All About Bearded Dragons


February 15th, 2013

Summary

Pogona vitticeps commonly known as the Inland Bearded Dragon is an endearing animal with interesting habits such as head bobbing and arm waving. It makes a friendly pet if its specific care requirements are met. The common name has arisen due to their habit of puffing up their throat which is covered in little spines, resembling a human beard. They are a diurnal (awake during the day) lizard which occurs naturally in central Australia in an arid, terrestrial desert habitat. All of our Bearded Dragons are captive bred but still require an environment similar to that of their wild relatives.

Adult size:

  • Bearded Dragons rarely grow larger than 50 cm (20 inches).

Life span:

  • The oldest known Bearded Dragon in the UK was over 14 years! This is a rare case, but a happy and healthy Bearded Dragon should be expected to live for over 5 years. So they are certainly a long term commitment.

Considerations Before Buying

  • Who will look after your new pet if you are away?
  • Can you provide fresh food for your pet?
  • Are you prepared to take on an animal that could live for 10 years?
  • Is the rest of the family happy to live with a lizard that eats live insects?
  • Can you afford all the equipment necessary to keep your pet happy?
  • Have you done your research on Bearded dragons and their relevant care?

Handling

Bearded Dragons tolerate handling more than many lizards and some would argue that they actually enjoy it! However children should always be supervised with any animals and care should be taken to avoid dropping your Bearded Dragon whilst handling. Be aware that they can become too cold if kept out of the enclosure for a long time in cold weather. Do not handle your Bearded Dragon for at least 24hrs when you first take them home to allow them to settle in to the new surroundings.

It is important for hygiene reasons to wash your hands with an anti-bacterial hand wash before and after handling your Bearded Dragon.

Feeding & Supplements

In their natural habitat of the Australian desert, Bearded Dragons will feed on a number of insects and plants and opportunistically many other small animals. However, in the wild food can be scarce at times and as a result these animals have evolved to be a little greedy. In fact, in captivity care must be taken to ensure they do not become obese! Their diet must include a blend of different dark leafy greens. Dandelion leaves/ flowers are perfect.

Shop-bought dark greens such as watercress, rocket and kale can be offered but plants high in oxalates are best avoided as staple feedstuffs. Whether shop bought or wild collected, remember to wash food items thoroughly to remove residues such as fertilisers or pesticides and avoid collecting feedstuffs from areas of potential contamination. You can purchase a food growing kit from Pets Corner (designed for tortoises but also great for Bearded Dragons), complete with suitable seeds. Finely chopped vegetables can be fed occasionally and fruit such as strawberries and blueberries rarely offered as a very special treat. Ask a friendly member of staff for a list of suitable food plants.

Being an omnivorous lizard, Bearded Dragons require live insects in combination with vegetable matter. The length of the insect to be fed should be equal to the distance between the lizard’s eyes. Crickets are the most suitable insect both nutritionally and for promoting hunting activity in your Bearded Dragon but other insects such as locusts and mealworms can be offered as a treat. Feed as many insects as your lizard will consume in around five minutes once a day (hatchlings and juveniles may require more frequent feeding) and then remove any uneaten insects from the enclosure. It is a good idea to place the insects in the food bowl used for the greens as this encourages the lizard to associate this area with feeding and they will be more likely to eat their greenery when hungry. Lightly sprinkle the insects with a calcium carbonate supplement such as Calcidust every meal. Also on alternate days the insects must be lightly dusted with a vitamin D3 supplement such as Nutrobal.

Heating

Bearded Dragons are cold blooded reptiles, so they rely on the heat from their external surroundings to regulate their body temperature. In order to do this correctly, known as thermoregulation, access to both a “warm” and “cool” area must be provided with a specific temperature gradient emulating their natural desert habitat. Ideally the “cool” area should be between 15˚C – 22˚C, 24 hrs a day.

This “cool” area temperature can be maintained by using a heat mat no larger than 1/3 of the total floor area in conjunction with a thermostat and monitored with an accurate thermometer. Bearded Dragons need to be provided with a “warm” basking area between 32˚C – 38˚C during the day. This is can be supplied in the form of a basking spot bulb in a ceramic housing, controlled by a dimming thermostat and monitored with an accurate thermometer.

Remember that any form of heat emitting electrical device should be temperature controlled by a suitable thermostat and monitored with an accurate thermometer.

We recommend: Pro Rep Heat Mat, Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot, Lucky Reptile Dial Thermometer.

Water

A shallow bowl of clean fresh water must be available at all times. Twice per week (or every day for hatchlings) you will need to give your Bearded Dragon a shower with tepid water from a hand spray bottle (never used for chemicals) to keep them hydrated and aid in shedding. It is a good idea to remove them from the enclosure for this to avoid splashing the electrical devices. Spray the whole animal including the head for several minutes. You can purchase special water conditioner to add to tap water before use with your lizard which contains beneficial electrolytes, neutralises harmful chlorine and chloramines as well as binding heavy metals.

We recommend: Exo Terra Water Dish, Zoo Med Reptisafe, Zoo Med Repti Shedding Aid.

Shedding

As your Bearded Dragon grows, they will need to shed their skin. This will occur in small sections and should never be picked off. Regular showering will aid the shedding process, but occasionally areas of retained shed may need attention, particularly around the toes and tail. Talk to a member of staff if you are concerned.

We recommend: Zoo Med Repti Shedding Aid.

Brumation

Once Bearded Dragons are over one year old, they can undergo a process of dormancy known as brumation. If you are unsure of this process and/ or you feel your Bearded Dragon is acting strangely or feeling unwell at any time, please seek veterinary advice.

Bearded Dragons can make friendly long lived additions to your family if they are provided with their essential care requirements. Pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should consult a doctor before exposure to any reptile. Please ask a friendly member of staff for advice if you require further information.

Check List

  • Secure enclosure
  • Heat source/s
  • Thermostat/s
  • Thermometer/s
  • Water/ Food bowl
  • Hides
  • Reptile disinfectant
  • Food Sprayer
  • Lighting Décor
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Water conditioner
  • Bearded Dragon book
  • Supplements