The Bearded Dragon [Pogona Vitticeps] is one of the most popular pet lizards in the United States, after the Leopard Gecko. The Bearded Dragon is especially popular amongst beginners looking for their first reptile pet, mostly because they’re low maintenance and fun to watch.
Bearded Dragons are small, easy to care for, accessible, and fun to watch. These diurnal creatures are native to the arid, rocky, semi-desert regions in inland Australia. They eat a mix of animal and plant protein.
Knowing all these facts about the Bearded Dragon makes it a bit easier to determine what the best substrate choices are for them mostly because the best possible habitat for a captive bearded dragon is one that mimics their natural environment.
5 Things To Consider When Buying Sand Substrate
Before we dive right into the best sand substrates for bearded dragons, let’s first take a look at some of the most important things you should look for when trying to buy the best sand substrate for your pet bearded dragon.
5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A BEARDED DRAGON SAND SUBSTRATE
Regardless of the type of substrate you’re using in your bearded dragon’s cage, you will have to change it from time to time, making the price an essential factor.
While high-quality sand substrates may cost a lot more than the medium-priced sands, paying TOO much money for the substrate alone may not be a very good idea on the long run.
Safety should be your #1 concern when it comes to sand substrate for your bearded dragon. Some substrates are treated with chemicals, which can pose a real danger to your dragon’s health.
You will also have to make sure you only use finer grain size to avoid a chocking or impaction. Generally, this happens when the bearded dragon is trying to eat something that too big for him to be able to swallow the darn thing.
Honestly, I don’t thing sand substrate is the best option if cleaning and maintenance is something you’d like to avoid completely. However, sand is fairly easy to scoop out, but how easy it is to do so depends on a number of factors such as the size of the grains, the brand, the material of which is made, etc.
Personally, when it comes to cleaning I think carpet substrate is the easiest one to clean and maintain. Here’s an article I wrote a while ago called 5 BEST Bearded Dragon Carpet Substrates that I recommend you to read if you’d like to explore other substrate options.
The first thing you should be on the lookout for when looking to purchase bearded dragon sand substrate is its composition. Basically, all you have to do here is ensure the substrate you’d like to use for your dragon’s cage hasn’t been treated with chemicals.
To avoid that, make sure to only buy sand substrates from pet stores, but even when doing so, ensure the substrate hasn’t been treated with chemicals since there are a few such options out there that are better to avoid.
Amazon is another great choice for buying sand substrates for your bearded dragon as you will have access to other’s people opinions and personal experience with that particular sand.
Let’s face it, I am not judging anyone but most pet stores employees are not really qualified to lay down for you the best substrate material or make any recommendations.
Grain size is very important as well. Always look for finer, small grains to avoid any possible health issues in bearded dragons such as chocking or impaction.
BEST Bearded Dragon Sand Substrates
Read below to check out my top recommendations for the BEST bearded dragon sand substrates, in no particular order. You will find sand substrates suited for any maintenance preferences, budget, and cage setup.
1. Bearded Dragon Sand Substrate Option #1: Natural Red
The Natural Red Sand by Zoo Med is a cheap, color-free, and excellent heat-conductor. With a 10 pounds bag size of sand for substrate, this one gives you the chance to test the waters before you commit.
This one is also made from all natural quartz desert sand, no dyes or colors added and great for dragons that enjoy digging.
Due to its red look, this sand creates a very naturalistic environment for desert reptiles such as the bearded dragon, but also for sand boas, soft turtle shells, and many other sand reptiles.
The overall look of the sand is VERY natural. Don’t expect to see a bright-red sand since it’s more like a rust or burnt orange color, but that’s how Australian sand looks as well, so…
Know that this sand is not 100% sand. It has small pieces of “ground” in it as well. There are some cons for this product as well, so let’s discuss the pros and cons next.
- Fine, Safe sand
- Good for burrowing
- Good heat-conductor
- Nice looking natural look
- So fine that covers everything in red in the aquarium, including the bearded dragon
- Not very easy to keep clean due to how fine it is
This 10 pounds bad of red natural sand is fairly priced.
2. Bearded Dragon Sand Substrate Option #2: Desert White
This Desert White Substrate Sand by Zoo Med is the same as the previous one except it is white instead of red. It is a bit cheaper since it comes in a 10 pounds bag.
Same as the previous one, this sand is chemical-free, fairly-priced, high quality Zoo Med product made from natural quartz desert sand, great for bearded dragons that wish to exhibit their natural cooling behaviors [burrowing].
The price is good, the size is good, but as with almost any type of sand substrate it may be a bit more difficult to keep clean.
3. Bearded Dragon Sand Substrate Option #2: Natural Terrarium Sand
This Natural Terrarium Sand by Zoo Med may cost a bit more than the other options from my list, but with 20 pounds of sand for substrate you will be set for a while.
