This is variable depending on the species of reptile and the type of environment bet for that animal. And even then is highly debated at times between experienced keepers. The standard options are:
Cypress mulch: Very good at holding humidity. Not great to burrow in. There are people who are concerned that they may get mites from this coming from a home improvement/garden center. It is highly unlikely, but there is a god chance of it having insects of some form. The simple cure is, get a new clean large trash can, put the mulch in, make sure there is 6" or more of space above the substrate. Hang a No Pest Strip in the can and close it. Leave it for a week or more, stirring it every few days.
Fir bark: From the bark of fur trees. It is sold in pet stores as "repti Bark" and a few other brand names. Sold for 5-10% of the price at garden centers as Orchid Bark. Use the same system as above to treat for insects if you are worried, but it is normally dry and tightly sealed, as it is intended for indoor orchids.
Compressed Coconut Fiber: I love this stuff. It is shredded coconut husk, sold as a compressed block. Add a little water and it opens up. Can be used wet or dry, hold humidity very well, is great for burrowing and burying eggs. Sold in pet stores as "Eco Earth" and a few other brand names, you can also get it at some garden centers, or anywhere that sells indoor gardening or hydroponic supplies. I love this stuff.
Sphagnum peat moss: Very good substrate for some things, can be messy when kept wet. Personally, I don't really like it.
Sand: I don't like using this as a primary substrate for most animals. It is very hard to keep sanitary, and grows bacteria wonderfully. It is easily ingested by smaller insectivorous lizards. I do use it in separate boxes inside my bearded dragons enclosures, for digging. But it is easy to change out and closeable when feeding if miscarry.
Newspaper/paper towels: Cheap, efficient and sanitary. Not pretty, but it works. In enclosed environments it can be kept moist for humidity. Very easy to clean.
Doggie training pads, Bed liner pads: Seriously. There are great for enclosures that need higher humidity, for emerald tree boas, green tree pythons, etc... Can hold a good deal of water and release it slowly.
Vinyl flooring: My choice for arid environment reptiles. Easy to clean, easy to cut to fit, fairly cheap and lasts a long time. Get the type without the adhesive backing, that can give off fumes when kept warm.
There are others, people using all kinds of things, like eucalyptus mulch, because it is insect resistant, potting soil, etc... And for any who don't know, never use any oily aromatic soft wood, like cedar or pine, especially not cedar. They can cause severe respiratory infections in reptiles
Well done, fishbone. Another good lesson on reptile basics.
From the photos you had shown us earlier, the best substrate for educated reptile pets is obviously the newspaper. :p Although, I wonder if the ink on the newspaper is safe?
It seems you like doggie training pads, bed liner pads, and Vinyl flooring. Which one is your favorite? Could you provide the direct link to a product you approve?
I wouldn't necessarily say newspaper is the best. But, if you have limited time and multiple animals to clean, it is easier to keep up with. I actually wondered about the ink, but so many people have done it for so many years, it is pretty much proven safe. You can use any paper actually, just that getting newspaper is easy and basically free.
The vinyl flooring is my fave for any arid environment animal in a tank especially. I keep my leos and beardies on that. I very much like the coconut fiber on humidity needing reptiles. I don't use the pads myself, but I know many GTP & ETB breeders and keepers that swear by them. I will make up a list and links, I am almost done with this heating article, and that is on the list.
It seems like you prefer different substrate for reptiles in different environment.
Vinyl flooring for arid environment in a tank for leopard gecko and bearded dragon.
Coconut fiber substrate for reptile need high humidity.
Newspaper for cheap reptile substrate, but also for easier cleaning.
It really is up to the keeper. I do prefer a more naturalistic looking environment, and all of the tanks and cages in the living room and such are set up more that way, but caring for multiple animals, and babies, the health and happiness of the animals comes first, and maintaining a natural looking environment isn't actually necessary. The more "naturalistic" look is trully more for the people. Snakes do need hides, but they really don't care much if it is a log, or a plastic log, or an overturned plastic bowl with a hole in the side.
The other thing that people often forget is that with naturalistic cages and substrates, it is harder to clean. In nature, there is a much grander amount of space, and the snake is not forced to sit in a 4' x 2' x 2' area, (or whatever it may be.) When the snake defecates in this area, even if you pick it up, there are various bacterias left, that in nature, would be processed by various other bacterias and organisms. Very similar to the nitrogen cycle in a fish tank, but a bit more complex. In the cage, in a warm, sometimes humid environment, these can grow unchecked. There are "bioactive" cage ideas, but they can be hard to maintain. There was a guy on a board a while ago, who was doing this with a green tree python, and had introduced earthworms and sowbugs/millipedes. The millipedes got out of control, though they seemed to be doing a good job at processing the waste. So he put in a couple centipedes to prey on and control the millipedes. (Some centipedes are not nice critters by the way.) You can see where this is going. He had problems with fruit flies at one point, etc... Then he added an aquarium, 10 gallon I think, and got that cycled. The coolest thing I think is the different behaviors he has gotten out of the animal. It swims! (For those who don't know much about green tree pythons, it seemed rather unusual at the time.
Obviously this is a bit of overkill, but the point being that naturalistic substrates are allot more work to keep the clean and healthy. There are bioactive concepts that work primarily on bacteria, to break down the waste contamination. But they seem to be hard to cycle and keep going, as a single snake only produces so much waste.
I suppose I am just explaining my newspaper. I do prefer to keep adults in larger nicer looking set ups, but I can clean, water and everything else most of my animals in less than 20 minutes, and they are happy, active, and healthy critters
(05-12-2012, 05:12 PM)Fishbone Wrote: I actually wondered about the ink, but so many people have done it for so many years, it is pretty much proven safe. You can use any paper actually, just that getting newspaper is easy and basically free.
Just to add my two cents here, the professor/herpetologist who gave me my beardie also had a rather large collection of snakes on campus (well over 100 individuals), and he insisted on only black and white pages on top layers and pages with minimum ink...some say it only makes the scales dirty but he said there may or may not be a link between ink exposure and a type of cancer in snakes. I don't think there is any really concrete research supporting this either way. Not sure if the same applies to lizards, and snakes spend way more time in contact with the ink than a lizard would, anyway. There was a really great system in place for cleaning out all the cages in a timely manner and newspaper was the way to go