Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

This care sheet is based on ReptilianWorld’s experience of captive keeping of this species. All the information is necessary for the good captivity of these wonderful lizards. However, you will not find there any information on reproduction or special care give to babies, because this is not the purpose of this article.

Since bearded dragons are charming beings, Easy to handle and very interesting to observe. However, we do not recommend in any case keep more than one specimen in the same terrarium, for several reasons:

  • Dominant / dominated relationship: There will always be an individual who is dominant and an individual who will be dominated. Whoever is dominant will be the first to eat. The one who can warm up in the best place under the lamp the one who will have all the best conditions at detriment of the dominated. There, won’t necessarily be a fight or physical injuries, but rather psychological stress present permanently for the individual who will be dominated. The dominated one will grow less quickly and will be more stressed, which increases the risk of disease, parasites, etc.
  • Physical injuries: Bearded dragons can injure themselves, whether voluntary or not. In non-voluntary cases, we often see babies biting their sibling’s tail or fingertip by confusing these ends with prey (cricket, worms). Unlike other lizards, these fingertips and tails do not grow back. Also, the dominant / dominated relationship can degenerate in battle. You should never place two males having reached sexual maturity together because they will definitely fight. We have also seen cases where females had cohabited for several years without a problem, until one day they fight. 
  • Unwanted mating: if you put a mature male with a mature female. In this case, there will certainly be couplings. Couplings are far from a time of romance where love and tenderness reign. It’s rather downright a rape: aggressive and can result in serious injury especially if the female is not receptive. Also, keep a couple together will exhaust the female since the male will always harass her. One Mating can result in several laying of several eggs.
  • Early mating: if you put a young male with a young female. Males can reach sexual maturity before females. So if you have 2 babies of different genders together in the same terrarium, it is obvious that the male will try to mate the female as soon as she is sexually mature. unfortunately, the female may be fertilized before she has finished growing, which could cause him several problems of health and possibly death.

In short, if you want to have more than one bearded dragon, either for your simple pleasure or to reproduce it, we suggest strongly to keep only one dragon per terrarium for the reasons described previously. Remember that lizards are living things that do not feel complex feelings of loneliness or boredom. Don’t buy them, one companion, in order to “make him a friend”. Give him the best care and fulfill his needs and he will be “happy” like that. You will, therefore, understand that for the rest of this care sheet, We’ll only speak about situations involving the care of a single individual.

The terrarium

The terrarium is the habitat of your breaded dragon. This is a place where he will pass most of his life. So why not offer him the greatest possible for it to be good? Even if a bearded baby dragon can be temporarily housed in a smaller terrarium, we recommend that you keep from the start in his “adult” terrarium. If they are well fed and kept in the right conditions, the bearded dragons will grow and grow very quickly, reaching their adult size (16–24 ’’ / 40-60cm long) in the first year. In adulthood, a MINIMUM terrarium 3 feet long x 2 feet wide X 2 feet high is required (91cm x 61cm x 61cm). Remember that larger adults can measure up to 24 inches (61cm) from head to the end of the tail. The floor area is larger than the height of the terrarium since, in adulthood, they are slightly fewer climbers. On the other hand, if they have size branches at their disposal adapted, they will use them with joy. There are some traders who make terrariums designed for reptiles and they are generally suitable, as long as you choose the suitable size for our reptile. The opening is often made of two sliding doors placed on the front of the terrarium, which simplifies cleaning and handling a lot. They are usually more expensive, but the cost is often worth it and it’s very handy if you don’t have time to build one yourself.

You can also build your terrarium if you have the necessary skills. You can choose where the opening will be, how it will be made, what materials you will use, etc. However, you should take the time to build it and think about ventilation, heat, the opening, the materials used for the walls, etc. It’s a great challenge and you will be proud to see your lizard enjoying his home! Finally, aquariums (designed for fish) that are converted to terrariums can do the trick to help out, but we find that in most cases, the width is not adequate (too narrow). In general, we always recommend that the width of the terrarium be at least greater than the total length of the bearded dragon.

