Out of all the reptiles that are kept as pets, leopard geckos are some of the most popular. They’ve only been domesticated and bred in the US for a bit more than 30 years, but they’re widely adored for their calm and gentle nature. However, to make sure that your leopard gecko is as happy and healthy as they can be, it’s important to make sure that their environment takes into account their specific requirements.
One of the most important aspects of a leopard gecko’s enclosure is their substrate. The best substrate for your leopard gecko would work to keep their enclosure clean, comfortable, and safe to live in. Because of the importance of substrate, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best substrate options for leopard geckos, in addition to a handy buyer’s guide.
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OUR #1 RATED
Zoo MedEco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate
A substrate that has a very natural appearance resembling a forest floor that’s very absorbent and is also compostable.
Zoo MedAspen Snake Bedding
Dust-free substrate that helps to eliminate odors from waste and makes it very easy to clean an enclosure.
Zoo MedForest Floor Bedding
Another natural-looking substrate that can hold moisture and remain effective for a long time without becoming stale or moldy.
Reptile PrimeCoconut Fiber Bedding
The small coconut fibers in this substrate are very comfortable and absorbent while also working to control odors well.
ReptichipPremium Coconut Substrate
A substrate made from larger fibers that retain moisture exceptionally well and do a great job keeping an enclosure smelling clean.
What Is Leopard Gecko Bedding / Substrate?
Leopard gecko bedding, also known by the more technical name of substrate, is the material that’s used to cover the bottom of a leopard gecko’s enclosure. This material serves quite a few purposes and has some great benefits for your leopard gecko that you really can’t do without. In addition to providing a more comfortable place to walk around and sleep in, substrate also regulates the humidity in an enclosure and absorbs waste to keep the environment cleaner and healthier for much longer.
There are a few different kinds of substrate that you can get for your leopard gecko, ranging from hemp to coconut fibers. Some materials are more effective than others when it comes to certain tasks, but they all work towards providing a much cleaner and nicer habitat for your leopard gecko. Additionally, slightly less-effective substrates can also be made with simple materials like paper towels or reptile carpet.
Not all substrates on the market are created equal, though. Some simply have more or better features than others, making them the better choice for your enclosure. The main differentiator between an effective and ineffective substrate is their ability to retain moisture and their overall lack of dust.
Leopard Gecko Substrate Alternatives
If you’re one of the owners that always prefers a more DIY approach to their gecko’s habitat, there are a few alternatives to store-bought substrate. It should be noted, though, that these alternatives generally aren’t as effective as the commercially-available substrates. However, among all of the alternatives, paper towels and newspaper are frequently described as being the best.
The good thing about these alternatives is that they’re very cheap to acquire and bring down the cost of leopard gecko ownership considerably. Additionally, these materials generally make it a lot easier to see waste, letting you clean the mess up quicker and more efficiently.
There are some downsides that come with these cheaper alternatives, though. These substrates will need to be replaced a lot more frequently, they don’t control odors at all, and they also don’t look natural inside of a leopard gecko’s enclosure. All of these factors can definitely bring down the overall effectiveness of a leopard gecko’s enclosure.
Despite the fact that there are clear pros and cons to the alternative substrates, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you’re ensuring that your leopard gecko’s terrarium is clean and humidity-controlled, you would generally be fine using DIY substrate.
Helpful Tips For A Leopard Gecko’s Substrate
The general concept of leopard gecko substrate is not very difficult to grasp and doesn’t require too much thought. However, there are a few points that you should be aware of in order to provide your leopard gecko with the best environment possible.
- How often should I change my leopard gecko’s substrate?
- When it comes to substrate replacement, there is not strict guideline that must be followed. Because of this, you need to be diligent in the observation of your leopard gecko and determine when it’s time to change out their substrate. It’s generally a good idea to change out the substrate when you notice it getting dirty, stale, or moldy.Adult leopard geckos may poop only once every 2-3 days, allowing you to spot-clean the substrate quite easily to prevent it from getting soiled. Many owners find themselves changing out the substrate about every 2 months.
- Will leopard gecko substrate control odor?
- In short, yes, leopard gecko substrate will help to control odor because of the fact that it absorbs fluids and locks in waste. This keeps the waste from sitting out in the open and creating a smell easily. However, the effectiveness of this odor control depends on the particular substrate that you choose. Some substrate won’t control odors very well, while others can trap odor for days or weeks at a time.
- Are the fibers in substrate dangerous for leopard geckos?
- No, the fibers in substrate shouldn’t be dangerous for leopard geckos to be around. Many of the fibers are either too small to cause any issues or too big to accidentally get ingested. Issues involving substrate are very rare, and they can quickly and easily be dealt with if they do happen to arise. Simple give your leopard gecko a short checkup every once in a while to ensure that they’re in good health.
