In the wild, they’re commonly spotted living in trees and on the ground in Australia, where they’re recognized for their mouth-wide-open “smiles” (which are really just a defensive posture to make themselves look larger to predators). But you don’t have to worry about any of that when you bring one home as a pet!
They thrive on leafy greens and insects and are quite simple to care for. In captivity, you will either observe them relaxing in the shade or basking in the sunshine. They are quite tolerant of being handled and are one of the most popular reptile pets. If this amiable Dragon has your attention and you want to learn how to care for and house one, check out the following guide!
When it comes to finding the right Bearded Dragon for your home, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. They typically range in size from 18 to 24 inches long, with a lifespan of around 10 years. It’s also important to make sure you select
Hatchlings: The hatchlings are about 3-4 inches long when born (head to tail). The change in eating habits, accompanied by growth spurts and a shift in body mass, is what causes the dragon to go through a series of changes in color.
Juveniles: The juveniles are dragons that have not yet reached sexual maturity. They range in age between 3 and 6 months, weighing up to 200-250 grams and measuring up to 12 inches in length.
Sub-adults: Although sexually mature at this age, they are still not fully developed physiologically. Bearded dragons can and will breed at this time, although it is not advised since females will continue to grow. Sub-adults are between 6 and 18 months old, weighing 200 to 400 grams, and measuring 13 to 18 inches in length
Adults: At 18 months, they will be more or less their adult size and able to breed, with a healthy inland bearded dragon at this age weighing between 400 and 600 grams and measuring around 18-22 inches. (Note: Females under the above weight are not advised to breed.)
Bringing a dragon home
When considering adopting a Bearded dragon, it’s vital to think about where you’ll get your dragon from. Today, some pet shops maintain clutches of young dragons in inadequate conditions (small enclosure size), resulting in an increased chance of disease and passing on parasites.
Gut impaction, to mention a few, is one of the most common reasons for death in reptiles. It’s crucial that we as reptile owners be aware of alternative choices such as specialist reptile breeders who are up to date with current husbandry methods and procedures.
When looking for your dragon, there are several visual indications to watch for that will indicate if the dragon you’re about to purchase is a healthy one that can join your family. Always begin at the top and work your way down, inspecting the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and cloaca (from which they excrete both urine and feces) for discharge. Examine the toes/nails/tail to ensure there are no missing or damaged body parts; make sure there aren’t any missing/damaged scales; double-check that they’re alert and inquisitive.
Owners of this species should be aware that, with proper care, the connection between owner and pet will be a long one; however, because more is being learned about their health and diet, the life spans of these lovely reptiles are increasing and are now frequently exceeding ten years of age.
Bearded Dragons have a wide range of natural behaviors, which is what makes them such a fascinating pet to keep. The term “Bearded Dragon” refers to the ability of this dragon species to puff out of a pouch in its throat, which supports scales and spikes that can be inflated for the appearance of a beard, which is exhibited by both males and females.
They use a number of physical signals, including head bobbing, to communicate and can flatten their forms as they move to make themselves appear larger as a defensive measure against predators/unauthorized hands in their cage. They may also show submissive behavior by flapping their arms (normally used to request another dragon to back off) in an up-and-down motion (usually done slowly in a circular motion).
In the wild, bearded dragons quickly form a hierarchy utilizing the aforementioned methods, but in captivity, they adapt to their caretakers and usually more aggressive behavior. Gaping is another one of their characteristics: this is when a bearded dragon keeps his or her mouth open (usually near a heat source) and is an effort made by this species to keep water throughout the winter months when they don’t produce sweat.
The parietal eye or third eye: The bearded dragon has a unique scale on top of its head, located between the eyes and a little further back, that resembles a tiny dot. This sensitive scale is often called the dragon’s Third Eye because it is photosensitive. Because birds are their primary food source in the wild, they have evolved this photosensitive scale to detect shifts in light/shadows from above.
When the parietal/third eye is illuminated, a dragon will react and attempt to flee (predator avoidance), which is why, whenever possible, you should approach a bearded dragon from eye level rather than above.
The correct method of handling and restraint
Before/after handling: It is recommended that you wash your hands both before and after handling your bearded dragon with a good anti-bacterial hand wash or sterilizing hand gel. This is simply good hygiene that will not only protect you and your family but will also help to promote the health of your beardie.
Bearded dragons should be handled with one hand beneath the body, palm/wrist supporting the body and tail dangling between the fingers, and back legs supported with fingers while having the lizard face toward you to allow your other hand to work.
