Guide to Keeping a Bearded Dragon
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Guide to Keeping a Bearded Dragon

Introduction

Buying any pet is a big decision but there are several things you may want to consider first to make sure that a Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) is the pet for you:

  • Are all of the people in your household happy with a lizard coming to live there?

  • Can you guarantee that you will have a regular supply of live insects to feed to your lizard?

  • Are you happy to keep live insects in your home?

  • Are you prepared to look after an animal that could live up to 15 years?

  • Is there someone that you can ask to look after your lizard if you are away?

  • Bearded Dragons are diurnal animals so will sleep at night and be awake during the day.

Types of Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragons come in a range of different colours: Earthy browns, Greys, Bright oranges, Reds, Yellows:

Buying a Bearded Dragon

We recommend buying a Bearded Dragon from a reputable pet shop. The shop will also be able to help you with a supply of good quality live food items to feed to your Bearded Dragon.

Check before purchasing:

The Bearded Dragon is feeding well.
Any reputable pet shop should be able to provide answers on how often the Bearded Dragon is being fed and what type and size of live food it enjoys most.
The Bearded Dragon is healthy.
5 point animal health check:
  • Make sure that the animal is alert and responsive
  • The mouth should be clear of any thick mucus and should not smell bad
  • The underside of the Bearded Dragon should be clean, free from sores or raw skin and have a clean vent
  • The Bearded Dragon should be able to support itself when handled
  • The Bearded Dragon should be a keen feeder

Caring For Your Bearded Dragon

Overview:

  • Ease of Care:Beginner
  • Adult Size:45cm+ (18"+)
  • Life Span:Up to 15 years
  • Diet:Insects & Greens
  • Temperament:Friendly
  • Background Temp:25.5-30⁰C (78-86⁰F)
  • HOT Spot:35-37.8⁰C (95-100⁰F)

 

Equipment Needed:

Top Tips

  • Provide a suitable hot spot
  • They like to eat so maintain a good supply of food
  • Vary the food items you offer to your dragon to keep it stimulated
  • Soak your dragon weekly in luke warm water to aid with rehydration
  • Use a sand scoop to make spot cleaning easier

Environment

Heating

Bearded Dragons are ectotherms taking all of their heat requirements from external sources. In the wild, Bearded Dragons are naturally exposed to high desert temperatures which help the dragon to function as normal and aid in the digestion of its food. To replicate these conditions, a basking site should be set-up at one end of the vivarium using a basking bulb, which is thermostatically controlled, to provide the heat required for all Bearded Dragons. This allows the Bearded Dragon to thermo regulate by providing a hot end for the dragon to bask and a cool end for cooling off!

The basking site can be set up using a batten lamp holder, which can be screwed into the roof of the vivarium, approximately 15-20cms from one side.

The basking lamp should be used in conjunction with a dimming thermostat.

Dimming thermostats are designed to regulate temperatures using a thermostat probe (also known as a sensor).

Correct placement of the probe is critical to avoid overheating and injury to the lizard.

The probe should be positioned on the floor in the basking area and the probe cable should be taped to the floor 2-8cm (1-3”) back from the actual probe sensor. This will ensure an accurate temperature reading and prevent the probe becoming dislodged. Carefully place the substrate on top of the probe cable leaving just the probe above the surface.

Temperature and Monitoring

As a rough guide, daytime temperatures should average between 23.8-37.8⁰C (75-100⁰F) with the hot spot being 35-37.8⁰C (95-100⁰F) going down to 25.5⁰C (78⁰F) at the cooler end of the vivarium. Night-time temperatures should be 23.8-25.5⁰C (75-78⁰F). Make sure temperatures are checked regularly to ensure that there are no extreme fluctuations.

A Spotlight Guard can be used to surround the basking bulb to prevent the animal coming into direct contact with the heat source. In our experience, some Bearded Dragons like to use the guard as a climbing frame, effectively taking them closer to the heat source and risk of injury. A guard should not be necessary if a distance of 25-30cm (10-12”) is maintained between the basking bulb and the basking area of the animal.

Lighting

In the wild, Bearded Dragons are exposed to high levels of light and UV.

In captivity, a UV light is essential for a Bearded Dragon’s health and wellbeing. We recommend using a UV tube which has been specifically designed for desert dwelling reptiles. Ensure that the UV light is fitted correctly and securely to avoid the lizard becoming trapped behind the light tube or hurting itself unnecessarily.

Substrates and Decoration

Personal choice will dictate how you decorate your vivarium but we recommend the following as a guide:

Diet and Water

Hatchlings through to Adults should be offered appropriately sized insects. As a general rule, the distance between the lizard’s eyes will give you the approximate size of live food to feed your lizard.

Most juvenile and older dragons will eat shredded leafy greens, such as cabbage, kale, dandelions and white dead nettles. Ensure that any food source gathered from the wild has been collected from an organic source. Do not worry if your dragon does not eat greens as it will be perfectly fine eating a diet of insects only although these must be dusted with appropriate vitamins and minerals.

Make sure fresh water is always available for the dragon to drink and soak in. Dragons will soak in their water source to help with rehydration.

Supplementation

Bearded Dragons need additional supplementation to their diet to help them to flourish and maintain healthy and productive lives. We recommend using a calcium Magnesium mix and a multi-vitamin powder.

Health & Hygiene

Always wash your hands, surfaces and equipment with warm water and disinfectant immediately before and after handling your lizard, their enclosure and any other equipment.

Additional Information

Bearded Dragons shed their skin in patches and it can sometimes take up to 1 week for a Bearded Dragon to completely rid itself of its old skin – this process is called shedding.

A juvenile Bearded Dragon will shed its skin every few weeks and an adult will shed as little as 2-3 times a year.

You can usually tell if your Bearded Dragon is going to shed as its skin colour will appear duller than normal and may have a washed out look to it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How old is a Juvenile Bearded Dragon?

    Bearded Dragons can roughly be broken down into 4 age groups:

    Babies - Hatchlings to 2 months

    Juvenile - 2-6 months

    Sub Adult - 6-18 months

    Adults - 18 months plus

  • Why does my Bearded Dragon sit with his mouth open?

    Bearded Dragons cannot sweat like humans and as a result they open their mouths when they are basking to release excess heat. This behaviour is called gaping.

  • How big will my Bearded Dragon grow?

    They will normally grow to 45cm (18”) with males normally being larger than females.

  • Is it ok to only feed my dragon locusts?

    It is best to feed a range of different insects and leafy greens to your Bearded Dragon. Locusts are fine for your dragon to eat but it may get bored of eating the same food every day and refuse to eat.

  • Some people feed their Bearded Dragons greens, why is this?

    Bearded Dragons enjoy a mixed diet including leafy greens. Offering a wide range of foods will provide your Bearded Dragon with an increased range of vitamins and minerals.

  • What is the best way to handle my Bearded Dragon?

    We have put together some videos to demonstrate the best way to handle a Bearded Dragons.

    Click on the link below.

  • How often should I handle my Bearded Dragon?

    Bearded Dragons are normally docile creatures who can be handled. Short handling sessions are more appropriate for younger Bearded Dragons as they tend to be more skittish to start off with.

  • How long will my Bearded Dragon live for?

    Bearded Dragons can live up to 15 years in captivity, if cared for correctly.

  • How can I tell what sex my Bearded Dragon is?

    We have put together a video to demonstrate how to sex your Bearded Dragon.

    Click here for details.

  • What other types of beginner lizards are there?

    Leopard Gecko, Crested Gecko and Yemen Chameleon.

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