The bearded dragon is increasingly popular as a choice of pet lizard which exhibits some very interesting behavior.
Originating from Australia, the bearded dragon is a large species of lizard that is smaller than the green iguana. The bearded dragon will normally grow to about two feet in length. Given that it also has a more friendly nature with its keeper and will show clear signs of recognition, it is also more easily cared for than the iguana or Madagascar Day Gecko.
Bearded Dragon Behavior
Some of the behavior of bearded dragons is intriguing to watch, much of it being unique to the species:
- Bearded dragons perform some of their communication by slowly swaying their legs at each other. Though often performed towards males by adult females, young dragons will also do this.
- They can often be seen standing with their mouths wide open. This is generally a cooling mechanism.
- Threatening behavior consists of flattening their bodies with their legs positioned wide apart and puffing up their beards.
- Groups of bearded dragons form a hierarchy that usually leads to the largest one feeding first while the rest wait and exhibit behavior such as tail-raising.
- Males will hound females and females often are given little chance to recover from giving birth. It is advisable to remove males to a separate tank for a while if this is observed.
Bearded Dragon Cages
Active in the daytime, bearded dragons are best kept in a large desert terrarium consisting of rocks and sand, although a combination of bark and cork logs can be used. Bearded dragons like to both climb and burrow. They can be kept in a terrarium simulating woodland, as long as it is kept dry. A shallow water dish will be required.
The terrarium should measure 40x20x20 inches for a single dragon, and a minimum 60x25x25 inches for a group of one male and two females. Males should not be kept together as they will fight, being very territorial about habitat and females. The terrarium should be able to be heated to a range of between 86 and 120 degrees fahrenheit as the norm using full spectrum lighting and if required, an under-floor heated pad. Several areas for basking will be required if the terrarium has more than one occupant, to prevent squabbling. More than one feeding area is also advisable to ensure every occupant is fed appropriately.
Bearded Dragon Care
Tamed from young by being made familiar with handling in short sessions, the bearded dragon can often be fed by hand and will develop into a friendly pet. Bearded dragons are omnivorous, eating both plants and meat. They can be fed using commercially available food or plants and some vegetables augmented regularly with supplements of vitamins and minerals. Plant leaves, especially dandelions, plus carrots are normally favorite parts of the diet of a pet bearded dragon. Insects, baby mice and even dog or cat food will be consumed by these slighty greedy eaters and meat should form at least two-thirds of the overall diet.
Being substantial eaters, bearded dragons also produce amounts of waste which will smell and should be removed. Areas that have been soiled will need cleaning to prevent any risk of infection and it will be necessary every few months to clean and replace the substrate of the terrarium. These pet lizards are unlikely to bite, tending to walk away if preferring not to be handled on occasion. Bearded dragons enjoy being bathed by their keeper and being sprayed with water mist.
Bearded Dragon as a pet lizard
When you are considering the type of lizard to get as a pet, make sure you consider the Bearded Dragon! A native of Australia, the Bearded Dragon lizard can be a fantastic pet for a long time. They are easy to care for and have a striking appearance that you’ll enjoy admiring.
When you first get your Bearded Dragon lizard, you are going to want to make sure it has a proper home to live in. Lizards need specific habitats that maintain proper temperature for their cold-blooded bodies, limbs to play with and hide under, and appropriate bedding (substrate) for the habitat that will keep them comfortable and safe. You’re going to want at least a 40 gallon tank, but if you can afford larger your lizard will thank you for it. A 55 gallon or larger tank is most ideal. Once exception to the large tank sizes is that a baby bearded dragon will want a smaller enclosure so they aren’t overwhelmed. It also helps them to more easily catch their crickets at feeding time. The tank should have a lid on it that will secure, protecting your lizard.
For baby Dragon’s using paper (butcher paper, newspaper, paper towels, etc) is the safest way to go. It is safe for the lizard, absorbent, and easy and cheap to replace when it gets messy. Indoor/outdoor carpeting can also be used and be easy to clean if preferred, and will save on paper waste. Baby and juvenile Beardies should always be placed on paper or paper towels. After your Bearded Dragon is 6 weeks old you can switch to sand. Make sure the sand is sanitized and strained. The packaging will tell you if it has been. Some people use a mix of wheat bran and sand. The sand absorbs the lizard’s waste and the wheat bran helps to suppress the smell. The sand and/or sand/wheat bran mix should be changed every month even though you spot clean the solid fecal and the clumped urine.
