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The 7 Best Beddings & Substrates For Bearded Dragons

One of the most beloved exotic pets is the bearded dragon. They are easy to care for, resilient, and fun to watch for long periods of time, whether it's because they chase insects around their terrarium or bang their heads to show dominance. Beards need live food, but crickets and cockroaches are enough, and beards also benefit from eating nutritious salads and other things. The native home of the bearded dragon in Australia is sandy and muddy, so it is well suited to the desert environment. The substrate for your lizard tank should reflect the dry, subtropical Australian conditions. Unfortunately, imposition is a real risk for these reptile pets. This can happen if they ingest anything that is too big for them, such as a rock or a rock. Bearded dragons grow best in conditions that are as close to their native habitat as possible, so it's important to invest in quality bedding so they feel at home. You and your bearded dragon deserve the best, which is why BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has put together a series of reviews of the best beddings & substrates for bearded dragons available.

Instruction Manual

Care for your bearded dragon by creating an environment similar to its native habitat. Bearded dragons originate in Australia, where they can be found in sandy deserts or subtropical jungles.

By simulating these settings, you can make sure your beardie thrives. When selecting a bed for your lizard, keep the following in mind.

Bedding Varieties

  • One of the most realistic and natural-looking bedding alternatives for your bearded dragon is sand. Ingesting a significant amount of quartz sand is unlikely even if your dragon gorges on it, therefore it’s safe to use around them. Even if your pet accidentally ingests some calcium sand while snacking on mealworms, it shouldn’t cause any stomach upset. Babies and young bearded dragons shouldn’t be housed on sand.
  • Cage liners are available on a roll and are made to seem like sand or soil in the cage. In fact, you may simply wash and reuse some of them. Although they mimic the feel and appearance of natural substrate, they do not provide the same advantages. To maintain a comfortable internal temperature, bearded dragons burrow and dig, which is obviously not possible with a carpet roll.
  • Tile is chosen because it lasts a long time and because your bearded dragon’s claws become filed down as he walks over it. Your lizard will be unable to self-regulate its temperature by burrowing or digging, and it may become bored with a tile floor. Tile floors may be stinky and hard to clean.
  • Mulch and bark are also often used, and there are numerous kinds to choose from, such as pine, orchid, and coconut husk. These are a great option for simulating natural environments, but when selecting a bark substrate, it’s important to make sure the pieces aren’t too big for your dragon to swallow safely.

Just what does “Impaction” entail?

Substrate and bedding choices for your bearded dragon should be made with this potential hazard in mind. Impaction, a condition similar to choking, can develop if food becomes lodged in the throat.

Something too big for your bearded dragon’s stomach can cause digestive problems. This obstruction is caused by the bark or other material lying at the bottom of the digestive tract and preventing waste from moving through. It’s extremely unpleasant and, if untreated, lethal.

How Should Young Bearded Dragons Sleep?

Sand and bark are both poor substrate choices for baby bearded dragons. Use a carpet or liner instead, and make sure it stays clean and odor-free.

Clay tiles are another option, but they require frequent upkeep and repair and can be challenging to set up. As soon as your bearded dragon reaches adulthood, you can switch the substrate you utilize.

What Is the Recommended Amount of Bedding for a Bearded Dragon Cage?

The bearded dragon will regulate its body temperature by digging and burrowing in certain substrates, so make sure to leave ample area for this activity.

Experts often believe that a thickness of 1.5 to 2 inches is optimal. They may move around freely and burrow into the ground this way.

When Is It Necessary to Replace a Bearded Dragon’s Bedding?

The frequency with which you change your bearded dragon’s bedding depends on the type of bedding you use and the level of dirtiness.

Spot cleaning is made easier with some substrates, such coconut husks, since they cluster together when they become filthy.

The term “spot cleaning” refers to the practice of removing only the filthy bedding from the terrarium rather than the complete ecosystem. Depending on the product, you may need to replace it every few weeks or as long as six months.


Bearded dragons make great pets and serve as a great introduction to the fascinating world of lizards and other reptiles. They require comfortable bedding that mimics their natural environment, but other than that, they are simple to care for.

Most bearded dragons prefer sand or bark as their substrate, but after extensive research, we have concluded that Zoo Med Vita Sand provides the optimal balance of substrate size, burrowing ability, and cleanliness.

The English walnut shell bedding from Zilla is a great value; it solidifies well for spot cleaning and has a lovely, natural scent; it’s also a bit less expensive than other options.

There are many choices out there, some healthier than others, and some that can be harmful to your bearded dragon. Make sure to choose the best beddings & substrates for bearded dragons using the information and recommendations BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has provided above to narrow down your search.


Most Effective Supplement: Zoo Med Vita-Sand

Zoo Med Vita-Sand is an all-natural, uncolored sand. Extra vitamins and beta-carotene have been added, and the fine sand means that your bearded dragon won’t have to worry about impaction, even if he takes a mouthful along with his favorite cricket treat.

The sand is manufactured from genuine quartz desert sand, which is a close match to the sand in the bearded dragon’s native habitat, and makes it easier for the reptile to dig.

Our research led us to conclude that this substrate is ideal for bearded dragons since it is made entirely of natural materials, is fine enough to prevent impaction, and is reminiscent of the sand that bearded dragons would find in the desert.

Although some purchasers have noted that it generates a lot of dust due to its fine texture, and the colorful varieties may leave a slight stain on your bearded dragon, these issues should not be reason for alarm.


  • Real Quartz Sand
  • Substrate is designed to seem like real sand from the desert.
  • We need not worry about impaction.


