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Thread: The substrate debate

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    New Member Daphne's Avatar
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    The substrate debate

    Hi everyone!

    I'm new to the forum and are extremely glad that I found you guys.
    I'm from the Netherlands and I have adopted a bearded dragon about a month ago.
    I researched a lot and even more, just to be safe.

    When I started posting pictures about her growth (she's under vet treatment), I got a lot of hate.

    I used sand, but shouldn't because she's weak. Sounds fair and I didn't want to risk anything.
    Coco fiber is bad for their joints. She can't get a grip on tile and newspaper is bad because of the ink.

    The americans are relentless in their husbandry, but I've noticed that they all say the same. (I mean no disrespect)
    Here I read a lot on sand and it doesn't sound bad.

    I would really appreciate to read about your experiences

    Daphne and Vita

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    Administrator dragonlover1's Avatar
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    Hello Daphne I'm glad you found us, we try to be fair and offer impartial advice. We are all long term beardie owners/breeders who only want the best for our scaley friends and want to help any newcomers to do the same. Sorry to hear your friend is weak, what exactly is her problem?
    Don't pay too much attention to the Americans, they think beardies come from a jungle and sand will kill them. Whereas in Australia (their native home) we like to think we know a little better, Central bearded dragons actually come from the desert which is made up of sand,clay,dirt,scruffy plants and stumpy trees with very little water so they have evolved to retain moisture and don't recognize standing water (as in pools or ponds).
    Sorry for the long intro, but I thought it was necessary for a person so far away to get an idea of their environment.
    I have kept dragons for over 20 years and always on sand! I currently have 5 species of dragon and have bred 2 of them, and all my babies go straight from the incubator to sand. Never a problem, as long as your husbandry ( temps etc) is fine your dragon will be fine.
    slave to all my reptiles

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    Junior Member Layla's Avatar
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    I find the risk of impaction is really only high if temperatures and other environmental factors are incorrect. Additionally you could avoid feeding on loose substrate to avoid accidental ingestion. I personally use artificial turf as I like it better, I have tried coco peat and sand but my beardie didn't care for it (I thought he would be into digging but wasn't, he's more of a climber). My reptile vet doesn't recommend any loose substrate, but I think this is purely to minimise the risk as newbies can easily get other factors incorrect.

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    New Member Daphne's Avatar
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    Thank you for your time!
    My dragon has a lot of parasites and was never treated. She was cohabitated, but her roommate took the food.
    She's 5 years old and really small, although not as skinny as she used to be. Milestone!
    She's currently being treated for the parasites, but I learned that they are always a secondairy problem.

    Sand doesn't sound bad. And just as Layla said, I can feed her outside her terrarium. I will use lots of decor and climb-stuff, so it's not just plain sand (she had that with her previous owner, no hide, nothing)

    My temperatures are 38-40 degrees in the basking spot with a gradient to 26 degrees. I use a High intensity discharge, all in one bulb, but I'm trying to get a linear UVB 10.0.
    I can't find a suitable fixture since my terrarium is made out of wood.

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    New Member Daphne's Avatar
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    I believe you're right!
    I really want to house her on sand eventually, but since I'm a newbie, I'll learn a bit more to make an educated decision.
    This is a nice place!

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    Member Rendalyn's Avatar
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    Hi Daphne, while you're battling parasites definitely keep on something easy to clean, preferable to steam clean so you have the best chance of beating them.
    Did the vet do bloods and check calcium? I have a dragon that was a bit weak initially and it turned out he was very low in calcium at the time, 9 calcium injections, sunlight every day and a uvb upgrade to an Arcadia 14% dragon bulb was all it took to turn it around. Some much so that after just 2 weeks the visual changes were enough to not even order a second round of blood tests and no lasting harm was done.
    This dragon is on felt (he was when I got him and I have not yet made any effort to change that since it's winter here) so that might be an option for you? The felt he was on looks to be the normal reptile shop felt but I've bought replacement pieces (for when one is in the wash) from Spotlight which is just a store that sells material/sewing stuff. The 2-3mm felt is pretty much the same thing. Not sure if it’d be steam cleanable but Google could tell you.
    My big fella, he's on part playsand and has been his whole life. The only time I've had a problem was back in the days I trusted a pet store and tried out the "new" sand (walnut). OMG it was shit and not even my chickens would tolerate it in their nesting boxes, I ended up burying it in the garden!
    I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the Americans do what they do. In my opinion most are looking for easy for them not best for their dragon – although they’ll argue the point. Many can’t hold a temp gradient (or know what it is), use incorrect lighting, have their dragons out all day so they can’t bask properly and use artificial sands. And the bathing! OMG the bathing, constantly damp dragons on sand would have to be a tragedy waiting to happen surely. In the light of that, tile and vinyl is probably the best chance those dragons have of surviving. Any keepers that are interested can look into the truth of using sand and see that’s not rocket science and make their own decisions from there, it’s just that most aren’t interested in the further research and are happy with their bare minimum bordering on sub-standard husbandry.
    You’ll be able to learn all you need to know here on how to use a sand or part sand substrate successfully.

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    Member Rendalyn's Avatar
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    Those Arcadias I mentioned, the ProT5 kit also comes with mounting clips. You screw the 2 metal clips to the wooden top and then clip in the reflector.

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    Administrator dragonlover1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rendalyn View Post
    Those Arcadias I mentioned, the ProT5 kit also comes with mounting clips. You screw the 2 metal clips to the wooden top and then clip in the reflector.
    and if you can't get the Arcadia in Holland try a hardware store and get a batten fitting and then get a ReptileOne or similar 10UV tube. This can also be screwed to the roof of your enclosure
    slave to all my reptiles

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    To paint a picture of my experiences with Americans.... more recently I read a reply to someone's question on a Facebook post, and part of that answer was that "seeing that bearded dragons live in canopied forests".
    Really, if someone offering advise doesn't even know where bearded dragons live, what chance do they have of offering the right environment for them? Don't get me started on the lighting debate, the temperature debate, and especially not the 'mealworm diet' debate. They have some amazing variations of bearded dragons over there, unfortunately many are too stubborn to see that their care isn't that great.

    Sounds like everyone above has nailed it on the head, keep your temps right and your cleanliness up, and there's no cause for worry.
    Keeping it as hygienic while in recovery is best, tiles, paper towel changed out daily, think surgical, the cleaner the better.

    I use play sand in mine, and I have 1/4 of the enclosure on fake desert sand mat which is where I keep his food, this isn't necessary, but stops him kicking sand into his food

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    New Member Daphne's Avatar
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    Red face

    Quote Originally Posted by Rendalyn View Post
    Did the vet do bloods and check calcium? I have a dragon that was a bit weak initially and it turned out he was very low in calcium at the time, 9 calcium injections, sunlight every day and a uvb upgrade to an Arcadia 14% dragon bulb was all it took to turn it around. Some much so that after just 2 weeks the visual changes were enough to not even order a second round of blood tests and no lasting harm was done.
    He did not yet do bloods and calcium. It was a fecal check. He wouldn't want to do it, because he wasn't sure if she would make it anyways. I will consult another vet, because I want to know what's going on with her and when I do, I will mention your suggestion.

    The felt sounds good too, with a sick dragon. I think I prefer the fake grass, because I can scrub and steam it.

    Thank you for your tips and insights!

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