Savannah Monitor Bedding Options

Different Types of Reptile Bedding

There are many reptile bedding options available to the reptile owner, but an educated choice is one that must be made to assure the safety and happiness of your savannah monitor in his enclosure. Here are ten of the most common groups of reptile bedding, with some being more appropriate for your monitor than others.

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    Bedding made from wood comes in different forms, sizes, types of wood, and even colors. The most common types of wood used to make bedding are pine, cedar, douglas fir, aspen, and cypress. It can come in the form of shavings, pellets, and chips.

    Wood beddings are best for arboreal species of reptiles (not savannah monitors), or ones that don't spend much of their time on the ground. Some concerns with shavings, pellets and bark chips are the lack of absorbency and odor control, and that shavings can hurt the feet of some reptiles or even cause splinters.

    Some companies dye their shavings different colors or infuse them with chlorophyll. Besides staining the reptile the color of the bedding, these don't do much for odor control or absorbency. Dirt mixtures also usually have mulch or pieces of wood in them and are popular options for monitor owners.

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    Recycled Paper Bedding

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    This bedding isn't always marketed to the reptile community, but many owners like the absorbency the small pellets and soft pieces of recycled paper have. It isn't a natural type of bedding for reptiles, but some reptiles like to burrow under the soft paper pieces.

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    Coconut Fiber

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    The stringy fiber pieces, also known as the husk, on a coconut are a different choice for reptile bedding. They are often sold in expandable chunks or bricks and are popular among owners of reptiles requiring high humidity. The gardening industry also sells a variety but it often has fertilizer in it that can harm reptiles.

    Odor control and absorbency are good and burrowing reptiles especially enjoy coconut fiber.

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    Alfalfa Meal

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    This is basically rabbit food. Alfalfa meal is ground up alfalfa hay which is then compressed into small cylindrical pellets.

    These are quite absorbent and some manufacturers add reptile-safe germ control agents to the meal. The pellets are also biodegradable, help with odor control and should be fairly safe if accidentally ingested.

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    Paper Towels and Newspaper

    Paper towels
    Paper towels. Getty Images/Eric Anthony Johnson

    These are possibly the most inexpensive types of bedding. Some owners shred the towels and newspapers to create a "fluffier" type of bedding, which is good for burrowers, and others just put sheets down on the bottom of the enclosure.

    Paper towels and newpapers are absorbent, but do nothing for odor control. Owners like the availability, cost, ease of clean-ups, and lack of possible ingestion. It is obviously very unnatural for any reptile, but otherwise present no large problems.

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    Reptile Carpet

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    Colors and textures vary, but most carpets are washable. This is the main draw to reptile carpeting. Some stores will cut carpets to match tank sizes, others are pre-cut and sold for specific enclosure measurements.

    There is no risk of ingestion, and being able to wash them keeps the enclosure sanitary but it definitely isn't a natural substrate for a savannah monitor, much less any reptile, unless they were born in a carpet store.

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    Play sand, vitamin infused sand, and digestible calcium sand are available to reptile owners. Possible ingestion is the biggest concern for reptiles who eat where they live. Digestible calcium sand is okay to digest if it is in small amounts, but obviously if a reptile were to get a mouth full of any of these types of sand, impaction and obstruction can occur.

    Sand that is dyed will usually stain the reptile, but the dye will not harm their skin. 

    Sand does clump when wet, sticks to wet feet, and does not help with odor control. Many owners will often mix some sand with other substrates to create desired textures.

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    Vermiculite. KENPEI/Creative Commons

    Vermiculite is a mineral that is used in many different ways. For reptile bedding, vermiculite is processed by heating it. When water is added it separates into many layers and expands into long worm-like pieces that break apart. These pieces are then used to retain heat and moisture.

    This type of bedding is great for high humidity reptiles and burrowers. It is an alternative to peat moss.

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    Ground Walnut Shells

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    As the name says, this substrate is made of finely ground walnut shells. It can cause impaction in young monitors, does not hold water, and has no odor control. It is easily scooped like cat litter to dispose of waste and does not clump like sand bedding.

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    There are a few different moss varieties used as bedding for reptiles, all of which are good for those preferring high humidity or burrowing. This is a natural substrate like sand.

You may choose to use a variety of different substrates in different parts of your enclosure. If your monitor seems to urinate and defecate in one part of the cage you may opt to use a more absorbent substrate and then use a different kind of bedding in the rest of the cage. Regardless of the kind of bedding that you choose make sure it is able to be cleaned easily and is non-toxic to your savannah monitor.