Your Guide to Bearded Dragons
Did you know? Bearded dragons originate from Australia and were first brought to North America in the 1990’s.
LIFESPAN: Approximately 8-10 years
SIZE: Up to 24 inches (61 cm) in length
Are you looking for a reptile that is social, docile and actually enjoys being held? You may want to consider adding a bearded dragon to your family. Bearded dragons or “beardies” are one of the most popular reptiles for just these reasons. These natural desert dwellers are diurnal (most active during day) allowing you to interact with them more than many reptiles that are nocturnal. Bearded dragons are gentle by nature and rarely show aggression towards humans, making them an ideal pet for children; under proper supervision.
Choosing a habitat
Bearded dragons do best when housed individually. As they grow, they can become territorial which can cause issues with multiple bearded dragons in the same habitat. When considering their terrarium, it is important to remember that bearded dragons can grow quite large. An adult bearded dragon requires a 40-gallon terrarium or larger. A smaller habitat may be used for juveniles under a year and less than 6” (15 cm). The terrarium should be large enough to fit two hide houses, food and water dishes and décor for climbing. Ensure the habitat is fitted with a secure screened top to prevent escapes.
Heating & Lighting
Bearded dragons live in arid climates, this means you need to ensure your bearded dragon has a hot, dry habitat with lots of light. A temperature gradient (warm side/cool side) in their habitat must be provided, as well as a basking spot so they can regulate their temperature. The habitat should be equipped with two thermometers; one on the cool side and one near the basking spot on the warm side. During the daytime, the cool side should have an ambient temperature of 75-80°F (26-30°C), and the warm side should be in the low to mid 90’s (around 34°C). Nighttime temperature should be 65-75°F (18-24°C). An under tank-heater and or ceramic heat emitter can be used to supplement the heat if necessary, especially at night if the temperature is low. You should also install a hydrometer to monitor the humidity levels. Bearded dragons should have a low humidity habitat (10-30%).
Exposure to UVA and UVB light designed for reptiles is extremely important. Bearded dragons require a UVA/ UVB (ultraviolet light) fluorescent bulb for 12 hours per day. It is important that UV-producing lights be directed through the screen at the top as glass can block the UVB rays. A consistent light-dark cycle (12 hours of light) must be provided. This is easy to accomplish by using a timer for your lights. A basking light will need to be installed on the warm side of their habitat. A basking spot should have a temperature of 100-110°F (38-44°C).
Décor & substrate
Decorative rocks and branches can be used in the habitat to add a personal touch. You should have a place that your bearded dragon can use their basking light and also a hiding place on both the cool and warm sides of their terrarium. Hiding spots should be just large enough for the bearded dragon to fit comfortably. Branches should be provided for climbing and basking. Rocks or branches should be placed so your bearded dragon can bask 9” (22 cm) or closer to the bulb. Desert dwelling reptiles and adults should be kept on sand specifically sold for reptiles. For bearded dragons less than 6” (15 cm), use reptile carpet to prevent impaction due to ingested sand.
Socialization & handling
Bearded dragons are generally docile, inquisitive, and can be easily handled with minimal socialization. To avoid causing your breaded dragon stress, allow them 3-4 days to adjust to their new habitat before handling. When picking up your bearded dragon, be certain to scoop them up from under the belly and support their belly in the palm of your hand. Reptiles may transmit disease to humans; make certain to wash your hands after cleaning your pet’s habitat or after handling.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning that their diet consists of vegetables and insects. Insects and/or a commercial diet should be fed daily in addition vegetables and fruit to ensure a balanced diet. For insects we recommend crickets, mealworms and waxworms. Insects should be offered daily to juveniles, and daily to every other day for adults. Both insects and vegetables should be dusted with a calcium and vitamin D supplement. Selected fresh vegetables should be offered daily and selected fruits should be offered sparingly (once a week). Never feed your bearded dragon anything that cannot fit into its mouth all at once. To avoid accidental ingestion of substrate, food should be offered in a shallow bowl. Fresh water should be available at all times and food and water dishes should be cleaned daily.