Bearded Dragon Care

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What is a Bearded Dragon? Bearded Dragons are a semi arboreal lizard from the genus Pogona that are found in Australia. They get their name from their beard like scales on the throat that can be extended when threatened. The beards on Bearded Dragons can also turn black in color which can mean a number of things including stress, illness, or that they are frightened/threatened.  Bearded Dragons are one of the most popularly kept lizards due to their docile nature, tolerance for handling, and hardiness. 

Lifespan:  Average is 6 to 10 years but there have been reports of some that have lived longer.

Bearded Dragon Enclosure: The minimum size enclosure for an adult bearded dragon should be a 75 gallon tank. Custom made bearded dragon enclosures are great in that they provide ample space and are appealing. Young bearded dragons should not be kept in anything smaller than a 20 gallon tank although they will quickly outgrow a 20 gallon. Bearded dragons double in size every month, so it’s best for owners to get the appropriate sized enclosure right away to save on cost of having to buy multiple enclosures as the animal grows to not risk stunting the animal’s growth. Ten gallon tanks should never be used for baby bearded dragons. These tanks cannot create a sufficient heat gradient for the bearded dragon and do not give the bearded dragon ample space to move and grow. 

Provide plenty of climbing materials in your tank such as branches, logs, and hides.

                                                                             

Bearded Dragon Lighting: Bearded Dragons are diurnal meaning they are active during the day. This means they require full spectrum lighting to aid in absorption of vitamin D which is important for calcium metabolism and healthy bones. Without the proper lighting, Bearded Dragons can become ill and develop Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) which causes a weakened skeletal structure that can result in broken bones, tremors, and muscle weakness.  Be sure to provide full spectrum (UVA and UVB) lighting to achieve the proper lighting to keep your Bearded Dragon healthy. Good all-in-one bulbs include Mercury Vapor Bulbs (Power Sun and Solar Glo) and Metal Halide bulbs such as Sun Ray. Metal halide bulbs are fairly new to the market. Good UVB linear bulbs for bearded dragons are ZooMed  ReptiSun  T8 10.0, ZooMed  ReptiSun  T5 10.0, T8 Zilla Flourescent Bulb, or Arcadia Desert D3+ 12% UVB T5 HO or T8 HO. Coil bulbs that resemble incandescent CFL bulbs do not provide sufficient UVB penetration and should not be used.

Keep in mind distance from basking area of your bulbs as well. Make sure your UVB source is 8-12” from the animal if it is a linear bulb and 12” if it’s a Mercury Vapor or Metal Halide bulb.

Use screen lids for your bearded dragons. The denser your mesh lid is, the less UVB can penetrate through. Use ones with the largest weave mesh you can when selecting your screen top. Do not put UVB sources on glass or plexiglass as these materials blockUVB rays from penetrating through.

Bearded Dragon Temperatures: Bearded Dragons originate from Australia so they like it hot. Keep temperatures on the basking spot around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A basking spot can be achieved using a branch, log, or rock on one end of the enclosure. Cool end of enclosure should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure your UVB source is close to basking area if you do not have a Mercury Vapor or Metal Halide bulb. 

Always have a thermometer available to know exact temperatures in your enclosure. Thermometers that stick on glass are not effective at accurately reading temperatures because they measure the temperature of the glass they are attached too. Use a temperature gun or digital thermometers when taking temperature readings.

Substrate: Due to the risk of ingestion and impaction sand and crushed walnut shell are not advised for bearded dragons. If you do wish to use a substrate for adult bearded dragons, playground sand available at hardware stores is considered a better alternative than pet store sands. A sand and soil mix can also be used for adult bearded dragons but make sure to use soil that is safe for reptiles. One option for soil is Terra Sahara from The Bio Dude. It has been formulated towards species of reptiles that live in hotter and drier environments.

The safest substrates for Bearded Dragons of allages is tile, newspaper, repti carpet, or paper towel. 

Bearded Dragon Diet: Bearded Dragons are omnivores meaning they eat both plant and insects/animals. Baby bearded dragons diet consists of 80% insects and 20% greens while adults is 80% greens and 20% insects. Baby bearded dragons should be fed 1-2 times daily, juveniles once a day 5-7 times a week, and adults once a day 2-4 times a week. 

Appropriate feeder insects for bearded dragons include Dubia roaches, crickets, superworms, phoenix worms, hornworms, black solider fly larvae, and mealworms. Dubia roaches contain the highest amount of nutrients compared to crickets so it is a popular staple feeder insect amongst bearded dragon keepers. 

Be sure to gut load insects prior to feeding them to your bearded dragon. Gut loading insects will ensure your bearded dragon is getting the most nutrients. To do this, feed your feeder insects a healthy diet of tropical fish flakes, fruits and vegetables, or a well formulated feeder insect diet. Examples of good feeder diets include Mazuri Insect Gut Load or Repashy Bug Burger. Avoid the orange cubes from pet stores as this is not a good gut loading source. 

For greens offer dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard, dandelion, and turnip greens. Romaine, red leaf, and Boston lettuces can be fed as well. Do not feed iceburg lettuce as this has no nutritional value for your bearded dragon. Bok choy and kale may be fed occasionally. Fruits should be given in moderation and can be mango, kiwi, strawberries, etc. Finely chopped veggies such as carrots, zucchini, etc. can be added to your bearded dragon’s diet as well. Some owners feed pinkie mice but this should not be done regularly. Do not feed avocado, rhubarb, or any insects from outside. Insects from outdoors can harbor parasites, pesticides, or can be toxic to your Bearded Dragon. Lightning bugs are especially toxic. 

Some additional options to add to your Bearded Dragons diet are Repashy products such as Veggie Burger, Grub Pie, or Beardie Buffet. 

Water: Be sure to have a large enough water dish in your enclosure for your bearded dragon to soak in. You can also lightly mist your bearded dragon and they will lick the droplets. 

Supplements: Bearded Dragons need their diet supplemented with Calcium and a good multivitamin Supplement. Be sure your vitamin supplement does not contain Vitamin A as they get their Vitamin A from their diet and too much of it can make your Bearded Dragon ill. Herptivit is a good vitamin choice. For calcium supplementation keep in mind your UVB source. If you have a good quality UVB source you can use a caclium supplement without D3. A good choice for calcium powder without D3 is Repashy SuperCal NoD. If you need one with vitamin D3 you can use Rep-Cal or Repti Calcium from Zoomed. 

These supplements are given by lightly dusting feeder insects or sprinkling on salads and greens. Be sure to keep in mind a schedule for giving your Bearded Dragons their supplements and always remember that age and breeding status plays a part in that schedule. Egg laying females and growing lizards need more supplementation.  Below is a good supplementation guide from https://www.lizards101.com/complete-guide-to-bearded-dragon-diet-2-supplements-preparing-feeder-crickets/

 

Supplement and vitamin schedule for bearded dragons

Bearded dragon age

Calcium (with or w/o D3)

Vitamins (without calcium. Also without D3 if you get calcium with D3)

Hatchling/baby – 0-4 months old

6-7 days a week

2 days a week

Juveniles – 4-12 months old

5 days a week

2 days a week

Adults of over 12 months old

4 days a week

1 day a week

Adults of over 24 months old

3 days a week

1 day a week

A sick bearded dragon of any age

6 days a week

Depending on a deficiency and severity, up to 4 days a week

Gravid female – during and for around a month after laying eggs to restore storages

6 days a week

2 days a week

If feeding high calcium bugs such as Black Soldier fly larvae, butterworms, Phoenix worms

3 days a week for bearded dragon under 24 months old

2 days a week for bearded dragon over 24 months old

1 day a week

 

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