What Defines Good Leopard Gecko Substrate?
Not all substrates are created equal. In fact, there are some substrates that we found that are simply dangerous for leopard geckos to be around! The best leopard gecko substrates all have certain traits that you need to be aware of and actively looking for, so we’ve listed those characteristics out below for you to look for.
- Appearance – The appearance of a leopard gecko’s substrate isn’t extremely important, but it does matter for many owners. Leopard geckos aren’t sticklers over their environment’s physical appearance as long as its comfortable and safe. However, filling your leopard gecko’s terrarium with a natural-looking substrate will help take it to the next level and make it a lot nicer to look at.
- Odor control – Leopard geckos can get a bit smelly if their waste isn’t properly dealt with. There are a few different kinds of substrate that eliminate odors effectively and make the environment much cleaner and more comfortable. Managing waste is a big part of keeping a clean habitat, so a substrate that makes waste management easier is a huge plus for you, the owner.
- Price – It’s quite important to consider the price of your leopard gecko’s substrate, too. Responsible gecko owners keep their terrariums clean, and this is done primarily through keeping fresh substrate on the floor at all times. In order to maintain a clean and fresh environment, you’ll end up going through quite a bit of substrate during your gecko’s life. In order to save your wallet from too much pain, buying an affordable substrate is key.
- Fiber size – The fiber size of a substrate, in addition to its dustiness, is a characteristic that you’ll definitely want to be aware of. A substrate’s fibers should either be small enough to not cause harm when ingested or large enough to keep it from getting eaten. Fortunately, your leopard gecko won’t intentionally eat their substrate, so this isn’t a very prominent danger.
- Moisture retention – The humidity of your leopard gecko’s enclosure is one of the most important factors that you’ll need to be aware of. Due to the fact that leopard geckos need a temperature between 70-75°F and humidity levels between 20-40%, you’ll need a substrate that retains a good amount of moisture. Most substrate does this very well, but you should definitely look at the reviews of a substrate to see what owners have to say about it. A substrate that holds moisture nicely will help eliminate the stress of keeping your leopard gecko’s enclosure humidified.
What Is The Best Leopard Gecko Substrate?
There is a vast selection of different kinds of leopard gecko substrate available on the market, and this can make the process of finding the best substrate quite stressful. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the 5 best options and highlighted their individuals pros and cons.
You should remember that substrate is only a portion of your leopard gecko’s environment. You also need to ensure that all of their other environmental needs are being met as well. This post highlights what else your leopard gecko requires.
our #1 rated
OUR TOP PICK
Eco Earth Coconut Fiber Substrate
Zoo Med is a very popular name in the world of reptile bedding and substrate, consistently making some very effective and affordable substrates. This particular substrate lives up to the very high expectations that Zoo Med have created for themselves, and it has all of the characteristics of the best leopard gecko substrate. Made from fibers derived from coconut husks, this substrate looks very natural, absorbs water well, and does a great job controlling odors. It’s also compostable and quite easy to spot-clean, saving both money and the environment. Eco Earth Coconut Fiber definitely agrees with the hive mind of leopard gecko owners saying that coconut substrate is the best option.
Leopard gecko owners that use this substrate frequently have great things to say about it. The most common compliment that owners give this substrate is that it holds and retains moisture for a long time without rotting. This makes upkeep of a leopard gecko’s enclosure easier and allows you to get more use out of the substrate before it needs to be changed out. Owners also note that it’s easy to spot and remove waste from this substrate, once again helping it last for a long time. Additionally, there’s virtually no dust in this product, making it safe for the respiratory systems of you and your gecko.
A few owners have noted that the substrate can be difficult to hydrate — most likely due to the smaller fibers. However, this is an uncommon observation, with most owners having no problem keeping this substrate moist and effective.
- Looks very natural
- Eliminates odors well
- Easy to spot-clean
- Can be difficult to hydrate
our #2 rated
Aspen Snake Bedding
As an alternative to coconut husk substrate, Zoo Med has also created this substrate that’s made from aspen wood shavings. While this is a substrate that was designed with snakes in mind, it’s also extremely effective when used in a leopard gecko’s terrarium. This is largely due to the fact that aspen isn’t meant to hold an excessive amount of moisture — something that leopard geckos don’t require to be healthy. This substrate is odor-free, dust-free, oil-free, and remains very effective for quite a long time.
A big selling point for this substrate is that it’s quite easy to spot-clean due to the fact that it makes waste stand out. It’s also safe for geckos to be around due to its lack of dust and optimal fiber size that won’t cause any problems. A few owners have also noted that this substrate is quite fluffy, allowing leopard geckos to nest or dig into it easily.
