4 ‘Pros and Cons’ of Sand for a Bearded Dragon

There are so many choices when it comes to choosing the right bedding to put into our bearded dragon’s environment. In an online search, sand usually comes up as one of the main options.

Bearded dragons are amazing animals, and it’s not difficult to keep these friendly reptiles happy and thriving in our homes.

It’s actually quite easy to do this as long as we follow some important guidelines when building their home.

Reasons for Sand for Your Bearded Dragon

In making a bearded dragon’s environment, we need to make sure that it gives them shelter, stimulation and protection.

Bedding often used for bearded dragons can be divided into two categories: loose particle substrates and non-particle substrates.

Non-particle substrates are mostly seen as the safest option. Loose particle substrates include sand, millet, wood chips, wood shavings or alfalfa.

Before placing them into an enclosure there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind. This means we need to carefully weigh out the pros and cons of using any type of loose bedding.

We will be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the use of sand as bedding.

After this, we can come to a decision on if sand is the best choice for a bearded dragon’s home. Or maybe other options are a better alternative.

The Australian Desert

In the wild, bearded dragons live in a varied environment which is made up of many types of materials.

Even though their natural habitat is described as the Australian ‘desert’, it isn’t a desert in the usual sense.

Their home isn’t a golden sandy landscape but the rocky and dry environment.

This means that using sand alone as bedding isn’t really replicating the natural habitat of bearded dragons.

The Australian desert is a mix of gravel, rocks and packed clay, dirt and soil. The soil is dry and usually as hard as concrete because it is made up of weathered clays.

Truly replicating a bearded dragon’s natural habitat would be to use a mixture of loose and non-particle substrates.

Why The Type of Sand Matters

Sand comes in a huge amount of shapes, materials and types. With a bearded dragon’s home, the type of sand used as bedding can make all the difference.

Many of the sands designed especially for reptiles contain quartz or calcium.

This is meant to replicate the sand bearded dragons are used to in the wild.

Despite this, there is some debate in the bearded dragon community on if the sand sold in pet stores is actually safe or not.

Playground sand is usually seen as a better option for sand as a substrate. The reason for this is because it looks less appetising to bearded dragons so they’re less likely to eat it.

Sand is made up of many different types of rocks and minerals and is available in larger and smaller grains.

Larger grains are more of a problem because they can either cause choking or blockages in the digestive system.

In comparison, smaller grains are safer because they’re easier to pass through the gut.

The Case Against Using Sand: Risks and Dangers

One of the biggest risks of using sand for bearded dragons is the danger of impaction. Gut impaction happens when a bearded dragon consumes objects it shouldn’t be eating.

Whilst these look small in appearance, they gradually up over time and lead to uncomfortable and serious blockages.

Unless they are treated immediately, there is a risk of major health problems and even death from these intestinal blockages.

It’s easy to see why some owners of bearded dragons prefer to not use sand for their beloved reptiles.

Age is another important factor. No matter what type of sand, it is never recommended for infants or young bearded dragons.

The reason for this is because they’re at much more risk of accidentally consuming it and developing blockages.

Benefits of Using Sand

Bearded dragons come from the Australian desert. Sand is just one of the many materials found in their natural environment.

In their homeland, they love digging through sand, rocks and soil and making tunnels for shelter and protection.

For example, if a bearded dragon is feeling warm, it can create a cooling burrow like it would in the wild.

Because it is a loose material, sand allows bearded dragons to imitate this natural behaviour in an artificial setting.

Still, there are safer substrates that would allow bearded dragons to enjoy themselves without the risk of impaction.

Zoomed Excavator Clay Substrate

A clay burrowing substrate that hardens to hold its shape is a very common and popular choice for a bearded dragon’s enclosure.

Children’s playground sand is usually seen as a fairly safe choice when it comes to a sandy bedding material.

It is worth considering that blockages in bearded dragons usually don’t happen just because of sand.

Any risk of impaction can be lessened if they have access to quality nutrition, water and lighting.

Impaction is often the result of a number of factors causing poor health, rather than a single cause.


Bearded dragons are incredible and wonderful reptiles, and of course, we want to make sure that they flourish and thrive.

It would seem that if sand is to be used for bedding, then children’s playground sand is the most suitable.

It is definitely preferable to the calcium-enriched sand usually sold in stores for reptiles.

The reason for this is because it is made up of smaller grains and is less dusty.

However, there is always the possibility of intestinal blockages with sand, no matter its type.

Sand can also make maintaining hygiene in a bearded dragon’s home more difficult.

For many of us who keep bearded dragons, easier options are available. There are so many other choices available when it comes to creating a loving and safe environment for these fascinating creatures.

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  • About Matthew Cantell

    I was just 15 years of age when I first met a bearded dragon. It was at my friend's house and I instantly grew an immediate attraction to, what has now become, my favourite animal on the planet! Making fantastic pets for both children and adults alike, they each have their own personality and are certainly full of character. There are, though, some important things that we should all know when it comes to caring for these amazing animals!
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