Should you provide a dig box for your bearded dragon? What should you put inside a dig box of a bearded dragon? A dig box can be an enrichment tool and can be used for the exercise of your bearded dragon. How do you create the perfect dig box for your bearded dragon?
A perfect dig box for bearded dragons is one that has enough space to fit your bearded dragon and let it move around a bit. The box should also be deep enough to be filled by at least 4-6 in. of the substrate. Substrates can be coconut fiber/husk, organic topsoil, or play sand.
We are going to guide you step-by-step on all the ways how you can create the perfect dig box for your bearded dragon. We will also discuss how a dig box can enrich the lives of your bearded dragons. We have a lot to cover, so read on!
Table of Contents
What Is A Bearded Dragon Dig Box?
A bearded dragon dig box is literally a box that encourages your bearded dragon to dig. In the wild, it is inherent in bearded dragons to dig and burrow. This behavior is natural to them and it is a sensory need.
A dig box can also double as a laying box for female bearded dragons. When you have a gravid female beardie, it will seek out the perfect place to lay her fertilized or unfertilized eggs.
A dig box that has the proper substrate for laying eggs can be used by your female beardie.
At the same time, your female beardie will not get too stressed in finding an area to lay her eggs as the dig box already has the substrate that the eggs need which is usually moist and warm sand.
Therefore, besides having the right box, it is also essential that you choose the right substrate for your specific purpose on why you are placing a dig box in the enclosure.
Is It Important To Have A Dig Box For Bearded Dragons?
Dig boxes are usually passed over when setting up the enclosure of bearded dragons. The reason behind this is that usually, the substrate that we use on the enclosure can already encourage digging behavior.
On the other hand, it is important to provide a dig box when your beardie is showing signs of restlessness due to lack of enrichment.
If you see that your beardie is not digging or it is scratching at the glass of the enclosure as it paces back and forth, this could mean that it needs more adequate digging surfaces.
This is where a dig box can be very useful. It can be a form of enrichment and at the same time, it can be a way for your beardie to exercise.
Moreover, it can double as a humidity box come shedding time and it can also be a laying bin when you have a gravid female beardie.
How To Create The Perfect Dig Box For Your Bearded Dragon
Here are the things you need to prepare and do in creating the dig box of your bearded dragon. It is actually very simple than you think, you might even have the materials in your home right now.
Step 1. Prepare A Box
You can use any type of box just as long as when it gets broken down, it will not have sharp edges that may injure your bearded dragon.
You also have to make sure that the box that you use will make it easy for your beardie to get into.
You can use a wooden box, shoe box, plastic container, or storage box.
Some owners use a litter box just like this one which is also convenient in terms of cleaning and its shape is also ideal so the substrate will not be pushed out.
If you opt for a plastic container, you can buy something like this. You can just remove the cover as the top of the box should still be open.
As for the size, the box should accommodate the size of your bearded dragon and also have a bit of wiggle room to move around.
It is best to measure the length of your beardie to make sure that you have the right size of the box.
What To Do With The Box
Depending on the box that you choose, you may need to do some alterations to it for it to become a dig box.
If you are going to use a wooden box, make sure that you sand all the inside and outside surfaces so that your beardie will not get splintered.
You can also coat it with silicone and spread play sand on the surface to cover the parts of the container.
This can also be done on plastic containers which will also make the dig box look more aesthetic and fit with the look of the enclosure.
If you chose a shoe box or any box made of cardboard, just make sure to cut the top part.
Some owners use aluminum catering food trays, but we do not suggest this as when the tray gets broken, the aluminum may be sharp and your beardie can easily get nicked.
Step 2. Choose The Right Substrate
In choosing the substrate, you should also keep in mind the purpose of providing the dig box. If it is for enrichment and to encourage digging behavior, then the substrate should be diggable.
On the other hand, if it is for your gravid female, it is best to use damp play sand as this is the substrate that closely resembles their natural habitat and their preferred egg-laying area.
It is also good to mix topsoil with it to help with moisture.
Here are some choices for the substrates that encourage digging behavior:
- Coco husk
- Excavator clay (mixed with sand)
- Desert sand
You can choose to just use one substrate for the dig box, but you can also mix two substrates.
So far, a lot of owners have found success in encouraging the digging behavior of their beardies with a mix of organic topsoil and play sand.
It is not advisable to just use sand in the dig box if you still have a juvenile bearded dragon. This is due to the fact that they can ingest the sand which can lead to impaction.
It is also not a good idea to use reptile carpets or tiles as this defeats the purpose of encouraging the digging behavior, more so the comfortable laying of the eggs of a gravid female beardie.
Step 3. Fill The Box With Substrate
Once you have your chosen substrate with you, you can now start filling up the box. You should have space for at least 4-6 in. of the substrate.
The substrate should not be brimmed to the top of the box. There should be an allowance of 1-2 in. from the top of the box.
In filling the box with the substrate, you may opt to form shallow and deep areas. Keeping the substrate flat is also okay, but having dips in the dig box will encourage your beardie to use the dig box from the get-go.
