Zoo Med’s Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate is a great way to provide semiarid or arid herps with a means to burrow. It comes in 5, 10, and 20 pound bags, as well as a cavern kit that makes creating a hide easy.

At Josh’s Frogs, we’ve utilized it to make a great looking background for a desert vivarium. Coupled with Josh’s Frogs Succulent Soil, some vivarium wood, cocofiber, sand, and live plants, this video will show you how to make a stunning desert vivarium.

  • Step 1 – hydrate Excavator Clay
  • Step 2 – form clay. Make sure to provide drainage holes for planters
  • Step 3 – place wood as desired
  • Step 4 – allow the clay to dry


After the clay has dried, carefully tilt the tank upright. If the clay holds, you’re all set! If it falls apart, add water to any clay that has separated from the background, rework it, and apply it to the background, waiting several days for it to dry.

Assuming the tank is now vertical and the background is intact, you can begin to plant! We’ll put some Josh’s Frogs succulent soil in the back planters, along with some animal-safe succulents grown here at Josh’s Frogs.

All plants grown at Josh’s Frogs are cultured in a way to make them perfectly safe for use with animals – no harmful pesticides or fertilizers to be concerned about. Cover the top of the soil with some sand, so any future inhabitants will not accidentally ingest the substrate.

Now you’re ready to add substrate to the bottom of the enclosure, as well as any hides or dishes your pet requires. This will vary depending on species, so do your research!