7 Best Substrates For Chameleons – Reviews & Guide 2022

Chameleons spend most of their time up in the trees and plants. Therefore, you may wonder what’s the importance of a substrate then? Well, since chameleons are kept in cages, a substrate has many benefits. Here we discuss the 7 best substrates for chameleons.

In a cage, you’ll be dealing with chameleon’s waste, uneaten food, and debris from plants and trees. All of this will eventually fall to the bottom of the cage.

When all of these are left too long in the cage, along with a high humidity setting, bacteria and mold will start growing on it. That’s something you don’t want to have. Chameleons can get sick and even die from it.

Another reason for a substrate is that it makes the enclosure more appealing. A chameleon is a beautiful exotic creature and it makes sense to create an environment to complement its beauty.

How to Choose Substrate for Chameleons

There are many different substrates available on the market. They come in all different sizes and shapes. Some substrates will keep the cage clean, while others are used just for decorations purposes.

Therefore, choosing substrates will depend on your preferences.

The main purpose of having a substrate is to keep the cage clean. Waste from the chameleons, uneaten food, dead leaves and branches, and debris will fall to the bottom of the cage. Without a substrate, all these elements will start to accumulate and bacteria growth will occur.

Things to Consider Before Buying Substrate for Chameleon

Below are the elements you should look for when shopping for a substrate. It’s very important that the substrate should have the elements below. Chameleons are very fragile creatures and a small change in their environment could affect their health.

Moisture Control

The substrates you buy should be able to control the moisture in the cage. Moisture can be from uneaten food, chameleon’s waste, and water from misting. All of these will eventually drop to the bottom of the cage. A substrate should be able to absorb all of this moisture.

If not, it will start to build up and bacteria will start to inhabit it. Over time, the bacteria will start to spread and could cause your chameleon to become ill.


A good quality substrate should be toxic-free. This means no chemicals should be used when manufacturing the substrate.

Chemicals are usually used in the manufacturing process to make the substrate. The chemical could be used to produce colors, texture, and to remove foreign particles.

However, even after a thorough cleaning, some traces of the chemicals will stick to the substrate.

The problem arises when the temperature in the cage becomes wet or humid. The chemicals may start to evaporate into the air and come in contact with your pet chameleon.

Chemicals could cause your chameleon to become ill, have deformities, and have a possibility of death.

You may be tempted to buy a substrate that is cheap, but it may have toxic chemicals in them.

Therefore, it’s important to buy only a quality substrate that is made for reptilians or specifically for chameleons.


Materials used in substrates is not that important to the chameleons. Other reptiles such as iguanas and geckos will be since they spend most of their time at the bottom of the cage.

Chameleons spend most of their time in the trees, whether they are sleeping or eating. Therefore, a substrate will not affect their sleeping or food.

However, it’s still important to choose a substrate with the right materials. There are several materials used and they are split into two groups, which are soil-based and wood-based materials.

For a chameleon cage, the most common ones to use are made from cedar and coconut shavings. Besides chameleons, these two materials are commonly used for other reptile cages as well.


There are some substrates that will actually prevent and even kill bacteria before it starts to spread.

This is one element that’s important for people who don’t have a lot of time to clean the cage. Chameleons eat and poop every day. Therefore, daily cleaning is a must to keep their enclosure free of bacteria and other pathogens.

A substrate that has these purifying properties are usually made of coconut. Coconut husks are great at killing and preventing bacteria from spreading.

In the reviews below, we’ll mention which manufacturers have this element in their substrates.

Resistance to Mold

Most species of chameleons come from tropical rainforests where it’s usually high humidity.

High humidity environments mean the cage must remain wet throughout the day. This along with the waste that chameleons produce every day is a great breeding ground for mold to form. Mold tends to grow quickly in a high humidity environment.

Some substrates are resistant to mold while others are not. Therefore, it’s important to choose the correct one for your chameleon.

Proper Chameleon Substrate Setup

Chameleons are one of those reptiles where the substrate isn’t all that important. They can live without it since chameleons spend most of their time above ground.

