How to Care for Your Bearded Dragon
What Is A Bearded Dragon?
A bearded dragon is a reptile that originates from Australia, the most common type of Bearded Dragon that you will find as a household pet is called the Pogona Vitticeps. There are eight other species of dragon; Pogona Barbata, Pogona Minor (Dwarf, Western, Mitchells), Pogona Henrylawsoni, Pogona Microlepidota, Pogona Nullarbor and Pogona Vittikens. However, it is doubtful you will encounter anything other than the most commonly found Pogona Vitticeps. The name “bearded dragon” refers to the “beard” they appear to have on the underside of their throat, which is often used to display their moods.
The beardie is often viewed as the perfect reptile for beginners due to their relatively calm temperament and easy-going nature. As long as they socialize with humans, they will be a friendly and rewarding part of any family; they will very rarely bite or scratch you on purpose. However, they have been known to mistake some fingers for food!
Dragons are viewed as a sort of beginner reptile; they do have particular needs that must be applied to keep them happy and healthy. You will need to familiarize yourself with their wants and needs and also their various quirks and behavioral traits.
What To Look For When Buying A Bearded Dragon
When looking to purchase your dragon, there are various places to buy from; whether you buy from a pet store or a breeder, you want to look for a perky dragon that looks aware and active. If you are a first-time owner, you may want to consider an older dragon to start with, mature dragons are more established and also most of the time have already learned to not be wary of humans. Younger dragons require a little more care and will always need a veterinary check and fecal test as soon as possible when they are home.
A bearded dragon can live up until their late teens in captivity when given the proper care; they live for significantly less in the wild due to their being more risks. As captive owners, we can remove these risks to ensure they live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
What Should I Use To Keep My Bearded Dragon Healthy?
Bearded dragons need a habitat that will retain heat; this is why glass enclosures are the perfect home for your dragon. They will also need a substrate for the flooring of your habitat so that they can grip and move around they aren’t just walking on the glass, dragons also need a basking spot such as a hammock or rock and they always appreciate something to climb around on such as a branch or stick and a hide to crawl inside.
As well as the actual tank and accessories that go inside, they also need proper lighting to go on top of the enclosure or under the lid in some cases; this comes in the form of a basking spot fixture for heat and light. As well as heat, they also need a UVB fixture and lamp to aid digestion and calcium absorption; dragons need both intense heat and light and UVB to digest their food, absorb nutrients and stay healthy. Both heat and UVB are essential to get right, and this is often where people make the biggest mistakes when caring for a beardie. In general, dragons need a cool side of the tank and a warm side; the warm half is where the basking spot should be located and should also have the UVB over the basking spot to enable them to get both heat and UVB while they bask. The cold side temps need to be around 80°F – 85°F, the warm side ambient temp approximately 90°F – 95°F and the basking spot between 100°F – 110°F. The UVB needs to be intense, and it’s best to use a fluorescent tube fixture that will cover two-thirds of the length of the tank, including over the basking spot, but there are many different options available.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
Dragons are omnivores, which means they need both proteins in the form of bugs and also vegetables and fruits to stay healthy. The ratio of how much they should be fed of each varies by the age of your dragon they need 80% protein and 20% salad as babies and 80% salad and 20% protein as adults. All dragons need to consume insects for their entire lifespan; feeder insects are always a crucial part of their diet, it’s always necessary to ensure you get yours from a reputable source to avoid your dragon getting sick!
Some great examples of nutritional staple feeder insects are Dubia Roaches, Hornworms, Black Soldier Fly Larvae, and Superworms. They can also have specific treat bugs to supplement their health in different ways, such as Butterworms and Waxworms. Variety is key to any Bearded Dragon’s diet, so always ensure to offer them a diverse selection of food. They also tend to have favorites, so you can have fun figuring out which foods your dragon likes best and their dislikes.
When it comes to salad, there are many different options; the main staples need to be dark leafy greens such as collard greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens, avoid spinach as this can inhibit calcium absorption. Other staples include butternut squash, acorn squash, and prickly pear cactus pads. Juicy fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and other root vegetables can also be given to your dragon but are not staples meaning you should offer them occasionally and not every day. Make sure to thoroughly research anything you feed your dragon before giving it to them.
Dragons need to eat daily, so ensure to offer them food every day; it’s a great idea to put a salad in their tank in the morning for them to pick at throughout the day and then offer them bugs at intervals determined by the age of your dragon. A baby will need bugs multiple times per day, whereas an adult will only need to be offered insects once per day.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Do This?
