Bringing home geckos is good for starting pet owners because it is easy to care for. There are few things to prepare when doing so, including the best substrate for a leopard gecko to enhance the pet’s quality of life.
But, choosing the best ones is never easy. For this reason, pin your ears back until the end of this post.
Leopard geckos are ground-dwelling lizards and they love to run and walk on a tank’s surface. Sometimes the geckos feed, poop, burrow, and lay eggs in it. That is how important substrates are for the pet.
In this article, I am going to share with you the best-used tank substrate for gecko together with a buying guide and a few FAQs. Let’s get into it.
Buying Guide For Leopard Gecko’s Substrate: Things To Look For
There are debates over which substrate is the best and safest for gecko. The best choices of substrates for leopard gecko are briefly discussed below:
Only two layers of paper towel work for most gecko owners. It promotes practicality and breeze maintenance on your part.
Paper towels are suitable for baby leopard geckos. It is highly absorbent and easier to spot mites than with other bedding. Monitoring becomes so easy with paper towel substrates.
On the other hand, it prevents the pet to dig naturally. Adult geckos are not good with this kind of bedding.
It is an artificial substrate with a good grip on geckos while walking. Go for the best manufacturer of reptile carpets. The material is washable.
Its absorbent ability is to look out for. Geckos are not as messy as other reptile animals, which makes reptile carpet a good bedding choice.
Every manufacturer indicates instructions on how to clean the carpet. Some added biodegradable enzymes that reduce odor and make every washing at ease.
It is similar to paper towels, but the newspaper is much cheaper. It has so many upsides such as being eco-friendly and always available. Six layers of it are absorbent enough.
Though unnatural on sight, newspapers nowadays have non-toxic printing and so safe for the pets. It only needs to be dried up for a week to eliminate newspaper smell.
Keeping the gecko’s terrarium look natural is the goal of river stone substrates. Ensure stability in setting up the pebbles. The stones are reusable after washing them in boiling water.
Geckos poop in one corner and so partial cleaning can do. Choose pebbles larger than your pet’s head because smaller ones can harm them when ingested.
River stones do not allow digging and produce rattling noise when geckos move. Mealworms are also prone to these substrates.
It is the most attractive substrate on the list and is comparable to true rocks. Fill the spaces in between the rocks with a small amount of sand.
The rocks are not too porous. There is no risk of ingestion with this substrate. It renders a good grip for the pet.
Look out for the sharp edges for it may cause accidents upon the geckos.
When slate rocks seem too expensive, you can go with ceramic tiles. Only a single layer should be laid down to the entire bottom of the tank.
These tiles are easy to cut and install. However, geckos will be prone to slipping with its smooth texture.
This is the newest type of substrate in the market. The clay moist and dries at the same time. It allows natural burrowing.
Some substrates readily sold are unhealthy for geckos in which we must be aware of. That includes:
- Crushed walnut shells
- Wood chippings
- Bark substrates
The Most Controversial Substrate
Coconut coir is the most debated type of substrate among gecko keepers. Lots of benefits are offered by a coco fiber, such as affordability, antimicrobial properties, and its natural features.
But that is not all, gecko’s respiratory system is affected by its fine dust. It may also result in an impaction when ingested, but luckily, geckos won’t treat coco as something to eat.
What Defines Best Substrates For Leopard Gecko?
As seen above, substrates are not created equal. Some substrates are good while others are dangerous to geckos. There are certain traits you must look for in a leopard gecko’s substrate, which includes the following:
- Moisture Retention – Leopard geckos need a temperature level ranging from 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit that requires 20 to 40% humidity level. High moisture retention is essential to keep a tank humidified.
- Size – The finer the substrates are, the dirtier it becomes. It makes geckos very prone to respiratory disease thereof. It also causes ingestion so choose something that gecko won’t eat intentionally.
- Odor Control – Though geckos are not often producing waste, the tank still gets smelly when not properly dealt with. Most substrates have a waste management feature that makes every cleaning a lot easier.
- Type – The prior discussion tells more about the different types of substrates for geckos and other reptiles. Read on that part over and over again until everything becomes clearer to you.
The Top 12 Substrate For Leopard Gecko
1. Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner
The first in line substrate is USARK certified. That means conserving reptiles with it is an advantage. Most reptile owners depend on it in caring for their pets. It works as a substrate or as a floor liner placed underneath the bedding.
You can reuse the liner after washing in cold water and rinsing off the debris. Make sure the material is dried before using it again.
It is sold in various sizes and two color options. Cut the liner into sizes as needed to fit an aquarium. Juvenile geckos are to whom it is made.
It is low maintenance rolled-out bedding with biodegradable enzymes that control odor. Non-abrasive materials are used not to irritate the reptiles. The material is away from ingestion as well.
Zilla used recycled materials to produce this very affordable substrate.
- Excellent odor control
- Offers good fits
- Has solid construction
- Possibility of teeth stuck on the bedding
- For temporary use only
2. Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate
An all-natural substrate is rare to find. Zoo Med had turned clay into bedding for the reptiles with no chemical nor dyes added.
