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Views on sand as substrate

Discussion in 'Substrates/Bedding/Flooring' started by Julie&brad, Nov 28, 2004.

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  1. beardiehaven

    beardiehaven Member

    i hate sand I have seen as a vet tech alot of lizards die and when we did the necropsy there hole tummies were just full of it I personally use cage carpet for all ages and have never had a problem
  2. Dadx2mj

    Dadx2mj Member

    I have to agree that the pictures alone are not absolute proof. My point is that there is obviously some controversy over the use of sand. I think it is hard to argue that it is some what of a risk and there are safer substrates to use. My attitude is why take the chance? I had my Beardie on it for a long time before I learned of the risks. Now I use Wheat Bran and like it so much better than the sand I just dont see any benefit to using the sand. Like I said though to each their own
  3. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I am cutting and pasting a previous post that I have written. It explains impaction in relation to leopard geckos. Overall however, it explains impaction and how impactions are created. This aspect of my post would cover all species of reptile as impaction is the same in all. It is an obstruction.

    I feel that sand is a "safe" substrate for bearded dragons that have reached adulthood. Smaller dragons, as with most if not all reptiles, should be kept off ALL particulate substrates. The smaller the intestinal tract, the more likely the animal will become impacted.

    This is my previous post:

    There are 2 types of impaction. (Well there is one type of impaction, as the result is always the same. However, there are two "classes" of impaction.)

    The first type of impaction is the "Acute" impaction.

    An acute impaction is the result of consuming anything that can become logged in the intestinal tract or other vital organs. This can be sand,gravel,rocks,or prey that is too large;among other things. This type of impaction is sudden and the problems that arise will become noticeable far faster than the second class of impaction. In many instances, an observant caretaker will notice behavioral changes with the reptile and after seeking veterinary assistance, will be able to save the reptile.

    The second, and far more dangerous type of impaction is the "chronic" impaction.

    The term chronic means anything that is persisting for a long period of time or duration. The US National Center for Health Statistics defines it as a condition of 3 months duration or longer.

    When the term chronic and impaction are placed together, you now have an impaction that is accumulating over a long duration.

    This type of impaction is extremely dangerous because there are very few signs that anything is wrong. In fact, most reptiles that are victims of a chronic impaction will not show many signs of illness until their problems have already surfaced and it is most often too late to do anything about it. (This type of impaction can take years before it shows itself and is noticeable.)

    What happens with this type of impaction is that the item in question, most often sand, has individual particles that adhere to the intestinal tract. A majority of the substrate passes, but one or more grains will remain adhered. The intestinal tract now has a tiny speed bump in its lining. In the beginning, this is not much of an issue. Food and other particulates will still pass. However, over time, other grains accumulate and adhere to the initial "speed bump." This in turn,creates a larger "speed bump".

    As the "bump" increases in size over time and by accumulation, a dangerous blockage is being created. The opening of the intestinal tract is reduced in circumference dramatically and this makes it more difficult for food and other particulates to pass. The digestive process is slowed down dramatically and the absorption of needed vitamins and nutrients is not being met.

    This can cause 2 immediate types of problems. The first is the onset of an acute impaction resulting from the leopard geckos need to add calcium to its diet. Though it is available, the blockage is preventing the necessary amounts to be digested. The primary cause of an acute impaction though is due to a lack of vitamins and nutrients in the diet. The Leo in turn begins eating the substrate directly in an attempt to gain the required nutrients. Now you have an acute impaction that has amassed from a chronic impaction.

    What could also happen is toxicity. A leopard gecko that has either an acute impaction or a chronic impaction will defecate less and less. In some instances, defecation ceases all together. This causes a buildup of "toxic" substances in the body. With the severe accumulation of sand in the intestinal tract, stomach, and bowel; the reptile can not pass any of these substances and their blood becomes "poisoned". This can lead to a sudden, "unexplainable" death in the leopard gecko. It can also lead to tremors, convulsions, lack of appetite, lethargy,etc.

    Particulate substrates are always going to be a controversial debate.Every reptile that is subjected to particulate substrates is going to be subjected to the chance that their reptile is going to succumb to an impaction.(Every enthusiast agrees that the chance is always there.) The chance of an impaction is more severe in smaller reptiles that have smaller intestinal tracts to begin with.

    With leopard geckos, it is highly advised to use alternative substrates. Shale,granite, and other larger "rocky" materials can create a beautiful enclosure without the chance that the substrate will be consumed. Also, fabrics can make wonderful substrates as well.

    Here is a picture of one of the enclosures that I have designed for my Leos. notice that the substrate appears to be sand. Also note that their are live cacti in the tank.


