Bearded Dragons – Why These Lizards Might Make a Good Pet for You
If you’ve never had a lizard as a pet, you might think of them as scary or dangerous. Your idea of a pet is a dog or cat with fur that you can pet. But bearded dragons are friendly, social creatures that are highly responsive to their owners. Unlike more aggressive reptiles like tegus and monitor lizards, a bearded dragon is more laid-back. They are good pets for children and easy to care for.
Getting started with a “beardie”
There are eight species of bearded dragons and only four that are kept as pets, including:
- Pogona vitticeps – Central Bearded Dragon – These beardies grow between 12 and 24 inches and come in a variety of reds, browns, yellows, and oranges.
- Pogona barbata – Eastern Bearded Dragon – Also known as the common bearded dragon, this species grows from 20 to 24 inches in length. You will find them in gray-black, yellow, red, and brown colors.
- Pogona henrylawsoni – Rankin’s Bearded Dragon – This lizard grows an average of 8 to 12 inches in length and are found in dark brown, gray, and green.
- Pogona microlepidota – Kimberley Bearded Dragon – This species of bearded dragons grows in length up to 11 inches and has light or dark striped patterns, with black, brown, or orange.
All eight species of beardies come from Australia, although from different areas. Herpetologists have mated different species to produce various “morphs” or new patterns and colors. Usually, those with the rarest morphs go for the highest price.
You can buy beardies at pet stores and from private breeders for anywhere between $30 and $900. While all species have some differences, they also have many similarities including how you need to care for them.
Setting up the right environment for a bearded dragon
Getting the environment right is the most important detail in caring for your beardie. It’s a good idea to get everything set up before you bring your new pet home. The first thing to consider is the type and location of an enclosure called a vivarium.
The standard size for a vivarium is 40 gallons, but some of the larger species require a 50-gallon tank or larger. Provide a strong, screened cover to allow ventilation. You can also get a smaller one for a baby, but remember that it will need more space once it gets bigger.
Buying a bearded dragon kit with everything you need to get started can simplify things. It’s especially convenient if you want to bring your baby lizard home right away.
Do not place your vivarium in direct sunlight. Make sure you have a place picked out with adequate space. If you have other pets or children, ensure the tank is out of reach and secure. The tank should be away from loud noises such as traffic.
Heating and lighting
Like most reptiles, beardies are from the desert, and they need heat and light. Dragons need UVB lighting to prevent metabolic health diseases. Placing a UVA/UVB bulb to one side of the tank will help them get the calcium and vitamin D they need. This leaves the other end of the tank as a cool zone to help them with temperature control.
The second light needed for the vivarium is a basking light. Also, purchase a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the tank. Baby beardies prefer temp between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, while mature lizards prefer slightly cooler temps of 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Creating an environment with the basking light on one end and a cooling zone on the other allows the lizard to move toward the cooler end to find the desired temperature.
You can use a regular light bulb to provide visual light on the cool side of the tank, but only during the day. At night, beardies prefer total darkness when they sleep.
The ideal humidity for bearded dragons is 35 to 40%. You can usually achieve this by providing adequate ventilation.
Do not put sand or gravel in the bottom of the tank. You can use a purchased substrate or shredded newspapers, paper towels, or tiles. If using the latter, choose dark colors that prevent the tile from getting cold.
Use shallow dishes for feeding and water. You don’t need to keep all of them in the tank all the time. Although your beardie needs ready access to water, you can use additional dishes for providing supplements and feed.
A healthy diet
Part of feeding your bearded dragon with a healthy diet is supplementing with live feeder insects. You can purchase live insects from your local pet store. The most common types of insects used are crickets and Dubia roaches. Most dragons eat once or twice a day depending on their age and individual appetite.
Bathing your bearded dragon
These lizards enjoy bath time, and it serves several purposes. It aids in hydration, helps prevent constipation, and aids in shedding skin. You can use a plastic tub or put them in the bathtub. Use ½” to 1” of water for babies and 1” or 2” for adults. Put something in the bath to climb on, such as a rock.
When bathing your beardie, keep the temperature between 85 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t let the water get to cool. Use a thermometer to track the temperature and add more hot water as needed. Don’t use any soap on your lizard, and pat him dry when bath time is over. Bathing once a week is adequate, but you can do it more if you have time.
You can let your bearded dragon roam your house freely but only with supervision. Your new pet might even enjoy hanging out with the family while you watch the game. If you plan to leave your beardie out a lot, you might consider housebreaking it.
Shop Grange Co-op for all your reptile supplies
Grange Co-op carries a wide range of lights, feed, and starter kits to help you prepare for your new bearded dragon. Contact us with any questions you have about preparing your pet’s new environment.