5 Best Bearded Dragon Substrates (2021) | Buying Guide and Reviews

Larry Mills
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Before purchasing a bearded dragon cage set up, it is of paramount importance to know whether or not your dragon is going to be housed alone or with a buddy. In either case, you should approach your choice of substrate with an open mind and a careful eye.

After all, the choice of your dragon’s substrate (provided that it is safe for the animal and in compliance with the above points) is entirely up to you.

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert BlendBest OverallZilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend
Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing SubstrateBudget PickZoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate
Zoo Med ReptiSandUpgrade PickZoo Med ReptiSand

1. Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend

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  • Can be used to cover large surfaces as well as fill in smaller gaps
  • Very absorbent
  • Can make a tank seem more natural
  • Easy to come by
  • Reasonable price
  • Available in a variety of sizes


  • Some users find them too loose to pack down
  • They may float

15 Lbs.

This substrate is frequently used to improve the natural look of a tank. It is very absorbent so it can help control smells and the humidity level. While it floats, it does not look unnatural with large surface areas.

This substrate, and others like it, can be used as a substrate covering large surfaces areas of your tank to give it a more natural appearance. Some users particularly enjoy it to cover the bottom of a tank for aesthetic effect.

2. Zoo Med ReptiSand

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zoo Med ReptiSand

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  • Natural substrates
  • Wide range of colors for your reptile
  • Non-toxic
  • Easy to clean and store
  • Does not smell
  • Comes with antimicrobial properties

If your pet reptile has not been eating or is lethargic or exhibiting abnormal behavior, then it is likely that he has picked up a parasite or some microbe from its feces or the bedding of the cage.

The Zoo Med ReptiSand, 10 Pounds, Desert White is made of natural sand, and it is non-toxic. It is an excellent substrate for climbing, burrowing, and your lizard feeling comfortable. With this substrate, your bearded dragon may start eating better, feeling better, and overall acting healthier.

This substrate should be used in a screen enclosure that allows nutritious UVB light to get all the way to the edge of the substrate by placing it on top of a base layer of regular sand.

3. Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner

Our rating: 9 / 10

Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner

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  • It has the size and depth to fit in a 55 gallon aquarium.
  • The beneficial bacteria help to keep the habitat clean.
  • In combination with Under Tank Heating Mat, it keeps the tank warm.
  • It can help to reduce ph in wastewater.
  • It is easy to clean.


  • It cannot be used as a stand alone substrate.
  • Extra care to keep it from becoming dusty is needed.
  • The excellent bacteria contained in it can die if they're exposed.

4. Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate

Our rating: 8 / 10

Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate

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  • It is formulated for use in keeping reptiles that require slightly cooler environments
  • Handles extreme humidity and replicates high desert conditions accordingly
  • It is also great for reptiles that are getting ready to go into hibernation during the winter months
  • Can serve to hold bedding and moisture providing substrate together
  • It provides excellent drainage for overwintering animals
  • Arguably one of the best substrates in the beardie market on the market today
  • Has done an excellent job at keeping lizards comfortable for as long as possible


  • This product must be broken down into compartments as it has a tendency to settle
  • Although the product is easy to clean up, it does clump easily
  • The product is also difficult for many folks to acquire locally
  • Well worth the investment for the purposes of keeping reptilian pets active and healthy

The Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate has been around for a while and is a tried and true product for reptile owners. Reptiles seem to sleep well when using this product and are active during the day when using this type of substrate. For those that might not have it locally, this is a great choice for keeping your reptiles healthy.

5. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Our rating: 7 / 10

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

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  • Lightweight
  • Made with redwood chips
  • Beneficial to your dragon’s mental health


  • Some customers have reported problems with mold forming on this type of bedding
  • The odor may not be for everybody

As mentioned above, bearded dragons cannot handle high levels of humidity inside their bodies. A common mistake for new beardie owners is to put their dragon in an enclosure that does not meet their specific needs. For one, a dedicated bearded dragon habitat will need to include a substrate that is not just a popular choice among other reptile owners.

Chainsaw Ledge Forest Floor redwood chips are a fantastic choice as a bearded dragon substrate.

These bedding chips are relatively lightweight compared to the more commonly used Sphagnum Moss. They also allow your beardie to burrow, hide, and can sometimes help them climb up a sturdy branch to bask up high. Most importantly, these chips are made out of redwood. Redwood has a very low pH level of approximately 4.5. It can last for up to six months in a bearded Dragon habitat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best substrate for a bearded dragon?

If you're new to bearded dragon care you'll be surprised what species, even among the bearded dragons is made up of. An animal enthusiast honestly believed the bearded dragons and the ones with chameleons and the other ones. Can you tell, I am not a herpetologist? I do have experience with some domesticated bearded dragon species.

Yes I'm talking about adopting a bearded dragon, and I have two for pet reptile experience. The name "bearded dragon" comes from the spiked growth around the animal's neck. It is unique and fascinating! If you're interested in finding out more about these animals, this guide has you covered on the best substrates for bearded dragon cages and the best bearded dragon substrates of the year.

Is sand a good substrate for bearded dragons?

Bearded dragons naturally inhabit areas with dry sandy soil so sand might be considered as a natural substrate. But keep in mind that sand is not very stable and may stir when your bearded dragon climbs on his habitat.

Sand is also very noisy which your bearded dragon will certainly hear and might even feel bothersome. The noise can disrupt your bearded dragon and his routine, which certainly is something you don’t want.

You may also worry about your bearded dragon ingesting sand. While sand will probably pass through to their stomach without issues most of the time, it can also pose a risk to your bearded dragon. It is not uncommon for sand to get stuck in the bearded dragon’s digestive tract, which could get impacted and cause a blockage. While blockages are not that common, any reptile owner wants to avoid them for obvious reasons.

What is the best environment for a bearded dragon?

A good environment for a standard bearded dragon is anywhere that is warm with a wide temperature range. Bearded dragons are known for their ability to handle any climate that exists on Earth.

It's unnecessary to go out and buy an expensive terrarium that will be more expensive to heat throughout the year. However, it is necessary to ensure that temperatures remain in the 78 to 95 degree Fahrenheit range.

Glass terrariums work fine for this task. But, if you can't provide your bearded dragon with a warm enough environment, then you should consider an aquarium with a basking light.

It's also crucial that you keep a good source of vitamin D3 near your bearded dragon to help them absorb calcium properly. Vitamin D3 can typically be supplemented with a vitamin spray.


Choosing a substrate for your bearded dragon is not as complicated as you might think. It’s basically just finding one that’s best suited to not only your pet, but also your personal preferences and budget.

While there are a variety of substrates available, our research found that the best types in 2019 are either eco earth or hiltex. Thus, we’ve placed them at the top of our list.

If you want more information about beardie substrates and their importance, as well as which substrates work best with bearded dragons, then click here to find out.

Our Recommendation

Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert BlendBest OverallZilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend
Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing SubstrateBudget PickZoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate
Zoo Med ReptiSandUpgrade PickZoo Med ReptiSand