Care Sheet For Bearded Dragons

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Introduction

What is a Bearded Dragon?

A Bearded Dragon is a lizard that originates from Australia, there are several different species of Bearded Dragons.

  • Pogona vitticeps - Central or Inland Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona barbata - Eastern Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona henrylawsoni - Rankins Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona microlepidota - Small-scaled Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona minima - Western Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona minor - Dwarf Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona mitchelli - Mitchell's Bearded Dragon
  • Pogona nullarbor - Nullarbor Bearded Dragon

In the pet industry, you will often find the Pogona vitticeps available for sale. With that in mind, this entire website is dedicated to the Central or Inland Bearded Dragon.

Are Bearded Dragons Friendly?

Yes, Bearded Dragons are very friendly and they're easy to tame. In fact, Bearded Dragons are known to be very docile. Speaking from personal experience, I would say that a Bearded Dragon will only act aggressive if it feels stressed out or threatened (scared). Overall, Bearded Dragons do well with human interaction.

How Much Does a Bearded Dragon Cost?

If you plan to buy a Bearded Dragon, the overall cost will vary for a few reasons. First, there are different types of Bearded Dragon "morphs". For example, there are leatherback Bearded Dragons as well as silkback Bearded Dragons. In addition, there are different types of colors or patterns, such as citrus or zero Bearded Dragons. As a result, the price of a Bearded Dragon could be as low as $60 or up to a few hundred dollars if not more. Again, this is all dependent on the type of Bearded Dragon that you plan to get. Second, aside from the type of Bearded Dragon, the overall cost will also vary because of all the items that you will need to house and properly care for the reptile. For example, do you need a 20 gallon terrarium or a 40 gallon terrarium? The larger the enclosure, the more pricey things will be. Of course, this same idea applies to everything else such as what type of UVB bulb do you need and so on. Therefore, the overall cost will vary and there is no exact answer. If I were to give you a guess, I would say that the overall cost will be a few hundred dollars (give or take) just to get started. Below, is a short list of things that you may need to buy.

  • An enclosure
  • A heat bulb
  • A fixture for the heat bulb
  • A UVB bulb
  • A fixture for the UVB bulb
  • Substrate
  • Tank decorations
  • Live Food
  • Greens
  • The Bearded Dragon

Where Can I Buy a Bearded Dragon?

You will find Bearded Dragons for sale at places like Petco or Petsmart (or any other local reptile shop in your community). Also, you will find them for sale online (e.g. Google or social media) or at reptile expos.

Where Should I Buy a Bearded Dragon?

I would recommend buying a Bearded Dragon from a reputable breeder, whether it be online or at a reptile expo. Unfortunately, I would not recommend buying a Bearded Dragon from a local pet store. More often than not, Bearded Dragons at places like Petco or Petsmart receive poor care. As a result, you'll have a higher chance of getting an unhealthy Bearded Dragon. However, going to your local pet store may be the easiest and fastest way to get your hands on a Bearded Dragon. If you choose to go to your local pet store, then please make sure that the Bearded Dragon is healthy before buying.

How Do I Know If a Bearded Dragon Is Healthy?

When picking out a Bearded Dragon in person, you should look to see if the Bearded Dragon is active and alert. In other words, the reptile should be basking with an upright posture. In addition, the Bearded Dragon should be aware of your presence and it should be responsive to your movements or handling. Aside from being active and alert, you should also look for signs of illnesses or physical injuries. For example, make sure that the Bearded Dragon does not have metabolic bone disease or yellow fungus. Furthermore, make sure that the Bearded Dragon does not have any unhealed injuries, such as missing toes which often occurs from multiple Bearded Dragons being housed together.

Housing

Enclosure Type

Glass terrariums - Glass terrariums are a common choice for housing Bearded Dragons; glass terrariums can be found online on websites like Amazon or at local pet stores such as Petco or Petsmart. If you decide to get a glass terrarium, then we recommend buying one that has doors in the front so that it will be much easier to access the reptile.

