The bearded dragon's natural habitat is the sandy deserts and forests of central and southern Australia. Thus, including sand and coconut fiber in your dragon's enclosure helps him feel more comfortable, as these substrates resemble to his natural habitat. While these materials add an aesthetic to terrariums that other substrates just can't match, the most important thing to consider when using sand and coconut fiber in your dragon's enclosure is his health and safety.
Sand and coconut fiber are easy to keep clean and look pleasing in a terrarium. Sand also is low cost, while coconut fiber maintains moisture and humidity easil. The two substrates can also be mixed together if desired. Both are available in pet supply stores, making them easy to find. Providing your beardie with either sand or coconut fiber will help her feel comfortable and at home.
Still, the use of particulate substrates, including sand and coconut fiber, for bearded dragons is controversial. The Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital notes that keeping bearded dragons on any particulate substrate is not recommended because of the risk of intestinal impaction. Your bearded dragon may occasionally miss his food and ingest the substrate on the bottom of his cage. Both sand and coconut fiber are not digestible by him and can cause an intestinal impaction, which is life threatening.
If you want to use either or both of these materials as bedding in your dragon's enclosure, try to feed him outside of his cage or use a bowl in the cage to prevent accidental ingestion of particulate substrates. Also, provide him with plenty of fresh water to drink as this aids his digestive process. Following these steps can help prevent intestinal impaction.
If you decide to go the safe route with your bearded dragon and not use particulate substrates, you still have many options. Paper towels, tile, butcher paper, unprinted newspaper and reptile carpet all make fine alternatives to sand and coconut fiber. Although these materials are not as aesthetically pleasing, they are easy to clean, inexpensive and simple to find. You could also prevent an unwanted medical problem for your pet in the long run.
Ann Staub has worked with animals of all kinds as a veterinary technician for five years. She has a special interest in exotic pet care and husbandry. Since October 2012, She has been writing for her own pet blog, Pawsitively Pets. She received a diploma for Veterinary Assisting from Virginia College of Austin in Texas in 2007.