What I've Learned From My Bearded Dragon

I've currently owned Atticus, my citrus Bearded Dragon, for about a year now. I have decided to share my knowledge with others, those who don't realize what they are getting into when they buy a dragon. All photos included are of my dragon, Atticus.

Atticus digging in his sand.
Atticus digging in his sand.
Atticus soaking up the heat.
Atticus soaking up the heat.
Atticus on his rock.
Atticus on his rock.

First off, it is not a good idea to buy a dragon younger than 6 months of age. Atticus was 6 months when I purchased him. However, baby dragons are hard to raise, and are not eating very well until they are around 6 months old. While pet stores will sell dragons as young as a few weeks old, a majority of them end up dying because the new owner does not have the means to take care of a dragon so small.

Your new dragon will need a habitat to live in. This would consist of a large tank, sand, rocks, a heat pad, and a UV light. A small dragon is fine in a 20 or 30 gallon fish tank, but as he/she grows, a larger tank will need to be purchased. This tank should be 3 or 4 times as long as your dragon, to provide ample exercise room. Fine sand makes a good substrate, and should be about 1 inch deep on the bottom of the tank. Your dragon will dig around it in, and you don't want it to be spread too sparsely.

A heating pad should be placed under one side of the tank, or a special heated rock should be placed inside the tank. It is up to you to decide which you prefer, however I have had the best luck with a heating pad. Also, a special UV light will be needed. The UV rays help to develop a dragon's bone structure, and also help him digest his food properly. The dragon's habitat should be kept around 80 degrees at all times. Only put the heat on one side of the tank, and a cooler side should be allowed in case your dragon gets too warm. Don't be alarmed if you walk in to see your dragon litterally flattened upon the heat source. Atticus does this every day, and it is an efficient way of keeping his whole body warm instead of just his stomach.

A top will be needed for your dragon's habitat. Some pet stores will tell you that it is not needed. DON'T LISTEN TO THIS. I let Atticus out to exercise, and he can jump from my floor onto my windowsills. He can most certainly jump out of his tank. When I first brought him home, he was able to squeeze though the makeshift grating that I used as a top and was sitting on top of the tank when I checked on him. It is much better to pay an extra $20 for a "lid" of sorts than to risk injuring your dragon, or having him lost.

Diet

A Bearded Dragon's diet should consist of mostly leafy greens. According to many vets, Approximately 80% of your dragon’s diet should be leafy greens, 10% should be veggies, and the other 10% should be a good protein source, such as insects. However, a young dragon will be more interested in crickets and worms. Don't starve your dragon thinking that he will learn to eat his veggies. Place a small bowl with greens or vegetables in it in the tank, but still feed him his insects. He will become curious and learn to eat the greens as well. If he doesn't eat what you give him, try something else. Atticus is picky when it comes to his veggies. He loves lettuce and dandelion greens, but he refuses to eat carrots.

Crickets and meal worms are an excellent source of protein for your dragon. These can be purchased at your local pet store. Atticus eats about 4 - 5 worms in the morning and about 6 crickets in the evening. During the day, he snacks on his veggies. Vitamin supplements should be added to your dragon's food, especially for the first year of growth. This helps promote healthy bones. The easiest way to do this is to get a fine powder from your local pet store. Sprinkle a small amount into a zip lock bag, and then put a few crickets in. Gently shake the bag, then take the crickets out and place them in your dragon's tank. The powder will stick to the crickets and this will give him his extra vitamins.

Another food source is pellets. These can be bought at your pet store too, and offer extra nutrition and something crunchy for your dragon to eat. Atticus is currently eating "Rep-Cal's Growth Formula, a Juvenile Bearded Dragon Food". This is made with real fruits. Atticus is so picky, he refuses to eat the red pellets (they come in a mixture of red, tan, and green, apparently the colors are flavored like different fruits). He will pick out all the tan and green pellets, leaving a bowl full of reds.

Watering:

When it comes to watering your bearded dragon, he has a very unique way of drinking his fill. Bearded Dragons are desert animals. As you know, there is a limited water supply in the desert, and you can't just go up to the nearest puddle and get a swig of cool, refreshing water. So, Bearded Dragons have evolved, and soak water in through their skin. Knowing this, you will need a small misting bottle. Put some warm water in it and gently mist your dragon twice a day. A small water bowl should be included in his tank. Though most dragons do not actually drink water, Atticus does, and loves to play in it.