It’s important to note that beards do not have caudal autonomy (shedding of the tail when stressed/picked up by the tail). Their tail, on the other hand, is quite delicate and susceptible to damage, so be cautious while handling/removing and placing a dragon back into an enclosure.
Keeping Dragons in groups
Bearded dragons are territorial lizards that have a developed social structure determined by body size. When two males come into contact in one male’s territory, combat will take the form of displays, circling, and tail biting.
Juveniles and females take over smaller areas as the males in these huge male domains grow old, and when they come into contact with territorial adult males, they display a submissive posture by slowly waving their arms or raising their forelimbs.
Bearded dragons are also intolerant of other reptile species, such as the Jacky Lizard (Amphibolorus muricatus), which is similar. As a result, it’s not recommended that you keep two males in the same enclosure or bearded dragons of various sizes together in captivity.
The greatest diameter of a meal should be the distance between a bearded dragon’s eyes, which is considered to be optimal for digestion and preventing impaction. Bearded dragons are omnivores with a varied diet that includes insects, fruit, and vegetation, as well as humans. Small mammals are occasionally included in their diets.
We should provide a varied diet of fresh greens (with fruit as dragons can become addicted to the sweet taste and abandon their greens) and all live insects should be gut loaded by feeding them insect fruit + vegetables, which will also be beneficial to bearded dragons when they consume them.
Hatchlings/Juveniles: insectivory is the main diet, however, fresh green vegetation should be given on a daily basis (chopped finely for young dragons) and cricket sizes should match the age of the dragon. Adult dragons are largely herbivorous, with plant/fruit material making up 90% of their diet and insects. (All bearded dragons are individuals who like different food items, but in the wild, they are opportunists that will eat anything that comes their way.)
WARNING: It is essential to feed tiny foods to newborn bearded dragons. The typical rule-of-thumb for feeding lizards states that prey that is 2/3 the lizard’s head size is usually safe to feed, however, this isn’t true with baby dragons (0-6 months). Partial paralysis, seizures, ataxia (loss of motor control), inability to self-feed, gut impaction, and even death can result from prey consumption that is too large for them.
Begin with pinhead crickets and occasionally tiny mealworms, gradually and gradually progressing to larger sizes. Despite the fact that most stores offer animals that need them, most don’t sell pinheads, so you’ll have to order them directly from a cricket breeder; mealworms can also be purchased from them at the same time. Until the age of 8 months, I strongly recommend not feeding food things bigger than the space between the dragons’ eyes, which aids healthy digestion and greatly reduces the above risks.
Insects Vegetable Fruit:
- Staple: Brown cricket, Dandelion plants, Collard Greens, Locust, Earthworm, Morio-worm, Calci-worm.
- Occasionally: Pear, Black cricket, Peaches, Kale, Mealworm, , Melon, Mustard Greens, Mango, Wax worm, Grapes, Fruit Flies.
- Rarely: Strawberries, Spinach, Blackberries, Raspberries, Banana, China Cabbage (Bok/Pak Choy).
- Never: Iceberg Lettuce.
|Waxworms:||Are high in fat and should be used as a treat, Fruit flies may be given as a treat to young bearded dragons since they like chasing and eating the fast-moving flightless bugs, Morio-worms should have their head or at least (mouthparts) cut off to avoid harm both internally and externally since they have strong jaws.|
|Mealworms:||Are a poor source of nutrients and should be gut-loaded with sweet potato; they should never be fed to young dragons because their digestive tracts are not sufficiently developed.|
|Grasshoppers:||Although grasshoppers are readily gut loaded, they have a lot of chitin and should therefore be included in a balanced diet.|
|Veggies:||Lettuce and other veggies, such as romanes lettuce, mustard greens, and spinach, all bind with calcium in the stomach and lower calcium absorption.|
Because dragons lack the nutritional value to make it worth their while, avoid feeding Iceberg lettuce to them since they will upset stomachs and cause them to have the runs, resulting in dehydration.
|Fruit:||Fruit: Berries, star fruit, and mango are all high in Oxalic acid and should be fed occasionally since it binds with calcium in the gut and inhibits proper calcium absorption; nevertheless, they can still be included in their diet in moderate amounts because they provide a wealth of nutrients.|
Bananas are high in potassium and bind with calcium in the stomach to prevent calcium absorption.
|Frozen Vegetables:||A word on Frozen Vegetables: It is not suggested to offer your dragons defrosted from frozen vegetables since the loss of Vitamin B (Thiamine) in this situation, which is a vital vitamin found in fresh leafy greens that helps your dragon’s nervous system to function properly.|
|Vitamins:||Vitamin A is toxic to bearded dragons in large quantities, therefore pak choi and bok choy (Chinese lettuce) can only be fed rarely.|
Never leave live food in the vivarium at night; this may cause stress to bearded dragons, and live food can and will bite your dragon at night, resulting in infections and discomfort.
