Why Shouldn’t You Use Sand For Young Bearded Dragons?


A substrate is a material that covers the bottom or base of your enclosure. As a bearded owner, there are different ways you can create a friendly-looking substrate for your bearded dragon.

Sand isn’t a suitable substrate because your bearded dragon can eat the sand and cause blockage on their throat that can be deadly, especially for the young dragons. Preferably, you can use reptile carpets or newspapers as substrates.

You can’t use any sand that you find in your dragon’s tank. This blog post will guide you in knowing why you shouldn’t use sand for young bearded dragons.

Sand as a Substrate

If your enclosure has some sand substrate, you will be forced to feed your young bearded dragon using tongs or place the food in a separate bowl, and this separation prevents your bearded dragon from ingesting the sand while eating.

Sand makes your young bearded dragon get impaction. Since young bearded dragons are not picky eaters, they have a high risk of ingesting small pieces of sand as they eat and can cause a blockage that can end up being deadly.

Never use sharp, unwashed, or coarse sand for your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Sand isn’t recommended, but get the non-silica play sand if you purchase. Silica sand has sharp grains that can harm your young bearded dragon’s gastrointestinal tract. You can also mix the sand with natural soil.

Sand can be dusty, and it can get into your dragon’s food, eyes, and water. 

Sand is the worst substrate you can use, and you should avoid it at all costs. You can use other substrates like newspapers or reptile grass.

Why Don’t Wild Bearded Dragons Suffer From Implication After Taking Sand?

You may wonder why your bearded dragon gets impaction after eating sand, but wild bearded dragons are not at risk of getting impaction after consuming sand. 

  • Bearded dragons don’t live in desserts. Bearded dragons come from dry woodlands like in Australia, and there is not much sand. The dirt they eat in the wild is a mixture of soil, some leaves and small amounts of leaves.
  • In the wild, the ground contains minerals that bearded dragons need. The sand that we purchase does not contain calcium, and that’s why your bearded dragon will eat sand. They will feel like they need more calcium since it’s their natural behaviour. Your dragon will think they will get calcium from the sand.

What Can You Do to Ensure Your Young Bearded Enjoys Sand as its Substrate?

We know that bearded dragons’ natural behavior is to dig, and they love to explore in the sands and hide in the sand too. To ensure your bearded dragon enjoys themselves, you need to offer them calcium all ways.

You can start by dusting every feeder insect with calcium, but This may not be enough, so you can always add calcium to your dragon bowl.

Types of Sand You Can Use as Substrates For Your Bearded Dragon

If you need sand for your bearded dragon, below are some of the sands we would recommend to you.

Zoo Vita-sand

Zoo Vita-Sand is the best that you can purchase. It has a calcium carbonate substrate that is perfect for an adult beard. The sand allows an increase in calcium and also offers other vitamins that can improve your dragon’s health.

The sand has a delicate soft texture to your bearded dragon’s feet, and it doesn’t contain any artificial colors that can stain your pet. Each bag includes 4.5kgs of sand that is enough for big enclosures. 

Pros

  • It’s a natural substrate
  • Increases calcium delivery
  • Fortified with vitamins
  • It spent have artificial colors
  • It has a fine texture

Cons

  • It’s dusty, making dust enter into the bowl of your pet, so you have to change it frequently.

Aqua Terra Aquarium Sand

Aqua Terra Aquarium Sand is available in different colors, so you can make your terrarium decorative, and it’s 100% natural so that it won’t harm your dragon.

The acrylic coating is non-toxic and can’t stain your bearded dragon’s skin.

Pros

  • It comes in multiple colors
  • It’s 100% natural
  • It’s non-toxic so that it won’t harm your dragon.

Cons

  • It comes in flimsy packaging that may puncture easily.

Carib Sea Reptiles Substrate Sand

The Carib sea sand is beautiful because its desert rose color differs from the usual sand. The sand has a natural spherical that is softer to your pet’s foot and enables your pet to be comfortable. 

It has no harmful phosphates, and they create little dust.

Pros

  • It’s a calcium substrate.
  • It contains magnesium and strontium.
  • It is free from phosphates and silica.
  • It contains natural grains that are softer on your dragon’s feet.

Cons

  • The sand’s colour can be transferred to our hands and your dragon’s skin.

Flukers 37005 Natural Reptile Sand

Flukes 37005 sand provides your bearded dragon with a desert-like environment because of its natural color. The sand doesn’t have any dyes or chemicals that can harm your pet, and it doesn’t create much, and you will enjoy it as your dragon plays with it.

