There is a ton of debate from leopard gecko owners on calcium sand. So, what is calcium sand anyways?
Calcium sand is made up of calcium carbonate. This is the same stuff that is in antacids so it is technically edible. But no, I am not recommending that you buy a bottle of Tums and crush them up, and drop them in your leopard geckos tank!
Geckos should be able to digest it. As you know calcium is a supplement that geckos need and don’t get enough of in their diet. Whenever a leopard gecko gets a little bit of this sand in their mouth they should be fine to digest it. Many lizard owners will advise you to go ahead and purchase calcium sand for your leopard geckos tank.
Pros & Cons of Calcium Sand
- Easy to clean.
- Looks nice.
- Contains calcium which is lacking in many leopard gecko’s diets.
- Expensive (about $12-15 at Petsmart & Petco).
- High risk for impaction and even death.
- Can harbor pathogens.
- Will stain geckos skin.
- Sand doesn’t conduct heat very well.
My Experience With Calcium Sand
So, let me tell you a quick little story about calcium sand. I used to buy uromastyx lizards about 3 years ago. Yes, I am aware that leopard geckos and uromastyx are completely different reptiles, but you’ll learn about calcium sand in this story. I bought them from a local pet store in Overland Park, Kansas which is about 40 miles away from here. I was fascinated by these big lizards. So I picked one out and brought it home. I had him for about a week.
One day I woke up to feed him and noticed that he wasn’t coming out of his hide like he usually does. I lifted up his hide and noticed that he wasn’t moving. As you might have guessed he was dead. I soon picked up the phone and told the pet store that my uromastyx was dead. They asked me to bring him in and they would replace him. It really sucked picking him up and putting him in a plastic sack. Picking up dead lizards isn’t one of my favorite things to do.
I drove 40 miles back to the pet store and they replaced him with another one. But, they did take the dead uromastyx out and told me that he had got impacted. Can you guess what I was using for substrate? Calcium sand. Really, I thought at the time that maybe the lizard was already weak or something when I got him, and didn’t really think too much of it.
So, I went home put the new lizard in his tank. He lived for about a week and then I noticed that he was dead too. Seriously, I researched everything about them and knew how to take proper care of them. But, I called up the pet store and told them that I had another dead lizard.
After a while they finally said that it was probably due to the calcium sand he was in. So, how does this story relate to leopard geckos? Well, uromastyx are much larger lizards; their stomach is much bigger. Therefore, they should be able to digest bigger grains of substrate better, if they swallow it by accident. So, if a bigger lizard can’t handle calcium sand this gives me a reason to believe that smaller lizards, such as leopard geckos will have trouble digesting calcium sand too.
Calcium Sand Doesn’t Seem To Be Worth It
I have checked various sites reptilesmagazine.com, geckotime.com, and Yahoo Answers. And guess what? A lot of leopard gecko owners have noticed the exact same thing with calcium sand. They would purchase their geckos (adult size) and then in 1 to 2 weeks their leopard gecko would die.
So Can I Use Calcium Sand For My Leopard Gecko?
I guess it’s really up to you if you want to use calcium sand or not. I really think it’s bad for them and will never put another lizard in it. I have talked with a number of gecko, bearded dragon etc. owners and for the most part they all seem to agree with me; calcium sand is a bad idea.
So, what kind of sand should you use for your leopard gecko? I would go with washed play sand. I have used washed play sand for 4 years and haven’t had any problems with it whatsoever.