You may be a pet owner who is looking for a different type of pet, that is, a reptile, or you may be already a herpetologist looking for an extra lizard for your home. Either way, a bearded dragon is a social pet that is worth welcoming into your home, or they are fantastic, especially to a beginner due to their docility and ability to easily adapt to the new environment. These reptiles are affectionately referred to as beardies, and in the wild, they are commonly found living in trees and sometimes on the ground. They are also known to have a mouth wide open smile, which also helps them cool down. They are easy to take care of, and their main diet consists of insects and plant matter. While in captivity, you will always see these animals basking in the light or enjoying the shade. They are among the most popular pet reptiles and the main ones, and they are very tolerant to handling.
Appearance and Origin
The bearded dragons are reptiles that resemble dinosaurs, and they have spiny scales and fascinating skin colors and patterns. The name bearded came from their beard-like spiny collars around the throat, which they inflate whenever they want to intimidate other dragons or when they are stressed.
The bearded dragons originate from Australia, and they spread across the rest of the world in the 1990s and later dominated the reptile market. According to research, by 2017, there were approximately 9.5 million reptile pets in nearly 5 million households in the United States, and bearded dragons were the fourth most sought-after reptile pet in the world. There are different species of bearded dragons, and different species can live in various climates, including the ocean shore, sub-tropical scrubland, and the woodlands. Just like all reptiles, the bearded dragons are cold-blooded, meaning their temperature is regulated externally by the surrounding environment.
They are diurnal, which means they are mainly awake during the day, and they are asleep on the cooler night just like humans. While in the wild, you will observe them basking in the sun on rocks, branches, or trunks. In the urban areas, you will find them on telephone poles or other artificial wooded structures. They are good climbers, and that is why they are in elevated places. You will find them bearded dragons in the underground burrows during the hottest part of the day to avoid overheating. To avoid predators and get some warmth, you will find them sleeping underground at night.
Gender Difference and Mating
The male beardies are generally aggressive and territorial, and they are very protective of their immediate living space.
They rarely congregate unless for a fight, and they do not do well in sharing home rising environment with other bearded dragons.
They are fast runners, and this helps them dominate their territories, catch food and escape from the predators.
Within their first year and a half, the male bearded dragons become sexually mature, and at this stage, they fight all other suiters within their territory to be able to mate with multiple females.
After a month or so of mating, the female dragon buries up to two dozens of eggs in warm soil, and they incubate after approximately two months.
A newly hatched/ born bearded dragon weighs about 2 grams, and the length is just a few inches, while a fully grown male dragon grows to a length of 20 to 24 inches. The females are a bit small compared to the males. It is, therefore, important for a beginner to always be aware of the gender you will keep.
Why do Bearded Dragons make Good Pets?
In recent years, the popularity of bearded dragons has increased among pet owners and enthusiasts. They have even overtaken the iguanas as the most preferred pet reptiles. There are a number of reasons why the bearded dragon has risen in popularity, and below are some of them;
The bearded dragons are popular for their calm behavior and fun demeanor. They are also docile and submissive animals. Once the beardies get used to the environment and the owner, they will hardly resist being handled. The dragons are very great creatures, and they make it easy to create a solid relationship with the owner, and this is one of the reasons they are referred.
Easy to Maintain
Compared to many other reptiles, bearded dragons are generally easy to maintain. They do not have a strict and specific diet like some of the lizard species. All you need to do is take a little time of your day and clean the habitat, and you are good to go.
They have a unique appearance
Another attractive feature of the bearded dragon is its appearance. They are cool, resembling a dinosaur, and they come in different varieties of colors. They are found in shades of orange, red, yellow, and even pastel. Another likable feature in the beardies is the billowing beard.
They are small in size
Every pet owner wants a small animal that will not take a big space, whether inside the house or outside. If you are such an owner, the bearded dragon is the ideal pet. They are relatively small and grow to a range of between 8 to 24 inches in adulthood. This makes them one of the preferred pet lizards since they will not take big space. This is one o the advantages they have against the iguanas and monitors since they can grow up to 6 feet and can even become aggressive.
They have a long lifespan
It is very easy for the bearded dragon to live up to 15 years in captivity, and this is another reason why many pet owners prefer this animal. They are generally hardy and remain healthy for a long, and this makes it an ideal choice for anyone who wants a long-lasting relationship.
How to spot a healthy Bearded Dragon
- They have a complete tail
- They have a clean anal region
- The jaw and mouth appear normal, with no sagging or disfigurements
- They are active and not lethargic
- They have clear and alert eyes
- They have a great coloration with no dark and bruised areas.
- They have five toes in each foot with claws.
- They have an appetite for both insects and vegetables.