The substrate

The substrate is what we put in the bottom of the terrarium. We believe that this is by far the most discussed topic by people who have reptiles. Most people want a substrate that will give a “natural” look to make it more aesthetic. On the other hand, certain substrates that will give a very nice result are more risky for the health of your bearded dragon. he then tries to find the balance between a terrarium that looks good and a safe terrarium. In this section, we will review most of the substrates commonly found on the market. We will give our opinion personal on these substrates and it will be up to you to judge what suits you the best. 

Sand. It is most likely the most popular substrate among owners of bearded dragons. Most people find this to be which makes the most “natural” (although the bearded dragons, in their environment natural, do not live on loose sand, we will come back to that!). It can be easily found in pet stores, under several brands different, with dyes, natural color, with or without calcium, etc. There is something for all tastes and budgets. For our part, we find that it is risky to keep baby dragons on a sand substrate. Sand can be ingested accidentally by the animal when it hunts prey for example, or if it eats wet lettuce that has fallen from its bowl and sticks together in the sand. This, in the long run, could create an intestinal obstruction, which will result in health problems and possibly death (which occurs very quickly if you are not careful enough)

We never suggest to people with little or no experience with the lizards to keep their new specimen on the sand, everything just because you have to be very on the lookout for signs of constipation or of ingestion of substrate. Even if the chances are slim that there are complications, it’s still an unnecessary risk for your animal. If however you absolutely want to put sand in the terrarium, take natural sand, and without dye (because the dye stains the skin of the animal). For adults, you can use an aragonite substrate,

Paper towel. Less aesthetic, the paper towel is a very substrate safe and easy to change when soiled. We change it if necessary and here! It is also very practical for sick, injured animals, quarantine, or who are under treatment since it is a substrate that allows maintaining good hygiene when changed regularly. obviously, it’s costly in the long run.

Ceramic. Ceramics is in our opinion one of the best substrates. By type of selected ceramic, we can recreate a natural look while being safe. We suggest a semi-rough ceramic that will allow your lizard not to slip when it moves and at the same time to grind its claws. It’s also easy to maintain. Obviously, you have to pick up the stool as quickly as possible, but it washes very quickly and easily. The cost may seem higher at first, but once it is installed, there are no further costs. It’s a long-term economy. Personally, we prefer to stick to the ceramic at the bottom of the terrarium. We also make joints between the tiles with grout to ceramic. Some people will prefer not to stick it to be able to remove it, but you have to know that stool fluid will pass between cracks and go in below the tiles. It will, therefore, be necessary to remove the ceramic tiles to wash the bottom of the terrarium. In addition, if they are not blocked, small spaces between the tiles can become a danger for your pet’s claws because they can get stuck there.

Vinyl Siding. Another great alternative to the proper substrates is vinyl. It has the same advantages as ceramic tiles (but it does not allow the wear of the claws), and the installation is much easier. Maintenance is also easier. Again, for practical reasons, we prefer to seal the joints of the vinyl siding with a silicone sealant to prevent fluids or water (when washing) slides under the vinyl carpet. In addition, some types of vinyl have beautiful patterns of very aesthetic stones. It’s our # 1 choice for terrariums of bearded dragons, babies or adults. In the wild, bearded dragons do not live on loose sand, as you might think. Native to Australia, they tend to live in arid savannahs on earthy, clayey, dry and cracked ground. The floor is rock hard, therefore, more comparable to ceramic than loose sand!

The decoration

Most people want a beautiful looking terrarium, and the decoration has a lot to do with it. However, you have to be careful not to go overboard: too much is like not enough! First, you will learn that each element that you add in the terrarium will be a new cricket hiding place. The crickets really hide it anywhere, the more crevices, holes, and folds, the more the crickets will hide and will not be eaten. The rule of thumb is that every piece of decor you add should have its use. For our part, there are 3-4 essential elements to find in a terrarium. The first essential element is a rock. A beautiful large natural rock placed under the heat lamp will get hot itself and allow your dragon to bask and digest. With a natural rock, there is no need for heating rocks like those sold in pet stores (and which are unnecessary in our opinion). In climbing on its rock, the animal can also use its claws. You can also replace natural rock with one of our tiles slate, it will have the same desired effect. The second element is a branch. The bearded dragons are semi-arboreal animals and they usually enjoy climbing on a plugged. It should be big enough for the size of the animal and it should be installed securely so that it does not accidentally fall and injure the animal. You can buy branches in a shop, or you can still pick up dry branches that you will treat before you place in the terrarium.

