Congratulations on choosing a bearded dragon as the newest member of your household! Beardies make great pets because they are friendly and well tempered. They are naturally inquisitive and have lots of curious tendencies that make them an entertaining member of the family. While exotic, bearded dragons are very popular reptilian pets for these reasons and many more.

To keep your beardie around for its full life (on average, about ten years), you have to understand proper bearded dragon care. Like any pets, bearded dragons take a lot of work and know-how to care for properly. That said, these lizards face a lot of unique challenges. Their cold-blooded requires a proper heat source, humidity, and environment, unlike warm-blooded dogs, cats, and other favorite pets that are more adaptable to changing settings. Click on the images below to read our complete care guide.


TANKS AND TERRARIUMS

When you get your new baby bearded dragon, they can live in a standard 20gal glass tank found at most pet stores up to about 4 months old. Bearded dragons grow very rapidly for the first year so if you have the space it may be wise to start with a larger tank which they can grow into. A 40 gallon tank is the most common size for adult bearded dragons.

Enclosures come in all different shapes and sizes, most are made of glass, PVC plastic, or wood. They all do great jobs at housing your beardie, we cannot recommend one type over another, the most important thing is that your beardie has no problem reaching their basking temperatures.

 

Beardie Habitat Setup

Here is a video showing you how to setup a beardie's tank in 5 easy steps.

The most important part of your bearded dragon setup is creating separate basking and cool zones, as discussed in heat & lighting. The areas should be far enough away that your basking heat source isn’t impacting the lizard’s would-be cool zone. A bearded dragon’s habitat should also have other elements to mimic their natural habitat.

Beardies love to climb, so including a large branch for them to scale is a good start. It’s also nice to give them some shelter. These reptiles are known to burrow and enjoy a nice shady spot to sleep. Your local pet store will sell a number of reptile houses (large rock shelters) that your beardie will love. Remember, it is easy to do too much, especially if you have a smaller tank! Your beardie should have plenty to climb and interact with, but don’t crowd them in too much!

 

SUBSTRATE

Substrate is whats used for the floor of the enclosure. Some common and safe substrates include reptile carpet, newspaper, paper towels, tile. There is a lot of debate about safe and healthy substrates to use, every owner eventually finds what works best for them. We recommend avoiding any loose substrate like sand or dirt! Baby beardies especially are prone to impaction from eating sand with their food.

 

Decor & Hides

Bearded Dragon Half Log

You can get creative and use any type of decor in your bearded dragon's tank that is non toxic and will serve a purpose. We like to use hammocks and half logs in our tanks for them to hide underneath or hang out on top. We also use a second log on top of the half log for them to climb up higher to the basking area, discussed further in the heating & lighting section. We also use small artificial plants or leaves, our beardies like to hide underneath or climb on top. Just remember not to use too much decor as your beardie still needs space to walk around.

       

      Cleaning

      Whether your tank is brand new or used, its important to start completely fresh by sanitizing it. We always begin with a Quat disinfectant cleaner. These are what they use in hospitals to remove any harmful bacteria or germs that may linger on surfaces. You can find these on Amazon or home depot for pretty cheap around $10 a bottle.

      You want to get all the walls and corners, wiping down the entire interior. Once you are done sanitizing, you want to wipe it down with water to get all the disinfectant residue out. Quat cleaners are really strong and can potentially harm your beardie if ingested, so be very thorough when rinsing it out with water, we recommend rinsing with water twice to be safe.

      You can follow this same process every couple of weeks to ensure your beardie's tank is constantly clean and sanitized. Overtime tanks will produce bacteria in a number of ways and can potentially lead to your dragon's illness. Make sure to clean up your beardie's soil after each bowel movement, this is usually once a day but can be up to once a week for some adults.

       

      Ideal Enclosure Checklist:

      • At least two hides, for hot and cool side. ( We use a Half log & hammock)
      • Substrate- repticarpet, paper towel, newspaper, NO SAND!
      • Large Enough Tank: 20gal for babies, 40gal for sub adult- adult
      • Don't overdo the decor, give your beardie some space to walk around.

