Bearded Dragons What You Need To Know
Did you know that a Care Sheet on Bearded Dragons is not enough to really help you answer your day to day questions? That many many times online answers are wrong or based on opinion? Over 14 years, we have heard from people who wanted a resource that can help as questions came up and from a qualified source. That is why we developed this Lens. We hope you will find the information useful. We will continue to add new questions as they come up.
Here are some of the most popularly asked questions and links for further info.
Bearded Dragons - The Top 15 Questions Answered!
1. Q: Does parazap kill intestinal parasites?
A: The active ingredient in parazap is cloves. Cloves is a natural appetite stimulant so some dragons may respond by showing an increase in food interest. However, there is no evidence to prove that closes or parazap can kill intestinal parasites.
2. Q: What is the best thermometer for a bearded dragon set up?
A: The most accurate thermometer is a digital infra-red temp gun. We prefer Pro Exotics brand. It runs $30 Get your readings by holding the gun about 10" away from the top of the basking spot and also get a reading on floor on the cool side. These readings will let you know if your set up has the 20 degree temperature gradient bearded dragons need to thermoregulate. This is needed to allow the cold blooded reptile to adjust its body termperature.
3. Q: All of my crickets died and stank. What did I do wrong?
A: Keep crickets in a large, CLEAR storage tub using NO LID. Wal-Mart sells huge Sterlite tubs that work great. It needs to be tall and much larger than you would think. When the crickets arrive, open the box, flip it over and shake so crickets fall into the bin with the egg carton, too. Because the bin is clear, the crickets will run to darkness in between the egg crate flats rather than crawling up the sides and out. The open top allows proper airflow so the crickets do not die off and smell. Change the gut load daily.
4. Q: What is the best substrate?
A: We use paper towels on babies which is very easy to clean and prevents babies from swallowing sand with crickets. We have used Repti-Sand in Desert White on adults with no impaction problems when tested over a 4 year period. We do notice that dragons will eat the red or blue sand so that is avoided. Also, any other types of sand or walnut shells will likely cause impaction so avoid these as well. As far as reptile carpet, crickets tend to chew on carpet which then gets ingested when the dragon eats the crickets. All in all, our favorite substrates are paper towels for babies and Repti-sand in white for adults.
5. Q: Does my dragon need a heat lamp at night?
A: Bearded Dragons need a nighttime drop in temperature. But if the room where you keep your dragon falls below 67 at night, it makes sense to run a red lamp to bring the temp up to 70 or 72 Fahrenheit.
6. Q: How much of my dragon's diet should be veggies and how much should be bugs?
A : We feed babies at a ratio of 90% crickets/phoenix worms/baby silkworms and 10% leafy greens. Once the dragon reaches 16" in total length, we gradually start adding shredded squash, thin fresh greens beans and other foods. There is a Food Chart on our site at http://www.fireandicedragons.com/food_chart/food_c... which indicates what kinds of foods to feed a subadult or adult dragon and how often. Bearded dragons have a daily dietary requirement of 2:1 calcium to phosphorus. Keep the calcium to phosphorus ratio in mind when selecting foods for your dragon.
7. Q: I read a lot of conflicting information. What substrate do you use?
A: To maintain the highest level of hygiene, we use paper towels. When a dragon reaches subadult or adult size we have successfully used Zoo Med's Repti-Sand in White only. We only recommend White since we have witnessed babies eating blue and red sand which can cause impaction and death. We have tested Repti-Sand in White for several years and never had an impaction problem in our subadults or adults. If you use this sand on babies, it would be safe to place the sand only on the cool side. That way, you have less chance of a baby bearded dragon ingesting the sand with its greens and bugs which are fed on the basking or hot side. Note: Beware of sound alike names for sand. Many can be deadly.
8. Q: I got a few babies back in September and had them together while I was setting up cages. One of the babies nipped the other and now the one is missing a foot. Any advice?
A: I'm sorry to hear that. I am sure you feel terrible. We keep babies separated from the time they are about 2-3 weeks of age. Even as well fed as the babies are here, aggression can happen fast. We have heard of a customer who put her young dragons together and in less than a minute, one attacked and killed the other. If you get in the habit of keeping young dragons separated, you can avoid this in the future.
9. Q: What is a good incubator for a hobby breeder?
A: The Hovabator by Georgia Quail Farm is a nice hobby level hatcher.
10. Q: My dragon is sitting on his basking rock with his mouth open. Should I be worried?
A: Gaping is the term for what you describe. Gaping is part of the thermoregulation process and very normal. The dragon is expressing excess heat through his mouth.
