While once commonly used by beardie owners, bearded dragon sand is no longer recommended as a substrate for bearded dragons. It seemed that since bearded dragons hail from the deserts of Australia, in terms of replicating their environment, bearded dragon sand made the best substrate.
For those of you not familiar with the term, substrate, refers bearded dragon bedding or flooring in their tank.
However, as bearded dragons emerged from an underground to mainstream pet, more information has become available to veterinarians, breeders and others who work with these fascinating creatures. In simple terms the sand along with conditions that exist in the desert of Australia cannot be accurately replicated in terms of humidity, rain, type of sand inside of the tank in your bedroom.
While there is a small chance of ingesting loose particles, recent studies show that 1 of the top 3 causes of bearded dragon deaths are related to impaction. Impaction is the process in which they essentially inhale or ingest loose particles while they are either eating or exploring their tank/enclosure with their tongue. As these particles are foreign to them and/or they carry bacteria the bearded dragon is not able to properly digest those particles and as a result get sick.
Along with bearded dragon sand, other once popular substrates can cause the same issues. Largely the popularity of bearded dragon sand along with other similar substrates came from trends in personalization of tanks and enclosures. However, little information from a scientific or research perspective was known at that time about the potential risks that could occur. Over time, these articles continued to rank at the top of internet search engines making it difficult for new and more accurate information to be shared widely among the community.
So currently in addition to bearded dragon sand, we highly advise against the use of walnut shells, potting soil, calci sand, dirt from your backyard or garden, wood shavings or rocks/pebbles. You should also be mindful that your bearded dragon goes potty in his tank. And even if you clean it right away, bearded dragon sand and loose substrate can carry bacteria and germs not seen by the human eye. Imagine your dragon is walking around in this stuff.
Instead of bearded dragon sand we recommend slate tiles or a sand mat. Slate tiles can are heavy but best in terms of ease of cleaning. Reptile carpet also makes a good substrate. Just make sure that the reptile carpet stays trim as sometimes your beardies toenails can get caught in there and unwind it or rip it. As an environmental friendly team at Raising Bearded Dragons we prefer newspapers (black and white) to paper towels, although both work as a far superior alternative to bearded dragon sand.
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