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7 Best Substrates for Crested Geckos 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Nicole Cosgrove

July 14, 2021

Crested gecko on mossy wood

If you have a crested gecko, you may be looking for the perfect substrate for their tank. Crested geckos need humidity, so they need a substrate that can help support the humidity in their enclosure. It should also be easy to clean and hygienic, keeping your gecko healthy.

These reviews of the 7 best substrate options for your crested gecko will help you identify not just different products, but different types of products on the market that can help you create the best, healthiest environment for your reptilian pal. It may take trial and effort of different products to find the perfect product for your gecko’s tank, though. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to cleaning and maintenance and your gecko will likely have a specific preference of texture as well.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate
  • Compostable
  • Eliminates odors
  • Can absorb liquid
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Zilla Terrarium Liner Substrate Zilla Terrarium Liner Substrate
  • Easy to clean
  • Reusable for years
  • Available in four sizes
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate
  • Maintains humidity
  • Highly absorbent
  • Natural odor control
  • Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
  • Compostable
  • Eliminates odors
  • Can absorb liquid
  • ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate
  • Available in two pack sizes
  • Maintains humidity well
  • Can absorb liquid
  • The 7 Best Substrates for Crested Geckos

    1. Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate – Best Overall1Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Expandable Reptile Substrate

    The best overall substrate for crested geckos is the Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate. This product is made from coconut fiber, also known as coco coir, which comes from the husks of coconuts. Coconut fiber is eco-friendly and is a renewable resource, making this an excellent pick for an earth-friendly product. This substrate is available in compressed blocks in packs of 3 and can also be purchased in a 4-pack of 3-count blocks. Each block equals approximately 7-8 liters, which is enough to fill a 10-gallon tank to around 1 inch of depth.

    This substrate can absorb large quantities of liquid and stays damp while remaining airy and breathable. It naturally eliminates odors and can be composted. The biggest downside of this product is that it can be difficult to break up the compressed blocks into the soft, fluffy substrate you’ll need for your gecko’s tank.

    Pros
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Available in 3-packs and 12-packs of compressed blocks
    • Each block equals 7-8 liters
    • Can absorb liquid
    • Stays airy and breathable even when damp
    • Eliminates odors
    • Compostable
    Cons
    • Difficult to break up

    2. Zilla Terrarium Liner Substrate – Best Value2Zilla Terrarium Liner

    The best substrate for crested geckos for the money is the Zilla Terrarium Liner Substrate. This product is a mat that can be cut to fit most tank sizes. It’s available in four sizes for 10-gallon tanks, 29-gallon tanks, 30-gallon tanks, and 40/50-gallon tanks.

    This product isn’t the least expensive product on the list, but it is the best value because it’s reusable for years, allowing it to pay for itself within a couple of months of use. It has a natural texture but isn’t rough, so it won’t injure your crested gecko’s tender feet or belly. This mat is treated with a biodegradable enzyme to help reduce odors. One of the best benefits of this type of substrate is that it can’t accidentally be ingested by your crested gecko. To clean, this mat just needs to be rinsed with cold water.

    The only major downside to this substrate is that it doesn’t hold moisture like other substrates can, so it will likely do little for the humidity levels in your gecko’s tank. This also means that it won’t absorb much in the way of waste or spills.

    Pros
    • Best value
    • Can be cut to fit irregularly shaped tanks
    • Available in four sizes
    • Reusable for years
    • Easy to clean
    • Treated with biodegradable enzyme to help reduce odors
    Cons
    • Won’t retain moisture
    • Won’t absorb much moisture

    3. ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate – Premium Choice3ReptiChip Compressed Coconut Chip Substrate for Reptiles 72 Quart Coco Chips Brick Bedding

    The ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate is the best premium pick for substrate for your crested gecko. This substrate is made from coconut husk chips, making it sustainable and eco-friendly. This product is available in a 72-quart, or 10-pound, compressed brick of coco chips. It can be purchased in a 1-pack, 3-pack, 5-pack, or 10-pack. This substrate helps retain moisture and is ideal for humidity loving reptiles like crested geckos. It naturally helps control odors and does a great job of absorbing liquids and maintaining humidity. Once dampened, this substrate is nice and soft, so it shouldn’t irritate your gecko’s skin.

