Bearded Dragon Care 101 – Full Guide

Bearded dragons are one of the most fascinating pets to care for and own. They are curious, interesting, and love exploring. However, if you are considering owning a bearded dragon, there are a few things that you should know in order to have a happy and healthy bearded dragon for years to come. This guide will help you in knowing all about bearded dragons, as well as how to care for them, and what truly makes them one of the best pets to own.

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What are Bearded Dragons?

Bearded dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets. There are eight different species of bearded dragons. While they look quite intimidating and threatening, they actually tend to be more docile. The bearded dragon looks reminiscent of their name and resembles miniature dragons. They have tiny spiny scales all over their body, including under their chin, which gives them a beard. This beard has the ability to puff up. These reptiles are active during the day and are naturally found in most parts of Australia.

Bearded dragons are from areas of Australia that are dry and warm. However, they can be found in subtropical woodlands and savannas. Even though Australia has a ban against the transportation of bearded dragons, the ones that were in the United States before the ban were bred. These are the pets that we know and love today. The bearded dragons that are bred in the United States can have uniquely different color patterns than those that are found in their natural habitat in Australia.

Bearded dragons rely on the warmth of their environment to survive. This is because they are cold-blooded creatures and need external sources of heat to help themselves regulate their body temperature. If the sun gets too hot for them, they simply dig underground to hide from the sun and cool their bodies down. Bearded dragons will also dig into the ground if they are trying to escape predators or feel threatened. Although bearded dragons are commonly seen scurrying on the ground, they can also be found on top of tree branches.

Behavior of Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons, while somewhat docile pets, can be territorial. This is especially true in male bearded dragons. In the wild, bearded dragons need to maintain their territory in order to survive. Keeping a territory means that there would be less competition for food and females. If a male encroaches on another male’s territory, a fight could ensue. This is why the beard of the bearded dragons is crucial, which can be found on both males and females, as it is a means of communication.

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If the bearded dragon feels that it has been threatened or is on the verge of attack, it will first give a warning. This warning will be the bearded dragon puffing out its beard and opening their mouth. The bearded dragon may also make a hissing noise. They may also begin to bob their head up and down or change the color of their own beard. If the bearded dragon waves its hand and bobs its head, that means it is being submissive.

In the wild, when the temperatures begin to fall in the winter and fall, the bearded dragon may enter a form of hibernation in order to preserve its body mass. They will stop eating and will only drink on occasion. In general, this phase only lasts until the temperatures begin to rise again.

Courtship and Breeding of Bearded Dragons

During courtship, the male bearded dragon will go to various lengths to impress the female and has a special ritual. The male bearded dragon will begin by stomping his feet into the ground, at different times. Then, he will bob his head and wave. When the male bearded dragon finds a female that he wants to mate with, he will chase her and bite her neck.

Why Are Bearded Dragons Awesome Pets?

When someone considers having a bearded dragon as a pet, their first question may be, “Why are bearded dragons good pets?”. While bearded dragons are one of the most popular pets around, they are also considered one of the easiest reptiles to care for. There are also other reasons why you may want to consider a bearded dragon as your next pet.

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Their Appearance is Unique

Bearded dragons are one of the most unique looking reptiles, partially because they resemble a dragon. Bearded dragons look prehistoric and their beards are a unique attribute that they possess. Breeders have been breeding bearded dragons for many years, resulting in unique color combinations. These colors are referred to as morphs and include red, yellow, and orange. Their scaly skin resembles tough snakeskin and they have frog-like tongues.

Their Maintenance is Low

Bearded dragons are considered to be one of the easiest reptiles and lizards to take care of, making them an excellent choice for a pet. A lizard requires much less attention and maintenance then, say, a dog. While bearded dragons do require specialized food, they are not typically picky eaters and enjoy many different varieties of food. Even when compared to turtles, the needs of a bearded dragon are minimal. As long as you provide your bearded dragon with the necessities it needs, you can be reassured that they will be content.