The treating process, you only have to wash them with a 5% solution bleach, then wrap them in aluminum foil and place them in the oven, at 350˚C for 30-40 minutes. This will kill insects, eggs, or parasites that may be present on the branches found outside. 

The easiest way is to buy wood that is already ready to use. The third element is a bowl. A bowl for plants and insects. This bowl can be any small dish. A bowl for insects can be used, but it’s mostly for put the worms so they don’t run away. he should have slightly higher edges to keep insects out easily and it should have a smooth, non-rough finish. You’ll notice that we don’t have mentioned a water bowl. In fact, a bearded dragon healthy does not need to drink from a bowl if he eats properly. In addition, in general, it will not have the reflex to go and drink from a bowl. These animals get water from plants and the insects they eat and that’s enough to hydrate them. So we don’t put a bowl of water in the terrarium. However, for young babies, we put a few drops of water on their noses every day (with a dropper) so they can drink if they’re thirsty. Babies tend to get dehydrated faster than adults. However, when you acquire your dragon from Élevages Lizard, it will be quite large and will no longer need additional hydration with exceptions (female pregnancy, illness, etc.). On the other hand, if you prefer to add a bowl of water in the terrarium to be safe, you can do it, it is not contraindicated.

You can also add a hiding place. From experience, we have observed that dragons hide very little in a hiding place, but it’s still convenient to have one if they feel the need to hide. This can help them feel safer at first. Anything you add next that isn’t useful, which is only to decorate, will take up space for your pet. It is important that your dragon can move and has space to do so.

The Food

The food you give your dragon is very important! Bearded dragons are very big eaters. But beware, it’s not because they eat it is good for them! In captivity, YOU are responsible for their good diet. First, you should know that the diet of the bearded dragon is omnivorous: throughout its life, it will have to eat insects and plants. We often see in care sheets gender ratios: 80% insects for 20% of plants when young, and 20% of insects and 80% of plants when adult. Personally, we do not believe in such ratios since our observations do not go in this direction (and the literature recent scientist either). According to the individuals, the proportions of insects/plants can be quite different. Be aware, however, that a dragon will never be completely herbivorous as an adult he will eat just less often, but will still eat them anyway. The choice of plants and insects is very important since good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Remember that the size of the insects that will be given to your pet must be adapted!

What We Recommend

75-80% leafy vegetables:

Dandelions, escaroles, curly chicory, rapini, kale, radicchio, endives, dandelions, bok choy, collard, carrot tops, turnip greens, leaves radish, celery leaves, parsley, watercress, lamb’s lettuce, arugula, alfalfa, spinach, sprouts of all kinds, spring mixes.

10-15% other vegetables:

Squash of all kinds, carrots, peppers, celery, zucchini, and others, ideally offered grated or cut into suitable small pieces.

<5% fruit:

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, pears, kiwis, papayas, mangoes, grapes, and others, cut into pieces of suitable sizes. A few edible flowers (in season): Dandelions, hibiscus, nasturtiums, clovers, roses, pansies, and all other edible flowers.

The golden rule when it comes to food is to vary as much as possible both plants and insects. To make sure that your animal is not deficient, you will also have to sprinkle its food calcium supplements and multivitamins. You can read more about our article on this. We use alternate several kinds of calcium and multivitamins. 

