Just because sandfish spend most of their time under the sand doesn’t mean that you can fill a tank with sand, add lighting/heating, a water bowl, and call it “good.” Enclosure decorations play a very important role in a reptile’s mental and physical wellbeing by mimicking their natural environment and providing things for them to smell, explore, climb, hide under, and otherwise interact with. This is called environmental enrichment, and it’s how zoos keep their animals happy and healthy. For a more in-depth discussion on this topic, I recommend reading Environmental Enrichment For Reptiles: What? Why? and How?
Shallow water dish
Like every other living thing on Earth, sandfish need water to survive. They may not need as much of it as non-desert species, but they still need free access to clean water. Provide a small, shallow water dish no more than 1” (2 cm) deep just large enough for the sandfish to soak in if it desires.
Clean this water dish with Dawn original scent dish soap once a week, and veterinary disinfectant like F10SC or chlorhexidine at least once a month. Replace the water every other day or as needed. Most likely the sandfish will kick sand into it on a daily basis.
For the most part, a deep sand substrate serves well enough as the sandfish’s “hide box.” However, if you bury a cave or hide box under the sand to create a small hollow underground space, the sandfish will gleefully use it….and then quite likely fill that with sand when it tunnels elsewhere. Provide several of these underground caves, though, to create a variety of underground safe space options that can be dug out and won’t collapse. Plain hide boxes like these work well for the purpose, but you can use something more decorative if you want it to be partly visible above the sand.
Sandfish don’t climb much, but branches certainly add visual interest to an otherwise plain enclosure. Plus if you bury the ends in the sand, this creates obstacles for the sandfish to navigate around, which is a form of enrichment. Logs and cork flats, however, can act in a similar way to the caves by providing something for the sandfish to dig underneath. Sandfish tend to prefer to hide under something more solid than just sand if given the option. These also add visual interest to an enclosure.at
Rocks are another way to create obstacles for your sandfish, as well as occasionally climb on top of. Flat rocks generally have the best results, but take care to anchor any rocks that you use to the bottom of the enclosure rather than just placing them on top of the sand, as your sandfish will burrow under them, and the rock could shift and fall on top of the sandfish, potentially crushing it.
Plants and Foliage
Any live plants you use in a sandfish enclosure will be quickly uprooted, and expect any artificial plants to be partially or fully buried within the week, if not in the same day they are placed. However, they do look nice and can act as another obstacle in your sandfish’s enclosure if you have the patience to unearth and reposition them regularly. We have a list of attractive, reasonably-priced artificial desert plants for you to browse on ReptiFiles’ Pinterest board, Terrarium Décor.
Sandfish are native to windy sand dunes, so adding a small fan to the enclosure (such as placing it on top of the mesh and blowing downward) could be an interesting way to mimic their natural environment and possibly provide some enrichment that way.
Sandfish Terrarium Design Inspiration
Feeling stumped about what to put in your sandfish’s enclosure? Here’s some photos from their natural environment to give you some ideas. Use the arrows on either side to scroll.
- Introduction to Sandfish
- Sandfish (Scincus) Species
- Shopping List
- Enclosure Size & Cohabitation
- Lighting, Temperature & Humidity Needs
- Substrate Options
- Environmental Enrichment: Decorating the Enclosure (YOU ARE HERE)
- Feeding Your Sandfish
- Handling Tips & Behavioral Notes
- Health Information
- Additional Resources