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If you're looking to get into the reptile space and not sure where to start, then the bearded dragon is a great choice. They are one of the easiest to care for and they have tons of personality to boot!
But as a new bearded dragon owner, it can be daunting to navigate the different aspects of their care. Proper care is crucial in maintaining the health and well-being of your pet. Here are some things you to know about caring for your bearded dragon:
Your bearded dragon needs a space that is both comfortable and safe. A 40-gallon terrarium is the minimum size recommended for an adult bearded dragon, but in all actuality, even that is small. A full grown adult Beardie really needs about a 75 gallon tank to really be comfortable. The smaller sizes will work as long as you frequently take your dragon out for some exercise in a larger area.
Young dragons can stay in a smaller enclosure for a little while, but they need to be upgraded once they start reaching about 6 inches from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.
Inside their enclosure, be sure to include a basking area, a cool area, and a hiding spot.
In the bottom of the tank, you're going to need some kind of substrate to absorb the feces and urate. Some owners use regular old newspaper, some use a carpet type substrate, and some use specialized sand. We personally use calcium sand. Bearded Dragons are uniquely susceptible to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) meaning that they require a LOT of calcium in their diet. As they move around their tank, you'll notice that your dragon tends to stick its tongue out and taste just about everything in its enclosure. Using calcium sand ensures that he or she gets a little extra calcium from time.
These are the products we have for our own personal Bearded Dragon, Draco.
Bearded Dragon Basking Rock by IBWELL
10 lbs Vita Sand Calcium Carbonate by Zoo Med
Bearded dragons need exposure to both UVB and UVA lighting. These are both types of ultraviolet light that Beardies need in order to help them grow and develop correctly. The vitamin D they absorb from the light is crucial to their bone formation and will help them more efficiently absorb calcium. It also helps to keep the temperature in the enclosure high enough for them to thrive.
Your Beardies lighting should be on for 10-14 hours per day. At night, there should be no light. Bearded Dragons in the wild do not have light at night, so those in captivity should not either.
Here are the fixtures and types of bulbs we use for Draco.
A bearded dragon’s ideal temperature range is between 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit with a basking area of up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, it is important to maintain a temperature gradient in the tank to allow the bearded dragon to self-regulate its body temperature. This just means that one side of the tank should be kept cooler so that if your dragon gets too hot, it can cool itself off.
The basking spot should be around 95°F to 110°F, and the cooler side should be around 75°F to 85°F. At night, maintain a temperature of 70°F to 75°F. So if your home gets below 70 degrees at night, then you will need to get a ceramic heat emitter to keep your beardie warm in the dark. We recommend these:
Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they eat both vegetation and insects. Feed them a diet consisting of 80% vegetables and 20% insects. Gut-load insects before feeding them to your bearded dragon to ensure they receive necessary nutrients.
You can feed them live or freeze dried insects like crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms and their favorite, roaches.
Provide your bearded dragon with fresh water daily. You can also use a spray bottle to mist your bearded dragon and maintain proper hydration.
It is definitely recommended to have a hygrometer as well as thermometer in your dragons enclosure to closely monitor your beardies environment.
Bearded dragons can be handled, but they need to adjust to their new surroundings before interacting with them. Start by offering food or hand-feeding before handling to build trust between you and your pet. Once they have had time to settle and adjust to their new home, you can begin handling them, but carefully.
When picking up your beardie, make sure to support their entire stomach and NEVER lay them on their backs. Dragons do not have a diaphragm (the muscle human bodies use to cause inflation of the lungs.) They cannot breathe on their backs. If left on their backs, their lungs can collapse and can cause death.
You must also be very careful of their spikes on their heads, beards, and sides. These spikes can break off and it is very painful for your dragon. They also do not grow back.
Providing suitable housing, lighting, temperature, and diet is crucial for your bearded dragon's long-term health. Take proper care of your pet, and they will live a long and happy life by your side.