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raising a Bearded Dragon

Updated on September 1, 2014
My personal dragon
My personal dragon | Source

Caring for a dragon

Here you will learn how to raise a bearded dragon from a baby into adult hood. This will go through feeding, handling, grooming and habitats along with their social behaviors. Learn how to have fun with your dragon and how to keep them healthy and happy!



My personal baby dragon sleeping in his food dish.
My personal baby dragon sleeping in his food dish.

Picking a Healthy dragon

When you first get a baby dragon you should look to make sure you are getting a healthy one. First and possibly the easiest thing to look for is an active dragon with his head up and alert, you don't want to get a lethargic dragon that doesn't move a lot as it may be stressed or sick. Another key to look for is any visible scaring or missing appendages such as toes or missing tips of the tails (Dragons to not regrow appendages so if it is missing the tip of its tail or some toes they will not grow back). If they do have injuries look to make sure they are healed and not infected or fresh injuries. One more thing to watch out for and avoid is runny eyes, noses or any kind of puss or mucus on their face as these are signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon.



Habitat

Now that you know what to look for in a dragon, you need to figure out how to set up their habitat! Here are some of the items you will need:
>Tank
>Shallow food and water dish
>Repti carpet/ or play sand
>Heat lamps
>Hiding spot/ climbing logs or 'toys'
>Temperature/humidity thermometer
There are many kinds of tanks you can choose for your dragon but the most popular and inexpensive is the glass aquarium. These can be bought at almost any pet shop or even found for free online. They come in many sizes and allow you to see your dragon from all angles and they are easy to clean. The only problem is that they can become heavy once you get it set up so it's not easy to move.
You can also choose a Vision Cage that are more professional. They are made from one piece of molded plastic and are easy to clean, chemical resistant and should have heat lamp shrouds built in. These are a good choice for breeders because these cages can be easily stacked on top of one another and save a lot of space.
Tank size is something to look at also, if you have a baby bearded dragon you are not going to want a large 40 gallon breeder tank. The best and most suitable size tank for a baby dragon would be a 20 gallon tank. This will give them plenty of space to play and grow and will make it easier to catch their food. As your dragon grows and gets older and larger you will need to buy bigger cages. Here is an idea of what you will need as your dragon grows:

Baby dragons- 20 gallon

Early adult (10-16 inches)- 40 gallon

Adult dragons (16-20 inches)-50 to 75 gallon

Adults 20+ inches- 75 to 120 gallon

Lighting is very important for your dragon as it helps them digest their food and gives them energy. You will need a UVA/UVB long fluorescent tube lighting and a basking light. These can be a bit expensive but are a valuable and necessary purchase. Your dragon will need lighting for 12-14 hours a day to be happy as they are desert dwelling reptiles. It is important that your dragon has a spot in the tank that they can come within 6-8 inches from the light source so be sure to have a branch in your tank.
Your UVA/UVB will need to be a full spectrum light in order to mimic natural sunlight for your dragon. This light bulb should span most of your tank from one side to the other however you also need a basking light so be sure there is enough room for both lamps. UVA/UVB lights help in preventing your dragon from getting Metabolic Bone Disease.
Basking lamps are also very important for your dragon as it provides heat and helps them digest their food. You should stick with name brand reptile basking lights because regular light bulbs do not emit enough heat to keep your dragon happy and healthy. A bearded dragons tank temperature should be between 95 to 110 degrees and they should have a cool side that is about 85 degrees. It is ideal but not necessary to have two thermometers for each side of the tank. This is during the day, at night the tank can be as cool as 65 degrees but it is recommended to keep it at around 70-75 degrees.
Humidity should be low to keep your dragon happy and healthy so it is ideal to invest in a humidity gauge.
**NOTE: Do not use heated rocks for your dragon as they can cause burns and injuries to the underside of your dragon**
Bearded Dragon bedding can be tricky when choosing what to use for your baby or adult dragon. There are many types of bedding you can use such as:
>Newspaper
>Paper towels
>Butcher paper
>Reptile Carpet
>Play sand
Most people will tell you that you shouldn't use loose materials such as sand or wood chips but depending on the size and age of your dragon I feel it is safe. I have used play sand and eco earth for my two adult dragons and haven't had any problems with them. Most experts would recommended using reptile carpet as it's easy to clean and won't cause digestive problems because it can't be eaten. I found my dragons like to burrow in the corners under the carpet when I had it for my baby/juveniles. The good thing about using reptile carpet (depending on the brand) you should be able to just throw it in the washing machine to clean it and let it air dry.
Tank accessories can be a fun way to decorate your dragons tank. You can also place a background on your dragons tank to make it look like the desert, a rain forest, or any other background you wish. Some things you can use in your dragons cage to let them bask are large rocks (if you find them outside be sure to wash/scrub them clean), branches that you can buy at a pet store or even get them a reptile hammock! Dragons absolutely love to lounge in these hammocks and they come with suction cups so you can hang them almost anywhere if you have a glass aquarium. One important thing you will need is a hiding spot for your dragon. This is an enclosed area that they can hide from the light and people, and it's also important for when they go into brumation. Brumation is when a dragon goes into a heavy sleep for weeks (it's like reptile hibernation).