The tank can turn into a desert wonderland on the preference of the pet owner. Using a clay substrate allows custom tank design that brings a natural habitat for the geckos.
First is to add water on the clay to be mold easily in forming hiding places. Once the clay dries up, its shape remains and won’t collapse.
Clay burrowing substrate works better without an under tank heater as it retains heat on its own. Set aside some amount of clay to replace soiled portions.
Geckos are free to burrow and dig naturally with the built multi-level tunnels. You can be sure of the pets feeling like they are at home.
- Allows custom-designed terrariums
- Promotes even distribution of heat
- Safe for pets
- Creates dust over time
3. Zoo Med Eco Cage Carpet
It is a reptile carpet available in four package options. The carpet is cut into sizes to fit on the existing terrarium. So, buy as according to the needed amount of substrate.
Zoo Med boasts a green product that is 100% recyclable. It is made of post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The materials are safe for it cannot be easily ingested by pets.
The bedding has a soft texture and is very absorbent. It contains non-abrasive materials for the wellbeing of geckos.
Cleaning the carpet is so easy by only washing it in cold water and then dries naturally. There is no need to buy another set of bedding as you can reuse the old one for the next use.
- Does not permit accidental ingestion
- Cheaply priced
- Easy to cut
- Easy to clean
- An issue on the amount of packaging
4. Small World Slate & Stone’s Natural Slate Stone
To beautify a reptile’s tank is a goal. It can happen with the use of slate stones as substrates for the reptiles. Slate stones are perfect for walkways, and also for aquascaping to give a natural habitat for geckos.
It is more expensive than the other substrate options and yet renders so much elegance on your pet’s aquarium. The sold product is 100% real and naturally made in the USA.
You can order two to five pounds of slate stones size ranging from 1 to 3-inches. It is colored with gray that becomes darker when wet.
Mixing some white quartz and brownstone adds more delight on the tank’s surface. The stones naturally hold heat, which is good for heat-loving pets like geckos.
It can be glued together to create ramps for the leopard geckos to play on. They will enjoy realistic nature scenery while living inside a tank.
- Highly versatile
- Comes in different shapes and sizes
- Too thin
5. Exo Terra Sand Mat
A rocky desert floor is suitable for geckos as their natural habitat feels and looks. This sand mat bears a resemblance to gecko’s natural habitat. The pet’s terrarium will appear like a natural desert.
Before putting on the sand mat, brush off the loose particles until it becomes dust-free. We know how dangerous dust is for geckos and even on other animals.
It enables a firm grip through its rough but friendly texture. Your pet will feel the desired comfort and sense of safety in all conditions. Plus, the substrate is hygienic and ideal for tanks.
The bedding for geckos is easy to set into place by cutting it into portions. You can easily remove it and rinse with water to maintain its hygienic feature. Let it dry naturally to make it ready for the next day.
- It is washable and reusable
- Provide excellent grip
- Brings a natural desert ambiance for geckos
- Does not minimize bad odor
- Very sandy
6. National Geographic Deluxe Large Reptile Terrarium Liner
This is a unique looking substrate for leopard geckos you can opt to. The liner is a synthetic grass bedding so-called Astroturf suitable for reptiles.
The terrarium liner can fill in tanks up to 18”x36”. That is large enough to contain several geckos at once. The terrarium grass can be cut with a sturdy pair of scissors to fit your existing reptile tank.
The material is durable as said by the users. It won’t break off easily even after your pets burrow it.
It can be washed by hand when needed. Then, dry the terrarium grass before putting it back in the tank. The substrate is colored brown and so wastes are not visibly seen at a glance.
- Retains proper humidity
- Makes cleanup a breeze
- Looks so good in person
- Poor color choice as crickets cannot be easily seen
- Holds bad odor
6. Zoo Med’s Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
Zoo Med is popular in producing the best leopard gecko’s substrate in the world. They offer low-priced options for anyone to afford without compromising the product’s quality.
Though coconut husk is a controversial substrate, several owners still agree with it as the best bedding option. There are many great things the coconut fiber substrate has to offer.
It looks natural and holds moisture for a long time without causing mold. It may be difficult to hydrate due to the small fibers, but it is very rare to happen.
The fiber helps to break down odor and other wastes. Owners can easily spot waste with this substrate and so easy to clean.
Dust is reduced as well compared to other coconut husk substrates.
- Very affordable
- Controls odor
- Less dusty
- Mite infestation happened in short time
- Difficult to hydrate
8. ReptiChip Premium Coconut Reptile Substrate
It is a coconut reptile substrate in a form of dehydrated block. Gecko owners prefer adding blocks of the substrate in a tank instead of other forms.
Other owners complain of it being dusty that causes respiratory issues on geckos. Also, it needs to be hydrated before placing inside the tank for it cannot just be dumped.
It holds moisture well and provides a consistent humid environment. It has a natural look with extra big fibers to avoid accidental ingestion. Bad odor is reduced for the advantage of the geckos and the owners too.