    There are no substrates that are 100% safe. There is always some sort of risk involved. With adult bearded dragons, the risk of an impaction is lower than that of a smaller reptile. This is due to the size of the animal and its internal organs. Larger organs passing sand will have a much easier time than that of a reptile who's organs are significantly smaller. I won't say that sand is 100% safe with adults. As with all particulate substrates, the risk of impaction is very real. Its a judgment call when dealing with particular species.
    When asked about sand and leopard geckos, I say no. When asked about sand and adult bearded dragons, I don't object.
  4. CodyW

    CodyW Elite Member

    IMO there is no chance when a natural substrate is used correctly and responsibly. The bags of sand sold in petstores is not natural, and is totally incorrect as to replicating the natural habitat for any animal. A nice packed clay may be more appropriate for beardies, but thats not my area so I'm not sure. I agree with you that "some" sand is dangerous, for that matter any incorrect substrate is dangerous. It's just that I do not feel that I am endagering my animals by having them on something other than paper/shelf liners/ or carpet.
  5. Demonic_Rage

    Demonic_Rage Elite Member

    I have used sand in my beardie cage for quite some time. I have had no problems with it. I feed him his greens inside his cage. But his food bowl is not directly on the sand it sits on top a rock so there is no danger there. IMO is safe for adult beardies not little ones. I don't keep anything in the little beardie cage. they don't have the best of aim when devoring there crixs. Everyone has there own views on this issue.
  6. Julie&brad

    Julie&brad Elite Member

    We have all different opinions on this and thats what this thread was about to get different views on it. Make your own choices!!!! I am new here and just wanted some new opinions on it!
  7. Dominick

    Dominick Founding Member

    An excellent and necessary discussion. It's threads like this that help us realize when things are right or wrong and when it is necessary to correct husbandry.

    Julie & Brad, I have been involved in several threads concerning substrates, so far this one has gone well. Some have been disasterous.

    Let's not forget we are all here to share opinions, not determine what is right and wrong. Substrate is a personal choice and voicing personal opinion is good forum business. Let's keep that up!
  8. Kikai

    Kikai Elite Member

    I have a home made 2 room enclosure for my Beardie that has newspaper and his feeding area on one side, and sand with rocks and wood on the other. I didn't put him in it until after he reached adult size, and he seems to enjoy it. He basks under the heat on the sand side, and sleeps under his hide on the newspaper side. No health issues.
  9. Julie&brad

    Julie&brad Elite Member

    Thank you Dominick!!! Im always up for new ideas and opinionsand just wanted to know how this forum felt about sand.
    Kikai, could you post a pic of your enclosure, sounds interesting with the 2 rooms.
  10. Bitis Gabonica

    Bitis Gabonica Elite Member

    We use sand with our adult bearded dragons and adult collared lizards - no problems so far. I'm not disputing that it has risks, just as most substrates have, but it comes down to personal experience and preference in the end.

    For our younger lizards we use paper towels - quick, cheap and risk-free, but we prefer the natural look for our adults, and they seem to prefer the sand as well.

    There will always be a debate over the safety and use of sand, but it's down to the individual to weigh up risks and facts i think.
  11. Julie&brad

    Julie&brad Elite Member

    I agree! I mean, we use to use sand when we didnt know the risks but now we do. I would just hate to know i put them back on sand and knew the risks and something happen to them. Then it would be our fault!
  12. jobuddha

    jobuddha New Member

    I used wheat bran when i first got my BD's. The stuff was easy to get and cheap (50 pound bag for about $6 at feed store). The problem was the mold. The wheat bran is great at hiding the feces and keeping it completely clean became a problem. I have since switched to sand and have no problmes with using sand as a substrate. This being said, I feed my BD's on a plate and never leave uneaten food in the cage.
  13. Julie&brad

    Julie&brad Elite Member

    To each ther own!!! I just choose not to use sand!! But your right about the wheat bran hiding the feces. Its like a scavenger hunt, but we clean it often and seem to get evrythign out!!
  14. KrokadilyanGuy3

    KrokadilyanGuy3 Elite Member

    I was thinking about this a few days ago and realized no is has discussed the different types of sand out there. Like Playsand, from what I remember is very fine and is easily compacted when wet. I believe a lot of playsand is also made with silica, which isn't good in it's own sense. Sand from the beach is just as fine. The sand I use are parts of lime stone and slate, My source from a River in Oklahoma and it does not clump together when moist or wet and I have no doubt that it works for my animals. Most of the said documents, I would imagine being playsand since that is the easiest source of sand to obtain and being said, I would understand how an animal would become impacted.
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