Bearded Dragons (sometimes called Beardies by owners of the little guys) are adorable, curious, and cheerful choices for a reptilian pet! Whenever you’re thinking about getting a new, more exotic pet, it’s always important to make sure you have the best information on how to care for it.
Reptiles are extremely rewarding pets, but they require some very particular care – much like a dog or cat – and you need to make sure you satisfy your pet’s basic needs. So, in this article, we are going to walk you through a thorough Bearded Dragon care sheet: all of the essential information you need to know about taking the best possible care of your new pet.
We will look at necessary tank size, decorations and furnishings, dietary needs, and what kinds of play and exercise is best for your Bearded Dragon. To find out all this information and more, read on below!
The place your bearded dragon lives is called the vivarium, or tank. This is an essential element to think about with your new bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are native to very hot, large areas of the world, so giving them enough space as pets is very important.
Veterinarians recommend you need at least a four foot by two foot by two-foot enclosure to house an adult bearded dragon safely and comfortably. These lizards can differ massively in size, but the above dimensions can provide proper space for even the biggest bearded dragons.
When shopping for the right tank size, you want to be looking for a 55-120 gallon enclosure, but by making sure you hit the above length, width, and depth requirements, you can make sure a mature bearded dragon will be able to move freely through the enclosure when it is fully grown. Make sure you consider the other fittings you plan to decorate the tank with too, and if they will make the enclosure noticeably smaller. If those decorations will, make sure you purchase a slightly bigger vivarium to house your bearded dragon and all its fun toys.
As we mentioned above, bearded dragons are native to hot areas of the world, like the Australian desert. So, to replicate a healthy environment for this pet, there are a few essential furnishings you need to provide.
In this next section, I will outline some things you need to add to your bearded dragon’s tank to make sure they are as happy as can be, and a few optional extras they might enjoy!
A fluorescent tube light: This addition will keep your lizard in plenty of light during the day, helping it orient itself properly. As reptiles like bearded dragons tend to come from very hot desert areas, they have evolved to suit an environment with a massive amount of light throughout the day. A fluorescent tube light like this puts out enough light to create this type of atmosphere within a tank that may not have enough sunlight access. It is important to remember to turn this off at night (to save you a huge amount of electricity costs) and turn it back on in the morning (to give your pet a consistent sense of time).
A basking bulb: Basking is something that lizards do to soak up sunlight, warming themselves due to the cold blood running through their veins. In the wild, at peak sunlight hours, a lizard would sit on top of a large rock and absorb rays of sunlight during the daytime so that they can sleep during the cold nighttime hours. The tube light we advised you purchase earlier in the list does not fill this function, as the light is not a powerful enough source of heat. Specialist basking bulbs do provide enough heat, however, and you will often find your lizard taking some time out of its day to sit and enjoy itself underneath a powerful light like this.
Water bowl(s): All this light and heat needs some refreshment to go alongside it! Beardies don’t need to drink quite as frequently as dogs or cats, but it is still an especially important basic need for them. Make sure your pet has a small water bowl (or more than one) in its tank and refresh it every time you notice it has run out (this should happen every day or two).
Substrate (flooring): “Substrate” is a fancy name for what kind of flooring you give your bearded dragon. There are many options for this, but a few rank above the rest—the types of substrate range from wooden bark, to newspaper, to different kinds of sand. Several sources recommend using sand rather than bark, as the wood retains humidity from your heat lamp/basking bulb and can make the environment uncomfortable for your pet. If you plan on using sand, then ensure that you get a recognized brand suitable for lizards and reptiles, as some non-pet safe brands can be toxic to your bearded dragon.
Basking rock: These rocks are optional for your pet, but your bearded dragon will appreciate it! This is how lizards would naturally bask, sat on top of a big, flat rock that gets warmed up by the sun as the day goes on. We’ve found with our bearded dragons that they love to wait for an hour or so for the rock to heat up nicely, and then climb on top of it, flatten themselves out and have a great, relaxing time!
Places to hide or shelter: A nicely sized rock or log that is hollowed out can be a great furnishing for your bearded dragon. When using the basking light from earlier in our list, the vivarium can heat up quite a lot, so having somewhere the lizard can shelter from light is essential. You also need to provide this kind of shelter in case your bearded dragon wants to take a nap in the daytime, so it does not have to see the light in this time. Bearded dragons often sleep in little dens or burrows in the wild, so providing a dedicated sheltered area that they can go “escape” into to feel safe and secure.
Climbing branches or logs: This is a great feature for your beardie’s tank. Being creatures that come from slightly wooded areas, climbing around branches and logs is a fun activity for your pet to do. You also have the bonus of it helping to dull the bearded dragon’s talons, which can get a bit sharp if they are not treated properly – and clambering around logs or branches like this can be very helpful here.
One of the most important things to consider with any pet is their diet, and bearded dragons are no exception. There are a few aspects you need to take into account in particular for beardies, including the type of feed, how to vary the diets, and the proper nutrient intake (focusing specifically on calcium).
Bearded dragons typically prefer feed types that are very insect heavy. Crickets or “hoppers” (as they are sometimes called in pet stores) should be the mainstay of your dragon’s diet. These kinds of insects are high in protein and easy to eat for your pet (as opposed to more chitinous insects like locusts) due to the size and hardness of carapace.
It is often recommended by vets to supplement these crickets with types of calcium powder to make sure your lizard gets enough of this bone growth nutrient. In the wild, these nutrients would already be present in the prey and food found in the natural world, but home-grown insect feed does not contain all of these. So, in response, there are a huge number of nutrient powders you can sprinkle on the main protein you give your pet. As usual, we would recommend checking any dietary supplement you buy with your nearest vet before giving it to your bearded dragon.
Read more: Can Bearded Dragons Eat Chicken?
It would help if you also vary your pet’s diet by including cucumber and other leafy greens as another way to get the nutrients. We’ve found that cucumber is one they enjoy particularly, but it is worth experimenting with safe greens to see which your beardie enjoys the most. Some treats are also great to insert into your dragon’s diet – mealworms and grubs are great for this, as they are very fatty and flavorful. Make sure not to include too many of these because they can cause fast weight gain, but are nice as a treat for your scaly friend.
Play and exercise
Despite being quite different from cats and dogs, bearded dragons still absolutely love to play. When in the wild, these scaly critters get plenty of exercise chasing down prey, searching for shelter, socializing with other lizards, observing other animals, or even looking for a great new basking rock. As you can maybe tell, being stuck in what is essentially a giant room for their entire lives is not the healthiest habitat for a lizard. This is not to say that a bearded dragon would hate the vivarium you’ve provided, but a bit of exercise and play is very rewarding for them.
If you have a large area that you don’t mind putting some bugs on, like a sitting room that you keep the tank in, then letting your beardie have a little mock hunt is a great way to give them a workout and exercise their natural, cold-blooded killer instincts they have in the wild. Use a food type that is not very agile and fast like a cricket (a mealworm or grub would work great here), and place a few of them within your bearded dragon’s viewpoint after taking them out of the vivarium. This allows the pet to pretend like they are hunting in the wild and gives them some exercise that the vivarium might not quite be big enough for!
Some bearded dragon owners have also reported that cat toys, small light dog balls, and even some television time works great as an activity your beardie can undergo outside of the tank that they spend so much time in usually.
In conclusion, when taking care of your bearded dragon, make sure to remember these essential points:
- Tank Size
- Tank Decoration and Furnishing
- Play and Exercise
If you bear these in mind when caring for your bearded dragon, it is sure to flourish and have a great life!