Bearded Dragons

Image of a bearded dragon.

Bearded dragons are generally docile, and their aggressive displays are rarely seen in captivity. It is reported that even wild bearded dragons will sometimes allow themselves to be picked up without a struggle. Popular as pets, bearded dragons or "beardies" are moderately sized lizards native to Australia. They are not inexpensive to care for as they have, like many other lizards, strict nutritional and environmental requirements that need to be met for them to thrive. With an adult size of 18-24 inches (reached by about 2 years of age), a good sized tank/cage will be required. The expected life span of a bearded dragon is anywhere from 4-10 years, although with good attention to nutrition and the ideal environment, the high end of that range should be expected. However, they are social and easy to tame and handle, and show a range of fascinating behaviors that make them interesting to watch.

Food

In the wild, bearded dragons are omnivores, eating a mixture of invertebrate and vertebrate prey as well as plan material. In captivity, they should be fed primarily an insect diet, primarily crickets, with a variety of other cultured insect prey. They are prone to impaction of their digestive system, and the chitinous exoskeletons of insect prey can cause problems. This is especially true of crunchy bugs like mealworms - so it is best to feed these in limited quantities. Feeding insects right after a molt will help reduce the chance of an impaction as the exoskeletons are not as tough. Crickets also should not be too large, especially for baby bearded dragons (a rule of thumb: no larger than 1/3 the size of the dragon's head, and no longer that the distance between its eyes). Pinkie mice are also an acceptable food item for adults, and do not pose the problems with impaction that insects do. Insects should be gut loaded (fed nutritious food that is then passed on to the lizard) prior to feeding, and lightly dusted with a calcium supplement (with no phosphorus), and with a multivitamin about once a week.

In addition, they should be fed a mixture of green leafy vegetables, orange fleshed squash, carrots, other vegetables, and some fruits. The plant portion of the diet should be about 20-30% of the diet. Feed in a shallow bowl, although leafy vegetables can be clipped to the cage furnishings for snacking. Typically, they should be feed daily (more frequently as babies), and given as many insects as they will eat in 5-10 minutes. Veggies can be left in the cage all the time (changed daily, of course). Commercial diets are becoming available - but so far the long term success of these diets is not well known. I feel that feeding a varied diet is preferable, so if these diets are used they should probably not be the sole source of nutrition. One caution: do not feed fireflies (lightning bugs) as these are believed to be highly toxic to bearded dragons! If any wild caught insects are used beware of pesticide contamination.

Water

Water should be provided in a shallow dish, such as a shallow jar lid. Misting is also advisable as dragons are designed to get their moisture primarily from their food and licking dew drops. However, do not mist too much as to make the environment wet or humid.

Housing

Bearded dragons come from dry, arid areas, and are semi-arboreal, often observed climbing on rocks and branches. Therefore, a cage should be set up with a dry substrate, hiding areas (at each end of the temperature gradient, and rocks and branches to climb on. The branches and rocks should be securely placed so that neither they nor the dragon falls while climbing on them. Many people use sand (washed play sand, not silica sand) as a substrate, although some use paper towels, indoor/outdoor or reptile carpet, or paper. Avoid corn cob or walnut shells as substrate.If sand is used, feces can be scooped out daily, but the cage will still need a good cleaning/disinfecting several times a year. Many owners construct their own cages from wood and welded wire, which is acceptable especially as it often allows more room for the dragons. For a single bearded dragon a bare minimum of a 40 gallon tank will be necessary, but bigger is better. A secure lid will also be necessary.

Temperatures

Cage temperatures are also extremely important. A temperature gradient should be provided, as well as a basking spot at significantly higher temperatures. The gradient should be provided end to end and also vertically (by arranging a basking spot on a branch or rock off the bottom of the cage). The lower end of the gradient should be about 76 F (24 C), and the higher end 86 F (30 C) , with a basking temperature of 90-100 F (32-38 C) . Heat should be provided via an incandescent light or ceramic heater (make sure a ceramic socket is used) - experimentation with wattage and distance from the cage can be used to provide appropriate temperatures. Place thermometers in the cage (at either end and where the lizards bask) to monitor the temperatures - do not rely on estimating temperatures! Night time temperatures can fall to approximately 70 F (21 C). If needed, supplemental heat can be provided using an under the tank heating pad or heating strips. This may be necessary at night if the room temperature is very low. Avoid heating overnight with a light, as a consistent light-dark cycle (12 - 14 hours light) must be provided. Using the lights on a timer is the best way to ensure a consistent cycle.

