Bearded dragons make an excellent addition as a pet to any family especially if you have kids that want a reptile because bearded dragons have a very easy going attitude. They are great for beginners and are becoming very popular as pets, but dragons are a serious commitment and do require some special care. For a bearded dragon to live a long healthy life, it needs a proper enclosure and a proper diet
Before you even choose a bearded dragon, you need to set up the enclosure and make sure it is ready to go before you bring the bearded dragon home. Baby dragons can be housed in a 20-30 gallon enclosure and adult dragons need to be housed in at least a 40 gallon breeder enclosure. Now dragons grow fast, so I just bought the 40 gallon breeder to save money from buying two different enclosures. You need to use a screen top to provide air circulation and to let the humidity out. Dragons are from the desert region and do not need any humidity in their enclosure.
Along with choosing the right enclosure, bearded dragons also need special lighting. They are diurnal lizards and require twelve to fourteen hours of UVB light a day to process calcium and vitamin D3. The best way to provide them with this lighting is taking them outside and let them enjoy the sun. It can be difficult to provide this all the time, so you can use a UVB fluorescent tube as long as the bearded dragon can get within five to six inches of it and the UV rays are not going through glass because glass will reflect the UV rays and make it useless for the bearded dragon. The UVB in the fluorescent tubes does run out and you have to replace the tube every four to six months. You know it is time to replace it the bulb when your bearded dragon is slowing down and is not as active as he/she usually is.
As with any other reptile, bearded dragons can’t digest their food without heat. A dragon’s basking spot should range between 100-110 degrees farenheight for baby bearded dragons to sub-adults and 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit for adults. You can provide this with a regular 75 watt house bulb. The cool side of the cage should be around 85 degrees farenheight. It is very important to have a warm and cool side because dragons need to thermo regulate their body temperature. At night time, temperatures can fall down to 65 degrees farenheight but not below that. It is very important that you never use heat rocks because they will burn your bearded dragon. Dragons sense heat using the top of their heads and heat rocks only provide heat to their belly. A dragon will never know if it is too hot and will just sit there, even if it is burning him/her.
The last two things you will need for a bearded dragon’s enclosure is substrate and decoration. For baby dragons, it is best to use paper towels, newspaper, or repti-carpet because they poop a lot and it is easier to clean up poop on these substrates. As they reach adult hood, you can use play sand but I prefer to keep using repti-carpet. You do not want to use sand for baby dragons because they can get compacted from it. Sand is not the only thing that can cause compaction, any loose substrate can cause it. You will also need some decoration in the cage. You do not need much, you only need a branch, or something similar, so a dragon can get close to the heat and UVB light and a cave on the cool side of the cage.
Now that your dragon’s enclosure is finished, you need to know how to feed your dragon. Bearded dragons are omnivores so there is a variety of live food items that you can feed to your dragon. Some of these food items are healthier than others. The healthiest food you could feed to your dragon are crickets. An alternative to crickets are super worms. The rule for feeding live food to your bearded dragons is the width of the food item should be no larger than the width between your dragon’s eyes. If it is larger than your dragon’s eyes, it could cause impaction. You can also feed your dragon mealworms and wax worms as a treat. You should feed a baby dragon three times a day, a sub-adult two times a day, and an adult once every other day. Do not feed wild bugs because they could have parasites or pesticides that can harm or kill your dragon.
A dragon also needs to be fed vegetables everyday starting a week after it was born. Here are some healthy vegetables you can feed; Dandelion greens, Collard greens, Mustard greens, Bok choy, Kale, Turnip greens, Escarole, Chicory, Butternut squash, Any form of squash, Green beans, and Parsnips. You should not feed spinach because it causes calcium to bind and won’t be digested. The vegetables should be diced up to be smaller than the width between your bearded dragon’s eyes.
Even though bearded dragons are becoming more popular as pets because of their docile temperament, they do require special care and attention. With a proper enclosure and a proper diet, your dragon will live a long healthy life.