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Exo Terra Desert Sand Review: A Good Substrate?

Exo Terra Desert Sand review

Choosing the right substrate for your reptile is an important decision. When you need sand, it’s crucial to look for something fine without dye that will be easy to clean and maintain your enclosure. To this end, we researched and tried out the Exo Terra Desert Sand to see how it stacks up.

Learn more in this detailed review as we share everything you need to know before you buy this product.

Do We Recommend the Exo Terra Desert Sand?

In general, I would recommend the Exo Terra Desert Sand as a product. It may not be suitable for all reptiles as some cannot use sand substrates while others need it to be mixed with soil.

However, the product itself is great. It’s very fine with no dyes, you know where it comes from, and it makes the enclosure easy to clean.

One thing to note is that many people found the sand to be a bit dusty and it sometimes stuck to the reptile in the enclosure.

It also tends to get very clumpy when wet, so be prepared for this when adding water to your enclosure.

Some people complain that the bags arrive busted, but this could be remedied by purchasing the Desert Sand in a retail location.

Exo Terra Desert Sand, Desert Terrarium Substrate
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02/18/2024 04:44 am GMT

Where is Exo Terra Desert Sand From?

where is exo terra desert sand from

Depending on the color of the sand you select, you might find that the Exo Terra sand comes from a variety of places.

There are three major colors you can select: yellow, red, and black. For an idea of where these sands come from, here is what you need to know:

Sand ColorLocation
YellowGobi, Sahara, Kara-Kum, Kyzyl-kum, Thar, Dasht-e-Kavir, Dasht-e-Lut, Arabian Desert, Mojave Dessert
RedAustralian Deserts, Namib, Kalahari, Spiny Desert, Sonoran Desert
BlackKalahari Desert, Kara-Kum, Sechura, Pacific and Indian Ocean Islands

Features of the Exo Terra Desert Sand

We filled our little test tank with a small amount of Exo Terra Desert Sand in the red version. Here is what we learned through our experience with the product.

Little Dust

When we first unpackaged our sand, we poured it right into the enclosure to see how dusty it truly was. This was one of the major complaints from people who purchased this sand.

As you can see, there is a little bit of dust but not so much that it could cause any respiratory problems.

is exo terra desert sand dusty?

Exo Terra Desert Sand Grain Size

Exo Terra Desert Sand Grain Size

Many people who are on the fence with their purchase of this sand are wondering how fine the sand truly is. You will be happy to see that it is extremely fine.

Because of that, it creates a pretty solid surface even though the sand itself feels soft for your reptile to live and crawl around in.

It is also important to note that there is a mostly homogenous grain size as this product has been sifted prior to packaging. You can tell from the picture above that most grains of the sand are roughly the same size.

Clumping When Wet

exo terra desert sand soak

We filled a little bit of water into our test tank to see what would happen if the sand gets wet.

The sand gets pretty solid, but reptiles can still dig in it to form holes, tunnels, and caves. This can definitely be used for natural humid hides.

It may even be used for breeding boxes for female reptiles that dig holes and caves to lay their eggs in them. This sand combined with soil or the Zoo Med Excavator Clay is fantastic for reptiles that dig a lot.

It is important to note that it is possible that your reptile will have some issues with the wet sand. Some people found that the wet sand clumped to the scales of their reptile when they crawled through the wet parts.

Be sure to monitor your reptile carefully to ensure that this does not happen in your enclosure.

Exo Terra Desert Sand, Desert Terrarium Substrate
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 04:44 am GMT

Easy Clean-Up

is exo terra desert sand easy to clean?

Also, I wanted to know how easy it is to clean this sand. For this, I dropped a bit of water in the right corner of our test tank.

exo terra desert sand cleaning

I was able to scoop that wet part out of the sand without any problems. Mostly dry sand is the only thing left. This makes it easy to remove feces and fluids from the sand, allowing you to clean daily without any issues.


exo terra desert sand issues

Lastly, we filled the test tank completely with water. The package said that this sand is not dyed. However, just to be sure, I wanted to test what the water looks like when we fill up the tank that contains the sand.

With dyed sand, you would see that the water is colored red. In this case, it was just about brown, which looks completely normal.


  • Little dust and will not cause respiratory issues in your reptile
  • Dye-free to protect your reptile
  • Extremely fine grains for a solid surface
  • Easy cleaning due to clumping when wet


  • Bag often damaged in transit (can be quite messy)
  • May stick to scales when wet if the reptile crawls through it

Can You Use Exo Terra Desert Sand for Fish?

If you are searching for a substrate for an aquarium rather than a reptile enclosure, you might wonder whether the Exo Terra Desert Sand is a good fit for your needs.

Unfortunately, many people find that the overall pH of this product is too high for most aquatic fish.

We recommend that you see what the desired pH level of the water is for your fish and then measure the pH of the sand mixed in a bucket of water prior to adding it into your aquarium.

Final Verdict: Exo Terra Desert Sand

When it comes down to it, the Exo Terra Desert Sand is a great product that poses very little threat to the health and well-being of your reptile.

It is very fine sand with little dust and no dyes, and it can be easily cleaned to keep your enclosure in great shape. We highly recommend this product if your reptile needs a sand substrate.

Exo Terra Desert Sand, Desert Terrarium Substrate
Buy Now On Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 04:44 am GMT
Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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