Handling

Bearded dragons are generally docile, and can be easily handled with minimal socialization or effort into taming. It is important to scoop them up under the belly and support their belly in the palm of your hand with your fingers gently curled over the body. Their nails do get sharp, and should be trimmed regularly. They can be trimmed in a similar fashion to iguana claws.

Save on Dental Cleaning

20% off Regular Dental Cleaning During Feburary

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Tuesday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Wednesday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Thursday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Friday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Saturday:

8:00am

6:00pm

Sunday:

closed

closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "Wow! Thanks to all the staff at Anderson Vet Clinic. I feel like you all truly love what you do! My kitty, Lola and I always have such a pleasant experience when we come in. Fortunately, it’s usually just for a check-up, but I would not leave Lola in anyone else’s hands but yours. Thank you for your caring commitment!"
    Maya Smith / Los Angeles, CA
  • "I have benefited tremendously from the care my pet received from Dr. Anderson."
    John Doe / San Diego, CA
  • "Fabio wasn’t eating the food I was giving him and I didn’t feel he was getting the nutrition he needed. Thanks to Dr. Anderson, he evaluated Fabio and his current diet to make some recommendations and now Fabio has gone from barely eating to finishing his meals and he looks healthier than ever. You clearly are an expert in your field...thanks so much!"
    Tara Brown / Kansas City, MO

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

    Skunks

    Home and Veterinary Care for Pet Skunks If you're an adventurous pet owner, you may love exotic animals such as skunks. You'll be happy to learn that skunks can indeed make excellent domestic pets, but only if they receive the proper care to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Your veterinary team can help ...

    Read More

    Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More

    Flying Squirrels

    Much like sugar gliders, flying squirrels make affectionate pets when purchased young and raised by their owner. Unlike sugar gliders, however, flying squirrels are rodents that need veterinary care specific to the species. Your veterinary team can help with the care and treatment of flying squirrels. ...

    Read More

    Rats

    Did you know rats make surprisingly affectionate pets? If you're thinking of bringing home a pet rat, here's what you need to know. Health Rats that are bred especially as pets are safe to keep and should be free of disease. But common conditions may affect your rats from time to time. Your veterinarian ...

    Read More

    Chinchillas

    Chinchillas are playful, loveable, and amusing pets. If you want yours to remain in your family for long, you should ensure that it has a good diet. Chinchillas require a lot of attention due to their playful nature; therefore, it is best to have supervised playtime with yours if you want to create a ...

    Read More

    Fennec Foxes

    Fennec Fox Care Guide With oversized ears and mischievous faces, fennec foxes are cute as can be. But these exotic pets require a lot of care to stay healthy and happy. Health At just three pounds, fennec foxes are the smallest member of the fox family. Native to the Sahara desert, fennec foxes are ...

    Read More

    Guinea Pigs

    Curious and inquisitive by nature, guinea pigs make great pets. These little bundles of fur are quite social and enjoy spending time with the people who handle, feed, and groom them. As a pet, guinea pigs are relatively low maintenance, rarely aggressive, and fun to own. How to Care Guinea pigs are playful, ...

    Read More

    Prairie Dogs

    Prairie dogs are cute, affable creatures. But before taking one on as a pet, check your local laws. In some states, such as Colorado, it's illegal to keep prairie dogs as pets. Mostly, this is because they may spread monkeypox. If you live in a state that welcomes pet prairie dogs, be sure to buy from ...

    Read More

    Gerbils

    Gerbils are great little pets for pet owners who don't have room for a dog or cat. They're friendly and fun to watch, but they do take a moderate level of care and investment. If you're thinking of getting a gerbil, here's what you'll need to know to keep him happy and healthy, including giving him a ...

    Read More

    Hedgehogs

    Shy animals that roll into a ball when scared, hedgehogs are covered with spiky quills. They're small, clean, and fun to watch so they're quite popular as pets. Even so, these little guys need lots of activity to stay healthy. Health Hedgehogs can have health problems, including dental diseases, skin ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles