prefer a more decorative or textured substrate
Zoo Med HydroBalls Expanded Clay Substrate
Zoo Med HydroBalls Expanded Clay Substrate is a lightweight and porous substrate made of clay balls baked at high temperatures to make them highly absorbent. This substrate is ideal for use in terrariums and other reptile enclosures because it helps maintain proper humidity levels and provides a natural look.
According to customer reviews online, this substrate is easy to use and promotes healthy plant growth. It is also easy to clean and lasts for a long time. Some reviewers had mentioned that the substrate could be a bit dusty when first opened, but this can be easily resolved by rinsing the HydroBalls before use.
Overall, the Zoo Med HydroBalls Expanded Clay Substrate is a high-quality and effective substrate used in terrariums and reptile enclosures. It is well-reviewed by customers and is suitable for use with a wide range of reptile species.
- Lightweight and porous, which makes it easy to use and handle
- Promotes healthy plant growth
- Naturalistic look
- Suitable for use with a wide range of reptile species
- Some reviewers have mentioned that the substrate can be a bit expensive compared to other options on the market
How To Choose the Best Leopard Gecko Substrate
When choosing the best substrate for a leopard gecko, there are several factors to consider:
Price – Leopard gecko substrates can range in price from cheap and affordable to a splurge. Consider your budget and how often you will need to replace the substrate when deciding how much to spend.
Overall cleanliness – Choosing a substrate that is easy to clean is important to maintain a healthy and hygienic enclosure for your leopard gecko. Look for substrates that can be easily scooped, spot cleaned, or replaced as needed.
Longevity – Consider how often you will need to replace the substrate. Some substrates, such as recycled paper or cypress mulch, may need to be replaced more frequently than others, such as expanded clay or coconut coir.
Safety – Choosing a substrate that is safe for your leopard gecko and will not present any safety or health hazards is important. Avoid substrates that may be ingested, such as small rocks or sand, as they can cause impaction or other health issues.
Realistic to natural habitat – Leopard geckos are native to arid environments, so choosing a substrate that mimics their natural habitat is important. Look for substrates that are absorbent and promote proper humidity levels, such as coconut coir or expanded clay. Avoid substrates that retain moisture, such as wood chips or soil, as these can lead to respiratory issues.
What are the Ideal Substrates for Leopard Geckos in Captivity?
A non-loose substrate should be used to cover the layer of loose substrate in an ideal arid bioactive setting. This will provide a secure hiding place for your leopard gecko and reduce the possibility that it will digest anything dangerous.
If you provide a terrarium for your leopard gecko, make sure to use a Bioactive Substrate like bark, wood chips, or peat moss. These materials can provide hiding places, food and water dishes, climbing surfaces, and places to rest.
To replicate their native habitat in the outdoors, natural setups like these will have dirt, sand, and clay. You can keep your terrarium clean and nutrient-rich by adding an arid cleanup staff made up of small insects or spiders. There are different bioactive mixes to choose from, but you must ensure you get the right one. These can be the most aesthetically pleasing but pricey.
Excavator Clay Substrate
Excavator Clay Substrate is a perfect substrate for Leopard Geckos due to their instinct to burrow. Clay is an ideal option because it can easily be designed and made into the perfect burrowing areas and flooring for your pet leopard gecko.
When constructing their environment, be sure to wear gloves to avoid any accidental injuries. You may also find DIY ideas online for creating the perfect environment for your leopard gecko using excavator clay. Compared to particle substrates, this clay will be safer for your pet and will imitate their natural dry habitat in the wild.
You should wait until the clay is entirely dry before introducing them to its new surroundings, but it is recommended that you do so sooner rather than later to prevent moisture build-up on the substrate.
One of the most popular choices for reptile flooring is the reptile carpet. It’s a great option because it’s not floppy, messy, or edible. It can be cut to size and placed into your enclosure with ease. Additionally, it typically comes in rolls, so you don’t have to worry about it becoming tangled up. Another reason many owners pick a carpet substrate is the ease of cleaning.
One downside to this flooring is that pets may get their nails or claws stuck. However, this is the only issue owners have had with reptile carpets. In rare circumstances, they can also get their teeth stuck in it too, so you should feed the gecko in a bowl and not from the carpet. Apart from this, a reptile carpet is among the inexpensive substrate options that work well.
Not the best-looking substrate but paper towels are arguably the most economical substrate for leopard geckos. Not only are they easy to clean and replace, but they also provide a visible identifier that can help keep you aware of their eating habits and monitor their bowel movements more closely.
Additionally, paper towels offer little to no opportunity for leopard geckos to swallow or ingest any microscopic particles, meaning impaction is kept to a minimum. Young or juvenile leopard geckos may do well with this substrate over other options.
Tile flooring is a popular choice for leopard geckos because it keeps their environment warm, comfortable, and easy to clean. Owners especially appreciate the customizable options available with tile flooring. Slate or basalt tiles, similar to the rocks Leopard Geckos live on in the wild, are most popular among owners. However, any tile can be used as long as it can retain heat.
