General Bearded dragon care sheet
This care sheet outlines the basics of all the important aspects of keeping a pet Bearded dragon. More information will be available by clicking on the appropriate links.
The Common Bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), otherwise known as the Central, Inland or Yellow-headed Bearded dragon originates from arid, semi-desert parts of Australia. With their calm, docile and curious, each with their own unique personality, Bearded dragons make great pets.
Bearded dragon development
Hatchling/baby (day 1 to 6 weeks), juvenile (6 weeks to 9 months), adult (9 months and older).
The lifespan of a Bearded dragon is approximately 7 to 12 years.
Bearded dragon housing
Adult Bearded dragons can grow up to about 60 cm / 24 ” in length (sometimes larger). For this an enclosure with a floor space of at least (90 x 35) cm / (35 x 14) ” is needed for a single Bearded dragon, and (130 x 42) cm / (50 x 17) ” for an adult pair. A 40 gal / 150 ℓ / (91 x 46 x 43) cm / (36 x 18 x 17) ” glass tank / aquarium, should be large enough for a single adult Bearded dragon and a 55 gal / 200 ℓ / (122 x 33 x 53) cm / (48 x 13 x 21) ” tank should be adequate for an adult pair. The floor space should increase by at least 25% for every Bearded dragon added after that. Other commonly used Bearded dragon housing enclosures include large cabinets.
Different sized/aged Bearded dragons should not be housed together until they are at least six months old. Larger Bearded dragons tend to ‘bully’ smaller ones and can even cause fatal biting injuries.
Good bedding substrates include newspaper, butcher / brown paper carpet and AstroTurf. Inappropriate substrates such as sand, soil, egg shells, corn cob or any sized gravel or pebbles can give problems with ingestion and subsequent impaction.
Feeding, cleaning food containers, replacing water, poop scooping and removing old food residues.
Enclosure cleaning and substrate replacement. Replacement of heat and UV source (UV lights should be replaced every five to six months). Cleaning and sterilization of enclosure decorations and equipment. Diluted F10 can be used for effective and safe cleaning or enclosures and cage furniture.
Inspection of all electrical equipment, plugs & switches should be done twice a year.
Gently scoop up the dragon with your hand under its belly and always take care to support the body. Let them rest in your palm with your fingers gently curled over the back. It is important to always wash your hands with a suitable disinfectant soap after handling a Bearded dragon, its food or its cage furniture. Also see correct Bearded dragon handling for more information.
Bearded dragons are ectothermic (relying on external heat sources to keep their body temperature at a suitable level) and poikilothermic (having a variable body temperature). A basking spot should be supplied (use a 60 Watt spotlight about 20 cm / 8 ” above a flat piece of rock). This will also provide most of the environmental heat. For Bearded dragons to thermoregulate, temperatures should range from about 24 ºC / 75 ºF on one side to about 34 ºC / 93 ºF on the other, the hot spot of course being hotter (about 40 ºC / 104 ºF). Also see Bearded dragon temperatures for more information.
To provide shade and a cooler surface to climb on, driftwood or a piece of stomp should be placed on the cooler side of the enclosure Although not necessary, night time temperatures can drop to as low as 17 ºC / 62 ºF.
Day length / photoperiod
All lights (including heat lights) should be on for about 14 hours per day. Commercially available electric timers can be used to automate the light cycle.
For UVA and UVB requirements a full spectrum reptile lamp/tube (with a preferred intensity of 8% or more) should be mounted about 30 cm / 12 ” above the main basking area. UVA helps make food appear more appealing thus stimulating feeding behaviour. UVB is needed for calcium absorption and bone mineralization. For sufficient UV absorption, Bearded dragons should be placed in natural, unfiltered sunlight for at least one to two hours a day. Also see Bearded dragon UV lighting for more information.
Bearded dragons are omnivorous, which mean they eat a variety of meat (mostly insects) and plant material. Young Bearded dragons are more dependent on proteins and their diet should consist of insects with about 20% fruit, greens and vegetables. From about ten months of age a gradual change to mostly plant material can be made. A good rule of thumb is that food (insects & plant material) should be about the same length as the space between a Bearded dragon’s eyes.
Crickets are commercially the most available insect. Insects can be fed dead or alive. It should always be gut loaded and dusted two to three times a week with a suitable calcium supplement. It is recommended that the food of growing babies, juveniles and gravid females are dusted three times a week.
Other commercial foods include Dubia roaches and other feeder cockroaches, silkworms and Phoenix worms. Less desirable food items include mealworms, wax worms, Superworms, Trevo worms, grasshoppers and nestling mice.
Suitable fruits include kiwis, grapes, strawberries, bananas and papayas while greens include lucerne, nasturtium, carrot tops, parsley, celery, rosemary, oregano and basil. Vegetables such as carrots, corn, green beans, peas and beetroot are also favorites. Onions, spinach and cabbage type vegetables should be avoided.
Bearded dragon feeding should preferably take place within the vivarium where the animal is used to its immediate temperature. Young Bearded dragons should be fed three to four times a day (not less than two times a day) while older Bearded dragons can be fed daily or every other day. Feeding should take place not more than two hours before lights out and not less than two hours after lights on.
Regular health inspections with a reptile friendly veterinarian are vital in the continual health of your pet. Try to take a fresh faecal sample, sealed in an airtight ziplock bag, with your reptile to the consult room.
Some of the most common Bearded dragon health problems include gut parasites (such as intestinal worms), environmental stress, metabolic bone disease (MBD), sand impactions, physical injuries due to falling, infections (such as mouth rot and Yellow fungus disease) and burns from incorrect placed heat sources. Most of these can be avoided with the correct husbandry. MBD can be prevented by the combination of enough calcium and the correct UV lighting. Less common problems include parasites such as ticks, lice and adenovirus.