Bearded dragons are small lizards that are native to Australia. They make excellent pets for novice lizard keepers and are social, easily hand tamed, and have a range of interesting behaviors. Bearded dragons get their name from their spiked beard that can be expanded and reduced in size. They do have a specialized diet that must be followed, and their enclosure must meet their environmental requirements as well. Special equipment and a decent amount of time are going to be needed to keep your bearded dragon healthy.
Bearded dragons can be purchased at most pet stores, pet expos, reptile shows, and online from stores and breeders. Bearded dragons are very common and should be easy to find.
Bearded dragons can reach lengths of 16 to 24 inches as adults.
One of the things you must watch out for is metabolic bone disease, which makes bearded dragons’ bones softer and more likely to break. Also, like other reptiles, dragons are susceptible to respiratory infections, which you’ll notice by the wheezing or mucus around the nostrils and mouth.
This care information is a brief overview of a subject that has been covered in many books by respected authors and on many breeder forums. For more information visit http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Lizard-Species/Bearded-Dragon/ , or please consult a specialized book, visit one of the breed-specific forums/message boards, or contact an expert in that particular field. Your new animal will thank you for it. .
Most bearded dragons live between 6 and 10 years in captivity, but it has been documented that one lived to be 20 years old.
It’s probably best to keep only female bearded dragons together or female(s) and only one male. The reason for having only one male is because bearded dragons become territorial. A single adult dragon can live in a 55-gallon or larger reptile enclosure with a very secure screen top. Smaller enclosures can be used for juveniles, but they will quickly outgrow them because the enclosure size a bearded dragon lives in does not determine its top-end size. There’s a popular belief that somehow it does. That’s wrong.
For juvenile bearded dragons, any and all loose substrate, including sand, should absolutely be avoided. For adults, avoid things like wood shavings, walnut shells, or any other substrate that they shouldn’t swallow. Avoid cedar because it is toxic to all reptiles. There is too great a chance a bearded dragon could swallow some accidentally while they eat or just out of curiosity as a “taste test”. These items when ingested could lead to intestinal impaction.
Just to be safe, using newspaper, paper towels, or some indoor/outdoor carpet is also a good idea. It’s easy to clean and reusable as well. Make sure there are no loose threads or tufting on the carpet. Remember: bearded dragons are taste testers.
With all that said, bearded dragons really like to dig and burrow, so if you decide to use sand to help them feel fulfilled, a good idea is to try dividing the cage with a small wall they have to crawl over. That way the sand, or at least most of it hopefully, will stay on one side of the wall and the other side could be some other substrate. Because bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and like perching on rocks and branches anyway, the wall shouldn’t be too tough for them to navigate.
There should be a hide or two, one at either end of the temperature gradient.
Lighting and Temperature
There’s some special lighting designed for reptiles on the market now that will help you make sure that your new dragons get all the UVA/UVB radiation they need for good health. Always read the manufacturer’s directions for the light placement. You don’t want to harm your pet, right? If possible, according to the directions, let the bearded dragon get within 12 inches of the light to get all the value from the light it can.
Proper temperatures in your enclosure are very important. Just like other reptiles, your animal needs a temperature gradient. Adult bearded dragons can have slightly cooler basking area than the baby/juveniles can. The adults basking area should be between 90 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit. The baby/juvenile basking area needs to be between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also the tempurature to keep the cooler side at for adult dragons.
As with the lighting, there are plenty of options to use to maintain the desired heat level. Under-tank heating pads or tape and special heat-radiating bulbs are just a couple of things I’ve used. No matter what you choose to heat your enclosure with, make sure you KNOW the temperature and not HOPE that the thermometer stuck on the side of the enclosure is correct. Temperatures often vary from one place to another inside the enclosure, so get a digital probe-style thermometer and quit hoping for the best. These thermometers can be found all over now, and you can get them online and delivered right to your front door.
A consistent day/night cycle, which is 12 to 14 hours of light, must be provided. A digital timer is an inexpensive option to help take the work out of maintaining the light cycle for you or your child.
Bearded dragons as well as other lizards, like the blue tongued skink are omnivores in the wild, so they need a varied diet of insects, mostly crickets, and other cultured insect prey, as well as vegetables. Superworms are better than mealworms. Superworms have more of what your dragon needs. Chitinous exoskeletons of insect prey (like mealworms) can cause intestinal impaction, so feed mealworms in limited quantities, especially to juveniles. On occasion you can offer your adult dragon a pinkie mouse if you like, but for the most part, bearded dragons will take superworms, silkworms, red worms, and earthworms, as well as many varieties of vegetables.
Insects should be gut loaded or dusted before feeding. Place the insects into a plastic bag with the recommended amount of calcium and Vitamin D supplement, and no phosphorus, and shake well. To help prevent metabolic bone disease, dust insects once a week with a complete multivitamin. Do not feed your bearded dragon wild-caught insects because you don’t know where they’ve been. Finally, bearded dragons need a mixture of leafy greens, clover blossoms, rose petals, hibiscus flowers, and fruits, as well as the veggies. Keep the sugary fruits minimal. Chop everything up into little pieces, mix it all together, and put it all in the feeding dish.
Water should be in a shallow dish and clean. You can also mist your dragon from time to time, but not too much to make the environment too wet or humid. Bearded dragons are from an arid area after all. Some dragons like to soak in water dishes. If that’s the case with yours, make sure the dish is shallow enough for your dragon to climb into and out of easily and then clean it thoroughly after use.
If your pet dragon goes into a brumation period, and it may or may not, make sure to have plenty of fresh water available during this time.
Handling and Temperament
Bearded dragons love to be handled. It’s almost like they are daring you to do it. If for some reason they don’t want to be handled right then, they tend to run, walk, or jump away. Try again later or the next day if this happens. They do hand tame very easily once they get used to you. They have such personality and are a lot of fun to handle. I know a couple of people who trained their dragon to play fetch with a small ball. I read a quote online recently saying that “everyone who holds one, wants one.”