Bearded Dragons and Frilled Dragons as Pets

Although the Bearded Dragon (Pagona vitticeps) and the Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii), are among the world’s most familiar lizard pets, both were virtually unknown outside of Australia (even in zoos) not long ago. Also likely to surprise reptile enthusiasts is the fact that the mild-mannered Bearded Dragon has a venom gland, and all those in the pet trade originated from illegally-captured animals (don’t worry - they are harmless to people, and are now legal to possess!).

Bearded Dragons are valued for their calm dispositions and longevity, while Frilled Lizards exhibit the lizard world’s most fantastic threat display. If their unique care needs are met, both can make interesting, long-lived pets.


The 8 Bearded Dragon species and the Frilled Dragon are classified in the family Agamidae, which contains over 440 species. The Central Netted Dragon, Ctenophorus nuchalis, also an Agamid, is reminiscent of the Bearded Dragons and has similar care needs. The Inland Bearded Dragon, Pagona vitticeps, is the most commonly-kept species but others, such as the Lawson’s Bearded Dragon, P. henrylawsoni (can you guess who it is named after?), are also available.

Range and Habitat

The Inland Bearded Dragon is native to northern Australia. Other Bearded Dragon species range throughout the continent, where they inhabit arid scrublands and desert fringes.

The Frilled Dragon is found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It favors open forests and wooded grasslands, and spends much of its life above-ground.

Appearance and Temperament

The stoutly-built Bearded Dragons possess somewhat flattened bodies that enable basking individuals to expose a greater surface area to the sun. Their common name is derived from the spike-lined “beard” of loose skin that is erected when they are threatened.

At 30-38 inches in length, the Frilled Dragon is among the largest of all Agamids. The huge frill of skin it can erect about its head is often tinged with red, orange or yellow. Add to this a gaping mouth and the ability to run on 2 legs, and you can see why its threat display is well-known by both reptile enthusiasts and “regular” people.

Bearded Dragon Housing

Bearded and Frilled Dragons will not thrive unless provided with suitably high temperatures (basking sites should be kept at 100-110 F) and abundant UVB exposure. A large terrarium is essential if a healthful temperature gradient (areas of hot and cooler temperatures) is to be established.

Frilled Dragons must be provided with climbing space; an adult requires a cage measuring at least 3 x 3 x 4 feet.

Bearded Dragon Diet

Young Bearded Dragons feed upon ants, beetles, spiders and other invertebrates, adding flowers and leaves to the diet as they mature.

Frilled Dragons utilize a unique hunting strategy, pouncing onto ground-dwelling prey from tree trunks. They feed upon caterpillars, scorpions, locusts and other invertebrates, and also take the occasional lizard, frog or snake. Research has shown that Frilled Dragons move into fire-ravaged habitats in order to take advantage of prey that has been displaced or left without cover. Adults consume some vegetation as well.