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Using Sand as Substrate for Bearded Dragons

Your bearded dragon’s cage can have a more naturalistic look by using sand. Besides the way it looks, sand is also easy to maintain. Wastes dry out quickly and can be easily scooped out.

Even though sand can make a more naturalistic look for your bearded dragons cage, I have seen some amazing looking vivariums that don’t use sand. With some imagination you can make a very nice cage setup without using sand.

Sand also holds heat very well. It also encourages your dragon’s natural instincts. If you put several inches of it in your cage, your dragon will burrow down into it. Sand can make your dragon’s enclosure quite heavy, so make sure that your cage can hold the weight.

Another downside to using sand substrate for bearded dragons is it may cause an impaction. This happens when a bearded dragons ingest too much sand and are unable to pass it through their digestive system.

I have read many accounts of bearded dragons dying due to impaction. Whether sand is the big culprit remains to be determined. I think that it might play a part, but I believe there are other factors that helps cause impactions.

There are highly credible sources that link impaction more to intestinal parasites than to sand itself. I tend to agree with this theory. I have seen no adverse side effects from using sand with my dragons.

If impation is a fear of yours, it would be better to use a different substrate. No matter how many times you hear it’s okay to use, you will always be worrying. I think it’s best to use something that you are comfortable with.

Using Playsand

Some people have recommended children’s play sand. While there still others that say there are inconsistencies in the quality of the sand. They also don’t recommend it because it may be ingested and cause an impaction in your bearded dragon.

While there are some that don’t recommend play sand, there are plenty of people out there that do. Ah….the topic of bearded dragon substrate can be really confusing at times. There is hardly ever a clear answer on this subject. That’s why it’s best to form your own opinion and do what’s best for you and your pet.

If you do use playsand, make sure that you sift it with a screen to remove large rocks and pebbles. Make sure that any large sized grains of sand are screened out. This will help prevent your dragon from ingesting them.

There are profesional breeders that keep their dragons (even babies) on play sand, and have great success. I also use playsand for my dragons, but I’m looking into using other substrates. This is not out of fear of impaction, but has more to do with dust and mess.

Playsand will work fine and is very economical, but the mess associated it may deter many people. I have my dragons in my living room and don’t like the dusty mess.

If playsand is what you decide to use, it is very economical. Playsand can be found at most hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowes.

Reptile Sand

If playsand isn’t your substrate of choice, there are reptile sands on the market. These are basically bagged sand that has been screened and washed. It comes in a variety of colors and produces less dust than playsand. They may be what you’re looking for.

Reptile sand is nice looking, and has all the benefits of sand. Then again, there are all the downsides as well.

The price, however, will make you think twice. The cost of using reptile sand in an adult bearded dragons enclosure will be quite substantial and don’t even think about odering it online. They shipping charges for all that weight just isn’t worth it.

I have been throwing around the idea of using multiple substrates to make a naturalistic enclosure. I would use some reptile sand to provide a diggin area for my dragons. This is something that I know they love to do. Only using sand in part of your dragons enclosure would reduce the cost of this choice quite a bit.

You may want to stay clear of the calcium sand that is on the market. If only for the reason that you won’t be seen as “evil” by your favorite bearded dragon forum clique. There is a lot of negative things out there about calcium sand, and at this time I can’t recommend it or not recommend it. If only for the reason of not angering anybody, but then again I don’t really care if they get angry. Really, the choice is up to you.


I have found that using sand for bearded dragons works fairly well for a substrate. This is just my opinion and feel free to form your own. There are other substrates that work just as well or better, so don’t let me form your opinion.

There are a lot of harsh opinions about using sand for bearded dragons. You might find yourself having to wade through negativity and speculation to find the truth. When you do you will become a wiser and more knowledgeable bearded dragon owner.

As always, take everything with a grain of sand….err…..I mean salt and do what’s best for you and your bearded dragon.

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