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      HEAT for Bearded Dragons

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      Its very important for your beardie's immediate and longterm health to maintain a consistent heating gradient in their enclosure. You can reach ideal temperatures by trying different Watt heat bulbs and creating a basking area where they can climb up closer to the lamp. Their "basking spot" (the closest spot under the heat lamp) should be anywhere from 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit and there should be a cooler area on the other side of the tank that can be anywhere from 80-95 degrees.  

      If you are not getting the basking temps right, you should try different Watt bulbs ranging from 25w-150w. The strength of the bulb generally depends on the size of your tank and how much air circulation there is (e.g. top of tank is screen or closed top, ventilation on sides). Any basic thermometer can help you read the temps inside the terrarium but the most accurate are the temp guns, where you can point a laser at a certain spot and it reads the temperature very accurately.

       

      Basking and Cool Zones For A Bearded Dragon

      Providing your bearded dragon with different heat sources helps generate a gradient of temperatures throughout the beardie’s environment. This is important as, throughout the day, your new pet will require areas to bask in (a raised flat rock or branch will do) that need a direct, secondary heat source. Your bearded dragon also needs cool zones away from this direct heat and out of the light.

       

      UVB LIGHTING for Bearded Dragons

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      Proper UVB lighting is a necessity for your beardie's longterm health. You can use any UVB bulb rated for desert reptiles for the duration of the day and turn them off at night (use a timer). They usually come in 18 and 24 inches and can be found at all major pet stores or online. The light and fixture should be placed in the center of the tank. 

      Pet bearded dragons receive light from three common sources: visible white light (through fluorescent or incandescent lamps), ultraviolet light and natural sunlight. Visible light sources produce heat and help you see your beardie. UVB and sunlight are vital to your lizard's survival. Beardies absorb the UVB rays of the sun to obtain essential vitamin D3, which these lizards use to absorb calcium and other essential nutrients. It's crucial that any UVB lights you buy your beardie are a full spectrum UVB light and not UBB. Also, if you're able to give your new pet direct sunlight, make sure that he or she still has some shady spots to hide and cool down. And, due to the greenhouse effect, it's important to know that sunlight and UV rays do not pass through glass enclosures.

      Its also important for your beardie to have a place to hide from the light when it wants to cool down or rest. Common things to put in their tanks where they can take cover are hollow logs, plastic caves, hammocks, etc. Companies like Zilla, Zoo-Med, and many others make excellent, safe accessories for your beardies habitat.

       

      Bearded Dragon Humidity

      Aside from proper temperature and lights, bearded dragons also require the right level of humidity. The natural habitat for a bearded dragon is essentially the desert, so their bodies don't require a lot of water to survive. They'll get most of their daily water needs from food, but you should also make fresh drinking water available too. Don't be surprised if they treat their water bowl as a little soaking tub too. Humidity gets unusually low in the winter, and many bearded dragon owners keep a spray bottle full of water on hand to occasionally spritz their scaley companion. You can measure the humidity with a hygrometer.

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      Bearded Dragon Diet & Nutrition

      Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means they aren't picky about what they eat! They enjoy eating both animals and plants. On the carnivorous side, bearded dragons will eat insects (crickets, super worms, and roaches) and even pinkie mice and smaller lizards. For plant matter, beardies will happily eat most cut up vegetables, and some will eat fruits. When possible, opt for the foods with the most nutritional value. For example, romaine lettuce is far more nutritious than iceberg lettuce.

       

      Bearded Dragon Diet

      Again, your bearded dragon is an omnivorous creature, so its diet needs to have both plant and animal matter. For plant matter, the dietary options are limited. But, there are a lot of vegetables and fruits that your beardie can safely eat and enjoy. It’s important to make sure that you give them some variety; beardies can get bored of eating the same thing over and over again, just like humans! Also, it’s good to pay attention to which foods they like the most, so you know how to treat them to something special! It’s important to understand that the dietary needs of bearded dragons change slightly based on their age.

