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Best Reptile Substrate for 2021

If you love reptiles, having one as a pet is great. But there is no denying that setting up their habitat is a confusing and complicated process.

There is the lighting, humidity and temperature to think about, as well as whether they need places to climb on or hide in. Another big decision is their substrate which sits at the bottom of the tank.

You’d be forgiven for thinking anything will do, but actually, every animal has particular needs. It relates to how they spend their time, the conditions of the vivarium and how safe the substrate is to use with them in the tank.

These are the best reptile substrates on the market for every subtype.

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    Our Top Picks

    Image Product Details
    HabiStat Bearded Dragon Bedding
    • Becomes moist
    • Perfect natural blend
    Check Price
    ExoTerra Snake Bedding
    • Made with snakes in mind
    • Nice and soft
    Check Price
    Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles
    • Choice of size for safety
    • Natural colour
    Check Price

    The Top 10 Reptile Substrates Reviewed

    HabiStat Bearded Dragon Bedding

    100% natural, and a blend of all of the materials which your bearded dragon would naturally find in their original ecosystem.

    This is, therefore, better suited to them than the standard sand substrates available, and will be much easier to organise and use. The blend encourages digging and is soft on their feet.

    It also retains moisture well – while your bearded dragon doesn’t live in the most humid of environments, digging into their natural substrate would naturally find moist burrows or hiding holes. This can help when they need damper areas when shedding or just more humidity.

    As a bonus, it all comes in a recyclable, biodegradable bag. You should fill your tank with around 2-3″ (5-7.5cm) of this mix, and spot clean when appropriate, so work out how much you will need every time before buying based on your tank size.


    • Becomes moist
    • Perfect natural blend


    • Material: Soil, Sand, Grit
    • Capacity: 10kg

    ExoTerra Snake Bedding

    Shredded wood is best for snakes. They won’t spend too much time near the base of their tank anyway, but if they do, they won’t feel the roughness.

    Wood also is extremely absorbent, so best for animals like snakes who don’t need high levels of humidity. It is soft, so easy on their skin if they do go over it, and it is also comfortable for you to pick up and clean when required.

    This ExoTerra Snake Bedding comes in a variety of sizes, but the huge 26.4L bag is great value and should keep you going for a while. It is also dust-free.


    • Made with snakes in mind
    • Nice and soft


    • Material: Wood
    • Capacity: 26.4L

    Exo Terra Turtle Pebbles

    These pebbles are small and natural in shape and size, meaning it is the perfect option for anyone wanting to create an authentic riverbed scenario. They’re ideal for turtles up to 10cm (4″) in size.

    They won’t interfere with your water chemistry, and once removed from the tank are easy to clean. Smooth, any bottom dwellers won’t be injured by their shape and size, and you can choose from two different pebble sizes.

    8-10mm is fine for smaller animals, and 10-20mm for the slightly larger aquarium reptiles where you don’t want to worry about the stones posing a swallow hazard.


    • Choice of size for safety
    • Natural colour


    • Material: Stone
    • Capacity: 4.5kg

    Pettex Reptile Substrate Calci Sand

    Calcium sand is used by owners who want to have a sand-based tank, but who are worried about the risk of swallowing and impaction.

    The calcium will break down if swallowed, making it more likely that it will be expelled. It is also softer than natural sand, using smaller smoother particles. Absorbent, it is not only hygienic but will increase the humidity in tanks too.

    Because it is absorbent, it will control odours and is simple to spot clean. Even when you’re conducting a larger tank clean, just sieve it and you’re done. All of Pettex’s substrates have been heat-treated too, so they’re perfectly hygienic and clean before you’ve even put them into the tank.


    • Safe for use
    • Soft touch


    • Material: Calcium
    • Capacity: 10L

    HabiStat Coir Substrate

    Coir is great for burrowing species who usually live in humid environments and need somewhere to get a bit cooler.

    Made from coconut husk, it is 100% natural which is perfect for anyone who wants to avoid manmade products. This also makes it sustainable, and biodegradable, non-toxic and non-abrasive.

    It should ideally be kept with a substantial depth to help with the water retention, which will help any live plants within your terrarium prosper!


    • Huge 10L bag available
    • 100% natural and sustainable


    • Material: Coconut Husk
    • Capacity: 5L, 10L

    Exo Terra Forest Moss

    Moss can either be used as a decorative material or as a way to retain moisture in tanks that need to be very humid. This one is ideal for amphibians and wetland environment reptiles.

    This prepacked live green moss is a fantastic addition to any rainforest makeups. Because it is living, the right amount of water, light and humidity will ensure it thrives – best for animals who also live at 24-32C, with high humidity of over 50%.

    Moss is also great at adding fresh air to the tank, for photosynthesis. Either place it as a substrate on the base of the vivarium, or over decorations and climbing equipment. You get two packs of 7 litres so it is easy to work out how much you’d need to order.


