Bearded Dragon Cage Setup - Substrates and Accessories

Your bearded dragon's happiness and health depend on a lot of things, one of them being the accessories and substrate that you use in their cages. Their cages are their habitat and where they will live for who knows how long, so it is important to get it right.

Certain things are must-haves where others can be added to spoil the dragon or to make it look nice. There are things that are not must-haves, but dragons love them, so I recommend getting something to spoil them with.

Bearded dragon cage accessories

Bearded Dragon Substrate/Bedding

The substrate is a must-have, and there are a lot of reasons why, but there are two that are most important.

One being, that your dragon will poop in his/her cage, no doubt about. If there is nothing to poop on but the cage itself, then it can become troublesome especially with wood. The cage itself will become a breeding ground for bacteria which will affect your bearded dragon's health on a huge scale.

Two, because you care about your dragon. you do not want your bearded dragon living on a bacteria-infested piece of wood with splinters or glass where they cannot even walk properly.

Another big plus of substrate is that it helps regulate the temperature in the cage which is also very important.

There are quite a few substrates to use, each with its pros and cons...

Reptile Carpet

The reptile carpet is exactly what it sounds like. A green carpet made for reptiles. They clean easily, light up the cage, and bearded dragons like them. I personally do not recommend all of them because I had one and my bearded dragons’ nails constantly got stuck and at one point it even pulled their nails straight out the toe. Make sure the carpet you purchase does not have "loops" but rather a "cut appearance".

Sand Mat

The Sand Mat allows you to create a desert-like environment with a minimum of bacterial buildup. Unlike loose sand, the sand mat cannot be accidentally ingested when feeding. The sand is clued on and will also not litter your entire house. It is recommended highly because it is so easy to use and it does not cause problems. It is rather easy to clean, keeps the cage nice and warm due to the fact that it absorbs heat and your bearded dragon will love it, seeing as it simulates where they come from. Another bonus is that it works their nails instead of pulling them out so you do not have to cut your dragon's nails as frequently.

Bearded dragon substrate


Sand can cause bearded dragons to get impaction, which can turn deadly fast. I do not recommend it though unless you have the time to deal with everything that comes with it. If you use sand, the cage will have to be cleaned weekly and the sand replaced every two weeks or so. The cage will have to get a very good scrub and your dragon will have to be bathed more frequently. Sand can also bring quite a few issues. If it is not cleaned properly, it can be a breeding ground for parasites and mites which cause harm to dragons. Before the sand is put in the cage, you will have to wash it with water and let it dry in the sun. You will also need to feed your dragon elsewhere to ensure they do not ingest the sand. (Some gulp their food and ingest a huge portion of sand) Last but not least, a few poop's and the cage smell forever until you clean out the sand again even if you scoop out the poop. Sand is just a hassle to deal with and not even worth considering in my opinion. (Messy as well) 

Paper Towels

Paper towels can also be used as a substrate in a dragon's cage. When it gets dirty you can replace it and it will not cost you that much. It will not hurt the dragon, and I have not seen a dragon in all my years of owning them that likes to eat it. If they are replaced regularly, then parasites and bacteria will not be an issue either. As long as the cage is cleaned on a regular basis, paper towels will do the job just fine.


Tiles are a great substrate with basically no problems. It is really easy to clean and there is nowhere for the bacteria to grow. Tiles cannot harm your dragon and once again it works off the nails, meaning you do not have to cut it so frequently. The only problem there is with tiles is when they are not basking and went into their hide for instance to sleep, then their bodies will cool down rapidly because tiles do not keep heat. This problem can be easily fixed by just placing a soft blanket in the area where they like to go and sleep, especially in the hide. Bearded dragons prefer a soft surface to sleep which means they will most likely go lie on the blanket, preserving their body heat.