    Dust can be an issue with this substrate, but once it is dampened this shouldn’t continue to be an issue.

    Pros
    • Sustainable and eco-friendly coconut husks
    • Available in four pack sizes
    • Natural odor control
    • Highly absorbent
    • Maintains humidity
    • Soft on your gecko’s skin
    Cons
    • Premium price
    • Dusty

    4. Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate4Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Reptile Substrate

    The Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate is a great alternative to the Zoo Med compressed coconut fiber bricks. It’s available in an 8-quart bag and a 24-quart bag. Like the compressed version, this product is made from renewable coconut fiber and is eco-friendly.

    This substrate holds moisture well, making it a good option for maintaining humidity and absorbing waste and spills. Since it isn’t compressed, it doesn’t require being manually broken apart before use. It naturally helps reduce odors and is soft for your gecko’s sensitive skin. This substrate can be composted or recycled.

    It might be slightly more difficult to clean than the compressed version since it is finely milled and may stick to the enclosure if allowed to get too damp. It also may produce dust due to the fine texture of the product.

    Pros
    • Available in two bag sizes
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Can absorb liquid
    • Maintains humidity well
    • Eliminates odors
    • Compostable
    Cons
    • May be more difficult to clean than some other options
    • May stick to the enclosure
    • Dusty

    5. ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate5ReptiChip Compressed Coconut Chip Substrate for Reptiles 72 Quart Coco Chips Brick Bedding

    The ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate is available in 8-quart compressed bricks and can be purchased in a 1-pack and a 3-pack. It’s eco-friendly and renewable. One 8-quart brick should cover a 10-gallon tank around 1 inch deep.

    This substrate does a good job of maintaining humidity, absorbing moisture, and controlling odors. It can also be used to incubate eggs and as potting soil for plants. It’s soft and safe for burrowing and digging and it shouldn’t irritate your gecko’s skin.

    It can be difficult to break up out of the blocks and does need to be soaked prior to use, sometimes even for a couple of days. Even with soaking, further manual deconstruction of the bricks may be necessary.

    Pros
    • Available in two pack sizes
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Maintains humidity well
    • Can absorb liquid
    • Can be used for incubation and potting soil
    • Soft and shouldn’t irritate your gecko’s skin
    Cons
    • Difficult to break the blocks up
    • Needs to be soaked for hours to days prior to use
    • May require more manual breaking apart after soaking

    6. Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Organic Substrate6Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding Organic Substrate

    The Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Organic Substrate is a good choice for larger tanks. It comes in a 21-quart bag, but it is only available in the one bag and pack size. This bag should be able to fill a 40-gallon tank around 1 inch deep. This substrate is made from very fine coco coir, making it eco-friendly and renewable and is manufactured with a small carbon footprint.

    This substrate is great for odor control and is made to produce little dust and be and fragrance free. It’s resistant to mold and mildew. It’s able to absorb up to four times its weight in liquid, making it great for moisture and humidity control. This substrate is compostable and can be used for plants as well. It’s finely textured, making it a nice option for sensitive crested geckos.

    It clumps together, making it easy to clean but also making it susceptible to sticking to the enclosure. It’s also not completely dust free, so it may need time to settle before putting your crested gecko back in the tank.

    Pros
    • Eco-friendly, renewable, and small carbon footprint
    • Odor control
    • Soft and shouldn’t irritate your gecko’s skin
    • Fragrance free
    • Absorbent and good for humidity control without mold or mildew
    • Compostable
    Cons
    • One bag size available
    • May stick to the enclosure
    • Not completely dust free
    • Premium price

    7. SunGrow Coco Fiber Mat for Pets7SunGrow Coco Fiber Mat for Pets

    The SunGrow Coco Fiber Mat for Pets is a nice pick to make changing your crested gecko’s substrate out as easy as unrolling a mat. This mat is ½ inch thick and measures 13 inches by 10 inches. It’s made from firm coco coir, so it’s eco-friendly and renewable, as well as reusable.

