Bearded Dragons make great houshold pets, being very interesting to watch and fun to hold. When handled frequently they can become very placid and will quite happily hang around with you, clinging onto your shoulder. Care should be taken while they are young as they can be quite skittish and will run right off your hand if you let them. Children should be seated low to the ground when handling. Bearded Dragons are well suited to both the begginer and experienced reptile keeper.
The larger the better when it comes to enclosures for adult bearded dragons. Hatchlings can be housed in as small as a 1ft enclosure, but a minimum size for an adult is a 4ft tank. Enclosures should typically be longer than they are high and have screen tops or slits to provide airing. Groups of adult dragons should be housed in larger enclosures with numerous logs for basking. Glass is a great choice for display of adult bearded dragons, allowing for optimum vision and brightness, but hatchlings often do better in enclosures that limit vision. Please be wary of housing young females with males. Dragons may mate at young ages and run into complications with egg binding.
Substrate & D??cor
Newspaper, paper towel, butchers paper or reptile carpet should be used for young bearded dragons. This is because these are easy to clean or change over, they won't damage your beardies skin and you don't have to worry about your lizard trying to eat it! With paper, be aware that crickets will hide beneath it and may nibble on your dragon at night; irritating or even harming them. We suggest that you replace the old paper nightly, allowing hidden crickets to be removed or eaten for a late night snack. For adult dragons reptile carpet, desert sand or wheat bran is a suitable substrate. Basking logs should be placed within the enclosure to allow your dragon to climb up towards your heat source. Logs also help your dragon to shed it's old skin by providing a rough surface to rub up against. Decorative rocks and fake plants may also help to liven up the enclosure. Take care when using heat rocks or placing rocks close to lighting as bearded dragons sense heat using a detector located on top of their heads. They are not as aware of heat coming from below and can badly burn their bellies without knowing it. Use wood logs for basking zones instead. Live plants may also be used ??? you will need to do research into non-toxic options.
Lighting & Heating
Bearded dragons like it warm. The key to heating your enclosure is providing a temperature gradient from a hot basking zone, to a cooler area. Basking temps should reach 33??C and the cooler zone should be around 29??C. The brighter the light, the better - dragons thrive under a good full spectrum UV source. We recommend fluorescent UV full spectrum tubes or bulbs with a UVB rating of 10 or higher. The colours and health of your lizard depend on good heat, bright light and UV. Your dragon will also benefit from natural sunlight and we recommend bringing your lizard outside in an outdoor basking enclosure. However the more natural sunlight you expose them to, the less supplements you should give, especially vitamin D3. Younger dragons may become stressed when taken outside so hold off on outdoor excursions until your dragon is older.
Daily feeding: Crickets or Woodies - Bearded dragons are mostly insectivorous for the first stage of their life, preferring to eat nothing but live insects. Especially the eastern bearded which remains mostly insectivorous for the term of its life. Even though live food may make up 90% of the diet at first still offer the other foods below in small quantities to start with. Be sure to dust the insects with a calcium supplement and "gut load" them by feeding a variety of foods to the crickets just prior to offering them. Silkworms - Contain an enzyme called serrapeptase, this has properties that make calcium absorption more efficient, may only be available seasonably. Greens - Collard Greens, Dandelion Greens, etc.
Occasional feeding: Fruits - Apple (peeled), Apricot, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Cranberries, Figs, Grape Leaves, Grapefruit, Grapes, Guava, Mango, Nectarine, Orange, Mandarin, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Pineapple, Plum, Raisins (seedles), Watermelon. Vegetables - Basil, Beans, Carrots, Capsicum, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Celery (stalk & leaves), Clover, Cucumber (peeled), Leeks, Parsnip, Snap peas, Pumpkin (raw), Zucchini. Herbs - Pepperment leaves, Lemon Grass, Rosemary. Insects - Earthworms. Flowers - Hibiscus.