  • Often has a dusty quality
  • The bearded dragon’s belly

Zilla English Walnut Shell Bedding for Reptiles, Finely Ground, at the Lowest Possible Price

The English walnut shell used in Zilla’s reptile bedding has been finely powdered to prevent impaction. Your bearded dragon will benefit from the shells’ ability to retain heat, and the bearded dragon will benefit from the size and weight of the crushed shell, which stimulates digging and burrowing as a means of controlling body temperature.

In addition to being more cost-effective than quartz sand, the crushed walnut shells are another reason we recommend Zilla pulverized English Walnut shell as the finest affordable bedding option for bearded dragons.

The shell is of sufficient quality and size for adult bearded dragons, however the bedding is not appropriate for hatchlings or juveniles due to their tiny size. In addition, we like natural beddings that are more reminiscent of the bearded dragon’s original environment.


  • Cheap
  • Pieces are a suitable size for adult dragons.
  • Increases digging by retaining heat and preventing evaporation


  • Can’t you just use sand that’s already in the ground?
  • Cheapest Bedding – Not Appropriate for Baby Animals

Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding from Zoo Med is an Excellent Option

The natural cypress mulch bedding offered by Zoo Med is more costly than the other alternatives here, but it is also of higher quality. Zoo Med claims that is simple to clean and that the mulched cypress construction will keep your pet warm.

This bedding may be used to create an environment that is reminiscent of a forest floor, and it lays flat to ensure that prey has nowhere to hide before being devoured.

Mulch preserves its original form, making it challenging for your beardie to burrow through the surface and reach under the top layer, thus it’s not the ideal choice for burrowing lizards.

The fragments are sufficiently large to avoid impaction but not so tiny as to generate dust. Your lizard may develop breathing issues if exposed to too much dust.

This cypress mulch has many positive qualities, but we are not keen on it because of the impossibility of burrowing into it.

Since the Zoo Med cypress mulch bedding is somewhat pricey, you will likely need to purchase additional substrate to accommodate the extra burrowing space you’ll be providing.


  • Makes it seem like you’re in the middle of a forest
  • We like the size of the pieces.
  • In the absence of dirt


  • Expensive
  • Can’t dig tunnels

Eco Earth Reptile Bedding by Zoo Med

Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding by Zoo Med is an eco-friendly substrate manufactured from recycled coconut husks.

It is sold in both loose and compacted brick forms. Although the loose option allows for immediate usage, it ends up being more expensive.

While the process of preparing the bricks for use involves some mess, they are easier to store when not in use.

In either case, the bedding can grow dusty as it dries out, so it’s best to keep it moist by spraying it frequently. You should incorporate this into your routine for controlling humidity.

Because of the dustiness, the coconut fibers will cling to your dragon if it gets wet or damp, but they should detach once the weather warms up again.

The fiber from a coconut is effective in removing dirt. Only the soiled parts of the tank need to be cleaned as necessary.


  • It’s simple to stack bricks.
  • Reduced odor is a benefit of using coconut fiber.
  • Spot-cleaning is a breeze.


  • Brick preparation may be a messy process.
  • Expensive because of the loose bedding

The 100% Natural Bedding from Fluker Labs for Reptiles, the Repta-Bark

The orchid bark used in Fluker Labs’ Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding is ideal for terrariums housing reptiles which thrive in damp conditions.

While the lack of small particles makes the huge chunks a desirable substrate feature, the increased risk of impaction that comes with them is a drawback. Burrowing reptiles have a hard time with the huge chunks as well.

The burrow collapses in on itself, making it not only difficult to dig due to the fragments’ size and shape, but also dangerous since they can get hooked on feet and claws.

While the majority of purchasers note minimal dust at initial usage, this eventually changes as the bark deteriorates and releases dust. Bearded dragons can get along quite fine with other bedding alternatives.


  • The risk of dust is reduced when using large pieces.
  • Pure bark from an orchid


  • Deteriorates with age and collects dust
  • Impaction may occur if a large piece enters the digestive tract.
  • Bad for underground activities

Coco shells from Exo Terra

Because coconut husks are used in the production of Exo Terra Coco Husk bedding, it has a pleasant, all-natural aroma. With its bigger bits, it won’t generate dust, and it helps keep humidity levels high.

But some bearded dragons can get impaction from eating such huge pieces, and there have been instances of the substrate having shredded husk that is spiky and can cause irritation and wounds.

Though it’s intended to inspire such activities, your tiny burrowers may get dissatisfied when they discover that the huge pieces don’t stay put.

Although it has certain drawbacks, Exo Terra Coco Husk is inexpensive, effectively reduces odor, and doesn’t mold like some other substrates.


  • Cheap
  • Proper odor suppression
  • Prevents the growth of mold


  • Impaction may occur with large fragments.
  • As it dries, it creates dust.

Coconut Reptile Bedding Provides Cozy Snugness for Creatures

Bearded dragons can also benefit from the natural coconut husks and fibers used in Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding.

Customers have noted that it successfully masks odors, thanks to the coconut fibers’ inherent antibacterial properties.

As a bonus, this allows you to spot clean the terrarium rather of having to completely change the substrate every time you clean (remove just the dirty areas).

The cost-effectiveness of this substrate lies in the fact that only a small amount goes a long way.

Some users have complained that the substrate is too big for bearded dragons, therefore I wouldn’t recommend it for young beardies.


  • When used sparingly, the effect is magnified.
  • Absorbs and eliminates odors naturally
  • Groups for targeted sanitation


  • Some of the pieces are a touch on the big side.
  • Baby bearded dragons shouldn’t try this.

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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