Custom - A "custom" enclosure is the best choice for housing a Bearded Dragon for multiple reasons. First, these enclosures are specifically built with Bearded Dragons in mind. As a result, custom enclosures will often have better temperatures, ventilation, and UVB exposure. Second, they can save space if you require more than one as they are often stackable. Third, you don't have to worry about custom enclosures breaking as a glass enclsosure might. Last but not least, many of these custom enclosures have doors in the front making it easier to access the reptile. Overall, go with a custom enclosure if it's in your budget. You can find custom enclosures online or you can build one yourself if you are handy with tools.

Enclosure Size

20 gallon terrarium - A 20 gallon terrarium is the size that we would recommend for a baby Bearded Dragon (less than two months old). Essentially, a small 20 gallon terrarium makes it easier for a younger Bearded Dragon to hunt for food (if you keep the decor as simple as possible). Overall, a 20 gallon is a good starting point. However, you will have to upgrade the enclosure to a larger size within a few months if you start out with a 20 gallon terrarium.

40 gallon terrarium or larger - A 40 gallon terrarium is the minimum size that we would recommend for one juvenile or adult Bearded Dragon. Although, it should be noted that anything larger than a 40 gallon terrarium is ultimately better. Thus, if you can get something larger than a 40 gallon terrarium, then do it.

4x2x2 Custom - If you decide to go with a custom built enclosure (which would be the best choice), then aim for dimensions of at least 4 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and 2 feet tall. Again, anything larger is better.

Cohabitation

WARNING!

Picture of Bearded Dragons fighting in the wild.

No matter the age or sex of your Bearded Dragons, we DO NOT recommend housing multiple Bearded Dragons in a single enclosure. Again, it does not matter if you have both female Bearded Dragons or two babies that have been together since birth. Overall, cohabitation is dangerous for various reasons and it only takes a few seconds for something to go wrong. To clarify, Bearded Dragons do not get along well with other Bearded Dragons. In the wild, Bearded Dragons live in solitude and they are very territorial. Unfortunately, Bearded Dragons do not want nor do they need friends. If you put two Bearded Dragons in the same enclosure, then there is a good chance that the two Bearded Dragons will attempt to fight each other if not mate (assuming you put a male and a female Bearded Dragon together). For obvious reasons, fighting (or even mating) can cause serious injuries. Sometimes, fighting results in death. Sadly, many new Bearded Dragon owners (and even veteran owners) still support cohabitation. However, it's wrong and you should not listen to anyone that tells you cohabitation is fine. Again, Bearded Dragons do not want nor do they need friends. If an owner decides to put two Bearded Dragons together, then he or she has done so for personal enjoyment. Moving on, fighting is not the only concern when it comes to Bearded Dragons. For example, if you put two Bearded Dragons together in one enclosure, then the two reptiles will have to compete for space and resources. For instance, which Bearded Dragon will get the better basking spot? Many people don't know this, but when one Bearded Dragon sits on top of another, this is a dominant behavior (it's not them cuddling). Aside from competition, sometimes tail or toe nips occur (often seen when young Bearded Dragons are housed together). A tail or toe nip happens when one Bearded Dragon attempts to bite another for whatever reason. For example, maybe the reptile was hungry or maybe it decided to attack. As a result, this bite might cause serious injury to the other reptile such as a missing limb. With all of this in mind, it is too dangerous to have multiple Bearded Dragons living in the same enclosure (even having them near each other outside of an enclosure could be dangerous).

Lighting (Temps & Humidity)

Picture of enclosure setup.

During the Day

Heat bulb - A Bearded Dragon will require a basking spot temperature around 95-110F (younger Bearded Dragons prefer a temperature closer to 110F and older Bearded Dragons prefer a temperature closer to 95F). In addition, a Bearded Dragon will require a cool side temperature around 80F (in order to escape the hot side and cool down if needed). To achieve these temperatures, you will need to purchase a heat bulb with a wattage hot enough to appropriately heat up the enclosure. Overall, getting the proper temperatures will require a bit of trial and error if you're unlucky. We recommend using a digital thermometer with a probe or a temperature gun to accurately check the temperatures.

