Bearded Dragon: Ultimate Care Guide
The Bearded Dragon is one of the popular lizards that many pet owners think about. If you are weighing up getting one, or just curious, this guide has all the facts on them you need.
What is the Bearded Dragon? The Bearded Dragon’s scientific name is Pogona vitticeps. They are also known as the Inland Bearded Dragon. They get the name bearded dragon from the way they puff up their throat when they become excited or angry. This gives them a bearded look.
There are so many things to consider when researching this lizard, their behaviour, lifespan, housing, diet and much more, read on to get this info.
There are other species within this group, such as the Coastal Bearded Dragon, the Western Bearded Dragon, the Black-soil Bearded Dragon, the Kimberly Bearded Dragon, the Nullabor's Bearded Dragon, and the Dwarf Bearded Dragon.
The Coastal and Black-soil Bearded Dragon are sometimes found in pet stores in the United States, but the most common Bearded Dragon kept as a pet is the Inland variety.
Barded Dragon Behavior
Each Bearded Dragon, like any other creature, has his own personality. In general, however, the Bearded Dragon has a calm, passive temperament. He is content to spend most of his time in his tank, looks forward to interacting with his humans, particularly at mealtimes, and is typically easy to get along with.
The Bearded Dragon has a few distinctive behaviors that give you some insight into how he is feeling. If your Beardie is young, you may notice him "waving" at you with one arm. :
This slow sweep is his way of saying he is nervous and does not pose a threat. The opposite of this behavior is the head bob. They head bob to show dominance.
Their most common behavior is when they puff up and darken their throat, creating the appearance they have a beard. Your Beardie may do this if he is ill, feels threatened, or to impress females. The Bearded Dragon can also change his overall body color, not just the area around his throat. He may darken if he is ill or stressed.
One behavior you want to watch for that means something is wrong is glass surfing. If your Bearded Dragon starts to run along the side of his tank, or stands on his back legs and tries to run up the side, he is probably experiencing stress.
You may not realize this is a stress-related behavior, in fact, it can actually look amusing. However, it means something is wrong.
If he seems otherwise healthy, there are some things you should consider. He may need a larger tank or more time outside his enclosure, as glass surfing is often a sign of boredom.
It is important to realize that glass surfing is an indicator that something is wrong in your Beardie's environment.
How big are Bearded Dragons?
Bearded dragons can range from 12 to 24 inches long. Their size depends on their gender, species, the type of diet they eat and their living environment.
Bearded dragons can typically live into their early teens with proper care. You can typically find Bearded Dragons at pet stores that are between three and four months old. Getting a young Bearded Dragon allows you years to bond with and enjoy your pet.
Bearded Dragon Care
What is the best size housing tank? The size of the Bearded Dragon determines the size of the cage. If the Bearded Dragon is not in a large enough tank his growth will be stunted. A young Bearded Dragon will be fine in a 20-gallon tank, but as he matures, plan on sizing up to a 100-gallon tank. The general rule is to provide 1.5 to 2 square feet of space for an adult Bearded Dragon.
What is the best lighting?
Bearded dragons are native to the desert, and appreciate an environment that mimics that. Set your tank up with two separate light sources. The first should be a full spectrum UV light.
This light should cover the length of the tank. It is important to use a UV light, not only to create the most comfortable living conditions for your Beardie but also so he can use those UV rays to create vitamin D3 internally.
The second light should be a bright white light concentrated on one area of the tank. This will be his basking spot. The light should keep the area between 95 and 110 degrees. Locate this light at one end of the tank so he can go there when he wants to warm up and get away from it when he wants to be cooler.
What is the best temperature for them?
The tank should be long, with a basking light set up at one end. This allows for a cool area as well as a warm area. The cool area should be between 80 and 85 degrees during the day and can drop to between 70 and 75 degrees at night.
Create a basking spot that can reach 110 degrees. The safest way to do this is to place a rock or angled log under the basking light. Your Bearded Dragon can then get as close to or as far away from the light as he wants, allowing him to choose the temperature at which he is most comfortable. It is important that he not be able to actually touch the lightbulb itself, however.
What is the best substrate for them?
You want the substrate to be made up of a solid material rather than something loose like sand. You can use butcher paper, newspaper or a material specifically designed for them, such as reptile carpet.
It may be tempting to use sand as a substrate, but your Bearded Dragon may ingest it while eating and develop an impaction in his intestines.
Using a solid substrate is always best. You should particularly never use sand for young Bearded Dragons, and if you do decide to use it for adults, be sure to feed your Bearded Dragon in dishes, rather than directly on the substrate. This will minimize the amount of sand he ingests.
What do they eat (diet)?
Bearded Dragons have a varied diet, and will be healthiest if you mimic what they eat in the wild. Insects make up the main component of their diet, and the younger they are, the more important it is that they get enough insects in their diet. Bearded Dragons enjoy things such as locusts, crickets, earthworms, and black soldier fly larvae.
Bearded Dragons also enjoy fruits and vegetables, and you should be sure to keep some in their tank at all time. They enjoy a range of fruits and vegetables, although you will probably find that your Bearded Dragon has favorites.
It is fine to offer him the ones he enjoys most, but it is also important that you offer him a variety. Blueberries, apples, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, raisins, and herbs such as sage, oregano, and basil are all popular choice.
