Eco-earth substrate is advertised as natural, safe, and suitable for all reptiles. Does this apply to Leopard Geckos as well? Are there better substrate options, and what are the pros and cons of eco-earth?
Eco-earth is safe for leopard geckos. However, it has mixed reviews from gecko owners. More suitable substrate options are available for Leopard Geckos. Substrates that best mimic a geckos habitat, are safe, hygienic, and inexpensive should be an exotic reptile owner’s primary choice.
Is eco-earth safe for Leopard Geckos?
Many Leopard Geckos have used eco-earth substrate successfully for years with no problems, but most Leo owners would warn you against it.
On the positive side, the eco-earth substrate does give your enclosure a natural look and feel and can be easily and safely composted as it is made from eco-friendly coconut husks. Adding water to the fibers also makes for a spongy floor for your reptile to walk on.
Conversely, let’s look at some of the main cons and concerns of using the eco-earth substrate.
There are several justifications for not wanting to use eco-earth in your Leopard Geckos enclosure.
Heightened humidity levels
Eco-earth is an excellent substrate if your main goal is to increase humidity levels in your enclosure. This substrate holds water and moisture well, but it can keep humidity levels elevated for extended periods.
Leopard geckoes come from an arid, dessert-like habitat and are not accustomed to living in highly humid or tropical climates. The increased enclosure moisture caused by the substrate can also result in mold growth, triggering respiratory and skin health problems.
Eco-earth is made to be used in a humid environment. If the substrate is left in its dry fiber state, it can get very dusty, leading to respiratory health problems or infection.
The hotter temperatures needed by Leopard Geckos will cause the eco-earth coconut fibers to become fluffy and dusty, which can be easily inhaled.
Respiratory infections can become severe if not promptly treated and would usually call for a visit to an exotic reptile vet and a possible antibiotic treatment.
Most Leopard Gecko impaction issues are a result of the substrates being used. It is very easy for your Leo to eat loose substrates accidentally.
Your Leo can easily ingest the eco-earth soft dry fluffy coconut fibers. Although digestible to a point, if more significant quantities of the substrate are consumed, it can lead to impaction and other related health problems.
The eco-earth substrate’s lack of popularity by exotic owners is mainly because it costs almost double the amount of an alternative Leopard Gecko substrate.
The substrate’s high absorption ability also demands regular substrate changes to avoid hygiene and health problems due to feces and waste absorption.
A lesser-known and more infrequent concern of using eco-earth substrate is the strain it can place on Leopard Geckos joints.
This loose substrate can make it harder for Leo to walk on for long periods and lead to joint health problems.
Related: Can a leopard gecko live in a 10-gallon tank?
More suitable substrate options
There are numerous more cost-effective and safer substrate options for your Leopard Gecko. Although some options may be less realistic looking or less like Leo’s natural habitat, they are safer, more hygienic, and last longer.
Let’s explore some suitable substrate options.
Newspaper or paper towels
This is one of the best substrate options available for both adult and juvenile Leopard Geckos.
Not only is it one of the most cost-effective substrate options, but it is also gentle on Leo’s skin and poses no impaction problems. The low cost makes it easy to replace and keep clean and hygienic, reducing the risk of disease.
The only drawback is that it does not look very natural and can make your enclosure look scruffy. Some beige or green-toned paper towel options are available, which can give a more natural look to your tank.
Leo will also not be able to burrow as they would typically do in nature, and owners would need to be strict with their cleaning schedules as the absorption of the paper will require regular cleaning.
An easy, low-cost option for reptile owners. Bought in rolls and cut to size, these carpets only need to be replaced every six to twelve months.
If cleaned and sanitized regularly and correctly, the carpets will help keep Leo healthy. The softness and nonabrasive nature of the carpet poses no scratch risks, but although rarely a problem, keep an eye on frays where Leo’s toes could get caught.
Reptile carpets are a high-quality substrate that is far more attractive than newspapers or paper towels but is equally as absorbent.
Stone tiles and slate slabs
These slabs and tiles are marginally more expensive than some other substrate options, but they look amazingly natural and are easily cleaned and reusable.
There is no risk of impaction or Leo getting stuck on them. Usually, one would need some reptile gravel to keep the slate or slabs in place, but this is generally safe as the sand is under the slabs.
Keeping Leo’s water bowl on top of the slate or slab will also help avoid unfortunate sand ingestion.
Stone is excellent for heat-loving geckos as they hold a lot of heat, and their rough texture is similar to the rocky, arid environment they would have enjoyed in the wild.
Stones and pebbles
A popular choice for Leopard Gecko enclosures due to the natural appearance they give to any enclosure. I will mention a single bit of advice, which would be to look out for and discard any sharp or jagged-edged stones or pebbles before adding them to your enclosure.
A very natural and safe substrate option for your Leopard Gecko. As it is clay, it poses no risk of impaction and is excellent for Leo to burrow in. Usually sold as ‘excavators clay’ or ‘self-hardening clay’ in local exotic pet stores.
Even though the clay may not be as comfortable for Leo as other substrate options, it can last long if properly cleaned and maintained. Misting the clay with some water from time to time will help with the clay’s longevity and prevent the clay from crumbling.
Although the clay can be easily spot cleaned, if not cleaned on a strict schedule, the clay may need to be broken down and replaced with new clay more frequently, which can become more expensive. Messy to work with but great for molding tunnels and caves for Leo.
Not only does the clay feel natural to Leopard Geckos, but it gives your enclosure a natural and organic look.
Shelf liner options
Not the most realistic or beautiful option for your enclosure, but practical, affordable, and easy to clean. If cleaned correctly, the shelf liner only needs to be replaced every couple of months, making it even more attractive to reptile owners.
The shelf liner is very safe for Leo as long as it is cleaned regularly. Bacteria can quickly grow on the liner if hygiene practices are not followed. Fortunately, food does not easily stick to the liner, and some owners like to use the liner under layers of newspaper or paper towels.
Numerous liner options and colors are available. Take care choosing a non-adhesive liner as adhesive liners can be toxic to Leo when heated. Liners should also have no holes in them, or Leo’s claws could get stuck, and feces or waste can slip through, making cleaning trickier.
My final caution would be that the liner does not provide sufficient burrowing opportunities for Leo, which may affect their ability to self-file or trim their nails. An exotic reptile vet should be able to assist with excessively sharp or long nails if necessary.
What to look for in a substrate
Substrates have a massive impact on the health and happiness of Leopard Geckos. Newbie exotic pet owners often battle picking a substrate due to the countless substrate options and advice available.
Look for a substrate that is easy to clean, safe, durable, inexpensive, and as close to the Leopard Geckos’ natural environment as possible is key.
Leopard Geckos come from arid, rocky areas with multiple hiding spots. Usually, clay, pebbles, stone slabs, tiles, or sand carpets would be a reasonable substitute for their natural environment.
The more at home your Leopard Gecko feels, the less anxious and stressed they will feel and the healthier life they will lead. Choosing the correct substrate is vital for making Leo comfortable and happy in their environment.
There are numerous more superior and more suitable substrate options for Leo than the eco-earth substrate. Not only will eco-earth raise the chances of Leo developing a respiratory or skin health problem, but the higher humidity levels are also unsuitable and unhealthy.
Reptile carpets, newspapers or paper towels, slabs, stones, shelf liners, or excavator clay are better substrate options that are more affordable and safer for Leopard Geckos.