Bearded Dragon Care
Just the Basics. We didn't write a book...
The term morph generally applies to the animals appearance. It's color, pattern and combinations of those two. There are now literally dozens of morphs and more appearing every day. It all has to do with genetics, and combining traits through selective breeding processes. Most bearded dragon morphs are not as universally named as other reptiles, though newer ones are. There are many "Red" and "Orange" names that get interchanged.
Bearded Dragons will require a medium to large aquarium or enclosure to start. We do not recommend anything smaller than a 20 gallon long aquarium to start with. Longer tanks provide the ability to have a hot side and cool side. A 40 to 75 gallon size for adults. Due to the higher temps they are kept at, glass terrariums work best.
Not common, but it is a concern! All reptiles can carry salmonella, though it is not common in dragons. There have been some cases reported recently, so it is good to be aware.
For your safety, we strongly urge anyone handling reptiles or cleaning their enclosures to thoroughly wash your hands when you are done. Especially small children, as they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths. Kissing your animal... not a very healthy habit.
Care in Captivity
Please keep in mind there are many, many ways to keep your pet We encourage you to research and learn more all the time. Please feel free to look at how we keep our turtles in the shop and ask questions.
Bearded Dragons are one of the most commonly kept reptile species, and many of their quirks have been figured out. With a proper set up and good husbandry, they rarely have any problems.
What is husbandry? It is an encompassing term for animal care. It refers to cleaning and maintaining, as well as feeding, and physical care.
Habitat in the wild. Dragons originate from Australia, and can be found in many habitats there. From arid desert like to the edges of forests and coastlands. For an excellent video on their natural habitat, check out this video:
Please ignore his comments on walnut shell bedding. Although many people use it successfully, we have been asked by several veterinarians in the area to not sell it. They have had numerous incidents of impaction from it.
Dragons require TWO types of light to stay healthy. A heat lamp, to stay warm (duh). And a UVB lamp for .. well several reasons. The UVB lamp allows them to metabolize calcium. This allows their bones to stay hard, and grow properly. And their nerves to form and function properly. AND more things too.. Please feel free to research UVB lights for reptiles on any one of dozens of websites that talk about it. We recommend Zoo Med Bulbs or Arcadia. It's a big deal. It's not a sale pitch. Anyone anywhere keeping and raising dragons will say the same. The only ones who won't are generally just trying to make a quick sale.
Zoo Med's Rethinking Reptile Lighting
Reptile Magazine : Article on UVB
The area of the world bearded dragons come from actually gets the highest concentration of UVB during the summer than anywhere else on Earth! During Australia's summer (North Americas winter). the Earth's orbit is slightly closer to the sun than during our normal summer. So they get a higher exposure.
Carefully hang the lights over the enclosure, and secure them so they don't fall in. A 100 to 150 watt heat bulb is almost always what you need. You can adjust the temperature by raising our lowering the heat bulb. Watch the animals and where they rest. If they are directly under the bulb for long periods, they probably aren't quite warm enough. Always staying away from it, probably too hot. They should move around the enclosure several times a day, and not always be in one spot.
There should be a hot spot in the enclosure just shy of 100 degrees, off to one side. Yes, that's hot. The dragon won't stay there very much, but will go bask and then when he gets just a bit too hot, will move to the cool side. Make the cool side room temperature. Keep the UVB lamp next to the heat bulb, so they get that benefit at the same time. You can add a lower wattage bulb to the cools side if you like, to balance the light out. Say 50 watts. Or use a long LED fixture to even out the lighting. This is strictly aesthetic, it does not provide UVB or heat.
Provide a safe substrate, and climbing branches and rocks. They don't typically use caves much in captivity, but they won't hurt. We use Reptilite Sand for a base for juvenilles and adults. It is milled down to be spherical in shape so won't cause impaction if ingested. You can also blend in many other types of substrate, gravel and rocks. Coconut fiber mixed in works well if kept dry. Dragons don't care for humiduty. Baby dragons are usually kept on cage carpet or paper towels, until they are 3 to 6 months old, just for safety.
Feeding. Dragons eat. A lot. Due to their higher temperatures, they have a faster metabolism, and eat more often, Once they are settled in, they will eat meals once or twice a day, then sleep while they digest that meal. We offer about a 50/50 mix of insects and veggies. Veggies in one meal, proteins in another. Babies and juveniles tend to gorge on insects so you may need to offer veggies first to get them to balance it out. Offer veggies in the morning, bugs in the afternoon. Most of ours eat a combination of fresh greens with occasional berries. They don't much do fruit. . There are also many brands, types and sizes of prepared pellets, and dried foods. The more variety the better. We sell cups of prepared greens in the shop for convenience, with a variety of fresh, reptile safe greens in them. We also offer a wide variety of live insect feeders, don't just buy the same ones every time, Mix it up. Because most veggies and insects we offer are low in calcium, they also require a quality calcium supplement. We use and recommend the Repashy brand, the bottle with a leopard gecko on front works well.
Dragons don't drink much water, but they do require some. We don't usually keep water in their enclosures, as they just traipse through it make a mess. Then they won't drink the messy water. Instead, there are a couple options. You can give them an empty water bowl a few times a week, and pour water in it. This tends to spark an interest and they drink right away. Then remove the bowl after to avoid the mess. Another good method is to take them out a couple times a week and give them a 10 to 15 minute soak in a small tub of room temperature water. And another good method is misting. They don't like humidity, but a morning mist is different. Right as the lights come on, so they are alert. Just a light misting to simulate a morning dew. They will often go lick it up. Then the heat lamp will dry it out within a short period, and the normal day cycle begins.
Friends. Dragons seem to enjoy each other's company, or at the least ignore each other.. While young, they can all be mixed together usually without incident. We have found that young dragons tend to eat better when there is competition for the food. As they mature, breeding hormones sometimes kick in and will cause some aggression in males especially. At that time, males are most commonly kept solo.