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The 9 Best Leopard Gecko Substrates

Considered safe for infants, paper towels are the easiest and cleanest option for tiny babies younger than one year. However, adult leopard geckos have a greater selection of substrates from which to choose.

Mats for the floor can be abrasive; premade bedding can be ingested; and slate requires a degree of design and foundational structure to be installed properly. Sand generates the most contention.

In the environment, leopard geckos inhabit semi-arid deserts where sand is the predominant substrate; nevertheless, opponents of sand assert that it offers a great danger of injury if unintentionally consumed by a gecko. But most experts say that this is very unlikely to happen to an adult who is healthy.

Priority should be given to safety when selecting a Leopard Gecko substrate, but you should also consider cost, convenience of installation, and how simple it is to clean or replace the substrate.

Here is a review of the best leopard gecko substrates from BestForPets (bestforpets.org).


The Best Substrate Overall is Zoo Med Vita-Sand Calcium Carbonate



Impaction is the reason why some people hesitate to offer their Leopard Gecko sand. This occurs when a lizard consumes sand, generally when consuming food from the substrate, and big particles become lodged in its intestines. This makes it difficult for the gecko to evacuate its intestines, which can be lethal.

Coarse sand typically exacerbates compaction. The Gecko has a more difficult time passing the bigger bits.

The producers claim that the ultra-fine texture of this Zoo Med Vita-Sand Calcium Carbonate Substrate would avoid impaction. It has been supplemented with vitamins and minerals to provide health advantages should your gecko consume it.

The ultra-fine composition of the sand may avoid impaction, but it generates dust that might discolor the tank and its contents, and it has a very pungent odor.


  • Texture ultra-fine to avoid impaction
  • Contains added vitamins and minerals
  • No synthetic colorings or additives


  • Always a danger with sand
  • Cloudy
  • Smells


The best value is Galápagos 05213 Terrarium Sphagnum Moss



Galapagos 05213 Terrarium Sphagnum Moss is a green moss with long fibers and a leafy appearance. It is extremely absorbent, thus it helps to regulate the terrarium’s humidity levels.

It is manufactured from sustainable moss sources, ensuring that the comfort of your Leopard Gecko does not negatively effect the environment. Before packaging, it has also been cleaned and sieved to ensure that it is clean and suitable for use in your terrarium.

The Terrarium Sphagnum Moss is inexpensive, but you may want many bags to completely cover a tank bottom. But its decent quality, safety, and low cost make it one of the most cost-effective Leopard Gecko substrates.

However, it is a vibrant shade of green, and in the humid conditions of a gecko terrarium, it can bleach objects, including your gecko, green.


  • Cheap
  • Geckos are safe to eat moss.
  • Contributes to humidity regulation


  • Typically tints things green


The Finest Exo Terra Desert Sand Available



The Exo Terra Desert Sand is genuine, natural sand from a desert. It has been sifted to eliminate contaminants and guarantee that the grain size is consistent. It is ultrafine, therefore it should not represent a significant threat to your Leopard Gecko.

Despite the controversy, sand is a viable option for lizards that enjoy digging. Leopard Geckos burrow to avoid the heat, evade predators, and search for food.

Although your gecko should not have any natural predators, it may burrow into the sand if it feels threatened or terrified. It may also love excavating a cool location, and some Geckos appear to enjoy digging for no apparent reason.

This sand is pricey since it is refined desert sand, and it is highly dusty, as is typical with extremely thin sand substrates. If your gecko enjoys digging and squirming, it may generate a little amount of dust in the tank.


  • Genuine desert sand
  • Purified by removing contaminants
  • Excellent heat conduction


  • Expensive
  • Dusty


Zilla Reptile Terrarium Substrate Bedding



A substrate liner is a material roll that is unrolled and placed on the tank’s bottom. Typically, all that is required to clean it is to remove it and run cold water through it.

There is no argument over the safety of impaction because it is attached to the roll and cannot be eaten. It is also inexpensive per roll and can be trimmed to fit the proportions of any aquarium or terrarium.

Some owners dislike liners because they do not appear as attractive as sand or other natural substrates and because they can promote odor since urine and other odors become embedded in the substrate and do not migrate on their own.

Some substrate liners can be rough and may harm the skin of a lizard, especially around its belly, but the Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate does not bother its residents and is available in a variety of sizes.

However, because it comes in a roll, the substrate will not lie level when you initially place it in the tank, allowing live food to get beneath the liner. In addition, because the Leopard Gecko has claws as opposed to the sticky pads of other geckos, it may become entangled in the carpet.


  • Cheap
  • Simple to maintain and replace
  • No possibility of impaction


  • Impossible to flatten
  • Claws can become trapped
  • Doesn’t look fantastic


The Zoo Med ReptiFresh Substrate for Eliminating Odors



Zoo Med ReptiFresh Odor Eliminating Substrate is sand that seeks to tackle odor management, one of the issues involved with keeping lizards and selecting the proper substrate.

