Best Substrate For Iguanas

Are you looking to set up your iguanas tank or pen, and you want to give it the best flooring possible?

Do you get lost looking at all the bedding options for reptiles?

When I first looked into my iguana habitat, I didn’t know what to look for in bedding.

And there were so many options out there, I felt frustrated.

After experimenting and researching, we here at Oddly Cute Pets came up with this list of the best substrates for iguanas.

The best substrate for iguanas needs to help retain heat, make clean up easier, be completely safe, and be available in larger purchase quantities. Our picks include the following:

Read on for more details, including a buyer’s guide and a detailed review of each specific product.

What To Look For In The Best Iguana Bedding

In this section, we’ll help you realize what to look for in iguana substrate.

Use this section to educate yourself before digging into three reviews below.

Style/Material

There are two main types of substrate or bedding for all reptiles and pets.

These are divided into true substrate or flooring.

Use them in combination with each other or alone, but you need to know which kind you’re looking for.

A true substrate is made out of a natural material of some kind, such as coconut fiber, alfalfa, or cypress mulch.

These are natural materials found in the wild.

Often true substrate looks more natural and helps raise the humidity of the space.

True substrate also provides something for the iguana to dig in.

On the downside, the true substrate will be messier overall, and you’ll need to replace it regularly.

Flooring, on the other hand, is cleanable and usually lasts years.

The price may be higher (not always), but you may not need to buy more as often.

However, flooring materials such as plastic and vinyl don’t look as natural and won’t give the reptile anything to dig into.

Use a combination of the two if you so desire to get the best of both worlds.

Safe

This may seem obvious, but all substrates must be 100% safe and chemical-free.

When mulches or flooring get wet, there’s a chance any chemicals will bleed out into the ground and make the iguana sick.

Always buy mulch or other substrates from pet stores when using natural materials.

For flooring or “fake” bedding, pick things with no chemicals, lead, or other such things.

This is, of course, if you go shopping off our list.

The products we picked are all safe for iguanas and don’t have any chemical concerns.

Durable

Durability is a big concern.

Iguanas have a lot of flooring to cover (72 square feet (6.69 m²) as adults), and it will hurt your pocketbook to need to replace the bedding constantly.

Even true substrate can last months with minor replacement and daily spot cleaning.

You need to consider and decide how often you want to mess with the bedding.

For those on a strapped schedule, you may prefer to use artificial flooring, which just washes clean.

For those with time and dedication to making a natural pen, the effort of keeping up with true substrate will be fine.

Bacteria Resistant

While the humidity isn’t high in an iguana pen, there will still be moisture.

All substrate needs to have some level of bacteria-resistance to prevent mold and other nastiness from dropping.

Typically, true substrate materials will trap and prevent bacteria from spreading.

Fake flooring options wash clean but can attract mold quicker.

Either option works, but you need to consider this as you buy.

Helps With Cleanup

One of the main benefits of substrate is how it helps you clean up after the iguana’s droppings.

These lizards get big, and so do their droppings.

All the options on our list will help to a degree, but you need to think about how high of a priority this feature is for you.

Most natural substrates will clump up around the dropping, making it easier to scoop out.

Not all natural substrates perform equally in this regard.

Fake flooring options don’t trap droppings, but they are still easy to scoop and clean off.

Review Of The Best Substrate For Iguanas

best substrate for iguanas

This section goes over each of our picks for the best iguana bedding and discusses their specific features and how this affects their use for you.

Each one is unique from one another, so pay close attention to each one when deciding what you need.

Don’t forget to click the button to check current pricing information.

These items do go on sale often.

Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate

Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate, 8...
  • Ideal for naturalistic terrarium type set-ups incorporating reptiles, amphibians or invertebrates.
  • Use it damp for tropical species as it naturally absorbs and breaks down odor and waste products.
  • All natural green "product"

The Eco Earth coconut fiber-based substrate is a good, medium-priced option for most iguana owners.

Zoo Med is a trusted company in reptile products, so you know the product will be of good quality.

It’s based on coconut fibers shred up.

Coconut is one of the safest materials for substrate out there.

It does a decent job of clumping up around droppings making clean up a little easier for you, the owner.

Coconut has self-sanitizing properties as well.

It will trap and even remove some bacteria from droppings.

Coconut is a good substrate to use when the iguanas are little and in their large pen.

It’s all-natural and “green.”

There are no chemicals used in making it, and the product is safe in the environment as well.

The Eco Earth is available in a condensed one pack of 8 quarts (7.57 l) of material.

Add some water and spread it out, and this pack will cover a lot more space.

