Bearded Dragons are the dogs of reptile species. They are one reptile that really do enjoy your company. They love to snuggle on you at night and will fall right asleep. The also just love walking around with you on your sholder and observing everything around them.
Bearded Dragons are a great beginner reptile and first reptile for kids as well. They are very hardy and tame down very easily. They make wonderful pets and also a great pet for people with fur allergies.
Setting up your Beardies new home:
Before bringing home any reptile, you should always make sure their Vivarium is set up and all temperatures are correct before placing the animal into it's tank. This minimizes stress and illness to the animal. Also remember, the petstores will always try to push you to buy a "friend" for your beardie. DO NOT PUT TWO TOGETHER, Bearded Dragons are solitary animals and do not want any friends other then you. Bearded Dragons will stress each other out and fight to the death, They like their space to themselves.
Most people say to put your beardie into a smaller tank when you first receive it as a baby. I personally wouldn't put a baby in anything smaller then a 20 gal long for a baby - 7 months old. Beardies need a temperature range of highs and lows and a 10 gal is much too small to get accurate temperatures.
Once your Beardie reaches 7 months old, it is time for an upgrade. The minimum tank requirement for one adult Dragon is 40 gallon breeder. I would reccomend a larger tank though so your beardie has places to roam, be able to turn around in it's vivarium, and temperatures range a little more in bigger vivs. I currently have Draco in a 75 gal. You can also make your own vivariums to give your beardie as much space as you want. A lot of people follow the crossfire vivarum instructions. (http://www.freewebs.com/crossfireenclosures/)
Temperature and Lighting :
This is one of the most important things to your beardies health. Beardies are native to the Australian outback and need sunlight or uv rays to digest and absorb calcium. Bearded Dragons need a Basking spot of 95-105 F .( 100-110 F for baby Bearded Dragons). The most accurate way to read the basking light temperature is to buy a thermometer with a probe attached to place right in your beardies basking spot. You can get these at any petstore, or you can buy a temperature gun that will read any temperature inside the enclosure. I personally like the probe so you can always tell the temperature at all times.
Your dragon will also need a warm side of the tank and a cool side of the tank. The warm side you want to keep between 84-88F and the cool side you want to keep at around 75-78F. You can do this by using different wattages of light bulbs. You can use Special reptile lights or just a regular house bulb. ( Do not use coil bulbs, these have been shown to hurt beardies eyes). You can also raise your beardie up with basking branches, logs, and other reptile decorations to help them get closer to the light for basking. Do not put your Bearded Dragon closer then 6-8 inches of your lights though, you do not want them to get burned.
Beared Dragons do not need a light at night, unless your house gets lower then 65 F. In winter months you can use a heat emiter or a blue moon glow lamp. A lot of people don't like the colored lights, the moonglow lights simulate the moons natural glow and does not bother my dragon's sleep . I used the heat emiters before and they do work but give off a lot of heat, do not place on top of screens or in any non ceramic lamps.
One of the most important lights for your beaded dragon in a UV light. They need to do this for at least 12-14 hours a day. Place your UV light beside the basking light so your dragon can bask and get his daily uv. There are many types of UV lights on the market, and many just do not put out enough adequate uv for a bearded dragons. When buying a uv light for your dragon you want the long tube light brand called: REPTI SUN 10.
This is the best brand of uv put on the market in the us for Bearded Dragons. Sadly when I first got draco I didn't know about this brand, I didn't know there was differance. Draco basked under his uv everyday, but I noticed he started to get a underbite . I know I gave him enough calcium. It turns out the light I had did not put out enough uv rays. I changed to repti sun 10. and his color got brighter, he became more active, and had a better appetite. You will want your uv in your basking area no farther then 8 inches from your dragon. These lights are VERY important, without them your dragon is prone to MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). Be sure to replace your UV bulb every 6 months.
Substate is what you line the bottom of your bearded dragons viv with. Some people keep their beadies on sand, but I find there are far more risk and health concerns from sand it's better to just not take the risk. Sand can be ingested by the beardie when they are eating and get stuck in their intestines and cause them to get impacted and causes problems when passing stool. If left untreated the beardie can die. Avoid sand, Calcium sand, and walnut shells.
