Acquired: Pet store
Collingswood, New Jersey, United States
Posted Sep 14, 2018
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.