Bearded Dragon

 

Bearded dragons as pets

There are seven different species of bearded dragons, all with varied characteristics and attributes.  This makes it difficult to generalise about them, so we will focus on the ones that are most popular as pets – especially for those people starting off with their first bearded dragon. 

Bearded dragons make good pets and are one of the most favourite reptiles to be kept by enthusiasts.  These unusual and fascinating creatures are low maintenance, quiet and don't need exercising, which can make them ideal pets for today's busy lifestyle.  Bearded dragons make great pets for people with allergies and don't require much space.

Bearded dragons are members of the Lizard family and Geckos are also types of lizards:

 

Frequently asked questions about bearded dragons

How long will my bearded dragon live?  Some bearded dragons can live for 10 years or more!

How big will my bearded dragon get? Most bearded dragons are 24 inches (60cm) when full grown.

What do I feed my bearded dragon? Bearded dragons can be fed complete dry bearded dragon-specific food, live insects and fresh greens, fruit and vegetables.

Will my bearded dragon need company?  Bearded dragons can live quite happily on their own.

What sort of housing will my bearded dragon need?  Bearded dragons can be housed in vivariums which are indoor glass fronted enclosures that allow you to recreate the bearded dragon's habitat on a smaller scale under controlled environmental conditions.   There are a wide variety of vivariums available to choose from and some are oak panelled with a transparent front, others are made of glass or tough acrylic.  There are also stands, cabinets and vivariums that come with rock backgrounds.  

What sort of heating, humidity and lighting will my bearded dragon need?  Your bearded dragon will need the temperature in their vivarium between 20°C – 35°C.  They will need special 10 -12% UVB lighting and low room humidity.  Our staff in store will be happy to advise you of the correct settings for your bearded dragon's environment.

Does my vet cover reptiles?  Not all vets cover reptiles.

 

Bearded dragon facts you need to know

Bearded dragons are cold blooded which means that they are unable to regulate their body temperature by generating heat themselves.  They warm themselves by basking in the sun or on hot rocks that hold their heat.  When the temperature is too hot they seek shelter in the shade.  This process of shifting from one temperature to another is known as thermo-regulation.   

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Feeding your Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are omnivores and will eat insects, greens, fruit and vegetables.

 

What should I feed my bearded dragon?

Dry bearded dragon-specific foods

There are bearded dragon pellets available that have been specifically designed to give your bearded dragon all the nutrients and minerals that they need for a balanced diet.  You will still need to feed your bearded dragon live insects even if fed pellets, jut not as many or as frequently.  Our staff are happy to advise you of the best varieties available in store.

Live Insects and gut loading

Insects should be fed live to your bearded dragon as they tend to refuse dead prey.  Any uneaten insects should be removed from the vivarium.

Greens, fruit and vegetables

You can feed your bearded dragon dandelion leaves, mustard greens, carrots, peas, kale and green beans.  Avoid feeding spinach, tomatoes and broccoli.  Lettuce can be fed but only occasionally as it has little nutritional value.  Recommended fruits are strawberries, apricots, mango, melon, peaches, apples, pears and grapes.  Avoid feeding citrus fruits such as lemons or oranges.

Calcium and Multi-Vitamin Supplements

Your bearded dragon will need Calcium and multi-vitamin supplements. If they are lacking in Vitamin D-3 then they could be prone to metabolic bone disease, which can be fatal. The supplement is a powder base so it is easy to coat food with it.   

 

How much should I feed my bearded dragon?

How much you should feed your bearded dragon depends on how old they are.  Their diet should either be dry bearded dragon pellets or insects and greens, fruit and vegetables. 

Babies and juveniles (up to a year old) should be fed as many insects and greens, fruit and vegetables (feed more insects than pellets to help them grow) or pellets as they can eat within 10 – 15 minutes, twice a day, morning and afternoon.  Adults should be fed between 50 – 60 insects over the course of a week as greens, fruit and vegetables should be available daily.

How often should I feed my bearded dragon?

Adult bearded dragons should be fed bearded dragon pellets or insects every 1 – 2 days and juveniles should be fed 2 – 3 times a day.  Greens, fruit and vegetables can be fed daily.