However, most people don’t like to have the bottom of the cage bare. Others want to make the cage as beautiful as possible. After all, you have spent a lot of money on buying a chameleon and it only makes sense to add a substrate to complement it.

Most substrates will work well in a chameleon’s cage, but you’ll want to choose the right one. If you have trees and plants placed at the bottom of the cage, you’ll want to choose a substrate that can easily be cleaned around it.

Other decorations such as vines and tree branches that are on the bottom of the cage should be carefully placed.

Otherwise, you’ll have to spend a lot of time moving objects around the cage just to clean the substrates.

veiled chameleons

7 best substrates for chameleons

There are hundreds of substrates you can choose from, but after hours of researching, we’ve only chosen a few that we recommend.

We’ve decided to not list the pricing of the items as they tend to change often. Therefore, you can click on the link to check the current price.

Here is our list of the 7 substrates for your pet chameleons that we recommend. Pick the right substrate that you think is suitable for your pet’s needs.

1. Exo Terra Coco Husk

This is a substrate from Exo Terra, one of the well-known manufacturers in the reptilian world. Completely safe for all species of chameleons and contains no chemicals.

Key Features

  • 100% Natural Substrate
  • Help increase humidity
  • Stimulates natural digging behavior

Exo Terra Coco Husk is a substrate that’s made from compressed coconut husk. Coconut husks are an excellent substrate to use due to their natural properties.

Coconut husk is an all-natural substance that’s only found in the tropical region of the world. Chameleons happen to be from this region as well.

Therefore, coconut is something that they are used to and will feel comfortable being around.

This is especially true for female chameleons since they will usually look for a place to burrow their eggs in.

This product also prevents bacterial growth when uneaten food or chameleon waste is dropped on it.


  • Great value for the money
  • Natural and contain no toxic
  • Prevent mold from growing


  • Natural red coloring will occur when wet which could stain the bottom of the cage
  • It will require time cleaning it

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


2. Zoo Med Coconut Fiber Substrate

This product from Zoo Med is a great substrate for the chameleon’s cage. It offers many benefits and great value for your money.

Key Features

  • Resistance to mold and bacteria
  • Easy to clean
  • Natural substances

The Zoo Med Coconut Fiber substrate is made from coconut with no chemicals used to process it.

It has many benefits and one of them is its resistance to mold and bacteria. Coconut naturally is a plant that prevents the growth of bacteria and mold. Having this substrate in the cage, you won’t have to worry about mold and bacteria issues.

Another benefit of this product is its clumping properties. Waste from chameleons, uneaten food, and debris from plants will fall to the ground. This substrate will clump around the waste and makes it easy for you to clean it.

Additionally, it will naturally absorb and break down waste, which will prevent odors in the cage.


  • Toxic-free products
  • Stimulate chameleon’s natural habitat
  • Kill bacteria and prevent odors
  • Great value for the money


  • Can be a bit messy setting it up

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon

3. Zilla Reptile Substrate Liner

This is a great product from Zilla, that you can use as a substrate for your chameleon cage. Very durable and long-lasting.

Key Features

  • Low maintenance bedding
  • Durable material
  • Treated with a biodegradable enzyme

This Zilla reptile substrate liner is not a true substrate, but rather a bedding or reptile carpet. However, for a chameleon, it’s will be great for them.

What makes this product great is its ease of cleaning. Just simply pull out the liner, wash off all the debris on it, and put it back in the cage.

Another great feature is the biodegradable enzyme the liner is treated with. It helps remove odors from the liner and prevents the entire cage from smelling bad.

The only bad thing about this substrate is that it doesn’t provide any anti-bacterial or mold-fighting properties.

However, if you’re the type of person who has time to clean the cage often, this substrate will work great.


  • Suitable for all species of chameleons
  • Long-life liner
  • Great value for the money


  • Doesn’t offer a realistic setting
  • No natural cleaning properties

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


4. Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding

This product is a premium substrate that’s the best you can give your chameleon. It offers many benefits and is great for all species of chameleons.

