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
My Friend the Dragon
The bearded dragon is one of the few lizards kept in captivity that seems to sincerely believe itself to be part of the family. Dragons can learn to come to their name or another cue, and often seem to understand the routines of their owners and other housemates. They are extremely easy to provide for, and will grow quite large and handsome without requiring much space or care. If you fail to engage your dragon, however, you will soon be left with more of a decoration than a pet, a dragons can become fat and listless without proper stimulation. While your dragon can survive in a small cage, he is capable of running all over your house. Given the opportunity, he will. Let your dragon hang out with you in a sunny window or fit him with a harness for outside walks. He will appreciate the change of scenery. .
From Coral Oct 9 2017 8:53PM
Easy, mellow reptile perfect for beginners!
Thor is a wonderful lizard to have! He is pretty mellow and spends most of the day just basking in his heat lamp. HE can get a little cranky sometimes, which is entertaining because his beard turns really dark black and if he is really upset he will puff it out and bob his head. This only happens every couple of months though mostly if I change his enclosure around. Like all reptiles the initial set up can be a bit spendy because they need both heat and UVB lights but after the initial set up maintenance is really low. He does need a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and twice a week I give him insects such as crickets, super worms and meal worms as a treat. His bowel movements are pretty messy and stinky but over the time I have found if I let him soak in a bath a couple times a week he just goes to the bathroom in the tub making clean up much easier. Thor doesn't have a lot of frills in his cage just a wooden perch so he can get closer to his light if he wants and a hidey hole for sleeping. Thor is not very fond of being handled but he does enjoy hanging out in the living room with the family. Over all he is just a lovely lizard to have and I would recommend for anyone, especially beginners!.
From Mandapet Aug 31 2016 3:20AM
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