Not registered? Create your account now!

Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

Author: The Doctor
September 22nd, 2010

Bearded dragons

Bearded Dragons (Pogona Vitticeps) can make great pets for everyone from the beginner to the advanced reptile keeper because they are moderately easy to take care of and have a very docile nature. But beware unlike other beginner reptiles like Leopard Geckos, Bearded Dragons are quite expensive to take care of and buy equipment for.

Bearded Dragons originate from Australia, the most common being the inland Bearded Dragon, adults can grow to 24 inches in length but usually stay between 16 and 20 inches (including the tail). They usually come from dry and rocky areas and often spend most of the day basking under the sun on a rock or a branch, finding shade only to cool down during the hottest parts of the day. They reach maturity at the age of 18 months and can live up to 10 years and longer.

Housing

When housed a bearded dragon should be kept in 48 x 24 x 24 inch sized vivarium, Bearded Dragons should never be housed together, they are not social animals and only come together to mate, housing two males together will cause tension and fighting and often the death of the lower ranking and smaller male. Males and females should only be kept together if you're breeding them and separated after, as keeping them together will cause over breeding and stress to the female. Some people keep female Bearded Dragons together successfully but I don't recommend this as bullying can still happen and one dragon will often dominate the other.

Lighting and Heating

Heat mats and heat rocks should never be used for housing Bearded Dragons, both can seriously burn the dragon, as the dragon senses heat from above and not from below. A bright white heat bulb is recommended attached to a thermostat for proper temperature control. Ceramic heaters can be used, but generally the reptile is more active with a bright light to bask under.The vivarium should have a hot end and cool end for proper body temperature control.

The basking spot (under the heat lamp) should be between 105-110ºF with a general ambient temperature of 95ºf in the hot end, the cool end should be around 85ºF. Temperature should be measured with an accurate digital thermometer. Night time temperature can fall to 65ºC, so it is often not needed to have heat at night, but if you live in a cold area it is recommended to have a ceramic heater at night set to around 70ºF.

Bearded Dragons require full spectrum UV lighting which should be on for 12-14 hours a a day, Most people recommend the 'Repti-Sun 10.0' tube (which should not be mistaken for the 'repti-glo 10.0' tube which isn't powerful enough for desert dwelling animals) Another good UV tube is the 'Arcadia d3+ (12%)', I personally use the latter and change the UV tube every 6 months. it is not recommended to use compact UV lights as these have been linked to eye problems in bearded dragons and other species. If a UV tube is not used dragons can and most probably will get Metabolic Bone Disease.

Substrate

I personally would never use sand or any particle based substrate for Bearded Dragons, these hold health risks for your dragons, if they eat the substrate they can become impacted and sometimes even die. I recommend rough tiles, paper towels and newspaper as a substrate, some argue that sand has better aesthetics, but non-particle substrates are safer, more hygienic and easier to clean. If sand is a must choose washed children's play sand, DO NOT use sand for baby bearded dragons as they are clumsy eaters and often miss their food.

Hides and caves shouldn’t be used because the bearded dragon can hide away from the UV light in these, simply use things to decorate the tank that will shade the dragon and not cover it. A rock should be placed under the lamp for the dragon to bask on. Real and fake plants can be used, but be careful and research into what plants are safe as some are poisonous.

Do not use wood chipping, crushed walnut shell or calci-sand these are fatal.

Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, that means they eat both animals and plants. All food items bearded dragons should eat should be no bigger than the space between the eyes. Baby bearded dragons might not touch vegetables at first, but a fresh dish should always be provided.

Feeding

Bearded dragonsBaby and juvenile bearded dragons should be fed baby crickets 2-3 times a day and given as much as they can eat within 10 minutes. they can eat anything up to a 100 crickets a day. this may look like alot, but bearded dragons grow very quick and won't stay little for long! This can be very expensive at first but they eventually slow down. Crickets should be dusted once a day five times a week with calcium powder (without d3) and twice a week with a vitamin powder that contains D3, vitamin D3 is vital for the growth of dragons along with the UV tube, with improper calcium levels Metabolic Bone Disease can form.

Always remove uneaten livefood from the tank, at night crickets can and will bite the dragon.

Never feed the dragon livefood that you have found in your back garden, these can often carry parasites which will be passed onto your dragon.

Sub-adults to adults can be fed livefood anywhere from once a day to three times a week along with fresh greens every day, I will provide links to what is safe to eat and what isn't. At this age you can offer them locusts, pheonix worms and roaches as a staple diet and wax worms, butter worms etc as treats as they’re often high in fat. I don't recommend mealworms as the shell is often hard to digest and they're very fatty for what little nutrients they hold. As they grow bearded dragons will start eating more greens than livefood.

Water

A water bowl is not a necessity really, you will likely never see the dragon drinking from it, this is because most of the dragons water comes from the food it eats. But you can teach them to drink from one if needed. though personally i keep a shallow water bowl in my tank at the cool end (this is to stop high humidity which can lead to respiratory infections). Never spray the tank with water as this also raises humidity and leads to health problems.

Giving your bearded dragon a bath can help keep them hydrated and will also aid shedding, make sure you use warm water (not hot) and that it never comes above the beardies knees. Never leave the dragon unattended in the bath.

Cleaning

Always spot clean the tank. Once a week disinfect the tank with a reptile disinfectant, all surfaces should be cleaned and water and food bowls. This should be done without the dragon in the tank use this time to let your dragon have a little roam around, making sure it can't escape or run away obviously, rinse everything with water after disinfecting making sure you can't smell any chemicals, always dry it, never leave the water to dry itself.

Always wash your hands before and after handling your dragon.

Bearded dragon feces can contain salmonella and you wouldn't want that being spread around the house. A new bearded dragon should not be handled for the first few weeks as they will likely not eat for a few days after you get them!

A few things to think about before purchasing a bearded dragon:

  • Can you afford to care and feed the reptile?
  • Do you have the time for it?
  • Can you afford vet bills if the animal gets ill?

Care Sheets on the internet always say different things, but this has worked for me and many other people.

Some Bearded Dragon facts:

  • Bearded Dragons have recently be found to have venom glands but either they don't produce venom anymore or have no way of extracting it!
  • Bearded Dragons have a third eye on top of there head, this is called The Parietal Eye, this senses changes in light and dark, it is a visible spot on the top of the head of a the bearded dragon. (other species of lizards also have this). It is thought that it helps the dragon see predators from above, if you try to pick a dragon up from above it will most likely panic and run away. It is thought that humans have one too but ours has no outlet at the top of our skull.

Dragon Nutrition Chart