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Examining Different Reptile Tank Substrate

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Your choice of reptile tank substrate is crucial to the success or failure of your reptile terrarium. For the uninitiated, a reptile tank substrate is the bedding you use in your pet reptile (i.e. lizards and snakes) tank that provides both safekeeping and comfort for your pet reptile. There’s no single best reptile tank substrate so far; the substrate suitability depends on the pet reptile kind you have.

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If you’re planning to have a pet reptile for the first time, here are some of the popular reptile tank substrate types with points for and against each.

Aspen Shavings

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For smaller reptiles, aspen shavings is not a recommended reptile tank substrate. Although they can be digestible*, small lizards can choke on the larger bits. If your pet reptile is large, however, aspen shavings make scooping waste very easy. It’s fairly absorbent of urine and water spillage and clumps around damp excess food particles, making cleaning easy. Plus, aspen shavings is relatively cheap and readily available in any pet stores.

Expanding Brick

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An expanding brick reptile tank substrate is made of ground coconut husks compressed into dry eco bricks. They expand when moisten, and they can be shredded into fine substrate or placed as bricks on the tank bottom. The bricks are an excellent choice for reptile tank substrate in that they’re nontoxic, partially digestible, and can be passed out when ingested. Replacing the bricks or scooping out dirt clumps is easy too. However, the bricks tend to be dusty when kept dry. So they’re mostly appropriate as reptile tank substrate for species who loves damp bedding.

Cypress Mulch

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Cypress mulch is relatively expensive and fairly difficult to find to begin with. But when you do have it, it’s an excellent choice of reptile tank substrate. It’s nontoxic and large enough to be ingested, and it’s a natural bug repellent. Feces and excess food particles clumps over the substrate, too, so cleaning is easy.

Ceramic Tiles

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To completely eliminate impaction hazard, a non-slippery ceramic tile or mosaic tile is the best option to use as reptile tank substrate. It’s relatively easy to clean also; wipe the tile with damp cloth and you’re done**. However, tiles look flat and ugly in your pet reptile tank. A digging and burrowing reptile wouldn’t be too happy if you’ll use tiles in its house too.

News Paper

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You can use newspaper as reptile tank substrate. It’s very cheap, absorbs liquid well, and when it’s soiled, you can just throw it out. However, newspaper utterly lacks the imagination for a substrate. Newspaper looks shabby and, well, cheap! You can do your pet reptile a lot more justice if you exert a little more effort on its substrate.

Pine or Cedar Shavings

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Right here and now, you must know that pine or cedar shavings are NOT a good reptile tank substrate. They’re popular before, and today distributors are desperately trying to market the substrate if only to dispose of their inventory. Pine and cedar shavings give off toxic fumes and compounds that pines and cedar naturally make while standing. AVOID them touching your pet reptile tank at all costs.


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Sand is another popular reptile tank substrate. And frankly, the debates on whether sand is safe to use as reptile substrate or not are warranted. So is sand good as reptile tank substrate? YES and NO.

To begin with, sand looks fancy and ideal on a pet reptile tank. It makes it easy to scoop clumps of dirt away from your reptiles abode. However, sand also poses the greatest danger of impaction. Sand is definitely not digestible, and reptiles find it difficult to pass sand along their digestive system. So when can you use sand?

You can still use sand as your reptile tank substrate only if your reptile is not a ravenous eater. Observe your reptiles feeding habit. Some reptiles eat their food in one gulp… sand, dirt and all. Other reptiles slowly pick their food from the feeding dish without dragging it on the ground. If you have a nitpicky-eater type of pet reptile, you can use sand as reptile tank substrate.

* In general aspen can be digestible, but some lizard species does not have strong enough stomach to digest it.

** The tiles need disinfecting at least once a month to kill germs.

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