In addition, your dragon should be bathed once a week. If your dragon is not kept bathed, he can become constipated. If your sink is big enough for your dragon, you can put him in there for his bath. I use my bathtub for Atticus, as our sinks are small. You'll want to put warm water in the area you're bathing him in. Not too hot, and not cold. It should be no deeper than your dragon can stand in, not over his head. Many dragons enjoy their baths. Atticus loves "swimming" (more like walking) and playing during bath time. DO NOT use soap on your dragon. Gently rub over his back and legs to remove and sand from the pores in his skin. When he is finished with his bath, place him back in his heated tank right away after drying him. Otherwise, he can become too cold.

Contemplating a dip in his "pool".
Contemplating a dip in his "pool".

Molting

 Bearded Dragons do molt. I wish someone had told me that when I bought Atticus. About a week after I brought him home, I came down to feed him one morning and saw a large piece of skin hanging off his leg. I thought his leg was falling off! Once I took a better look, I was able to calm down, and I realized he was just shedding his skin. Dragon's do this periodically, especially when they have a growth spurt. However, fully grown dragons still molt.

Skin found in Atticus's tank after one night from molting.
Skin found in Atticus's tank after one night from molting.

Tanning?

I'm not sure if this happens with Dragons of every color, but I know it does with Atticus. He is a vibrant, bright Citrus (yellow) Bearded Dragon. However his coloring does change during one particular activity. When he sits on his basking rock, below his UV light, his skin turn a brownish color, and spots appear on his underbelly. Along with this, his beard turns almost black. The first time I saw this, I assumed he was burning and removed the light quickly. After about half an hour, his normal color returned, and he was never harmed. Apparently the UVB rays turn his skin brown when he is under it for long periods of time. My best friend and I jokingly accuse him of working on his tan whenever this happens.

A Guard Dragon?

Atticus is a very loving dragon, and apparently very loyal. He feels he needs to protect me from my boyfriend. I'm a very ticklish person, and when my boyfriend decided to tickle me in front of Atticus he did not like it at all. He assumed that my boyfriend was hurting me, and instantly puffed himself up and started hissing at him. Once he stopped, Atticus calmed down again. Its slightly funny to watch him now, because every time my boyfriend enters the room Atticus stops what he's doing and watches him. When I have Atticus out, he will crawl up on my shoulder to keep an eye on my boyfriend to make sure he doesn't try to tickle me. I'm not sure if this is a typical dragon chacteristic or not, but he's very protective over his "mommy".

A "Pretty To Look At" Pet...

Many people think that Bearded Dragons are meant to be seen and not touched or played with. This is incorrect. When I am around, Atticus is out with me. He will cling to the front of my shirt and ride along with me while I'm doing chores, such as sweeping or laundry. If I'm watching tv, he sits on the couch beside me, or crawls up on my lap. He is very inquisitive, and its adorable the way he cocks his head when he hears a voice, just like a dog would upon hearing something new and interesting. He's just as adventurous and curious as any puppy.

However, Bearded Dragons do not require this amount of attention. So, if you're looking for a pet that takes minimal care, a Bearded Dragon might be right for you!

My Little Boy Is Growing Up.

 Another thing I couldn't believe is how much Atticus changed in the 6 months that I had him. When I bought him, the lady in the pet store said he would be citrus, and showed me a picture. But looking at him, he was more of a sandy color, and I thought she was just incorrect. But with each molting, his skin lightened in color, and he is now a brilliant yellow. He's grown an enormous amount too, being only 11 inches long when I bought him and presently measuring 1 1/2 feet in length. Below are some pictures of him and myself, taken throughout the course of his first 6 months with me.

Atticus the day I brought him home. 6 months old.
Atticus the day I brought him home. 6 months old.
Atticus 10 months old.
Atticus 10 months old.
Atticus, 1 year old.
Atticus, 1 year old.

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Comments 41 comments

kims3003 6 years ago

Very well done article. 2 thumbs up


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Brilliant article. photographs are fantastic too.


Sara  6 years ago

Great article.

(:


K.L.E 6 years ago

Hey, I just got a bearded dragon a few weeks ago and his name is Atticus too! Atticus Finch is his full name, though.

I just thought that was funny.


