Choosing the Right Leopard Gecko Substrate
When setting up your new leopard gecko’s habitat, one of the more important things to choose is the habitat’s substrate, or the material that covers the bottom of your enclosure. Picking the best substrate can be an overwhelming task; below we will help you navigate a couple options, helping your leopard gecko live a happy and healthy life! Substrate should be absorbent and easy to clean, but also not present a choking hazard or any toxins to your pet if accidently ingested. Substrate should not be overly abrasive to reduce risk of injury to your pet and should also be made of a material that won’t hold or promote too much humidity for this desert species. There are several acceptable substrates that can be used in your leopard gecko’s habitat, each with attributes to address specific needs.
Reptile carpet provides a sleek look and can be easily cleaned, helping maintain an ideal habitat for your leopard gecko! Coming in several colors to match your habitat’s theme, reptile carpet is typically made of non-abrasive material to reduce irritation to the sensitive feet or bellies of your pet. Reptile carpet should be spot cleaned as needed and disinfected with a reptile-specific cleaning solution or 3% bleach solution once a week to maintain a healthy home for your pet. For even easier cleaning, pet parents often keep extra sets of reptile carpet so that they can easily be rotated out as one is being disinfected and thoroughly dried. Reptile carpet can be cut to fit any size habitat, making them great for enclosures that may have unique dimensions or shape. Remember that leopard geckos are extremely curious, be sure there are no stray pieces of carpet that they could potentially ingest or get wrapped around their toes! Reptile carpets can be great for geckos that are prone to ingesting too much loose substrate, however they do not encourage natural behaviors like digging and burrowing like loose substrates can. Also, carpet liners may not be ideal for pet parents that prefer a more naturalistic aesthetic for their pet’s habitat.
Calcium sand for Leopard Geckos help simulate a natural desert environment with many enriching benefits such as encouraging natural digging behaviors. Reptile calcium sand is not only non-toxic but is fortified with calcium and vitamins which provide increased health benefits when ingested in small amounts, however it should not replace the use of dietary supplements. An added benefit to sand is waste can easily be scooped when spot-cleaning the substrate. Remember, a complete change of substrate should be done during routine disinfection of your gecko’s entire habitat. Calcium sand is formulated to be non-toxic and ultra-fine to reduce the risk of impaction. However, if you find your pet is showing signs of excessively ingesting this substrate, (sand in stool, lack of appetite and lethargy), finding an alternative may be necessary. Due to the risk of over-ingestion and smaller lizard’s digestive systems, sand may also be better suited for larger or adult animals instead of juveniles.
Moss and Coconut Fiber
Moss, which absorbs water and helps increase humidity, can help facilitate shedding. At the onset of your leopard gecko’s shedding process, moisten moss by spraying it with water and add it to a hide or place it in small amounts in your leopard gecko’s habitat to increase humidity, which helps your spotted friend easily shed their skin as they grow. Sphagnum moss, which is antimicrobial, is a terrific choice as it helps prevent the accumulation of harmful bacteria. While coconut fiber can also be used in a hide to increase humidity, it is not recommended for juvenile geckos as they may accidentally consume it.
Whichever substrate you choose for your pet, it’s important to verify it is a non-toxic and a reptile-safe material. Loose substrate should either be digestible or of a size that cannot accidently be ingested while your gecko eats and explores their habitat. As always, your pet’s health is number one, if you suspect impaction or any other issues with your pet’s health, please consult your veterinarian.
Substrate is just one part of an appropriate set-up for your pet, explore enriching accessories such as hides, caves and basking platforms, which can help lead to a happy healthy life! Don’t forget- proper light and heat sources should be taken into consideration when planning your leopard gecko’s setup.