Best Substrate For Leopard Geckos

Are you interested in making your leopard gecko’s home the best possible?

 Do you want to make sure your leopard gecko stays happy and healthy in their home?

After doing some research on how to provide the best home for your new pet, you might ask:

What are the best substrates for leopard geckos?

With so many options available on the market, you might be overwhelmed with what to choose.

Continue reading as we break down the best substrates for your leopard gecko’s home.

Why Is Choosing A Substrate So Important

Arguably, one of the most challenging parts of tank set up is the selection of a substrate.

These geckos are ground-dwelling, so picking a safe and effective substrate is very important as they will walk and run, bask, eat, poop, and attempt to burrow in it.

A substrate is material or bedding you will place on the floor of a tank or terrarium for your leopard gecko to have as flooring or bedding.

Unfortunately, one of the top reasons many leopard geckos die within two years of being brought into a new home is because the wrong substrate was chosen.

The right substrate improves the quality of life for your leopard gecko.

Choosing A Substrate

What is safe and considered the best substrate depends on the age and size of the animal, which is often a heated debate amongst leopard gecko owners.

While some might believe sand is a good idea, we do not recommend it as viable.

Loose sand is widely considered unsafe for your pet because there is a risk of ingestion and, ultimately, impaction.

The gecko will be unable to pass this through their digestive system, and over time, more and more will build up, causing an impaction.

Impaction is a common problem for leopard geckos and can result in their death if not caught in time.

It is often challenging to diagnose until it is too late for you or the veterinarian to do anything to help the animal.

Juvenile leopard geckos are at the most risk for sand ingestion but can happen at any age.

If you keep your adult gecko properly fed with supplemented insects, they are less likely to ingest it.

To avoid any chance of ingestion, it is easiest just to avoid sand altogether.

In line with sand, gravel or other substrates with small particles are best avoided.

Also, stay away from any materials with sharp edges to avoid hiring your pet.

Wood chips, walnut shells, and other loose plant-based substrates should also not be considered as they can harm your animal.

Do consider a substrate soft enough not to harm your pet’s feet or underbelly and look for something somewhat absorbent, so you don’t have to change the substrate daily as your pet goes to the bathroom.

Many substrates will have strong odor-absorbing capabilities to help minimize the smell of the leopard gecko’s waste.

Besides purchasing a substrate, some options might be paper towels or paper sheets, but these won’t allow your gecko to burrow, and they aren’t the most attractive option.

While softness and absorbency are essential to look at ultimately, the most important questions should be:

Can the leopard gecko accidentally eat any of this substrate?

If they eat it, will they be able to break it down and pass it through their body safely?

Setting Up An Ideal Habitat For Your Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos are known for being hardy reptiles, and they are relatively easy to care for.

This is just one of the reasons they are a popular choice for reptile owners.

Just because they are hardy, doesn’t mean you can just drop them in a tank without thinking about it.

We talked about the importance of the substrate, but it all needs to come together to give the animal the best chance at a long and healthy life.

Glass tanks are the preferred option, measuring between 10 and 20 gallons, depending on your leopard gecko size and age.

If you intend to house multiple leopard geckos together in one tank, you will need to increase the size.

Leopard geckos, especially males of the species, are very territorial and like having their own space.

They will need plenty of hiding spots and shady areas to sleep and cool down if they become too hot.

Because they are cold-blooded animals, the leopard gecko depends on the exterior temperature to regulate their bodies and perform their regular bodily functions, like digestion.

You will need to ensure the humidity and temperature levels are just right so their bodies can function at optimal levels.

Create a temperature gradient to ensure the gecko can warm-up or cool down as needed.

The hot side of the tank should be about 80° to 83° degrees Fahrenheit (27° – 28° C), and the cooler area of the tank will need to fall between 73° and 76° degrees Fahrenheit (23° – 24° C).

Don’t let temperatures drop too low as this could harm your pet.

Researching how to set up the habitat before bringing your new leopard gecko home will ensure you are ready to go and on track right from the start.

Review Of The Best Substrates For Leopard Geckos

best substrate for leopard geckos

Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner

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Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner,...
  • A low maintenance bedding, simply roll out and cut to size as needed
  • Safe because it cannot be digested like other substrates, a good alternative especially for juvenile reptiles
  • Treated with a biodegradable enzyme that reduces odors and is easy to clean with cold tap water

This reptile terrarium bedding is a great low maintenance bedding.

It is easy to install because it simply unrolls, and you can cut it to whatever size you might need.

You can purchase this in a variety of sizes, but the price is very reasonable, no matter the size you decide.

Some sizes are available in green, but brown is also available depending on your personal preference.

The biodegradable enzyme it is treated helps this bedding reduce odors you might have from your leopard gecko going to the bathroom.

As an added benefit, it is also very easy to clean by rinsing with cold tap water.

Once it is clean, put it back in the tank and reuse it.

This can also be used if you have other reptiles in your home, but some have problems getting their nails caught in the carpet.

Pros For This Product:

  • Reasonably Priced
  • Easy To Cut To Size
  • Treated With Enzymes To Reduce Odor
  • Available In Many Sizes And Two Colors

Cons For This Product:

  • Teeth and Nails Can Get Caught In The Rug
  • Dimensions are slightly off, and depending on your tank size, the roll isn’t always big enough.