Cowgirl0216 6 years ago Author

K.L.E, that's what my Atticus is named after. I only call him Atticus Finch when he's bad though. ;-)


Lexi 6 years ago

I also have a bearded dragon. His yellows are very vibrant around his face. On his back he is a light orange and sandfire colors. So I'm no sure what kind he truly is, but he looks A LOT like yours :). He's so cute, I just got him a 75 gallon tank. And he loves it! I can't wait for him to get bigger- he is about 5-6 months old, I believe. I've had him for a few months now. Anyway. He is so sweet and cute!


Cowgirl0216 6 years ago Author

Lexi: He sounds very handsome. Enjoy your time with him, they grow so fast!


becca0204 6 years ago

Tell us about how often bearded dragons have growth spurts!


Trevor  6 years ago

Very nice article, I am just in the process of raising a baby beardie that my adults hatched :D


pocketdragon76 6 years ago

I just got an adult beareded dragon (approx 5yrs old), The Dude, about 2 months ago. My nerves were calmed after reading your article. Today I looked at him and it looked like the side of his mouth was broken, but upon closer examination, it appears as though he is shedding his skin. I felt better after hearing your experience. He also seems depressed and hasn't wanted to eat much this week which also seems to be characteristic of shedding. He was never handled or bathed much by the previous owner so we are slowly working on bonding. When I let him run around he is very tense at first then once he relaxes he runs off and hides in a dark area n sleeps. Athough on occasion he has been obsessed by the ribbons hanging from the ceiling fan, staring at them for 2 hrs straight. He also appears to be very entertained when Dancing With the Stars is on TV. Bonding with the 3 kitties is also a slow work in progress. Thanks again for your article.


Jo-lyssa_923 profile image

Jo-lyssa_923 6 years ago

hi,

i found this article very useful. i recently bought 2 babies. the guy i got them from said that one of their parents was a citrus and the other something else. the reason i am telling you this is because one of them is about the same exact color of yours when you first got him, the other is darker. and im wondering do you think mine will end up as bright as yours???


csboy1123 5 years ago

hello! i have two dragons, a male named Draco and a female named Ariel, Draco is a very light sandy color, and Ariel is a rust red, and i know from dealing with these two that dragons are fairly inquisitive and each has their own unique personality, Ariel loves to bolt around the house and is never in one spot for long, while Draco is perfectly happy sitting on my shoulder as i walk around the house(he is such a bum) he seems to thoroughly enjoy the sprawling view he gets. i don't know if anyone else has ever had this happen, but all the exercise they get leaves me walking around the house with a paper towel looking for lizard land-mines


sammy so so 5 years ago

Great article i loved it. You really helped me understand how Beraded drgaons work. I haven't bought one yet because they are a little pricy and i'm saving up for one. I'm trying to learn as much as i can so i don't freak out if my dragon does something. Thank you so much. I'll be sure to show my parents this article as well. Sammy so so out.


ReptileRevolution profile image

ReptileRevolution 5 years ago from California

Great beardie article--I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

http://www.bearded-dragon-food.com


Ashley 5 years ago

Very true just be careful of 2 things: the heat rock/pad & the sand... The dragons can not decipher burning and warming up and can actually burn the bottom of their feet or bellies, can be deadly... Also, I have a 5 year old beardie and recently she got very sick... Apparently certain dragons consume too much sand when chasing and gulping crickets.. I've always had the top of the line sand made from calcium (which I thought was perfect) but was proven wrong.. started with a bacteria infection in the mouth, spread to a respiratory infection and also a buildup of uric acid/sand in her stomach.. 3 medicines, baby food given from a syringe, warm baths and $400+ later she is finally now getting better. The vet suggested astro-turf, said it's the best thing. Wanted to share this info which, if I had known this, Xena could have avoided all the discomfort and stress.


jamterrell profile image

jamterrell 5 years ago

Cute one.Nice hub.


