What is the best slate tile substrate for your bearded dragon?
A tile or non-particle substrate will prevent potential health issues like digestive impaction.
Tiles are great for absorbing heat without getting too hot.
They are also widely available for purchase, not only on Amazon but at hardware stores as well.
They have the added benefit of naturally filing your beardie’s claws and nails.
Our #1 pick for the best slate substrate is the Kathson Reptile Basking Platform. It comes in a large size, made from all-natural slate, and is intended for pets from the get-go.
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What To Look For In The Best Slate Tile Substrate
Though no one substrate is the best for all beardies, slate tile is agreed upon as one of the best terrarium substrates for bearded dragons.
Since it is a non-particle substrate, it is a great option for baby and juvenile bearded dragons, messier eaters.
Non-particle substrates mean there is no risk of impaction or constipation caused by bearded dragons eating something they should not.
This tile also absorbs heat without getting too hot, making it a perfect material for basking spots.
A high-quality slate will not need to be replaced often, if at all, and the material is easy to clean.
We recommend measuring the inside of your terrarium, not the outside, before buying tile.
Measuring the inside dimensions will be more accurate and give you a better idea of how many tiles you need to buy.
As always, make sure anything you buy to put in your pet’s enclosure is clean before you put it there.
Boil slate to eliminate any possible dust, particles, or pathogens. File sharp edges down if needed.
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Small World Slate and Stone Store Natural Slate Stones 3-5″
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You will probably need a non-toxic adhesive or grout to fill in gaps for this option, but the brand also sells smaller and bigger stones than the listed size.
These stones are unique because they have more natural shapes, which may better suit your enclosure’s look.
They are also PH neutral and are made from an all-natural slate.
Though these have also been recommended to build bearded dragon hides, it should be noted a few reviewers have not had success in using them in this way.
Therefore, it is better to use these as a substrate.
- More naturalistic shapes, not just square
- All-natural slate
Trademark Innovations Slate Drink Coasters
- Made of 100% all natural slate
- Measures 4" x 4"
- Protect tables from moisture and scratches
Though not intended for pet uses initially, these square tile coasters easily fit in a bearded dragon’s enclosure.
These are also a more budget-friendly option.
A pack of eight coasters, at 4″ x 4″ inches (10 cm) each, will cover a total approximate area of 256 square inches.
Some reviewers have complained about this slate not being as high-quality or thick as other options.
Though it will provide all the expected benefits (being easy to clean and replace, heat-absorbent, and a natural way to file your bearded dragon’s nails), there may be more of a risk of breakage than with other tile options.
To avoid nail issues we recommend trimming your bearded dragon’s nails as needed.
- Square shapes make them easily fit in a terrarium or tank
- All-natural slate
- Easy to clean and replace
Kathson Reptile Basking Platform
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Though mainly marketed towards tortoise owners, we feel this tile substrate would be the best option for your bearded dragon too.
We recommend it as our #1 pick for a slate bearded dragon substrate.
Its large size (12x8x0.2″ inches or 30x20x0.5 cm) means you should only need a few for complete tank bottom coverage.
Suppose you like providing your bearded dragon with multiple substrate options.
In this case, this is a perfect option to cover the basking side of the enclosure while providing burrowing material in another area.
Like all tiles, this slate is perfect for keeping your bearded dragon’s claws naturally trimmed and sharpened.
- One large tile means only a few will be needed to cover the bottom of a tank, or have slate tile on one side and a different substrate for burrowing somewhere else in the enclosure
- Perfectly absorbs and retains heat
- No chemical treatment–safe from the get-go
How Do I Choose The Best Substrate For My Bearded Dragon?
With frequent debates between members of the bearded dragon community, the best possible substrate for your pet may be difficult to discern.
Opinions often get mixed up with veterinary advice, and you may feel as if your questions are not being answered to your satisfaction.
The truth is, your bearded dragon’s needs are unique, even from other bearded dragons.
While there are multiple options you should avoid, the substrate you ultimately choose should be based on your bearded dragon’s age, their burrowing habits, your budget as their owner, and your concerns about cleanliness.
What Substrates Should I Avoid?
There are quite a few substrates which are inappropriate and even potentially harmful for a bearded dragon.
Even some of the most popular options, or those recommended by pet stores and Amazon, could cause great damage and health issues for a beardie.
Ground Walnut Shells
Ground walnut shells, though often advertised as okay for bearded dragons, are far too dangerous.
Their edges are sharp, which could cause problems with impaction or damage sensitive organs like eyes and mouths.
Stay away from these as a substrate option.
Even though bearded dragons spend much of their time in the sand in the wild, most commercially available sand is not appropriate for their substrate.
The risk of digestive impaction is far too high, and many options may stain your bearded dragon’s skin.
Calcium sand is not a good option either.
Though the intent in its creation was to provide bearded dragons with another source of calcium (calcium carbonate) and lessen the risk of impaction, calcium or calci sand, if ingested, neutralizes stomach acid and may cause more digestive issues than it claims to solve.
Gravel or Cat Litter
Anything with fine rocks or pebbles is not appropriate for your bearded dragon.
Sharp pebbles may cause digestive damage and tearing if ingested.
Since they do not absorb as much moisture, alfalfa pellets are more recommended for rodent pets, not desert reptiles.
If used, pellets may increase humidity levels in a bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Types of Substrate
Reptile substrates come in two types: particle (or loose) substrates and non-particle substrates.
Particle substrates for bearded dragons include:
- Chips (Repti-chips, sani-chips, etc.)
Loose substrates are not recommended for baby bearded dragons, as they are messier eaters than adults and are more likely to ingest their substrates.
For adult bearded dragons, you should still be careful what you buy.
You want a loose substrate to be soft enough to digest if eaten, good for burrowing, and made of a material which will not increase temperatures or humidity levels in the enclosure.
If you are using a loose substrate, you will also want to make sure your beardie’s live prey (dubia roaches, crickets, worms, etc.) does not get the opportunity to hide and breed in it.
Parasites breed more successfully in loose substrates as well.
Loose substrates will also have to be replaced completely every few months, so keep this in mind as you search for the ideal substrate.
Non-Particle substrates for bearded dragons include:
- Tile (slate and ceramic tile recommended)
- Excavator Clay (highly recommended)
- Paper Towels
- Reptile Carpet
- Sand Mats
Non-particle substrates are recommended more often than particle substrates for use in bearded dragon enclosures.
Some non-particle substrates are more widely available, sold at specialty pet stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot.
Not only do these substrates eliminate impaction risks, they usually come with more budget-friendly options than particles.
Paper towels and used newspapers are popular options among newer bearded dragon owners in particular.
These two options are also the best for a sick or injured beardie.
One main issue with most non-particle substrates is the lack of burrowing potential.
Beardies love to burrow and dig, particularly around their brumation, when they need a dark and safe place to sleep.
Pregnant beardies also need at least one burrowing area to lay their eggs.
Excavator clay provides one compromise here.
Though it is a harder texture, its malleability means an owner can form hills, tunnels, and dens out of clay before introducing their bearded dragon to their enclosure.
A beardie can dig without worries of impaction.
How Do I Clean And Disinfect Tiles?
Luckily, tiles are easy to disinfect and clean.
Wash them with dish soap and warm water.
Boil slate when you first get it to disinfect it.
What If The Tile Is Slippery?
While slate is usually not as slippery as other tiles, you want to make sure any tile you buy your bearded dragon has some traction.
If it doesn’t, mix sand or topsoil with a non-toxic adhesive, brush a light layer over the tile, and let it dry completely.
We recommend giving your pet other things to climb in the enclosure, so they do not have to travel over the tile all the time.
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