11. Q: Instead of buying the 20 gallon long tank for my new baby can't I just put my new baby in a 55 gallon tank?
A: There are several reasons why a 20 gallon long tank is recommended for a baby dragon. One is the UVB factor. Babies grow very fast and need the UVB all day. Placing a branch in the tank doesn't do it since the baby dragon doesn't know he needs UVB or for how long. The UVB needs to be placed so that, no matter where the baby is in the cage, that UVB is within theraputic range. 55 gallon tanks are too tall. Another reason for the 20 gallon long tank is to allow the baby to locate prey. Crickets will automatically run to the dark side of the tank to get away from the light on the basking bulb. Yet where do dragons spend much of their time? Under the basking light. in a large tank, the baby doesn't see the prey. We have found that a 20 gallon long tank is just the right size for the baby to eat well and maintain a healthy growth rate.
12. Q: How do you keep crickets alive? Mine died and they stunk.
A: We use a very large CLEAR plastic tub from Wal-Mart. No Lid. When crickets arrive, open the box, flip it over and dump the whole thing into the bin, egg crate and all. The crickets will run in between the egg crate rather than up the sides of the bin to get away from the light. If you use an opague bin, crickets feel safe and run up the sides and out. If the clear bin is large enough, even with no lid there should be no escapees. If you must use a lid, use a screen. You want air to circulate. Otherwise, humidity builds up in the cricket bin causing odor and die off.
13. Q: My color morph bearded dragon s dark and looks like a normal dragon. Why?
A: If your dragon has belly marks, striations or patterns on his or her belly, the dragon is stressed. Stressed out dragons turn gray. Take the set up back to square one. Look at temperatures ( how accurate your thermometer is will make a huge difference). How far off the floor is your tank? What can the dragon see? What kind of basking bulb are you using? Do you have a decorative background? There are many factors that can make a bearded dragon unhappy. It is our job as keepers to make the changes. Happy color morph beardies are bright. Unhappy dragons are gray. The good news is that I have seen a dragon turn bright as the sun instantly by changing the one thing that is making the dragon unhappy.
14. Q: My room gets cold at night. Should I give my Bearded Dragon a heat lamp?
A: Beardies need a nighttime temperature drop. If your room temperature falls below 68 degrees though, a red bulb that brings the nighttime cage temp back up to 70 is a good idea.
15. Q: Can I feed my baby Beardie too much?
A: We do not withhold food for our babies. They need a lot of protein to handle that fast rate of growth. We feed babies and subadults up to one year as much as they want twice a day. Just remember to allow 2 hours after "dinner" for the dragon to digest his food under the basking lamp before lights out.
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Juvenile Bearded Dragon Care
Please remember that your juvenile bearded dragon is a baby and will be afraid in his or her new environment. Make sure the dragon's cage is in a stress-free area, rather than in the kitchen or another high traffic area.
Don't play with, or pick up, your new dragon until he or she has completed adjusted, is eating and belly marks are gone. Then handle juvies just a few minutes at a time working up to longer periods.
White copy paper placed on the outside of a glass tank will block his strange view of the world. This will help a lot as he is already dealing with the stress of the move and seeing his reflection in a glass tank (we do not use glass tanks here). After the dragon is eating well (20-40 bugs per day or more) remove one sheet of paper per week.
We feed crickets using long-handled tweezers (purchased at Wal-Mart.) The juvies are conditioned to recognize the tweezers as a signal for "mealtime." We throw 3 crickets in at a time, leave and recheck in a minute or two. We again feed however many crickets as have been eaten and remove any "hoppers." We do this until the dragon is full and remove any excess crickets. This keeps the dragon's environment clean. Phoenix Worms can be placed in a shallow dish.
Too many crickets in the cage at one time will freak them out and the dragon will often refuse to eat.
If the crickets are too big or too small, some will not eat and worse, the dragon can starve to death or become paralyzed (in the case of a cricket that is too large).
Phoenix Worms do not need to be dusted as the worms are naturally high in calcium and low in phosphorus.
One thing we especially like about Phoenix worms is that we can plump the worms in a water glass a few minutes before feeding. This helps to provide additional fluids for those dragons who do not drink much.
If the dragon does not eat the first day, mist in the evening and try again the next morning. The most important thing is to keep the dragon hydrated.