Pros

  • The sand does not contain any chemicals and dyes
  • It’s a good heat conductor
  • It has low dust

Cons

  • It comes in a flimsy packaging that may puncture easily

Exo Terra Sand

The Exo terra sand is natural sand that doesn’t have some dyes or chemicals. The sand is strained to remove contamination and reduce any dust present in the bag. The sand is a good heat conductor, so it will provide your dragon with constant temperatures without relying on the hot and cold spots.

Pros

  • It has a natural appearance
  • It sifted to remove any impurities
  • It’s an excellent heat conductor

Cons

  • It has a flimsy packaging that can puncture easily
  • Despite extra sifting, it’s a little dusty

Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand

The reptile science sand uses 100% digestible calcium carbonate that reduces odor. The sand is fine, thus reducing any risks of impaction. It has natural grains that are softer on your dragon’s feet and feel comfortable.

The sand contains magnesium, potassium, and strontium that improve the health of your pet’s body.

Pros

  • The sand reduces the risk of impaction
  • It has a natural odor reduction
  • It contains magnesium, potassium, and strontium
  • It has 100% digestible calcium carbonate
  • Natural grains that are softer to your dragon’s feet.

Cons

  • The sand is poorly packaged
  • It’s dusty and gets into your dragon’s water and food.

Apart From Sand, What are Some of the Substrates You Can Avoid?

Mulch or Bark

Mulch and bark are highly discouraged because of the health risks. With bark substrate, they tend to retain humidity which can cause humidity levels of your bead dragon to rise.

Impaction is still a risk as some pieces of bark and mulch are small enough for your dragon to ingest, and this can cause blockage.

Gravel and Pebbles

Most pet stores offer gravel and petals that are unsafe, just like the sand. Their pieces are not that big enough, making your young bearded dragon consuming then causing impaction just like the sand.

Another issue with the pebbles is that pebbles may cause some severe damage to your dragon’s teeth. Your dragon can consume them as it’s chasing an insect; the stones may crack your pet’s tooth or damage your bearded dragon’s health.

Other Substrates You Can Use Instead of Sand

Reptile Carpet

The best reptile carpet is the Zilla terrarium carpet. The rug is artificial and looks like the desert grass your bearded dragon may be familiar with within the wild.

The cage liners are laid down to cover the bottom of the glass floor. To clean the carpet, you can clean it with a washing machine. Some bearded dragons owners have complained that the carpet can sometimes catch your pet’s claws, which can cause your dragon to pull the carpet with its feet due to panic.

To ensure that your pet doesn’t lose any claws, you can buy carpets that are woven tightly.

Newspapers

Newspapers are the best substrates for bearded dragons since they are easy to clean and don’t cause any impaction, making them the safest to use. However, newspapers are not pleasing to look at compared to other substrates.

You can purchase newspapers from pet stores that sell washed and shredded recycled newspapers. 

Newspapers make your dragon dig without the worry of impaction, and they are the cheapest compared to other substrate options.

The disadvantage of using newspapers is that it retains humidity.

Paving Stones

You could have used large stones and rocks as a floor in your bearded dragon’s tank. The stones and rocks will make your tank look pretty and stylish too.

You can buy them in garden centers and also pet stores. Choosing big rocks can be perfect as your dragon will lie on them as it basks and rests during the day.

Paving rocks absorb heat, so they will help retain your tank’s temperature at the correct ranges.

Ceramic Tiles

Putting your bearded dragon in ceramic tiles is becoming a new trend among bearded dragon owners.

You can purchase the tiles from home improvement stores and use these tiles meant for the bathrooms and kitchens as a substrate. The tile texture should be rough to ensure that your dragon doesn’t fall when the tiles are wet.

Tiles are easy to clean, and they add an extra style to your pet’s tank. There is zero risk of impaction and ingestion when you use ceramic tiles.

It’s best to place each tile inside the tank without sealing them together so that each tile is removed individually during cleaning or replacing when the need arises.

Shelf Liner

A shelf liner reduces impaction risks, and they look neater than newspapers. Using a shelf liner is easier to clean, making it easy to maintain your tank.

You can remove and wash the shelf liner from time to time and clean it. To clean the shelf liner, you can place it in a standard washing machine and ensure you don’t put it in a dryer.

Shelf liners come in different colors, and most are suitable for use in your pet tank. They are not common, but you can find some in local shops or stores online.

FAQ’s about Bearded Dragons

Conclusion

You should avoid using sand at all costs, especially if you have a young bearded dragon, to avoid the risk of gut impaction. Reptile carpets and newspapers are the best you can use as substrates, and they are cheaper.

Keep your bearded dragon’s floor dry at all times to avoid the room having any humidity.

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