The bearded dragon is one of the most popular reptiles. These little dinosaurs are quite adorable and charming! Bearded dragons also aren’t hard to care for. However, they do have very specific needs. If you are a first-timer, you will have a bit of a learning curve as you get used to caring for your tiny dinosaur. A local Dawsonville, GA veterinarian goes over some of the basics of beardie care in this article.
The Basics: Bearded Dragons 101
Originally from central Australia, bearded dragons usually live about 8 to 10 years. They are usually sandy in color, which helps them blend in with their environment. Some, however, may be yellow or orange. If you were wondering where they get their name, it’s because when they’re scared, the skin under their chin flares out, and resembles a beard in this state.
Bearded dragons are a highly sought-after reptile and it’s easy to understand why. They are low-maintenance, making them a great choice for those new to owning reptiles. In comparison to other species, they are relatively small, with the average adult beardie measuring around two feet in length. This means you won’t need a large enclosure for them.
What really sets beardies apart is their personality. Many of them are known for being naturally friendly and even affectionate, which is a fairly rare trait among reptiles. With their manageable size and demeanor, bearded dragons are also suitable pets for older children.
Owning a bearded dragon does require a long-term commitment, as they can live for over ten years. However, it’s worth noting that other reptiles can live much longer. Turtles, for instance, can live up to 50 years.
Setting Up A Terrarium For A Bearded Dragon
The size of your pet’s habitat should ultimately be determined by their age. A 20-gallon terrarium is suitable for a baby beardie, but since they grow quickly, a 40-gallon one may be a better investment. Once he is fully grown, your dragon will require at least a 70-gallon habitat. As a rule of thumb, that habitat should be at least three times your pet’s length.
The enclosure should be wide and long, rather than tall. When it comes to substrate, there are several options available, including newspaper, butcher paper, and reptile carpet. If using paper, daily changes will be necessary.
Avoid sand substrates, especially for young dragons. Baby lizards can swallow the particles, which can cause dangerous intestinal blockages.
What Are Signs Of Sickness In Beardies?
Beardies are usually pretty hardy and healthy if properly cared for. However, reptiles are fragile, and can get sick very fast, especially if they aren’t kept in the right conditions. Plus, they are susceptible to illness and injury, just like any other pet.
Here are some key signs to watch for:
- Trouble Walking
- Incomplete Sheds
- Weight/Composition Changes
- Sunken Eyes
- Strange Movements
- Lack Of Appetite (Note: This Is Normal Just Before A Shed.)
- Respiratory Issues
- Odd Posture
- Tail Kinks
- Hanging Jaw
If you spot any of these things, reach out to your Dawsonville, GA veterinary clinic right away.
What Habitat Temperature Do I Need For Bearded Dragons?
Beardies have very specific temperature requirements. You’ll need to set up your terrarium so that you can create different temperature zones, or gradients. These guys regulate their internal temperature by moving from hot to cool areas and back, so this is crucial for their comfort, health, and safety. The warmer end should be about 95 to 105F. The cooler end can be around 85. The habitat can be cooler at night.
You will need to check these temperatures several times a day, which will require a few good thermometers. (Tip: get a hygrometer as well, so you can also measure the humidity.)
What Furniture Does A Bearded Dragon Need?
Like any house, your beardie’s habitat will need some furniture. Offer a sturdy basking perch, so your pet can relax and comfortably absorb those (artificial) rays. Suitable options include driftwood, large rocks, or grape vines. Many live plants are safe and attractive. Just don’t include anything that may be toxic to your beardie. Lastly, provide at least one hide for your pet’s privacy.
Choose shallow bowls for your pet’s food. This is especially important for babies, as little lizards could drown in deep bowls. Keep the bowls on the cooler end of the terrarium, so the (non-moving) food doesn’t spoil as quickly.
Bearded Dragon Heat/Lighting
Bearded dragons require full-spectrum lighting in order to stay healthy. They need ultraviolet light, or UVB, so they can process calcium and vitamin D properly. If they don’t get enough UVB, they can suffer severe health problems. The most concerning is metabolic bone disease, or MBD, which is very painful and debilitating.
Sunlight provides UVB to beardies that live in the wild. Your pet will live indoors, so special bulbs will be needed.
There are a few things to keep in mind here:
- Young beardies may need stronger bulbs, so you should check with your Dawsonville, GA vet regularly about lighting needs.
- The lights should be set on a timed, 12-hour cycle.
- Fluorescent bulbs should be at least a foot away from your dragon. Otherwise, you may burn your pet.
- You should replace the bulbs regularly because they wear out so quickly. It’s a good idea to get a UV meter, so you can measure humidity. Ideally, you want about 30 to 40 percent humidity.
What Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon?
These charming lizards are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and insects.
- For bugs, you can provide crickets, Dubia roaches, butterworms, hornworms, wasps, elder bugs, or mealworms to your dinosaur buddy. You should only offer store-bought insects. Wild insects can be contaminated with pesticides, and/or carry parasites or diseases. You will also need to dust your pet’s bugs with nutritional powder before they become meals.
- In addition to fruits and vegetables, your reptilian friend can also be fed certain types of vegetables. Provide your lizard with lots of green leafy vegetables, such as dandelion, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, and endive. Beardies can also eat yellow, red, and orange vegetables, as well as bell peppers, carrots, and butternut squash.
- As for fruits? Well, in small amounts, fruits make good treats. However, you’ll need to take care not to overdo it, since they are high in sugar. Strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, dates, and apricots are all good options.
- Your pet may also need supplements, such as calcium, vitamin D, and multivitamin supplements for beardies. Ask your vet for advice.
- Your lizard pal can eat flowers! Dandelions, roses, carnations, and geraniums are all fine. However, not all flowers are safe, so do your research before offering any to your pet. Never give flowers treated with pesticides to your beardie.
- Dehydration is a common problem with beardies. Make sure your reptilian buddy has clean, fresh water at all times. Your beardie will also benefit from regular soaks, so ask your vet for specific instructions.
- While insects will make up the majority of your pet dragon’s menu, the proportions and feeding schedules will change over time. Younger dragons need more insects to get protein for their growing bodies, while the older ones can eat more produce and fewer bugs. Ask your vet for specific advice.
In Conclusion: Beardies are very popular reptiles. However, they do need specific care, which includes certain environmental conditions. Consult your Dawsonville, GA veterinarians before adopting a beardie, or any other animal.
Do you have questions about caring for a beardie? Contact us, your local Dawsonville, GA pet hospital, if you have questions about bearded dragon care.