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Basic Supplies & Care for Bearded Dragons

Even-tempered and social, bearded dragons make excellent pets. With a little preparation, welcoming one into your home is easy and rewarding.

Your dragon’s den

Recreating your pet’s natural environment takes some preparation, but it’s crucial to your dragon’s well-being.

Shopping list for new Bearded Dragon parents

  • Book about Bearded Dragons for reference
  • Fully enclosed habitat with substrate
  • Hideaway place
  • Climbing décor
  • Plants and moss
  • Heat lamp and fixture
  • Thermometer and humidity gauge
  • Under-tank heater
  • UVB light
  • Commercial food and treats
  • Food and water dishes
  • Cricket keeper, cricket quencher and cricket food
  • Mealworms
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements

Size and setup
Pet parents have options for habitat setups. Pet stores carry a variety of Bearded Dragon habitat kits that are complete with almost everything you need to build a comfortable home for your new pet. Another good choice is a basic build-it-yourself setup that will let you customize your reptile’s home to fit their unique personality.

A deluxe build-it-yourself habitat will truly pamper your Bearded Dragon but requires accessories that are suitable to a larger space (more plants, higher wattage bulbs, etc.). Although size and growth rates in dragons may vary, it’s always best to provide your pet with a larger habitat to meet your pet’s comfort and activity needs as they grow.

Substrate
This is what goes on the floor of your pet’s habitat. Calcium based sand is our favorite, but repti-carpet is a good alternative. Pet parents should never use silica-sand because ingesting this type of sand can cause your pet serious injury.

Light, temperature and humidity
Bearded Dragons need to bask in full-spectrum UVB lighting for 10–12 hours each day. For heating, incandescent bulbs should only be used during daylight hours, but a ceramic heater or black heat light can be used during all hours. Since reptiles can’t regulate their own body temperature, it’s important to set up a hot and cool side of the habitat with temperatures at around 100°F at one end and around 70°F at the other. Humidity should be less than 50%.

Décor
Pet stores carry a wide variety of rocks, plants and logs that mimic your pet’s natural environment, regulate habitat temperature and provide a hiding place for a sense of personal security. Never add rocks, plants or logs from outside to your pet’s habitat.

Neighbors
While baby Bearded Dragons that are similar in size can comfortably share a space, adult males are territorial and won’t be comfortable with another dragon’s company. Pet parents should never house different reptile species in the same habitat.

Dragon diets
Pet parents can satisfy their Bearded Dragon’s appetite with a mix of 70% gut-loaded (recently fed), live insects like crickets or mealworms to 30% fresh fruits and veggies. With juvenile dragons, live food can make up a larger part of the ratio until they develop a taste for produce. Commercial Bearded Dragon food is specially formulated to meet this balance, so it’s an excellent alternative.

Feeding habits
Juvenile dragons must be fed daily. When your dragon is fully grown—at about one year old—you can scale feeding back to 3-5 times a week. Mineral supplements should be sprinkled on your pet’s food daily, and you can also add a multi-vitamin supplement once or twice a week. Fresh, chlorine-free water should be available for your dragon at all times, and remember to discard uneaten fruits or vegetables after 24 hours to avoid spoilage.

Handle with care
Bearded Dragons are usually pretty happy to be held by pet parents. Your dragon’s “beard”—the flap of skin on the neck—is the best sign that your pet is having a good time. Bearded Dragons extend this skin when they feel disturbed, so a soft beard means your dragon feels content.

Pet parents should always wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling reptiles. Generally, pregnant women, children under the age of five and people with weakened immune systems should avoid handling reptiles.

Healthy dragons

Signs that you should contact your veterinarian include:

  • Extreme weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Mucus in mouth or around nose
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding for abnormally long periods of time
  • Bumps, sores or abrasions on skin
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs or tail
  • Runny stool

Signs of good health include:

  • Active and alert behavior
  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy looking skin
  • Firm droppings
  • Regular eating habits