HOw to select a bearded dragon
After you have settled on a bearded dragon as your pet of choice, the next step is to decide how to select one. This is actually the most important step since no one would wish to buy a sick, unhealthy pet. It is understandable that one would feel sorry for such a beardie, but it will be difficult for a beginner to take care of a sick dragon and bring it back to health. It will need a lot of visits to the vet, and this will turn to be tedious and expensive, and that is not the desire of any beginner. There are a few things you need to take into consideration before choosing the pet to buy, and they include;
Observe the Bearded Dragon
Before deciding on which dragon to buy and carry home, take your time and sit to watch the animal for a while. You need to settle for an active animal, and you can check that by moving your hand around the enclosure and see the reaction. They are supposed move their eyes keenly towards the movement. Some may just jump at quick movement, but the majority will watch the movement with some curiosity. Everyone needs a dragon that is feeding well, and therefore you should avoid any that looks lethargic and skinny.
Observe the Habitat
Most of the baby dragons are purchased from pet stores, while some are bought from breeders. As you purchase to make sure the habitat or the enclosure is properly m maintained with no fecal matter or food lying on the ground, Make sure the enclosure is not overcrowded for instance if you find a 10-gallon tank housing almost 30 dragon that is overcrowding and this may have led to injuries, or the dragon may have feeding less than it is supposed due to competition. Ensure also the enclosure ahs the basking area where the bearded dragons can bask and ensure the provided temperatures are right and there is a lamp to provide the UVB rays.
How to Perform a Health Check on your Bearded Dragon
Once you have settled on the right dragon that you would like to take home, you can request someone from the pet store to take it outside the enclosure so that you can take a closer look. The dragon should act lively and may squirm a bit fast. It is important you get a good hold on it but not too tight and observe the following;
- Examine the eyes of the dragon and ensure they are clear and alert, and ensure there is no crust around the eyes and mouth.
- Ensure the toes and feet are intact. Each foot should have five toes, and they also should contain the entire claw. Ensure the toes are not swollen or deformed.
- Check and ensure the tail is complete and not broken or deformed. You should examine the entire body for any laceration, lumps, or bruises. Rub the skin to make sure it feels healthy and is in good shape. The skin should maintain elasticity.
- Flip over the bearded dragon and examine the belly. The belly should be white to off-white color with no lumps or lacerations.
- Examine the anal region, and it should be clean and have no leftover fecal residue or clumps.
Diet and Nutritional Requirements for a Dragon
Despite the fact that bearded dragons have a wide range of tastes, there are some important things that you need to know about feeding your birdie a balanced diet. At different stages of growth, the bearded dragons have different diet needs, and this diet should have plenty of nutrients and vitamins.
Feeding a Baby Bearded Dragon
The bearded dragons are considered babies from both up to the fourth or fifth month. During this stage, the growth is so rapid, and the baby dragon will need a lot of nutrients and vitamins to support the growth. They should be fed a variety of insects and finely chopped vegetables. The diet consisting of fruits and vegetables should make up between 20 to 40 percent of their diet, and the insects should make 6o to 80 percent. Some of the most preferred insects include the small wax worms and crickets. Always be cautious of what you are feeding your bearded baby dragon, and it should never be bigger than the space between its eyes.
For one meal, you can feed your dragon 3 to 4 pinhead crickets. To facilitate the rapid growth of the baby beards, you can feed them in small portions but frequently on the same day. It is between feeding them three or four small meals than one bigger meal every day. It is advisable to avoid feeding your dragon with too many wax worms since they contain a lot of at, which can cause obesity later. You should offer one or two wax worms per day. You should also not feed the mealworms to baby dragons since they contain a hard shell that can be difficult for a baby to digest. It is also advisable to avoid feeding large crickets to a baby since the jagged hind legs can cause tears in the tender digestive system of a baby.
FEEDING BEARDED DRAGONS
When feeding baby bearded dragons, each meal should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements. These are important in helping the growth and development of healthy bones. These minerals and vitamins should be supplied from the baby stage so as to keep up with their rapid growth.
Some of the vegetables for feeding the baby bearded dragons include the;
- Green peas
- Collards, Turnip greens
- Yellow squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Mustard greens
Some of the fruits that can be fed to baby bearded dragons include;
- Chopped pears
- Orange chunks
- Chopped apples
- Seedless grapes
- Chopped pineapples
Feeding a Juvenile Bearded Dragons
A juvenile bearded dragon is one that is between 5 months and 18 months of age. During this stage, the amount of plant matter should increase as the insect diet decreases. You can increase the variety of insects’ feeders from the previous number when it was a baby, and you can also increase the size of insects. The most preferred insects to feed your juvenile dragons includes;
- Fruit flies
- Super worms
At the juvenile stage, the plant matter should increase to approximately 60 percent of the diet as the insects’ diet drops to about 40 percent. You can feed them a small number of vegetables twice a day and a small number of insects once a day.