Bearded dragon tank complete with repti carpet, hide spot, basking spot and heat lamp.
Bearded dragon tank complete with repti carpet, hide spot, basking spot and heat lamp. | Source

Feeding your dragon

Baby dragon diets are different from adult dragons. Babies and young juveniles need a more insect based diet and less greens. This is because it is still growing and needs as much protein as possible. However, you should always leave fresh veggies in their cage and you should feed your dragon insects 3 times a day. A young dragon can eat anywhere from 20-60 insects each day! Let them eat as many insects as they can in a 10-15 minute time frame then remove the remaining insects from their cage.
Adult dragons should have more veggies then insects in their diet. You should still leave fresh veggies in their cage but you only need to feed your adult dragon insects once a day. Feed them as many as they can eat in a 10-15 minute time frame then remove the remaining insects from their cage.
Crickets should be the main source of insects but they can also have grasshoppers (those are like candy to them), meal worms, wax worms, butterworms, black soldier fly larvae, earthworms and caterpillars. Stay away from lightning bugs though because they can be toxic to your dragon.
Veggies that are safe for your dragons are as follows:
Acorn Squash, raw bell peppers, butternut squash, carrots, peeled cucumbers, mustard greens, artichoke hearts, bok choy, raw cabbage, celery, endive, yellow squash and even some unsweetened baby foods (I've used squash baby food for my older dragon before as a treat).


Bearded Dragon chomping on a cricket.
Bearded Dragon chomping on a cricket. | Source

Dragon behaviors

If you ever see your dragon waving at you they are not just saying hello. Arm waving is when a dragon stands high on their legs and raises one arm and waves it in a circular motion. One of the reasons dragons do this is to let other dragons know that they are aware of their presence. Another reason is submission, this will be when a dragon is approached by a larger dragon or other large animal.
Head Bobbing is not your dragons way of jamming out to it's favorite music. Head bobbing is more common in male dragons and it is when a dragon raises and lowers it's head several times. Generally this is a sign on dominance between two dragons, during breeding a male will do this to demonstrate his dominance over her. Other times it's a sign of territorial aggression. The faster the head bobbing is, the more threatening it is and is normally for territorial reasons.
Fluffing their beard is when a dragon feels threatened and tries to make themselves seem bigger. Some times your dragon will stretch out their beards without being provoked, this is not unusual so don't be alarmed.
Digging is a common behavior that dragons show. Dragons (females) will often try to dig holes in their tank and move things around to make room to lay eggs. However if your dragon is old enough they could be digging to go into brumation.
An open or gaping mouth can mean your dragon is regulating their body temperature. Dragons do not sweat or pant, and this is the way that they can cool off and control their body temperature.


My two dragons sitting on my shirt.
My two dragons sitting on my shirt.

We have gone through looking for a healthy and alert bearded dragon baby to filling out their perfect habitat. The UVA/UVB lights they need and the type of bedding that is best. We have gone over their feeding, what is ok for babies and adults and we have gone over their behaviors. I hope this article was informative and helped you understand how to take care of your dragon! Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

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      Taylior 11 months ago

      i put sand in my cage and the vet said that it is not good for their digestive system and also what should i do to entertain my dragon while im away?