Why doesn't my bearded dragon eat
What is a good substrate for a bearded trench terrarium?
There are two basic types of substrates for bearded dragons, both have advantages and disadvantages, and it all depends on what you consider safe for your bearded dragon and what you can handle for cleaning.
In short, particulate substrates allow the bearded dragons to dig, which they love to do, but at risk of being harmed by ingesting the substrate. It can also be considered difficult or annoying to keep clean and needs to be replaced on a regular basis.
In the meantime, non-particulate substrates will eliminate the risk of impaction, but will most likely require other means for your bearded dragon to dig. Artificial surfaces can be difficult for bearded dragons to either catch on their talons or be too slippery to provide traction.
I have to admit, I have a personal preference for sand as of this writing, but sand is viewed by many reptile enthusiasts as a poor choice for a substrate due to its many health risks that are viewed as predominant.
Sand is the most common substrate marketed as a suitable substrate for bearded dragons. Since bearded dragons are native to the desert, it is easy to market sand as a desert substrate. In truth, a bearded dragon's natural substrate would be a mixture of hard dirt, clay, and stones.
Sand can be considered a poor choice for a bearded dragon's substrate for the following reasons: 1. Bearded dragons are messy eaters. So when you feed them in their terrarium, they inevitably take in some sand. Because sand is indigestible, there is a risk of impaction, a disease in which the bearded dragon's intestines become clogged, causing paralysis and death. 2. Bearded dragons "explore" with their mouths. This means that even if you do not feed them in their terrarium, there is a risk of impaction. Mine will still leak things in its enclosure that have been there since I was set up. 3. Sand is dusty, which can cause breathing problems if the bearded dragon inhales it. Or cause infection if it gets into the eyelids. 4. It depends on the person who takes care of the terrarium. However, sand can be considered difficult or annoying to keep clean. If feces are left behind, the sand easily harbors bacteria, which makes the terrarium smell. If not kept hygienic, your reptile is at higher risk of infection / parasites.
On the other hand, can wetter Sand can be one of the best substrates for a heavy female as she wants to bury her eggs.
A newer type of "sand" is being pushed that is said to be good for bearded dragons. The idea is that if bearded dragons eat some of the substrate, it might as well have calcium in it to make it better for them.
The bad part is that it's not actually sand, but calcium carbonate, which is found in limestone and chalk and is actually one of the main ingredients in TUMs. The side effects of this make it harder for your Bearded Dragon to digest their food due to the effect of neutralizing stomach acids. And when the bearded dragon feels like it needs more calcium in its food and eats more sand, the effect only gets worse.
For this reason, calci-sand should be avoided in favor of plain sand.
The calcium sand contains sand that has been colored in different colors. The problem with the dye is that it permanently stains the bearded dragon's skin. However, I am not aware of any health concerns that have been associated with the dyes. Again, my recommendation would be to stick to plain sand.
As mentioned earlier, compacted soil is a more natural substrate for bearded dragons. I've heard of people mimicking this type of substrate using a mixture of about 50/50 topsoil and sand (the kind you get for children's sandboxes).
This has the advantage that the compacted dirt is less likely to be picked up, and even if it does, the dirt itself is less likely to cause bumps and it prevents the sand from clumping together leading to bumps leads.
The disadvantage of this substrate, as with all particulate substrates, is that it can be difficult / annoying to keep clean and that it needs to be replaced on a regular basis.
You can find substrates made from crushed walnut shells at some pet stores. This substrate should never be used for bearded dragons. The crushed clams have extremely sharp edges and damage the internal organs of a bearded dragon if swallowed.
This substrate is intended for tropical reptiles as it can store moisture. In a desert terrarium where this amount of moisture is not needed, the dry coconut fiber contains too much dust to be safe.
Wood chips pose a similar risk to bearded dragons as crushed walnuts. Although they aren't as consistently sharp, if ingested they can damage a bearded dragon's internal organs.
Reptile carpet is a simple alternative to particle substrates. It comes in a roll of felt that you can place on the bottom of the terrarium. The positive side of the reptile rug is that it is easy to clean. You can just take it out and rinse it off. The disadvantage is that the claws of bearded dragons are known to get caught in the fibers.
Recently I've seen new shapes of reptile carpets that simulate sand textures instead of felt. This would effectively eliminate the risk of the bearded dragon's claws getting caught on the carpet. My only concern would be the damage the bearded dragon could do to the carpet if it tried to dig on it, and the carpet could be replaced from time to time.
You can use paper towels and then you no longer have to worry about the bearded dragon's claws getting caught like you would with the felt carpet, but once a paper towel becomes dirty, you need to replace it. This can get quite expensive depending on the cost of paper towels in your store.
Slate tile is the best substrate in my opinion as this is what I am using.
Like other non-particulate substrates, it is easy to clean and has no risk of impact. But it also has the benefit of keeping the heat in well, and it even helps keep the nails naturally worn out so you never have to worry about trimming them yourself.
Since you can buy slate tile at your local hardware store, you can usually find a lot more color options than reptile carpets, and the colors more closely resemble natural substrate colors (you can probably find sand-colored tiles if you prefer the looks of sand).
Some people go so far as to add grout. I chose not to take the tiles out to clean them, but grout has the advantage of preventing dirt from getting between the tiles. It's really up to you which method you prefer.
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