       

      Bearded Dragon Feeding

      Not only do dietary needs of beardies change based on size/age, but so do feeding methods. In their infantile stages, bearded dragons are much more fragile because they haven’t fully developed. This needs to be taken into account when feeding hatchlings. Live crickets and roaches aren’t going to stay in one place, which gives your beardie some exercise and hunting experience. Other food should be placed in their food dish. Not only does this help train your bearded dragon to know where to look for its food, but it helps increase the longevity of whatever material you’ve chosen as your tank’s substrate.

       

      Feeding A Baby Bearded Dragon

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      Newly hatched beardies require a lot more feeding care. Hatchlings need a lot of protein to facilitate their growth and development. So, feeding them protein-rich prey is essential. The best option is small crickets, as these are size-appropriate and easy for a little beardie to manage. Mealworms, on the other hand, have harder shells, which can cause difficulty chewing for young dragons.

      For plant material, make sure there’s always leafy greens available to nibble on. This is especially important if you’re keeping multiple hatchlings in the same enclosure. These always-available greens will prevent the hatchlings from nipping at each other in between cricket feedings.

      Bearded dragons need plenty of water in their early stages. Misting the cage walls, decorations and even the baby beardies themselves is crucial towards ensuring that these younglings get the water they need. You can use a dropper if the hatchlings aren't correctly lapping at the water droplets.

       

      Feeding An Adult Bearded Dragon

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      Whereas baby beardies require roughly 40-60% protein in their diets, adult dragons only need about 25% protein and 75% plant materials. Adult bearded dragons have a much more diverse number of food options, which adds a lot of flexibility. They also don’t require food as often as young hatchlings. An adult beardie may only need to be fed once a day. That said, it is essential to make that feeding time routine, so your reptile knows when to expect food.

      Because bearded dragons are so friendly and docile by nature, you can hand-feed your adult dragon its vegetables and fruits, if you want. Otherwise, they are happy just eating out of their food dish. Insects, especially crickets, and other live prey should be dropped into the enclosure for your beardie to hunt on his own. This helps ensure he or she gets some exercise!

      Adult beardies can be offered a number of new things that they couldn’t eat as a baby or adolescent, such as pinkie mice or small lizards. Some owners even offer their lizard canned dog food or softened rabbit pellets! Beardies really aren't picky eaters. These types of items should be provided very sparingly (once every three weeks to a month). Otherwise, you can easily overfeed your pet.

       

      Bugs and Insects for protein

      Common bugs used as staple feeders include: Crickets, Roaches, Super Worms, Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Phoenix worms), and Hornworms. There are a few other acceptable bug and insect species but these are the most nutritious for your dragon and can be found at most pet stores and all over the internet.

      Juvenile and sub adult beardies should be fed a variety of bugs from the list above 1-3 times per day. By feeding them as much as they can eat in one sitting, you can get a feel for what they are capable of. You can tell you are overfeeding bugs if they look really bloated and poop more often than usual. You can tell you are underfeeding bugs if your beardie appears to look skinny and has smaller than usual bowel movements.

      Its also important to "gut load" your insects with nutrients by making sure they are eating the appropriate food for that specific species. There are many companies in pet stores and online that sell special made food for gut loading your insects.

       

      Buying And Keeping Crickets And Superworms

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      Bearded dragon owners need to keep a supply of crickets and superworms on hand for feeding. Thus, it is essential to have another enclosure to house your beardie’s food supply and keep them alive long enough for feeding time. The good news is that these insects require very little to survive. Crickets are good with small scraps of newspaper or an empty egg carton for housing, a damp paper towel for water and food, like fish food flakes, thin-sliced carrots, oats and more. There’s also specially made cricket food. It’s more expensive but ensures that your crickets are healthy and nutrient-rich when you feed them to your beardie.

