Despite what your thoughts might be on reptiles as a whole, there’s just something about bearded dragons that allows them to win over the hearts of so many people.
There’s no denying bearded dragons have that certain je ne ce quois, and as such, they’re a popular choice of pet.
Whether it’s their laid back demeanor or that sweet, demure smile, no one can blame you for wanting a beardie of your own.
Before you go scouring the internet for a rescue dragon or hop in the car and head for the pet store, read on to learn about a few bearded dragon care essentials.
Bearded Dragon Care Guide
Know what to expect ahead of time
Research is your friend. In fact, it’s your ally.
If you plan on adopting a bearded dragon, the research you invest in now will serve you several times over in the future.
Living with a bearded dragon is a far cry from sharing your home with a cat or dog. And it’s definitely not as simple as tossing your goldfish some fish flakes at the same time every day.
A bearded dragon requires a significant amount of time and money, and you owe it both to yourself and your beardie to be well equipped to handle having one in your home.
The Cost Providing your bearded dragon with everything they need can be a costly endeavor, but it’s also important to realize that it doesn’t have to be.
While there’s no limit to how much you can spend on your beardie, it’s perfectly acceptable to provide younger bearded dragons with a smaller starter terrarium so long as you size up their home accordingly as they age.
There are plenty of new and used supplies available locally and on the internet. The important thing is to have your dragon’s living quarters on hand before they arrive.
The Time You probably already knew you’d be investing money into your beardie, but what about the amount of time and attention your pet requires?
Not only should you be scheduling time for your beardie’s feeding and upkeep, but you can’t forget the best part of all–quality time with your pet!
Bearded dragons are friendly creatures who adapt well to their caretakers and enjoy time spent with their humans. Make sure you give them something to look forward to!
So you’ve adopted a bearded dragon. What’s next?
Welcoming your bearded dragon home should be an exciting moment for everyone involved. The best way to ensure everyone is happy is to have all supplies in place before your new pet arrives.
Here’s what you’ll need
A proper terrarium should be at the top of the list of essentials for your bearded dragon. Remember that this isn’t simply a place for your dragon to hang out when you’re not paying attention to him. This is his home.
Being a cold-blooded animal, your beardie will require a cooling spot and a basking area, both of which will need temperature regulation. You can achieve this with special thermometers designed with this exact purpose in mind.
But don’t worry about the logistics quite yet. We’ll talk more about climate control below. In the meantime, know that having each of these elements in place before your beardie comes home will help them segue into their new life with comfort and ease.
Food and Nutrition
Do you like bugs? Your bearded dragon does. Not only does your beardie enjoy them, but he also relies on bugs for the bulk of his nutrition. Insects are a vital source of protein for bearded dragons and need to be kept in steady supply. Beardies eat other foods, as well, including store-bought blends and raw vegetables.
Environmental Provisions In the wild, bearded dragons are typically found in hot, arid climates, and are native to Australia. To emulate your beardie’s natural environment, outfit your terrarium with items that can be found in nature.
The good news is there’s no shortage of goodies and supplies you might spoil your dragon with. The aforementioned, however, is the bare minimum you’ll need to ensure your bearded dragon starts out happy and well provided for.
The care and keeping of your bearded dragon
In time your pet will become accustomed to you and the home you both share. Consider your house as your beardie’s neighborhood. He’ll get used to the place over time, but he isn’t privy to going just anywhere.
In that regard, think of your beardie’s terrarium as his private residence.
Full-grown bearded dragons can reach up to 24 inches long, and their terrarium needs to reflect that.
You can’t expect a mature dragon to stay in his starter home forever. If your beardie’s first terrarium was on the smaller side, plan on upgrading to a tank that’s no less than 55 gallons for your adult dragon’s health and comfort.
If you have the space to accommodate, aim for a larger tank, ideally up to 120 gallons. This is your beardie’s forever home, after all. The bigger the better.
What matters is what’s on the inside
We already discussed that climate control is important for your bearded dragon. Now, let’s talk about why.
As a cold-blooded creature, when it comes to having the right temperature in his terrarium, your bearded dragon’s life is on the line.
A baby beardie’s temperature needs are slightly different from an adult’s, and it’s important to make sure you get it right.
Basking areas, where your dragon will lounge and soak up heat, need to be kept between 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
A cooling spot should be located on the opposite side of the terrarium and needs to be kept between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ve got several options when setting up your beardie’s basking and cooling zones, including heat lamps, heating pads, and ceramic heat emitters.
Whichever you choose, make sure to leave the guesswork out of it. Placing a thermometer in both zones will ensure your dragon’s home is being kept at safe temperatures.
When it comes to outfitting basking and cooling zones, it’s the dragon’s choice! Feel free to choose from rocks or tree branches, or look around for other fun options you can purchase from pet stores.
It goes without saying that your dragon’s terrarium needs to be cleaned daily. Removing bathroom waste from his living space ensures a pleasant, odor-free environment for your beardie to thrive in.
Disinfecting your terrarium once every month is another important step you can take to make sure your bearded dragon’s space remains not simply clean but free of disease.
Bet you didn’t plan on maintaining a colony of roaches at any point in your life, did you? How about a container full of crickets? Maybe a tub full of mealworms?
Feeder insects are vital to your beardie maintaining good health, and thankfully don’t require much maintenance.
Already packed with protein, you should expect to keep a much smaller habitat of feeder insects on hand. Throwing them a few scraps of produce will keep their health in check, all for your beardie’s benefit, of course.
Anticipate sprinkling the insects’ food with a nutrient-rich powder that will help buffer the nutritional value they offer your dragon. Not sure the bugs are ingesting the powder? Shower them in it right before feeding your dragon, instead.
While insects play an important role in your bearded dragon’s diet, they’re only one part of your pet’s daily regimen.
As omnivores, your beardie will also need a generous helping of produce every day.
Greens are a popular choice and can include broccoli, peas, kale, and collard greens. Try incorporating carrots or sweet potatoes into your dragon’s diet as well, and do so starting from an early age.
Your scaly friend isn’t too different from people, in that when it comes to a healthy diet it’s better to get them hooked on their veggies while still young.
It should go without saying that your bearded dragon will need fresh water on a daily, too.
A full and happy life
When properly taken care of, a healthy bearded dragon can expect to enjoy ten to fifteen years of life.
As your beardie’s owner, the onus is on you to give them the best chance they’ve got.
That includes regular checkups with the vet and knowing any potential signs that your bearded dragon may be in trouble.
If at any time your beardie’s eyes become cloudy, they show a loss of appetite or become lethargic, you may need to put in a call to your veterinarian. Swollen limbs, looser-than-normal droppings, or a discolored belly are other warning signs that your pet requires a checkup.
A friend for life
There you have it!
Now that you’re equipped with the right info to care for a bearded dragon, you can confidently go forward in establishing the home of your dragon’s dreams.
Hopefully, your beardie will rest easy knowing they’ve been adopted by someone who will seek to meet their needs through all the years of their life.