Dark markings or striations on a dragon's belly are a clear signal that the dragon is stressed. When color morphs are stressed, they can also go dark, losing their bright color temporarily. Check temps on the basking spot. Is it 100-105 degrees? Check out the cool side. Is the temperature there at 80 degrees or below? If the temps seem right, look for other causes and make adjustments. When the dragon's belly has returned to its normal white color and is free of markings your habitat has the correct temps and the dragon is adjusting to its new environment.
Make sure your dragon's enclosure is at least 4' off of the ground. Near ground temps can be 20 degrees cooler, though the temp gun may read 100 - 105 degrees.
Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
Juvenile Care Sheet
ABOUT BEARDED DRAGONS
Bearded Dragons are one of the most intelligent of all reptiles. Beardies have individual personalities and are capable of learning to a very high degree. But beardies also have one characteristic that has helped to make dragons the most popular reptile for 10 years running: they are said to bond with humans at the level of a dog or cat. True? Yes, but this characteristic is most apparent when the dragon reaches subadult or adult age and is no longer in pure survival mode, i.e., running away from everything at warp speed. Once a bearded dragon reaches the subadult to adult age, they are less afraid of being eaten by predators and will generally calm down. We have adult dragons that love to hang out with us while we watch TV or will sit on our shoulders while we enjoy the summer sun on the patio. Some appreciate praise, respond to their names, like their heads scratched, etc. They are all individuals but all of our beardies respond to gentle human interaction.
More Than One?
Juvenile bearded dragons can be quite territorial and sit on a fellow cage mate preventing him or her from eating or drinking. If more than one beardie has found its way to your heart or home, keep the dragons in separate cages where they cannot see each other especially during the dragons' adjustment period.
As adults, this social hierarchy presents few problems and we house adult females together often. This is one way to observe the behavior of Arm Waving, an endearing characteristic.
One of the most useful purchases you can make is a gram scale. Keeping weight and feeding records will alert you when something isn't quite right. This enables you to correct the issue before it becomes life-threatening. Good husbandry and frequent informal exams will keep your dragon happy and healthy for many years.
Before brumation which occurs typically during the dragon's second year, it is advisable to have a qualified reptile vet check a stool sample. Fecal checks can alert you to any parasites before the dragon goes to "sleep" and is most vulnerable to parasitic attacks. Just as you worm a puppy, you will probably need to worm your dragon at some point in his life.
A 20 gallon long aquarium is usually adequate to house a 6" juvie for a few months. This size is long enough to allow proper temperature gradient but small enough for the juvie to locate prey items.
As your dragon grows, it will require a larger enclosure. We use white cages with clear sliding doors vented in the back as shown in our Gallery section. These cages are easy to clean, keep valuable UVB and bright, visual light inside the cage rather than spreading it through the glass walls of an aquarium.
The cages are also able to withstand the high temperatures of the basking light without melting the structure. You can order similar cages by asking for the Fire and Ice Dragons set up at http://www.customcages.com/. We have tested many enclosures over 8 years. In the cages mentioned here, the dragons ate the best, looked the best and bred the best.
These cages are 48" x 24" x 24" high or 18" high. This size is large enough to allow for single dragons or up to 3 adults. The front is sliding glass doors. Vents are located in the back. The cages stack.
The only other items you will need to purchase are the appropriate substrate (we ONLY use paper towels or Repti-Sand in White since Repti-Sand has never caused impaction problems for us in 8 years), digital probe thermometers or an infrared temp gun) and a clear household light bulb to use for the basking light.
We use Repti-Sand from Zoo Med as the substrate for juveniles or paper towels. Repti-Sand is super fine and doesn't need to be pre-sifted. Other sands and substrates have created well-documented impaction problems. Therefore we use paper towels or Repti-Sand exclusively. For our older dragons, we only use paper towels.
Spot clean feces immediately and disinfect the cage thoroughly once a week. Cleanliness now will save you many headaches in the future. We use 1 part bleach to 30 parts water to clean. Rinse well and dry.
Juveniles benefit from a simple environment. A smooth, pal sized river rock available at most nurseries makes an excellent basking rock. We use dark rocks which hold heat well and aid digestion. You can also allow the dragon to bask on the round reptile thermometer and scoot the dragon off to read the temp.
DO NOT use heat rocks or heating pads which burn a dragon's sensitive belly. The only items in our juvie bins are thermometers, a feeding dish and a shallow water dish. That's it.
Your dragon will need full spectrum UVB light. We use Zoo Med's 10.0 UVB Reptile light and a fluorescent type fixture that runs the length of the cage. This UVB bulb performed the best in our tests against all other UVB lights.