It is known as the cleanest chip available for geckos used by professional breeders. The product is offered with excellent quality. You will save money in the long run while using this substrate.
- Locks in moisture
- Easy to expand
- Resistant to mold
- Has deodorizing feature
- Needs to be hydrated before use
9. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding
This floor bedding could be one of the most inexpensive substrates among the list without sacrificing its quality. Zoo Med never disappoints gecko owners with their reptile products.
It gives a natural covering on the bottom of the gecko’s enclosure in a form of natural cypress mulch. Some owners worry about the amount of wood fiber it contains for it may result in some potential problems.
You can choose between the offered volumes of the substrate to fit on an existing enclosure. The humidity level it provides inside a terrarium is consistent in supporting the pet’s health.
It can hold water for a long time and it lacks dust. The substrate does not rot while holding moisture, which is a great thing to such gecko necessity.
It is not recommended to mix the forest floor bedding to another substrate. It will never be a good idea.
- Gives natural ambiance
- Consistent humidity level
- Difficult to spot waste
- Prone to ingestion
10. Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Substrate
Holding moisture is where coconut fiber works best. Fiber lasts for at least 35 days for fungus to develop. And, it is the best thing Reptile Prime has to offer.
The company focuses on absorbency in creating the substrate. It has a coarse texture instead of being too fine in which most owners are pleased. Fibers are size well to prevent deadly ingestion.
It works both in dry and wet situations, but most owners choose the latter because of its moisture-retention properties. Odors are controlled by the substrate as well.
The fiber substrate allows plant growth in a terrarium, which makes it unique from the other coconut-made substrate.
Coconut fiber substrate is fairly priced than its competitors and so not a best-budget option for the buyers.
- Eliminates foul odor
- Prevents accidental ingestion
- Better holds moisture
- Very versatile in dry and wet conditions
- Failure to hold moisture at times
11. Marcal 100% Premium Paper Towel Roll
The most popular substrate option for leopard gecko is paper towels. It could be the cheapest among the other choices. Plus, it is eco-friendly and so easy to set up.
Marcal Paper Towel is composed of 60 sheets and is white-colored. The paper is 100% post-consumer recycled and does not come from trees, which is a great deal.
Paper’s absorbency level is much higher than other substrate types. The reason is that papers are not bleached with chlorine, which primarily causes low absorbency ability.
It is an all-natural substrate with no fragrance or dyes added that is safer for pets. You can easily replace it with another paper rolls when needed as it simplifies the cleanup process.
The environment will be rejoicing when gecko owners start using paper towels as tank’s substrates.
- Includes 2-ply of paper towel
- Highly absorbent
- Safest substrate for pets
- Not the softest paper bedding
- May require several replacements in a day
12. Exo Terra Bio-Drain Terrarium Substrate
Exo Terra Bio-Drain Substrate is ideal for aquarium. One pack contains 4.4-pounds that are enough to fill a terrarium.
A draining mesh is sold separately that helps to separate top-layer substrate from the other bedding materials. It is a natural substrate that won’t decompose easily as the other substrates.
It creates a water drainage system naturally after being put up in a terrarium. This prevents bad odor formation throughout the pet’s habitat.
It can be combined with other types of substrate such as coconut husk and moss on the top layer. The humidity level is maintained in a needed range as well.
- Sustains humidity normal range
- Provides a bigger bag for the money
- Only lava rocks
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some questions asked by most gecko owners in buying a particular substrate in the market:
Do leopard geckos love to dig?
Leopard geckos are a reptile that loves to burrow. Providing an enclosure with a proper substrate is, therefore, necessary to support its digging habit.
Most substrates are just made for fun and not for ingestion in which you have to be aware of.
Does the best substrate for leopard geckos control odor?
The answer depends on your particular choice of a substrate as some won’t control odors. Most tank substrates can control odor due to the absorbency level and waste locking feature.
Trapping odor can be done for days or weeks depending on the substrate model.
Are fibers on a substrate having an effect on geckos?
Fibers are not dangerous for leopard geckos so nothing to worry about. It may appear not too small or too big to cause infections on pets.
If something bad happens, it can be dealt with easily. Regular checkup for geckos is important thereof.
How often do I need to change gecko’s substrate?
Substrate replacement has no strict guidelines. It only takes diligence in observing when to change the bedding. You may notice whether the substrate is getting dirty or moldy in one glance.
Spot-cleaning must be done once in a while to lessen the load of cleaning.
What are the symptoms of impaction?
Impaction symptoms are noticeable and curable. You will observe a loss of appetite, insufficient energy, bloated stomach, and no bowel movements for several days. A dark blue spot on its abdomen is another great sign.
Consulting a vet is the best remedy to cure impaction.
To summarize, choosing the finest substrate for leopard gecko requires three things – hygienic, ingestible, and safe for reptiles. I have searched for the good and bad substrates being sold in the market, so check it out!
It would be difficult to pick which substrate is the best for geckos. No one else can decide what’s best for geckos except its owner. So, I am rooting for you then!