Zoo Med Excavator Cavern Kit

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Zoo Med Excavator Cavern Kit
  • Make a homier habitat for your desert and burrowing reptiles
  • This kit includes everything you need to make caverns, tunnels, and shelters with the Excavator Clay Substrate
  • Lay the groundwork for your reptile's new naturalistic habitat with 12 pounds of Excavator Substrate and a special mixing bag

The Zoo Med Excavator Cavern Kit is an excellent idea if you are looking for a naturalistic habitat for your leopard gecko.

The kit will help you make caverns, tunnels, and shelters for your pet to explore and enjoy.

The Excavator Clay Substrate shapes and molds however you want, so you can let your creativity run wild.

This would be a fun way to get kids involved with the process of owning a leopard gecko.

You will be provided with instructions on how to mold and form different structures and the curing process to make sure the clay dries appropriately.

Also included is a tunnel tube, balloons, and a shovel to help create the different hides, caverns, and tunnels.

This is more of a starter kit, and you may have to purchase additional packages of the excavator clay to cover the entire tank area.

With this product, the leopard geckos will also be able to tap into their natural desire to tunnel and dig.

Pros For This Product:

  • Creates a realistic natural habitat
  • Allows you to be creative in creating the habitat
  • Reasonable price for a starter kit
  • Accommodates the leopard gecko’s natural desire to tunnel and dig

Cons For This Product:

  • Additional clay may have to be purchased to fill the whole tank
  • This will take some time to create and cure
  • It requires you to be hands-on and is more complicated than inserting a roll of reptile carpet.

Carolina Custom Cages Reptile Carpet, Sandstone

Carolina Custom Cages Reptile Carpet, Sandstone...
  • Reptile Carpet not only looks good, but avoids risk of impaction from ingesting sand, walnut shells, wood chips, bark,...
  • Reptile Carpet comes in 24” x 36” pieces which fit our Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium 36Lx24Wx18H, or cut 6” narrower...
  • Also consider our Reptile Carpet Anchors (listed separately). Adhesive-backed squares are positioned around the perimeter of...

Another great option when it comes to reptile carpet is this Carolina Custom Cages Reptile Carpet.

You will avoid the risk of impaction because there are no little pieces for your leopard gecko to try to eat.

There is only one size for this product, but you will receive two sheets of the 24″ inch by 36″ inch reptile carpet with your purchase.

Depending on your tank’s size, you will either have to overlap the pieces or cut them down.

As an added benefit, this is a machine washable product, so cleanup is much easier than with some other products on the market.

This durable reptile carpet is made from recycled plastic and comes in several colors.

Pros For This Product:

  • Easy cleanup, machine washable product
  • Very durable
  • Thinner material helps reduce chances of the animal getting caught in the material

Cons For This Product:

  • Carpet anchors can also be purchased separately to help keep the carpet in place
  • Only comes in one size
  • Because it is thinner, it is not absorbent

Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate

Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate, 10...
  • Holds its shape so tunnels won't collapse
  • All natural, no dyes or chemicals
  • Make your reptiles feel like they are at home" in their natural habitat"

This Zoo Med Excavator Clay has all of the benefits we discussed above with the cavern kit, but it is merely the clay.

You don’t have any of the extras you will find in the kit we touched on earlier.

This clay is an excellent way to create a natural habitat feel for your leopard gecko and allows them to perform natural digging and tunneling behaviors.

The clay holds its shape, so the tunnels will not collapse on themselves, trapping or harming your pet.

Though it requires some time, the creation of hideouts or arches is not hard for anyone to make.

Purchase this if you don’t feel you need the extras in the kit or as a way to supplement and expand on the kit.

Pros For This Product:

  • Creates a realistic habitat for your pet
  • Allows them to act on their natural digging and tunneling habits
  • All-natural, containing no dyes or chemicals
  • Holds its shape and doesn’t collapse

Cons For This Product:

  • Requires time and attention if you decide to create arches and hideouts
  • If you are just starting, this doesn’t contain much instruction on creating specific hides, caverns or arches

Exo Terra Sand Mat

Exo Terra Sand Mat, 40-Gallon
  • Sand Mat - Desert Terrarium Substrate
  • Provides a natural desert look
  • Safe & Hygienic substrate

If you are looking for a natural desert look, this Exo Terra Sand Mat is one option to look into.

The sand pat is easy to install and remove as necessary.

We like how sturdy the mat is and how easy it is to clean.

All you will need to do is rinse it off, let it dry off and replace whenever you think it needs it.

Sometimes, washing some of the little rocks will wash off, and others have been known to come loose in the tank.

It is best to use this with an adult leopard gecko.

Because the mat has a texture, your leopard gecko will be able to get a firm grip on the floor, a characteristic thought to increase their sense of safety.

This mat measures 35.5″ inches by 17.5″ inches and is harder to cut to the right size.

Pros For This Product:

  • Realistic natural desert look
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Clean up is easy, requiring only a quick rinse

Cons For This Product:

  • Small particles come loose 
  • Only comes in one size
  • Harder than other products on this list to cut to size

Conclusion

We hope you now have a better understanding of what substrates will be the best for your leopard gecko.

The substrate you select is so vital to creating a safe and happy home for your leopard gecko.

Choose and install a substrate you feel will fit with your pet, but also with your schedule and commitment.