Bearded dragons are one of the most iconic reptiles that are kept as pets. For the most part they are pretty easy to take care of, have incredibly docile personalities, and are very fun to handle. These wonderful creatures come from Australia and can live up to about 14 years and this guide has been created to inform potential beardie keepers on how to properly keep a bearded dragon at home.
A 40 breeder (36″ x 18″ x 18″) is a great size for a beardie until it grows over 12″ long. Once it exceeds a foot in length it is recommended to upgrade its habitat to a 120 gallon enclosure (48″ x 24″ x 24″). This will provide plenty of room for your companion. Bearded dragons should have an area to bask and an area to cool down. The basking location should average between 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day. On the other hand the cool down location should be around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Reptiles are cold blooded animals so they cannot regulate their body temperature. This requires for them to have warm and cool areas in the enclosure. The lights can be shut off during the night and the temperature can safely decrease to around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature and humidity gauges should be present in both warm and cool parts of the enclosure. The humidity should roughly be between 30 and 40 percent. Supplemental heat emitters should be provided if temperatures in the enclosure fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Bearded dragons should receive enough UVA from the basking light but they will require another light fixture that gives off UVB lighting. UVB is needed in order for a bearded dragon to be able to produce Vitamin D. A wire mesh covering for the enclosure is required because UVB does not penetrate through glass. This dual fixture is great for this type of enclosure and it comes included with both a UVB bulb and basking light.
There are different substrate types that can be used for a bearded dragon enclosure. There is sand matting that can be placed at the bottom of the enclosure. It is like a carpet that can be removed and easily cleaned so it is recommended to have two on hand to swap out and clean. It is also the safest type of bottom for the enclosure because it cannot be ingested. There is sand that can be used as substrate as well. Some people are against sand due to possible impaction and accidental ingestion. This substrate helps imitate a bearded dragon’s natural habitat and may help motivate it to burrow. If sand is purchased, it is a great idea to also purchase a scooper to pick up some fresh poop. The sand substrate is recommended to be replaced every at least every three months. Each substrate has its own perks and downfalls. Some are more ascetically pleasing while others have better reliability.
Decorations can include an assortment of rocks, driftwood and anything for them to lounge on. A nice piece of driftwood is great to put under the basking lamp because it does a great job to hold heat which will help keep your beardie warm!
Bearded dragons do not really require a water dish to be present in their enclosure. They acquire all of their fluids from food. Their diet will primarily consist of live food such as: crickets and meal worms, vegetables, and very sparsely fed fruit. Some people shy away from keeping bearded dragons because they do not want to drive to acquire crickets or they just do not like insects in general.
Crickets should be fed everyday and be appropriately sized to fit into the mouth of a bearded dragon. The size of the cricket should not be bigger than the area in between the eyes of your bearded dragon. They should also be dusted with a calcium supplement at least twice a week to ensure your new reptile companion acquires the necessary supplements to help build a strong bone system. An improper enclosure and not enough supplements could lead your animal to become diseased. A common disease that reptiles can acquire the metabolic bone disease. Also, pay attention to how many crickets stay in the enclosure because they can irritate and stress your animal companion if not eaten. Mealworms should only be given to your bearded dragon as a treat.
Bearded dragons should be fed veggies such as kale and broccoli to help give them important nutrients and a more varied diet. Veggies should be fed daily. It is recommended to give youngsters veggies first and then once they eat their veggies to feed them their crickets. Just like little kids, baby bearded dragons prefer not to eat veggies. An assortment of collard greens and mustard greens should be given to your bearded dragon. Do not feed your new pet avocado, rhubarb because it is toxic to the animal and avoid lettuce because it does not provide any nutritional value and can lead to diarrhea.
Fruits can be fed to your bearded dragon very sparsely. More or less once or twice a month as a treat for being a great pet! The main fruits to feed beardies are mango and papaya. Strawberries, peaches, raspberries and watermelon are great to feed occasionally, but stay away from feeding them fruit with a lot of citrus.
Bearded dragon handling
Bearded dragons in general are quite easy to tame. Their very docile nature makes them quite a good pet for younger children or anyone who is new to keeping a reptile. They’re a wonderful introductory pet. The little ones can be squirmy, especially to a new keeper but with training and patience they will become like a dog with scales. I have heard many stories of bearded dragon keepers keeping their pets on their chest while sitting on the couch watching TV, or letting the bearded dragon cling onto their shirt while walking around the house. I have seen them nip but it doesn’t hurt and it usually happens when they think they’re getting fed and they mistaken your finger for lunch. Otherwise, they’re a very mellow animal.
With proper care and husbandry, bearded dragons can be a great pet for kids and adults alike. They’re very docile and usually just hang around. With proper training and a great diet they can be wonderful companions to anyone. Acquiring and feeding them live crickets is a turn off but other than that they’re a sweet reptilian pet!