Life-span: 7-10 years
Adult size: 18-22 inches
Bearded Dragons require a glass or plexiglass aquarium or terrarium, at least 36 by 18 by 18 inches, with a screen top. The bigger the better. Wire and mesh enclosures are unsuitable as they lose too much heat. If your bearded dragon appears to be distressed by its own reflection, a background can be used.
A variety of rocks and branches can be used to create hides, basking sites and climbing structures. The basking site should be wide for comfort, and raised to create a temperature gradient. Climbing furniture should be wider and longer than your pet’s body. If pieces of wood found outside are used, they should first either be baked for half an hour at approximately 150 degrees Celsius or washed in a 10% bleach 90% water mixture (rinsed clean after) to ensure it is safe. Artificial plants may be used for decoration, but be on the lookout for signs of them being eaten since they can cause fatal blockage of the gut.
Textured slate, porcelain or ceramic tiles, reptile carpet, paper towels and newspaper are all suitable substrates. Washed and sifted silicone-free play sand may also be used if your bearded dragon is at least 16 inches long and 1 year old. All sand should be scooped thoroughly, and replaced entirely every 3-4 months.
Reptile daylight bulbs or heat emitters are required. Ensure the bearded dragon cannot come into contact with the bulbs and burn itself. A maximum-minimum thermometer should be kept in the enclosure to monitor temperature. If a simple thermometer is used and read in the morning and the evening, then it is possible that the temperature is falling to dangerously low levels in the middle of the night or becoming excessively hot in the middle of the day. The temperature in the enclosure should range from 77-95 degrees (25-35 degrees Celsius), with a basking area at 100-108 degrees (38-42 degrees Celsius). The basking light should be off to one side so that the dragon can move closer if cold and retreat if too hot. Heat rocks are not a good idea as they can burn your reptile. The relative humidity should be 30-40%.
A UVB light (e.g. ZooMed Reptisun 5.0) is required for the metabolism of vitamin D3. Fluorescent tubes are also appropriate for this, and should be kept 6 inches from your reptile and replaced approximately every 5 months. For UVA light, bearded dragons do best with a bright white light (a typical household bulb or Halogen flood can be used for this). This light should be on for 12-14 hours and off for 12-10 hours to simulate day-night cycles.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, so require both insects and vegetables/fruit. For a bearded dragon less than a year old, the diet should be 70% insects and 30% vegetables, with a young bearded dragon getting 30-80 appropriately-sized crickets (smaller than the space between the eyes) each day. For bearded dragons over one year of age, the diet should be 70% vegetables and 30% insects, with a bearded dragon consuming approximately 50 crickets or 30 worms in a week.
Before the age of 2-3 months, bearded dragons should be fed 3-5 times each day, twice a day at 3-8 months and once a day after eight months. To help avoid obesity in dragons over one year of age, a three day feeding rota may be used, with one day salad, one day insects and one day nothing.
Crickets, silkworms, calci-worms, superworms and locusts are appropriate insects for feeding, but should themselves be fed first (at least 24 hours before being fed off). When purchased from the supplier, most of these insects are just shells with very little inside, since they have often not been fed by the wholesaler, the distributor or the retailer. Feed them up first. Insects caught in the wild can be fed, but there is a danger that they may have been poisoned. Never feed insects that can sting and never any insect larger than the width of your bearded dragon’s mouth. Aim for 2-3 types of greens and 2-3 types of vegetables in the salad.
Bearded dragons should have both multivitamin and calcium supplements added to their food. For dragons under one year of age, feed the multivitamin twice a week and calcium supplement 5 times a week. For dragons over one year of age, feed both twice a week.
Water can be provided in a variety of ways. One method is to mist them 2-4 times a day, and the dragon will drink the falling/fallen water. Another method is to drip water on its nose until it has finished. Bearded dragons will not recognize standing water as drinkable, so will not drink from a bowl unless trained to.
A fairly large water bowl may still be provided to allow the bearded dragon to bathe. This water should be approximately 5 degrees Celsius lower than the air temperature.
The female will display obsessive, frantic and constant digging behavior, and may go off her food when she is ready to lay. A laying box should be provided for the female containing sand, soil, or a sand-soil mix. This should be moist enough to keep its shape, so that when she digs a burrow it doesn’t collapse on her. It should be 12 inches deep at the deepest end, gradually becoming shallower. This should also be kept warm. After laying, the female should be allowed to bury her eggs uninterrupted.
Bearded dragons are largely docile and willing to be handled. You should wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling due to bacteria found in the skin around their claws and in the gaps between scales. Babies and hatchlings should be handled with great care, and allow them to walk onto your open palm. Bearded dragons should not be forcibly removed from their enclosure. Never hold the bearded dragon by the tail, and take care handling around this area as it can easily break off.
For more information, visit http://beardeddragoncaresheet.weebly.com
If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk.