Bearded dragons, renowned as small to medium-sized reptiles, have gained popularity as one of the most favoured pet lizard species across all age groups.
Bearded dragons possess an appealing appearance, characterised by their stout bodies, flattened trunks, and broad triangular heads. They sport a spiky pouch, or beard, beneath their chin that can be expanded and turns black when they feel threatened or during mating.
A distinct series of spines runs horizontally along their bodies, extending from their heads to the base of their tails. Fully mature, healthy adults can reach lengths of 18-22 inches (45-56 cm) from nose to tail tip.
Bearded dragons are highly sociable, friendly, lively, inquisitive, gentle, and easily trainable, responding well to their owners. They are hardy, robust, have healthy appetites, and require a diverse diet.
Suitable enclosures for Bearded Dragons
For juvenile bearded dragons, the minimum enclosure size is a 20-gallon aquarium, but this may vary based on the lizard’s size. As your bearded dragon grows, provide a 75 to 120-gallon tank or larger.
Ensure the enclosure’s length is at least three times the lizard’s total body length, with a width of at least 16″ to allow easy movement. Proper ventilation is crucial, along with a secure top to prevent escapes and intrusions from other animals.
Multiple bearded dragons can cohabit in a single enclosure if it’s spacious enough and they get along, but only one adult male should be present, as adult males often engage in territorial conflicts when housed together.
When introducing new dragons, closely monitor their interactions to ensure compatibility, and it’s advisable to pair dragons of similar sizes to prevent larger ones from harming smaller ones.
Best Bearded Dragon bedding
Tiles are a great alternative to paper bedding, they’re easy to clean and non-toxic.
Avoid using sand, gravel, wood shavings, corn cob material, walnut shells, and cat litter, as they are challenging to clean and can lead to intestinal blockages if ingested, intentionally or accidentally.
What other elements should be included in the enclosure?
Incorporating large rocks that provide opportunities for climbing and basking can enhance the environment’s natural appeal. Bearded dragons may also appreciate low, horizontal branches for climbing.
Ensure these elements are securely positioned to prevent accidents where the lizard might be harmed by falling objects.
All reptiles, including bearded dragons, benefit from a hiding place. You can create one with items like a clay pot, cardboard box, a piece of commercially purchased bark, a half-domed hollow log, a pet cave, or an inverted plastic food storage container.
Artificial or live non-toxic plants can be arranged to create additional hiding spots. Always provide a shallow, stable dish for water and a similar dish for food that won’t easily tip over.
Reptiles are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature relies on environmental conditions. To facilitate their health, maintain a temperature gradient within the enclosure, with one area warmer than the other.
This allows your bearded dragon to regulate its body temperature by moving around the environment.
Place a thermometer at both ends of the enclosure, with the cooler end at approximately 75-80ºF (24-27ºC) and the warmer end at 90-100ºF (32-38ºC).
Always position heat sources outside the enclosure, above the basking area, to prevent direct contact between the heating element and the lizard, reducing the risk of burns.
Do I need special lighting?
In their natural habitat, reptiles bask in sunlight, absorbing ultraviolet light essential for synthesising vitamin D3, which aids calcium absorption. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin when exposed to UV light.
The UV bulb used should emit UV-B light in the range of 290-320 nanometers, as UV-A light (320-400 nanometers) doesn’t contribute to vitamin D3 production.
Most reptile bulbs on the market emit both UV-A and UV-B light. To ensure effectiveness, the light should be unfiltered and within 6-18 inches of your pet.
Though these bulbs are costly, they are vital for maintaining your reptile’s health and preventing metabolic bone disease.
When possible, expose your bearded dragon to natural, direct sunlight outdoors (unfiltered through glass) during warm weather.
Feeding Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons originate from environments where food can be scarce, allowing them to adapt to a wide range of foods. They are omnivores, which means they consume both plant and animal-based foods, including insects. Possessing keen vision and a strong sense of smell, young bearded dragons lean toward carnivorous diets, while adults tend to favour herbivorous diets.
As a general guideline, a bearded dragon’s diet should consist of about 50% plant-based material and 50% animal-based (insect) material, varying with age.
A stable water source in a dish that cannot be easily tipped over should be available at all times. Replace unused water daily and sanitise the water dish daily. Additionally, you can directly mist or occasionally soak your bearded dragon for hydration.
Always wash your hands after handling, feeding, or cleaning your bearded dragon, as they may carry bacteria and parasites that, although harmless to them, could negatively affect humans.
How often should I feed my Bearded Dragon?
For most young bearded dragons, daily feeding is recommended, whereas older individuals may eat every 24-72 hours, depending on their individual appetites.
What are suitable plant-based Foods for Bearded Dragons?
The bulk (80-90%) of plant material should comprise leafy greens and flowers, while fruits should make up only 10-20% of their diet. Vegetables in shades of yellow, red, and orange are also permissible. However, avoid light green vegetables as they are primarily composed of fibre and water with little nutritional value.
While fruits may be preferred by bearded dragons, they are generally low in minerals and should be fed sparingly.
Overconsumption of cabbage, kale, and mustard greens should be avoided, as they contain goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid function.
Vegetables can be served either raw or cooked, with raw being more natural and nutrient-rich. Always ensure that fruits and vegetables are thoroughly washed and finely chopped, promoting variety to discourage preference for a single type of food.
What animal-based proteins can I include in the diet?
Appropriate animal-based protein sources encompass calcium-dusted crickets, mealworms, Dubia roaches, silkworms, and hornworms. All insects should be gut-loaded (fed nutritious food that is then passed on to the lizard) within 12 hours prior to feeding.
Live prey such as crickets and various worms can be sourced from pet stores, bait shops, or reptile breeders. Avoid collecting insects from outside, as they may carry pesticides or fertilisers harmful to bearded dragons. Larger bearded dragons may occasionally consume pinkie or young “fuzzy” mice.
Do I need to provide supplements?
Bearded dragons, especially when young and growing, require more dietary calcium than phosphorus. Generally, it is advisable to lightly dust their food with a ‘Phosphorus-free’ calcium powder daily. Additionally, you can lightly sprinkle their food with a calcium powder containing vitamin D3 two to three times per week. Apply supplements to small portions of salads or moist foods, ensuring your bearded dragon consumes them.