UVB bulb - A Bearded Dragon will require a UVB bulb, providing good UVB exposure to a Bearded Dragon is extremely important. In the wild, Bearded Dragons get UVB from natural sunlight which provides more than enough for them to synthesis vitamin D3 (vitamin D3 helps with absorbing calcium). For obvious reasons, they do not have access to natural sunlight indoors which is why it is important to provide a UVB bulb that outputs good amounts UVB and spans at least two-thirds of their enclosure. With that said, we highly recommend buying the Reptisun 10.0 T5 High Output bulb by Zoo Med. If not that, then the Arcadia 12% is another good choice. For the fixture, Zoo Med creates fixtures for these bulbs. Otherwise, you can use an under the cabinet fixture.

During the Night

Ceramic heat emitter (CHE) - At night, all lights should be off since light will disturb their sleep! However, if the nightime temperature falls below 65F, then the Bearded Dragon will require a nighttime heat bulb. To do so, we recommend using a ceramic heat emitter to provide heat (not a colored bulb). A CHE bulb provides heat only and does not output light which is good. With that out of the way, we recommend a nighttime temperature between 70 to 80f.

Lighting Schedule

Digital timer - Both the heat and UVB/UVA bulb should be on for 12 to 14 hours per day, then turn them off for the rest of the night. To help manage the on and off schedule of the lights, we recommend using a digital timer.

Humidity

Keep it low - Frequent exposure to high humidity levels can cause health issues (such as a respiratory infection) for Bearded Dragons. As a result, we recommend keeping the humidity level low or around 30%. If the Bearded Dragon is shedding, then increasing the humidity level a tiny bit might help with shedding. However, remember that you want to avoid frequent exposure to high humidity levels for the most part. To keep the humidity low, avoid leaving water in the tank and make sure the enclosure has good air flow.

Monitoring Temp & Humidity

Know your stats - Before we move on, it is extremely important to know that a Bearded Dragon's enclosure has the proper temperatures as well as humidity levels. With that in mind, we recommend purchasing something that is most accurate when it comes to checking the above. To clarify, we recommend using a digital thermometer with a probe that can read temperatures as well as humidity. Furthermore, you may want invest in a temperature gun as an added bonus but it's not required if you go with the digital thermometer.

Natural Sunlight

Going outside - If you live in a hot or warm area where the sun likes to shine, then we recommend taking your Bearded Dragon outside for some natural sunlight. If you recall from earlier, we stated that Bearded Dragon's get UVB from natural sunlight. To add onto this, natural sunlight is more powerful (duh) than artifical lighting. In other words, a Bearded Dragon can soak up a lot of UVB in a much shorter amount of time from the sun compared to a UVB bulb. Considering this fact, let your Bearded Dragon enjoy the outdoors whenever possible. However, be cautious as some captive Bearded Dragons might get scared of the outside world and run off. If you are not sure if your Bearded Dragon will behave outside, then we recommend using a reptile leash, a custom enclosure, or some sort of playpen.

Avoid These Products

WARNING!

Picture of do not use for heat.

Not all products are safe to use or ideal for Bearded Dragons. For example, it is best to provide heat to a Bearded Dragon from above and not from below. To clarify, Bearded Dragons do not sense heat well on their underside. As a result, heat rocks or under tank heaters may cause severe burns to these reptiles. To provide another example, colored bulbs will disturb a Bearded Dragon's sleep and it may cause problems with their parietal eye (a photosensory organ sensitive to light changes). To provide one last example, not all UVB bulbs are created equal (some are better than others). In general, it is often recommended to avoid using small coil or compact UVB bulbs (with the exception of mercury vapor bulbs) as these bulbs are not as effecting in outputting UVB compared to fluorescent tubes.

Safe Substrates

This section discusses substrate requirements for Bearded Dragons.

It may not be pretty, but it's safe - For substrate, we recommend using something that is safe and easy to keep clean. For example, paper towels, non-adhesive shelf liner, tile, or reptile carpet would all be good choices.

Dangerous Substrates

WARNING!