Their Behavior is Interesting

Bearded dragons have a very engaging and interesting set of behaviors that can keep their owners entertained for hours. Their temperament is considered to be mild, which means they have one of the best temperaments of all pet lizards. Some bearded dragons love to interact with their owners, as well as exploring outside their enclosure. There are even bearded dragon specific leashes that are available to take your beardie exploring outside. Of course, your bearded dragon will always need to be supervised outside of its enclosure. Bearded dragons have a unique set of behaviors that are fun to watch as well, from arm waving to head bobbing.

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Their Lifespan is Long

If you provide your bearded dragon with everything it needs to survive, you can expect your bearded dragon to live a long life. This means that your bearded dragon will need access to proper nutrition, housing, and vet care. Bearded dragons that live in captivity live around ten to fifteen years old. Sometimes, they live even longer than this.

They Do Not Emit Foul Odors

It was a previous myth that bearded dragons, as well as other reptiles, are quite smelly. However, bearded dragons, as well as their habitat, do not emit a foul smell. Not properly cleaning out your bearded dragons enclosure or not cleaning it out frequently enough could lead to odors. This means that you should be regularly cleaning out old food, as well as fecal matter. If you clean regularly you will notice that your bearded dragon does not emit a smell at all.

They are a Compact Size

Bearded dragons are a great pet for those wanting a small reptile. Compared to a lot of pets that you have to choose from, bearded dragons are a smaller and much more compact size. Adult bearded dragons could be anywhere from eighteen to twenty-four inches long. While this may seem large to some, bearded dragons can still be held in your hand. This also means that they do not take up as much room when it comes to their housing needs and supplies.

You are Encouraged to Take Them Out of Their Enclosure

When your new bearded dragon comes home with you, you can take it out of its enclosure. Speak to the person who is knowledgeable on bearded dragon behavior who you got the bearded dragon from if you have any questions on the matter. It is generally encouraged to take your bearded dragon out frequently, around once a day, so that it can grow accustomed to the new environment that it is in. This means that you can place your bearded dragon in your room and let them roam around. You always want to make sure that you are keeping your bearded dragon safe and are keeping a close eye on them.

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Costs of Caring For A Bearded Dragon

When considering owning a bearded dragon, you may be curious as to how much it costs to own one and what the costs are that are involved. While owning a bearded dragon is considered inexpensive compared to other reptiles, it can still come with a heavy price tag. This is because you want to make sure that you get everything necessary for keeping your bearded dragon happy and healthy.

Enclosure $100 – $300

Housing costs are going to be the most expensive costs you run into when it comes to bearded dragons. Under housing costs, you will need an enclosure. This can be anywhere from forty to three-hundred dollars. Price points can depend on the size, as well as the quality of the enclosure. In general, the larger an enclosure is for a bearded dragon then the better it is for them. This is because bearded dragons love to walk around and explore. The minimum requirements for a bearded dragon is a 125 gallon aquarium, which is for an adult.

Screen Enclosure Top $20 – $50

For the top of your enclosure, you will need a screen top. You will want to make sure that this screen top is a snug fit. The screen top allows for air flow, protection, and allows the bearded dragon to feel the heat from the lamp.

Substrate $0 – $30

Substrate is what will be used over the bottom of the enclosure. How much you spend on substrate will depend on what material you choose to use. While old newspapers may be free to use, you may not like how they look inside the enclosure. One commonly used type of substrate is called Calci-Sand.

Lighting $40 – $60

For lighting, you will need a full-spectrum lighting fixture for your enclosure. This is because full spectrum lighting gives off both UVA and UVB rays. These types of rays are important for the bearded dragon’s health. You will need a heat lamp that is specifically for reptiles.

Thermometers $15

It is essential to monitor the temperature of your bearded dragons enclosure, as this is vital to their survival. You will want to get two thermometers, one for the basking zone and one that is placed in the cooling zone. You will want to make sure that you get a thermometer that is reptile specific.

Hide Box Free – $20

Your bearded dragon will need something to hide under. This is because they need a place to go to cool off when they get too warm. It is also nice to have a place for them to hide if they ever feel threatened or feel like they need to escape. Many bearded dragon owners find items around their home that can be used as hide boxes, but there are always some available at a pet supply store.

