Bearded dragons are one of the most popular pet reptiles. Aside from being a good beginner reptile that's easy to keep, they're one of the friendliest reptiles you'll meet.
How to Take Care of a Bearded Dragon
Beardies, as they're affectionately called, are one of the easier lizards to keep, provided you follow some basic guidelines about their care.
Bearded Dragon Setup
The minimum aquarium size for a juvenile bearded dragon is 10 to 15 gallons. Adults will need at least 55 to 60 gallons. Their tank should not be kept in an area with direct sunlight as this can make their environment too hot. You will need several accessories for the tank to keep a bearded dragon in a healthy habitat:
- Basking area: Your beardie will need a basking area which usually consists of a flat-bottom rock and a UVB light.
- Hiding spots: There should be at least one or preferably more areas where your beardie can take a break and hide. These can be pre-made reptile caves, branches, or even boxes or flowerpots that you make on your own.
- Plants: While plants are not necessary, they can help your beardie feel more secure by providing hiding spots and shade. You can use fake plants or live ones, although your beardie is likely to try to eat the live ones. Since not all plants are safe for beardies, if you choose to use live ones, use safe plants like cilantro, jade, junipers, mint, parsley or ponytail palms.
- Substrate: The flooring for the cage can be reptile carpet, fine playground sand or newspaper. Substrates that you should never use include gravel, wood shavings, crushed corn cob or potting soil that contains vermiculite.
DIY Bearded Dragon Cage
Some reptile owners prefer to build their own reptile habitat for something fully customized. You can find plans for building your own bearded dragon habitat online. A suitable habitat can be built with plywood and sturdy glass as long as it allows for proper airflow and will be secure enough for your pet beardie.
Bearded Dragon Temperature Requirements
Bearded dragons come from natural desert habitats so they will need an environment that approximates those temperatures. The ambient temperature in the tank should be between 78 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and in the 70s at night. The basking area should be about 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bearded Dragon Food List
Bearded dragons are omnivorous, which means they eat a mix of proteins and plants. Their food list consists of:
- Proteins will be provided with live insects such as waxworms, earthworms, mealworms, cockroaches, and crickets.
- They can also get their protein from commercially prepared and age-appropriate lizard food options.
- Beardies should get fresh veggies daily, with about ¼ of a young beardie's food made of fresh veggies. Adults should get about half of their daily diet from fresh vegetables.
- Beardies can also eat fruit as an occasional treat. Fruits should be fed in moderation due to their high sugar content.
- Always provide your beardie with fresh water.
- In addition to food, they should get a calcium supplement twice a week. This usually comes in the form of a powder that you can put on live insects before feeding them to your lizard.
Bearded Dragon Facts
A bearded dragon pet can be an interesting addition to your home. Aside from being friendly and intelligent reptiles, there's lots of fascinating facts about them.
Facts About Bearded Dragon Physical Characteristics
- While you most often see beardies in shades of brown and tan, breeders are producing lizards with new colors and patterns which are called "morphs." Some popular colors are red, yellow, orange, purple and white (also called a "zero" morph.) Popular morphs have names like "silkback," "leatherback," and "translucent."
- The bearded dragon's tail is almost as long as its body. An adult male can grow up two feet long, including his tail.
- They flare the skin on their throat area when threatened or feeling territorial. This ability makes them look bigger. It's also how they got the name "bearded" dragon.
- A bearded dragon's spines grow on their throat, sides of the body, and the head.
- Bearded dragons are surprisingly fast. They can run up to nine miles per hour, and in the wild, they will stand on their hind legs to run from the threat.
- Beardies can change their color, though the result will not be as pronounced as it is with lizards like chameleons.
Bearded Dragon Species Facts
- There are eight species of bearded dragon.
- The species that is most often kept as a pet is the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps).
- Wild beardies hail from Australia where they are actually endangered. All beardies sold in the U.S. as pets have been bred, as exports of beardies from Australia is illegal.
Facts About Bearded Dragon Health
- The average lifespan of a pet bearded dragon is 10 to 15 years.
- When bearded dragons are sick, their back often changes to a black color and their legs become light yellow. Their beards may also turn black if they feel scared or anxious, or if they are in mating season.
- If a beardie loses any of his front teeth, he can grow them back.
- Unlike some lizards, a beardie cannot grow back their tails.
Fascinating Facts About Bearded Dragon Behavior
- Bearded dragons are intelligent and can recognize their owners.
- They are social lizards who "wave" to other dragons when they pass by and have been known to wave to their owners as well.
- Bearded dragons can sleep standing up and it's common to see them sleeping by standing against the wall of their tanks.
- If a beardie is feeling stressed or scared, their scales will stick out somewhat from their bodies, like a dog or cat with hackles up.
- While beardies are a usually friendly reptile who enjoys handling, they can bite. Bites are not a common occurrence and tend to happen if a beardie feels scared. They also might bite accidentally if your hands smell like their food.
- Bearded dragons are capable of swimming in the wild and many enjoy spending time in water. You can provide your beardie with a large plastic tub with water for some swimming fun, although make sure the water is distilled or treated with a water conditioner such as Zoo Med Reptisafe.
- Many beardie owners have trained them to do different behaviors, including going out for walks on a leash.
Facts About Getting a Bearded Dragon As a Pet
- Bearded dragons are generally easy to find at most pet stores that sell reptiles. They are one of the most popular pet reptiles in the U.S.
- A bearded dragon will run about $30 to $60 if they are young. Adults can be around $100.
- If you have your heart set on a special color or morph, pricing can vary widely. Some colorful beardies may run about $200 to $500 while highly sought after morphs can be as high as $1,000 or more.
Bearded Dragons Are a Unique Pet
Spend some time with a beardie and you'll quickly see why these reptiles are such a popular pet. They're relatively easy to care for compared to other pet reptiles, and they're friendly, intelligent and like handling by their owners. If you're looking for your first reptile, it's hard to pick a better choice than a beardie, though they're loved by experienced reptile owners as well.