Zoo Med is a pillar in the industry and their products are the best of the best, which is why 4 out of 5 bearded dragon sand substrates from my list are Zoo Med products.
This Natural Sand Substrate by Zoo Med is made from natural quartz desert sand. This is especially a nice to have sand since it simulates the natural habitat of the bearded dragon, with the red color being the being natural in the Australian desert environment.
With digging being one of the cooling behaviors bearded dragons exhibit not only in their natural environment but in captivity as well, this sand also simulates natural digging behavior.
Since we already covered the importance of chemical-free sands for substrates, it is only obvious that the #1 recommendation on my list is chemical-free so you don’t have worry in case your dragon swallows small portions of sand.
- Mimics the natural environment of the bearded dragon
- 100% Safe, Chemical-Free
- The manufacturer is a pillar in the reptile industry
- Fairly-priced, high quality sand substrate with good reviews on Amazon
- Perfect size
- Sticks to the container when wet
- A bit harder to clean because it sticks to the container when wet
- Not too many complaints about this particular product
4. Bearded Dragon Sand Substrate Option #4: Natural Sedona
The Natural Sedona Sand Substrate by Reptile Sciences is a medium-priced natural terrarium sand by Reptile Sciences. The substrate comes in a 10 pounds bag, meaning you may need to replace it a few times a year at least depending on your dragon’s needs.
The #1 thing I like about this sand is that it is made from Calcium Carbonate. Honestly, this sand won’t match a dragon’s environment but it fine to use for captive dragons now and then.
However, the Calcium present in the sand is what I am really excited about because it provides your dragon with a way to naturally absorb some extra calcium. The sand has natural purifying properties as well, meaning waster and bacteria are unlikely to survive if using this sand as substrate for your bearded dragon.
5. Bearded Dragon Sand Substrate Option #5: Walnut Shells Desert Blend
The Walnut Shells Desert Blend by Zilla is not exactly sand, but the ground up walnut shells make a great material for bearded dragon substrate. The walnut shells used in this particular substrate simulate the natural material while also providing the bearded dragon with additional benefits.
Made from natural English Walnuts, this product is created for desertlike reptiles including bearded dragons. Designed to give your dragon’s cage a more creative and attractive look.
The walnuts used for this substrate offers your bearded dragon with the perfect environment for burrowing and hiding, while also retaining heat very well. The substrate can be used for other desert reptiles as well.
While sand substrate can sometimes scratch the sides of your dragon’s tank, walnut substrate will not do that. Lastly, this is not exactly the type of substrate bearded dragons encounter in their natural habitat but it does mimic the overall look and feel pretty decently.
Buyer’s Tip: For this particular product, the grain size may be a bit too large for baby and juvenile bearded dragons.
How OFTEN To Replace Bearded Dragon Sand Substrates
How often you change your dragon’s sand substrate it really depends on how messy he is. If your dragon likes to shred and spread any salad and food items you put in there, you may have to change the sand more often than usual.
As a general rule, as long as you spot clean your dragon’s cage on a daily basis you should be on the safe side of things. Apart from spot cleaning, when using sand substrate I personally recommend deep cleaning once a month.
There are bearded dragon owners out there changing their dragon’s substrate every single day [that might get a bit expensive so I don’t recommend you do so], while other only change the substrate every 3 month. It all comes down to your dragon’s personality and how much of a mess he makes on a daily basis.
PRO Tip: Ideally, sand substrate should be changed once a month as long as you perform spot cleaning on a daily basis and deep cleaning once a month.
Sand Substrate Is SAFE For Bearded Dragons
Let me start by saying that if you’re the proud owner of a Juvenile or Baby bearded dragon I recommend that you stay away from sand substrates altogether. While sand substrates are as safe as carpet substrates, the risk of your dragon eating its substrate and chocking while still a baby is WAY higher.
The BEST practice is to start with a carpet substrate for the first 3 to 6 months and then if you’re looking for a more natural substrate, you can just switch to sand substrate.
Most people have the wrong idea that sand is the absolute worst type of substrate for bearded dragons, but that could not be more wrong than that. And here’s why:
It’s no secret that bearded dragons are native to sandy, rocky terrains, so they do have access to sand in their natural habitat but no cases of impaction of sand-related diseases have been discovered in wild bearded dragons.
The reason for that is that bearded know exactly where to find the perfect calcium-rich foods [both wild animals and plants]. There’s one thing a lot of owners don’t know and that is that bearded dragons need a lot of calcium and when failing to gain access to the perfect amount of calcium in the wild, they use to feed on dirt to acquire the calcium he/she needs.
To get things even further, bearded dragons like to dig and take cover in the sand from time to time to regulate their body temperature [when the cage is too hot], so from that perspective sand is even better than carpet substrate.
In conclusion, not the sand substrate is the problem, the unbalanced, low on supplements diet is what will drive most captive bearded dragons to feed on sand.