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Care Sheet for Bearded Dragons

Average Rating Given To This Care Sheet Is 4.66    (1=lowest, 5=highest)    Last Updated: 07/31/2008

Main Category:

Lizards

Sub Category:

Bearded Dragons

 Care Sheet Submitted By:

The Professor

Years Experience:

3 to 5 Years

Species:

Bearded Dragon

Other Species or Phases this Care Sheet May Cover:

N/A

Sexing and Characteristics:

The Inland Bearded Dragon can reach an adult length of between 18 and 24 inches nose to tail tip. There are many other types of Bearded Dragons which reach slightly different lengths. Rankin’s Bearded Dragon (Pogona henrylawsonii), for example, usually is smaller than the Inland and will reach a length of perhaps 14 inches.
Bearded Dragons have many spikes going along either side of them. These spikes are for display as they are soft. They also have many spikes on their necks and this is where they get their name.
It is very difficult to determine the sex of a Bearded Dragon until it is almost one year old. At this point, they become sexually mature and it is extremely easy to determine the sex. An adult male has a very triangular-shaped head compared to a female. An adult male will usually have larger femoral pores (those dots on the hind legs). Also, adult males have two bumps on the tail side of the vent.
Female Bearded Dragons have heads that are more narrow. They more often wave instead of bob when coming into contact with another Bearded Dragon. They can have a quite different personality than males. They also have only one bump on the tail side of the vent and this bump is in the center.

Mostly Active During:

Day

Substrate and Water Needs:

Let me preface by saying there are many different substrates to choose from for Bearded Dragons.
When a Bearded Dragon is a baby, you absolutely must use either newspaper, paper towels, reptile carpet, or towels. Bearded Dragons have poor depth perception and will over shoot their food. When they are babies, this will ultimately lead to impaction from ingesting too much of their substrate. When a Bearded Dragon is a baby, you have to use a substrate that cannot enter the Bearded Dragon. I have seen pet stores that are ignorant of this fact and have lead to the deaths of many baby Bearded Dragons (I informed them and they fixed the problem). Impaction is extremely common in babies housed on substrates that can be eaten. There is almost nothing that can be done to save the impacted baby so you must work to prevent it. In conclusion to this, if you have a baby Bearded Dragon, only use paper towels, newspaper, reptile carpet (terrarium liner), or towels.
When the baby grows up, you have a lot more options because impaction becomes less likely. But you must keep in mind that impaction is still possible. You can still use paper towels, newspaper, towels, and reptile carpet/terrarium liner. But now, you can also use sand. Many reptile hobbyists and experts will tell you not to use sand. I agree with them on this and I will give you good reasons: 1) it can and will be eaten (they lick everything) and 2) although you may think it’s natural and it may look natural, it is not natural. In the wild, Bearded Dragons live on hard sand. Using reptile carpet or terrarium liner (which look natural) is a far better choice even for adults. It looks natural and feels natural for them. For the substrate to be natural for the Bearded Dragon, you want something that is firmer than sand, but softer than glass. There is also crushed walnut shells and these are not recommended by anyone other than the distributors. Many adult Bearded Dragons have become impacted by crushed walnut shells. Also, crushed walnut shells will clog your Bearded Dragon’s nostrils.
As for water, you will want to bathe your Bearded Dragon in warm water (test it with your hand. It should be about the temperature you wash your hands with or bathe a toddler in.) You will want to do this for 10-20 minutes at the very least once a week. If your Bearded Dragon is dehydrated, you will want to bathe him or her every other day. Most people will bathe their Bearded Dragon three times a week which is almost every other day. You will not want or need a water bowl in the terrarium. In fact, if you have decided to use sand or crushed walnut shells (both of which are usually bad choices), you absolutely cannot put a water bowl in the terrarium. This will lead to many problems: bacteria growth, mites, and most noticeably, the sand and water will clog your Bearded Dragon’s nose which will lead to serious respiratory problems.
Mist your Dragon’s n

Lighting and UVB:

The size of your terrarium will determine the size of your heat lamp. Buying heat clamps at hardware stores will save you a lot of money (and I personally think they work better than the ones sold in pet stores for three times the price). The heat bulb you use must also emit light. You do not want to use a ceramic bulb because Bearded Dragons need daylight in order to function properly. Get a bulb that emits heat and light.
For UVB, you will want one with a 10.0 on it. These emit the proper amount of UVB. These come long or compact. If you are going to use compact, be sure to have it in the area that your Bearded Dragon is most frequently. For a juvenile in a 10 gallon terrarium, it is OK to use a compact UVB bulb because this will cover as much space as the longer bulb would anyway. Be sure to replace the bulb every six months. It will continue to emit light, but the UVB will have broken down. So do not cheap out and wait for the bulb to burn out! Write down the date you got it either on the bulb or somewhere else and remember to replace it in six months. This is a must. They need UVB or they will develop metabolic bone disease which is very bad.
Also, Bearded Dragons produce most of their Vitamin D3 from the UVB they receive from the Sun and UVB bulbs. They do not absorb very much from their diet. So using products such as solar drops is not recommended. This will not provide adequate Vitamin D3.
Also, please take your friend outside in the summer as often as you can. Be sure the temperature outside is in or above the 70s. The natural sunlight will provide a lot of good UVB and this is just a great way to bond with your Beardie.