For Bearded Dragons, we DO NOT recommend using loose substrate! What is loose substrate? Loose substrate would be something like sand, ground walnut shells, alfalfa pellets, wood chips, and so on. Basically, anything that is particle based or contains small objects like tiny pebbles and rocks. With that said, why not? Well, I can think of two reasons. First, loose substrate can cause impaction (especially if the overall husbandry is not up to par). What is impaction? To put it simply, impaction is a blockage in the digestive system which can be fatal. Unfortunately, Bearded Dragons can be messy eaters (especially when they are young and still developing their hunting skills). In addition, Bearded Dragons have a habit of licking their surroundings. As a result, if you use something like sand, then the reptile might accidentally ingest some of it while trying to catch food or while licking the ground. Therefore, if too much of the sand is ingested, it may clump up within the digestive system causing impaction. Again, impaction can be fatal. Aside from sand, the risk of impaction is even greater when you use a substrate that contains solid objects like wood chips for example. Overall, it's just not worth it. Second, impaction is not the only concern when it comes to loose substrate. In fact, using loose substrate may cause other issues. For example, let's say your Bearded Dragon is using sand. Not only may it cause impaction, but it's also like forcing the reptile to live in a litter box. Why? Think about it, when your Bearded Dragon poops, the liquid from the poop will absorb into the sand. No matter how hard you try to keep it clean, it's just not possible to have it squeaky clean. Eventually, the sand will harbor plenty of bacteria and whatnot given enough time. Thus, if a Bearded Dragon does happen to ingest the substrate, now it might be ingesting bacteria that may lead to infections. To conclude, it's just not worth the risks. Instead of using loose substrate, please use a solid type of substrate such as reptile carpet, non-adhesive shelf liner, tile, or even paper towels.

Bearded Dragon impaction Bearded Dragon impaction

Tank Decor

This section discusses tank decor requirments for Bearded Dragon.

Things to Climb On

Bearded Dragons are semi-arboreal - They do enjoy climbing. However, they are not exactly expert climbers nor do they fully live in trees as some other lizards might. Regardless, you should provide some objects for your Bearded Dragon to climb on such as sticks, logs, or branches, etc. Of course, these objects can also serve as a basking spot for a Bearded Dragon.

A Place to Hide

Burrowers - Bearded Dragons love to hide or settle down into dark areas once they decide to sleep. In addition, sometimes they might want to hide if stressed out. Either way, it's a good idea to offer a place for your Bearded Dragon to hide if it feels the need to do so. After all, they are in fact burrowers in the wild and they'll appreciate cave-like objects in their enclosure. Just like sticks, logs, or branches, a rock cave or something similiar may serve as a basking spot as well.

Other Accessories

Making It All Look Pretty - The most important items to include for a Bearded Dragon would be objects to bask on, climb on, and hide in. Once you have those type of objects, anything else you want to inlcude for your Bearded Dragon is optional. For example, you could add some fake plants, a tank background, or even a reptile hammock! Speaking from personal experience, all of my Bearded Dragons have loved their hammocks!

Providing Food

This section discusses food requirements for Bearded Dragons.

Offer Variety

Bearded Dragons are omnivores - An omnivore is an animal that eats food of both plant and animal origin. As seen in the image below, you should always offer a good mix of live food, greens, and vegetables.

Daily choices - For a Bearded Dragon, some of the best live food and greens to offer would be dubia roaches, phoenix worms, silkworms, crickets, and locusts. In addition, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and collard greens.

Treats only - Not all foods are great as a daily feeder for a Bearded Dragon. In fact, some foods just aren't very nutritious while others may be dangerous. For example, mealworms do have an impaction risk since their shells are hard to digest for a Bearded Dragon. With that said, here are some treats that you can offer to your Bearded Dragon: waxworms, butterworms, hornworms, mealworms, and superworms. In addition, the majority of fruits should be considered as treats only. Although, please refer to this nutrition chart for clarification on if you should feed something or not.

Toxic foods -

WARNING!

Again, not all foods are great for a Bearded Dragon - The following foods are actually toxic to Bearded Dragons (if not dangerous for other reasons): avocado, rhubarb, onions, citrus fruits, and lighting bugs (or other wild-caught insects because they might have come in contact with pesticides or they may be carrying parasites).

Gut Loading Live Food

Keeping live food nutritious - In the Bearded Dragon community, gut loading live food means to keep your live food well-fed. In other words, you want to take care of your live food and offer nutritous foods to them so that they remain fat and healthy. As a reminder, what goes into your live food, will eventually end up in your Bearded Dragon's belly!