Food and Water Dishes $10

Bearded Dragon with water and food bowl

In order for your bearded dragon to be able to eat and drink properly, it is important to purchase food and water dishes. These are a relatively inexpensive item and can be purchased at a pet supply store.

Driftwood Perch $15

Bearded Dragon laying on rock

When bearded dragons are soaking up the sun, they enjoy having somewhere to lay. While they can lay in the substrate, they often prefer a perch. Pet stores have many varieties of different types of perches, from rocks to pieces of driftwood.

Decor

How much you spend on decor for your enclosure is up to you. Placing fake plants, rocks, and other decor items can help the enclosure look more homey. It can also provide great places for your bearded dragon to hide around or on. But, you do want to place too many items in your enclosure, as this could make it hard for your bearded dragon to roam around.

Perfect Home Setup For Your Bearded Dragon

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You may be new to bearded dragons and that is okay! Setting up a terrarium can seem like a daunting task, but we will break down the perfect home setup for your bearded dragon. These five steps will help you to have a happy and healthy bearded dragon.

Choose a Terrarium

Your bearded dragon needs a home and that should be first on the to-do list before anything else. Homes for reptiles are sometimes referred to as terrariums. However, this can also be referred to as the enclosure. Bearded dragons love to roam and explore. This means that they need lots of area in their terrarium. While they do occasionally like to climb, especially when basking in the warmth, they primarily need ground space. Bearded dragons need an enclosure that is at least three times their length. Bearded dragons can grow to about two feet in size. When they are younger, they are much smaller and will not require as much space. However, you will need to eventually get a larger enclosure for them as they age.

Provide Heat & Light

Bearded dragons require warmth and light and lots of it. This is because bearded dragons originate from the desert and therefore do well in high temperatures. It is important for a bearded dragon owner to replicate these conditions to the best of their ability. Basking bulbs are available for purchase specifically for reptiles that need to bask in the sunlight.

It is also important to provide your bearded dragon with a place to go that it is out of the light. This is sometimes referred to as the cool down zone. Bearded dragons rely on external sources to regulate their body temperature. If they do not have a place to cool down, they will not be able to cool down on their own. So, it is crucial to provide this zone for them.

Add Substrate

Just putting your bearded dragon into an enclosure is not enough. You will need to have something for the bottom of the enclosure. In general, a reptile specific sand is often used by bearded dragon owners. However, the sand substrates are not recommended for juvenile bearded dragons, as it is commonly ingested and can cause digestive issues. Instead, try other substrates like newspapers.

Decorate

When adding in your decorations, you want to make sure you include a place for your bearded dragon to go to hide and also a place for your bearded dragon to perch to bask in the warmth. You will want to make sure that what you choose as a perch is sturdy enough to support your bearded dragon. Rocks and pieces of driftwood are common options. Always use fake plants for decor and do not use real ones, as your bearded dragon will try to eat live plants.

Provide Food & Water

Of course, your bearded dragon will need food and water. Bearded dragons are not picky eaters and will eat many different varieties of specialty bearded dragon food. Make sure that you have separate food and water dishes, as well as clean them both out regularly.

Monitor Your Bearded Dragon

Keep a close eye on your bearded dragon, especially when you first bring them home as they will need a little bit of time to adjust to their surroundings. Make sure to place a thermometer in the basking zone and one in the cooling zone, so that you can monitor the temperatures and keep your bearded dragon happy and healthy.

Set up 101

You will want to make sure that you have the proper supplies for setting up a bearded dragon enclosure. You will want an enclosure, a screen top, a full-spectrum light bulb for reptiles, a heat lamp, two thermometers, substrate, food and water bowls, a hide box, a perch, and food. After you have all of these items in the enclosure, then you will be ready for your bearded dragon. It is important to not get your bearded dragon before you have set up the enclosure.

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What Type of Terrarium Do I Use?

For bearded dragons, there are different types of terrariums that you can use. These include glass aquariums, vision cages, pvc cages, and melamine cages. All of these types of enclosures are adequate for the bearded dragon and you can choose which one you prefer based on your preferences.

