Crested Gecko Substrate Options


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“Substrate” is another word for bedding, the material you use to cover the floor of your gecko’s enclosure. For your convenience, here’s ReptiFiles’ picks:

Natural Substrates

Layer the substrate 2-4″ thick to aid in moisture retention and ambient humidity. Natural substrates should be spot cleaned daily and replaced monthly. For best results, use with a drainage layer like Zoo Med Hydroballs or The Bio Dude’s Hydrogrow to prevent the substrate from getting soaked. 

I prefer natural substrates because they hold humidity better and they’re a lot more attractive. However, these substrate have loose particles can can pose an impaction risk to individuals smaller than 13g. 

Bioactive substrates and enclosures are nice because they use symbiotic relationships between the animal (in this case, crested gecko) and certain detritivore species to break down waste. The result? Essentially a self-cleaning terrarium. For more information, read the files in Bioactive Reptile & Amphibian Setups USA on Facebook and check out ReptiFiles’ archive of blog posts on the subject. 

If you have a young crestie or wish to skip the risk altogether, consider the following options.

Artificial Substrates

  • paper towel
  • blue shop towel

These are cheap, easy to clean/replace, and favored by many keepers. Should be spot cleaned daily, and disposable substrates should be replaced weekly.

Substrates to Avoid

Some keepers argue that loose substrates should be never be used, due to the risk for impaction in geckos of any size. These claims should be taken with a grain of salt, as larger geckos are more capable of safely passing ingested particles with proper husbandry. However, there are some substrates that pose too great a risk, even with precautions in place.

  • bark and wood chips (impaction risk)
  • pine/cedar-based substrate (oils can cause neurological damage)
  • reptile carpet (the fibers can catch and damage delicate gecko toes!)
  • coconut fiber/Eco Earth (expands in the stomach)
  • shelf liner (off-gasses toxic chemicals)
  • linoleum (off-gasses toxic chemicals)

Keep reading about crested gecko care:

  1. Introduction to Crested Geckos
  2. Shopping List
  3. Terrarium Size Guidelines
  4. Substrate Options 
  5. Optimal Temperatures & Humidity
  6. Terrarium Decorating Ideas
  7. Food
  8. Handling Tips
  9. Health & Illnesses
  10. References