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Should You Use Play Sand For Reptiles?

Using play sand for reptiles is one of the more controversial topics when it comes to substrate with there often being heated debate on social media about if you should use play sand for reptiles or if you should use a specialist product like Reptisand.

As with most discussions that have an equal distribution of people on each side, both sides of the argument have their own advantages and disadvantages so it will usually come down to personal preference.

Still, each month we see a large number of people reaching out about if they can use play sand for their pet snake, lizard or other reptile with many of the people we see reaching out being confused due to the heated debates on social media over the topic.

This is why we wanted to publish our own article going over our own thoughts on using play sand for your pet reptiles vivarium in the hope that we are able to help our readers make the best choice for their needs.

We have broken the article down into three different sections to try and cover the three most commonly asked questions about using play sand in a vivarium.

Our hope is that this will cover as much information as possible in one place and help our readers better understand the advantages and disadvantages of using play sand as their substrate of choice.

Can You Use Play Sand For Reptiles?

You can use play sand for reptiles and it is a very common option for many reptile keepers to use play sand in their vivarium as their substrate of choice.

The majority of the time you will have to thoroughly wash the play sand before putting in into the vivarium and you will usually have to manually check the sand for any large grains that may result in impaction if consumed by your reptile.

Now, one of the most common arguments for using a commercial substrate option such as Reptisand as your substrate of choice over play sand is the apparent risk of impaction if your reptile ends up eating the play sand.

Although this is a potential risk, you can often filter the sand through a cheap cooking strainer to remove the larger grains that may present a problem.

Another argument that we often see people have against using play sand for your reptiles is that it can clump when it gets wet and due to the digestive tract of your reptile being wet, it can present a risk for impaction.

This can be true in some situations but the majority of reptile keepers who do use play sand for their substrate will opt to mix it with other substrates such as coco husk or a suitable soil before adding it to their vivarium.

Is Play Sand Safe For Reptiles?

Play sand can be safe for use as a substrate with reptiles but most people will have to thoroughly clean the play sand to ensure that it is safe for use in a vivarium.

The majority of people who have problems with using play sand as a substrate tend to have tried to add the play sand to their vivarium without cleaning it resulting in problems that could have easily been avoided.

Some of the common problems that play sand can introduce to your vivarium include parasites, bacterial infections, large sand grains, and fungus.

Please note that this is usually only when people try to use play stand that they have been using in an outdoor play area for their children. Although you may think that no one uses sand that has been left outdoors as substrate for their pet reptile, it does seem to be very common.

If you purchase decent quality play sand it should not have most of those issues. That said, we would still highly recommend that you clean and strain the sand if possible prior to adding it to your vivarium.

Some people do put the sand directly from the bag into their vivarium without cleaning it and don’t run into problems but we feel it is not worth the risk as cleaning the sand is an easy process.

Should You Use Play Sand For Reptiles?

Play sand was commonly used as a substrate for reptiles years back due to it being so cheap but modern sand substrate such as Reptisand can work out to be a similar price point in some areas.

This coupled with there usually being no need to clean a sand substrate has caused more reptile owners to move over to using sand substrates for their reptiles instead of play sand.

Still, if you have easy access to play sand or play sand works out to be much cheaper than a sand substrate in your area then you are able to use it.

We would only recommend that you use play sand that has been purchased and used directly from the bag though but many people do seem to use play sand that has been previously used in an outdoor sandpit.

Either way, we would recommend that you clean the sand, some people insist on boiling their play sand in water where as others freeze it. Both methods can work well to deal with any potential parasites, fungus or bacterial in the sand to reduce the chances of problems happening in your vivarium.


That brings our article going over using play sand for reptiles to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand that you can use play sand as a substrate for your vivarium and many people in the reptile keeping community do it but you do usually have to put some time and effort in to make sure that the play sand is safe for use. Due to the prices of play sand and modern sand substrates being very similar, the majority of people just go with an actual sand substrate though to prevent the risk or time commitment required to make the play sand safe.