Sand in herpetoculture: perspectives from a herpetologist
Let me preface this post that I would never claim to know as much about keeping animals as many of the members of the herp community here on tumblr. That being said, I do professionally study reptiles and amphibians, and have been studying them in a scientific sense for almost a decade. I may therefore be qualified to offer some opinions on the contentious issue of having sand in terraria based on intimate knowledge of reptiles and their habits, but I urge also against taking my word for gospel. I am just as liable to being wrong on these issues as anyone else; I am not, after all, totally objective (though I like to think I have the best interests of the animals at heart).
I reckon the majority of tumblr’s herp community will have seen the debate that has flared up over using sand as an appropriate substrate for particular species of reptile, specifically Pogona vitticeps, the bearded dragon. Before I talk about bearded dragons in particular, I want to talk generally about sand.
I know I have heard there is one species of sand boa that can, perhaps, be safely kept on sand. I do not believe it is specifically the Kenyan Sand Boa, though. Any time I have researched their substrates it has been a very big no on sand.
I make this claim re:Kenyan Sand Boas based on a review of the literature on their distribution and habitat in peer-reviewed literature, not off the top of my head, and also not at all consulting people who keep them. It is a scientific, and not a herpetocultural approach to their husbandry, and may therefore suffer from the lack of the experience gained by people who have kept them for years. Also I would not recommend pure sand, as i say, but rather, a mix of sand and soil to recreate the more substantial, but still loose, partly sandy soil to which they are adapted.
Eryx miliaris is also found in pure sand habitats I believe, but I have not gone as far into the literature on that species, so I say this as a mere point of interest.