Once you have the proper habitat and substrate, you’re going to want to do some interior decorating. Bearded Dragons need a basking area that allows them to be closer to the heat source. For this purpose an appropriately sized rock or log works well. Half logs can do double duty both as a hide and as a basking spot. Make sure to keep fresh water available for your pet lizard at all times.
Bearded Dragons require UVA and UVB lighting to help protect them from metabolic bone disease. You will also need a separate basking lamp that they can sit under on their raised rock or log to aid in their digestion.
Since lizards are ectothermic and have to depend on outside heat sources to regulate their body temperature it is important that the owner keep an eye on it. You want to keep the temperature between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side, and 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit at their basking spot. As you probably don’t want to keep your room this hot, you can use an incandescent light or a ceramic heater. If you live in colder climates, you can use an under-tank heater at night if the room temperature drops too far.
Bearded Dragons like to eat insects and plants, making for a varied diet. Juveniles should be fed more frequently than adults, averaging around twice a day, while adults only need to be fed once a day. Never feed more than they can eat in about ten minutes, and make sure to clean out the cage of any that aren’t eaten. Also, take care not to feed too many “crunchy” bugs as the exoskeletons can lead to impaction. Dust your insects with vitamin D and calcium before feeding your lizard to ensure the most nutritious meal possible.
Bearded Dragons make fantastic pets and, with a little time and experience, they are very easy to care for. Suitable for beginning or advanced lizard owners, Bearded Dragons are a top choice for a long-term pet and friend.
Bearded Dragon Housing Requirements
- What This Reptile Needs in a Captive Home
An enclosure for a bearded dragon should be set up appropriately to ensure the health and well-being of the animal. Bearded dragons are an excellent reptile choice for the beginner hobbyist. They can live quite comfortably in captivity if their basic housing needs are met.
- Enclosure Size and Decor
Bearded dragons will need a moderate sized aquarium (55 gallons or larger) or reptile enclosure to ensure they have enough room to get exercise. With this reptile species a larger floor space is more desirable than a taller climbing space. To make a bearded dragon feel right at home it is important to add some natural decor such as rocks and branches. Bearded dragons enjoy having some climbing materials and will often perch up on them to bask. A reptile cave is often appreciated as well because it gives the dragon a place to hide out if it is feeling threatened or stressed. Stacking rocks as a way of creating caves can be dangerous due to the possibility that the rocks could collapse when the dragon climbs on them. Bearded dragons are excellent climbers so a properly fitting reptile lid is needed to keep them contained in their enclosures.
- Substrate Requirements
The type of substrate selected for use in a bearded dragon enclosure is very important. Most reptile substrates will be safe but some are more dragon friendly than others. Options for substrate include:
- Reptile carpet;
- Play sand;
- Calcium sand;
- Reptile Bark;
Reptile carpets are considered to be an excellent choice for bearded dragons. They are safe, easy to clean, and have a fairly nice appearance. A reptile carpet will cost a little bit more than some of the other options but because it is washable and can be reused it will prove to be a good investment. Carpets are simple to install because they can usually be bought in several sizes that are pre-cut to fit standard aquariums.
Play sand is a reasonable option for substrate because it is easy to find at most garden stores and is not very expensive. Specially made reptile calcium sands are easy to come by at pet stores. Sand can be a dangerous choice because occasionally when hunting and eating a bearded dragon will ingest some substrate. Some types of sand could cause an impaction in a bearded dragon if ingested so be sure that the sand chosen is not clay based or better yet stick with another substrate option instead.
Reptile bark is not the best substrate for a bearded dragon because it will hold in a lot of moisture if it gets wet. Bearded dragons require a dry environment to avoid the respiratory diseases that they are prone to.
Newspaper is by far the most economical and easiest choice for substrate in any reptile enclosure. It is a safe option but not as nice to look at.
