Bearded Dragon Care

Did you know that bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptiles? They’re quite easy to care for, which means that they are suitable for first-time reptile owners. Unlike many other reptiles, they don’t get too big: the average adult beardie is about two feet long. You won’t have to worry about getting a huge enclosure. And while all beardies are unique, many of these guys are also naturally friendly. In fact, some are quite affectionate, which is rather unusual for reptiles. These little lizards are also quite cute and charming. Plus, they’re fairly easy to keep, which makes them a good match for first-time reptile owners. A local Live Oak, FL vet goes over some of the basics of beardie care in this article.

Bearded Dragon Basics

The Bearded dragon is native to central Australia. These guys usually live about 8 to 10 years, with good care. That’s a fairly significant commitment, so be sure to think carefully before adopting.

Beardies are generally a sort of sandy color. This helps them blend into their native environment. Some, however, may be yellow or orange.

Wondering where these cute reptiles got their name? When they are scared, they flare out the skin under their chins, which will make them look like they have a beard.

What Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?

These lovable lizards are omnivores, so they eat both plants and insects. Though the bugs will make up the majority of your pet’s menu, the proportions and feeding schedules will change over time. Younger dragons need more insects to provide protein for their growing bodies, while adults can eat more produce and fewer bugs. So, while a juvenile may eat as many as 60 crickets daily, adults may only need whatever they can eat in about 15 minutes.

Insects: For creepy-crawlies, you can feed your lizard buddy Dubia roaches, crickets, butterworms, hornworms, wasps, elder bugs, or mealworms. (It’s worth noting that a beardie may not be the best option for someone with a weak stomach for bugs.) Only offer store-bought insects, as wild bugs could be contaminated by pesticides, and/or could potentially be carrying parasites or diseases. You’ll have to dust your tiny dinosaur’s bugs with nutritional powder before they become his lunch. This is called gut-loading, and ensures that the reptile is getting proper nutrition. Remove uneaten bugs within a few hours, as they can bite.

Produce: Your reptilian buddy can also eat certain fruits and veggies. Ask your vet for specific recommendations. Offer your pet lizard a lot of green leafy veggies, such as dandelion, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, cabbage, parsley, and endive. Bearded dragons can also have certain yellow, red, and orange veggies, such as bell peppers, carrots, red tomatoes, and butternut squash. Many herbs, such as mint and sage, are also safe.

Fruits are fine in small portions, and make good treats. Don’t go overboard here, though, as they are high in sugar. Strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, dates, and apricots are good options. Be sure to wash the produce before handing it over!

Flowers: Your lizard pal can also eat flowers. Dandelions, roses, carnations, and geraniums are all fine. Not all flowers are safe, so be sure to do some research before offering them to your little dinosaur. Also, don’t give your beardie any flowers that have been treated with pesticides.

Water: Dehydration can be an issue with bearded dragons. Make sure your reptilian friend always has fresh water. Your beardie will also benefit from regular soaks.

Your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs will change over time. Consult your vet regularly.

Picking Out A Bearded Dragon’s Terrarium

The size habitat you need will really depend on how big your little dinosaur is. A baby beardie should have at least a 20-gallon terrarium. However, these guys grow fast, so you may want to go ahead and get a 40-gallon one. A full-grown dragon will need at least a 70-gallon habitat. That’s quite large, so that is something to think about before adopting one of these pretty lizards. As far as dimensions, the cage should be more long and wide than it is tall. For substrate, you can use newspaper, butcher paper, or reptile carpet. If you use paper, you’ll need to change it daily. Sand is an option for adults, but we wouldn’t recommend sand substrates for young dragons. Baby lizards can swallow the particles. That can lead to intestinal blockages, which can be fatal. Ask your Live Oak, FL vet for specific advice.

Temperature Parameters For Bearded Dragon Habitats

Like most other reptiles, bearded dragons have very specific requirements as far as temperature needs. These little dinosaurs regulate their internal temperature by moving from hot to cool areas and back, so you’ll have to set the terrarium up in a way that creates different temperature zones, or gradients. The warmer end of the habitat should be around 95 to 105F. The cooler end can be around 85. The entire habitat can be cooler at night.

You’ll need to check these temperatures a few times a day, which will require you to get a few good thermometers. Pick one that includes a hygrometer so you can check humidity as well.

What Accessories Does My Bearded Dragon Need?

Your beardie will need some furniture and accessories. A basking spot is a must! Some of the things you can use include driftwood, large rocks, or even grape vines. Whatever you pick, choose something sturdy. You don’t want it falling over on your pet dragon! Plants are also a good option. Just keep in mind that beardies sometimes eat real ones. Take care not to add anything that could be toxic. You’ll also want to provide at least one hide.

Don’t forget dinnerware! We would recommend choosing shallow bowls for your pet’s dishes. This is extremely important with baby lizards, as they can drown in deep bowls. The bowls should be in the cooler end of the terrarium, so the food doesn’t spoil as quickly.

Heat/Lighting For Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons require full-spectrum lighting. UVB light is crucial for these guys, as without it, they cannot properly process calcium or vitamin D. This can lead to severe health issues. One of the most concerning is metabolic bone disease, or MBD, which is debilitating and very painful.

In the wild, bearded dragons get their UVB from sunlight. Your pet will live indoors, so you’ll need to get special bulbs.

There are a few things to consider here. Young beardies may need stronger bulbs than adults, so you’ll want to check with your vet regularly. The lights should also be set on a timed, 12-hour cycle.

Proper setup is also important. Fluorescent bulbs should be at least a foot away from your dragon. Otherwise, your reptilian pal could get burnt!

Finally, be sure to replace the bulbs regularly. Because of the way these wear out, they sometimes lose significant power before you notice anything different.

What Are The Signs Of Sickness in Beardies?

Bearded dragons usually tend to be hardy and healthy, as long as they are getting proper care. However, like any other pet, they are susceptible to illness and injury. It’s important to pay attention to your beardie, and watch for signs that something is amiss.

Here are a few of the most common red flags to watch for:

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

Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of these things.

Conclusion: Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptiles, and it’s not too hard to see why. Beardies are really cute! They sometimes beg for attention, and sometimes enjoy going for walks. However, they do need specific care. Talk to your Live Oak, FL vet before adopting one.

Do you have questions about caring for a bearded dragon? Contact us, your local Live Oak, FL pet hospital, today!

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