Sand, the big debate: Bearded Dragons

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Pets
Tags: , , ,

Bearded dragons have become increasingly popular over the years due to their mini dinosaur looks and mega laid back personalities. They make wonderful pets and as with your average furry pets love attention.

Bearded dragon at Blijdorp Zoo

Due to their habitat in the wild it is a common assumption that the best substrate to house a bearded dragon on is sand, this however is not the case. While many people experience no problems with housing their beardies on sand, others are not so lucky. It is a common behaviour for bearded dragons, especially the young, to lick rocks, decorations and sand in their enclosures. When swallowed the sand can build up and cause gut impaction, a serious and frequently fatal disorder.

Some dragon owners would suggest sand is fine so long as they are fed food in bowls and refrain from feeding live animals so as not to increase accidental intake of sand. Crickets and other insects are great enrichment and nutritionally valuable to the bearded dragon so best not left out of the diet. In addition the sand licking problem will also be present.

The other theory is that so long as the bearded dragon is fully matured, sand should be ok as this curious licking behaviour is hardly present, still the same feeding problems exist and surely it is better not left to risk?

There are many different types of sand but the most dangerous is calci-sand, sometimes beardies can grow to like the taste and when the calcium carbonate in the sand gets wet it can solidify in the animal’s stomach and gut. The other dodgy sand type is normal play sand, play sand contains silica which is harmful to the lungs and the dust it gives of has been found to be harmful to bearded dragons.
So long as they have plenty of places to hide, bask, climb and a small area to express digging behaviour (using safe large particle substrates) then while it may seem bare, a simple tiled enclosure is probably the safest option.

This is all of course open to debate however from my research it is definitely better to be safe then sorry and avoid sand!


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