Choosing the proper substrate for your reptile or amphibian can be just as important as proper heat, light, humidity and food. Here are some tips for choosing the best substrate type for your reptile:
- Animals that burrow will prefer soft, fine, or loose bedding that is comfortable to dig in.
- Arboreal (climbing) species aren’t burrowing, so they will be best served by a bedding to maintain humidity or provide a basic covering for ease of cleanup.
- Amphibians usually have totally different requirements, requiring a substrate that will not rot or grow mold easily because of extremely high humidity. Usually for amphibians, a substrate based on coconut bark or moss are the best choice since they are fungus and rot resistant.
Substrate choice is also dependent on the size or age of the reptile, not just the particular behavior. For example, a small milk snake would be very comfortable and safe with a product such as a cage liner carpet. A larger milk snake would do just as well on a slightly more coarse media, which has a more natural appearance that the owner might find more visually appealing.
Size, age, and feeding behavior of the animal are all taken into consideration when planning for the substrate which will be used. Our small milk snake in the previous example will be much safer if kept on the cage liner carpet, since it has a tiny mouth and nostrils which could be easily blocked by substrates that are too fine. Even if the snake is being removed from its habitat to be fed in another container (as it should be), fine substrates can be an issue due to burrowing behavior, which is common in snakes.
In the case of other reptiles such as lizards, which are not usually removed from a habitat for feeding, choosing the proper substrate is important. Lizards chase their food all over the habitat and sometimes miss when they try to bite. When that happens, they end up with a mouth full of substrate that they may not entirely spit out. Reptiles that eat fruits and veggies from a dish would not be quite as susceptible to that issue, but it can still happen.
Do your homework before you buy your substrate and pick the one appropriate for your reptile. In the long run, it will be great for both you and your new family member.