John 4 years ago

Your cute, and the dragon is pretty cool aswell


Ethin 4 years ago

This really helped me thx alot


Amy 4 years ago

Your dragon is gorgeous! I have a beardy the exact colour of yours and probably size too! Your artile is great. I'm now bathing my dragon once a week and misting him aswell. You have a tight bond with yours and it shows! Thanks again!x


justin & spike 4 years ago

love your post really helpful please do more :)


Emma 4 years ago

OMG ty i needed this advice because im 12 and i got mine about a month ago but... i have a couple of questions i need answering such as why does my beardie have orange stripes he/she is only a baby but why??? if you know the answer please send me a message to my email...

emma.cole@student.cityacademynorwich.org


Mag 4 years ago

You really shouldn't use a heat mat or rock as Beardies can't feel heat through their scales and could end up being burnt if they sit on it too long


candice 4 years ago

Lettuce is not a good thing to feed your Beardie....it has no nutritional value in it at all....and sand should NOT be used as a substrate until they are at least 10 to 12 cm long as it can cause impaction in babies.....heating rocks are also a No-No....as they cannot feel the heat and may be burned....other than that I think you have a decent article here....very interesting to read


Sommer-bellingham, Wa 4 years ago

Hey! I thought all your info you gave was awesome! It really helped me out! Reading some of the things you were saying, was like OMG that's what George does.(lol) yes that's his name..or jorg`e haha. but I basically i was looking on how or if I should bathe him... and now I know! So thanks so much on what you took the time to say about yours!

p.s. I swear mine looks exactly like yours! same size, same color!


Michelle 4 years ago

We have 2 bearded dragons. They were very small when we got them. They are not about 3 months old. They refuse to allow us to pick them up. We have to corner them in the aquarium to get any kind of contact. I am worried about this because my kids want to interact with them but they can't. I am the main source of food, cleaning and watering but even I am unable to pick them up. When we do manage to get them out of the tank they try to jump all the time. They are not your typical calm bearded dragon. My kids and I would like to have some kind of relationship with them. Any suggestions?


Rachelle 4 years ago

@ Michelle You need to stop cornering your beardie to get attention from it. Do you realize you are stressing him out by doing that? You shouldn't force your beardie to do anything! If you want him to be more people friendly you need to start small. Pet him inside his tank and make sure he sees your hand coming so you don't startle him. Once he gets used to that pick him up only inside his tank if he freaks don't force him. He might eventually get used to you. Not all beardies like to be handled, just don't force it. And always watch your kids with him cause their nails get sharp. And if his tail is whipping around when you pick him up you're really stressing him out!


brad 4 years ago

Bearded dragons really should not be bought until they are 2+ months.. any younger is a little to young.. I got mine at 2 months old and she ate like a monster! Most petstores also dont feed their reptiles the correct food. Petco feeds theirs mealworms which is HORRIBLE! at the young of age, they are only maybe 4 weeks old if that.


Spencer 4 years ago

Wait, wait i was reading other sites and they said what your feeding Atticus is very very bad for the dragons? I have had mine for about 2 days and he has only eated 1 mealworm thats all i have to feed him, can he live off that? I also gave him a banana, is that ok? please respond i want to keep my dragon, please respond


Sandrine 4 years ago

You only could afford one mealworm? Pass on the worms and feed crickets dusted with a multivitamin...like reptivite. Banana is ok in small amounts and small pieces...no wider than the distance between his two eyes. You can also feed green leaf lettuce, kale, and many others. Type in "what to feed a bearded dragon" for man more food choices.


Aslan 4 years ago

Good article except for two things: the sand and the heat rock. Sand, when consumed, can cause impaction which can kill beardies...even the fine grained sand. I've know people this has happened to. It is far better to keep your beardie on something like reptile carpet, non adhesive shelf liner, tiles, or newspaper. As beardies are cold blooded, the heat rock can also be very dangerous and can cause death. It is thought that bearded can not register heat at one particular part of their bodies, just a general all-over warmth, so when they sit on a heat rock, they can't tell if it is burning them or not. They can die from this. A better heat source would be a basking lamp. That is why it is there, after all. You failed to mention proper light as well. Dragons MUST have a UVB light. A good one would be the tube fluorescent reptisun 10.0. Stay away from compact florescents a they don't emit UVB after a few months and can also hurt your beardies' eyes. And then, of course, they also need their basking light for heat and their day/night cycle. It should be able to reach temperatures of 105-110F for adults and 110-115F for babies.


kyle 3 years ago

my dragon Taz ate allot more when he was little then he does now and I got mine when he wasn't even a week old yet about as big as my pinky, after 2 months he was already eating geckos........... he's 18 inch long but he aint so fat cause he don't eat a lot ...mine tans to but under the heat lamp not uvb. he's a brown color normal dark!!! brown when hot and citrus like yours when I give him a bath