Vitamins and Minerals
At this stage of life, the supplements can be reduced to just dusting every other day.
Feeding an Adult Bearded Dragon
The feeding routine for an adult bearded dragon is completely different from that of a juvenile or a baby. The adults require fewer insects and plenty of vegetables in their diet. Adulthood starts from 18 months and above, and at this point, the diet should consist of 80 percent plant matter and 20 percent of insects. This is because, at this point, there is no more growth, so there is no need for more proteins. Cut the insect’s diets to about two or three times a week.
Vitamins and Minerals
You can give your adult dragon a broad spectrum vitamin supplement once a week to provide additional vitamins at this stage.
Vegetable feeding guide for adults
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Red cabbage
Fruits feeding guide for adult bearded dragons
The Bearded Dragon’s Housing
After you have decided that you need to keep a bearded dragon, the first thing you need to take care of is the habitat. You need to provide a spacious and property set house for a healthy and happy pet.
Before deciding on what type of enclosure to provide for your bearded dragon, you should figure it out. There are different types of terrariums and tanks available in the market and more so made specifically for housing reptiles. You can also choose to build your own for a custom look. However, the enclosure you choose should be large and spacious enough to enable your bearded dragon to live a happy and comfortable life. It is important to ensure your enclosure is big enough for an adult to avoid the need to keep buying a new enclosure as the dragon grows.
The bearded dragons are more roaming animals than climbing ones, and this means the enclosure should have enough space to roam. The minimum tank should be 30gallon with a length of 36 inches, 18 inches width, and 13 inches tall.
Glass vs. Acrylic
The grass terrarium is the best option for an enclosure since it is relatively cheap and easy to maintain. There are also some terrariums that are constructed of acrylic. These enclosures are a bit lighter than the glass but are easy to scratch. After a few years of lizard scratching, the acrylic terrarium will start to look sandblasted, and this will hinder visual appeal to you and your pet.
Also, you should ensure that you use a snug-fitting wire mesh screen cover on top of the cover to keep children and other pets out of reach of the dragons’ home. Avoid using the glass lids as they will filter out the needed UVB rays from the full spectrum lighting.
The substrate is what you use to cover the floor of the enclosure. It is a debatable issue since different owners prefer different types of substrate for their own reasons. The majority of the owners prefer using the natural non-silica sand so as to offer a more realistic habitat like that of the wild dragon, while others opt for the old newspapers because they are easier to maintain. You can choose whichever suits you best, but you should avoid using those that contain small particles to avoid impaction. The impaction occurs when a pet swallows an object it cannot digest, and that object goes ahead to block the intestinal tract, and it can sometimes turn fatal if not taken care o early.
It is advisable to avoid using aquarium rocks, pebbles, ground walnut shells, and anything else that can lead to impaction, especially to a bearded baby dragon.
Heating and Lighting Requirements
It is important to provide your bearded dragon with proper hating and lighting conditions for its own good. Since originally, this animal comes from the warm deserts of Australia, it is important to provide an environment that looks exactly like its natural habitat so that it can thrive best. While the dragons are in the wild, they bask on rocks and other items as they bask in the sun rays, and therefore you will need to provide the same thing even in captivity.
Create Basking areas and Cooler Areas
The bearded dragons need a warm basking area to perch on, and the areas should have a temperature of between 95 to 100 degrees F for the babies, while for the adults, it should be between 90 to 95 degrees F. To provide their needed warmth, you can use heating lamps, heating pads, and ceramic heat emitters. However, there are instances where these will be needed to be combined. It is advisable to avoid using hot rocks as sources of heat since they cause burns on the pet’s belly.
The enclosure should also have a cooler zone with an average temperature of between 80 to 87 degrees F. This is the region where they will cool down in case it gets too hot in the basking area. It is vital to maintain the temperature gradient throughout the enclosure, and this will be of great benefit to the dragon. To monitor the temperature of the habitat, always place a mercury thermometer in both the basking area and the cooling zone so that you can be able to adjust accordingly.
Supplying the UVA and UVB Rays
The UVA and UVB rays from the sun are so important, and they are naturally produced by the sun, and they may not be present inside a home. To replicate the UVA and UVB rays, a full spectrum light that is specifically designed for reptiles will be acquired. The main advantage of the UVB rays is to help in the synthesis of Vitamin D3 and calcium, which are required for proper bone development. The UVA helps to increase appetite and produce hormones. These full-spectrum bulbs should be replaced regularly after a period of 6 months to ensure that the bearded dragons receive enough UVA and UVB light.