Water and Bath

As mentioned earlier, bearded dragons don’t necessarily need a bowl of water in their terrarium. Babies are more prone to dehydration, but you can put a few drops of water each day (using a dropper) on your dragon’s nose and if he’s thirsty, he’ll drink them. After the age of one month, we don’t give them more water every day because they all eat well and are well hydrated. So, in theory, you won’t have to do this. You still have to watch out for signs of dehydration. The easiest way is to look at the excess moisture or urine from a fresh saddle. If the stool is wet (or there is excess urine in plus the urate, the white part), your lizard is well hydrated. Once in a while, you can bathe your dragon. Whether to wash it (they sometimes walk in their excrement!), hydrate it, help it molt or make it do some exercise, a bath can always do good. The important thing is not to put too much water (the animal must be able to stand on its legs and have the head out of the water) and the water is warm, not hot. Once in the bath, your dragon may swell like a ball. Also, being in lukewarm water and moving stimulates them to do their needs… so be ready to pick up! Bathing is also a trick to help relieve a constipated animal. However, avoid the animal do not drink water contaminated by its excrement. Despite the benefits of a bath from time to time, limit it anyway baths twice a month (normally), as this can stress some dragons needlessly. They don’t all like it!

Heating and Lighting

First, note that bearded dragons are lizards desert and daytime. The source of heat and light is very important for these lizards. In nature, the sun takes care of these two functions but also does a little more: ultra-violet (UV) rays. At a time UVA and UVB are essential but for different reasons. First, UVA rays are necessary for the well-being of your lizard daytime by stimulating his immune system. Bearded dragons see to UVA (so they see more than we do), and these rays allow them to see the colors correctly and to stimulate them more. Second, UVB is essential for synthesizing vitamin D3, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium (and also for other minerals), therefore fundamental to the good growth of your lizard’s bones. So in captivity, the heating and lighting of the terrarium must simulate the natural action of the sun. To do this, several bulbs different are available on the market and different combinations of these can be used. First, you need a heat source. We recommend taking an incandescent bulb white “flood” or “spot” directional lamp. NO red light bulb! Bearded dragons, like all lizards, see colors very well unlike popular belief. We will have to adjust the wattage of the bulb as a function of the temperature obtained in your installation. This will provide warmth as well as a good light source and will be, obviously, located on the warm side of the terrarium. If the temperatures obtained are too low even with the strongest heating bulb, you can add, by plus your white heating bulb, a transmitter ceramic heat. These provide a source of heat, but without brightness. The advantage of using this is that these products last a very long time compared to a light bulb incandescent. Also, if the nights are too cool, it’s a heat source that will not disturb your pet in its sleep. However, do not forget that the brightness is important, so we could not put as the only source a ceramic heat emitter. The second important bulb is a source of ultraviolet rays type A and B (UVA and UVB). For these bulbs, you must absolutely buy in a pet store or on our online store because the bulb’s domestic appliances do not provide UV rays. First, there are linear fluorescent tubes that sell in different lengths and different intensities.

Welcoming your new pet

Now that you have already prepared its habitat and have found your lizard, now is the time to introduce it to its new remains: its terrarium. After all this waiting time, to read how well take care of it, prepare your terrarium, find your lizard, you have to look forward to finally enjoying it a bit. But, calm your zest! To favor the acclimatization of your lizard to its terrarium, and to its new environment, your home, you’re going to have to be patient, despite that for a bearded dragon it should be fairly short.

Acclimatization

It is advisable for the first week (7 full days), do not take or touch to your lizard. This is essential to promote its acclimatization. Don’t you do not worry if he does not eat, or if he does not come out of his hiding place during the early days of its arrival. This is completely normal and is not at all worrying.  Each lizard is unique and has its own temperament: some are calmer, others more stressed. Take advantage of this period to observe it and become familiar with its behavior, its routine, its preferences, etc. Then you should limit the handling of your new specimen to the bare minimum (read here “if absolutely necessary “, as for weekly cleaning for example) until as long as it looks well acclimatized. How do you know if he’s now acclimated? It’s very simple! if demonstrates normal behavior, that is: he cracks under the lamps, he walks and explores his terrarium quietly, he eats and defecates (one does not go without the other!), and it comes near the front of the terrarium, well, it is now well acclimatized and shows no obvious signs of stress. On the other hand, if your lizard is hiding all day **, or if it is running hide from your sight or when you make sudden movements in front his terrarium is that he is still stressed and you have to leave him again time for acclimatization.

Leave a Comment