Species group: Bearded Dragons and Frilled Dragons
Other common names: Inland Bearded Dragon; Central Bearded Dragon; Beardie, Bartagamen
Scientific name: Pogona vitticeps
The Bearded Dragon vies with the Leopard Gecko for title of the world’s most popular pet lizard. Suitable for novices yet interesting enough for advanced hobbyists, it is hardy, easy to breed, and adjusts well to gentle handling. Although millions are now bred annually by hobbyists, all pet trade animals seem to have originated from a small group smuggled out of Australia (where they are protected) to Germany in the early 1980’s.
The Bearded Dragon is native to central Australia and the non-coastal eastern Australia, where it favors arid savannas and open forests, thorn scrub and desert fringes. It is diurnal, and shelters by night in self-dug burrows or rock crevices.
Appearance / health:
The 16-24 inch-long body is stout and somewhat flattened to allow for maximum sun exposure. Conical scales on the throat’s loose skin (the “beard”) can be raised by the hyoid bone in a threat display. The color ranges from tan to dark brown, usually with darker spots and markings on the back.
Well-cared-for Bearded Dragons are quite hardy, with captive longevities sometimes approaching 15 years. Respiratory diseases can take hold if your pet is kept in a damp terrarium, and intestinal blockages caused by ingested substrate are sometimes a concern.
Behavior / temperament:
In contrast to many lizards, Bearded Dragons are quite “laid-back”, take handing in stride, and rarely bite (of course, all lizards must be handled with care). They use body posture and arm waving, or “semaphoring”, to communicate.
Youngsters can be reared in 10-20 gallon aquariums; a single adult requires a 40-55 gallon tank. Bearded Dragons inhabit sandy environments, but captives sometimes suffer intestinal impactions from sand swallowed with food. Therefore, the safest option is to provide food in large bowls so that sand ingestion is limited, or to house your lizards on newspaper or cage liners.
Daily exposure to high levels of UVB light is essential to a Bearded Dragon’s survival. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than florescent models, and provide beneficial UVA radiation and heat as well. Driftwood serves well as a basking platform.
Bearded Dragons require a basking temperature of 100 -110 F, but must be able to move into cooler areas (75-85 F) as well. Large enclosures will allow you to establish a temperature gradient, so that your pets can thermo-regulate by moving from hot to cooler areas. This behavior is important to long-term health, and is usually not possible in small cages. Humidity should be kept low, and the substrate must remain dry.
Bearded Dragons are carnivorous when young, but add plant material to the diet as they mature. The natural diet includes flowers, foliage, seeds, fruits, spiders, beetles, snails, scorpions and other invertebrates. Smaller lizards may be taken on occasion.
Salads should be comprised of kale, string beans, collard greens, squash, dandelion, carrots and seasonally available greens. Do not feed spinach, as it binds calcium, rendering it unavailable to your pets.
The insect portion of the diet should consist of locusts, butter worms, crickets, sow bugs, flightless house flies, roaches, silk worms, hornworms, calci-worms and other commercially available species. Insects should themselves be provided with a nutritious diet for 1-3 days before being offered to your pets. Mealworms have been implicated in intestinal blockages, and should be avoided or used only when recently-molted (white in color). Do not feed pink mice to your lizard, as a rodent-heavy diet has been linked to corneal opacities and liver damage. Commercial Bearded Dragon diets show promise, but long-term use has not been studied. They are best utilized as 20% or less of the diet. Powdered calcium and vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 1-2 times weekly for adult lizards, and on most meals fed to juveniles.
Adults can be offered food on alternate days, while juveniles should be fed 5-6 times per week.
Some individuals will drink from a bowl, but most prefer to lap water that has been sprayed onto rocks and other surfaces.
