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7 Best Substrates for Iguanas 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Oliver Jones

iguana close up

When it comes to choosing a substrate for your iguana’s home, there are a lot of products out there to choose from. What you may not realize is that many of the products marketed as reptile bedding are not safe for iguanas. Iguanas can accidentally or intentionally consume their bedding, making things like many types of barks and sand unsafe because they can lead to intestinal impaction.

To make it easier for you, we’ve put together reviews of the 7 best substrates for your iguana. These will help you make an educated choice on the best substrate to meet your iguana’s needs. No matter what you choose, you’ll need to closely monitor your iguana with its new substrate to ensure it’s not trying to consume it!


A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Zilla Terrarium Liner Zilla Terrarium Liner
  • Available in 8 sizes up to 125 gallons
  • Can be cut to size
  • Reusable and easy to clean
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Zoo Med Eco Carpet Zoo Med Eco Carpet
  • Cost-effective
  • Can be cut to size and overlapped
  • Reusable and easy to clean
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate
  • Available in 7 sizes
  • Reusable and easy to clean
  • Natural look and feel
  • Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber
  • Available in two brick pack sizes and as loose substrate
  • Has natural absorption and odor control
  • Eco-friendly and renewable
  • Exo Terra Moss Mat Terrarium Reptile Substrate Exo Terra Moss Mat Terrarium Reptile Substrate
  • Available in 5 sizes
  • Reusable and easy to clean
  • Can be cut to size
  • The 7 Best Substrates for Iguanas – Reviews 2021

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    1. Zilla Terrarium Liner – Best Overall

    Zilla Terrarium Liner

    The best overall substrate for your iguana is the Zilla Terrarium Liner. This liner is available in 8 sizes from 10-125 gallons. It can also be cut to fit irregularly sized tanks.

    The benefit of using this liner as substrate is that it’s reusable and easy to clean. When it’s soiled simply remove solid waste, rinse with cold water, and allow it to dry before putting it back into the tank. If it becomes torn up or begins to smell over time, it’s cost-effective to replace. This liner has a non-abrasive texture, so it won’t harm your iguana’s feet or belly. It’s treated with a biodegradable enzyme treatment that helps control odors. This product is made from recycled materials, making it eco-conscious.

    Unfortunately, this product is not biodegradable and may not be recyclable in your area. You’ll need to check with your waste company to verify how to dispose of it. It’s possible for your iguana’s claws to become stuck in this liner, so you’ll need to keep the sharp tips trimmed to prevent this.

    Pros
    • Available in 8 sizes up to 125 gallons
    • Can be cut to size
    • Reusable and easy to clean
    • Cost-effective to replace
    • Non-abrasive
    • Biodegradable enzyme reduces odors
    • Made from recycled materials
    Cons
    • Not biodegradable
    • Claws may become stuck

    2. Zoo Med Eco Carpet – Best Value

    Zoo Med Eco Carpet

    The best substrate for iguanas for the money is the Zoo Med Eco Carpet. This product is available in one size to fit 10-gallon tanks. It can be cut to fit or overlapped for larger tanks.

    This substrate liner is non-abrasive, so it will not scratch your iguana. It’s absorbent, reusable, and easy to clean, needing just a shake, rinse, and dry before putting back into the tank. This liner has a thick, soft texture that allows your iguana to have a natural-feeling environment without being able to ingest substrate. It’s made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, making it eco-conscious.

    This liner is not biodegradable and my not be recyclable in your area. Your iguana’s claws can become stuck in this liner, so make sure to keep them trimmed. This product does not have an odor control chemical.

    Pros
    • Cost-effective
    • Can be cut to size and overlapped
    • Reusable and easy to clean
    • Non-abrasive
    • Made from recycled materials
    • Natural-feel
    Cons
    • Not biodegradable
    • Claws may become stuck
    • No odor control

    3. Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate – Premium Choice

    Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    The Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate is the premium choice for substrate for your iguana. It’s available in 7 sizes from 11 inches to 47.5 inches in length.

    This mat has a sand-like texture but cannot be consumed like sand or gravel. It’s absorbent, reusable, easy to clean, and sturdy. This liner also helps control humidity levels within the tank. It has a natural desert sand appearance, making for an attractive tank addition. The texture of this mat means you do not have to worry about your iguana’s nails becoming stuck and it may help keep the nails trimmed.