Fake Grass

Fake grass from your local hardware store is a great replacement for reptile carpet and dragons of all sizes love them. They are not harmful to your dragons and just need to be vacuumed once every two days to keep it clean and a wash once a month will do the trick to get rid of bacteria. The rubber underside of the carpet prevents things from soaking through into the wood and it regulates the cage temperature. Another bonus is the fact that bearded dragons will not lose their body heat as fast if they decide to go for a nap in their hide. Personally, I only use this and recommend it highly as it is truly a bliss to keep clean, looks nice, and keep precious heat inside.

Bearded dragon substrate

Bearded Dragon Accessories

Basking Spot

Fake rock or log that can warm up, and lift them high enough to bask without getting too close to the light is an absolute must. They need the heat to stay healthy and happy. The size does not matter as long as it is not too close or too far away from their basking light. They should be able to easily climb it without falling or getting hurt.

A real piece of log or rock can also be used, but make sure it is completely sterile without sharp edges and points that can hurt your dragon. Also, make sure the log does not have splinters on it.

The rock or log can have a hide as well which can come in handy. It will warm up and keep the dragon inside nice and warm

DO NOT use hot rocks. Bearded dragons cannot sense heat coming from below and thus burn easily. Do not use anything electrical, that is why the basking light is there.

I personally prefer the Exo-Terra, flat rock hide as a basking platform. Heats up nicely under the light and a good surface area for bearded dragons to lay on comfortably.

Bearded dragon accessories


Bearded dragons need a hide for a lot of reasons. The hide needs to be placed in the middle of the cage or on the cool side. They will use the hide when they are too warm and need to cool down, when they want to take a nap, when they go into brumation, to just hide out or to hide from something, and to calm down when they are stressed. It is an absolute must.

Bearded dragon cage decor


Your dragon needs access to clean water all the time, thus the reason for setting up a water bowl. The bowl should be the size of your beardies body and just deep enough for them to sit in without floating. Do not be alarmed if your bearded dragon lies in his/her bowl. They do this to cool down or just for the fun of it. The placement of the bowl depends on the cage humidity. If humidity is too high, place it on the cool side, if it is too low, place it on the warm side.

Another bowl will be needed to place their veggies and greens in. It should be flat and easily accessible. Place it on the cool side of the cage and keep it clean.

Bearded dragon accessories


A hammock is not a must and can be added as a comfort item for your dragon. They love sleeping on them and so forth. If you place it near the light for them to bask on, make sure it is not too close, so they do not burn themselves. Furthermore, make sure it is securely fastened so it does not collapse when your dragon is sitting on it.


Adding a little color to the cage will do wonders. A fake plant here and there will not only make the cage look nice, but will make your dragon very happy. Some dragons will lie under plants, using it as a hide and others will lie on them, using it as a bed. My dragons, on the other hand, prefer bulldozing them and using them as toys.

Bearded dragon accessories
Bearded dragon accessories

PLEASE NOTE: Everything in the cage should be fake, to avoid parasites, mites and to avoid bearded dragons eating it. Most plants are poisons to dragons, thus the reason for fake ones.

Real plants can be placed if it is something that they can eat as a staple, but I do not recommend this, because the dirt used for it to grow in, can become a bacteria, parasite, and mite breeding ground.

Read More about:

Bearded Dragon Enclosure Setup - Different Types of Cages

Bearded Dragon Cage Setup - Lighting and Heating

Bearded Dragon Setup - Temperature and Humidity

Bearded dragon tank setup

Do you have questions?

We might be able to help, leave your question in the comment section and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Have a great day!


  1. Nicely Done, And the pictures is a nice touch. Thank you for the hard work done to make this so easy to understand. Most websites just rushes threw everything.

  2. Thank you. I am glad that I could help.

  3. I will never use sand, it is too big of a risk. I prefer tiles, even got them in the colors that resemble the desert. They clean easily and files down their nails keeping them nice and short.

    1. Yes, they work quite well. I prefer the fake grass, my dragons just love them.

  4. I found this substrate/bedding can you maybe give me your thoughts?

    1. That should work perfectly fine. Just keep an eye out, as I have found that some repti-carpets and liners, have a tendency to get hooked on the bearded dragon's toe nails, which can result in them pulling out their nails, but I have not had any problems with Zilla liners before.