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The Basic Bearded Dragon Caresheet

Updated on January 15, 2016
A prime example of why they're called bearded dragons.
A prime example of why they're called bearded dragons.

A Little About Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are becoming an increasingly a common pet reptile in the homes of many families. Bearded dragons are commonly available at pet stores and of course reptile expos and from private breeders. There are various color morphs available too, though they typically cost more than the “normal colored” dragons.
Bearded dragons are native to Australia, there are several different species, but the most common sold in pet stores are Pogona Vitticeps, the central / inland bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons typically have an extremely laid back demeanor and are docile, which makes them a great companion animal.

Bearded dragons get their name from their ability to use their throat to make it look as if it has a beard. The area of skin around their throat that they use is also known as the gular pouch. They’re able to enlarge the gular pouch and by doing so, the spikes along their throat often extends outwards, making the dragon look bigger and threatening. They also make their beards darken to a grey-black color. They also use this behavior along with head bobbing when mating.
Bearded dragons can reach up to lengths of 24 inches, 18-21 inches is more common. They also have quite a long life span for a lizard with an average of 8-12 years old being the norm.


Bearded dragons aren't a beginner pet, you cannot put your new dragon in a cage, feed them, give him water and forget about them. They require a little bit of research and knowledge in regards to their care.
Which will be discussed with detail next.

Making sure your enclosure has an appropriate screen cover is important.
Making sure your enclosure has an appropriate screen cover is important.

Enclosure size

Enclosure size for a bearded dragon is important for several reasons. One key reason its so important is so you can have the adequate cool/hot side. Obviously you also don’t want your dragon to be cramped in too small of a space. A “40 gallon breeder” is the minimum required for an adult dragon. The dimensions of a “40 gallon breeder” are: 36″ X 18″ X 16″ A screen cover is also recommended for the enclosure due to dragon's having the ability to jump which can lead to escapes.

A hide for your dragon is also suggested as is other cage decor such as logs, rocks, etc.

Lighting

Lighting is important, no matter how you keep your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons need UVB lighting to help with the metabolism of vitamins. I would say that the most important thing for bearded dragon care is proper UVB (Not to be confused with UVA) and heating. UVB 10.0 is needed to prevent metabolic bone disease (commonly referred to as MBD). You should refer to the manufacturer’s recommendation on the UVB bulb of replacing your light bulb every 6-12 months (dependent on the manufacturer).

You also need a basking light – one which will get your bearded dragon’s basking spot to about 95-115f degrees dependent on the age of the dragon.
You should always have a cool side and a hot/basking side in the enclosure for the bearded dragon, the cool side should be 75-85f degrees and the hot/basking spot should be 95-115 degrees as mentioned above.

For basking bulbs, you can use your basic light bulb, a halogen bulb, a mercury vapor bulb or a pet store purchased basking bulb, so long as it is close enough to the basking spot to make it the appropriate temperature.

A wise investment would be an infared temperature gun - It helps eliminate the guess work of the temperature of your dragon's cage and they are typically mroe accurate than the commonly purchased cage thermometers.

At night time, lighting is not required. Red lights and other commonly labeled "night lights" can cause disturbance in sleeping patterns. If you really want to provide extra heat, or your enclosure drops below 65degrees at night time, feel free to use a ceramic heat emitter bulb. Ceramic heat emitters emit no light, only heat, so not to disturb your sleeping dragon.

Substrate

Loose substrate is not good for dragons, especially smaller ones. Loose substrate can be ingested easily and can cause impaction which can end with the unfortunate result of death.
The best substrate to use is newspaper, paper towel, or a type of tile. Tile works really well and is easy to clean, does not cause a mess and is not able to be consumed by a dragon.
Another type of substrate is reptile carpet. It is purchased at the pet store and is pretty easy to use. It is suggested to spray off and sanitize the carpet weekly due to it being a fabric material and having the ability to harbor bacteria that can cause respiratory and other health problems.

If you do choose to use loose substrate - Never use crushed walnut or cedar.
Crushed walnut shell is small enough to be swallowed and cause impaction and not to mention has extremely sharp edges which can lead to some serious damage for your dragon.

Collard greens are a GREAT staple vegetable
Collard greens are a GREAT staple vegetable

Feeding

Feeding your dragon - one of the most enjoyable parts of owning a dragon. The diet for a bearded dragon should be 70-80% bugs, 20-30 % veggies until about 6 months old. Once your dragon hits 6 months old, gradually start transitioning them over to 70-80% veggies and 20-30% bugs.
For feeder insects, Dubia roaches are by far the most nutritional staple insect. Other insects that are good to feed if dubias aren’t readily available are super worms and crickets. Horn worms, wax worms and silk worms can be fed, but only as a treat. With feeder insects, always make sure that food offered is size appropriate.

Staple veggies should be offered daily.

Multi-vitamins and calcium supplements are also important when it comes to a healthy bearded dragon.


Supplements by age

Age
Multi-Vitamins times a week
Calcium times a week
Less than 1 year old
4-5x
7x
1-2 years old
3-4x
5-6x
Over 2 years old
2-3x
4-5x

Staple vegetables

  • Cactus Pad / Leaf (raw)
  • Collard Greens
  • Dandelion Greens, Store purchased, wild ones should be used only with caution due to pesticides
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Mustard Greens
  • Squash, Acorn, butternut, hubbard, scallop, spaghetti, summer
  • Turnip Greens

Hydration

Water dishes inside the enclosure are not mandatory.
With a spray bottle, mist your dragon and their cage lightly 1-3 times a day. The dragon will drink the mist from the sides and bottom of their enclosures.
Dragons also get quite a bit of their hydration from the vegetables that they consume.

In addition to the hydration from misting and their vegetables. It is suggested to bathe dragons a few times per week, 1-3x will be fine. Most dragons will drink during this time, but make sure if they go to the bathroom in the water to immediately change the water out.

Bathing also helps with shedding. If you notice your dragon is having a troublesome shed, soaking and gently brushing them with a soft bristle toothbrush can often help.

Bath water should be warm to the touch and deep enough to reach their shoulders. If the water feels too hot for you to touch it, then it is without a doubt, too hot for them to be in.

Housing multiple dragons together

Bearded dragons are solitary creatures. They should not be kept with other bearded dragons as they can fight... even if you do not think they will and they seem to be getting along just fine, there is always the chance that they will fight, which will lead to serious injury or even death.
In addition, males and females when housed together will mate.

Females can still lay infertile eggs, even without being ever introduced to a male. This is completely normal. Some females will never lay infertile eggs, some will.

In closing

If you take care of your dragon, you will have a fun, entertaining companion for many years. Dragons are great pets but do require a lote more than most pet stores will tell you they do. Please before purchasing a dragon, or any animal for that matter, make sure you do your research prior to it coming home with you.

© 2016 Crazy Reptile Lady

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