Ceramic tiles are preferred for their ability to keep pets warm and dry. Despite being very easy to clean using moist paper towels, tile flooring doesn’t absorb smells like some other types of flooring do, offensive odors will often be eliminated without having to use additional measures like air fresheners or scents. Another great feature of Tile Flooring is that it’s highly versatile. You can use different combinations of tiles depending on your needs and preferences.
Coconut fiber is a popular choice for leopard gecko substrates because it has many benefits for the lizard. It is organic and has antibacterial characteristics that help prevent smells, rotting, and mold. Additionally, it won’t make your leopard gecko terrarium more humid, which is beneficial because too much humidity might harm your gecko.
It can be absorbed by your gecko and is less likely to cause impaction, which is another crucial point to consider. However, because it poses a risk, it is still debatable among leopard gecko owners. When selecting a substrate for your leopard gecko, as long as you make an informed choice and are knowledgeable about all the options and risks, coconut fiber should be a viable option.
Newspaper is a cheap substrate that many owners favor for newborn geckos. It is a less appealing but equally secure alternative to many substrates. Newspaper can be found at most convenience stores or any newsstand for a low cost.
Daily changing of the substrate prevents bacterial development or the risk of infection. It is significantly safer than sand since it cannot be swallowed and does not require adhering to specific mason jar/cage humidity levels as other substrates do. If the usual substrate can’t be replaced right away or if you have young geckos, having newspaper on hand is an excellent idea.
Sand mats are a type of substrate that is similar to reptile carpets, but they have a more rugged and organic look and feel. They are typically thin rolls of flexible plastic with small rocks and sand adhered to them to mimic the feel and appearance of sand.
Sand mats resemble sandpaper in that the sand adheres to the surface safely despite having a scratchy feel. These mats are an excellent alternative to loose, untidy substrates for reptile owners who want to replicate their pet’s natural habitat in a terrarium.
Vinyl is a less common option, but in spite of this, it is unquestionably among the best substrates for your leopard gecko enclosure. Vinyl has the advantage of being incredibly simple to maintain. You must use an organic wet wipe to clean up your leopard gecko’s poop.
The best part is that you never need to replace it. Additionally, vinyl doesn’t allow insects to hide, which is a major issue with most other substrates. Finally, various colors and styles are available for a vinyl substrate. You can choose from various gray, black, white, wood, or brick designs. So, with this substrate, you can really give your enclosure a unique appearance. Although one of the greatest surfaces for leopard geckos is vinyl, it can be somewhat pricey.
What Are the Substrate Options to Avoid
Gecko owners should generally avoid providing loose substrates such as sand because it is very easy for their pets to consume in small amounts, which can lead to a blockage in their digestive system. Sand also poses a danger of insects escaping the enclosure and finding refuge among the pet’s food.
In general, gecko owners should try to provide an enclosure that is free of sand as much as possible. Some alternatives are more affordable, less challenging to clean, and safer for the gecko.
Wood chips are a horrible loose substrate you should avoid at all costs. They are large, hefty, and full of tiny splinters that your gecko could trip over when moving around their habitat or splinter themselves on. Although you would initially believe that there is no risk of impaction since wood particles are large enough, this is regrettably incorrect.
There is a risk of unintentional ingestion because of the wide range in size of the individual chips. It is usual for extremely small bits to enter your gecko’s enclosure. Additionally, your gecko will be uncomfortable walking on wood chips. Your pet’s delicate skin will abrade painfully from the sharp, jagged edges and splinters over time. And last, cleaning them is challenging.
Although you can scoop out the areas your gecko has ruined, you’ll need to remove all the wood chips and replace them when you do deep cleans.
Peat moss is a popular substrate for reptiles, particularly leopard geckos. However, it is not the best substrate for these animals and should only be used in limited circumstances. Peat moss is high in water content, which will increase the humidity levels inside your leopard gecko’s enclosure.
This can be problematic because leopard geckos are desert creatures, and their habitat should ideally maintain a maximum humidity level of 50%. If the humidity levels get too high, it can lead to health problems for your pet. Peat moss also has a cleaning problem. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by its untidy nature, and it’s difficult to deep clean this substrate without damaging it. This makes it susceptible to molding.
Ground Walnut Shells
Ground walnut shells are among the most commonly sold loose substrates for geckos. Unfortunately, these shells are often very dangerous to use as a substrate for your gecko. Contents include sharp particles that can cause impaction, and the shells themselves are often very uncomfortable and difficult for your gecko to walk on.
Avoid using ground walnut shells as a substrate at all costs, as there are much safer and more realistic-looking substitutes available.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I Put On the Bottom of My Leopard Gecko Cage?
You should use a safe substrate inside a leopard gecko’s cage such as sand mats, reptile carpets, bioactive substrates, DIY blended substrate, excavator clay and prepackaged bedding. You can also use other substrates such as paper towels, newspaper, ceramic tiles, shelf liners and stone slate.
Is Coconut Substrate Good for Leopard Geckos?
Yes, coconut substrate is among the best substrates for reptiles. Besides, it’s affordable, antimicrobial and looks natural. Coconut fiber can also be used on both wet and dry, meaning you don’t need different substrates for the tank and hide.