Gut loading Live Food
The vegetables we offer to bearded dragons may also be given to crickets/ live food, and the live pets will get all of the advantages they’ve acquired from what they’ve eaten. Insects should be fed on leafy greens, fruit, and other veggies whenever purchased from a pet store where an insect has gone a while without eating; this is always advised when feeding your reptile live food.
If you see one of the following signs you should immediately take your bearded dragon to your veterinarian:
- Bleeding from an open wound/internally (bloody vomit, or blood in the feces or urine)
- It may seem paralysed
- Has any swelling on any part of its body
- Broken bones
- Has ingested a potentially harmful substance
Dragon health checks should be done on a regular basis to keep track of your dragon’s general health and it gets easier with time. You’ll learn your dragon’s distinct behaviors, as well as any unusual actions, but there are visible symptoms to look for in bearded dragons when they’re ill.
Check the head, paws, belly, and tail for any signs of discharge, as this is one of the first indicators of illness; check the body to ensure that shed skin is naturally coming away and there are no bite marks from live food remaining in the tank at night (especially black crickets since they are more aggressive).
Epidermis – the epidermal layer of skin that is shed periodically.
When a bearded dragon is about to grow, its skin comes off. This happens every few months, and it’s normal to notice patches of skin peeling away; it’s also natural for dragons to munch on their own shed skin.
When they’re shedding, provide your snake with more moisture by misting the enclosure every alternate day. This encourages the skin to naturally detach more readily.
If the skin is caught around the toes, dragons can inadvertently lose their toes if they get trapped. You should never try to remove the skin on your own because you might damage the new scales beneath it.
By bathing your dragons in lukewarm water, you may prevent this (they may also defecate in the water, which is natural). Pre-shed indicators: The dragons’ overall color will become duller and dimmer, with gray/white spots beginning to appear around the head/hands.
Bearded dragons also require vitamin and mineral supplements such as calcium and D3. Vitamins and minerals are needed for healthy bearded dragon growth because captive diets are insufficient in nutrients, necessitating the use of supplements. However, excessive supplementation can be harmful to bearded dragons as it may become poisonous in high doses.
The easiest and most effective approach to guarantee that your reptile receives all of the vitamins and minerals it needs is by dusting live food with a powder (just a pinch) such as Nutrobal, which is an excellent calcium/multivitamin supplement. The best technique I’ve found for putting crickets in powder is by adding a tiny amount of calcium powder to an empty clean living food tub, then filling the tub with live food and gently shaking it till all insects are coated in the powder before removing it into the tank.
Instead of vitamin A, a sufficient vitamin should include beta carotene. It will be changed into vitamin A when digested. Take careful note that too much vitamin A is harmful to bearded dragons. A decent mineral would have a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Calcium absorption in bearded dragons might be difficult if not impossible if this ratio is not maintained.
It’s also bad husbandry to keep a dish of calcium for your reptiles, as it isn’t an adequate substitute for dusting live food with supplements since you can’t measure precisely how much calcium your dragon is consuming.
Guide on vitamin and mineral intake for bearded dragons:
- Every bearded dragon in the Young/Juvenile age range, up to 2 months old, requires calcium and vitamin supplementation every day. One dusted feeding per day is required.
- Bearded between 2-6 months needs calcium daily and vitamin every other day.
- Dragons between 6 months to 1 year should take calcium every other day and vitamins 3 times a week.
- Adult bearded dragon 1 year + should take calcium every 2 to 3 days and vitamin 2 times a week.
Bottled water or water that has been sitting/ straight from the tap to a bottle for 24 hours are both preferable. Many animals may be sensitive to chlorine in normal tap water, so I fill a two-liter bottle with tap water, loosely tighten the lid and leave it for a day or two before using it for my reptiles and invertebrates (insects being particularly vulnerable).
Change the water in their tank every day, and if you want your reptiles to drink from their water bowls, fill them with the bowl before emptying it completely into the tank. (Just enough that the waters not splashing out of the bowl),
Another option is to mist the tank on one side with a mister bottle at the top (this works better in glass tanks) and allow the water droplets to fall down. This should only be done on the heated side of the enclosure, as prolonged increases in humidity can cause respiratory infections, they will chase and lick the water
A cricket or locust placed in a dragon’s water bowl will entice it to attack it in the water, allowing for some liquid with its lunch, alternatively you may softly mist the vegetable bowl to ensure there is enough of a variety of fresh greens and other food items.
