How To: Set Up a Bearded Dragon Habitat
What Are Bearded Dragons:
First, Lets start off by telling you a little about Bearded Dragons. Bearded dragons are a type of lizard, from the deserts of central Australia. They are called "Bearded" because they have a flap of skin under the chin that they extend when frightened or disturbed. They are usually able to tolerate humans who just don't seem to leave them alone.
Bearded Dragons can get a foot to a foot and a half long. Half of its length coming from its tail. Their average life span is 3 to 10 years. However, its not uncommon that they exceed 10 years.They usually will reach their full size around a year, depending on their diet.
Bearded Dragons are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal material. In my experience, they prefer crickets and meal worms over fruits and veggies. Bearded dragons need to eat 70% insects, and 30% mixed fruits and veggies, such as Squash, Pears, Mango, Papaya, Mushrooms, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and especially bell peppers.
Now, although this reptile is fun to have, there's also precautions you must take if you decide to invest in one. Reptiles can be carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella. It is VERY important that you wash your hands before, and after handing this reptile, as well as anytime you come into contact with its habitat.
Some common health issues that "Beardies" may get are:
Gastro-Intestinal disease. Signs would include: runny stools and loss of appetite. This is usually caused by a bacterial or parasitic infection.
Metabolic Bone/Vitamin Deficiency. Which comes from the inability to absorb calcium. If left untreated your bearded dragon may suffer from deformities and softened bones, swollen limbs, and lethargy.
Respiratory Disease.Identified by labored breathing and mucus in the mouth or nose. This can be caused by a habitat that is too cold, or even damp.
If it appears that your Bearded Dragon has any health issue, it is important that you call your local exotic animal veterinarian.
What You Need To Set Up Your Habitat
The habitat itself: Ten Gallons is sufficient for a baby Bearded Dragon. However, as the beardie grows, you will need to purchase something larger. This being said, it's not a bad idea to start off large, to keep from having to spend more money later.
Substrate: Calcium based sand is preferred. Although It may be temping to use "Playground" sand, it is not recommended. It may be ingested and cause impaction. If you don't like the idea of sand flying around your house, you could also use a product called Repti-Carpet.
Food and Water Dishes: Any ceramic dishes will do, as long as your dragons can easily get to them. As far as your water dishes, its important that they are large enough to bathe themselves in them. They absorb water through their skin.
Hideaway Place: I think this is pretty self explanitory. Would you want to live in a glass house, where you could be watched twenty-four seven? Its also good for them to be able to escape the heat if they need to.
Climbing Décor: This is really up to you. It looks cool, but is it absolutely needed? Not really.
Plants: Again this is up to you. However, they are a good idea. It is important that you keep the humidity under fifty percent. To do this, you can mist your plants. These plants can be real or fake, it doesn't really matter.
Heat Light: Use a Incandescent light, or a ceramic heater.
Heat Fixture: This is the lamp you place the bulb in.
Under Tank Heater: A Heater that sits directly under the habitat.
UVB Lighting: Beardies need UVB rays for 10 to 12 hours a day for them to remain healthy.
Thermometer: It's important to monitor the temperature of your habitat to insure you don't turn your beardie into baked beardie.
Humidity Gauge: Again, it's important that you keep your humidity under 50 percent. A humidity gauge will help you keep track of your humidity.
Setting Up Your Habitat
Alright, now on to the fun part. Setting up your habitat.
First, wash your aquarium. DO NOT use any cleaners. After that attach your under aquarium heater to the bottom of your aquarium. Next, decide if you're only using sand substrate, or if you will be using a liner. If you're using a liner, place that in the tank, then place the sand directly on top. If not using a liner, obviously you'd just pour in your sand.
When finished with that add your decorations, plants, food and water dishes, thermometers, and humidity gauges, in the spots you like.
Place your habitat cover on, and set up your heating equipment. It is very important that you maintain 2 different temperatures in your tank at all times. Roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit on one side, and 70 on the other. Remember it's important to have full spectrum lighting for 10 to 12 hours every day. An incandescent day bulb can be used for basking area during daylight hours only. You can then use a ceramic heater or black heat at night, or even use it at all hours.
Keep your tank out of direct sunlight, and high traffic areas. Bearded Dragons can get stressed too.
Before to committing to a Bearded Dragon, ask yourself do you have the time and commitment it takes to care for this pet for 10+ years of your life.