Quick Guide to Reptile Bedding: Popular Substrate Options

When thinking about what kind of substrate to use when setting up an enclosure, we base our decision on a few different aspects:

  • #1: What is the animal’s natural environment? Does it live in the desert or a more humid environment?
  • #2: What is easy to keep clean?
  • #3: What is aesthetically pleasing?

Improper substrates can lead to impaction, poor shedding, eye infections, and respiratory infections. With that in mind, here are several different reptile substrates and the types of set up they work well in. 

Image provided by Bean Farm customer, Caryl U.

Aspen Bedding: Aspen Bedding is made up of fractured pieces of Aspen wood. These are not shavings but fractured bits that compress and hold together well, making it a very absorbent and easy to clean bedding. You can spot clean the Aspen quite a bit before having to do an overall change. It does tend to have some dust aspects, being a wood substrate but is a lot less dusty than pine shavings. It also tends to work better for more arid species and not as well for high humidity needs.

Coir Fiber: Both coir fiber bricks and in loose form, work for both desert species and tropical. With the bricks you have to hydrate first to break it up. Once it is dissolved you can squeeze the moisture out and use it dry or keep it moist and use it in a high humidity enclosure. Coir Fiber is easy to clean and doesn’t require a complete change out very often. Great for forest set ups when used wet or when used dry good for a desert terrarium as well. The bricks give you more product for your dollar but if you don’t need that much and don’t want to go to the trouble of hydrating it first, you can buy the loose coir fiber. This is a fluffy substrate that is ready to use dry or humid.

Coir Husk Chips: This is basically coconut bark mixed with coir fiber. It looks nice in some setups and can be easier to keep the humidity higher than just coir. Mixing the two also works well. Great for a tropical terrarium.

Cypress Mulch: Cypress is better for a forest or a higher humidity enclosure. It tends to be barkier than coir but some people like the aesthetics of it. It can be cleaned and reused which make it a longer lasting substrate.

Sand: Natural sand is great for certain species of reptiles but not for all. We use sand with an animal that dwells on it in the wild or in a nice looking desert terrarium. A lot of desert geckos or Bearded Dragons work well with sand. The advantages of sand is that it is easy to clean and it looks nice. We don’t like the idea of calcium-sand because we don’t believe that an animal should ingest something it defecates on. 

Moss: Moss can be great for hide boxes, shedding boxes or creating a moist area in a cage. Especially for an amphibian or a reptile that is having problems with dry shed. It really helps with humidity and is fairly easy to clean.

Note: Newspaper and Paper Towels are always a good inexpensive, safe and hygienic substrate if you want something simple and sanitary when quarantining or treating a sick or mite-ridden animal. Paper Towels work great for neonates or something else that you want kept in a very sanitary environment.

Bean Farm carries a range of absorbent and dry substrates for a variety of reptile enclosures, including wood substrates, soil, LECA balls, moss, and more. You will find a variety of humidity-holding substrates for tropical species, such as coconut fiber and forest floor. For species that love to burrow, you'll find aspen, soil, and wood chips.

When ordering, you can expect quick fulfillment and great customer service from our family of herpers. Click here to shop substrates at Bean Farm.