When handling a Bearded Dragon, you should pick up the reptile from below its body. In other words, lower your hand to the surface and slide it under the Bearded Dragon's body, then lift the reptile up by its chest area while sliding the rest of your palm under its body. If you are still not sure how to do this, then watch the following video.
It is recommended that you only have one Bearded Dragon per enclosure. In the wild, Bearded Dragons are solitary reptiles. In other words, they go about their daily lives alone and they don't socialize with other Bearded Dragons. In fact, they only pair up to mate or fight over territory. With that said, if you force two or more Bearded Dragons to live with one another in the same enclosure, then you will risk injury or death assuming they get in a fight. However, captive Bearded Dragons do not always get in a fight. Regardless, there are still issues. For example, Bearded Dragons that are housed together must compete for resources, such as space, the better basking spot, food, water, etc. Overall, it is ideal to only have one Bearded Dragon per enclosure.
Moving on, what enclosure size do you need? In brief, a baby Bearded Dragon should be housed in a smaller enclosure, such as a 20 gallon terrarium. Of course, juvenile and adult Bearded Dragons will require much more space. Thus, older Bearded Dragons should be housed in a 40 gallon terrarium or larger (the larger the better). If you plan to purchase or build a custom enclosure, then aim for dimensions of 4ftx2ftx2ft. Again, anything larger is better. On a side note, keep in mind that Bearded Dragons need more horizontal space than they do vertical space.
Please note, loose substrates such as sand, ground walnut shells, alfalfa pellets, wood shavings, etc. are considered dirty and dangerous for Bearded Dragons. Why? In brief, they can be extremely hard to keep clean and they can cause impaction if consumed. Unfortunately, impaction is often fatal when you are dealing with substrates such as wood chips. If you decided to use a loose substrate such as sand, then I suggest that you clean the substrate every single day and avoid allowing your reptile to eat food on it. In other words, feed your Bearded Dragon in a separate container.
So what should you use? Good question, there are plenty of safe choices to choose from. For example, you can use non-adhesive shelf liner, reptile carpet, paper towels, slate tile, or even newspaper.
Having the correct lighting setup for a Bearded Dragon is extremely important to their overall health and activity. In fact, lack of proper UVB exposure or heat can lead to some very serious health issues if not other minor issues.
During the day, a Bearded Dragon will require a heat bulb as well as a UVB bulb. For the heat bulb, you can use a reptile brand or something such as a regular round house bulb or a halogen flood light. For the UVB, I recommend a Reptisun 10.0 (see link).
At night, all lights should be off. However, if your night temperature falls below 65F, then your Bearded Dragon should have a ceramic heat emitter bulb in order to provide some additional heat within the enclosure. Again, do not use light at night (such as the red infrared bulbs). Unfortunately, light at night will disturb the sleep patterns of these reptiles.
Unsafe Heating Devices
You should avoid using heat rocks or heating pads (under tank heaters). Why? Bearded Dragons cannot feel heat well on their bellies. As a result, they may not move off of the heat source when they should which can result in the reptile receiving serious burns. Overall, these devices are dangerous to use. In addition, it is more natural to provide heat from above anyways.
During the day, your Bearded Dragon should have access to a hot side and a cool side within the enclosure (never have two hot/basking sides). On the hot side, the surface temperature of the basking spot should be around 100F. Although, if you have a younger Bearded Dragon, then he or she may prefer a basking temperature closer to 110F. Moving on, for the cool side, the ambient temperature should be around 80F. Also, as I brought up earlier, you should use a ceramic heat emitter bulb at night (only if) night temperatures are lower than 65F. At night, the enclosure temperature should be around 70-79F.
Be advised, too high humidity for a long period of time can cause health issues (respiratory infection) for your Bearded Dragon. With that in mind, keep the overall humidity to a low (somewhere around 30%). If you are having touble keeping the humidity down, then make sure that you are not leaving water within the enclosure and make sure the enclosure has good ventilation.
Checking Temp & Humidity
It is important to know that your temperature and humidity levels are correct, I recommend using something reliable such as a digital thermometer with a probe or a temperature gun.
The basking bulb and the UVB bulb should be on for around 12-14 hours per day and then they should be off for the rest of the night. Again, light at night will disturb a Bearded Dragon's sleep. If you are having trouble being around to turn on and off the lights, then invest in a timer.