UVB only penetrates 8-12" from the source. Make sure the UVB light is about 10" from the floor of the dragon's cage.
If the UVB light is older than 3 months or is too high from the floor of the cage, the dragon will not be stimulated to eat and MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) can cripple the dragon.
We check our UVB lights every six weeks with a Solarmeter 6.2. When UVB levels drop to 70% of burn-in levels, the bulbs are no longer in the therapeutic range and need to be replaced.
Thermometers & Basking Lamps
The basking or heat fixture we prefer is the silver domed variety, also known as a clamp light. For the actual heat bulb, we use a standard clear household lamp bulb, like Sylvania. You will want to buy several wattages and switch the light bulbs out while testing for the correct basking temperature and as the seasons change.
For juvies, the dragons generally eat best at 100 - 105 degrees using a digital infra-red temp gun (www.tempguns.com). This temp gun is completely accurate. We have seen other thermometers be off by as much as 15 degrees!
Do not use screen tops for aquariums as we have found the tops block up to 30% of UVB rays. We either hang the lamp from a positive above the bin or clamp the light on the side. If you are clamping the light on the side of an aquarium, you should try the smaller clamp lights available to Lowe's or Home Depot that are 7" across to narrow the heat beam.
The cool end of the cage needs to be at 80 degrees (taking your reading on the floor of the tank).
If the temperatures are not correct, raise or lower the lamp or the wattage of the bulb you are using in the basking lamp until the temperature under the light on the bottom of the cage is correct. Temperature mistakes can be fatal. Temperature problems cause 90% of dragon husbandry problems and are directly associated with lack of appetite. Bright light and correct temperatures stimulate dragons to eat.
For convenience, set lights on an auto timer for 12 hours/day. A nighttime drop in temp to a normal household temperature of 70 degrees is necessary.
Dragons wake up and bask to warm up. Light, heat and UVB stimulate a dragon's appetite and allow the dragon to digest his food.
If the basking spot is too hot or too cool, the dragons will not eat.
On the other hand, when a dragon's internal temperature becomes too hot, the dragon requires an area of the cage that is 20 degrees cooler to get away from the heat of the basking lamp and thermoregulate. Thermoregulation is required for a bearded dragon to survive. If the dragon cannot cool off, the dragon will die.
We feed hatchlings 3 times per day. We have tested both traditional and pellet diets and currently feed a mixed protein diet of crickets, small silkworms, Phoenix Worms and fresh, high calcium greens.
Juveniles should be given as many crickets as the dragon will consume in 30 minutes. Feed juveniles 2- 3 times a day with appropriately sized crickets, no larger than the width of the dragon's mouth. Place 1 or 2 crickets in the cage at a time until the dragon is full.
Crickets should be dusted with supplements that support the fast growing bones of bearded dragons. Our choice is Repti-Calcium with vitamin D-3. We dust crickets 1 x per day for juvies. A vitamin supplement - Herptivite - is given 1 x week.
Crickets also need to be gut-loaded with other things to make them more nutritious. Products like Gut Load are fine. You can also use high calcium foods like the heavy leaves and stalks from mustard and collard greens, some kale, a potato and chopped fresh green beans. Veggies supply both food and moisture to the crickets.
Remove crickets within 1 hour of feeding. Remember to remove crickets at night. Crickets will bite hatchlings while they sleep.
This worm is relatively new to the insect feeder market. So far, we are extremely pleased. The dragons eat the worms eagerly. The worms are naturally high in calcium and low in phosphorus and therefore, do not need to be dusted. The worms can also be plumped before feeding (see Tips) to add additional moisture. The worms also do not need to be gutloaded and keep for weeks at room temperature.
The dragons eat the worms eagerly. The worms are naturally high in calcium and low in phosphorus and therefore, do not need to be dusted. The worms also do not need to be gutloaded and keep for weeks at room temp.
Each morning, place a shallow dish of torn salad greens that are high in calcium and provide moisture: mustard and watercress are excellent, as are turnip green, arugula, endive, escarole, collards, Romaine lettuce, kale, etc. can be given.
Provide a clean, shallow (knee deep or less) dish of water every morning. The bowl should be large enough for shoulders to enter into comfortably. Most dragons won't drink from bowls and need to be soaked and/or misted. Spraying babies head to tail 2 x a day for several minutes with a plant mister works best. Mist babies in the AM with hot tap water and in the PM with warm tap.
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