    It’s a good idea to shake off the mat before use to remove any loose sand so it does not get into your iguana’s tank. The sand can come loose over time, so you’ll need to closely monitor for this and keep the mat clean. It’s not made from recycled materials and does not have an odor control addition.

    Pros
    • Available in 7 sizes
    • Reusable and easy to clean
    • Natural look and feel
    • Cannot be consumed like loose substrate
    • Can help keep nails trimmed
    Cons
    • Sand can come loose
    • Not made from recycled materials
    • No odor control

    4. Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber

    Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber Expandable Reptile Substrate

    The Zoo Med Eco Earth Compressed Coconut Fiber substrate is a brick of compressed coconut fiber that can be expanded with moisture. It’s available in a 3-count pack and a bundle of four 3-count packs. It can also be purchased in a loose option.

    This substrate is great for absorption and one brick can expand up to 8 liters of substrate, which should cover a 10-15 gallon tank with 1-inch of substrate depth. Coconut fiber is made from the husks of coconuts and is a renewable resource and eco-friendly to produce. It can be used dry or dampened. It has natural odor control properties and can be composted or recycled.

    This substrate can be difficult to use dry since it will require a significant amount of being broken apart into smaller pieces if purchased in bricks. If allowed to stay wet for long periods of time, it will begin to mold, so it should be replaced frequently when wet or damp. This substrate can be consumed by iguanas, so if you notice your iguana attempting to eat this bedding or accidentally eating it, you’ll need a different product.

    Pros
    • Available in two brick pack sizes and as loose substrate
    • Has natural absorption and odor control
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Can be composted or recycled
    • One brick will fill a 10-15 gallon tank
    Cons
    • Can be difficult to break apart when dry
    • Will mold if it stays wet
    • May be consumed by iguanas

    5. Exo Terra Moss Mat Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    Exo Terra Moss Mat Terrarium Reptile Substrate

    The Exo Terra Moss Mat Terrarium Reptile Substrate is a natural-look substrate mat. It’s available in 5 sizes from 12-35.5 inches in length.

    This mat is absorbent and can help control humidity levels. It can be cut to fit if needed and can be cleaned easily, just rinse and allow to dry before putting back in the tank. The soft material is non-abrasive and shouldn’t scratch your iguana. The moss on this mat would be extremely difficult for your iguana to consume but watch them closely while they get used to it.

    This mat can catch your iguana’s nails, so you may need to keep them trimmed. The faux moss is dyed green and may bleed some color, so it’s best to rinse well and allow to dry before use. This product is not made from recycled materials.

    Pros
    • Available in 5 sizes
    • Reusable and easy to clean
    • Can be cut to size
    • Non-abrasive
    • Natural look and feel
    • Difficult for your iguana to consume
    Cons
    • Claws may become stuck
    • Dye from moss may bleed
    • Not made from recycled materials
    • No odor control

    6. Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding Organic Substrate

    Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding Organic Substrate

    The Critters Comfort Coconut Reptile Bedding Organic Substrate is made from 100% coco coir, or coconut fiber. It’s available in one bag of loose bedding that is 20 liters or 21 quarts, which should be able to fill a tank that is 20-30 gallons.

    Coco coir is naturally absorptive, controls odors, and is dust free. This substrate is eco-friendly and made from renewable resources. It’s biodegradable, can be composted, and is packaged in recyclable plastic. This bedding should be fully replaced every 30-45 days, so you will get a lot of use out of one bag. It will help control the humidity within your iguana’s tank and can help with heat distribution as well.

    This substrate is fine grade so it can be consumed by iguanas, so you’ll have to watch for this closely. This product is a premium price when needing to be replaced every month. It will mold if left damp for too long, so you’ll have to keep an eye on this and change out small amounts as needed.

    Pros
    • Has natural absorption and odor control
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Can be composted
    • Only needs full replacement every 30-45 days
    • Bag is recyclable
    • Can help with humidity control and heat distribution
    Cons
    • May be consumed by iguanas
    • Will mold if it stays wet
    • Premium price
    • Only available in one bag size

    7. ZeeDix 3pcs Natural Coconut Fiber Reptile Carpet Mat

    ZeeDix 3Pcs Natural Coconut Fiber Reptile Carpet Mat- Pet Terrarium Substrate Liner Bearded Dragon Flooring Supplies for Lizard Snake Turtle Bunny Turtles Iguana Gecko

    The ZeeDix 3pcs Natural Coconut Fiber Reptile Carpet Mat is available in two mat sizes of 19.7 by 15.7 inches and 31.5 by 15.7 inches. Both sizes come in a pack of three mats. These mats are made from 100% coconut fiber.

