When it comes to owning and caring for such an amazing reptile like the bearded dragon, a certain amount of research and some trial and error will come into play when deciding the perfect enclosure set up for your special beardie. On your search for the perfect items to make your bearded dragon feel as comfortable as possible, you have most likely come in contact with many different types of terrarium liners and loose substrate material, such as eco earth.
So, what exactly is eco earth and can it be used for your bearded dragon’s enclosure?
Eco earth is marketed as an eco-friendly product made from the husks of coconuts that is ideal for a natural terrarium set-up for reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates. The properties of eco earth are listed as ideal for tropical climates, humidity retention, good for burrowing and tunneling, and odor absorption.
As long as proper moisture and humidity levels are maintained to properly mimic the natural habitat of bearded dragons, then yes, eco earth should be safe to use for your beardie. Since bearded dragons are native to dry, rocky, arid climates mostly found in the outback of Australia, so in order to properly use this type of substrate you would have to do one of two things:
1. Use the loose substrate dry and mist it with water or
2. Use the compressed substrate, expand it, wring it out, and set it out in the sun to dry the point of only being slightly damp.
Considering that eco earth is made entirely from the husks of coconuts and 100% biodegradable and completely natural, it sounds like the type of substrate your bearded dragon has been dreaming of. However, regarding whether or not it is the most appropriate or best substrate for you and your bearded dragon, that will require some trial and error and personal preference.
For the sake of this article we will be discussing what makes eco earth a suitable substrate for bearded dragons, the different ways to use it, and a couple of downsides for bearded dragon owners regarding the use of this product. So, let’s burrow our way through the ever changing world of terrarium liners and substrates and discuss the ups and downs of using eco earth for your bearded dragon.
Pro 1: Ideal For Burrowing And Tunneling
Bearded dragons enjoy participating in a number of different activities such as basking under a heat lamp, perching on rocks, and burrowing. Yes, bearded dragons are fans of burrowing. They will use this technique to construct a more pleasing and comfortable basking area, a female might dig to create space for her to lay eggs, and adult bearded dragons are known to burrow in order to go into brumation.
Burrowing also gives your bearded dragon the opportunity to cool down and escape their heat lamp if they are overheating, which if this is the case you should adjust the temperature in their habitat. Eco earth substrate offers the distinct type of terrain that is perfect for burrowing and allows for bearded dragons to experience a type of flooring that might be found in their natural habitat.
Pro 2: Odor Absorption
Bearded dragons themselves produce almost no odor, however, their food and feces are an entirely different story. Insects, especially crickets, produce a foul smell, and decomposing vegetation will produce an awful odor as well.
The all natural material used for eco earth, the fibers from coconut husks, along with the density of the material, allows the substrate to absorb those smelly odors to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure odor free between cleanings. While it is extremely important to remove fecal waste as soon as possible and practice proper sanitation and cleaning rituals for your dragon’s enclosure, a deep clean is not always required right that second.
As long as you are maintaining the overall cleanliness of your bearded dragon’s environment, a good substrate could last a week or so without needing to be completely changed. The odor absorption properties of eco earth could provide a much needed helping hand between those deep cleans.
Pro 3/Con 1: Humidity Retention And Dryness
Bearded dragons are native to the rocky, arid outback of Australia and only require a humidity level between 30 and 40 percent. The pro side of humidity retention with the eco earth substrate is that it will allow you to produce some humidity within your bearded dragon’s enclosure and if done properly will only require minimum upkeep and monitoring.
The downside of humidity retention with the eco earth substrate is that bearded dragons cannot tolerate humidity levels that fall below or are above the 30-40 percent range. Too high and too low humidity levels can cause a wide range of serious respiratory issues for your beloved bearded dragon.
In order to prevent the production of too much humidity, it would be best to dry out your substrate before lining your dragon’s enclosure and just mist it for a little added moisture; be sure to allow the substrate and enclosure to dry completely before misting again. Unfortunately, eco earth is extremely dusty when dry and this can also cause respiratory issues for your bearded dragon.
It will require some trial and error on your part if you are determined to use this type of substrate.
Con 2: Ideal For Tropical Climates
Due to the amazing humidity retention of eco earth, this substrate is ideal for creating the perfect tropical climate in an enclosure. Unfortunately, bearded dragons do not require and will not thrive in a tropical climate as they are native to the rocky and arid climate of the outback in Australia.
As aforementioned, too much humidity can cause a number of respiratory issues for your bearded dragon and can be quite deadly if not handled appropriately. While this may be ideal and suitable for other reptiles and animals, it is inappropriate for the bearded dragon and can cause unnecessary stress and illness for your tiny companion.
Type 1: Loose Substrate
Loose substrate is self-explanatory; it will be purchased already loose and expanded in a bag and ready to use. All you have to do is line the enclosure with the substrate and mist the appropriate amount for your bearded dragon.
Misting can be both a positive and a negative; if used properly, misting will cut down on the amount dust that this type of substrate is known to cause, if used improperly, misting will cause high humidity in your bearded dragon’s enclosure which could result in a range of respiratory illnesses and issues for your bearded dragon.
Type 2: Compressed Substrate
Compressed substrate is the opposite of loose substrate; it will be purchased in a solid, brick form and will require additional before it is ready to use in your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Before this substrate is ready to use, you must first soak it in a tub with a gallon of water until it expands to its full potential. Once the substrate has absorbed all of the water, you must now wring out the excess moisture and place the substrate in the sun or similar area so the substrate can dry out.
After the substrate has dried almost completely, it will be ready to use in your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Misting is still encouraged to lower the dust levels of this substrate but only after the substrate has had a chance to completely dry in order to keep humidity levels low for your bearded dragon.
Once again, high humidity levels can cause a number of respiratory illnesses and issues for your bearded dragon and should be monitored closely while you are setting the levels for your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Overall, eco earth is a revolutionary form of substrate for owners who wish to use a biodegradable material in their bearded dragon’s enclosure. It is a completely natural substance made from the fibers of coconut husks and contains no chemicals or impurities so you know exactly what you are putting in with your bearded dragon.
If you choose to use a substrate for your bearded dragon, you will always be faced with pros and cons; choosing the appropriate substrate for you and your bearded dragon will require a certain level of trial and error. Due to its unique properties and natural feel and appearance, eco earth closely resembles material found in a bearded dragon’s natural habitat and will provide a more natural and native feel to your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
There are several different styles of substrate that are appropriate for bearded dragons but not all substrates are the same. It will be up to you as their owner and caregiver to conduct the research and provide the most appropriate for you and your dragon’s needs.
If you are ever concerned about how a substrate might affect your bearded dragon or are curious about the different styles of substrate, contact your local herp vet for medical concerns and reach out to your local pet shop for more information regarding all of the types of substrate that is suitable for bearded dragons.