Housing


Young beardies under 10 inches in length can be housed in a 20 gal long aquarium. This will only last them for a few months as they grow quickly. Adult dragons should be housed in nothing smaller than a 40 gallon breeder tank. We prefer using 60 gallon vivariums due to the extra length it gives them to run and they are easily found at most pet stores. Screen lids should be used for the top of any vivarium style tanks you use. Do not use glass, plexiglass or wood to cover your cages. This will not allow enough air circulation and will also trap humidity in the cage. Screen tops allow air flow, allow your lighting and heat sources to work correctly, and also allows humidity to escape.

 

Lighting

Bearded dragons require full spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours a day. We happen to use the Repti-Sun 10.0 UV bulbs. These bulbs should stretch the length of your beardies enclosure and your beardie should be able to come within 6-8 inches of the light. The UV light should be placed over the cage and not directed through the glass; glass will deflect the UV rays. Follow the directions on the package of the bulb for replacement frequency (about every 6 months).

 

Heating and Temps

To produce heat and a basking spot in your enclosure you can use a ceramic heat emitter, a reptile basking light, or just a plain old household light bulb. The temperature for this basking spot you created should be around 100ºF for juveniles and can be around 95ºF for adults. We don't recommend any temperatures above 110ºF; however, a slight variation in degrees of these basking temps will be sufficient. The cool side of the enclosure should be around 85ºF during the day. Once again, within a few degrees of this temp is just fine. Nighttime temperatures can fall as low as 65ºF. It is fairly easy to keep your night temps above this even in the winter. If you can't keep your temps above this, you may want to consider buying an under tank heater (ZooMed makes a great one) for nighttime use. Using this just during the evening hours will help create a warm spot for your dragon to sleep. DO NOT use heat rocks as these can cause serious burns on your beardie's underside. A thermometer on the "hot side" and one on the "cool side" will make sure that your temps are in the range they should be in.


Substrate

For baby to juvenile bearded dragons, we prefer and recommend either newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper or reptile carpet. These choices are cheap, easy to clean, and hold no health risks to your animal. If using reptile carpet, the stuff that looks and feels like grass is the best. The felt kind has little loops of fabric that may catch the nails of your dragon and cause injury. DO NOT use sand, shavings or any other loose substrate for baby to juvenile beardies. They can be very clumsy eaters and they are also very curious and like to taste everything. Any kind of loose substrate holds serious health risks to your beardie. If they eat a loose substrate they can become impacted, which is a blocking of the intestines, and may cause death. For adult dragons, we prefer alfalfa pellets or play sand. Washed play sand is much cheaper than all those fancy colored reptile sands and looks just as good. You can buy this play sand at most large hardware stores for under $4 for 50lbs, but be sure to dry all of the sand before placing your adult beadie in it! You can use an oven, but it may take anywhere from 20 minutes to (as we found out very late one night if you don't use a high enough cooking temperature) 5 hours! We got sick of waiting for the sand to dry on 375ºF and went all out, and put our oven on the "broil" setting, which dried all the sand in about 10 minutes! Crushed walnut shell is dangerous and should only be used to clean up oil spills. This substrate is NOT digestible and if too much of it is eaten it will cause impaction. Stay away from this product please.

 

Feeding and Diet

Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning that they eat both animal and plant matter. Any and all food items that your bearded dragons eat should be no bigger than the space between their eyes. If the food items are bigger than the space between their eyes it can cause impaction and/or hind leg paralysis. Baby and juvenile beardies should be offered appropriately sized crickets 2-3 times a day. Offer as many as your beardie will eat in a 5-10 minute time frame. When your beardie stops eating, stop offering. Young bearded dragons can eat anywhere from 20-60 small crickets a day. Your beardie should also be given fresh greens daily. Spraying the greens with water will help them last longer and will also help keep your beardie hydrated. Sub-adult to adult Beardies only need to eat prey items once a day along with fresh greens. Once they are this age, you can also offer them Locusts, Cockroaches, Mealworms, Waxworms, Zophobas worms, Silkworms, Butterworms, Red worms, Earthworms and just about any other worm available. All these should be used as treats, though, with crickets and greens being the staple part of your dragons’ diet. DO NOT feed your beardie insects that you have caught in your backyard. These bugs could have parasites that could be passed on to your beardie or they could have been exposed to poisons that could kill your beardie. Lightning bugs can also kill your beardie so it is much safer to stay away from wild caught insects. Prey items should be dusted once a day with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement such as the one Rep-Cal makes. All prey items should be dusted once a week with a multi-vitamin supplement such as Herptivite, also made by Rep-Cal. Any uneaten prey items should be removed from your dragon’s enclosure because they may nibble on your beardie and hurt them! Ouch!

There are a wide variety of greens that are available that are good for your beardie. Dandelion greens, collard greens, mustard greens, bok choy, kale, turnip greens, escarole, and chicory are among the easiest to find and the best to use. If the greens you are wondering about say “Lettuce” anywhere in the name, avoid them. Most types of lettuce are composed mostly of water and hold little or no nutritional value. With the wide variety of other greens out there it is better and easier to just avoid any type of lettuce. Spinach should also be avoided as calcium binds to it and will not be digested by your animal. A wide variety of vegetables can also be offered to your beardie. Butternut squash, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, all other varieties of squash, green beans, parsnips, sweet potato, snow peas and carrots. Carrots should only be used as a treat though due to the high amounts of vitamin A. Any food with high amounts of vitamin A should be avoided as reptiles do not absorb a lot of vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity is a condition that can be deadly. Squashes will either have to be cooked or micro-waved before feeding them to your beardie. This will soften them up and they can then be minced and eaten easier. Fruits can also be used, just avoid any citrus fruit such as oranges and grape fruit. We like using this site as a guideline to help us determine what foods are best for our dragons: http://www.beautifuldragons.503xtreme.com/Nutrition.html

And feel free to try new foods out on your beardie to see what they like the best! Every dragon has its own personal preferences and personality!

 

Water and Bathing

  1. Fresh water should be offered daily in a shallow bowl. This water bowl should be disinfected once a week to avoid any bacterial build up. Many beardies may not drink from a water bowl so you may have to drip the water slowly onto your beardies snout. Wiggling your finger in the water may also get their attention. Beardies like things that move so creating ripples in the water may get their attention.
  2. Bathing your beardie once a week will help keep them hydrated and will also aid in the shedding process. Bath water should be warm on your wrist and not hot, much like bath water for a small child. Make the water only as deep as your beardies chest or half way up their front arms. We usually just fill the tub until the water reaches the second knuckle on our index fingers for the adults and the first knuckle for the juveniles. Never leave your beardie unattended in the bath; accidents only take a second to happen. It's also a good idea to disinfect your tub when the bath is over because beardies will often defecate in the water.


General

Before deciding on buying a bearded dragon you should consider a few things: 

  1. Do you have a qualified herp vet in your area that will be able to care for your new pet if it gets sick? Newly acquired bearded dragons should have a fecal sample tested for parasites and a general health checkup. It is also a good idea to have them retested for parasites once a year. 
  2. Are you going to be able to afford to feed, house and care for this pet during its life? Bearded dragons will eat like ravenous beasts when young and will cost you a lot of money. The UV light they require also needs to be replaced around every six months, which is also going to cost a bit of money. Let's not forget trips to the vet; these may also add up over the years of your beardie’s life. You are the one that ultimately decides how to properly care for your pet. Please feel free to print and use this care sheet.