It’s also available in a 3-pack of 8 quarts (7.57 l) of loose material (no need to add water) and a single 24 quart (ca. 23 l) loose pack.

This will cover a decent amount of space, but you’ll need to buy multiple packs as well, depending on the exact size of your iguana pen.

Pros For This Product:

  • Very natural look
  • Self-cleaning and easy cleanup of droppings
  • Affordable and good value
  • Large bags and multiple sizes

Cons For This Product:

  • May attract mites and bugs over time

Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

Sale
Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding, 24 Quarts
  • 100% natural cypress mulch
  • All natural " Green" Product
  • Recommended terrarium substrate for many species of snakes, lizards, land turtles, tortoises, frogs, toads, salamanders,...

Zoo Med’s Forest Floor option is another medium-priced bedding for those who would rather go for a more natural look and material.

This bedding is made from a natural cypress mulch.

Cypress mulch is more like what the iguana would find in the wild.

Cypress mulch does a good job of clumping around droppings, but it doesn’t have as much resistance to bacteria.

It’s important you still spot clean and remove droppings every day.

This product is available in 4 quarts (3.79 l), 8 quarts (7.57 l), and 8-liter bags.

Cypress mulch additionally does a nice job of retaining moisture.

If you keep your pen outside in a dry or arid environment, it’s difficult to keep the humidity up to the 50% relative humidity it needs to be.

With cypress mulch, it’s a little easier.

Also, cypress mulch is a naturally fun material for the iguana to dig into a little.

It also makes for a good cooling material to bury itself in when it gets hot.

Pros For This Product:

  • Good value for the amount
  • Absorbs moisture and clumps for easy cleanup
  • Natural and safe
  • Iguanas like to dig in it

Cons For This Product:

  • Material may be rough and “sharp.”

Zilla Alfalfa Meal

Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Litter...
  • 100% Natural alfalfa-based bedding is not harmful when digested
  • Safe for herbivorous and carnivorous reptiles
  • Ultra-absorbent bedding

Zilla’s alfalfa meal is an affordable option perfect for young iguanas and full-grown ones alike.

It’s available in 5 and 15-pound bags.

Alfalfa meal is small alfalfa pellets.

This is one of the best substrates for any herbivore reptile, such as iguanas.

If accidentally ingested (as young iguanas sometimes do), it’s perfectly safe—alfalfa as it is ultra-absorbent.

When it comes into contact with water, clumps right up, this makes for super simple clean up, but it does make it a little of a pain if the water is spilled or you need to spray down the tank/pen.

The alfalfa will also prevent mold and bacteria well.

Overall, this is a popular option with iguana breeders.

Pros For This Product:

  • Large bags
  • Affordable pricing
  • Safe for accidental ingestion
  • Clumps up for easy cleaning

Cons For This Product:

  • Strong alfalfa smell
  • Doesn’t look like a natural environment

Zen Garden Artificial Grass Patch

PZG Premium Artificial Grass Patch w/ Drainage...
  • EXTRA-LUSH SYNTHETIC GRASS: While other artificial grass patches feel rough, look sparse, are designed with questionable...
  • BEAUTIFUL REALISTIC LOOK: Don’t settle for a synthetic grass mat that looks obviously fake. The blades on our outdoor...
  • DESIGNED TO LAST: Through rain or sunshine, pet poop or pee, this premium synthetic grass mat holds up durably without fading...

This Zen garden artificial grass patch isn’t specifically designed for reptiles, but it works well for the large space needed to cover with iguanas.

It does cost more than the other products, but the benefits may outweigh this cost for you.

The synthetic material is lead-free and non-toxic even when wet making it safe for iguanas.

It’s design and feel is natural-looking, full, and soft to the touch.

The material is also durable to handle the moving and running of the iguana.

Each blade of grass is 1.7″ inches (4.32 cm) in length.

You don’t need to do anything to set it up.

Just line it up where you want it to sit and plop it down.

The material is UV resistant, so the color won’t bleed when exposed to sunlight or the UVB lights your iguana needs.

There are drainage holes included in the grass, making it resistant to mold from gathering water.

This also makes it easy to clean off.

Simply pick up the patches once per week and hose them off and scrub with a cleaner.

The durability of this bedding is what makes this such a great product.

Without any serious damage occurring, this grass will last years.

Zen Garden also includes a money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the purchase.