Temperatures and Humidity:

You need to purchase two thermometers for a large terrarium. One thermometer must be place in the hot side and the other on the cool side. Also, you could use one those fancy devices that can tell you the temperature wherever you point the needle.
Keep the basking area between 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).
On the cool side, you want a temperature between 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius.)
Keeping track of the humidity is not as important. I recommend that you buy a hygrometer anyway. You can put the hygrometer anywhere in the terrarium, but the best place is probably the middle. Keep the humidity below 50%. You want it pretty dry in there. Many experts disagree on what percent is best, but everybody agrees that it should be below 50%. To lower the humidity, turn on a fan or open the enclosure for a while. If you have a water bowl, you’ll probably see a pretty high humidity. If it goes above 50%, you’ll want to get rid of the water bowl. Too high of humidity will cause respiratory problems.

Heating and Equipment:

For heating, you can rely solely on heat lamps. If you feel the need, you can add under tank heat pads. Do not use hot rocks. These have been known to malfunction and cause burns as Bearded Dragons sense heat with their parietal eye (the dot on their head) and not as well underneath of them. Also, if you use a hot rock and a heat lamp, it is absolutely guaranteed that the hot rock will get too hot. If you already have a hot rock, feel it with your hand. As you can see from this little test, that’s way too hot. Anything in the enclosure that you cannot touch without gasping, your friend cannot touch without hurting.

Caging Provided:

A juvenile Bearded Dragon can be housed in a ten gallon aquarium. These are inexpensive. You can also house them in a forty gallon terrarium so you will not have to upgrade as they grow. If you would prefer to continually upgrade (it does not matter either way. This is about personal preference.), here is how you do it:
Juvenile Bearded Dragon: 10 gallon (at least)
When they have grown a few inches: 20 gallon-30 gallon
When they are adults: 40 gallon or more
A great way to decide the size of the terrarium you will need is to measure your Bearded Dragon. You want a terrarium that is at least the length of your Bearded Dragon back to front and is the length of your Bearded Dragon multiplied by two side to side. For example, the 40 gallon Bearded Dragon terrariums you may often see in pet stores are great for Bearded Dragons under 20 inches. This is because back to front, they are about 20 inches and side to side they are about 40 inches.

Diet:

Omnivorous

Description of Diet:

A juvenile Bearded Dragon’s diet will be over 50% insects. They are easier to impact than adults so you will only want to feed them crickets that are the size or smaller than the space between their eyes. There is really only one insect to feed to juveniles and that is crickets. There are also many different worms. Phoenix worms are soft and high in calcium, for example. You’ll want to stay away from mealworms. They’re tempting because Beardies love them and they are so convenient, but do not fall for it. Meal worms are dangerous. They are absolutely indigestible so you will fill your Beardie without providing nutrients. Just look at Bearded Dragon poop after it eats meal worms. Meal worms come out whole. That’s very bad. Baby Bearded Dragons get insects every day. Feed them as many as they can eat. Then try again later. They need a lot of protein.
Adult Bearded Dragons eat mostly veggies. 70% of their diet will be greens and veggies. Every single day, you’ll want to provide a lot of greens and veggies. Do this before you provide insects. They get greens and veggies every single day and insects up to five days a week when they are adults.
Good Insects for adult Bearded Dragons:
Crickets,
Meal worms once in a while,
Phoenix worms,
Super worms once in a while,
beetles that used to be your meal worms,
cockroaches (if your adult is big enough)....

Good greens and veggies:
Collard Greens (every day),
Mustard Greens (every day),
Cactus pad,
Cactus leaf,
Squash (every day),
Kale (a little bit every day mix with collards and mustards),
Celery (a little bit here and there),
Carrots (a little bit every day),
Raisins (here and there),
Raw Pumpkin (supposedly can help Bearded Dragons with constipation. Good in small amounts.)

Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:

You want a phosphorus-free calcium supplement such as RepCal. I do not want to endorse a product, but RepCal is the only one I know to be phosphorus-free. So, unless you know of another, use RepCal. Take your RepCal and put some in a Tupperware container and place the appropriate number of crickets. Shake them up and let your friend enjoy.
The company that makes RepCal also makes Herptivite. You’ll want to use this at least once a week. A herpetologist once told me "Calcium Monday through Friday, Herptivite Saturday and Sunday." This is what I do.

Maintenance:

Bearded Dragons poop every 1 to 2 (sometimes 3) days. You must clean this up immediately. It is dangerous to leave it in there too long. You will need to be sure that you have cleaned up all traces.
If you notice traces of poop on your dragon, give him or her a warm bath. You may use a never-been-used tooth brush to gently scrub any debris off your dragon. Otherwise, just let the poop come off on its own in the bath. You can also use a towel to wipe it off.
The terrarium needs to be completely cleaned every so often using dish soap and water (some say 1 part bleach, ten parts water which is fine too). Be sure there’s no traces of bleach or soap in the terrarium when you are done. Clean off any furniture using this same solution.
Also, baths every other day or every three days, turning on the lights every day, and feeding every day. Other than all that, they take care of themselves.

Some Words on this Species:

Bearded Dragons are very beautiful and docile creatures. They make great pets. They are very loyal companions. Often, they will want you to hold them when they’re tired and they’ll fall asleep in your hand. There are many great things to say about these amazing lizards. But the most important thing I can say is this: I wish everybody could have a Bearded Dragon, but I hope that not everyone gets one. There are too many people who are not responsible enough. They are cool and they are exotic, but that’s not why you should want one. Your Bearded Dragon will be your friend and you should be his or her friend, too.
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The information contain in these care sheets represents only the opinions and husbandry care of members and therefore is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate or reflects the advice or opinions of RepticZone.com. It is always advised to seek additional information or the advice of a qualified veterinarian or qualified reptile dealer. It is also advisable for you to a good amount of research before implementing any of the ideas and care described in these care sheets. We also recommend you ask many questions in their related forums before acting on any information.

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