    This substrate mat is made to pull moisture through, so it doesn’t pool on top of the mat. It can help improve humidity retention in the tank without being too wet for your crested gecko. Since it’s a solid mat, your gecko won’t be able to accidentally ingest any of it. When soiled, this mat can be rinsed and is reusable for months.

    This mat is shipped folded up and due to its stiff texture, it may be difficult to get it to flatten back out without weighing the edges down. The texture may also bother your gecko’s skin, so you’ll need to keep an eye on this. You may need to purchase more than one mat for larger enclosures.

    Pros
    • Easy to clean and care for
    • Eco-friendly, renewable resource, and reusable
    • Doesn’t allow moisture to pool
    • Helps with humidity retention
    • Can’t be ingested
    Cons
    • Edges may need to be weighed down after shipping
    • May need more than one mat
    • Rough texture

    Buyer’s Guide

    What to Consider When Choosing the Right Substrate for Your Crested Gecko:
    • Your Gecko: Do you have a gecko with a history of trying to eat things they shouldn’t? Some reptiles will accidentally or intentionally eat substrate in their tank, so this should direct whether you get a loose substrate or mat-type substrate for your gecko.
    • Tank Size: The size of your tank can be a big determining factor in what substrate you choose. You don’t want to end up with too much substrate that may not get used, or too little substrate when you’re in the middle of a tank cleaning. Some mats can be cut to size while others may fray or shred when cut.
    • Moisture and Humidity: Crested geckos need a humid environment, but not a wet environment. Different substrates will help maintain moisture and humidity levels in different ways. If you already have an established setup for your crested gecko, it’s a good idea to take your current moisture and humidity maintenance into account when choosing a substrate.
    • Hygiene: You want a substrate for your crested gecko that isn’t going to mold or mildew when it’s damp for a couple of days, or one that is going to lead to insects, parasites, or bacteria. Choose a substrate that will maintain the appropriate humidity levels without rotting.
    • Cleaning and Maintenance: How often do you currently do maintenance and cleaning for your crested gecko’s tank? If you already have a set routine, it’s a good idea to choose a substrate that is similar in function to what you’re already using so you can stick with the same routine. Some substrates can be as simple as scooping the wet or dirty substrate out and adding clean back in, while others may involve taking the tank apart to get the old substrate out and the new substrate in.
    Substrate Options for Crested Geckos:
    • Fine: Finely textured substrate is nice because it’s soft and non-abrasive, so it shouldn’t injure your gecko’s skin. However, the more fine the substrate, the more likely it is to get packed down or stuck together when wet, almost like cat litter clumping to the side of the litter box. This can make it more difficult to clean.
    • Chunky: Chunky textured substrate is a good pick because it doesn’t sit as tightly packed as fine substrate, allowing it to remain airy. The better the airflow, the better the odor control and the lower the chance of mold and mildew problems. Some chunky substrates may have rough edges, though, and may not be preferred by some geckos.
    • Solid: Solid substrates are mats that are made specifically to be used as a tank substrate. These are a good option because they’re reusable and easy to clean. These mats usually don’t help with maintaining humidity levels, though, so you’ll need to ensure the setup in the tank is adequate to maintain the humidity without the help of the substrate.

    divider-pawConclusion

    For your crested gecko, you want the best substrate! You have lots of options to try to find a product that your crested gecko enjoys and that is easy for you to manage. The best overall option is the Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Substrate because of its eco-friendliness, functionality, ease of storage, and ease of cleaning. The best value product is the Zilla Terrarium Substrate Liner, which will quickly pay for itself in a matter of weeks or months. The premium product pick is the ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate because it’s highly functional and easy to take care of, but it is at a premium price.

    These reviews are intended to help you navigate through the different types of substrate options you have available. In the end, it will come down to the product that you and your gecko can both equally appreciate. You want a hygienic product that’s easy to clean and resists mold and mildew while maintaining the necessary humidity for your crested gecko’s needs.


    Featured image credit: Catherina Reynolds, Shutterstock

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.