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Substrate For Bearded Dragons

Discussion in 'Bearded Dragons' started by GobyMaster11276, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. Hi guys, I'm having trouble deciding what kind of substrate to use. I have cancelled out sand due to risk of them eating it. What else can I use? Are pebbles suitable? Thanks.
  2. Also, if I use pebbles, could I reuse them? Like, wash them like fish gravel?
  3. AmityReptiles

    AmityReptiles Well Established Member

    Hi! Pebbles would be suitable as long as they are large enough that they can't be eaten. And yes they can be washed, I would periodically use a pet safe antibacterial/antimicrobial to wash them in to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
    Other substrates that can be used is reptile carpet, tile, wood flooring, dry coconut fiber husk, paper products like newsprint. And I'm sure there are others.
    GobyMaster11276 likes this.
  4. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, I recommend a chemical free soil/playsand mix @ a depth of around 6 inches or so, firmly tamped down and very slightly moist so it holds together, that will allow the dragon to dig and burrow, perfectly natural behaviours. Reptile carpet, paper towels, similar are awful substitutes for the "real thing". Particulate substrates do not in themselves cause impactions, insufficient temps and to some degree humidity do...
    Ingesting bits of substrate would be extremely common in the wild, I have not noticed the bush being full of dead Bearded dragons due to impaction, they have evolved over millions of years to live that way.
    Over the last few years the hobby has moved on regarding the use of particulate substrates, it can benefit them greatly.
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  5. dp428

    dp428 Established Member

    I think coconut fiber would be the next best thing if you were too worried about sand because at least he can pass the coconut fiber. But it doesn't seem like it would replicate his natural habitat very well
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  6. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member


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  7. AmityReptiles

    AmityReptiles Well Established Member

    Many things are common in the wild that aren't beneficial to the animals... they're also covered in ticks and mites. I have to disagree there is a lot of evidence that points to sand as being dangerous for captive bred bearded dragons. Many keepers I know personally that have had their beardies die because of sand impaction. If it's a risk why take it when there are other options?
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  8. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    The reason they become impacted is because the conditions aren`t fully supportive, particularly the basking surface temps which means the animal cannot function efficiently. Please put up the details of the many people you know who`s animals died when all the conditions did (supposedly) support the animal.
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  9. AmityReptiles

    AmityReptiles Well Established Member

    I don't think it is necessary, or appropriate for me to drop names for you to (possibly) criticize or ridicule their care methods.
    Instead why don't you list the resources that you have found to support the claim that sand is always safe substrate for captive bred animals?
    Young beardies are notorious for licking everything around them. Here is a quote from reptiles magazine: "Sand is commonly used with bearded dragons, though there is concern, especially when keeping young lizards, that intestinal impaction could result if they accidentally eat some. It is not recommended that you keep young bearded dragons on sand, or any kind of loose substrate. Newspaper, paper toweling or reptile carpet (though watch for loose threads or areas that can snag dragon toenails) would be better choices."
    Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

    And even if it is just a care thing, which I definitely agree that has at least some impact, would you take the chance that the new owner doesn't get the care req's perfectly and it results in a dead lizard?
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  10. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    A typical caresheet "written" (most likely copied from others recommending exactly the same things).
    The "author" recommends using screen tops, that will make the internal conditions at least somewhat difficult to stabilise, almost a guaranteed way to ensure the animal will not be fully supported in some respects (very risky).
    He then recommends a basking surface temp of around 100f which is too low if that`s the whole basking area surface. 80f for the "cool side" is somewhat high, I would advise around 21 to 24c (72 to 75f). Nighttime, no need to go below 19c (68f) (unless the animal is brumating).
    No mention of a suitable humidity range other than it shouldn`t get too humid (agreed) but what`s too humid or too dry?
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017
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  11. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Sorry, I ran out of time (slow finger)... What has being bred in captivity got to do with using a particulate substrate?
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  12. AmityReptiles

    AmityReptiles Well Established Member

    This will be a never ending debate as it always is. And if you are unable to provide links to support your claim that sand is always safe, (instead of just criticizing based on your personal opinion) I guess it will be up to the OP to decide what he feels the safer course of action is.
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  13. Qwerty3159

    Qwerty3159 Elite Member

    @AmityReptiles a soil and sand mixture firmly pressed down and held together with a bit of moisture is absolutely nothing like loose sand at all. (If we pretend the dragons don't, at least in some areas at some times, live on loose sand itself)
  14. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Ok. Before this gets out of hand let me say that each keeper makes decisions with regard to substrate.Some want to replicate a natural environment. And any natural environment can include some hazards. Some choose to negate those hazards by choosing not to use a particulate substrate. Does this make them wrong, no. There is no evidence that a dragon living on large rocks or a covered bottom are any better or worse off than one living on a sand substrate. These animals have never seen the wild. They have been raised in captivity for hundreds of generations. As long as all appropriate living conditions are met...including an egg laying area for females, what they are walking on is not that big an issue. And as far as impaction not occurring in the wild, perhaps it does.

    "I have not noticed the bush being full of dead Bearded dragons due to impaction,"

    This is not really a fair statement since any sick or dying dragons would be eaten by predators.

    A spirited discussion is one thing but let's not let it get nasty.

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