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Basic Care and Supplies for a Bearded Dragon

Basic Care and Supplies for a Bearded Dragon

Thinking about getting a pet reptile? Consider the bearded dragon. These lizards are known to be even-tempered and social and can make great pets for kids if certain precautions are taken.

As with any pet, it’s important to understand their care requirements. From their habitat to their diet to how to handle them, here’s what you should know about bearded dragons before bringing one home.

Why a bearded dragon makes a great pet

Bearded dragon pet in habitatIf you haven’t spent much time around them, you might have trouble imagining why bearded dragons make good pets, especially for kids. But, as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons.

“Bearded dragons have fun, unique personalities, and they enjoy bonding with their pet parents,” says Petco companion animal merchandise manager Brent Neil. “They are typically calm and easy to handle, which makes them a great pet for children learning the responsibility of pet parenthood.”

Bearded dragons are also diurnal, Neil adds, which means they sleep at night and are most active during the day. Other pets—like rabbits or hamsters—often have the reverse sleeping schedule, which means it’s harder to find a good time to play and bond with them.

For kids who are eager for an animal they can interact with, bearded dragons acclimate well to handling when there are safe and consistent interactions. “Bearded dragons make good pets because they are very docile if they’re handled on a regular basis,” says Petco regional animal care and education leader Alan Brandenburgo. “They also don’t get as large as some other popular lizards, like iguanas or monitors.”

Your bearded dragon habitat

bearded dragon in habitatAlthough bearded dragons are relatively easy to care for, they do have a few unique needs. Items you’ll need to purchase for your bearded dragon include:

  • Substrate: This is the material that goes on the floor of your pet’s habitat. Calcium-based sand works well, but repti-carpet can be a good option, too. Silica sand must be avoided, as it can cause GI impaction if ingested.
  • Light, temperature and humidity devices: Bearded dragons need full-spectrum UVB lighting for 10 to 12 hours a day. Incandescent bulbs can only be used during daylight hours, while ceramic heaters or black heat lights can be used at any time. Because bearded dragons cannot regulate their own body temperatures, you’ll need to set up their habitats with that in mind. For optimal comfort, maintain one side of the habitat at approximately 100 degrees F and the other at 70 F. Keep the humidity at less than 50 percent.
  • Décor: Adding faux plants, basking branches and hiding spots to your bearded dragon’s habitat can mimic their natural environment and help them feel more at home. Never add items from your own outdoor environment to your bearded dragon’s habitat, however, as they may be harmful.
  • Water and food dishes: Your pet should always have access to water, both to drink or lie in if they desire. Worm dishes are usually designed so that worms cannot wiggle their way out, but they can be used for anything you feed your bearded dragon.
  • A correctly sized habitat: A healthy adult bearded dragon can grow to 18 to 20 inches long, so providing them with the proper habitat throughout their life is very important.
     
    For baby bearded dragons, both Neil and Brandenburg suggest at least a 20-gallon tank, and then upgrading to a 40-gallon tank as they become full-sized adults. A 40-gallon tank right from the start is also appropriate for a juvenile. Petco offers bearded dragon kits that include the basics for bearded dragon pet parenthood. The Premium Juvenile Bearded dragon Kit, for example, contains a 20-gallon (long) terrarium with a basking spot lamp and mini compact fluorescent lamp, a reptile thermometer, food and water dish and some starter food, among other things. The kits are also available in a 40-gallon option (which is large enough to house one adult bearded dragon).

What to feed your Bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are omnivores, notes Brandenburg, which means they eat both meat and plants. In general, you should plan to feed your young bearded dragon a mix of 70 percent live insects like mealworms or crickets and 30 percent fresh veggies and fruit. Juvenile dragons can eat a larger portion of live food as they work up their taste for fruits and vegetables. As they reach adulthood, your bearded dragon will primarily eat 70-80 percent fruits and vegetables, supplemented with 20-30 percent insects and other protein sources. The commercial Bearded dragon food that you’ll find in Petco is specially formulated to help these animals meet their particular nutritional needs, so that’s a good option, as well.

While juvenile bearded dragons should be fed every day, adult dragons (those 1 year and older) can be fed three to five times a week. Both adults and juveniles require mineral supplements, which can be sprinkled on food, as well as once- or twice-weekly multivitamins.

How to handle your bearded dragon

How to hold a bearded dragonBearded dragons tend to bond with their pet parents, but you must take care when handling them. “As with all lizards, it’s always best to reach under the bearded dragon and to gently lift them up with all of their legs supported,” says Brandenburg. “At the same time, apply a small amount of pressure between the shoulder blades with your thumb so that they can’t wiggle out of your hand and get away.”

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any reptile.

Bearded dragons make wonderful pets, as long as they are provided with the proper habitat and diet and receive the right amount of attention and care. As with other pets, bearded dragons need regular veterinary checkups. For additional questions—or to meet some bearded dragons—connect with a Petco reptile expert at your neighborhood store.