Bearded dragons are native to the deserts of Australia. With a lifespan in captivity of approximately 10+ years, with adult size around 12 to 14 inches. They can make good pets if kept properly in captivity.
To keep your Bearded Dragon in the best of health, we highly recommend that your pet be seen for a physical examination and fecal analysis with an experienced reptile veterinarian annually.
Setting up your Bearded Dragon’s Enclosure:
A single adult dragon requires a minimum enclosure size of about 48 inches long x 19 inches wide x 22 inches high (75-gallon aquarium).
- Bedding/substrate - Newspapers/paper towels are safest and easiest to replace/clean. Vinyl tile (from a hardware store) or Repti-Carpet can also be used. If a paper pulp material (Carefresh) is used, you should feed your pet in a separate enclosure to prevent ingestion. Replace bedding/substrate or clean the surface every 1-2 days to prevent exposure to waste.
- We don’t recommend using sand, mulch, gravel, or other natural substrates due to difficulty cleaning, the risk of gastrointestinal issues if eaten, and problems with irritation of the eyes and mouth.
- Branches, driftwood, cork bark and/or large rocks can be provided for climbing. A hiding box can be placed on the warm side of the enclosure. In addition to providing adequate floor space, it is necessary to provide several basking sites and hiding areas if multiple dragons are housed together. We do not recommend using heating stones as a heat source as they can cause thermal burns.
- Temperature/heating – A temperature gradient should be created in your bearded dragon’s enclosure, with a warm side and a cool side. This allows the dragon to regulate its temperature by changing location. Provide a daytime focal basking area of 85-95°F on the warm side of the enclosure (use an incandescent bulb, ceramic heating element, or red/other bulb; under tank heating pad can also be used if needed). Daytime temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-80°F. Use multiple digital thermometers with probes to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained. Dial thermometers are often inaccurate. Provide a nighttime temperature range of 60-70°F throughout the enclosure. If needed, a safe under-tank heating pad, ceramic heating element, or red bulb can help maintain recommended temperatures. Due to the risk of burn injuries, always use appropriate rheostats/thermostats if using the commonly available ZooMed heating pads. Heating pads with which we have had good experiences include Ultratherm Heat Pads (beanfarm.com) and Cobra T-Rex Heat Pads (available from many pet stores).
- Lighting – Provide an ultraviolet B (5.0 UVB) light over the basking area (within 18 inches, no glass/acrylic in between) for 12-14 hours in summer and 10-12 hours in winter. UVB is necessary for vitamin D production and appropriate absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal system. Replace this bulb approximately every 6 months, as UVB production decreases with time.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, however, juveniles require a diet of almost 100% live, appropriately-sized prey.
Animal protein should make up at least 25% (by volume) of the adult dragon diet. Offer appropriately sized, gut-loaded insects such as crickets, superworms, waxworms, grasshoppers, locusts, and the occasional pinky mouse. Download the client handout: Feeding Insect Eating Reptiles for additional information.
- Dark, leafy greens such as should make up 50-55% (by volume) of the adult dragon diet. Offer a variety of greens including collard greens, kale, romaine, dandelion, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, spinach, chicory, and escarole.
- Other chopped or grated vegetables may comprise up to 20% of the diet (squash, zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli, peas, carrot, beans, okra, bean sprouts, tofu). Fruit should make up no more than 5% of the diet and should include nutrient-dense items such as papaya, melon, and banana.
- Occasional treats may consist of non-toxic flower blossoms such as hibiscus. Dust the non-breeding adult’s diet with a calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement just prior to feeding once or twice weekly, more often if actively breeding. Dust every meal for hatchlings. Calcium supplements should be devoid or low in phosphorus with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. A general vitamin/mineral supplement may be offered once weekly. This supplement should contain vitamin D, and bearded dragons should have exposure to ultraviolet light (specifically UVB rays via specialized bulbs or direct sunlight).
- Feed adults every one to two days. Hatchlings should be fed twice daily.
- Water bowl – Provide clean, fresh water in a dish/bowl into which your dragon can easily climb (small/low for juveniles). Change water daily.
- Encourage drinking – Mist the environment once daily with water in a spray bottle. You can also drip water on your dragon’s head with a water bottle.
- Soaking – Soak your pet 2-3 times a week in warm, shallow water for 15-20 minutes to encourage drinking, improve hydration, and help with shedding.
Signs Of Illness:
Please consult a reptile veterinarian should you notice any of the following signs below. These symptoms can be life-threatening and require urgent care.
- weight loss
- decreased appetite/thirst
- abnormal stools
- swelling of the limbs
- inability to close the mouth properly
- discharge from eyes and/or mouth
- difficulty breathing
- distension of the abdomen in non-breeding animals
- masses/lumps, or wounds/cuts/scrapes
At Point Vicente Animal Hospital, our veterinary staff is here to ensure that your cat is able to enjoy a long and healthy life as your companion. Call us today to make a cat wellness exam appointment with one of our veterinarians. You can reach us now at: (310) 695-5399