    These mats are absorptive and have natural odor control properties. They are eco-friendly and made from renewable resources. They contain biodegradable enzymes to help with odor control and are flame-retardant. These mats cannot be consumed by iguanas and are reusable and easy to clean. These mats have all the benefits of coco coir without having to break apart bricks or worrying about your iguana eating it. They are cost-effective for routine replacement if needed.

    Since these are coco coir, they can mold if left wet so they should be cleaned regularly. These mats may end up with frayed ends and edges if cut to size, so it’s important to purchase according to your tank size. If you are not getting enough absorption from these mats, you may need to add a second mat underneath.

    Pros
    • Two sizes available
    • Three mats per pack
    • Has natural absorption and odor control
    • Can be composted
    • Eco-friendly and renewable
    • Cost-effective
    Cons
    • Will mold if it stays wet
    • Biodegradable so may need to be replaced more frequently than other mats
    • Cannot be cut to fit
    • May need a second mat if not absorptive enough

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Iguana Substrate Options:

    • Mats: Mats are one of the most popular substrate options for iguanas because they are effective and easy to clean. They do not allow your iguana to eat its substrate, whether intentional or accidental. Many mats contain iguana-safe odor control chemicals and are eco-conscious and cost-effective to replace.
    • Coconut Fiber: Coconut fiber is eco-friendly and renewable, as well as very absorptive and contains natural odor control properties. It can be purchased as loose substrate, compressed bricks, or as mats. Loose substrate and broken apart compressed bricks can be eaten by iguanas, so the use of this substrate should be closely monitored to prevent impaction.
    • Tile: Regular tile can be used as a substrate for your iguana but should be cleaned well prior to use. Tiles are easy to clean and can last for years. Tiles can help with heat distribution within the tank, but they also do not absorb waste and will likely stay wet if sitting on a flat surface because this will not allow water or urine to run off. Tile will not help with odor control.
    • Paper: The most cost-effective substrate for your iguana is paper products. Paper towels, newspaper, and butcher paper all make good substrate picks. They are absorptive but require frequent replacement and can be messy and fall apart once they get wet. Paper products will do very little for odor control.

    Substrates to Avoid for Your Iguana’s Safety:

    • Sand: Sand can be ingested by your iguana, leading to intestinal impaction. It is difficult to clean wet substances from and does not have absorption or odor control properties.
    • Gravel: Gravel is abrasive, which can lead to cuts and scrapes on your iguana. It also can be ingested by your iguana, leading to impaction or even internal damage. Gravel has no absorptive or odor control properties and cleaning it thoroughly can be difficult.
    • Bark: The biggest concern with bark beddings is your iguana ingesting it. However, if the bark is too large for your iguana to eat it, then it can be used as long as it is intended as substrate or bedding and does not have sharp points. Bark has some absorptive properties and some types of bark may help with odor control, but it is difficult to keep clean.
    • Cat Litter: While highly absorptive and easy to clean, cat litter carries the same concerns that gravel does. It also clumps when wet, which can quickly lead to impaction within your iguana’s gastrointestinal tract. Some cat litter produces a large amount of dust, which can be damaging to your iguana’s respiratory system.
    • Sawdust: Sawdust bedding is often made from pine, aspen, or cedar wood, and should not be used as substrate for iguanas. It can easily be ingested, and very fine sawdust can cause respiratory irritation for your iguana. It does have some absorptive and odor control properties but can be sticky when wet and difficult to clean.

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    Conclusion

    After seeing these reviews on the top 7 substrates for your iguana, have you found something you want to try? The best overall product, the Zilla Terrarium Liner, is both effective and cost-effective. The best value for iguana substrate is the Zoo Med Eco Carpet and the premium choice is the Exo Terra Sand Mat Desert Terrarium Reptile Substrate.

    Choosing a substrate for your iguana doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing, but knowing what to avoid can save you time, money, and potential heartache. An appropriate substrate can keep your iguana healthy by providing a more hygienic environment, and some substrates offer the bonus of looking and feeling natural, making your iguana more comfortable. You can change substrates whenever you need to, so if you try one and it isn’t meeting your iguana’s needs, it’s easy to pick a new product to try.


    Featured Image: Scottslm, Pixabay

    Oliver Jones

    Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.