Good substrates for your beardie are anything that is not solid particals and can be eaten. At the petstore they sell Reptile Carpet, this is fine for your beardie but I find them staining very easily and have to be taken out and thoroughly cleaned every time your beardie goes to the bathroom.
A very inexpensive and very easy to clean substrate I found is non adhesive Shelf liner. You want non adhesive because the glue on adhesive melts and produces a smell that can be toxic to your beardie. You can get these for 5-8$ at any walmart or hardware store, be sure to get the solid liners too without the holes for easier clean up. They are a plastic material and with a wet paper towel it makes for a very easy clean up each time.
Another good substate is tiles, I use these for half of my viv. They make a easy clean up too because each one can be taken out and cleaned individually. Slate tile is very good for your beardies substrate, when your beardie walks across the slate it weares their nails down. This way you don't have to worry about trimming the beardies nails. Again don't get adhesive tiles for the same reason. You can also use something as simple as paper towels. They can be just taken out each time your dragon goes and replaced with new clean ones.
Other Inportaint things to have
in your Beardies Home:
Another thing to always have inside your beardies viv is a elevated perch or stick to bask on underneath their basking light and UV. This makes it easier to regulate their basking temperature and also provides them to get closer to their light ( no closer then 6 inches to the light). I found sticks and perches work good for your beardie because they are not a arborial species but they do love to climb and be at the highest elevated spot in the tank when basking.
You always want to have a hiding spot for your beardie. Beardies sometimes when new will take a few days to get used to their new home and you need to provide them with a safe place to run and hide if they become scared. Some beardies love them and some will never use them, but there a good thing to always have just in case. My beardie loves to also bask ontop and sleep in his hide. You can also provide something comfy for them to lay on. I have some hand towels lined on the bottom of my hide for him to have a comfy place to run to and sleep in. I would put the hide on the cool end of your tank too. It also provides a place to cool off and get away from the light or the uv if your dragon has had enough. A good hide to use for bigger dragons is the plasic half tortoise logs. There are differant sizes and very roomy for your dragon, but you can use just about anything for a hide, some people will make them from things they find around the house. Just be creative.
For the warm, cool and Basking spot you want to have a thermometer to measure each temp. The basking thermometer you want to get one that has a probe so you are able to place it right where your beardie will bask. Then you can get a in and out thermometer from Walmart and place one on the warm side and the other on the cool side and be able to read both from one thermometer. You can also get one that reads humidity. Humidity isn't a big issue, but you do not want your humidity over 50%. It can cause respiratory infections in bearded dragons from high humidity. You also don't want to keep your humidity too low, then your dragon will have a hard time shedding it's skin.
For female dragons, if you notice them digging around their viv and weight gain it is important to add a laybox. Females can lay infertale or dud eggs even without being with a male. Some do and some never will it all depends on the dragon. You can use shifted play sand from hardware stores mixed with ORGANIC peat moss. Make sure it is organic, you do not want to put pestisides or any other chemicals in with your dragon.
All other decorations are up to you, be creative. There are plastic plants you can hang around and many lizard decorations and things to put
into their tanks available at many pet stores. My beardie really enjoys the Repti-Hammocks. There are many do it yourself basking spot and rock making kits you can make from your own home
to customize your tank anyway you want. Just be carefull what you use, always make sure it is safe for your dragon. Never add HEAT ROCKS! They do not warm up from their stomach and do not
feel the warmth and can eassily burn themselves.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores like you and me. They enjoy vegetables, Fruits and bugs. There are many differant kinds of healthy bugs and vegetables to feed to your dragon. Bearded Dragons should be supplied with a fresh salad every day, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens (Curly greens), Dandilion greens, and turnip greens are all healthy stables for your dragon to have every day. Do not feed a lot of romaine and iceburg lettuce, there are no nutritional value in these greens. These lettuce types mostly contain high amounts of water. Also do not feed your Dragon a high amount of spinach. Spinach can be toxic to dragons at high doses and bind up there calcium intake. Butternut squash, Spaghetti Squash, and many other squash are all excellent stables to feed to your dragon any time as well. Some of dragons enjoy squash for it's bright color and taste. Also as a occasional treat you can give them fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and other fruits, mine loves raspberries! But do not feed too much fruit to your beardie as it will cause them to have a upset stomach and get diarrhea for a few days. A treat of fruit once in a while is ok for your dragon though.
