Bearded dragons ("beardies") are fun and unique pets that often have their own personalities, and can be great for beginner reptile owners. They do not grow as large as iguanas and they tend to not become aggressive.
Just like every other reptile though, this species has its own special needs and owners should be educated on their requirements.
These guys originate from the deserts of Australia, and have a life-span of 8 to 12 years.
They come in a variety of colors and patterns! We love their vibrancy.
Young bearded dragons tend to be more skittish until they get used to the owner.
They are solitary animals and are nocturnal. Your Nashville bearded dragon veterinarian warns that they can be territorial, no matter how much space they are given in captivity. Do not house multiple dragons in the same tank, as there can be fights between males and unwanted mating between males and females.
Beardies have very expressive personalities. That is why it is important to understand what certain body language means. Your beardie could be asking you to leave it alone, and if you do not, it could eventually try to bite you. While they are not normally aggressive, you should look for signs like fluffing their beard or the beard turning black, hissing or opening its mouth, biting, or head bobbing. Your beardie slowly (or quickly) raising its head up and down can be an attempt to assert dominance.
A large aquarium with proper humidity and heating/lighting elements are important for your beardie’s health. Proper husbandry is key to prevent sickness and disease in reptiles.
When less than a year old, a 10-20 gallon tank will suffice. When older, your local Nashville bearded dragon veterinarian recommends the tank be at least 4 ft. x 2 ft. x 2 ft.
The substrates that are most ideal and safe for beardies are reptile carpet, tile, paper towels and newspaper. Hygiene is important, so make sure you keep the substrate/flooring clean and fresh.
**Avoid sand, kitty litter, bird litter and wood shavings, as these are more prone to cause obstructions and foreign bodies**
There should be a cool side and a basking area in your dragon’s tank. The cool side should range from 73-80F and basking area 95-104F. The best ways to supply heat to the tank include basking lights and certain heat light bulbs found at pet stores. Ensure you are accurately monitoring the temperature with a good quality thermometer due to their sensitivity to changes of temperature. The temperature too high or too low can result in stress and sickness.
Lighting is just as important as temperature, and sometimes they go hand in hand. Some light bulbs emit heat as well as provide the proper UVB lighting. UVB bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months even if they still emit light, as they are not as efficient after that amount of time.
It is ideal to place the light 16-18 inches away from the tank.
Contain branches, ramps, and rocks for climbing and basking. Make sure to include a hollow piece or cave that your beardie can hide in when it wants.
Humidity should be between 35 and 40%.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, so they need both protein and vegetables. When young, beardies will typically live off prey, but it is recommended by your Nashville bearded dragon veterinarian to introduce salads at a young age so they will eat it later in life.
Adult bearded dragons should be fed fresh salads daily and insects a couple times per week. It is ideal to shred or cut the vegetables small enough for your pet to eat it.
You can add water to the vegetables to keep them fresh and encourage water intake.
**Always have fresh, clean water available for your beardie. It should be in a shallow bowl and occasional misting is suggested as well.**
Vegetables include: turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, squashes, zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, snap peas, green beans, bok choy, kale, parsley, red or green cabbage, and dandelion. These can be cooked but raw form is best as it retains the most nutrients.
Fruits can be given as treats, and can include apples, pears, bananas, mango, strawberries, raspberries, and apricots. Feed these sparingly as they are low in minerals and typically high in sugar.
Insects include crickets, dubia roaches and waxworms. Superworms and earthworms can be given as treats.
**Calcium powder (RepCal is preferred by your local Nashville bearded dragon veterinarian) should be supplemented with the insects 4 to 5 times per week. You can dust the insects in the powder or shake them altogether in a ziplock bag**
A multivitamin should be given once to twice weekly.
VETERINARY CARE AND MEDICAL CONCERNS
Your local Nashville reptile veterinarian recommends an initial wellness exam with new bearded dragons then yearly examinations to establish good health and a client-doctor relationship. Semi-annual fecal checks are important as well, since parasites are not always visibly seen in the stool.
In the meantime, look out for warning signs of health problems like anorexia, weight loss, lethargy, trembling, limping, swollen belly, constipation, diarrhea, or a change in behavior.
Blood tests, cultures, cytologies or radiographs may be recommended based on symptoms if sick.
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling your reptile, as many of these guys carry Salmonella. If proper precautions are taken (washing hands, accurate tank cleaning) then risk of disease transmission is low.