Their excrement can be foul-smelling and possess a strong stench. This substrate can be used alone or combined with sand or another substrate before being applied to the terrarium floor in order to eliminate odors.

It will collect urine and remove the stench of feces and urine produced by your gecko. It means you can perform daily skim cleaning and simply need to replace the substrate after few cleans.

It is pricey compared to other substrates, and it is fairly gritty, so you will need to monitor your Geckos to ensure they do not consume too much. If it is appropriate for your small geckos, it is a valuable addition to tank upkeep.


  • Removes the odors of pee and feces
  • Can be used alone or combined


  • Expensive
  • Quite granular

Buyer's Guide

Substrate is the material placed on the bottom of the terrarium for your Leopard Gecko. It is utilized as bedding and flooring, and in addition to strolling on it, your leopard may dig into it.

To ensure your child’s safety and comfort, you must select the appropriate substrate. It should be ingestible, non-injurious to your Gecko when it walks or rests on it, and should not produce toxic dust.

Additionally, it should be easy to clean; otherwise, you will have to replace the substrate every few days. Lastly, pricing is also important.

The optimal substrate will let you to collect solid materials, allowing you to go longer between full changes. Some substrates, such as line mats, can be reused following removal and cleaning.

Varieties of Substrate

Here are the primary substrate options available for your Leopard Gecko.

Hand Towels

Paper towels are not attractive, but they are meant to absorb liquids and are effective at collecting solid and liquid messes. They are also affordable, easy to replenish, and accessible even when the pet store is closed.

However, they are unsightly, absorb fluids fast, and may require frequent replacement. If paper towels are left in a terrarium for too long, they can create a stinking, filthy mush.

When selecting a substrate for juveniles, extreme caution must be used. They are more inclined to consume all they see and will likely create a larger mess.

Because of this, paper towels are frequently regarded as the ideal solution for extremely young Leopard Geckos. When they reach maturity, you can consider other substrates.


When it comes to sand, the Leopard Gecko substrate discussion is most heated, and there are two distinct sides to the issue.

Sand, according to proponents, is a natural substrate. It permits excavation and provides heat and humidity control within the tank. Additionally, it is rather affordable and widely accessible.

Opponents, though, point to impaction. This occurs when your Leopard Gecko consumes a foreign substance that produces a blockage.

In the case of some sands, this is a significant issue since the sand collects in the intestines and subsequently freezes, obstructing the passage of excrement entirely. It can potentially result in further complications and possibly limb loss.

Manufacturers often provide ultrafine sand to prevent the risk of impaction. This may be less prone to produce impaction, but it typically results in an extremely dusty environment. If your gecko digs in the substrate, it can create a massive dust storm within the terrarium.

Substrate Liner

Rolls of carpet or vinyl are used as substrate liners to line the bottom of a tank. They can be mixed with other substrate types, but are typically employed alone.

Unfortunately, they do not appear natural, and certain substrate liners have been known to give inhabitants distress since they are scratchy and unpleasant. If you decide to use a liner, try to get one that is soft to reduce the possibility of pain.

However, liners are convenient. Before laying them on the tank’s bottom, they are unrolled and trimmed to the desired dimensions.

When they are wet or soiled, you may remove them from the cage, clean them, let them dry, and then replace them. A liner is often cheap, but it might be challenging to get it to lay flat at the tank’s base.


Sphagnum moss is a natural moss that is exceptionally effective at retaining moisture, therefore it is useful for controlling humidity within a terrarium. It is antibacterial, inexpensive, and retains moisture effectively.

Nonetheless, it must be washed, therefore you must find a brand that cleans it before selling it. Also, keep in mind that some mosses might tint the tank’s contents green. Every two weeks, Sphagnum moss should be washed with non-toxic soap and refilled.


You want the best for your leopard gecko, which means that in addition to feeding it regularly and healthily, you must also provide the greatest living conditions available. The terrarium must be the right size, be kept at the right temperature and humidity, and have the right conditions for living.

Choosing the proper substrate is part of ensuring the comfort and safety of your leopard gecko. Paper towels are the best choice for young leopard geckos. Our list contains evaluations of the finest substrates for geckos older than 12 months.

Zoo Med Vita-Sand Calcium Carbonate Substrate is fairly priced and remains clean very well; however, you must ensure that your gecko does not overeat. Galapagos Terrarium Sphagnum Moss is cheap and good, so it is the best substrate for your money.

BestForPets (bestforpets.org) would like to thank our clients for visiting our website to learn about and consult on the best leopard gecko substrates. Using our evaluations and guidance on substrate types, you should be able to pick a product that meets your needs and those of the leopard gecko.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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