Are Bearded Dragons the pet for you?

Bearded dragons are in the lizard family and have recently become popular as pets. Beardies, as they are affectionately called by their owners, remain small and do not generally grow over 24 inches long including their long tail. They are also extremely docile and personable. A child who shows interest in lizards would do well to start with a bearded dragon for a pet.

A group of young Bearded Dragons against a white background

Like any animal, bearded dragons require some time and money to keep happy and healthy. There are vets that specialise in reptiles and one should be found to keep your lizard healthy. A specialised vet can also advise on the correct methods of handling, feeding and housing your new beardie.

Housing a Bearded Dragon

A 20 gallon tank may be suitable for youngsters but once they are six months old it should switch to a 40 to 55 gallon tank. The long tanks work best. Beardies do not climb so there is no worry of them getting out. To save money you can also buy the larger tank to begin with and put a divider in it until your beardie is older. The bedding or substrate can consist of newspapers or paper towels. These are the cheapest and easiest to find. Pet stores also have reptile carpet specially made for your pet. Grass-like carpet is best for beardies. Do not use wood shavings or sand with a baby beardie as they can pick some up and swallow it with their food which can cause impaction.

Lighting and heat

A full spectrum light is recommended for a good 12 hours per day. The light you choose should be the length of the tank. Your pet store can help you choose the right one. This light should be placed over the tank so your pet can get the full benefits of the UV lighting. Bearded dragons, like most reptiles, need to be kept warm so a heat lamp is recommended. One part of the tank should be kept hotter for basking. The temperature should be maintained at 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures are recommended for older beardies and higher temperatures for the youngsters. The other part of the tank should be kept around 85 degrees. During the night the temperature can safely be lowered to 65 degrees. In-tank thermometers are recommended to make sure the temperature is regulated on both sides of the tank. A knowledgeable pet store owner will guide you to the proper heat lamps.

Feeding and diet

Bearded Dragon eating a mealworm
Mealworms are a favourite food, but a varied diet is essential
Bearded Dragons are omnivores, which means that they eat both animal and vegetable products. Vegetables should be served at least once a day, particularly greens. Avoid iceberg lettuce as that has no nutritional value to a lizard and may cause impaction. Crickets are a primary source of food particularly for young ones. They can be picked up easily at any pet store. Before feeding crickets they should be dusted with a calcium supplement. Crickets come in a variety of sizes. A bearded dragon should not be fed crickets that are bigger than the distance between its eyes. In addition to crickets, beardies like to eat just about any worm available as well as cockroaches and locusts. As stated earlier, pay attention to the size. Insects from your backyard should be avoided as they can carry all kinds of germs and diseases that can affect the health of your lizard. Always buy from a pet store.

General care

The tank should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis with a warm soapy mixture. There are also a number of commercially available products to be found at your local pet store that will do the job just fine. One thing to remember when doing this is to make sure all soap or disinfectant is rinsed out of the tank before putting your pet back in there.

On a final note, washing your own hands before and after handling your bearded dragon will ensure that both you and your dragon will be kept healthy and disease-free leading to a nice long relationship with your pet.

This article consists of only basic guidelines on the care of your bearded dragon so a potential adopter can decide if the beardie is right for your family. A good book and other articles on this site can give you much more in-depth advice on keeping your new pet healthy and happy.