There are so many ways to create an awesome looking bearded dragon habitat without spending a lot of money. Getting a nice looking substrate can help here. Still, most people use newspaper or reptile carpet as substrate. Why do they do that? Is sand bad for bearded dragons?
Sand is not bad for bearded dragons. Sand is way better than reptile carpet for bearded dragons as it allows digging, which is a natural behavior in bearded dragons. Many pet bearded dragon owners are worried that their bearded dragon might eat the sand and get impacted from it. However, this can be avoided by ensuring a sufficient calcium intake in the bearded dragon.
I am pretty sure that you need some further explanation and this is absolutely understandable. Further, you can´t use every sand there is for your bearded dragon tank. Continue to read to learn more.
Is Sand Bad For Bearded Dragons?
So, as I said, sand is not bad for bearded dragons, but it can be bad for your bearded dragon in some cases. Those case are easily avoidable, though.
The number one reasons why most bearded dragon owners do not use sand is that they fear that their bearded dragon could get impacted. And yes, it is true, bearded dragons can get impacted from eating too much sand, but it is important to know why beardies eat sand.
As you probably know, bearded dragons need a lot of calcium at all times. Calcium is needed for growth and to keep a bearded dragon´s bones solid and healthy. Bearded dragons need vitamin D to process that calcium. Beardies in captivity can only produce vitamin D if you have a UVB bulb with a sufficient UVB output installed.
However, you can have the best UVB lamp in the world, if your bearded dragon does not get enough calcium, it will get sick. If your bearded dragon gets enough calcium, but you have no sufficient UVB lamp, it will get sick.
In the wild, bearded dragons exactly know what they need and they know how to get what they need. The Australian sun has a sufficient UVB output, so we don´t really need to talk about that, but how do bearded dragons get their calcium in the wild?
I mean, in the wild, there is no human who dusts their food with calcium, right?
Bearded dragons get their calcium in two ways. First, the food they eat in the wild contains way more calcium than the feeder insects we feed our pet beardies. It is a fact that wild insects contain way more vitamins and minerals than the mass-produced insects we feed them.
Second, bearded dragons eat dirt to get enough calcium. And this is the root of our problem and also the solution for our problem.
Bearded dragons can feel if they need more calcium and by eating dirt, they balance their minerals.
So every bearded dragon owner who has a bearded dragon that got impacted from eating sand did not ensure that their bearded dragon got enough calcium at all times. Not the sand is the problem, wrong supplementation is the problem.
Why Wild Bearded Dragons Do Not Suffer From Impaction
You might ask yourself now, why our pet bearded dragons get impacted from eating sand, but wild bearded dragons do not get impacted by doing this.
One reason for that is that bearded dragons do not live in the desert. I know that many pet shops say that they come from the desert, because they are not properly educated on all pets they sell. Bearded dragons come from the dry woodlands of Australia there isn´t too much sand.
The dirt they eat is a mix of soil, maybe a little bit sand, maybe some leaves and so on.
The other reason for that is, that the ground in Australia actually contains the minerals a bearded dragon needs. The sand we use for our bearded dragon habitats does not contain calcium and that is why pet bearded dragons eat sand over and over again.
They feel that they need more calcium and they think that they would get it by eating more sand. That is their natural behavior, but in captivity it is a sure way to get impacted.
So What Can You Do About It?
There is an easy fix for this problem and, no, the solution is not using reptile carpet, newspaper or kitchen roll for your bearded dragon tank. I mean, do you really feel good seeing your bearded dragon living in a glass tank that has no similarity to their natural habitat at all?
Bearded dragons love to dig. Digging is a very natural behavior in them, they love to dig caves and hide in them, they like to sleep in those caves and they simply like to bury themselves in sand.
So in order to give your bearded dragon the possibility to do that, you have to make sure that you offer enough calcium at all times.
Dusting every single feeder insect with calcium is a good start, but it might not be enough and your beardie might continue to eat sand.
That´s why you have to additionally offer calcium in a food bowl at all times.
I love to use sepia for this. I simply shred the sepia so that my bearded dragon can get small pieces of it whenever it wants. I don´t recommend to use calcium powder for that as it might be too fine for your beardie to eat. Get the sepia I recommend here.
Even if you do not see your bearded dragon eat that sepia, it will do so if it feels it needs it. I know people who believed that their bearded dragon does not need it, but the day came when they saw their bearded dragon crawling straight to the calcium bowl and eat a nice piece of sepia.
Don´t Freak Out If Your Bearded Dragon Eats Sand
If you offer enough calcium at all times and you made sure that your bearded dragon is healthy, there is no need to freak out if you see your bearded dragon eating some sand. Bearded dragons like to lick on stuff and it is not uncommon that they also lick on sand or eat a little bit of it.
A little bit of sand from time to time will not kill your bearded dragon, so just stay relaxed.
Is Sand Bad For Juvenile Bearded Dragons?
Juvenile bearded dragons are known for having a bad aiming when it comes to eating food. Their aiming gets better when they get older. Many people are worried that their baby bearded dragon could get impacted by eating sand accidentally. That´s why most pet baby bearded dragons are kept on newspaper.
However, if your baby bearded dragon gets enough calcium at all times, you should not have any problems with keeping your baby beardie on sand.
Yes, they eat sand from time to time accidentally, but it rarely is that much that they get impacted from it. Calcium deficiency is the real problem here.
Is Calcium Sand Bad For Bearded Dragons?
Even though calcium sand is okay for bearded dragons to eat, it can still happen that your bearded dragon eats too much of it and get impacted. That is why it is recommended to not use calcium sand, but to use normal sand and offer a bowl with sepia instead which ensures a sufficient calcium intake.
Is Play Sand Safe For Bearded Dragons?
Play sand is way cheaper than buying substrate in a pet shop and it can actually be used for a bearded dragon habitat. However, it should be made sure that the play sand is free from any pesticides and the play sand should always be mixed with clay.
Using only sand as substrate over a long period of time can be bad for your bearded dragon´s joints. That´s why it is recommended to mix it with clay. A ratio of 1:5 (clay:sand) is absolutely okay here.
This way your bearded dragon is still able to digg, but the substrate is firm enough so that your bearded dragon does not sink in all the time.
Here Is The Substrate I Recommend
I love to use the Excavator Burrowing Clay from Zoomed, which you can get here. Don´t get me wrong, I do not have a contract with Zoomed, I just think that this substrate is simply awesome to create a good looking, appropriate bearded dragon habitat.
You can create hills and caves with this clay, it is easy to clean and it is very easy to mix. I have written an entire article on that clay, click here to read it.
The video below shows you how the clay looks and what you can do with it.
I really hope that this article encourages a lot of people to create a habitat for their bearded dragon that is more natural. I think that newspaper or reptile carpet is not a good substrate for bearded dragons even though it is cheap and easy to clean.
If this article encouraged you to use some sand, leave a comment below. If you have some questions you can leave a message as well.
So, is sand bad for bearded dragons? Absolutely not!
I have always used sand for my beardis and had no problems at all! It was only when a photo of him in his cage got banned from a Facebook group of dragon owners that I even decided to research what the problem was!
thank you for your comments.
Yes, unfortunately, a lot of those people do not really do their research on that topic and get angry at people who are keeping their reptiles in a different way from them. I really feel sorry for their beardies as they have to live in a prison their whole life.
Good to hear that you are keeping your bearded dragon in a more natural habitat
Keep up the good work! Wish you and your bearded dragon all the best!