Glass Aquariums

Glass aquariums are the most popular choice when it comes to choosing a bearded dragon enclosure. This is most likely due to how inexpensive they are, as well as them being available at most every pet supply store. While these are great enclosures for bearded dragons, they are also sufficient for other reptiles as well. The downside to glass aquariums is that they can be quite heavy, especially after your setup is complete. So, you will want to be pretty set on your setup location.

Vision Cages

These cages are considered professional and are made of plastic. They are very easy to clean and are somewhat lightweight. These types of cages are most often utilized by bearded dragon breeders because they have the ability to be stacked on top of each other, saving space.

PVC Cages

PVC plastic cages are more lightweight than melamine cages, although just looking at them you would not be able to tell a difference. However, the plastic is a little more smooth than melamine cages. PVC plastic cages are more expensive than melamine cages.

Melamine Cages

These types of cages can be built by yourself at home or you can purchase them, typically online. The melamine boards are white, which help to reflect the light. This not only helps to enhance what your bearded dragon looks like inside of their enclosure, but could also lead to a happier bearded dragon due to the extra light.

What Kind of Heating and Lighting are Needed?

A bearded dragon needs to have its natural environment mimicked inside its enclosure. The beardie will need high ultraviolet output light bulbs to be used. These light bulbs will put off both UVA and UVB rays, which are essential for a bearded dragon’s health.Although ensuring the right light is necessary, you will also want to ensure that your bearded dragon has access to the heat that it requires. Since bearded dragons rely on the sun for their warmth, you will need to be able to heat up their enclosure properly to mimic that. There are specific reptile basking bulbs that can be utilized. You will need to remember that these light fixtures will need to be mounted on your enclosure in some way. Before you go out and purchase the equipment, you will want to see how the light fixtures will sit on your enclosure.

How to Clean Your Bearded Dragons Tank

There are steps you will want to take to ensure that you are providing the best habitat for your bearded dragon. One of those steps is making sure that you clean your bearded dragon’s take regularly and properly. Full habitat cleans do not need to take place every day. However, you will want to clean out uneaten food and feces from the take every day. Substrate that has been soiled should also be removed on a daily basis.
Hard surfaces that are in your beardie’s environment should be cleaned weekly, even more frequently if they get soiled often. Glass surfaces can be cleaned with a one part white vinegar and four part water solution. Spray that solution on the glass surface and wipe away clean. You will want to soak any decor pieces that get soiled. A full deep clean of the entire enclosure should be done once a month. This means cleaning everything even if it is not deemed soiled.

You do not want to do any cleaning of the enclosure when your bearded dragon is present. Instead, you will want to place them in a different enclosure that is far away from the cleaning, as you do not want to expose your bearded dragon to any fumes. While your bearded dragon is removed, vacuum up everything in the enclosure and prepare a solution to scrub down the enclosure. You will want to scrub down the enclosure while the decor pieces are soaking in a solution. Consider using a bleach-water solution. Rinse the enclosure and the decor pieces heavily, as you do not want any residue present. Replace everything back into the enclosure and put your bearded dragon back inside after the enclosure is dry and warm.

How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Happy

The key to a happy bearded dragon is a healthy bearded dragon. You will want to take the necessary steps to ensure that you are providing a safe and healthy environment for your bearded dragon. Take into account that this may include vet care.

A happy bearded dragon that is healthy will shed. Juvenile bearded dragons will shed much more than adults. Shedding helps them to grow. You will be able to tell right before it happens that a bearded dragon is ready to shed because the surface of its scales will become much more dull and its eyes will seem puffy. If you want to help your bearded dragon with the shedding process, warm baths will do the trick.

A happy bearded dragon will also be alert and active. When a bearded dragon is healthy, it will notice when someone is approaching their enclosure and will hold their head up. You will notice your bearded dragon basking in the sun, hiding in a hide box, and generally roaming around their enclosure.

