This is just a general care sheet for bearded dragons and may not cover all aspect of caring for a bearded dragon. We highly encourage you to do your own research by reading up on care for a bearded dragon prior to purchasing a bearded dragon.
Housing Some of the housing options are: 1. Glass terrariums 2. Melamine cages 3. Plastic cages
When it comes to housings for a bearded dragon it is very important to choose it based on the size of the bearded dragon. A baby bearded dragon should be housed in a cage no smaller than a 20 gallon long glass terrarium tank with a screen lid, a substrate (See “Decors/Substrate” below), and very minimal cage decors. The 20 gallon long tank allows for adequate air flow and temperature gadient. If you are not using a glass terrarium, a cage of similar size to a 20 gallon long glass terrarium tank can be used along with what are listed above. This setting enables the baby bearded dragon to:
1. Easily catch the feeders that are offered, 2. Provide enough cage space for your bearded dragon to roam, 3. Enable adequate dissipation of heat, 4. Generate a temperature gradient across the cage, 5. And properly adjust its body temperature.
As the baby bearded dragon ages and gets bigger, so should the cage. This will ensure for proper growth rate of the bearded dragon. For an adult bearded dragon, it should be housed in nothing smaller than a 60 gallon long terrarium/aquarium tank. You do not have to get a tall cage as bearded dragons are not arboreal lizards. A general guideline is that the cage must be three times the length of your bearded dragon.
Note: A female bearded dragon that are a year old or older will lay eggs even if not bred. A separate bin filled with substrate needs to be set up so that the female bearded dragon can lay her eggs. If not laid, the female bearded dragon will become egg-bound which will dramtically shorten the life span of the female bearded dragon.
Housing Bearded Dragons Together Bearded dragons (especially adult males) are territorial. Thus, they do not need to have a cage mate. Babies - juveniles can be housed together depending on cage size; however, they should be similar in size if one is planning on housing them together. When housed together, one must monitor and ensure that all of the bearded dragons are getting access to food and water. It is common that one or more bearded dragons will dominate over other bearded dragons, which will lead to stressing the submissive bearded dragon(s) and to not eat. Subadults - adults should be housed individually. Similar sized females can be housed together.
Minimizing Stress and Cleaning: A bearded dragon will be stressed out when being relocated from one enclosure to another (or from one location to another). Thus, it is pertinent to attempt to minimize the relocation stress as much as possible. That may involve (i) handling the bearded dragon less often when it first arrive, (ii) covering the sides and back of your bearded dragon cage with white papers (if you are using glass terrarium tanks), (iii) placing the cage at waist level or higher, and (iv) adjusting the bearded dragon’s cage setup to suit the bearded dragon’s preference. Sometimes, limiting the presence of other household pets (i.e. dogs or cats) will also reduce the stress level too. All cages should be spot cleaned daily and disinfected once a week. Stools are is filled with harmless microbes normally found associated with that particular organism; however, it may potentially contain opportunistic pathogens that may cause illness for the bearded dragon. For any newly purchased dragon it should be housed individually and be monitored for any signs of illness, etc. prior to introducing it in with your other bearded dragon(s) and/or reptile(s).
Decors All cage décors should be kept to a minimum for baby to juvenile bearded dragons. The purpose of this is to allow for the babies and juveniles to easily hunt for their food. More importantly, this limits the amount of crevices where the feeders can potentially hide in. **Remember, once the lights go out your bearded dragon can and is the prey to the feeder bugs.** As your bearded dragon gets bigger you can introduce different cage décor and furnishings into its cage. Furnishings such as logs and hides should be big enough for your bearded dragon to climb onto and rest without difficulties. Additionally, a piece pf flat rock should be used to absorb and radiate the heat inside the cage. The source of underbelly heat will aid in the digestion of food.
Substrates There are multiple sources of substrates that one can use for their bearded dragon. It can range from sifted children play sand to newspapers, paper towels, shelf liners and cage liners. It is highly recommended that baby and juvenile bearded dragons be kept on paper towels or newspaper, and not on sand. Using paper towels or newspapers will reduce the possibility of an impaction. Once a dragon is 12 inches or bigger it can be switched over to other substrates such as sand if desired.
Lighting/Heating Two of the most essential things that a bearded dragon needs for proper growth besides being fed a highly nutritious diet are:
1.) An ultraviolet B (UVB) source. There are a variety of bulbs that one can use as a UVB light source. These ranges from coiled fluorescent bulbs to fluorescent tubes and mercury vapor bulbs.
2.) Temperature gradient from ~105°F (on the hot/basking side of the cage) to ~80°F-85°F (on the cool side) is what one should aim for when setting up the cage for their bearded dragon. This temperature gradient is a must as it enables the bearded dragon to regulate its body temperature when needed and to properly digest its food.
Note: An additional source of UVB and heat is from natural exposure to the sun. However, be sure to monitor your bearded dragon and provide shades and protections if you are planning to house your bearded dragon outside for a longer period of time.
Keep in mind that anything bigger than the distance between your bearded dragon’s eyes can potentially cause an impaction, and death of your bearded dragon, especially for those that are at a younger age.
There are a variety of insect feeder types to feed to your bearded dragon. Some of the more commonly used ones are: 1. Crickets 2. Dubia roaches 3. Reptiworms 4. Superworms 5. Silkworms 6. Hornworms 7. Lateralis roaches
Likewise, there are a variety of greens and vegetables that can be offered to bearded dragons. Some of the common ones used here at KP's Critters are: 1. Mustard Green 2. Collard Green 3. Turnip Green 4. Dandelion Green 5. Summer Squashes 6. Carrots 7. Diced Cactus Leaves
A baby to sub-adult bearded dragon should be offered at least 2-3 feedings daily starting with their greens/veggies first. Feeders should be dusted with calcium powder for every feeding. Calcium powder containing vitamin D3 should be used to dust feeders before feeding to a bearded dragon that is kept indoor. For a bearded dragon that is exposed natural sunlight or is kept outdoor, feeders can be dusted with calcium powder without vitamin D3. As a bearded dragon reaches a year old it should be offered more greens/veggies than insect feeders. Also, as an adult, one can reduce the amount of feeding to every other day if needed. Dusting the feeders with calcium powder can also be reduced to every other day. However, both male and female breeders should be fed more often, or accordingly, to ensure that they are fit for breeding.
Note: Do not recycle your feeders. Feeders will sample on your bearded dragon’s stool and will serve as the vector for transmitting potentially infectious microbes. For more details on what can and cannot be offered to your bearded dragon check out www.beautifuldragons.com. A great way to limit the the amount of loose feeders in the cage is to offer a small amount of feeder and let the bearded dragon eat all of them first. Subsequently, offer more for the next 5 minutes or until when it is full.