Bearded Dragons have some very unique behavioral traits that you will be able to observe as time goes on; each one has a different meaning and can be useful in telling you how your dragon is feeling.
A dragon uses their beard as an indicator of their mood. When a dragon darkens and puffs out their beard, it can mean a few different things such as anger, excitement, or distress, but it is usually when your dragon is showing off and telling everyone that they are the boss!
Your dragon may bob their head when they see another dragon, their reflection, or even seemingly nothing! Sometimes they do this to signal dominance and show that they are the boss, they don’t see their reflection as being themselves but another dragon to dominate and will bob their head in a fast up and down gesture, often accompanied by a stomp of their front foot and a darkening of their beard.
When a dragon waves this is a submissive gesture letting whatever is around your dragon know that they are present and not a threat and will not be a problem, your dragon may even wave at you and if they do feel free to wave back and let them know that you are friendly.
A beardie may seem to whip their tail sometimes; this can mean that they’re excited, or it can also mean that they are mad, depending on the situation.
How To Hold Your Bearded Dragon
Dragons are usually calm and docile creatures but will, on occasion, bite or hiss, and this can be down to the way you’re handling your dragon. If they exhibit these behaviors, then you will want to try a different way of picking up or holding your dragon. They do like to be fully supported but do not like to be approached from above, they have a “third eye” which is visible as a small dot on the top of their head in the center, and this is used to detect predators. When approaching your dragon attempt to come from the front or side so that they can see you coming, and scoop them up, so all their limbs are supported, if you are concerned about getting bitten then you can wear gardening gloves until you are more confident.
My Bearded Dragon Is Shedding, What Do I Do?
When a bearded dragon is growing, they need to shed the outer layer of their skin in order to make room for a new layer; a baby dragon can shed as often as every couple of weeks while an adult dragon may shed as little as twice per year. The rate they shed is directly determined by the speed they are growing, so if your beardie has not shed in a while, this could be a sign that they are not growing and that something is wrong.
While they are shedding you mainly just want to leave them be, you never want to pull on a piece of shed as this may tear off pieces of skin that isn’t ready to come off with it, and this can lead to sores and infection. Sometimes a dragon may have difficulty with a particular piece of their shed that’s taking a long time to come off; you can give your dragon a warm bath and brush gently at their shed with a soft bristle toothbrush in order to help their shed come off if you are concerned about this.
Does My Bearded Dragon Need A Friend?
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures; in the wild, they will meet to either mate or fight so you cannot keep more than one bearded dragon in a tank unless you are trying to mate them. Pet stores will keep multiple babies together, but even then, they will separate when they get older, and still, there are dragons that will have injuries such as missing limbs from being kept together in a tank with other dragons even as babies.
Is My Bearded Dragon's Poop Healthy?
This may seem like an odd question, but it is actually quite relevant as your dragon’s poop can tell you a lot about their health. A healthy dragon stool will be a formed “log” with a white part, which is their urate, in the end, the poop should be brown and not black or green and should be formed, not a mess. It is okay if some liquid comes out when your dragon has a bowel movement as this can just mean a little overhydration, but the urate/urine part is the white part that comes out with the brown log and should be a pure white color if it is discolored this can indicate dehydration if it is too hard this can mean too much calcium or inadequate calcium absorption from not enough UVB.
When To Seek Medical Attention For A Bearded Dragon
Any pets that we keep at home can, of course, be susceptible to illness or injury, and beardies are no different. Whenever you get a new dragon, unless they have already been to the vet in the last six months and received a clean bill of health and still seem healthy, will need to be taken to the vet for a checkup and fecal exam. Dragons are particularly susceptible to intestinal parasites and will require a regular fecal exam every six months to ensure that they’re clean. Symptoms of parasites include; unformed stools that seem to smell worse than usual, blood in urates, general lethargy in your dragon, and a decreased appetite. If you notice any or all of these symptoms in your dragon, you must arrange to get a fecal test ASAP, within 24 hours of your vet appointment save your dragon’s fecal sample in a sealed baggie and store in the fridge until the time of your appointment.
*It is important to be aware that this is not all the information you need to take care of your dragon, there is so much information out there that’s available to you and if you’re not sure of something it’s always essential to reach out to a reputable source online or otherwise to find the information that you need.