How do you determine if a particle substrate is suitable for your bearded dragon?
People like you want to make sure your bearded dragon can burrow in their enclosure without worrying whether their types of substrate will get stuck in their digestive system.
While there is quite a bit of conflicting information, determining the right substrate for your pet will depend more on their needs than some opinions on the internet.
We recommend T-Rex Reptile Terrarium Sani Chip Substrate as our #1 pick. Odor absorbent, unscented, and safe, it is the best pick of its type.
Table of Contents
Sani Chips In This Review
What Makes Good Sani Chips For Bearded Dragons
Woodchips are a particle substrate, which means they are material for the bottom lining of a vivarium, which comes in small particles.
Particle substrates provide burrowing and digging places and material, making them a great option for adult bearded dragons.
Woodchips are absorbent, meaning odors and waste matter will not emit as much smell.
If you are looking for a particle substrate for your bearded dragon, make sure you are choosing a material which is less likely to cause impaction or constipation if ingested.
Depending on the brand, sani chips or repti chips are usually made from softer woods, like aspen, making them an appropriate choice for bearded dragon substrates.
A soft, fine texture with small pieces is ideal.
The smaller and softer the particle, the easier a bearded dragon might digest it if eaten accidentally.
You also want the types of substrate you choose to produce minimal or no dust.
To ensure your substrate does not increase humidity or ambient temperatures in the bearded dragon enclosure, look for dried or heat-treated materials.
Though wood chips are often recommended by pet stores and other sources like Amazon, there is controversy around using them.
Some wood chips are more suited to snake enclosures, and there are certain products advertised as safe for use with bearded dragons, which are anything but.
Be sure not to purchase ground walnut shells or coconut fibers, as most experts do not recommend these substrates for bearded dragons.
Best Sani Chip Substrate Reviews
T-Rex Reptile Terrarium Sani Chips
The price point, dust and scent-free formula, and years of trust from professional reptile keepers and breeders make T-Rex our #1 choice for a sani chip substrate.
Available in both 4-quart and 8-quart bags, a little goes a long way with T-Rex.
Odor absorption and comfort are key to any sani chip substrate, and T-Rex accomplishes both.
The softness of the particles means no risk of intestinal blockage.
Your bearded dragon will also appreciate the mental stimulation offered by burrowing and digging, though tunnels will usually collapse.
- Made of aspen from renewable resources
Josh’s Frogs Sani Chips
- ABSORBENT substrate that eliminates odors and liquids quickly resulting in a cleaner environment
- ASPEN or a blend of BEECH, BIRCH and MAPLE. These are renewable hardwoods and responsibly obtained
- SCENT FREE and DUST FREE since they are dried and screened in processing, your nose won’t be bothered
These chips are either made from aspen or a mix of renewable hardwoods like beech, birch, and maple.
They are sold in 10-quart bags for a reasonable price.
Like all sani chip substrates, this product is an odor-absorbent option.
This material is dried before bagging, so it is guaranteed dust-free and will not interfere with humidity or temperatures.
Though this is an unscented substrate (rare for the market), some reviewers still have complaints about the smell.
This may be from the bacteria, which sometimes sticks to the chips.
Some bearded dragon owners have reported particles sticking via static to their reptiles or their reptiles’ food.
- Well-Sanitized and Dried
- Odor Absorbent
- Made from renewable and sustainable hardwoods
Made from aspen, this material comes in 24-quart bags, making it easy to buy a large quantity at once.
While not suitable for all lizards, this brand comes highly praised for use with bearded dragons.
Some reviewers have mentioned larger, more splintered pieces of wood chips appearing in this brand.
Our recommendation is to mix this substrate with sterile topsoil to minimize the risk of scratching if you see this issue.
There are also more impaction concerns with ZooMed, though the brand has years of trust and recommendations behind it.
- 99% Dust Free
- Clumping Formula
- Heat Treated
How Do I Choose The Right Particle Substrate For My Bearded Dragon?
Though quite a few opinions are floating around about particle substrates, you should select one based on your bearded dragon’s individual needs and age.
Some sources are adamant about never using particle substrates.
However, many adult bearded dragons thrive and are healthy on them.
If your bearded dragon is happy and healthy on its particle substrate, there is no reason to change it and do something else.
