Bearded dragons are a very popular choice of household pets and this is mainly because they are so easy to take care of, unlike many other species. However, this isn’t to say that you should enter into caring for one with your eyes closed as they do require a certain degree of care.
Introduction to Are Bearded Dragons Easy To Take Care Of?
If you are looking for an intelligent reptile that you can develop a bond with then a bearded dragon is a great choice of pet. These are brilliant animals for families since they are relatively docile and can be handled by children. In fact, many people choose them as a way of introducing their young people to caring for exotic animals.
Bearded dragons are also quite easy to take care of, especially when you compare them to keeping other exotic lizards like chameleons, which require vastly different care. For this reason, a lot of newcomers to reptiles will choose a bearded dragon as their first pet.
With all of this in mind, it is important to remember that you cannot simply purchase a bearded dragon, pop him in a tank and forget about him. As with all creatures, your pet will require a degree of care, but this will not require more than a few minutes each day.
In this article, we will be looking at the various aspects of care that are involved in looking after one of the gorgeous reptiles.
What Do I Need To Care For A Bearded Dragon?
The most work you will likely ever need to do for your bearded dragon is the initial set up – we have written a more in-depth article about this but as a quick reference, you will need the following items:
- A tank measuring at least 100cm in length, preferably larger if you have space.
- UVB light and a heat lamp
- Food and water bowls
- Some sort of substrate; this could be sand, soil, or even shredded recycled paper.
- A hideout for the dragon to have some time out
- Ventilated lid
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Bearded dragons originally come from Australia, and as you will likely be aware, this is a partially tropical country and partially dry country that experiences some of the warmest climates on the planet. For this reason, you will need to make sure that your pet has the correct living conditions that mimic those he would have seen if he had been a wild animal.
This requires you to work carefully when setting up the enclosure and to make sure that you have the right equipment. The tank will need a hot end and a cool end, the hotter end should be between 38ºc and 42ºc, whereas the cooler end will need to be around 25ºc with room for a little sway on either side of this. These temperatures will need to be maintained continually.
A fluorescent light of between 10 and 12 percent should be installed at the hotter end of the tank. Omitting this will mean that your bearded dragon will be susceptible to bone problems. Furthermore, you should ensure that the tank contains a variety of branches and rocks; not only will this give him somewhere to climb but it will also provide him with places to hide out, should he feel the need.
Also, be sure to keep the humidity consistent. This should stay between 20% and 40% and can be easily monitored using a hygrometer which can be purchased at pet stores, hardware stores, and online.
Feeding Your Bearded Dragon
One of the great things about these pets is that they follow a relatively simple diet. In the main, they will eat insects such as crickets, locusts, and a variety of worms. However, it is important to remember that worms should not make up a substantial part of their diet and these are quite fatty and too many could cause your pet to become overweight, or even obese and this can cause health problems.
Crickets are the main staple of the bearded dragon’s diet and you can purchase live crickets from your local pet store. If you prefer, you may breed the crickets yourself but this requires an additional setup – but this does not need to be overly complicated.
Those that are new to keeping reptiles may find the idea of releasing live insects into the tank a little unnerving but this is the best way to replicate the feeding habits of the bearded dragon in the wild; many dragons will not accept dead prey.
Aside from insects, you might also offer your pet vegetables, particularly leafy greens and a selection of fruits, although these again should not form a huge part of their diet owing to the high natural sugar levels.
One of the things that may come as a shock to new bearded dragon owners is that seemingly out of the blue, your precious pet may appear to become very lethargic, lose her appetite, and even appear to be dead. Unless these things are accompanied by physical signs of illness, it is likely that your pet has gone into a process known as brumation.
Brumation is the reptilian form of hibernation which we see in some mammals. However, contrary to popular belief, your bearded dragon will not fall to sleep for a few weeks or months, instead, she will remain very still, eat very little, and may burrow in the substrate.
This process occurs during the winter when bearded dragons live in the wild, however, when these animals brumate in captivity, they could start at any time. It might also come as a surprise that not all bearded dragons who live in captivity will brumate, so it may come as even more of a surprise when they do.
It is important that you alter your care when your bearded dragon is brumating. This will make caring for your pet even more simple since the amount of care you need to give will be lowered. The only time that brumation needs to be a concern is if your bearded dragon is under one year of age – babies should not brumate since they are not fully grown and may not have the fat reserves to remain healthy during the process.
If you notice that your baby beardie is brumating, you should consult your vet who will give you the most appropriate advice.
Common Health Problems In Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons live for between ten and twelve years on average and are considered to be geriatric between ages six and eight. It would stand to reason then, that these animals might struggle with certain health conditions over the course of their life. Provided that you take good care of your bearded dragon, there is no reason that he shouldn’t live a long and healthy life. But of course, as with any animal, there could be specific health conditions that may require medical attention.
The most common health conditions that affect bearded dragons are as follows:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Skin infections including blisters, sores, and ulcers
- Nutrient deficiencies.
- Metabolic bone disease
- Respiratory problems
Fortunately, bearded dragons are extremely hardy animals and for the most part, will remain healthy provided that they are given the proper care.
Tips For Keeping Your Bearded Dragon Happy
Looking after a pet doesn’t just mean that you should feed them and make sure that they are healthy, there are several other aspects of care that are imperative to a happy animal. While bearded dragons are easy to look after, you might want to invest a little more time to bond with your pet and ensure that she has everything she needs.
- You should monitor the behavior and habits of your bearded dragon. Doing this will give you a clear idea when something might not be right and you can spot problems far more easily.
- Giving your pet a large enclosure and plenty of things to climb on is a good way to give her exercise, but there is no better substitute than open space. For this reason, it is important to allow your bearded dragon out of the tank on a regular basis to stretch her legs. Did you know that you can even buy bearded dragon harnesses to take your pet for a walk?
- Spend some time interacting with your pet. Beardies are very intelligent creatures and have been known to develop a close bond with their owners. You can handle your bearded dragon, give her affection, and play with her.
- If you wish to keep more than one bearded dragon, this is entirely possible but you should be careful about housing them together, particularly if they are both males.
Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptilian pets and this is primarily because they are so easy to care for. Once the initial enclosure is set up, maintaining it and keeping your pet healthy is relatively straightforward.
However, it is important that when you adopt a bearded dragon, you are aware of the type of care that they need so that you can provide them with an environment that is conducive to a long and happy life.