I would like to mention, if you live in a hot or warm area (such as the desert), then taking your Bearded Dragon outside to bask under the sun (natural UVB) can be very healthy for it. Although, be aware that some Bearded Dragons get terrified of the outside world. With that in mind, you should have a reptile harness or a proper outdoor enclosure to prevent your Bearded Dragon from escaping if it decides to run off out of fear.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores which means that they eat food of animal and plant origin. With that said, it is important to have a diet full of variety.
There are a few feeders that are considered healthy or nutritional enough to be offered daily. If you ask me, I would personally recommend that you use dubia roaches as your main feeder. However, not everyone can obtain them. Fortunately, here are a few other alternatives for a staple feeders.
- Dubia roaches (dusted).
- Crickets (dusted).
- Phoenix worms.
- Superworms (for adults only).
Keep in mind, not all live feeders are considered healthy or nutritional enough to be offered every single day. For example, waxworms and butterworms are high in fat. Thus, they should not be offered as a main feeder. In addition, mealworms can be hard to digest which can be dangerous for young Bearded Dragons and hornworms aren't very nutritional overall. However, hornworms can be a great snack and they are high is moisture which is good for hydration.
"Gut-loading Live Food"
What does this mean? Simply put, this means to offer your insects food and water. However, you should offer them food that is nutritional for them to eat and your Bearded Dragon. As a result, when your Bearded Dragon eats the live food, then the reptile should obtain some of those nutrients that the live food ate. Long story short, take proper care of your live food.
Here are a few greens that are considered healthy and nutritional for a Bearded Dragon.
- Turnip greens.
- Mustard greens.
- Collard greens.
- Dandelion greens.
Please refer to this nutrition chart. In short, all fruits should be offered as treats only (occasionally). In addition, not all fruits are considered safe. Again, refer to the link above for a detailed explanation of the nutritional value of certain fruits or even vegetables.
Again, not all foods are considered safe so always do extra research before offering something to your Bearded Dragon. For example, rhubard, avocado, and onions are all known to be toxic to Bearded Dragons. In addition, lighting bugs (a.k.a. fireflies) are toxic as well. Aside from toxicity, there are some foods out there that offer little to no nutritional value such as lettuce. Furthermore, there are some foods that may cause digestion or calcium absorption issues such as spinach or kale. Again, refer to the nutrition chart above for more detail.
Before you go, I also want to mention that you should never offer a wild food item to your Bearded Dragon. In other words, never offer your Bearded Dragon a wild insect or a plant from outside. Why? Because it can be risky. For instance, you might not know if that wild insect has parasites, is toxic, or if it came into contact with pesticides.
It is important to make sure your Bearded Dragon is getting some water to drink throughout the week. If you ask me, I would tell you that I personally offer water every day.
How to Provide Water?
Of course, there are multiple ways to provide water to your Bearded Dragon. Here is a complete list of ways to offer water.
- Mist greens.
- Offer food with moisture (hornworms).
- Offer a warm bath.
- Use a dropper/syringe.
Personally, my favorite method (and the easiest in my opinion), is the dropper/syringe method. Here is a video demonstrating this method.
It is also very important to add calcium and multivitamin supplements to a Bearded Dragon's food (specifically live food). This process is commonly referred to as "dusting". Without proper supplementation, serious health issues may occur (such as metabolic bone disease). With that said, if you are using a tube UVB such as the Reptisun 10.0 or Arcadia 12%, then you will want to use calcium with D3. Otherwise, you will want to use calcium without D3. Overall, it really depends but just remember that a Bearded Dragon can have too much as well as too little (dust in moderation).
When to Dust
Of course, I suggest that you follow any instructions found on your supplement containers. Although, in general, just so you know, younger Bearded Dragons will require one dusting per day while adult Bearded Dragons will only require a dusting about five times per week (still just once per day). As for multivitamins, dust every other day for all ages.
How to Dust
To dust live food, simply live food within a small container (preferably with a lid so that you don't have any escapees), then dump a little bit of the supplement into the container and lightly shake the container in order to attach the supplement onto the live food.
You do not have to trim the nails of a Bearded Dragon. However, I understand that you might want to, If you decide to trim your Bearded Dragon's nails, then please be careful or have a vet do it.
When to Consider Trimming
- If the nails are so sharp that they cause painful scratches on your skin.
- If the nails are so long that they are starting to twist or grow sideways..
How to Trim the Nails
Here is a picture demonstrating where to trim.
Watch this video for a demonstration.
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