Key Features

  • All-natural product
  • Toxic-free materials
  • Superior humidity retention capabilities

The Reptile Prime Coconut Fiber Bedding is a premium substrate that’s the most expensive substrate compared to the rest. However, with the premium price, it’s all worth it.

This product was made with reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates in mind. This means the substrate was made with no chemicals or anything that could harm the pets. Therefore, it’s toxic-free and safe for your pet chameleons.

Since it’s made from coconut husk, this substrate will be able to retain humidity. For a chameleon, humidity is very important to their health.

Also, coconut has properties that will prevent mold and bacteria from growing.

Overall, this substrate is perfect for those who don’t have a lot of time to clean the cage. Once a week cleaning should be sufficient if you use this substrate.


  • Ability to breakdown waste and prevent odors
  • Great for all species of chameleons
  • Naturalistic decorations to mimic their natural environment


  • Most expensive

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


5. Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding

This is another great substrate from Zoo Med. It mimics the tropical forest floor of the chameleons and is safe for them as well.

Key Features

  • All-natural product
  • Long-lasting substrate
  • Great absorbent

The Zoo Med Forest Floor Bedding is a substrate that’s made from all-natural materials. This means the chameleons will not be harmed by it.

This product is great at retaining moisture to provide humidity to the enclosure. For chameleons, they need high humidity to keep them healthy.

Due to the material used, it’s great for female chameleons that are about to lay eggs. Since this substrate mimics their natural environment, they will feel safe and you won’t need to move them to another cage.


  • Mimics their natural habitat
  • Great for female chameleons that are about to lay eggs
  • Superior moisture-retaining properties


  • May contain mites (can be replaced)

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


6. Smooth Stones

Stones are one item that most people will not think about using as a substrate in a chameleon cage. This item is actually very useful if it’s used in the enclosure.

Key Features

  • Natural Polished Gravel
  • Prevents Mold And Bacteria From Growing
  • Easy To Clean

When it comes to smooth stones, most will think of an aquarium where it’s used commonly.  While stones are common in an aquarium, it’s a great item to use as a substrate for reptiles as well, especially chameleons.

There are many reasons why stones are a great addition to the cage. One of the reasons is that it is really easy to clean them. All you need to do is pull out the tray and dump the stones into a colander and rinse the debris out. Then put the stones back on the tray and put them back in the cage.

Another reason to use stones is to prevent bacteria growth. Since smooth stones don’t have any pores, it is hard for bacteria to grow on them.

The other reason is the variety of colors that it comes in. You can choose single-colored stones or multi-colored stones. Any colors will definitely make the enclosure more beautiful.


  • Not expensive
  • Natural and contain no toxic
  • Prevent insects from hiding in it


  • Female chameleons can’t lay eggs in
  • Can’t plant live plants in them

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


7. Paper Towel

Not what most people would consider as a substrate, but paper towels are actually the best substrate for the chameleon cage. It’s easy to clean, quickly absorbs moisture, and costs the least.

Key Features

  • Absorb Water Well
  • Doesn’t Harbor Bacteria
  • Easy To Clean

Paper towels will prevent insects from hiding, especially crickets. Crickets that are uneaten can actually cause your pet chameleon to become sick or stressed. At night, the crickets might start to bite the chameleon while they are sleeping.

Using paper towels as a substrate will be easy to clean as well. Once a day, you can remove the tray from the cage, throw the old paper towel away, lay a new one on the tray, and put it back in.  This entire process can be done within 3 minutes!

It can quickly absorb all types of moisture that are in the cage. Everything from chameleon’s poop to the excess water in the cage.

Paper towels are something that every household has and use every day.


  • Quick absorption
  • Cheap to buy
  • Prevent insects from hiding in it


  • Not very attractive
  • Needs to be changed daily

Where To Buy/Pricing

Check the current price on Amazon


In general, a substrate isn’t really needed for a chameleon. However, from reading above, you can see the many benefits that it has if you do have a substrate in the enclosure. Substrates make it easy for cleaning, prevent mold and bacteria growth, and keep the cage clean. The best part of all, a substrate will make the chameleon feel right at home!

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