Bearded Dragon Substrates and Accessories

Your bearded dragon's happiness and health depends 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 substrate

Bearded Dragon Substrate/Bedding

Substrate is a must have, and there are a lot of reasons why, but there are two that is 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 being, 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 build up. 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 of instead of pulling them out so you do not have to cut your dragons 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)

Paper Towels

Paper towels can also be used as a substrate in a dragons 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 parasite and bacteria will not be a 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 very fast 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 a bearded dragon will not lose their body heat as fast if they decide to go for a nap in their hide. I personally 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

A 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 to close or too far away from their basking light. They should be able to easily clime 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 in the cool side. They will use the hide when they are too warm and need too 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 accessories


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 in cool side, if it is too low, place on warm side.

Another bowl will be needed to place their veggies 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 it, using it as a bed. Mine on the other hand, prefer bulldozing them and using them as toys.

bearded dragon habitat setup
Bearded dragon habitat

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.


  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.