Caring for a Bearded Dragon
Origin: Central Australia
Size: Females can grow up to 24", males up to 36"
Lifespan: Approximately 10 - 15 years
Being very social reptiles, they have grown to be extremely popular in the pet trade. With endearing qualities like head bobbing and arm waving, they are very interactive with their owners and not only tolerate handling, they seem to enjoy it!
Your juvenile Beardie will need at least a 10 gallon glass aquarium with a screen cover and an under tank heater to get started. An adult Beardie is happiest in at least a 40 gallon tank. It's best to keep your juvenile Beardie on either reptile carpet, paper towels, or newspaper to avoid ingestion of the substrate. Adults can be kept on variety of substrates such as crushed walnut or sand as well as reptile carpet or paper towels. Water should be available at all times in a shallow dish, and you should mist your Beardie daily and as needed during periods of shedding.
Being a desert animal, Beardies will require both basking and UVA/UVB lighting in order to maintain proper health and growth. This means they will require three bulbs: an incandescent daytime heat bulb, a nighttime heat bulb, and aUVA/UVB bulb. The daytime bulb should put the temperature of the basking area at around 110 degrees, with the cooler side of the tank ranging down to 85 degrees. At night, the tank should maintain a temperature of about 80 degrees. The fluorescent bulb used must provide 10% UVA/UVB in order to meet the Beardie's needs. Humidity should not reach over 45%.
Being omnivorous, Beardies eat both meat and vegetables. As juveniles, they will rely mainly on high protein meals in order to move through their rapid growth stage. As they mature, you can begin to introduce them to veggies and fruits. As adults, they will be on a 50/50 diet of protein/plant matter. It's great to dust these meals with calcium powder for at least two feedings a week for adults, three for a juvenile. One of these dustings should be with calcium containing the vitamin D3.
The cage substrate should be spot cleaned daily, and the entire tank should be wiped down with terrarium cleaner once a week.
Bearded Dragons should not be offered food larger than the space between their eyes because not only is it a choking hazard, but an impaction hazard, as they may not be able to pass the food item through their system.
The main health concern with Beardies is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which results from a lack of proper lighting and poor feeding habits.
ALWAYS wash your hands after handling any reptile!