Pre-Prepare your Bearded Dragons Habitat
Before you can bring the bearded dragon at home, ensure that you have proper heating, lighting, and décor set up and working at least a week before so as to reduce the chances of stress and shock. You should never bring a bearded dragon home before supplying heat, light, and food. You should turn them on before to ensure they are working perfectly. You should turn on the basking light, ceramic heat emitters, heat pads, and then use the thermometer s to monitor the temperature in the basking area and cool area.
You should also have all the décor material in places, such as the substrate, rock perches, wood and plants, and a hide box ready. Place also a small bowl with some sliced vegetables and fruits inside the enclosure just before picking your bearded dragon from the pet store or the breeder. You should also have a small bowl of water ready.
Cohabitating Bearded Dragons
The bearded dragons are solitary reptiles, and it is not advisable e to put more than one dragon in the same cage. This is because they may get aggressive to the other and end up injuring the other, or they may get stressed from the intimidation.
healthcare of a Bearded Dragon
The Bearded dragons might exhibit some normal behaviors which may seem abnormal if you have no idea about what that might be. The most important thing is knowing if your dragon is sick is knowing how the healthy ones behave;
This is a hibernation that occurs naturally among bearded dragons. This mainly occurs during the fall or winter in response to changes in temperatures and lighting. The bearded are individual, and this means each one will have its own brumation cycle. Some will sleep entirely, while others will take log naps. The brumation can last for one week up to a few months. The bearded dragons may or may not eat during this period, but they should maintain their weight regardless. During brumation, if your dragon wakes up, try and feed it with some fruits and vegetables, and if it does not eat, do not worry about that.
The shedding is a process that bearded dragons go through. It is like spring cleaning out with the old skin and in with the new one. The baby dragons usually shed frequently to give room to the growing body, while the adults shed maybe once or twice a year. You can keep your beardies hydrated by warm baths and spray bottle misting. You should not help the dragon shed the skin by pulling it by your hand, just let it be, and when it is ready, it will just come off. Sighs of a bearded dragon that is almost shedding;
- Dullness in color and appearance
- Puffed out eyes as the skin loosen to shed.
- There should be no abnormal discharge from the eyes or discomfort in your dragon.
We have already discussed weird things that the dragon will have when it is normal, and now we discuss some behaviors that will be a sign of illness in a dragon.
Impaction and Paralysis
Feeding your bearded dragon food that is larger than the space between its eyes can cause paralysis or impaction. This is because the large food bolus moves through the intestinal tract it can put pressure on the spine and end up causing loss of using their legs. The bearded dragon might take long before going to the bathroom, and the remedy to all these is
Bathing your bearded dragon in warm water, you massage its belly since this helps to warm the animals and get it going again.
Ensure that you are feeding your bearded dragon with the right diet size and offer plenty of water. If you notice these methods are not working, please consult a vet.
The bearded dragons can also experience diarrhea, and this might be mainly because of stress or eating bad food, and it can also be caused by parasites. If your dragon is not stressed and is eating the right food and still diarrheas, please seek help from a vet.
Dehydration is a big concern to dragons. Despite the fact that they are desert animals naturally, they7 still need water. Some of the signs of dehydration include;
- If you notice that your beaded lack of energy and appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Wrinkled, shriveled skin
If the dragon is getting dehydrated, you should immediately offer some drinking water or sports drinks. If that does not work, you can feed it directly into the mouth by dropping water into its mouth.
Metabolic Bone Disease
This is usually caused by a lack of vitamin D and calcium in the diet, and it ends up weakening the bones. That is why it is important to always supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals, especially when they are still growing. Also, ensure that the UV lights are enough and the animal is eating a variety of food.
Signs of a metabolic disease
- Jerky, twitchy movements
- Spasms or tremors when standing still
- Swellings or bumps in legs, jaw, and backbone
Where can you buy a bearded dragon?
It is important to do proper research before settling on where to buy your bearded dragon. You should ensure the breeder is reputable and they have a clear knowledge about the care of the dragons to avoid buying unhealthy dragons.
Most beginners usually get their pets from their local pet store. One of the advantages of buying from these local dealers is they can set you up with all you need to get started. The stores have a reputation for giving false or misleading information about the care of dragons, and therefore you should not rely on them so much. Just do your own research to avoid being misled. The pets from pet stores are known to be less healthy compared to those from breeders because they sprayed and shipped with many others.
Do some research about the local breeder within your state or city. Many of them specialize in certain patterns and colors. As a beginner, it is important to have a breeder who is a true enthusiast of dragons and has enough information about the care. In general, the breeders sell healthier peats compared to the pet stores since they have knowledge and experience.
The Bearded dragons are beautiful and wonderful pets to own, provided they are getting the right care and maintenance. If you meet all the necessary requirements, you will never regret keeping one of the most amusing ends interesting pets you could imagine of.