Bearded Dragons
  • General

Bearded dragons are from the arid, dry regions of Australia.  Bearded dragons are considered one of the best reptile pets as they are attractive, entertaining, moderately sized, easy to handle, and relatively easy to keep. Bearded dragons can reach sizes up to 18-24 inches head to tail, and can live anywhere between 8-12 years raised under proper conditions.

  • Housing

Babies can be housed in a 20 gl aquarium to start but will eventually need at least a 40 gl breeder tank for 1 adult beardie. Though a 40 gl is a minimum a 4x2x2 enclosure is ideal for a single adult. The enclosure should provide a thermal gradient that allows your beardie to adjust his/her temperature by going to either hot or cool side of the tank. This is why I don’t recommend a 10 gl tank for babies as there is not enough room to supply a correct thermal gradient.

  • Substrate

For babies I recommend paper towels, news paper, non adhesive shelf liner, or slate tile.  Adults can use any of the above mentioned with the addition of children’s play sand(shifted).  Babies should not be placed on sand due to the high risk on intestinal impaction.  This can happen through your beadie ingesting the sand and it can lead to serious injury or death in your beardie.  I personally use non adhesive shelf liner for babies, as it is pretty cheap, easily cleaned, can be thrown away and replaced if needed.  For adults I use slate tiles as they are easy to clean and help to naturally wear down the dragons nails.  Substrates that I would NOT recommend using are: any kind of calci sand, corn cob, walnut shells, kitty litter, or wood shavings.

  • Lights / Heat

Beardies require a temperature gradient in their enclosure because they can’t regulate their body temperatures like we can.  They have to thermo regulate, which means that they have to move between areas of differing temperatures in order to regulate their internal temperature.  You should have a basking spot for your beardie that is around 95 – 110 degrees F, as they need to get their bodies 95 degrees to digest their food.  Your beardie will also need an area to cool down if he gets to warm.  At the opposite end of the tank, you should try to keep the temps around 75 – 85degrees F.  Night time temps shouldn’t be allowed to get lower than 60 degrees F, where as 70-75 is more comfortable for them.  These proper temperatures can be achieved by using both a UVB bulb and a heat bulb.  For heat you can use a regular house hold light bulb(not a coil bulb) in a reflexive dome. Just check your hot spot and adjust your bulb wattage to get correct temp.  For the UVB You can use a fluorescent tube bulb like repti-sun 10.0.  You don’t want to guess on your temps, I recommend getting a temperature gun they are quite readily available now a days.  These give you a more accurate temperature than stick on thermometers.

I DO NOT recommend using any type of hot rocks as they are potentially dangerous to your beardie.  They are known to overheat which can produce serious burns or short out causing electrical hazard.  This happens as beardies don’t have heat sensors on their bellies so they don’t even realize they are getting burned.  There are two main types of bulbs that produce UVB, one being a mercury vapor bulb(MVB), and the other a fluorescent tube(which needs to be replaced every 6 months even if it still works).  Don’t be mislead by “full spectrum” bulbs as “full spectrum” doesn’t mean that it produces UVB. Beardies synthesize vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB light, and D3 is necessary for beardies to metabolize calcium.  In the wild dragons get the UVB directly from the sun where as in captivity(especially colder climates) they don’t get enough sunlight to produce the amount of D3 their body’s need.  Beardies who aren’t able to produce enough D3 will develop what is called metabolic bone disease (MBD). This is the result of the beardie using the calcium in their bones to fuel other bodily processes.  If MBD isn’t treated early skeletal deformities, broken bones, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death can occur.

Natural sunlight should be offered whenever possible, just make sure you allow for a cool area in case the beardie becomes to hot.  Also sunlight that is filter through glass loses all its UVB the dragons need.  Never leave your dragon outside unattended as the unexpected can and will happen.

  • Diet

Bearded dragons are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plants for food.  Any and all food your dragon eats should roughly be no bigger the the space between your dragons eyes.  If the prey item is bigger than this could lead to impaction or paralysis in your beardie, which could lead to death.

Baby and juvenile beardies should be offered appropriately sized crickets 2-3 times a day.  I offer as much as the dragon will eat in  a 5-10 min time frame.  Young beardies can eat anywhere from 20-60 small crickets a day.  Your beardie should also be given fresh greens daily, while misting the greens also helps your dragon stay hydrated.

Sub-Adult to adult beardies only need to be given live food once a day along with their greens.  Once they reach around 16 inches you can start to offer them super worms, wax worms, horn worms, roaches, and silk worms as treats.  NEVER feed your dragon bugs that you catch in your yard as they could have parasites or toxins in their system that they can pass along to your dragon.  This is especially true with lightning bugs as they are poisonous to dragons and will kill them, so it is much safer to stay away from wild caught insects.

Prey items should be dusted once a day(5-6 times a week) with a calcium w/D3 supplement such as Rep-Cal.  All prey should be dusted once a day(1 time a week) with a multivitamin supplement such as Herptivite.  Any uneaten prey items should be removed from your dragons enclosure each night as hungry crickets have been known to feed on sleeping dragons.

There is a wide variety of greens that are available that are good for your dragon. Dandelion greens, Collard greens, Mustard greens, Bok Choy, Kale, Turnip greens, Escarole, and Chicory are among the easiest to find and best to use for your dragon.  You want to avoid any greens that say lettuce in the title as they are composed mostly of water and contain no nutritional value.  Spinach should also be avoided as calcium binds to it and will not be digested by your dragon.  A wide variety of vegetables can also be offered to your beardie to be added to their greens or as a treat. Butternut, Yellow, Spaghetti, and Acorn squash are all good choices along with Green beans, Sweet potato, Snow peas, and Carrots.  Carrots being only offered as a treat as they are high in vitamin A.  Any food with high amounts of vitamin A should be avoided as reptiles do not absorb a lot of vitamin A and can lead to a condition called vitamin A toxicity which is deadly.  Squashes will need to be cooked or grated before feeding them to your beardie as it will help to soften them up making it easier to eat.  Fruits can also be used as a treat just avoid any citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.

It is not a good idea to feed your dragon in the evening close to bed time as food will sit in their stomachs over night and could rot.  Generally, a common rule is to not feed your dragon anything to eat at least 2 hrs before the lights go off.

  • Water

Keeping your beardie hydrated is also important. Most dragons get the majority of water they need through their food sources. Some other ways are through misting your dragon daily or some dragons will also drink from an eye dropper.  Giving your dragon a bath at least once a week will also help keep them hydrated and help them when it is time to shed.

  • Other Info

New animals should be quarantined away from any other animals for at least 60 days pending a trip to the vet and a clean fecal sample.  You should always wash your hands before and after handling any reptile to prevent transmission of diseases.  It is all so a good idea that there is a qualified reptile vet in your area that can treat your dragon incase it becomes ill for any reason.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

 

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