7 Best Bedding & Substrates for Bearded Dragons 2020 – Reviews & Guide

Last Updated: November 26, 2020

dragon Lizard

Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets. They are tame, hardy, and give hours of fun to watch, whether chasing crickets around their terrarium or headbanging in a show of a dominance. Although they do require some live feeding, this usually only consists of crickets and roaches, with the beardie enjoying nutrient rich salads and other foods.

Bearded dragons naturally hail from Australia, so they are accustomed to living in sand and dirt. As such, the best substrate for your little lizard’s tank will mimic the properties of the arid, subtropical Australian desert.

Unfortunately, these reptile pets can suffer from a condition called impaction. This can be caused by consuming food that is too large for them or if they eat rocks or stones that are too large for them. Buying the best bedding for a bearded dragon not only mimics their natural living environment but should avoid potentially fatal impaction.

In this article, we’ve created a series of in-depth reviews on some of the best bearded dragon bedding options so that you can choose the best option for you and your beardie.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Zoo Med Vita-Sand Zoo Med Vita-Sand
  • Natural quartz sand
  • Substrate mimics natural desert sand
  • No danger of impaction
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding
  • Cheap
  • Good size pieces for adult dragons
  • Retains heat and encourages burrowing
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Zoo Med Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding Zoo Med Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding
  • Replicates a forest floor setting
  • Pieces are a good size
  • No dust
  • Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding
  • Bricks are easy to store
  • Coconut fiber has minimal smell
  • Easy to spot clean
  • Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding
  • Large pieces
  • Natural orchid bark
  • The 7 Best Beddings for Bearded Dragons – Reviews 2020

    1. Zoo Med Vita-Sand – Best Overall

    Zoo Med Vita-Sand

    Zoo Med Vita-Sand is a natural sand with no artificial colors. It has been fortified with extra vitamins and beta-carotene, and the fine sand ensures that there is no risk of impaction, even if your beardie eats a mouthful with his favorite cricket snack. The sand makes it easy for bearded dragons to burrow and is made from natural quartz desert sand that closely mimics the sand of their natural environment.

    This substrate is our pick as the best bearded dragon bedding because it is all-natural, fine enough that it won’t cause impaction, and it mimics the natural sand that bearded dragons would have in the desert. Some buyers have commented that it tends to be dusty because of how fine it is, and if you buy one of the colored variants, it can stain your beardie a little, but neither of these factors should negatively impact your pet lizard.

    Pros
    • Natural quartz sand
    • Substrate mimics natural desert sand
    • No danger of impaction
    Cons
    • Can be a little dusty
    • Can stain your beardie’s belly

    2. Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding – Best Value

    Zilla Ground English Walnut Shell Reptile Bedding

    Zilla’s walnut shell reptile bedding is 100% English walnut shell, which has been ground up so that it is fine enough to avoid impaction. The shells retain heat well, which is great for your bearded dragon, and the size and weight of the crushed shell encourages them to dig and burrow, which offers an effective method of temperature control. The crushed walnut shells are also cheaper than quartz sand, and its low price combined with its great features is why we have chosen the Zilla ground English Walnut shell as the best bedding for bearded dragons for the money.

    While the quality and size of the shell is good for adult bearded dragons, this bedding is not suitable for hatchlings or juveniles because the pieces are too small. We also prefer natural beddings that more closely mimic the bearded dragon’s natural habitat.

    Pros
    • Cheap
    • Good size pieces for adult dragons
    • Retains heat and encourages burrowing
    Cons
    • Isn’t natural sand
    • Too small for hatchlings and juveniles

    3. Zoo Med Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding – Premium Choice

    Zoo Med Natural Cypress Mulch Reptile Bedding

    Zoo Med’s natural cypress mulch bedding is more expensive than the rest of the options on this page, but it is a high-quality bedding. Made from mulched cypress, it retains heat and Zoo Med claims it is easy to clean.

