Suitable substrates for Leopard geckos

Suitable substrates for Leopard geckos
Published by Author Renier Delport Posted on on .
Filed under Categories Leopard geckos, .
Featured image credit: Renee Grayson ( BY 2.0)

The substrate, or bedding, is the material that is on the floor of the Leopard gecko container. For Leopard geckos, each substrate has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The ideal substrate is one that is inexpensive, aesthetically pleasing, easy to clean, absorbent and digestible and safe when (accidentally) swallowed.

Acceptable Leopard gecko substrates

Suitable substrates for Leopard geckos include news- or brown butcher paper, carpet, plastic foam mats, Astroturf and coarse gravel.

Astroturf for Leopard geckos
Artificial grass, or Astroturf, is available from nurseries and sometimes specialised pet pet shops. It looks good on the eye, is fairly easy to clean and are very safe to use. Artificial grass does need a vigerous disinfection strategy, though. Image from

Substrate warnings

Any bedding consisting of particles (e.g. sand, gravel, maize, pellets etc.) can be accidentally or purposefully ingested by Leopard geckos and carries the dangers of causing deadly obstructions and impactions. Even though natural, it is not recommended to use sand, even if most keepers have success with this substrate. When using sand as Leopard gecko substrate, make sure to use a commercial one.

Sand as Leopard gecko substrate
Although Leopard geckos naturally live on sand, these substrates tend to cause various problems in captivity. Image from

Best substrates

The safest or best substrates for Leopard geckos with regard to ingestion are paper- and carpet-like substrates, but they might have obvious aesthetic disadvantages.

Brown butcher paper for Leopard geckos
Although aesthetically unpleasing, brown butcher paper works well as a Leopard gecko substrate.

Leopard gecko hide box substrates

A Leopard gecko hide box should always be available to ensure shelter during the day. Popular substrates for Leopard gecko hide boxes include sphagnum moss and vermiculite. Both these substrates hold moisture well, are relatively cheap and is easy to obtain.

Vermiculite for Leopard geckos
Dry vermiculite. Image from

Vermiculite can be mixed with an equal volume of water. Sphagnum moss can be wetted excessively and excess water should be manually expressed.


Commercial reptile or Leopard gecko substrates are available from most spesialised pet shops or over the internet. Some Leopard gecko keepers prefer to collect their own substrates.

About the author
Renier has a keen interest in the welfare of pet reptiles. He has been keeping and treating Leopard geckos for many years and has written various forms of literature on them and other fascinating reptiles.

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