Bearded Dragon Caresheet:
Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
• Bearded dragons or beardies are readily available across the world.
• They are diurnal
• Easily handled, robust and easy to keep.
• Loads of personality/ character.
o Readily explore their environment by tasting it with their tongues.
• Not demanding of attention compared to other companion animals
• Expensive to keep (in relation to other species) therefore having the financial resources to keep them correctly should be considered strongly.
• Can exceed 10 years of age in captivity if cared for properly.
• One of the best reptile species for beginners and that they make interesting and educational pets.
• Wide natural range – Australia
o Semi arid/ arid terrain, outback, woodland, grassland and rocky, sandy desert
o Spend large proportions of day basking
o Burrow in intense heat
o Younger lizards seen commonly in trees becoming more terrestrial with age
• Sexually mature males = very territorial
• Hatchlings – couple of inches long.
• 6 weeks = 6/7 inches.
• 6 months = 16 inches long.
• 1 year of age = maximum adult size = 22/24 inches.
• All sizes given = nose to tail.
• Different breeding lines =different lengths/sizes.
o German Giants = larger
• Males = larger and more robustly built than females.
Habits and Behaviour
• Enjoy basking, exploring and hunting
• Prolific breeders – many needing homes in rescues
• Ability to change colour depending on their temperature status and mood.
o A defensive bearded dragon = jet black beard
o High body temperature = light colour
• Colour changes = drastic
• Colour spectrum from white to black
• Stressed bearded dragon will often show a busy "stress pattern" on its underside.
• Rarely show any aggression to humans, tame down nicely, especially if they are handled regularly.
• Do not make any noise
• Hypoallergenic – any allergies are to food faeces
• Do not smell if spot cleaned regularly
• Shed their skin in pieces
• Bearded dragons have a “pineal eye”, sometimes called a “third eye” on the top of their heads which serves to allow the physiological monitoring of day length (light penetrating the third eye regulates the production of the hormone melatonin). It is by this means that the animals are able to decide when it’s time to undergo brumation.
• Brumation = natural process
o Occurs when times are hard and temperatures drop/food supply declines.
o Is a state of decreased activity to maintain homeostasis.
o Similar to hibernation but they do not go to sleep, only become more sluggish
o Decrease in metabolic rate
o No change may be applied to the temperature settings in a vivarium, the background temperature is likely to drop significantly during winter, as is the day length.
o Thus brumation is often observed in captive lizards, where animals appear to be a little less alert than normal.
o This state is often mistaken for illness by owners.
• Communicate between beardies is by physical actions
Beard Inflation: Often combined with a change in colour of the beard, which goes very dark or even jet black and usually with a gaping of the mouth/raising off the body off of the ground too. This is a defensive behaviour, the point of which is to make the animal look bigger and more intimidating than it does normally. This is the classic behaviour seen when a dragon encounters a potential predator.
Head Bobbing: Usually seen in male dragons, this sign tends to be associated with sexual interest or to assert dominance over other potential rival males (male bearded dragons establish their own small territories in the wild and will fiercely fend off other males). It is often seen when a male and a female are paired for breeding. Females might also sometimes head bob (but with a much more subdued, less vigorous pace) to show that they are submitting to a male.
Arm Waving: Quite common in younger dragons, also in adult females. It usually happens when two lizards encounter each other and one of them decides to submit to the other, in an attempt to avoid potential confrontation. It essentially involves the raising of one of the front limbs from the ground, and its rotation in a circular motion.
What Age/Sex is best?
• Hatchling/ juvenile beardies are best for 1st dragon as can raise them yourself
o Result will be a better quality pet
o You will be aware of its full life history.
o Can watch them flourish
• Please rescue, plenty out there needing homes
• Sexing the very young can be difficult
• Choosing a sex will depend on your long term plans
o Breeding? Acquire a female 1st, males are easier to find
o Just a pet? Male
More impressive to look at
No risk of becoming egg bound – don’t need a male
• Alert and inquisitive.
• Free of any external lesions & discharges
• Show a healthy feeding response/ hunting
• Look out for patches of retained shed skin, animals that are lying down with their eyes closed, subdued unresponsive animals, and animals that appear to be sluggish and not totally with it.
• The biggest hatchling in the group will often be the most adapt at finding its food.
• Look for congenital deformities
• Look for signs of calcium/bone related illness (see below), like abnormally shaped legs or a peculiar looking mandible.
• Best way to transport = small polystyrene box/ plastic tank – short journeys no need for extra heat
• Instant heat packs are fine for long journeys
• Reptiles will die very quickly when they get too hot and cannot cool down, much more quickly than when they get too cool.
• A vivarium = most appropriate
• Go straight for adult enclosure
• Wood and fibreglass are easier to set up and maintain than glass
o Glass doesn’t hold heat well
o Dragons don’t like being picked up from above if mesh topped one– predated by raptors in the wild
o Fibreglass are long lasting
• Plenty of ventilation
• As little humidity as possible
• The bigger the better with regards ***** *****
o 4ft minimum for one
o Add 1ft extra for each additional dragon
Can I keep more than one in the same enclosure?
• Not naturally social creatures and naturally tend to live on their own.