    Using this bedding you can replicate the look and feel of the forest floor, and it lays flat so that prey doesn’t have anywhere to hide at mealtime. However, it isn’t the best choice for burrowing lizards because the mulch retains its original shape making it difficult for your beardie to penetrate the surface and get under the top layer. The pieces are small enough that they should prevent impaction but not so small to create dust. Too much dust can lead to respiratory problems for your lizard.

    Although this cypress mulch has a lot going for it, the inability to burrow into the substrate does put us off. You will likely want to provide another area for burrowing, which means buying additional substrate, and because the Zoo Med cypress mulch bedding is on the expensive side, the cost will quickly add up.

    Pros
    • Replicates a forest floor setting
    • Pieces are a good size
    • No dust
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • No burrowing

    4. Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding

    Zoo Med Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding

    Zoo Med’s Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Reptile Bedding is an environmentally friendly substrate made from the husks of coconuts. It comes in either loose or compacted brick. The loose can be used straight away but works out more expensive. The bricks need to be soaked and left before use, which can get a bit messy, but they take up less storage room when not in use.

    Whichever variant you choose, the bedding can get a bit dusty when it is dry, and it is recommended that you keep it damp with regular misting. This should become part of your humidity management practice. The dustiness also means that the coconut fibers will stick to your dragon when they are wet or damp, but it will dry and should fall off in time.

    The coconut fiber is good for cleaning. Soiled areas can be removed when required, and the whole tank shouldn’t need cleaning out that often.

    Pros
    • Bricks are easy to store
    • Coconut fiber has minimal smell
    • Easy to spot clean
    Cons
    • Preparing bricks can be messy
    • Loose bedding is expensive

    5. Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding

    Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding

    Fluker Labs Repta-Bark All Natural Bedding is made from orchid bark and is best suited to reptiles that love high humidity. The large pieces do mean that there is less dust than with other forms of substrate but, unfortunately, it also means that there is a greater chance of impaction than with finer materials. The large pieces also make it difficult for reptiles that like to burrow.

    The pieces are not only challenging to dig and can even end up caught in feet and claws, but the burrow collapses back in on itself. Also, while most buyers report very little dust when first using this product, the bark breaks down over time and causes dust at this point. There are better options for bearded dragon bedding materials.

    Pros
    • Large pieces minimize the risk of dust
    • Natural orchid bark
    Cons
    • Gets dusty over time
    • Large pieces could cause impaction
    • Not good for burrowing

    6. Exo Terra Coco Husk

    Exo Terra PT2786 Coco Husk

    The Exo Terra Coco Husk bedding is made from coconut husks so it has a mild and natural scent. It is beneficial for maintaining high humidity levels while its larger chunks mean that it won’t cause dust.

    However, these same large chunks pose a risk to some bearded dragons due to impaction, and there have been some reports of the substrate containing shredded husk that is sharp and can cause irritation and cuts.

    Although it is said to encourage burrowing and digging, the large pieces do not tend to retain the burrow shape, which can be frustrating for your little burrowers. Despite the potential pitfalls, Exo Terra Coco Husk is cheap, controls odor very well, and it doesn’t mold, which some substrates suffer from.

    Pros
    • Cheap
    • Good odor control
    • Doesn’t mold
    Cons
    • Large pieces are an impaction concern
    • Dusts as it dries out

    7. Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding

    Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding

    Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding is another bedding for bearded dragons that takes advantage of natural coconut husks and fibers.

    The coconut fibers are long lasting and offer natural odor control, and buyers have commented that it does a good job of preventing bad smells. Not only does this make for a more pleasant environment around the terrarium but it also means that you can spot clean without having to replace all of the substrate every time you clean (remove just the dirty areas). A little goes a long way with this substrate, too, and it represents good value for money.

    There have been some reports of the substrate being too large for bearded dragons, and this type of bedding should never be used for juvenile beardies.