How To Hold Your Bearded Dragon

Some bearded dragons enjoy interacting with their owners and can get used to being held by their owners. Most bearded dragons that are held regularly when they are juveniles will be more accustomed to human touch than those that did not have that interaction. Holding your bearded dragon helps you to form a bond with your pet and will make it easier to perform regular cleanings on the enclosure.

You will want to make sure that you always wash your hands before you touch your bearded dragon. You do not want to risk spreading something to your beardie. If your bearded dragon is not yet used to being touched, you may want to wear protective gear.

Do not make any sudden movements when you are around your bearded dragon. This is because bearded dragons can be easily stressed or may become scared. When your hand enters the enclosure, put it down as close to the substrate as you can. Anything that moves over top a bearded dragon, it will view as a threat. Bearded dragons that are not used to being pet or held will need time to become accustomed. Take it slow with your bearded dragon and try just petting its back or patting it gently.

Whenever you hold a bearded dragon, you will want to lift it carefully and make sure that you always are supporting its four legs. Place your hand underneath the bearded dragon and lift it slowly. Use your other hand to place it underneath its tail to support the tail. Failure to support the tail could result in the bearded dragon accidentally injuring itself. Keep your hand loose around your bearded dragon and never squeeze it.

Eventually, your bearded dragon will start to warm up to you and will no longer see you as a threat. After this, you will notice that your bearded dragon wants to explore. You may decide to place the bearded dragon in your lap. Bearded dragons sometimes enjoy snuggling up with their owners and finding a warm spot on them to take a nap.

Perfect Diet For Your Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons eat both plant and animal matter, meaning they are omnivores. They also are not picky eaters. This means that bearded dragon owners can choose from a wide variety of different foods to feed their beardie. Their diet is quite varied and extensive, ranging from crickets to kale and fruits. The best diet for your bearded dragon is one that replicates what they would eat if they were in the wild. Always check with your vet to get professional advice on the diet of your bearded dragon.

Bearded dragons need protein. They love live mealworms and crickets. As bearded dragons get older, they need less protein as they are not growing as much. Veggies are a staple and should make up half of an adult bearded dragon’s diet. Bearded dragons can eat kale and zucchini to name a few. There are also packaged foods that are available on the market that can provide your bearded dragon with a sufficient diet. However, fresh foods can do wonders for their diet as well.

How To Care For Your Bearded Dragon

Owning a bearded dragon is an amazing experience, as they make wonderful pets. Bearded dragons are curious, adventurous, and amusing. While their care can sometimes be a challenge, especially for beginners, they are considered one of the best reptiles to own. It is essential to be aware of how to properly take care of your bearded dragon.

Feeding

When your bearded dragon is a juvenile, expect to care for them a little differently. Juveniles grow fast, which means that they will shed more than adults. Young bearded dragons also need to be provided with more protein than adults, as this makes up more of their diet. Food that is fed to the bearded dragon needs to be smaller than the distance between its eyes. Food fed to a bearded dragon that is larger than that could result in injury.

Your bearded dragon will need nutritious food in order to stay healthy. Sometimes, adult bearded dragons do not seem interested in fresh food. To try to help them out, try dangling veggies or leafy greens in front of their face. This could make the food more enticing and they might give it a try. Bearded dragons can see in color. So, also separating brightly colored food together can also entice a beardie to try it out.

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Bonding

When you are planning on taking your bearded dragon outside of its enclosure, do not plan on keeping them away for too long. Bearded dragons are cold-blooded and rely on the heat from their environment to stay warm. Keep in mind that bearded dragons can move fast, even though they might seem slow moving in their enclosures. Always keep an eye on them when you have them out of the cage and never leave them alone in a room.

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Pay attention to what your bearded dragon likes and does not like. You will be able to tell. The more time that you spend with your bearded dragon, the more familiar they will become with your voice and your touch. Handling your bearded dragon is a great way to bond and a great way to allow your bearded dragon to explore.

It comes as no surprise that bearded dragons are one of the most exciting and rewarding pets to own. While they do require some work, like all pets, they are easy to maintain and easy to keep happy as long as you keep them healthy.

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