How Often to Feed

Offer food 2-3 times per day - To provide an example, let's say you have a baby Bearded Dragon and the lights turn on at 8am and then turn off at 8pm. In the morning, for the first two hours, let the Bearded Dragon bask to warm up before offering food. After the reptile warms up, offer the first feeding. In this example, let's say it is now 10am. With that in mind, let's say our primary daily feeder are dubia roaches. To offer food, all you have to do is gather some appropriately sized dubia roaches and lightly dust them (see the calcium section below for more info on dusting). After dusting, drop the dubia roaches into the enclosure (preferably into a food dish with greens in it as seen in the image below). At this point, continue offering as many dubia roaches as the Bearded Dragon is willing to chase down and eat within a 10 minute timespan. As soon as the reptile stops showing interest, stop offering food. Overall, repeat this process about 2-3 times per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) but remember to have variety in your Bearded Dragon's diet along with proper dusting.

Picture of a Bearded Dragon drinking water.

Vitamin D3, Calcium, & Multivitamins

Vitamin D3

What does vitamin D3 do? - To put this simply, vitamin D3 is required to absorb calcium. Without vitamin D3, Bearded Dragons cannot benefit from calcium. Therefore, vitamin D3 and calcium must be provided at the same time. In the wild, Bearded Dragons get vitamin D3 from natural sunlight (natural UVB). In captivity, they get it from artificial lighting (artificial UVB) or from food supplementation (calcium with D3). Keep in mind, some UVB bulbs are better than others. In addition, UVB bulbs weaken over time. Overall, you must provide vitamin D3 to your Bearded Dragon whether it be from artificial lighting (UVB), natural sunlight (UVB), or calcium with D3. At the same time, know that too much of it (vitamin D3 toxicity) can be just as bad as not enough of it.

Calcium

Calcium with or without D3? - Whether or not you need calcium with or without D3 comes down to how well is your Bearded Dragon being exposed to vitamin D3 to begin with. Remember, they need vitamin D3 to absorb calcium. If you have a reptuable UVB bulb such as the reptisun 10.0 T5 high output bulb, then it should be fine to use calcium without D3 (especially if you also expose your Bearded Dragon to natural sunlight frequently). Remember, it is up to you to know this stuff. In other words, if you know your Bearded Dragon has a bad or old UVB bulb and doesn't get out often, then you'll proably want to go with the calcium that has D3 until you can fix these issues.

Multivitamins

Which one? - As the name suggests, a multivitamin supplement provides several vitamins, amino acids and trace minerals. In brief, you'll want to choose a multivitamin that contains beta-carotene to reduce the threat of vitamin A toxicity.

Dusting Live Food

Dust Lightly - At this point, you should have all the information that you need regarding food supplementation and vitamin D3. Next, you'll need to know that you should dust in moderation. In other words, do not dust too much since Bearded Dragons can overdose on this stuff. As a result, it is important dust lightly and to have a good routine (schedule). Unfortunately, there is not really a clear answer for this as it could depend on many things. I'll admit, determining the proper balance of supplementation (along with vitamin D3 exposure) for you reptile might be one of the hardest parts of keeping a Bearded Dragon. To get you started, for non-adult Bearded Dragons, we recommend using calcium once per day and multivitamins at least twice per week. For adult Bearded Dragons, we recommend using calcium two to four times per week and multivitamins at least once per week. Remember, it is up to you to determine if you need calcium with or without D3. If you are uncertain, you could always rotate between the two or consult your local herp vet.

Providing Water

This section discusses hydration requirements for Bearded Dragons.

Staying Hydrated

There are multiple ways to provide water - For example, you can mist greens before your Bearded Dragon eats them. In addition, you could offer hornworms since they are mostly moisture. Furthermore, you could use a water dish and teach your Bearded Dragon to drink from it since they rarely drink from still water. Last but not least (my favorite method), you could use a syringe or dropper to place tiny drops of water on your Bearded Dragon's nose until it licks it off. To provide an example of all these methods, please watch this video.