This grass comes in different size patches including:

  • 40″ inches (1.02 m) by 24″ inches (0.61 m)
  • 24″ inches (0.61 m) by 20″ inches (50.8 cm)
  • 8′ feet (2.44 meters) by 5′ feet (1.52 meters)
  • 5′ feet (1.52 meters) by 3.3′ feet (1.01 m)
  • 13.2′ feet (4.02 m) by 6.5′ feet (1.98 m)
  • 23′ feet (7.01 m) by 13.2′ feet (4.02 m)
  • 10′ feet (3.05 m) by 6.5′ feet (1.98 m)

Pros For This Product:

  • Easy to use and clean
  • Soft, natural feel
  • Durable product to last years
  • Safe and resistant to mold

Cons For This Product:

  • High price

Achim Vinyl Tile

Sale
Achim Home Furnishings FTVMA44420 Nexus 12-Inch...
  • Achim home furnishings FTVMA44420 nexus 12-inch vinyl tile, light slate marble
  • This is highly durable
  • This product is manufactured in china

Sometimes, all you want is something to cover the bottom of a tank or pen without messing around with a messy substrate.

The Achim vinyl tile is normally made for kitchens or bathrooms (as we did in our kitchen), but this does the job nicely for iguanas as well.

The affordable pricing and durable pieces will last you quite a while.

It doesn’t help with clumping around droppings, but the vinyl is easy to clean off.

There’s no wax finish or anything to bleed into the iguana and cause illness.

Installation is easy; just peel the backing and stick.

The pieces are 1.2 mm thick, so it won’t take up much space.

This is very much a set and forget it kind of bedding.

It doesn’t look natural, but it does the job.

The pack comes with 20 pieces of 12″ inches (30.48 cm) by 12″ inches (30.48 cm) squares.

You’re looking at 20 sq—feet per purchase.

If you’re using a 20-gallon tank for your young iguana, this will be more than enough.

For those looking for an adult iguana flooring, you’ll need more.

If you follow our recommendation for 12′ feet (3.66 meters) long by 6′ feet (1.83 meters) wide, you’ll need 72 square feet (6.69 m²).

This means you need to buy four-packs.

Even at four-packs, it won’t cost more than any other option on the list, and it’ll likely last you for the iguana’s entire life.

Pros For This Product:

  • Very affordable
  • Very durable
  • Easy to install and clean

Cons For This Product:

  • Doesn’t look natural
  • Provides no humidity or digging bonuses

Commonly Asked Questions

When talking about substrates, people often ask us these questions.

Here are brief answers to these questions. 

What does an iguana need in its cage? – An iguana will need heating lights, UVB lights, water dish, food dish, substrate, and furniture in its cage.

For more details, check out our iguana guide.

What plants can an iguana have in its cage? – Any plant non-toxic or poisonous is fine to keep in an iguana cage.

Small plants and taller tree-like plants will make a good addition.

Plants increase the humidity of the cage, which is hard to keep up in large pens as iguanas need.

They also increase the oxygenation and air cleanliness of the cage.

This is good for avoiding respiratory infections and mold.

A brief list of good plants includes:

  • Pothos
  • Ficus
  • Spider Plants
  • Bromeliads
  • Snake Plants
  • Orchids
  • Peperomia
  • African Violets

Do iguanas like to be petted? – Yes, to a certain extent.

Daily interaction and handling are important for building a bond with your pet and helping it feel comfortable with you and its surroundings.

Too much handling could irritate the iguana’s skin and stress it out.

We recommend daily handling of no more than 10-15 minutes each interaction.

Take your cues from the iguana’s behavior.

When it starts getting irritated, stop petting it.

And always wash your hands before and after handling.

How do I make my iguana tank humid? – Keeping an iguana tank humid enough is tricky business.

The space needed is so large the air is largely as humid as the room or outside weather around it.

However, there are some things to do to make the space more humid:

  • Use substrate
  • Keep a full water dish in the pen at all times
  • Keep live plants in the pen
  • Lightly spray down the pen 1-2 times per day (just watch for mold)
  • Use a humidifier

What do you keep an iguana in? – Many owners think a large tank will do for the iguanas’ whole life.

While this is possible, this shortens your pet’s life dramatically.

Iguanas need a lot of space to move and run around in.

Don’t forget; they get up to 5′ – 6′ feet (1.83 m) in length.

For babies and young iguanas under 18″ inches (45.72 cm), use a 20 gallon (75.71 l) tank.

As they get bigger, you need to build a pen, cage, or tank with at least 12′ feet (3.66 m) in length, 6′ feet (1.83 m) in width, and 6′ feet (1.83 m) in height.

If the cage is outside, make sure the walls go down 2′ feet (0.61 m) in the ground, if possible.

Iguanas can dig.

Chain Link fencing or glass walls are common for materials.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed learning about the best substrate for iguanas.

Each of our picks is unique from one another and are perfect for different situations.

Look at the reviews to help you decide which is the right fit for your pet.

Now it’s up to you to pick what you need for your unique reptile friend.

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