Bearded dragons are native to Australia. Lifespan in captivity is approximately 10 years, with adult size around 12 to 14 inches. They can make good pets if kept properly in captivity.

Housing:

  • Cage:
    • A 10-20 gallon enclosure is adequate for a single juvenile dragon.
    • A single adult dragon requires a minimum 75 gallon aquarium (48 inches long x 19 inches wide x 22 inches high)
    • House singly throughout their lives.

 

  • Bedding/substrate:
    • Newspapers or paper towels are safest and easiest to replace/clean.
    • Vinyl tile 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.
    • SAND, GRAVEL, MULCH/BARK, AND OTHER NATURAL SUBSTRATES SHOULD NOT BE USED DUE TO DIFFICULTY CLEANING, RISK OF GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES IF EATEN, AND PROBLEMS WITH IRRITATION OF EYES/MOUTH.

 

  • Cage furniture:
    • Branches, driftwood, cork bark and large rocks can be provided for climbing.
    • A hide box can be placed on the warm side of the enclosure.
    • HEATED ROCKS SHOULD NEVER BE USED DUE TO RISK OF THERMAL BURNS.

 

  • Temperature/heating:
    • A temperature gradient should be created in the 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 90-105°F on the warm side of the enclosure (use an incandescent bulb, ceramic heating element, or red/ other bulbs; under tank heating pad can also be used if needed).
    • Daytime temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-80°F. Nighttime temperature range of 60-70°F throughout the enclosure should be maintained.
    • Use multiple digital thermometers to ensure correct temperatures are maintained.
    • If needed, a safe under tank heating pad, ceramic heating element, or red bulb can help in maintaining recommended temperatures.
    • 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.

 

Dietary Recommendations:

  • Feeding Juveniles: Juveniles are Omnivorous (eat about 50% animal matter and 50% plant matter).
    • Vegetables (approximately 50% of diet):
      • Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, green/red leaf lettuce, or Boston lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, baby kale, endive, dandelion greens, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli (leaves and florets).
      • Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate ONCE OR TWICE DAILY.

 

  • Insects (approximately 50% of diet):
    • Offer appropriately sized gut-loaded insects ONCE OR TWICE DAILY.
    • Crickets should be no longer than the width of dragon’s head.
    • To properly gut load, provide insects with a complete diet, such as rodent chow, dry dog food, or bird pellets. Insects should primarily be crickets.
    • Mealworms, giant mealworms, and wax moth larvae are high in fat and should be offered only in small amounts if at all.
    • We also recommend Phoenix Worms.
    • To prevent injury to your dragon, remove uneaten crickets immediately.

 

  • Calcium/Vitamin supplements:
    • Dust salad and insects with a high-quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 4-5 times a week.
    • Dust insects with a high-quality multi-vitamin (with a vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene) once a week.
    • For a complete supplement, we recommend Repashy Calcium Plus.

 

  • Other foods:
    • Commercial bearded dragon diets (moistened with water) can be offered, but should not make up more than 50% of the diet.
    • Due to higher vitamin and mineral content, dragons eating mainly a commercial diet may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.
  • Feeding Adults: Adults are primarily herbivorous (eat mostly plant matter).
    • Vegetables (approximately 80% of diet):
      • Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, green/red lead lettuce, or Boston lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, baby kale, endive, dandelion greens, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli (leaves and florets).
      • Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate ONCE DAILY TO EVERY OTHER DAY.

 

  • Insects (approximately 20% of diet):
    • Offer gut-loaded insects TWO TO THREE TIMES PER WEEK.
    • To properly gut load, provide insects with a complete diet, such as rodent chow, dry dog food, or bird pellets. Insects should primarily be crickets.
    • Mealworms, giant mealworms, and wax moth larvae are high in fat and should be offered only in small amounts.
    • To prevent injury to your dragon, remove uneaten crickets immediately.

 

  • Vitamin supplements:
    • Dust salad and insects with a high-quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 2-3 times a week.
    • Dust insects with a high-quality multi-vitamin (with vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene) once every other week.
    • We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus.
  • Other foods:
    • Commercial bearded dragon diets (moistened with water) can be offered, but should not make up more than 50% of the diet.
    • Due to the higher vitamin and mineral content, dragons eating mainly a commercial diet may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.
  • Water
    • 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.

Preventative Health Care Recommendations:

  • Examinations:
    • We recommend an examination after purchasing your Bearded Dragon.
    • A fecal examination is an important test with the initial visit.
    • We will discuss proper husbandry and nutrition to get your pet off on the right track.
    • Afterwards, we recommend annual examinations.
    • At 3 years of age, we will recommend yearly blood tests to monitor your pet’s health and assist in the early detection of medical issues.

