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Care for Bearded Dragons
January 15, 2024

Did you know that bearded dragons are a popular choice for reptile owners? These pretty lizards are cute, low-maintenance, and suitable for first-time owners. While each individual dragon has its own unique personality, many beardies are friendly by nature. Some even show affection, which is unusual for reptiles. In this article, a local Burleson, TX veterinarian will cover some basic tips for taking care of these fascinating creatures.

Basics of Bearded Dragons

Native to central Australia, beardies are generally a sort of sandy color. That coloring helps them blend into their native environment. Some, however, may be yellow or orange. With good care, bearded dragons usually live for about 8 to 10 years. That’s a substantial commitment, so think carefully before getting one.

There are some great benefits to beardies. Unlike other reptiles, they do not reach large sizes; the average adult beardie is about two feet long. This means you won’t need a huge enclosure. Like other reptiles, they are quiet, don’t need training, and won’t chew your shoes or scratch your couch.

Where did they get their name? When they are scared, these cute reptiles flare out the skin under their chins, which gives them the appearance of having a beard.

What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?

These lovable lizards eat both plants and insects. The proportions and feeding schedules will change over time. Juveniles eat a higher proportion of insects than adults. That’s because as dragons grow, they require more protein for their growing bodies. Adults can eat more produce and fewer bugs. Juveniles may need as many as 60 crickets daily, whereas adults may only need whatever they can eat within 15 minutes.

Dubia roaches, crickets, butter worms, hornworms, wasps, elder bugs, or mealworms are all suitable options for fulfilling your lizard friend’s appetite for creepy-crawlies. (Note: if you have a weak stomach for bugs, a beardie may not be the ideal pet for you.) Only provide store-bought insects, as wild ones may contain harmful pesticides and could potentially carry parasites or diseases. Before serving the bugs to your tiny dinosaur, you’ll need to dust them with nutritional powder. This process is known as gut-loading. Remember to remove any uneaten bugs within a few hours, as they can bite.

For produce, you can offer your pet lizard plenty of green vegetables, such as dandelion, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, cabbage, and endive. Many herbs, such as mint, parsley, and sage, are safe for bearded dragons. Your lizard can also eat many yellow, red, and orange vegetables, such as bell peppers, carrots, and butternut squash.

Generally, fruits are fine in small amounts. Just don’t overdo it, as they are high in sugar. Strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, dates, and apricots are good options. Be sure to wash the produce before serving.

You can also feed your little dinosaur flowers. Dandelions, roses, carnations, and geraniums are all okay. Not all flowers are safe, though, so you need to do some research before offering them to your little dinosaur. Never give your beardie pesticide-treated flowers.

Keep fresh water available at all times. Bearded dragons can suffer from dehydration. Regular soaks will also benefit your reptilian friend.

Consult your Burleson, TX vet regularly for more detailed information about your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs.

Choosing a Bearded Dragon’s Terrarium

The appropriate habitat size for your little dinosaur will depend on its size. For a baby beardie, a 20-gallon terrarium is fine. Just keep in mind that these guys grow quickly. A 40-gallon one may be more suitable. A fully grown dragon will require at least a 70-gallon habitat.

The cage should have more length and width than height. As for substrate options, newspaper, butcher paper, or reptile carpet are all suitable choices. If you use paper, you will need to change it daily. While sand can be used for adult dragons, it is not recommended for young ones as they may accidentally ingest the particles. This could lead to dangerous intestinal blockages. Ask your Burleson, TX vet for specific advice.

What Temperatures Do Beardies Need?

Bearded dragons have very specific requirements as far as temperature needs. These dinosaurs regulate their internal temperature by moving from hot to cool areas. You’ll need to set up the terrarium so that it offers different temperature zones. The warmer end of the habitat should be about 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The other end can be about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The whole habitat can be cooler at night.

You’ll need to check these temperatures daily. You will need to purchase several good thermometers. Choose a thermometer with a hygrometer, as you’ll also want to check humidity. (Note: humidity levels should be about 30 to 40 percent.) 

How Do I Decorate A Beardie Habitat? 

You’ll need to add some furniture and accessories for your beardie. Your dragon needs at least one basking spot. You can use driftwood, large rocks, or grape vines. Just pick something sturdy. You don’t want it to fall over on your pet!

Plants are also fine, and can make your pet’s home look very attractive. Beardies will sometimes eat real ones, so take care not to add anything that could be toxic. You’ll also want to provide at least one hide.

As for dinnerware, we recommend shallow bowls. This is especially important with baby lizards, as they can drown in deep bowls. The bowls should be placed at the cooler end of the terrarium as this way the food won’t spoil as quickly.

Bearded Dragon Heat/Lighting Needs

The bearded dragon needs full-spectrum lighting. UVB light is essential for these guys, as they cannot process calcium or vitamin D without it. This can cause severe health problems. One of the most concerning is metabolic bone disease, or MBD, which is painful and debilitating.

A few things to keep in mind here:

Young beardies may need stronger bulbs than adults. 

The lights should also be set on a timed, 12-hour cycle.

Proper setup is also necessary. We recommend keeping fluorescent bulbs at least one foot away from your dragon. Otherwise, your reptilian pal could get burned!

Lastly, remember to replace the bulbs regularly. They weaken as they wear out, and can lose significant power before you notice anything is wrong.

Warning Signs Of Sickness For Beardies

Bearded dragons are usually fairly hardy and healthy, as long as they get proper care. However, just like any other pet, they are susceptible to illness and injury. Pay attention to your beardie, and watch for signs that something is amiss.

Here are some common red flags to watch out for:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Incomplete Sheds
  • Weight/Composition Changes
  • Stiffness/Weakness
  • Lack Of Appetite 
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Unusual Movements Or Posture
  • Trouble Walking
  • Tail Kinks  
  • Hanging Jaws
  • Discoloration
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Limping
  • Lesions

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. We would also recommend doing some basic research on common illnesses and injuries. Don’t be afraid to ask your Burleson, TX vet for advice. That’s what we’re here for! 

Do you have questions about caring for a bearded dragon? Please do not hesitate to contact us here at . As your local Burleson, TX veterinary clinic, we are dedicated to offering top-notch care!