Bearded Dragons sometimes breed without temperature manipulation, but more consistent success will be had if your pets are chilled to 80 F by day and 60-65 F by night for 4-8 weeks, at which time the day length should be reduced to 10 hours. Males in breeding condition exhibit darkened “beards” and display via head bobs and arm waves. Gravid females seek egg deposition sites 4-6 weeks after mating. A nest box stocked with 4-6 inches of moist sand should be provided. Most clutches contain 15-25 eggs, but large females may deposit 40 or more eggs. Additional clutches may be produced at varying intervals. The eggs may be incubated in vermiculite at a ratio of 4 parts vermiculite to 1 part water by weight. At 83-86 F, the eggs will hatch in 50-80 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
handleability, great beginner lizards, docile nature, best first reptile, child responsibility
heating requirements, expensive uvb bulbs, calcium/nutrition supplements, live foods, live bugs
comical facial expression, Impressive-looking spikes, dragon chase crickets, quirky personalities
Now Forget EVERYTHING The Pet Store Told You
First and foremost, this is by no means a "beginner" reptile, an "easy" pet, or a "cheap" pet. I never knew I could love something scaly so much - he is my baby as much as my sweet cats are - but bearded dragons will put your abilities and knowledge to the test. However, if you pass this test, your reward is a lizard with some serious personality. Maslow was not our first, unfortunately. We brought home a baby beardie in the early summer of 2017, armed with all the wrong information from a purported breeder at a reptile convention. Her memory is a blessing to our family, though, because my partner and I doubled down on learning all the "right" things to do. The best source of knowledge was actually from a Facebook group called "Bearded Dragon Owners", a forum of both well-seasoned beardie parents and newbs looking for advice. With a better home in place, the right lighting and food, and the right expectations, we took Maslow home from a decent local pet shop in October. While Maslow thrived, we were still thrown a curveball. In January, while I was away from home for a month-long health program, Maslow had a growth spurt that rendered him too big to support himself on his legs. My dutiful boyfriend rushed him to our exotics vet (whom we had ourselves "vetted" - she was a beardie owner herself!), and they quickly x-rayed to rule out the dreaded Metabolic Bone Disease that plagues many beardies in captivity. Because of the lessons learned about beardie care, Maslow was clear of the disease and just needed some at-home "physical therapy" to get his limbs caught up with the rest of his body - daily swims in the bathtub. What are the very basic lessons we had learned? A 10.0 UVB light across the tank, separate from a hot basking lamp, was a must to ensure proper digestion and processing of calcium. Sand and other small substrate carries a high risk of impaction. Temps across the tank should be a range - about 85 degrees on the coolest side and 100 or so under the basking lamp. Don't house together (we knew that one - that beardies were solo animals - but we were floored to see that a chain pet store had them listed as fine in pairs). Monitor humidity - 50% is a maximum to avoid respiratory infections. Don't cheap out when it comes to veterinary care, and please make sure you have a local exotics vet who has sufficient experience with bearded dragons before you are stuck at home, frantically calling around as your sick dragon languishes. Yes, they eat bugs - you cannot avoid this, so if you HATE bugs, a dragon is not for you. Do your homework, and don't be afraid to ask - join Facebook groups or other forums with experienced beardie owners. Their sweet faces will thank you. Or give you the stinkeye as it munches down a hornworm, but it will be very content as it stares you down, I promise. .
From Jcatten87 Sep 14 2018 12:07AM
Avoid the Dreaded MBD
A common killer in captive bearded dragons is Metabolic Bone Disorder, caused by the lack of calcium absorption. There are two ways to avoid this disease - regular use of a calcium supplement dusted into the beardie’s food, and a 10.0 UVB lamp long enough to reach the entire tank. Our brand of choice is Reptivite, a calcium dust that does not seem to perturb our dragon Maslow. He seems to almost enjoy the taste, and will snarf down his favorite insects (usually dubia roaches and waxworks/hornworms) regardless of the presence of this life-sustaining dust. The seriousness of calcium cannot be understated. As first-time beardie owners, we were underinformed and unfortunately lost a baby dragon to MBD - we were using the dusting but were unaware of the necessary pairing with the UVB lighting. Use is simple - you will need a small tube/funnel in which to pour a serving of the dragon’s favorite bugs, toss in a spoonful of calcium supplement (the spoon comes with the supplement), and shake them up before serving. Older beardies who have transitioned to a largely veggie diet can continue to enjoy calcium-dusted insects and/or a dusting over their salad. .
From Jcatten87 628 days ago
Fascinating To Watch Eat but Otherwise Not Very Interesting
My younger brother and I owned a bearded dragon for about a year, before he decided that he wanted to get rid of it. I was away in school for much of that time, so the lizard's care was primarily entrusted to him. Unfortunately, he lost interest in his pet and then our father became the unwilling caretaker!
My little brother had thought that the lizard was going to be more interesting, since the family dog had so much personality. However, bearded dragons don't do much other than eat and laze about all day. Their habitat requirements aren't too severe, and the lizard did fine with just a large fish tank filled with sand, some natural structures like branches, and a heat rock.
Our lizard subsisted on mostly mealworms, but we would also splurge and feed it crickets from time to time. Crickets are better since the lizard gets some exercise from chasing them around its enclosure, and it's fascinating to watch it devour the little critters.
You have to remember to turn off the lamp when it's nighttime, otherwise the lizard will get confused and basically be kept up all night, which I can't imagine is healthy on a long-term scale. The larger the tank, the better, and I wish that we had had the space for a huge enclosure so that the lizard could have had more freedom to roam..
From xubermensch Aug 24 2015 9:15AM