• Male bearded dragons are fiercely territorial
• NEVER HAVE MALE AND MALE
• Remember it is hard to sex hatchling so bear this in mind
• Two females = normally fine but on occasion they will fight
• A male and female if kept together constantly will result in copious amounts of eggs and a very stress and eventually sick female
• Be prepared to buy another vivarium setup if it doesn’t go to plan!
• From a dry natural environment therefore no requirement for humidity.
• Humidity = respiratory infections
• Water mainly obtained from food
o Sometimes due from environment
• Ideally give a couple a sprays of water every day
• Providing water bowl in case they will drink – most wont and only acts to trap live food so need to keep clean
• Warm/ shallow water soaks/ baths a couple of times a week
o Will stimulate them to void bowels
• Some risk gastrointestinal impaction – common medical emergency
o Woodchips/ sawdust
o Calci sand
o Corn cobs
• As much to climb over as possible
• Laminate/ cork tiles/ reptile carpet are suitable substrates (no loose substrate is best)
• Its natural for bearded dragons to dig, this is especially important for female. You can provide litter trays with sand/ soil mixtures to allow them to perform this behaviour.
• Multiple climbing/basking areas
• Fake plants
• Lots of heat required to survive.
• Need a temperature gradient – a hot and cold end of the vivarium
• Obtain heat from overhead not through their bellies – heat rocks and heat mats are no good as beardies do not have heat receptors on their bellies so can get burns – fatal in some cases
• Overhead spot lamps/ combi bulbs 9heat and UV) are best
• Attach the bulb to a dimming thermostat – stops temps getting too high
• The position of the thermostat probe depends on the type of thermostat you have. If for example, the maximum temperature of the thermostat is 90°F, then this is not hot enough for the basking spot, so it would not be appropriate to place the probe right under the heat lamp. In this case, the probe could be placed half way across the vivarium, with a thermometer monitoring the hot spot and the thermostat adjusted until the desired temperature is reached at this end. If at all possible, a “high range” or digital thermostat is more appropriate and I would always try to control the temperature at the level of the basking spot where possible.
• Aim for a basking spot of 40 degrees C
o A range of 35- 42 is satisfactory.
• The cool side should be about 24-34 degrees C
• Ceramic heaters should be provided at night if the temperatures drop below 15 degrees C
• Monitor temperature with a digital thermometer/ temp gun weekly
• Incorrect heat = sick lizard
• UVB = essential for the production of D3
• Vitamin D3 = essential to maintain the appropriate calcium levels
• Inadequate UVB will cause metabolic bone disease – MBD
o Deformity and death
• Diet can provide some D3 but is not sufficient to provide all D3
• Combi bulbs are best, ***** ***** also very good if they span the viv
• Need to be placed 12-18 inches over the beardie
• Tubes should be used with a reflector
• Mesh screens filter out UV light as does glass
• 10-12% UV is needed
• Most UV tubes should be changed every 6 months, combi bulbs can last over 12 months
Feeding & Diet
• Omnivorous (plants and insects)
• Hatchlings = mainly insects and need more protein as they are growing
• Adults mainly plant matter
• Offer younger dragons veg as they will pick at it more as they grow older
• Main insect fed = cricket
o Black crickets best – more meat on them and easier to gut load – will produce noise
• Feed insects which are roughly the size as the distance between the beardies eyes
• Feed in 10 minute sessions, where a few crickets are put in, then a few more, then a few more.
• Feed them as many as they will eat in that time.
• Remove uneaten crickets
• Baby bearded dragons need to be fed quite a lot of insects, so feeding twice or three times a day is appropriate.
• This can be decreased after about 4 months a little, and at 6 months of age can become once daily.
• Alternative livefood sources include locusts and cockroaches. Although ravished by the dragons, these insects are more expensive and are probably best reserved for adding variety to the diet, rather than as staple food sources
• Meal worms lack nutrition
• Wax worms are high in fat
• Gut load live food before feeding to bearded dragon
o Feed them layers pellets
o Veg in with crickets hour before feeding then removed
• Most suitable veg
o Green leafy vegetables are best, ***** ***** lettuce leaves (not iceberg if possible, as it’s basically just water), kale, dandelion leaves, rocket, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard leaves, clover, chicory and water cress are all good choices. Fruits like apple, mango, papaya, banana, kiwi etc can also be added for variety, but should not be the staple source of plant material.
• Avoid avocados and rhubarb for toxicity reasons. Citrus fruits are very acidic, and I would recommend avoiding these as well. Also, items with a high water content like tomatoes (which are also quite acidic) and cucumber. Spinach is not recommended either as it is known to bind to free calcium, decreasing its availability.
• Spray water on food and sprinkle with a bit of vit and calcium powder
• Important as their exposure to UVB is so much less than they would get in the wild
• Possible to overdose some vitamins
• Best supplementation = Nutrobal by Vetark
o 200mg calcium & 150IU vitamin D3, plus vitamins A C E K B1 B2 B6 B12 , folic, nicotinic & pantothenic acids, biotin choline niacin and minerals P Na Fe Co I Mn Zn Se Cu. I
o Twice weekly is suitable
• Dust feed with calci-dust at every feed – vet ark again do one
• Tame down quickly
• Tolerate handling very well
• Handle regularly
• Handle in warm environment – when house heating is on
• Avoid other household pets
Bearded dragons UK is very good