    • Creates great rainforest environment
    • Easy to lay


    • Material: Moss
    • Capacity: 2 x 7L

    Komodo Reptile Carpet

    Carpet is ideal for many forms of reptile, including snakes, lizards and tortoises. It is simple to clean, can’t be swallowed or eaten, and now looks a lot more natural than it used to.

    This carpet is specially designed for reptiles. The dark green colour is close to their natural environment and with an absorbent surface, will capture any soiling so you don’t have to mess about too much when removing it to clean.

    You can rinse it clean if you need a quicker turnaround, or machine wash it for heavier soiling. Ideally, clean it daily, so always have another replacement ready to go. Luckily, the price and size choices make it easy to ensure you have a spare.

    This particular carpet is softer than a lot of the other rival brands and really easy to cut to size/shape without risking fraying or sharp edges.


    • Easy to cut down


    • Material: Carpet
    • Capacity: 60 x 50cm/150 x 60cm

    ProRep Aspen Bedding

    Wood is a difficult one when it comes to reptile substrate. Too rough and it can be uncomfortable. Too large and it is again uncomfortable. Too small, however, and it is a swallow and impaction risk. It can also be dusty, which isn’t good for their little sensitive respiratory system.

    This one, however, is soft, dry and cleaned of dust particles. Because it is soft, it can still be used with burrowing snakes and reptiles, and won’t be sharp on their skin. Unlike some other woods, it isn’t just for reptiles who are arboreal.

    Corn Snakes and King Snakes are best for this, but Blue Tongued Skinks and Monitors will also love it. As a bonus, it is a nice big bag for a great price.


    • Soft
    • Safe to use


    • Material: Aspen
    • Capacity: 10L/25L

    Unipac Reptile Sand

    Sand is a funny one. Some owners are completely against it as they don’t want to risk swallowing and impaction. Others praise it for its ease of cleaning, natural look and traditional desert environment qualities.

    However, if sand is the best for you and your pet, you must opt for one like this which is specifically made with reptiles in mind. The particles are small so won’t cause a choking hazard, and it is softer than the sand you’d buy for a fish tank, or a children’s play area.

    It’s silica, so safe to burrow into, and great for conducting heat. It would also be perfect for any reptiles who will be laying eggs in their tank in the future. There are no dyes or chemicals either.

    Perfect for bearded dragons, leopard geckos and any other reptiles that live in a dry, arid environment.


    • Small enough for safety
    • Natural colour - no additives


    • Material: Silica
    • Capacity: 25kg

    Lucky Reptile Hatchrite

    Do you breed reptiles? If so, your eggs will need the right substrate too.

    It is favoured by professionals and used by Swell Reptiles’ in-house snake breeders. It keeps eggs at the right humidity for good healthy development, getting the best yield out of your clutch and ensuring you don’t have to mess around with them too much.

    This means no additional watering down the line. The natural humidity is just right for growth while inhibiting bacteria and mould growth which can be fatal. Simply open the bag, pour into the hatching box and you’re done.

    Why is it so popular though? Not only is it no fuss and hygienic, but it won’t stick to your hatchlings or clump and you can close the bag again ready for next time.


    • Needs no extra attention
    • Safe for hatchlings


    • Material: Perlite
    • Capacity: 2L

    Buying Guide

    Types Of Reptile Substrate

    Where do we begin?! As you have seen, there are loads to choose from – and the above isn’t even an extensive list. You can also have paper, soil, wood chips, Hydro Rocks for drainage or slate.

    The best depends on your animal. Bearded dragons can be best with some form of sand, lizards are great with carpet or calc, and snakes are good with wood. Our full list, which is in our Help and Resources section, gives a clearer signal of what you need.


    How large is your tank? How deep does the substrate have to be – will your reptile need to dig and burrow?

    Once you have worked this out, you know how much to buy. But also bear in mind how often you will have to change the tank, and how much you, therefore, need to hand as spare. We have a calculation below to help you out.

    Other Buyers Ask...

    How do I calculate how much substrate I need?

    You can use the same method as with a fish tank:

    1. Measure the tank and how much substrate you will need in centimetres. Use (length x width x depth of substrate) / 1000 = litres or kilograms
    2. Example: 60 x 50 with a substrate 10cm deep: (60 x 50 x 10) = 30000 / 1000 = 30L

    You can also use inches:

    1. Multiply the length of the tank by the width of the tank – for example, 30 inches x 15 inches = 450 inches
    2. Divide this by 10, so 450 inches / 10 = 45
    3. Convert your answer into the weight by dividing by 2.2 – 45 / 2.2 = 20.45L

    I need 20L of the substrate so how many kilograms is that?

    It can be confusing seeing the substrate sold as both kilograms and litres, but 1L = 1kg, so this will also mean you need 20kg of the substrate.