When Not To Use Particle Substrates
There are certain situations where we do not recommend the use of particle substrates.
We do not recommend particle substrates for baby bearded dragons.
Babies are more likely to eat and digest loose debris particles than an adult bearded dragon.
If one of your babies is less than a year old, we recommend sticking to a non-particle substrate, like tiles, reptile carpets, mat liners, sand mats, and paper towels.
Likewise, a sick or injured bearded dragon should be kept on paper towels, reptile carpets, or newspaper, not particles.
A soft, non-particle material, like reptile carpets, will not only absorb discharge but prevent particles from getting stuck in an open wound.
Paper towels are also cheap and easy to replace. Beardie nails may rip them up, though.
What Particle Substrates Are Not Suitable For A Bearded Dragon?
There are a few substrate options which are not recommended by any reptile experts or enthusiasts.
As animals which live in deserts, you may think the captive bearded dragon would thrive on the sand.
In the wild, they do.
However, most commercially available sand options for terrariums are not suitable for bearded dragons.
Not only do many sands contain toxic particles and toxins, but there is also a much higher risk of digestive impaction with sand than with another liner.
Certain sands may also stain your bearded dragon’s skin, which is not healthy for them or the life of your enclosure.
Like calci sand or vita sand, some sands are advertised as having nutritive properties and preventing impaction.
However, the vita sands’ composition neutralizes stomach acids and cause more digestive issues than they prevent.
Experts insist the only suitable sand for bearded dragons is children’s play sand mixed with sterile topsoil.
However, we recommend this mix for experienced reptile keepers only.
Ground or Crushed Walnut Shells
Though they may be all-natural, walnut shells are far too sharp for bearded dragons to live on.
Sharp particles may do severe damage to your bearded dragon’s eyes and mouth, as well as their digestive systems if they swallow it.
This is also an all-natural material.
However, unlike other options, coconut fibers produce dust, which may become a respiratory or eye irritant for your bearded dragon.
Pebbles or Gravel
As nice as the look with plants, small, sharp stones, if ingested, have the potential to do real damage to your bearded dragon’s digestive system.
Avoid these altogether.
What About Non-Particle Solid Substrates?
More sources will recommend non-particle substrates for bearded dragons than particle substrates.
It is true a non-particle substrate like tile, newspaper, or paper towel will cut down on impaction risks.
However, one downside to these floor coverings is a bearded dragon cannot burrow or dig, reducing mental stimulation and causing potential issues in gravid or pregnant female beardies.
Some options are not odor or moisture-absorbent.
Tiles made of ceramic or slate are recommended for bearded dragons.
Tiles are widely available, not just at pet stores but at hardware stores as well.
You want to make sure any tile you buy absorbs heat rather than reflecting heat and light. You will also want to make sure the tiles are not too slippery.
Add traction if need be with a non-toxic adhesive and sand or topsoil to get the tiles to work better.
Silica sand mats are great if you want the feel of sand without the risk of impaction.
They are also suitable for baby bearded dragons and have enough traction for the babies on their own.
A Note On Excavator Clay
Excavator clay, though it costs a bit more, skirts the line between particle and non-particle substrate.
Though it should be completely dried and hardened, a bearded dragon can still engage in digging behavior with excavator clay.
An owner will also form tunnels, dens, and burrows in a bearded dragon’s enclosure before introducing a bearded dragon to the clay.
It is not as easy to clean as other particle substrates.
Experts and reptile enthusiasts alike recommend excavator clay as a great liner.
How Much Particle Substrate Do I Need To Put Down?
We recommend a layer of 4-6″ inches (15 cm) of the substrate at the bottom of the tank.
To determine how much you need to purchase, measure the size of the bottom of the tank and multiply this number by how deep you want the substrate layer to be.
Convert this number into volume units like quarts or square inches.
How Do I Spot Clean?
When spot cleaning, scoop up any feces and surrounding wet substrate.
Discard these and replace the used substrate with new material.
How Often Should I Replace Loose Substrate?
Your monthly deep clean provides a great opportunity to replace the layer of loose substrate completely.
Throw away any used substrate and put down a layer of new material.
This will reduce the likelihood of parasite and bacterial growth in your bearded dragon’s enclosure.