Bearded dragon, or “beardies,” are medium-sized Australian lizards. They vary in color but are frequently light tan to brown in color, with a long, thick tail and a spiky, beard-like collar around their neck. While they are generally regarded as excellent pets, even for novice reptile owners, they do have fairly complex nutritional and environmental requirements.
Bearded dragons require specialized equipment and a significant amount of time to care for. They are, however, generally social and easy to train, and they exhibit an array of fascinating behaviors that make them fascinating to observe.
Behaviour and Temperament of the Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are so named due to the spines that surround their necks. Typically, these spines are flat. However, when a dragon perceives danger, its throat expands and the spines stand up.
However, bearded dragons are generally docile in captivity, and owners rarely witness their aggressive displays. These animals are active throughout the day and typically develop a high tolerance for handling. Many even enjoy perching on the shoulders of their keepers. Male bearded dragons, on the other hand, should be housed separately due to their territorial nature.
Taking Care of the Bearded Dragon
A 55- to 75-gallon tank with a secure screen top is ideal for a single adult bearded dragon. Juveniles can be housed in smaller tanks, but they will quickly outgrow them.
Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal (tree-dwelling) in nature and occasionally prefer to perch above the ground. A variety of sturdy rocks, half logs, and branches can provide them with something to climb on, particularly in the section of the tank designated for basking. Additionally, there should be hiding places for your bearded dragon, such as hollow logs.
Proper tank temperatures are critical. As with other reptiles, your bearded dragon should have access to a temperature gradient and a basking spot. The gradient should be between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side and around 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side. Temperatures at night can drop to around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
An incandescent light, a ceramic heater, or a mercury vapor bulb in a dome reflector hood can all be used to provide heat. You may need to experiment with the wattage and distance between the heater and the tank to achieve the desired temperatures.
Temperatures at the basking spot, as well as at either end of the thermal gradient, should be monitored using thermometers in the tank. Never rely on educated guesses. An under-tank heater can be used to supplement the heat if necessary, particularly at night when the room temperature is extremely low.
UV light exposure is critical for pet bearded dragons. UV-lighting fluorescent bulbs are available at pet stores. Your bearded dragon should be able to approach these lights within 12 inches in order to benefit from the UV emitted, depending on the bulb type. Adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additionally, the lights should be directed through a screen top rather than through glass, as glass does not filter out all UV rays.
Maintain a consistent day-night cycle each day by providing approximately 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Using a timer to control the lights can be beneficial.
Sunlight exposure can also be beneficial. If time is spent outdoors, shade and shelter must be provided to allow your bearded dragon to thermoregulate. Never leave your pet outside in a glass tank, as sunlight quickly causes overheating.
Bearded dragons prefer a humidity level of approximately 35% to 40%. This replicates their natural arid habitat. Generally, maintaining this level is only difficult if you live in a high-humidity area. However, if necessary, you can mist your bearded dragon to increase the humidity. Utilize a hydrometer to monitor the tank’s humidity.
Substrate Substrate refers to the material that you use to line the floor of your bearded dragon’s enclosure. It helps maintain the environment’s humidity level and can give the tank a more natural appearance and feel.
Juveniles should avoid loose substrates such as sand. There is an excessive risk of accidental or curious ingestion, which can result in intestinal impaction. Alternatively, paper towels or reptile carpet can be used.
Adults can use washed play sand (not fine silica sand), but paper towels or reptile carpet also work well. Avoid using wood shavings, corn cob, walnut shell, or any other substrates that could cause issues if swallowed. Feces can be scooped out with a cat litter scoop if sand is used. Bearded dragons enjoy digging and burrowing in sand.
Food and Drinking Water
Bearded dragons are omnivores in the wild, eating both invertebrate and vertebrate prey, such as insects and smaller animals, as well as plant material. They should be fed a combination of insects and vegetables in captivity. Bearded dragons, depending on their age, should be fed at least once every 24 hours. Baby bearded dragons frequently consume three meals per day. Consult your veterinarian for the proper amount of food, as this is highly dependent on the size of your animal.
Crickets fed to bearded dragons should be small, particularly for baby bearded dragons. Never feed anything larger than the distance between the eyes of a bearded dragon. You can offer a wider variety of insects to adult bearded dragons, including waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, red worms, earthworms, newly molted mealworms, and superworms. Pinkie mice can also be offered to adults on occasion.
To prevent metabolic bone disease, insects should be gut loaded (fed nutritious foods that pass to your pet) and lightly dusted with calcium and vitamin D supplements. No more than once a week, dust with a complete multivitamin.
Along with insects, bearded should be fed a variety of vegetables and fruits. These ingredients can be chopped and combined to create a salad that can be served in a shallow bowl. Leafy greens may also be clipped to the enclosure’s side.
Provide a shallow dish of water for your bearded . If your dragon enjoys soaking in water, you can occasionally provide a larger dish for it to climb into.
Typical Health and Behavioral Issues
Metabolic bone disease is one of the most serious conditions that can affect bearded . This is due to an asymmetry in the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. It may result in the softening of the bones, making them more susceptible to fracture.
Bearded dragons, like other reptiles, are susceptible to respiratory infections. Wheezing and excess mucus around the nostrils and mouth are common symptoms.
Additionally, bearded are prone to digestive system impaction, which is frequently caused by certain insects in their diet. This is especially true when it comes to crunchy bugs like mealworms. As a result, it is best to feed these in moderation, particularly to juvenile fbearded .
Selecting a Bearded Dragon
Almost all bearded dragons available in the United States are captive-bred, as Australia has strict export laws. This is optimal, as wild-caught animals frequently do not thrive in captivity. Bearded dragons are widely available through reputable breeders and rescue organizations. Adult dragons typically cost around $100, while young dragons cost around $50.
Choose an active bearded dragon with healthy-looking skin. Swollen joints, discharge around the eyes, nose, or mouth, discolored skin, and runny droppings are all red flags.