If you have access to grasses such as clover and dandelion greens that you are sure have not been treated with pesticides, he will enjoy those as well.
Do not feed your pet spinach, lettuce or avocados, or any insects you catch yourself. These insects may contain parasites which can make your Bearded Dragon ill.
Young Bearded Dragons require a more protein-rich diet than adults, so should have insects at each meal, and be fed three times a day. By the time your Beardie is an adult, the feeding schedule is more varied and less intense.
For example, an adult Bearded Dragon will eat greens daily, offering as much as will eat. A couple times a week, offer some form of protein. Some examples include up to two dozen crickets, a dozen superworms, or several adult roaches.
How do you know that you're feeding enough? Your Beardie should always look pleasantly plump. He should not look skinny or gaunt. If he does, increase the amount or number of protein meals he is getting. If his belly starts dragging the ground or he develops fat pads on the front of his shoulders, cut back on the amount he is fed.
Bearded Dragons are accustomed to living in desert conditions, so their water needs are minimal. It is important, however, that they always have fresh, clean water available.
Use a shallow bowl for water, so the Bearded Dragon does not fall in and drown. You may find he likes to run through the water, drag his food in, and otherwise make a mess. It is important to check his water at least daily to make sure he always has a clean supply available.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like your Bearded Dragon drinks much. As a desert dweller, his needs are minimal. If offered a proper diet, much of his fluid needs are met by the insects and vegetables he consumes.
Some people like to spritz water in the enclosure, on the walls or even on the Beardie. He can lick these water droplets off. This is fine, but there are some things to keep in mind.
This spritzing does not take the place of a shallow bowl of fresh, clean water which should be available at all times, and be careful not to get the inside of the enclosure too damp. Bearded Dragons are desert animals and do not do well in humid environments.
Another activity your Beardie may enjoy is a lukewarm bath. The water should be about to his elbows, you don't want him to have to swim. Place him gently in the bath and let him explore. If he seems unsure what to do, sprinkle a little of the water along his back, this will often encourage him to drink.
Even with a varied diet, your bearded dragon will need supplements. There are many different supplements available. Make sure the one you choose includes calcium, iron, and vitamin D3.
Feeding high-quality insects which have been gut-loaded is a great way to ensure that your Bearded Dragon gets the nutrients that he needs. You can supplement this by sprinkling a calcium and multi-vitamin supplement on the food three times a week.
Finally, be sure that you are using a UV light in your tank. This ensures that your Bearded Dragon gets the vitamin D3 he needs. It is unclear how effectively Bearded Dragons utilize D3 in supplements, so it is important that they are able to manufacture it on their own as well.
Can Bearded Dragons eat mealworms? Mealworms make a great food for Bearded Dragons. They come in a variety of sizes, so are a good food choice for all life stages. They also cannot climb, making them a good choice for the passive and slow-moving Beardie.
Can Bearded Dragons and geckos live together? Bearded Dragons should live by themselves. In addition to the fact that different reptiles have different temperaments, which can lead to conflict, there are health concerns with keeping reptiles together. They can easily transfer bacteria to each other, and while one may not be affected, the other may become ill.
Can Bearded Dragons and iguanas get along? Iguanas are typically very territorial, so the idea of keeping them with the passive Bearded Dragon is not a good one. In addition, as mentioned above, it is generally just not a good choice to keep various species of reptiles together. Even if their habitat demands are similar, living in such close quarters can lead to illness.
Do they make good pets for beginners? Bearded Dragons make a great reptile choice for beginners. They are typically passive, don’t mind being handled, and get along with humans.
Their slow-moving, gentle nature makes them a great choice for children who are interested in reptiles. They quickly learn to recognize their humans and are always happy to see you, whether for a meal or to visit.
Bearded Dragons are very easy to care for as far as reptiles are concerned. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to get their environment right.
You can prepare their tank before getting the Bearded Dragon to make sure you are ready to provide appropriate care. As long as you have a decent sized tank at the correct temperature, and a UV light, your Beardie will be happy.
Provide him with a proper and varied diet, and he should stay healthy for years to come.
Another thing that makes a Bearded Dragon a great pet for beginners is the fact that he doesn't require a huge tank. A tank about four feet long should provide enough room for most Beardies.
Although they don't require a lot of room, they do get large and sturdy enough to be handled even by younger children, with supervision of course.
They typically don't get any longer than two feet, and about one-third of that length is in their tail, so they aren't heavy. This makes it easy to get them in and out of their tank for socialization.
Bearded Dragons also have a wide range of personalities. While they are generally easy to get along with, some will seek out interaction with their caretakers, while others will be shyer.
Some will be content to spend great periods of time in their basking spot, while others will spend the day exploring and climbing.
Bearded Dragons are daytime creatures, unlike many other reptile species, so you can enjoy observing them during the day, and not worry about them disturbing your sleep with activity during the night.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it full of valuable information. Bearded Dragons are a great pet and, with proper care, can provide years of entertainment and companionship.
Unlike in the wild, Bearded Dragons that are kept as pets are fully dependant on their caretakers to provide for their needs. It is important to know how to set up the tank properly for your Bearded Dragon and what foods he needs to grow strong and healthy.
Educating yourself on the proper needs of these interesting creatures is an important part of your relationship with them.