The main downside to this substrate lies in its composition, which is aspen. Aspen shavings can start to rot when kept damp for too long, so it’s not an optimal substrate for enclosures that need to be kept very humid. Fortunately, leopard geckos don’t require extremely high humidity levels, meaning that the aspen will be fine when used to the extent that leopard geckos require.
- Easy to dig into
- Odor and dust-free
- Easy to spot-clean
- Doesn’t maintain moisture well
our #3 rated
Forest Floor Bedding
This is the third substrate on our list, and the third substrate from Zoo Med… Quite impressive, right? The Forest Floor Bedding by Zoo Med is made from natural cypress mulch and looks incredibly natural covering the bottom of a leopard gecko’s enclosure. It holds moisture extremely well and provides very consistent humidity levels within a terrarium, making humidity much easier to manage. Although this substrate is generally cheaper than most other substrates available, it doesn’t sacrifice any bit of its high quality.
Leopard gecko owners that decided to go with this substrate have very similar things to say about it as the previous two substrates. The overall lack of dust and ability to hold water for a long time with rotting is something that every owner loves about this product. The great value that this substrate brings adds to their appreciation. A couple of owners opt to combine this substrate with the Eco Earth Coconut to add a bit of variety, but that isn’t necessary.
There’s one main issue with this substrate that owners state that others should be aware of. This is a substrate that’s structured more like a mulch, meaning that there’s a good amount of wood fibers that could potentially become a problem. Feeding your leopard gecko live crickets in their cage may result in them accidentally ingesting a piece of the substrate. However, this is incredibly uncommon, with most owners never experiencing even a slight problem with this substrate.
- Looks very natural
- Holds moisture well
- Doesn’t rot
- Geckos can ingest wood fibers
our #4 rated
Coconut Fiber Bedding
Due to the fact that coconut fiber makes for such an effective substrate material, other manufacturers have used it to create their own substrate. Reptile Prime’s iteration of coconut fiber substrate is also very effective, but they’ve put a bit more of a focus on absorbency. It’s stated that this substrate holds moisture and maintains humidity for a long period of time, with the fiber lasting at least 35 days before fungus starts to grow. This helps make the process of humidity maintenance a lot easier.
Leopard gecko owners that use this substrate are quite pleased with it. Many of them applaud the fact that the consistency of this substrate isn’t too fine but isn’t too coarse — it’s right in the middle. While this is a substrate that can be used both wet and dry, most owners opt to dampen it due to its great moisture-retention properties. On top of that, this substrate controls odors quite well.
Although Reptile Prime is very confident in their substrate’s ability to retain moisture, some owners have stated that it’s not the best at doing so — at least not compared to Forest Floor by Zoo Med. Additionally, this substrate is a bit more expensive than its competitors, making it not the best budget option.
- Fibers are sized well
- Mostly holds moisture well
- Works to eliminate odors
- Fairly pricey
- Can struggle to hold moisture sometimes
our #5 rated
Premium Coconut Substrate
Although there have already been two different coconut substrates listen in this post, this one brings something different to the table. This Reptichip substrate comes in a dehydrated block that needs to be hydrated before being added to a leopard gecko’s enclosure. Reptichip does this to maintain the freshness of the substrate before it’s opened and used, and it doesn’t have any negative effects on the substrate itself. On top of this unique freshness strategy, this substrate also holds moisture well and creates a consistently-humid environment. Not to mention the fact that it looks very natural!
The odor control abilities of this substrate are actually pointed out very frequently by gecko owners. These owners also state that there’s a great balance between the quality of the bedding and the price that’s paid for it, making it a great money saver in the long run. The fibers used in the substrate are also too big for geckos to swallow, removing any concerns of accidental ingestion.
A couple of owners note that this substrate is a bit dusty — a problem that may cause respiratory issues in geckos. On top of this, the need for initial hydration results in this substrate not being as user-friendly as it can’t just be dumped into a leopard gecko’s enclosure. However, most owners struggle to find anything wrong with this substrate.
- Excellent value
- Effectively controls odors
- Large fibers lock in moisture
- A bit dusty
- Must be hydrated before use
All 5 of the substrates reviewed in this post are more than suitable for a leopard gecko’s terrarium. They all have the characteristics of the best leopard gecko substrates, providing geckos with a safe and comfortable environment. Leopard geckos have specific environmental needs, so it’s important that their substrate helps to meet those needs.
After carefully analyzing all of the substrate available on the market, we’ve determined that the best ball python substrate is Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding.
This substrate has been manufactured by a leading brand in the substrate space, and its performance really shows that. It’s dust-free, fresh, absorbent, and looks extremely natural at the bottom of a leopard gecko’s terrarium.