Visit our reptile products for a selection of bearded dragon foods
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Water

A shallow dish of fresh water should be provided daily (ensure the dish is small so that it does not increase the humidity).  You can also spray your bearded dragon daily with a water spray so that they can drink the droplets off their nose. 

 

Lighting your Vivarium

Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet light (UVB) is essential for your Bearded Dragon as it provides Vitamin D-3.  Without Vitamin D-3 your Bearded Dragon will develop deformities and become ill.  Specialist 10 - 12% UVB lighting is available in store and our staff will be happy to advise you on the best types and sizes for your vivarium.

 

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease (MTB) is caused by insufficient UBV light.  Without UBV light your bearded dragon can not digest Calcium properly.  Calcium is very important in the building of bones and muscles, as well as the functioning of nerve endings.  

 

Getting Started

We have a great guide to help you make bringing your bearded dragon home stress free and smooth with some handy tips for you to help settle your bearded dragon in to their new life happily. Our check list below will ensure that you have everything for your new bearded dragon's arrival.

Check list

 

Settling in your bearded dragon

Once you have arrived home place your bearded dragon into the vivarium, make sure the lid is secure and leave your bearded dragon alone for 24 hours. Bearded dragons can easily get stressed moving from one place to another and they need time to adjust to their new living situation.  

 

Daily maintenance

Bearded dragons are not demanding creatures to keep but daily maintenance keeps them in good shape and allows you to spot potential problems early.

 

Monthly maintenance

At least once a month all the substrate should be removed and disposed of and the entire vivarium cleaned and disinfected before new substrate is placed inside.  All reptiles carry salmonella and therefore hygiene is very important when keeping a bearded dragon as a pet.  Always wash your hands immediately after feeding or handling your bearded dragon and after any contact with their equipment.  

 

 

Housing your Bearded Dragon

 

The Vivarium

A vivarium is an indoor glass fronted enclosure for housing your bearded dragon.  It allows you to recreate the bearded dragon's habitat on a smaller scale under controlled environmental conditions.   There are a wide variety of vivariums available to choose from and some are oak panelled with a transparent front, others are made of glass or tough acrylic.  There are also stands, cabinets and vivariums that come with rock backgrounds.  

Whatever type of vivarium you choose must be escape proof, ventilated and large enough for your bearded dragon to live in comfortably.

What size vivarium should I have?

The size of your vivarium depends on the adult size of your fully grown bearded dragon.  Your bearded dragon must have enough space to thermo-regulate (regulate their body temperature by moving from the hotter part of the vivarium to the cooler).


Where is the best location for the vivarium?

The vivarium should be in a quiet, draught free spot away from direct sunlight and hot radiators as the vivarium can heat up quickly during the day.  Don't forget to have an electric socket point nearby to plug your heating and lighting equipment into without trailing cables.

 

Habitat

Deciding what habitat to set up for a your bearded dragon depends on:

Your bearded dragon will need places to hide, rest, climb and bask, so provide things such as rocks and logs and branches that are clean and have had their bark removed.    Petstop supply a wide range of vivarium accessories and ornaments which will help you to create an environment for your bearded dragon to live happily in.  

Your vivarium should have 2 hide boxes (artificial caves) for your bearded dragon to retreat into, one for the hot end and one for the cooler end of the vivarium.  The hides should be large enough for your bearded dragon to fit into whilst still touching the sides.   You may also have to provide a damp hide box and a rough stone to help your bearded dragon shed its skin.

 

Substrate

Substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the vivarium.  Substrates for bearded dragons can be specially treated and safe fine gravel, sand or reptile carpet.   Our staff will be happy to advise you on the correct substrate for your bearded dragon in store.   

 

Humidity

Bearded Dragons need low humidity, but a little more than normal room humidity should be maintained when your bearded dragon is shedding its skin.  You can mist an area of your vivarium with a water spray to increase humidity or if your bearded dragon is having difficulty shedding you can add a damp hide box to the vivarium. Hygrometers are available that measure humidity should you need to check.

