Which substrate should I choose?

March 28th, 2019

It is important to provide your pet with a comfortable home, which is similar to their natural habitat. One thing to think about when providing the right home is the type of substrate to use. Not only will the right substrate keep your pet happy, it can also keep them healthy. The right substrate should help you keep the cage clean and also make your pet comfortable. But with so much to choose from, how do you know which one is right for your pet? We have made a list of the different options for you.


A very common substrate is Reptile sand, made specifically for reptile cages. Normal sand should not be used. Sand is a good option as it is easily obtained and is natural looking which many reptiles like. However, it can be messy and make it hard to clean the cage. Sand also provides no odour control so things can get smelly.

It is also important to consider whether the sand will be easily ingested along with food, as this can cause blockages in the reptile.

Wood Shavings, Chips or Pellets

Wood type substrates are very easily obtained and have a variety of different types to choose from. They also make it much easier to clean your pets cage. Wood is a better choice when trying to achieve a dry environment.

However, wood can be too rough for species with sensitive feet. As mentioned, if you want a humid atmosphere, this is a bad choice as the wood will absorb too much moisture.

Cedar substrate can be toxic to many reptiles so it is best to avoid this type all together.

Reptile Carpet

Reptile carpet is sold at most pet shops and comes in a roll.

Reptile carpet is washable which means it is reusable, making it a low cost option. It comes in different sizes and can be cut to line the cage. It cannot be ingested by your reptile as there are no loose bits.

However, it is not similar to a reptile’s natural habitat so some pets may not take well to this type of flooring.


Soil which is not treated with chemicals or fertilisers is also an option for substrate, which many reptiles enjoy. It is great for digging tunnels and can be very easily obtained.

But, it is very easy to make the soil too wet which can lead to problems such as bacteria growth.


Moss is very easily purchased at pet stores. It looks good in cages and is similar to many reptiles natural habitat. Moss maintains adequate humidity levels as it holds moisture well. However, moss will need to be dried out often to avoid bacteria growth. This leads to many people just buying new moss each time, rather than drying it out, which can become expensive.

Moss usually is not used on its own, as it usually needs something underneath to line the cage.

Paper Towels/Newspaper

Towels or newspaper are popular choices as they are very cheap and easily obtained. As they are so low in cost, they can be changed very often which keeps the cage much cleaner. The paper can be left how it is or shredded up. Reptile will not mistake it for anything else which means there is no risk of it being ingested.

However, paper does not provide any odour control and is obviously not similar to a natural habitat.

There are certain reptile species which do not need any kind of substrate. However, this is quite rare so make sure you do your research to understand exactly what your pet needs.


The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Petcover.

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