- Temperature Requirements
Bearded dragons are native to Australia and they require a warm environment in order to thrive and to digest their food. There are several appropriate options for keeping a captive bearded dragon warm. Heating lights are commonly used and dragons love to bask under the warmth on their favorite perch. Heating pads and rocks are two other heat sources that can be used. Heating rocks can occasionally get too warm and burn a reptile that has fallen asleep on them. Some owners avoid this problem by placing the heating rock inside an old sock. The bearded dragon’s enclosure should remain at a temperature of 90F to 95F on the warm side of the enclosure and 75F to 85F on the cool side. It is imperative that bearded dragons are provided with a cooler area to get away from high temperatures if they need to do so.
- Lighting Needs
Bearded dragons require lighting with a high UV-A and UV-B output in order for their bodies to metabolize calcium. A standard fluorescent aquarium light ballast will work just fine as long as the bulbs used are specifically designed for reptile use. UV output diminishes very rapidly so bulbs should be replaced yearly to ensure adequate lighting requirements are met.
Every reptile hobbyist has his own unique methods for keeping his pet healthy and happy but it is very important that the reptile’s basic needs for the enclosure size, substrate, temperature, and lighting are met.
Feeding Bearded Dragons
Food This Reptile Requires in Captivity
Bearded dragons have many feeding requirements that should be strictly adhered to in order to ensure longevity.
Bearded dragons are an excellent reptile choice for the beginner hobbyist. They are a docile and hardy type of lizard that only requires a minimal amount of daily maintenance. By following these basic feeding requirements a bearded dragon will provide its owner with years of enjoyment.
Bearded dragons consume large amounts of food daily due to having a very high metabolism. They require a variety of foods to stay healthy as well as vitamin and mineral supplements. Fruits, vegetables and insects must be included in the diet of a bearded dragon. Food should be placed in a shallow dish to avoid being contaminated by feces or substrate.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a bearded dragon’s diet. They have a high nutritional value and provide much needed moisture for the reptile. All fruits and vegetables should be prepared by being cut into small pieces or shredded.
Choices for fruit include:
- Kiwi fruit;
Choices for leafy greens include:
- Collard greens;
- Turnip tops;
- Dandelion greens.
Other vegetables can include:
- Bell peppers;
Live insects play an important role in the diet of a bearded dragon. Crickets are a very popular feeder insect and are fairly easy to find at a pet store that sells reptiles. Mealworms can be provided to larger bearded dragons but are not recommended for juveniles because the insect’s hard shell can cause an impaction. Waxworms and superworms are two other insect species that will be gladly accepted by most bearded dragons. It is of utmost importance that insects, especially crickets, are not left in an enclosure with the bearded dragon at night. Bearded dragons are known to be very sound sleepers and there is a danger of insect bites.
Gut Loading Insects
To provide the highest nutritional value possible insects can be gut loaded. Gut loading refers to feeding the insects nutrient rich foods prior to letting the bearded dragon eat them. Oatmeal, whole wheat bread, apples, and collard greens are all excellent choices for feeding insects. There are also several insect diets available that will provide just as many nutrients to feeder insects.
Fresh water should always be available to bearded dragons. They often won’t drink a lot of water because the majority of what they require is obtained through eating fruits and vegetables. Water for a bearded dragon can be offered in a shallow dish that the dragon will be able to climb out of in order to prevent drowning.
Bearded dragons will require extra vitamins and minerals in order to stay healthy. Calcium is crucial for the maintenance of strong bones and to avoid growth deformities. Calcium can be supplemented by dusting insects with a supplement powder. Insect dusting is done by simply adding the recommended amount of powder to a bag with the insects and shaking it until they are coated. The amount of supplemented feedings a bearded dragon needs depends on its age. Juveniles should have a supplement of calcium dust daily whereas adult lizards only require it every few days.
A bearded dragon should be fed a fresh meal each day and any spoiled leftover food should be discarded to maintain the dragon’s health. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects should be made available each day in order to meet the nutritional requirements the bearded dragon needs. Proper lighting and temperature needs also have to be met so that the dragon can properly digest its meals.
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