Equipment Comparison: Breeding Substrates

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Important Qualities for Breeding Substrate

  • Retains moisture
  • Maintains humidity levels
  • Provides space for hiding and laying eggs

Popular Types of Breeding Substrates

  • Sand: when using sand, be sure to sterilize it. Sterilization can be done by heating it to 100C for one hour.
  • Coconut Coir
  • Peat Moss
  • Glass beads



Coconut Coir

Peat Moss

Turf’ or ‘tuff’

Description The fibrous material between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut.

A natural waste product resulting from the processing of coconuts, the fibers are separated, cleaned, sorted and graded before shipping.

Sphagnum moss: A large, absorbent moss that grows in dense masses – comprised of approximately 380 types of species of moss. A landscaping material consisting of small clay-based pellets.
Advantages Near neutral pH 5.5-6.8 

Environmentally friendly

Holds 30 percent more water than peat

Can be composted

Holds moisture
Resists compaction (allows for enough aeration)
Good water retention

Doesn’t mold as easily as other substrates (like peat moss) 

Disadvantages Remember that this type of moss has a high water absorbency rate, so be aware of the high humidity levels

May contain trace amounts of asbestos and/or pesticides 

Make sure you purchase from a company that does not specialize in fertilizer 

Avoid sedge peat mined in the USA and any kind of forest humus

May contain high amounts of salt – wash first

pH range between 3.5 and 4.5 (can be a little more acidic)

Non-renewable resource 

High absorbency = potential for too high of humidity levels 
Sterilization Method
Mix & Ratios Coir & Peat Moss 1:1 Peat Moss & Coir 1:1

Peat Moss & Sand 4:1




Perlite (Glass beads)


Description Vermiculite is a phyllosilicate mineral that is mined from rocks formed 1.5 to 3 billion years ago. Hard, highly porous material made by super-heating volcanic glass. A granular material typically made of finely crushed rock and minerals.
Advantages Vermiculite retains more water and retains it for longer periods than Perlite

Good insulator

More alkaline than Perlite

Insulative: will help maintain a constant temperature


Odorless, non-toxic

Aerates the soil

Easy to reuse

Easy for crickets to walk on and bury eggs in.
Disadvantages Not as good at aeration as Perlite: can retain too much water if not mixed and can suffocate the eggs

Impure vermiculite may contain asbestos and/or toxic materials (minor diopside or remnants of the precursor minerals biotite or phlogopite)

The garden variety of vermiculite is called “exfoliated” vermiculite, which has been treated with extreme heat and pressure to force it to expand. This process creates a porous surface that is great for retaining moisture and nutrients. In the past, some vermiculites contained asbestos. However, those contaminated mines were shut down and modern vermiculite is rigorously tested to make sure it is free of this carcinogen.

Doesn’t retain water well or for very long: Perlite only traps water on its large surface area, consisting of nooks and crevices, and thus releases its water more quickly, in doing so, it can help raise the humidity around it. 


Primary ingredient is alumina silicate, which is a human carcinogen – Perlite can cause a lot of dust when it’s new and cause pipe clogging and respiratory problems. Wear goggles and a dust mask when first using. 

Dries out very quickly – does not absorb or hold water.

For sand, you want a sharp silica or quartz sand with grain sizes in the 1.5 to 2 mm range.

Do NOT use play sand, plaster sand, or builders sand straight (you can sieve and wash builders or plaster sand to use it). Pool filter sand is too fine and may suffocate the eggs.

Sterilization Method Soak it in a 10% bleach solution. After 20 minutes of soaking, rinse thoroughly. Bake for 60 minutes at 100C
Mix & Ratios Vermiculite & Peat Moss 1:4 Perlite & Peat Moss 1:4 Sand & Peat Moss 1:4 



  • Wood chippings
  • Sawdust
  • Cotton balls
  • Paper Towels