Bearded dragons also enjoy sitting in their water bowls, and they will occasionally defecate in them, which is a typical behavior for reptiles.
A decent Bearded dragon enclosure should include all of the following features: a shallow water bowl, a food bowl, logs for dragons to climb on in order to get closer to heat sources and obtain UV radiation exposure, as well as hiding spots where they can move out of sight and feel secure.
You should have a heated area on one side of the cage that cools down to the other side, with temperatures ranging from 25-40 degrees.
Substrate: One of the most disputed topics among reptile owners around the world, it’s time to put aside the myths and learn the truth:
All sand may cause gut impaction in bearded dragons, which is a severe disease that can lead to intestinal obstruction in juvenile dragons.
Gut impaction can be caused by any item that is small enough for a dragon to swallow, including paper towels/lino flooring (suitable for young/juvenile dragons up to adult), Reptile carpet/tiles.
For those who desire to utilize sand as a substrate, there are techniques to minimize the danger of gut impaction by adding slate/ cork bark/ pebbles and branches to limit sandy floor space and pique dragons’ interest. It is not suggested to utilize sand as a substrate in dragons under 12 months old because they are clumsy eaters and may inadvertently consume sand while eating live food.
Housing Size Guide
Despite their tiny size (adults up to 22 inches), dragons are still regarded as a “giant” lizard and require enough room. Males tend to be territorial, making even 50-gallon tanks too small for them. Crowding can also contribute to aggressiveness and anxiety, which is exacerbated when the subordinate animal has nowhere to hide. Such circumstances can also result in injuries, including toes and tails lost, as well as hunger loss.
The larger the area you can give your dragon, the better! That is my personal view for minimum housing requirements. Every cage in which they are housed should be at least twice as long as the dragon itself in length for young dragons/juveniles, a 2-3 foot diameter enclosure is appropriate, and for adults, a 4 foot long by 1 foot wide tank would be acceptable (for a single dragon). However big you can manage/afford would be even better!
Related Read: Best Bearded Dragon Enclosure
Lighting and Heating
UV light is required for Bearded Dragons to properly absorb and utilize calcium. Bearded Dragon vivarium lights should be full spectrum fluorescents that are designed for reptiles. They should be changed every 6-8 months (depending on the bulb) if they are exposed to ultraviolet radiation within 30 cm of their eyes, as this distance provides maximum UV benefit.
Tungsten incandescent bulbs, for example, can provide a little UV light. It is important that a diurnal cycle be maintained since it is a diurnal lizard. Lighting should be handled by timers to ensure that there are 12-14 hours of daylight in the summer and 10-12 hours of winter darkness.
Related Read: Best UVB Light Bulbs For Bearded Dragons
The optimum body temperature for bearded dragons is 35°C (95°F). Their optimal range of temperatures, the one that allows them to function properly, is 35°C to 39°C (95°F to 102°F). Basking and absorbing heat from flat surfaces are both methods of achieving this goal.
To this end, a basking light should be installed at one end of the enclosure to create a temperature gradient of 29 degrees C to 40 degrees C (84 degrees F to 104 degrees F). Heat mats may be placed beneath half of the enclosure to aid in achieving this gradient.
Because of the high rate of thermal damage when using them, hot rocks are not suggested. The basking light is generally switched off at night to reduce the temperature by a few degrees, usually accomplished by simply utilizing a timer.
Related Read: Best Basking Bulbs for Bearded Dragon
In the Australian wild, this is a natural behavior that should also be catered to in captivity, caused by lengthy periods of low temperatures in the south of Australia, winter temperatures may occasionally fall below 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). When temperatures reach this range for more than a few days, the dragon will seek refuge. The dragon’s hunger will lessen and even disappear at times.
The dragon may appear vigilant while responding slowly to external stimuli (noise, movement), and many people refer to Brumation as a bearded dragon’s kind of Hibernation during this time. As temperatures rise above 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit) in the spring, the bearded dragon becomes active and resumes its normal activities, beginning to eat.
Winter Care (Brumation)
Brumation is still advised for Bearded Dragons in captivity during the winter months, with some experts claiming it may be required as a reproductive “stimulant” in early spring. The temperature under the basking light can be lowered to 24oC to 27oC (75oF to 80oF) and the night time temperature lowered to 16oC (60oF) for 4-6 weeks to approximate the natural environment.
As the ambient temperature drops, hunger and activity levels also diminish. The frequency and amount of feeding should be reduced during this time. Dragon dehydration can be prevented by soaking it in lukewarm water for 20 minutes every 1-2 weeks. Shelters (hollow logs, fake caves, etc) should be provided. As spring approaches.