Step 4. Add A Hide Or Other Enrichment Objects To The Dig Box
This is just optional, but you can also place other enrichment objects in the dig box to encourage your bearded dragon to use it.
You can add a branch like this one to the dig box which can also serve as the base of the burrow that your beardie is going to dig into.
If you want to use a hammock (like this one), you can stick it beside the dig box so your beardie can also easily prop itself up to the hammock from the dig box.
Further, you can also add a hide to the dig box, especially if you are making it for your gravid female beardie. In this way, she has a safe and hidden place to lay her eggs.
It is better to have a hide that does not have other holes, just like this one. This is just a precaution so that your female beardie will not get stuck if it attempts to go out of a smaller hole.
As funny as it may sound, it is possible for a gravid female beardie to get stuck in a smaller hole as they simply forgot that their bellies are now bigger.
Step 5. Place The Dig Box In The Enclosure
You now have your dig box and you are ready to place it inside the enclosure. The ideal placement of the dig box is on the warm side of the enclosure but not directly on the basking spot.
In this way, your beardie can still get enough heat and UVB when it is in the dig box. Usually, your beardie will be most active when the sun is at its highest thus it may opt to use the dig box instead of basking.
This placement of the dig box will ensure that your beardie will not get underheated as it expels energy as it keeps digging. Moreover, this will also hinder the rise in the humidity levels of the dig box.
Keep in mind, bearded dragons only need 30-40% of humidity. If they are exposed to too much moisture, they can get respiratory illnesses.
You do not need to adjust your tank’s lighting and temperature when you place a dig box in the enclosure if your purpose is for them to enrich their digging behavior and also to exercise.
Placing The Dig Box Outside The Enclosure
If your purpose of having a dig box is to also act as a laying bin for your gravid female bearded dragon, you can also place it outside the enclosure.
Ideally, you can place the dig box where you can supervise it so you can also see if your female beardie is struggling while it is laying its eggs.
For this one, you need separate lighting as the dig box in itself cannot provide enough warmth to your female bearded dragon. This time, instead of creating an ideal enclosure setup, the lighting purpose is just for warmth.
You can simply use the bulb that you have been using in your beardie’s enclosure, or you can buy a separate bulb just like the Exo Terra Solar Glo so you do not have to disassemble the lighting setup of the enclosure.
For most owners that breed their bearded dragons, they leave the dig box inside the enclosure when they initially see the first signs of a gravid female.
They will then, later on, take out the dig box when they see that the female beardie is about to lay her eggs.
Keep in mind that you do not have to take out the dig box, a lot of female bearded dragons can successfully lay their eggs while the dig box is in the enclosure.
It is just a matter of choice and also, it depends on your beardie on whether it is showing signs of stress during the ordeal.
How To Clean The Dig Box Of Bearded Dragons
Here are the different ways how you can clean the dig box of your bearded dragon based on the type of dig box that you have.
You can spot-clean the dig box every day, especially if there is poop inside. You can then mix the substrate so that the ones at the bottom are now at the top, just to refresh the substrate a bit.
However, based on the condition of the box you cannot simply wipe it with disinfectant. Due to the material, it is easy for bacteria to breed there.
A good solution is to change boxes every 2 weeks just to make sure that it remains sanitized. You also need to change the substrate every month.
It is easier to clean dig boxes that are made of plastic as you do not have to change them. Still, you need to do spot cleaning every day to avoid the breeding of bacteria on the substrate.
Change the substrate every month as the dig box is a high-touch area of the enclosure and your beardie might have dragged its poop or remnants of its food inside it.
As for the box itself, you can deep clean it every 2 weeks. You should wash it with water and soap. You can just use a regular dishwashing soap but make sure to rinse it thoroughly.
Afterward, you can wipe it with a disinfectant just like this one. Make sure that it dries completely before you put the substrate inside.
Do All Bearded Dragons Need Dig Boxes?
One might think that dig boxes are just for gravid female bearded dragons so that they have a secure place to lay their eggs. But the truth is, even male bearded dragons can benefit from having a dig box.
A dig box can also be useful not just for enrichment and exercise, but it can also serve as a spot where your beardie can cool itself that is still within the bounds of the basking spot.
For some bearded dragons, the encouragement of digging behavior can be a self-soothing exercise.
Therefore, when they feel anxious or stressed they can make use of the dig box as an alternative to displaying defensive behavior. The biggest sign that your beardie probably needs a dig box is when it is glass surfing.
When they do this, it means that they require more stimulation and enrichment.
Providing them with one does not only help them to exhibit their instincts but it is also good for mental health.
Tip: Check out this article to learn about other potential reasons your beardie is glass surfing!
It is not necessary to put a dig box in the enclosure of your bearded dragon, especially when it is already digging the substrate of the enclosure.
However, providing it with a dig box can enrich its life. The dig box fosters the natural digging behavior of your beardie and makes for good exercise.
Your gravid female beardie will also appreciate having a dig box as it will no longer have to stress about finding a secure place to lay her eggs.
Just assess the behavior of your female beardie to know if you can leave the dig box inside or outside of the enclosure.
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