Along with their daily salads they also need protein. Bugs are a excellent source of protein. Baby Dragons should be fed 70% Protein and 30% salad, while adult dragons should have the opposite with more salads offered to them then bugs. Baby Beardies should be fed twice a day and allowed to eat as much as they can in a 15 minute time span along with their salad. Baby beardies can eat, so be prepared to buy in bulk. Buying food on line allows you to do this and also save money on feeders in the long run. Good stable feeders are Crickets, Silkworms, Reptiworms (Phoenix worms), and Dubia Roaches. I personally use Silkworms combined with Reptiworms. Silkworms are a great stable, they have a special enzyme that they produce that helps Dragons absorb more calcium. They also reduce plaque buildup on their teeth. The only bad thing is Silkworms are a bit costly, you can breed your own silkworms though. Reptiworms or Phoenix worms are also a great stable, they have the highest calcium count of any feeder. When feeding Reptiworms they say you don't have to dust any calcium on them, I'm not sure if this is true or not I still dust a light coat of calcium on them when I feed them to my Dragon. The only problem is they are small, they are black soldier fly larve ( basically magots only much cleaner). Be prepared to feed a lot to your dragon. Crickets are a good stable but there a pain I find to keep. They're loud and smell. Also a cost efficient food is to start a Dubia roach colony. I have no experiance with this, but if you do not mind the roaches they can easy start a colony very quickly and supply you with live food for months. Also do not forget to gutload any feeder bug you choose, your animals are what they eat.
Other bugs you can feed your beardie for treats is Butterworms, hornworms, (It is very important that you buy these on line or from a reilable dealer, NEVER! feed a wild hornworm to your beardie, the wild hornworms snack on the tomato plant which is very toxic to beardies) Waxworms and superworms (Before feeding superworms to your beardie make sure your beardie is at least 17 inches, these are very big and a bit harder than other feeders and can hurt or impact a young bearded dragon). One bug feeder to avoid is mealworms. Mealworms have a hard outer shell and are very hard for beardies, especially young beardies to digest. Mealworms do not have a lot of nutritional value for beardies.
Some people decide to feed their beardies in separate bins or containers then there viv. This is actually a very good idea. It keeps your beardies home bug free. This is very important with crickets. Crickets when not all eaten will bug and irritate your dragon. Crickets will also snack on your dragon when they are asleep. These can make nasty infections for your dragon an also chew off the eylids of your dragon. If you can not find another place to feed your beardie, make sure the bugs are in a no tip bowl big enough for your bugs to stay in place in the bowl and small enough for your beardie to still be able to access the bugs.
Calcium Dusting and Vitamin suppliments are just as important to reptiles as they are to people. Crickets and other feeders are not Beardies natural prey they would find out in the outback, neither is collard greens and other greens the vegetables they would eat. It is very important as a beardie owner to remember to dust your feeders. I found writting down a schedule for each day of the week and pinning it on my fridge helps me remember which days to dust and which days to add vitamins. You can decide to dust your feeders or your vegetables, just make sure if you are dusting the vegetables that your baby beardie is eating them, babies can be stubborn with salads at first.
With baby beardies it is extremely important to get calcium and vitamins because their small bodies are still in the growing stages. You will want to dust their food once a day five days a week. The other two days left of the week you will want to dust on vitamin suppliments. For adult beardies once they hit around 2 years of age you can offer less calium. You can offer it to them 3 times a week, and vitamin suppliments two times a week. At around 2 years of age is when your beardie has reached full adulthood. Repti-cal is a very good brand of calcium and vitamin suppliments. The calcium is in a pink label, while the Vitamin and mineral suppliments are in a blue label. I also have had good luck with fluckers brand calcium.
Just like UV these are very important things to offer to your bearded dragon . Calcium dusting prevents MBD and other bone ailments to your beardie, just like they say it is importaint to drink your milk as a kid for calcium, your beardie needs to eat his calcium dust for strong bones. Vitamins and minerals are also good for your Dragon, keeping up their ammune system and making sure they get the vitamins and minerals they would get from the wild.