Bacteria/pathogens can quickly build up in an enclosed space. To prevent this, good hygiene is necessary. Daily faeces and unfinished meals should be removed, as well as the inside walls/roof/floor of the enclosure, to ensure that they are all clean.
Bearded dragons adore bathing, and they have a lot of leisure time in the tub; this is one thing they will always expect.
Here are some bath instructions for your dragon.
Bathing your bearded dragon once or twice a week will keep them hydrated and aid in the shedding process. Bath water should be warm on your wrist but not too hot, similar to how bath water for a tiny baby is prepared. Make the water only as deep as your bearded dragon chest or halfway up their arms. Never leave your beardie alone in the shower; accidents can happen in a matter of seconds. It’s also essential to disinfect your tub/Tupperware after each bath since bearded dragons frequently defecate in it.
A dry tank is required for Bearded Dragons. The health of Bearded Dragons is harmed by excessive humidity. Levels in an enclosure should not exceed 30% to 50%. Excessive or broad-leafed vegetation might trap moisture and raise humidity, so it must be avoided.
Enclosures should be kept clean and dry at all times. It may be required to utilize a spray only occasionally and for brief periods of time. (It is acceptable to mist within an enclosure, but it is advised instead of this to give bearded dragons a bath twice a week outside of the enclosure to avoid moisture accumulation in the vivarium).
Misting within an enclosure is also crucial, mist dragons by spraying above them so it falls down (do not spray the dragon directly), and you should spray on the heated side of the vivarium so moisture is less likely to be trapped.,
Lino is a wonderful choice for a dragon’s habitat. When lightly misting my dragons near their heat source, moisture doesn’t linger long, but the dragon still receives the advantages of this sudden increase in humidity and when dried, an easier shed. Air-exposed regions such as skin, scales, and membranes like the ear and nose will experience issues when humidity levels are kept below 40 percent for extended periods of time. However, your dragons’ enclosure/substrate should never be damp as a general rule.
Bearded Dragons take six to fifteen months to reach sexual maturity, yet body size and growth rates are more significant than age. When Bearded Dragons reach 30cm (12”) in length, they are generally ready to breed. Males spermatogeny all year long except for a short regression period in the late summer. Vitellogenesis is the term used to describe the process by which females become ovulated during the spring and early summer seasons only.
Courtship behavior begins in early spring, when day temperatures rise and the lizards become more active. The male starts courting. He approaches and circles the female, fluttering his arm, changing color, extending his gular fold, bowing his head, and batting his tail.
After she signals acceptance by arm waving and head bobbing, the male grasps her across the back of her neck and shoulders. They then align their cloacas, and the male inserts one of his two hemi-penes. The female raises her head to a near-vertical position to indicate him to let go.
Egg laying occurs two to three weeks after mating. Egg laying occurs approximately 2-3 weeks following copulation. Prior to oviposition, the female gets considerably larger in the abdomen and spends additional time basking. She may dig “test holes” prior to laying, but eventually digs a shallow burrow, backs into it and lays her eggs before covering them lightly with dirt. She may revisit and defend her nest site for a few hours after laying, but ultimately leaves when she is finished.
Immediately after oviposition, females are usually receptive to males. Each female creates 2-3 clutches per year, with 14-26 eggs in each (up to 35 eggs have been seen). Up to seven clutches have been observed in captivity..
Clutch size varies depending on species and age. Clutches may overlap, meaning that the female may begin to lay the next clutch before the current one has hatched. This capacity to produce numerous clutches is made possible by each ovary having two germinal beds (unlike most other lizard kinds). Each ovary contributes follicles to each cluster, and vitellogenesis begins in the second germinal bed as soon as the first clutch is developed.
Sexual dimorphism (sexing dragons)
Bearded dragons, especially young ones, can be challenging to identify. Although cloacal examination has been stated by a few, sex is generally determined by external physical features and behavior.
These are illnesses and infections that can be transferred from one person to the next without using adequate hygienic standards. All reptiles have some level of salmonella in their systems, and handlers are most at risk when tossing feces. We wash our hands well ahead of and after working with animals to prevent the transmission of Zoonoses between humans and animals, as well as why routine tank cleaning is necessary.
The information in this blog post is intended for beginners and those who are new to caring for a bearded dragon. The more you know about your pet’s needs, the better caretaker you’ll be. We hope that we have provided some helpful insight into how to take care of one of these fascinating creatures.
How Much Does A Bearded Dragon Cost?
The price of a baby Bearded Dragon can range from $30 to $60, whereas youngsters under the age of six months might cost up to $100.