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      Superworms and mealworms are even easier to keep. All you need is a container with a ventilated top, about four inches of dirt at the bottom and an occasional fruit slice or vegetable scrap. If you want to breed superworms or crickets (which can help save you money at the pet store!), you will want to do some additional research.

       

      Greens & Veggies

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      Common greens and veggies to feed as a staple include: Collard Greens, Mixed Spring Greens, Kale, Spinach, Mustard Greens, Dandelion Greens, Turnip Greens, and Butternut Squash. There are much longer lists of acceptable fruits and veggies online but these are the ones my beardies tend to love the most.

      Beardies can be fed any of these veggies shredded or torn into small pieces based on the dragon's size. Its ideal to get some greens in their diet everyday but some dragons can be picky and only want bugs. If your beardie doesn't seem to eat any veggies offered you can offer less bugs overtime while keeping a variety of greens in their tank and they should eventually begin eating the veggies.

       

      Bearded Dragon Supplements

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      Vitamin and mineral supplements are a great way to ensure that your beardie gets all of the nutrients they need. These supplements are sold in a powder form, which allows you to dust any food you feed your lizard, even crickets and worms! The best tactic is to put some of the supplement powder into a ziplock bag or closable container. Then, add whatever critter or plant matter you’re feeding your bearded dragon and shake the container or bag. This will coat the food in the supplement and enrich its nutritional value. If it is a live creature, like a cricket, don’t shake too much. Otherwise, you might kill the cricket and rob your beardie of the fun of hunting!

       

      CALCIUM WITH VITAMIN D3

      Since our captive dragons generally don't get enough sun its necessary to supplement Calcium in their diet with powders. Many different companies make quality Calcium powder for reptiles. Its best to get one with Vitamin D3 as its an added bonus for beardies. Calcium can be dusted on your bugs by shaking them in a bag or container with the powder before feeding to your dragon.

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      How to Handle Bearded Dragons

       

      Properly Handling A Bearded Dragon

      Here is a basic video on handling both baby and adult bearded dragons

      As a bearded dragon owner, picking up and handling your beardie is something that you’ll do a lot during its lifespan. It’s one of the first things you have to learn as a new pet owner. Luckily, these reptiles are naturally calm and mild-mannered, so it won’t take long for them to get used to being handled.

       

      When you go to pick up your dragon, make sure you approach it slowly and from an angle where they can see you coming. You don't want to surprise it or grab it too fast. You should use both your hands and slide them under the reptile's belly. This will ensure that you support the lizard's entire body as you lift it off the ground. You can even use your forearm to support its tail. Do not squeeze the lizard and, if it starts to try and escape, set it down and let it do so. You want your beardie to feel secure and ready to be picked up. If it isn’t comfortable, just try again later.

       

      You can help encourage a bearded dragon's comfort with being picked up by associating it with getting a treat. Once a bearded dragon gets comfortable being handled, they'll enjoy the activity. They will likely use your chest or shoulders as a perch, but make sure you are ready to catch them if they fall or get prepared to jump! Handling your bearded dragon is entirely safe, but you should wash your hands afterward.

       

      Shedding Bearded Dragon

      The last bit of information about bearded dragon care is with regards to shedding. This is something that your beardie will do every so often. You’ll know that they are shedding because you’ll find scraps of the dead skin in their enclosure and it will be visible on the reptile’s body. Shedding is necessary, but definitely your dragon’s least favorite time. So, expect them to be a little grumpy; they might not like you handling them during the weeks of their shedding cycle.

       

      There's not a lot you can do to help your bearded dragon through this process, aside from providing them with their regular healthy diet. You may be able to find specific bearded dragon supplements or foods that help, but otherwise you really just need to be patient. Do not try and peel their shedding skin for them. This can damage the new skin coming through.

       

      Instead, you can give your beardie a lukewarm bath for 10 to 20 minutes. While they soak, you can gently rub his skin, which will cause some dead skin to flake off and will make the shedding period a little less agitating for your pet. Also, extra moisture in a spray bottle can help. Just be sure that you dry your beardie off before returning him to his cage.

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