Dinah 3 years ago

Am I feeding my breaded dragon correctly I'm a new owner I've had him 5 days he eats 4 to 5 crickets every 2 days leafly salad and cucumber every day he's eating very well and pooing fine but he's belly looks swelled is this normal?? Many thanks


Melissa 2 years ago

Hi, this was a good article. I have a bearded dragon named Thorn. For some odd reasons she enjoys jumping off high objects and trying to be spiderman on the wall. I got her at 2 months, she is 7 months now, 9 inch. She clings.when brought out unless she hasn't been out in awhile, then she the reptile version of indiana jones, jumping of things, fast runner, very elusive, hard to catch to keep her from getting out of site. She is so cute though.


Sam 2 years ago

BASKING LIGHT not a heat pad and ESPECIALLY not heat rocks! You can't control the temperature of heat rocks and they will almost always burn your beardie or any other reptile! And beardies can't sense any burning sensation so he very well may be getting too hot. They are desert animals, and have adapted to getting their heat from the sun and UV rays, so they love to lay under a heat light and bask. I wouldn't recommend a heat pad just for the sheer danger of it.


Mike 2 years ago

We Just Got our Red Bearded Dragon 2 days ago and he is the coolest little dude , his name is Zilla ! However I'm very worried about him, he's acting different and he's laying down with his head side ways and then rises up abruptly and it doesn't quite look right


KnowWhatImean profile image

KnowWhatImean 2 years ago

Hi Mike, Dragons have to take time to adapt to their new surroundings so dont worry too much if he isn't acting right. If it doesn't get better within a week though you should take him to a vet. You should also get a laser thermometer to measure the heat of his basking spot, it should be 90 - 105 degrees. if the dragon cant get warm enough then it can become lethargic.

Cowgirl, how is Atticus doing now?


kimmie88 20 months ago

I have a 5 month old citrus bearded dragon, her name is Lizzy. She is so amazing and loves to cuddle into me, my husband and our 2 kittens. She has so much energy and loves to run around inside & outside (she has a leash) it is so heart warming to come home to such a beautiful, loving little girl after a long day at work.


Denny 18 months ago

I got a 4 month and 3 month old... i got them both when they was about 2 months old. My dudes Spider-Man and Dr Connors will eat like 60 crickets a day... more if i give it to them as well as mealmeal-worms and veggies (mainly kale and cilantro). The more you feed them, the more they'll grow. I must agree with alot of other people... no sand and no heat rocks. I simply line their tank with paper towels, which makes it very easy to change out when the defacate. I also change out their bedding on a daily basis and do a good cleaning once a week. As far as night time, i turn all their lights off so it is like night time in the desert... as long as their environment stays above 65 degrees Fahrenheit, your beardie should be good. Mine are very active and don't mind being handled for the most part... although they love when i just let them out to explore. When they gey tired, they will get on my lap and go under my shirt to sleep. I originally bought them for my little boy, but the whole family has become quite attached.


Tanya Kloesel 13 months ago

PLEASE do some more research on your pet. The sand and heating pad are NOT good for them and shouldn't be used. Bearded dragon do absorb water thru their skin but they DO also drink as well. That isn't particular to yours. Finally, when you notice his coloring is darker while he is basking under his heat lamp, that is something they all do to help them absorb heat faster. Don't move him from under his basking lamp. Let him be. He knows what he is doing. Again, do your reptile friend a favor and PLEASE read up on these things to maximize his lifespan.


Fran 13 months ago

80 degrees is the cool side!!!!

What about your hot side????? They must have a basking site with temperature of 100 degrees. Also, heat rocks are known to cause them burns.

If your going to write articles to inform people make sure you are informed yourself first. I own one and read tons of books about them.


Fran 13 months ago

Also I forgot to say that sand is really bad for them. You can use ceramic tiles with will naturally file their nails or non adhesive shelf line which is really easy to clean.

Sand causes impaction and it can also go in their eyes and stay stuck and cause infection.

Please give him a basking light in addition to the UVB. ( unless you have the combination one)

Heat rock is bad it gives them burns on their bellies and sometimes it malfunctions.

He needs a hot side of 100 degrees and a cool side of around 80.

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