Small amount of water

All bearded dragons should have a small shallow bowl of clean water for bathing and drinking (so it doesn't increase the humidity).  Ideally the dish should be bottom heavy to prevent tipping or flipping over.  Alternatively you can spray your bearded dragon's face with a water spray so that they can lick it off.

 

 

Hygiene

Substrate should be replaced with fresh as soon as it is soiled.  At least once a month all the substrate should be removed and disposed of, and the entire vivarium cleaned and disinfected before new substrate is placed inside.

 

 

 

 

Heating your Vivarum

Your bearded dragon will need a constant supply of heat as they are desert creatures and in the wild they have to cope with the scorching sun. The temperature in their vivarium should be between 20°C – 35°C. Different sections of the vivarium need to be at different temperatures:  ranging from the hottest part of the vivarium (where your bearded dragon can bask) which should be at least 35°C and the cooler end which should be between 20 – 25°C.   The temperature can drop at night to no lower than 15°C but ideally should be between 18 – 21°C.  Our staff in store are available to advise you on the best heating equipment for your bearded dragon's vivarium.

 

Thermo-regulation

Bearded dragons are cold blooded which means that they are unable to regulate their body temperature by generating heat themselves.  They warm themselves by basking in the sun or on hot rocks that hold their heat.  When the temperature is too hot they seek shelter in the shade.  This process of shifting from one temperature to another is known as thermo-regulation.  

As your bearded dragon needs to regulate its temperature you will need to provide a hotter part and a cooler part of the vivarium at each end.  This is called a thermal gradient.  Your bearded dragon move from one part of the vivarium to the other – if it is too hot it will move to the colder end to cool down and vice versa.  You should have 2 thermometers on each end of the vivarium to check the temperature.

 

Heat mats

Heat mats are a popular way to provide a thermal gradient in your vivarium.  They   should only cover between a third and a half of the floor space to allow your bearded dragon to thermo-regulate. This heat mat should be regulated by a thermostat to ensure that it does not overheat.  

Heat lamps / bulbs

Heat lamps and bulbs provide a basking spot for your bearded dragon to warm up in.  Make sure you have a guard for any heat source so your bearded dragon doesn't get too close and burn itself.  You will need a thermostat to make sure the temperature is not too hot or cold.  You will need 2 heat lights, each on a 12 hour cycle:  one for the day and a nocturnal one for the night.  Our in store staff will be happy to advise you of the range available.

Ceramic Heat Emitters

Ceramic Heat Emitters are heating elements produce no light and very intense heat. They require a special porcelain socket to absorb the heat. Because they get so hot it is very dangerous to use them directly in a bearded dragon's vivarium.

 

 

Keeping them healthy 

 

Shedding

All bearded dragons shed their outer layer of skin throughout their lives as they grow and young bearded dragons will shed more frequently than adults.

Pre-ecdysis

Pre-ecysis is the name given to the changes your bearded dragon will go through whilst preparing to shed its skin. As your bearded dragon grows it will shed its skin around once a month.  You will know when your bearded dragon is preparing to shed because their colours will get duller, and then they will turn whitish immediately before the shed.

Ecdysis

Ecdysis is the name given to the act of shedding, which is usually started by your bearded dragon rubbing it's head on rocks or branches to loosen the skin around its head.

 

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease (MTB) can be caused by insufficient UBV light and Calcium and Vitamin D-3 deficiencies.  Without 10 – 12% UBV light your bearded dragon can not digest Calcium properly.  Calcium is very important in the building of bones and muscles, as well as the functioning of nerve endings.  Calcium and Multi-Vitamin supplements are available which you can add to your bearded dragon's food and you should always light your vivarium with 10 – 12% UVB lighting equipment.

 

Mites

Mites are little parasites that can live on your bearded dragon and feed on their blood. Your bearded dragon will seem lethargic and may go off its food during a mite infestation. 

Treatment for mites involves treating the bearded dragon with a special powder or spray to kill the mites, and also a thorough cleaning of the vivarium and contents with a reptile specific disinfectant.

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Respiratory Infections

Bearded dragons can suffer from respiratory (breathing) infections and symptoms include signs of mucus around the nose or mouth, sneezing, open-mouth breathing, and wheezing.  

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