Bearded Dragons are incredibly interesting animals. If you just brought one home or going to be, then you are about to find out just how incredible. As a bearded dragon owner, you are probably looking for valuable information to help you as a new pet owner. If you came here to learn a little about how to take care of a bearded dragon, then you’re in luck because below there’s a list of everything a first-time beardie owner should know starting out.
Let’s take a look!
How to Take Care of a bearded dragon (10 Basics Everyone Should Know)
1. Habitat and Habitat size
Unlike leopard geckos, bearded dragons need BIG tanks. They will grow to sizes of 16 to 24 inches and German giants even longer, some reaching lengths of 30 inches. An adult dragon tank should be at least 2ft x 2ft x 4ft or 75-120 gallons, giving them plenty of space to move around and grow.
Originating from Australia, a bearded dragon’s habitat is dry. Their humidity levels should stay between 20-30% and temperatures between 75-85 throughout their enclosure. A basking spot of 85-100 degrees, and a juvenile requires a 100-110 degrees basking spot.
This 67 gallon terrarium from Repti Zoo would make a great starter enclosure for your bearded dragon.
2. Temperature and Humidity
We have already mentioned above what a beardie’s temperatures should be. To keep track of their levels, you will need a thermometer and hydrometer. You should have at least two of these, one for under the basking spot and one for the other side of their tank. These are relatively cheap and can be found almost anywhere pet supplies can be found. They make combos that work perfectly for bearded dragons like this one or this.
3 . Heat and UVB
Reptiles require heat since they can not regulate their body temperature. Bearded dragons are no different. To keep their enclosure at the proper temperatures and create a basking spot so they can digest their food, you will need a reptile lamp fixture and a heat bulb. Depending on the size of your tank, you might need a couple.
Bearded dragons also require UVB (ultraviolet) lights. UVB is critical for them to make vitamin D to metabolize calcium. Without UVB, bearded dragons are likely to develop MBD (metabolic bone disease) due to becoming calcium deficient. Your dragon should have access to UVB no matter where they are at in their enclosure. You will need multiple UVB lights or one long UVB light that runs the length of their tank. UVB lights do not last forever. They will eventually lose their effectiveness and will need to be changed every six months to a year.
A few great options for UVB and Heat bulbs and fixtures are
- Zoo Med’s ReptiSun combo
- REPTI ZOO Dual Reptile Light Fixture for Reptile Dome
- Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Bulb, 100 watt, 2 bulbs
- Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent (13 watts)
- Zilla Premium Reflector Dome, Black 8.5
4. Food and Vitamins
Bearded Dragons need fresh greens daily, live food, and vitamins. They sell commercial food for bearded dragons, but it is not nearly as healthy for them. They typically do not view it as food and will not eat it. So it is crucial to know you will need to buy fresh greens and provide live food daily.
To store live food like crickets or roaches, you can buy a tote or a smaller tank to keep them in. You can buy food daily and choose to keep them in the container they come in or a smaller tote to save room and time on cleaning up.
To make sure your beardies food is nutritious, you can gut load their food. If you feed their food a very healthy diet, your bearded dragon will benefit from all of those nutrients as well.
Bearded Dragons do require Calcium and Vitamin D3. Beardies do not always get the nutrition they need in captivity as they would in the wild. So we need to supplement them. Bearded Dragons need calcium to prevent MBD (metabolic bone disease). They also require vitamin D3 because Calcium can not be metabolized by the body without it. Vitamin D3 does not need to be taken daily like calcium and should instead be used every other day.
What you will need:
5. Tank accessories
Bearded Dragons will need a few tank accessories. They will need a basking rock/hide, bedding if you choose, and you can also add plants, driftwood, and even a hammock. You can find these online or at your local pet shop.
A couple of excellent choices to get you started are
Bedding is a highly debated topic. Use sand, do not use sand. Sand is debated due to the risk of impaction. It is still used by many because it is part of their natural habitat. When bearded dragons are young, if they are on sand. They should be watched closely because the chance for impaction is greater. You can also choose to feed outside of their enclosure to minimize the risk of impaction.
Sand, however, is not the only bedding option. There are many other great choices. You can use newspaper, slate, interlocking wood, reptile carpet, fake grass. Some of these will be harder to clean than others, but they are all great options. It is up to the individual and their schedule as to which will work best.
7. Reptile Leashes
Reptile leashes, why not necessary, are excellent! I highly recommend getting one. They are great for taking your bearded dragon out with you, and while dragons are known to be pretty awesome about sitting with you and just hanging out, accidents can happen. They might spook and run. With a leash, they will be safe from getting away from you or leaping off and landing on the ground.
Here’s a popular bearded dragon leash on Amazon.
Weekly baths are necessary for dragons. Baths will keep your dragon clean, but it also helps hydrate them and keeps them from having shedding problems. You can bathe them in your sink, bathtub, or you can buy a tote specifically for bath time. 10-30 minutes a week works well.
9. Housing and feeding your bearded dragon’s food
Housing your bearded dragon’s food might sound like a stinky hassle! I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. If you are feeding crickets, you can store them in a tote box with self-made breathing holes in the lid. You can do this with all feeder insects. If you plan to only store a few insects at a time, they sell cricket keepers in a few sizes that work great!
Not only will you need to house your beardies food, but you will also need to keep them fed and hydrated. Since insects can drown, to prevent this, they make water crystals. These work great and will last for a long time. You can also buy insect food like this. Depending on what you are storing, you can also feed them fruits, greens, and vegetables.
You will have to clean the container weekly, but it can be cheaper to buy in bulk and well worth it in the long run.
10. Bonding (getting comfortable with your new family member)
When you first bring your bearded dragon home, you might be anxious to get started. Remember in the first few weeks to a couple of months to be patient. They are in a new home, and the bonding process may be gradual.
Some will warm up right away, while others might take some time. During this time, you might get discouraged, don’t worry. I promise with lots of time and effort. Your bearded dragon will warm up to you.
Be consistent with your bearded dragon. Work with them every day to gain their trust. They are curious by nature and might not want to sit with you, but you just might have a little adventurer. If this is the case, let them tire themselves out and then have them sit with you. They won’t be as quick to run and will be ready to relax with you.
To help gain your beardies trust, be slow and gentle. Fast movements can scare them. Let them know you don’t mean them harm. Dragons are very docile by nature. Once they get to know you and your home, they won’t be as bothered.
Do not be afraid of your dragon, and if you are, do not let them know it. Beardies are smart. If they realize hissing or puffing up their beard scares you, they might make a habit out of it. If your dragon does this, you should move your hand away, but do not go away. Sit there and talk to your bearded dragon. Let them get comfortable with your presence, and they will soon realize you don’t mean them harm.
A great way to gain your beardies trust is to hand feed them. You can use tongs or straight from your hand.
Okay, Bearded dragons might seem high maintenance, and maybe they are a little bit, but caring for a bearded dragon is well worth it. Living upwards of 8 to even 15 years, you will have a friend for a long time to come. All the more reason to learn how to care for a bearded dragon the right way from the beginning. Bearded dragons touch your heart in so many ways. They honestly are the puppies of the lizard world!