Feed Rarely: Fruits - Banana (high phosphorous), Kiwi, Pomegranate, Raspberries, Tomato. Vegetables - Soybeans, Broccoli (raw), Cauliflower, Corn, Lettuce & Cabbage (poor nutritional value and may cause diarrhoea), Olives (canned, pitted), Green peas, Russet potato (cooked), Sweet potato (cooked), Brussel sprouts. Herbs - Chives, Parsley. Egg (whole, hard boiled). Insects - Mealworms (high in protein but have a thick exoskeleton that Dragons struggle to digest, MUST chop the heads off mealworms before feeding as they have been known to survive being swallowed and kill lizards by burrowing their way out of their stomach!). Rice (brown, long grain)
NEVER Feed: Avocado, Bran, Wheat or Rhubarb (Highly toxic!)
There are many different and often contradictory opinions/views on supplementation. Calcium, D3, and vitamin supplementation are necessary for your dragons. However, supplementation will depend on what you feed your dragons, the bulbs you use, and how much natural sun they receive. Many sources recommend supplementing small dragons daily and decreasing to once or twice per week for adult dragons. But both too little and too much supplementation can lead to problems. Therefore, we recommend going over this with your vet to find a schedule that suits the specific needs of your dragon.
A hibernation period is considered necessary for breeding cycles. Many bearded dragons will hibernate or slow down eating and activity during winter months even without initiating any change in lighting and heat conditions. You may winter your dragons for approximately a two month period, following the natural light cycle. A slow reduction in daylight hours until you reach 8-10 hours of light per day helps to ease dragons into hibernation. A temperature drop should also occur gradually. Before putting a dragon "down", be sure that your dragon is healthy and is free of undigested food. You may choose to provide a space in the enclosure for burrowing (we find aspen works well for this). Often dragons will dig and bury themselves for the winter. If you notice your dragon up and about, small amounts of food can be offered. A heavy hibernation period may not be necessary for many bearded dragons. When the winter period is over, slowly raise temperature levels to suggested highs and increase the photoperiod until it is around 14 hours of day to 10 hours of dark.
Avoiding Health Problems
Bearded dragons are one of the hardiest reptiles available in the pet trade, yet they still can succumb to numerous diseases and problems. The best way to avoid some of the more common problems are: 1) To follow all housing, heating/lighting, and feeding/supplementation requirements for your lizard. 2) Quarantine all new reptiles. 3) Never house your bearded dragon with any other species of reptile! Different reptiles come from many different environments requiring different needs in captivity. Even animals that come from similar environments can cause stress and pass parasites onto your dragon, costing the life of your lizard. 4) Do not house bearded dragons of different sizes together--this is a sure problem for the smaller dragons' health. We recommend housing males separately. You may even need to prevent males from seeing each other across cages. 5) Keep your cages and food CLEAN! Clean and sift poop and remove all uneaten food daily - do not allow food to spoil and then get eaten. Cages should be given a complete clean out at least once a month. 6) Wash your hands before and after handling your lizard. Be sure to sanitise hands in between handling different reptile species.
There are numerous parasites that can become a problem for a bearded dragon. Many dragons live with these parasites without problems, but symptoms can often be triggered by stress (such as contact with another dragon or animal, change of enclosures, hibernation, breeding, etc.) Parasites often come from insects, greens, and/or unclean cage conditions so that it is imperative to keep proper hygiene in these areas. Even fresh greens and fruit can harbour parasites, so wash them well. If you feed your dragon live insects it is probable that your dragon carries some level of coccidia and maybe pinworms. The idea is to keep the levels low.
Symptoms of a problematic parasite infestation include consistently runny and smelly stool (more foul smelling than normal), an inability to retain weight, loss of appetite, loss of weight. Do not hesitate to bring your lizard to a vet if you see these signs. Treatments are relatively easy to administer and successful, especially if the parasite is caught early.
Because of the high probability of your dragon carrying parasites, we recommend de-worming dragons every 3 months as a preventative measure. Mites are also a common problem so having a mite spray on hand is always handy.
Hiding holes & climbing branches
Food - at least have some crickets and fruit & veg to start with
Food & water/bathing dishes
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