    Pros
    • A little goes a long way
    • Naturally controls odor
    • Clumps for effective spot cleaning
    Cons
    • Pieces are a little large
    • Not suitable for juvenile bearded dragons

    Buyer’s Guide

    It’s important that you provide living conditions that replicate those of a bearded dragon’s natural habitat. Bearded dragons hail from Australia and tend to live in sandy deserts or in subtropical jungle conditions. By mimicking these conditions, you can ensure a happy and healthy beardie. Consider the following factors when buying bedding for your lizard.

    Types of Bedding

    • Sand – One of the most natural and realistic of bedding options for your beardie. Quartz sand is considered safe because your dragon is unlikely to ingest much even if they gobble down food. Calcium sand has also become increasingly popular because if your pet does eat some while munching on mealworms, it shouldn’t cause any digestive problems. Sand should not be used for juvenile bearded dragons or hatchlings.
    • Liners – Cage liners are convenient, come in a roll, and are designed to mimic sand or dirt. Some can even be washed and reused. While they are designed to look and act like natural substrate, they do not offer the same benefits. Bearded dragons burrow and dig in order to regulate temperature, and this obviously isn’t possible with a roll of carpet.
    • Tile – Tile is used because it is long-lasting, and it does help file down claws when your beardie walks on it. However, your lizard won’t be able to burrow or dig so they won’t be able to self-regulate temperature and they may get bored of a tile covering. Also, tile can be difficult to clean and may retain some odor.
    • Bark and Mulch – Bark and mulch are popular options and there are many variants available including pine, orchid, and coconut husk. These do a good job of replicating forest floors, but you need to be careful when choosing a bark substrate that the pieces are not so large that your dragon will choke or suffer impaction.
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    What is Impaction?

    When choosing a substrate or bedding for your bearded dragon, you need to avoid large chunks of material that might be swallowed. Not only can this lead to choking but it can also lead to a potentially fatal problem called impaction. If your bearded dragon swallows something that is too large, they cannot properly digest it. The bark or other material lays in the bottom of the gut and obstructs the bowel. It causes serious discomfort and can prove fatal if left unchecked.

    What Is the Best Bedding for Juvenile Bearded Dragons?

    Juvenile bearded dragons do not do well with either bark or sand as a substrate. Instead, you should consider using a lining or carpet and ensuring that they are kept clean and odor free. Another alternative is the use of clay tiles, but these can be difficult to install and take a lot of maintenance and cleaning. You can change the type of substrate you use once your bearded dragon reaches maturity.

    How Much Bedding Should Be in a Bearded Dragon Enclosure?

    Your beardie will enjoy digging and burrowing in some forms of substrate, which means that you obviously need to provide enough room to allow for this method of temperature control. Typically, experts agree that a layer between 1½ and 2 inches thick is suitable. This allows them to move freely and burrow into the substrate.

    When Do You Have to Change the Bedding for a Bearded Dragon?

    How often you change your bearded dragon’s bedding depends on the type of bedding you use and how dirty it gets. Some substrates, such as coconut husks, will clump up when they have been soiled and this enables you to spot clean. Spot cleaning means removing just the bedding that has become soiled without cleaning out the entire terrarium. Some products should be fully replaced every couple of weeks while others claim to last up to six months before they need changing.

    divider-reptileConclusion

    Bearded dragons are a great pet and an ideal introduction to lizards and reptiles. They are relatively easy to care for, but you do need to provide them with comfortable bedding that replicates their natural habitat.

    Sand and bark are two of the most popular forms of bearded dragon bedding, and in our reviews, we found the Zoo Med Vita Sand to offer the best combination of substrate size, ability to burrow, and cleanliness. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper, the ground English walnut shell bedding from Zilla represents excellent value for money, clumps well for spot cleaning, and has a pleasant, natural aroma.

    There are a lot of options on the market, some much better than others and some that are potentially dangerous for your beardie. Take care to choose a good quality bedding and use our reviews above to help whittle down the list and find the best bedding for your needs.


    Featured Image: PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay