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Home > Reptiles > Sandfish: Care Guide, Varieties, Lifespan & More (with Pictures)

Sandfish: Care Guide, Varieties, Lifespan & More (with Pictures)

desert sandfish

Reptiles are becoming more popular every day, and the Sandfish is an interesting breed that can be a lot of fun to raise in your home. It gets its name from the way it likes to swim in the sand. You can find the Sandfish in the Sahara Desert and the Arabian Peninsula. It’s also becoming more popular as a pet, so continue reading while we uncover more interesting facts so you can see if they are right for your home.

divider-reptileQuick Facts about Sandfish

Species Name S. scincus
Family Scincidae
Care Level Moderate
Temperature 70 – 80 degrees
Temperament Solitary
Color Form Grey – olive
Lifespan 5 – 10 years
Size 7 – 8 inches
Diet Insects, flowers, seeds
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallon
Tank Set-Up Lid, plenty of sand

Sandfish Overview

sandfish n black background
Image By: nokkaew, Shutterstock

The Common Sandfish is an attractive desert reptile with a long body and short legs. It’s quite agile as it glides through the sand and appears to swim as it moves and dives. Its movement produces a constant vibration in the sand at 3-Hz, which helps keep it cool in the hot sun and protect it from predators. It keeps its limbs tucked close to its sides to streamline itself when moving through the sand instead of using them as paddles or ores. It can also breathe under the sand by breathing n the tiny bits of air between sand particles as it inhales them. Once it removes the air, it sneezes out the sand.

How Much Do Sandfish Cost?

You can expect to pay at least $50 for your Sandfish if you can find one. It’s quite rare, and many of the large reptile breeding companies in America have not yet added them to their inventory because breeders have not yet figured out how to breed them in captivity. A legal loophole that allows catching and selling wild animals as pets, but selling wild animals can hurt the population, and you are more likely to get one with a health problem. In fact, some opponents suggest that purchasing a Sandfish is synonymous with supporting the illegal trade of wild animals.

If you do find one, you will also need to purchase a 20-gallon aquarium with a lid, heating lights, plenty of fine sand, and other accessories that can cast as much as $200. Feeding won’t be too expensive as they mostly eat inexpensive crickets.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Your Sandfish will spend most of its time under the sand and will only come out at night when it’s looking for food. It’s very docile and would be a great first pet.

Appearance & Varieties

Image By: Kristian Bell, Shutterstock

The Sandfish has a long-tapered body with smooth, shiny scales. The snout is long and wedge-shaped, and the lower jaw has a basket shape. The legs are short, and the feet are long, flat, and shaped like a shovel. The skin varies from grey to olive green, and it has a short tail that comes to a point.divider-reptile

How to Take Care of Sandfish

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Set-up


Your Sandfish will require a 20-gallon aquarium with about two inches of fine sand so it can bury into it. As long as the temperature is correct, your pet will need little else. You can add hides and a few plants, but the environment needs to stay very dry, so only cacti and similar plants will work. Most experts recommend putting a lid on top to make sure your reptile doesn’t escape.

You will also need to purchase heat lamps to keep the tank at the proper temperature and provide ultraviolet light.

Do Sandfish Get Along with Other Pets?

Sandfish spend most of their time buried under sand and are usually solitary animals. Since they are so rare, not much is known about how they live together. A male and a female seem to be compatible but keeping the two in the same tank has not yet resulted in mating.

What to Feed Your Sandfish

cricket_Del Green_Pixabay
Image By: Del Green, Pixabay

Your Sandfish can detect the tiny vibrations created in the sand as a small insect moves over it and will lie in wait until the time is right to strike. Crickets are easy to find at the local pet store and are inexpensive, so they will likely make up the bulk of your pet’s diet, but you can also feed other insects, and there are some accounts of them eating flowers and seeds. You will also need to dust the insects with calcium powder to protect your pet from Metabolic Bone Disease like most other captive reptiles. The metabolic bone disease affects the bones of your reptile and can cause them to become soft and brittle. It can also make it difficult for your pet to move properly and is life-threatening.

You will also need to keep a fresh supply of water in the tank in case your pet needs a drink, though it will get most of its water from the food it eats.

Keeping Your Sandfish Healthy

As w mentioned earlier, keeping your Sandfish healthy is relatively easy. A twenty-gallon tank should give your reptile plenty of room to move and swim through the sand. Adding a few hides to the tank will give your pet somewhere to feel safer if it needs to, but it doesn’t require much and is used to the vast, empty Sahara Desert. To create a similar environment, you will need to keep the sand in the tank at least two inches deep and keep the temperatures between 75 and 80 degrees during the day and 70 degrees at night with the light off.

The hardest part of keeping your Sandfish healthy is keeping the humidity down. Most homes in America have humidity above 40% in their home with summertime levels often reaching 60% or more. The Sandfish requires humidity to stay closer to 30% year-round. The warmer temperatures and heat lamps may dry out the air enough, but you will need an accurate hygrometer to make sure humidity stays within limits.

Image By: somsak mungmee, Shutterstock


So far, no breeders have been successful in getting captive Sandfish to mate and produce offspring. Once this important hurdle is overcome, we can start to purchase captive-bred animals that are much more ethical and won’t interfere with the native population.

divider-reptileAre Sandfish Suitable for You?

Sandfish would make a great first pet for someone looking to start raising reptiles. It spends most of its day buried under sand and will only come out for a few hours at night to feed. It requires very little care once you get the habitat set up correctly and has a fairly long lifespan. Hopefully, breeders will get this unique and attractive breeding in captivity so more of us can enjoy it.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over our look into this rare reptile, and it has helped answer your questions. If you have learned something new, please share this Sandfish care guide on Facebook and Twitter.

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Featured Image Credit: Dennis W Donohue, Shutterstock

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