Which substrate for leopard geckos? Pros and cons.

One of the most confusing and stressful parts of planning your leopard gecko’s enclosure is knowing which substrate to buy. I have used several of these, so I am going to list the pros and cons of each type below.

It is quite well known that loose substrate (such as sand) can cause impaction when ingested, which is fatal to leopard geckos, yet it is so commonly used because pet stores push the product due to its high profit margins, and also because it will ensure return customers every time the sand needs to be replaced.

Even though I knew the risks, I’m ashamed to say I was pushed into buying sand initially by a reptile pet supply owner, and I felt too uninformed to push back. After all, who was I to argue with a ‘reptile expert’?

I am going to start with my favourite substrate which I currently use – vinyl (yes – just the type you’d put in your kitchen)!


Linoleum, tiles, slate and vinyl
RECOMMENDED

lino

Pros

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Very easy to wipe clean
  • Mimics natural habitat of leopard geckos
  • Conducts heat well
  • Easy to source
  • Easy to cut to size
  • Geckos won’t get toes caught
  • Looks good, lots of styles to choose from
  • Doesn’t wear out
  • Doesn’t harbour germs
  • Geckos won’t get toes and teeth caught

Cons

  • Usually have to buy a minimum quantity therefore…
  • …slightly more expensive than other substrates
  • Doesn’t absorb smell of gecko droppings

* I will sell the remainder of my Vinyl flooring to anyone who needs it! Please visit my Etsy listing here


Reptile Carpet

carpet

Pros:

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Cheap
  • Easy to source online
  • Easy to cut to size
  • Conducts heat well
  • Looks natural

Cons:

  • Geckos can get toes and teeth caught
  • Doesn’t absorb the smell of droppings
  • More difficult to wipe clean
  • Can harbour germs
  • Needs to be replaced frequently

Paper towels/ kitchen roll

kitchen

Pros:

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Very cheap
  • Readily available almost anywhere
  • Easy to replace
  • Geckos won’t get toes and teeth caught
  • Great for housing babies on

Cons:

  • Doesn’t look particularly nice
  • Can go soggy quickly in a humid vivarium
  • Doesn’t absorb the smell of droppings

Sand (and other loose substrates)
NOT RECOMMENDED 

sand

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Readily available in most pet stores
  • Easy to sieve droppings out
  • Absorbs smell of droppings
  • Geckos won’t get teeth and toes caught
  • Various colours

Cons:

  • The leading cause of impaction in leopard geckos – this can cause them to die
  • Messy – sand can get everywhere if you’re not careful
  • Uneaten insects can bury in it
  • Has to be replaced quite frequently

 

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