 

Common Issues:

  • Bearded Dragon Brumation:
    • Brumation is a naturally occurring hibernation cycle that bearded dragons go through. Bearded dragons will go through a brumation stage in the winter or fall in response to the change in lighting or temperatures.
    • Each bearded dragon is different during brumation. Some will take very long naps off and on for the entire cycle, while other dragons will sleep without waking for the entire cycle. Some bearded dragons don’t go through brumation at all, others will only have a brumation period for a week, and some will be in brumation for several months.
    • During the brumation cycle, your bearded dragon will become less active and sleep for much longer periods. You may also see a decreased appetite or may stop eating altogether.

 

  • Bearded Dragon Shedding:
    • Bearded dragons are reptiles and so they will shed their skin. Baby and juvenile bearded dragons will frequently shed their skin in response to them growing, however adult bearded dragons may only shed their skin once or twice per year.
    • Before a bearded dragon will shed you will notice their color will become more dull and their eyes will appear to be puffed out much further than normal. These things are normal and are signs of a healthy shed.
    • During the shed, make sure your bearded dragon stays clean and hydrated by bathing him/her with warm water. It is also recommended to use a spray bottle to occasionally mist your bearded dragon’s skin to keep it hydrated during the shedding cycle.
    • Do not pull off your beardies shedded skin unless it is ready to come off. Any skin that is ready to come off should be literally falling off their body. If you are helping your bearded dragon shed by pulling off his/her skin, the skin you pull off should come off without any resistance and should not be damp or wet
    • Monitor the shedding at the tip of the tail and on their toes. These are some problem areas where the skin does not come off easily, however if the skin is left on it can tighten and restrict blood flow to these areas which can kill their skin tissue.

 

Common Health Problems:

  • Bearded Dragon Impaction
    • Bearded dragons should go on a regular basis. If your bearded dragon has stopped defecating for several days, yet is still eating daily, it could be impacted.
    • You may be able to correct the issue with a warm water (95-100 F) bath for 10-15 minutes. While bathing gently massage your dragon’s stomach while it is still in the water for a few minutes. This may help your dragon use the bathroom within 24 hours if constipation was due to being too cold, a minor blockage, or a case of intestinal parasites. However, if your bearded dragon still continues to be constipated, you will need an examination. This is because blockages can cause long term health issues if not dealt with.
  • Diarrhea
    • Temporary diarrhea can be caused by many factors, however, a parasite called coccidia is a common cause.
    • A healthy bearded dragon’s fecal matter should be solid and if you notice your bearded dragon having diarrhea frequently an examination and fecal test is warranted.
  • Metabolic Bone Disease
    • Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is caused by the bearded dragon not having adequate calcium in its system.
    • This is caused by a lack of Calcium/ Vitamin D3 in the diet as a result from poor husbandry and nutrition.
    • Lack of proper lighting will effect Ca absorption from the diet and failure to provide a correct calcium supplementation will also result in poor calcium levels.
    • Since the body needs calcium for many functions it will pull calcium from the bones resulting in weak bones and bony swellings. You may see body/toe twitching, failure to stand properly on all limbs, swollen/soft bottom jaw, generalized weakness. This requires immediate veterinary attention.
  • Atadenovirus (ADV)
    • This disease is caused by a contagious virus. Young bearded dragons with ADV typically won’t survive past three months of age and will spend their short life struggling to grow, will be lethargic, lose weight, and not want to eat. The symptoms are non-specific and your young dragon will be a poor doer and appear to be wasting away.
    • Some bearded dragons with ADV experience neurological symptoms such as body twitching and seizures. They may arch their neck and look up at the sky (stargazing). Bearded dragons that are infected as adults typically develop liver and kidney disease, encephalitis, gastroenteritis, stomatitis, and other signs. Unfortunately, most of these findings are only discovered after the bearded dragon passes away and a necropsy is performed.
  • CANV Disease (Yellow Fungus)
    • You may see small yellow/brown crusts on a few scales that in time gets larger. Other yellow/brown crusts may appear elsewhere in a random fashion. The crusts can become ulcerative.
    • As the disease progresses, it may become an internal infection and lead to poor appetite, weight loss, and death. If you suspect this condition an early examination is important. With treatment prognosis is still guarded to poor
  • Egg Binding
    • Egg binding occurs when the bearded dragon is unable to lay her eggs whether infertile or not. The most common cause and the most preventable are poor diet and environment. Females will develop eggs whether a male is present or not.
    • Healthy gravid Bearded Dragons will appear to have a swollen abdomen and when they are due to lay the eggs they will not be eating, however, they will still remain alert and active.
    • If you suspect your bearded dragon may be egg bound please schedule an appointment. We recommend “spaying” to prevent this problem in non-breeding bearded dragons.