( Vist Beautiful Dragons webpage to see nutritional food
information on all foods for bearded dragons, and also
Dusting Sceduales :http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html)
Water and hydration is important to any animal. Even though beardies come from the outback, they still need to get water into their system. A lot of people say not to leave water bowls in with your beardies because they never drink from it or it raises the humidity. I would make this your own decision. I keep a small shallow water bowl with my beardie, I have never seen him drink from it, but he does like to soak himself in it occasionally. Just remember to have a humidity gauge to read the humidity if you do decide to keep a water bowl in his viv. One thing my beardie does enjoy taking water from is a eye dropper, every day at dinner time I'll offer him 1 ml of water through an eye dropper after he has finished his bugs. Somedays he will not want any, but others when he does he already has his tongue sticking out waiting for water. This is also a good thing to do with baby beardies. Baby beardies are more susceptible to dehydration at quicker paces.
Another great way to hydrate your beardie is to give them a Soak. Soaking loosens up loose shed, it hydrates them, and some people have thought their beardies to only go potty in the tub. I would soak your beardie no less than twice a week. Bearded Dragons hydrate themselves from soaking and absorbing water through their vent area. Giving your beardie a warm soak also helps them releave constipation. When soaking your beardie you can use a tupperware container or the tub, just make sure it is something big enough for them to swim around in and get some exercise. When filling up the water you want it to be around 90 F and want to keep it warm for them. You also want to make sure the water is no higher than it's elbows. Some beardies really do love to swim around in the water and some will be scared their first couple of times. You can put your hand in or something for them to climb out a little bit to make them feel more comfortable. This is also a great bonding time for you and your beardie.
Making sure your Dragon has a happy and clean home is very important. It makes it so your animal is not walking through it's own waste everyday. Reptile are very scent free when kept right, the only time they will ever smell is if they have walked though their feces. Daily things you can do to keep your animal healthy is to remove feces as soon as they have gone or as soon as you notice it. A lot of people work durring the day, as do I, But I make sure as soon as I get home to remove any poo or mess your dragon has made and clean everything down he had gone on. I use a dab of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo to clean tank decorations. You can also use a little on your dragon if he has walked though his poo, just make sure to keep it away from his face and to rinse it well. Some bearded dragons hate the smell of their own feces and will baracade themself at the other side of the tank until it is picked up. Doing this daily keeps the tank cleaner and reduce times you have to do full tank cleanings.
When your dragon is shedding sometime he will get pieces all over his tank, or if you feed his feeders in his tank you can get calcium everywhare. I found a simple thing to remove small particales of shed or anything is to vacuum out the bottom of the tank around once a month of after shedding. It is very easy when using the hose nozel on vacuums. Also be sure to remove your dragon when vacuuming his tank, It could seriously startle them or hurt them.
Tamming and Enjoying your
With proper UV, Setup, Food, Suppliments, and calcium your beardie will be strong and healthy. Beardies can live 8-10 years and always be inquisitive about everything you are doing. Beardies are very easy to tame, some from proper breeders who have handled them since their hatch date will already be tame and love your company. Others need warming up to people to be tame. Some tips you can do is to place a warm shirt inside their viv. This way your smell becomes accustom to them, and notice the smell means nothing to fear. You can also try hand feeding some treats or bugs to your new beardie. This way when you go to enter their tank they learn it means something good is going to happen like getting food and will associate you with feeding time.
If you live in a warm climate and it is above 75 F , bringing your beardie outside is a great way for them to get some natural uv and fresh air. Make sure to hold your beardie or have them on a lizard leash or harness so they can not make a mad dash away into the woods, street, or eat any strange plants or bugs ( When outside or anywhere NEVER allow your beardie to eat lady bugs or fireflys, lady bugs can make your dragon very sick and even one firefly can kill your bearded dragon). Letting your beardie roam around a beardie proof room is another good way for your beardie to get exercise, and be their natural curious self. When your beardie is out of it's viv it's always important to keep a watch on where they go and to make sure they do not eat anything. Beardies are a very cuddly reptile, at night they love to lay and sleep on the warmth of your chest. My beardie loves to sleep for hours everynight just being pet. This is one of the best times with your Bearded Dragon.
Thank you for reading my guide and I hope you enjoy your new pet lizard. If you have any questions about bearded dragons vist my contact page, and I would love to answser any questions I can.