Bearded dragons are the most popular pet reptile in the world, and for good reason! These reptiles make great pets because of their docile and happy nature. But, don’t be fooled, keeping pet bearded dragons is an investment of time and money, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Basic Knowledge For Keeping Pet Bearded Dragons
If you’re looking for some information about how to keep a pet bearded dragon, you’ve probably noticed there’s quite a bit of info all over the Internet about them.
But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of details about them online. We’ve put together an easy guide for you to get acquainted with bearded dragons. While we won’t address super-specific issues or questions pertaining to the health and wellness of bearded dragons (you should consult a vet for that!), we’ve made sure to give you a solid primer to becoming a beardie parent!
In this guide, you’ll find information about:
- Types of Bearded Dragons and Morphs
- Bearded Dragon Behavior and Demeanor
- Basic Habitat Setup
- Bearded Dragon Diet
- Health and Wellness: What to Look For
- How Much Do Bearded Dragons Cost?
Types of Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are some of the most popular kinds of lizards that people want to keep as pets. They’re smart, friendly, and all-around neat creatures!
There are roughly 8 different species of bearded dragons, but only some of them are legal to own as pets. Of the various species, these are the ones you’re allowed to have:
- Pogona vitticeps (Central bearded dragon)
- Pogona minor (Western bearded dragon)
- Pogona barbata (Eastern bearded dragon)
- Pogona henrylawsoni (Rankins bearded dragon)
All of these types of bearded dragons are fairly similar in appearance, but they vary in size. The pogona vitticeps, the most common type of pet bearded dragon, can grow to more than 18 inches at maturity. The pogona minor will generally reach 14 inches, while the pogona barbata can get as large as 24 inches from tail to snout!
Bearded Dragon Morphs
In addition to the four beardie species legal in the USA, there are also around 20 different morphs.
What’s a bearded dragon morph?
A morph is a beardie that’s been specifically bred to exhibit a specific coloring or scale pattern. There are a lot of factors that go into breeding morphs, and the desired colorations might also come with demeanor changes, behavioral oddities, and even, genetic predispositions for illness.
Some of the more common beardie morphs include:
- Silkie – These lizards have delicate skin because they lack scales or spines
- Reds – Beardies who exhibit a desirable red colorations, ranging from dark maroon to bright crimson
- Sunburst – This kind of morph has primarily yellow colorings with bright orange highlights
- Albino – Completely white skin with red eyes
Understanding Your Bearded Dragon’s Behavior
Bearded dragons are popular pets and for good reason – they’re lovable, docile and relatively low-maintenance. They’re also fascinating creatures that can be entertaining to watch.
Bearded dragons typically have a calm temperament and they enjoy interacting with their owners. They like to be held and will often climb onto their owner’s shoulders.
While they are typically gentle, bearded dragons can have mood swings and they may lash out if they feel threatened. They may also become aggressive if they are not properly socialized.
Bearded dragons are also known to be quite territorial and they may become aggressive if they feel like their territory is being invaded.
Understanding your bearded dragon’s behavior is important for a few reasons. First, it will help you to better care for your pet. Secondly, it will allow you to create a bond with your bearded dragon and third, it will help you to avoid any potential problems.
Bearded dragons are diurnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the day. They love to bask in the warm sun and they are most active when the temperature is between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
At night, bearded dragons will typically sleep in their burrows or hiding spots. It is important to provide your bearded dragon with a safe, warm and comfortable place to sleep at night.
Bearded dragons are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat anything that they can catch. In the wild, their diet consists of insects, small mammals, and other reptiles. In captivity, however, bearded dragons should be fed a diet of specially prepared food, vegetables, and occasional live insects.
Bearded dragons are typically very curious creatures, so it is important to provide plenty of toys and activities to keep them entertained. Providing a large, well-ventilated tank with branches, rocks, and other objects for your dragon to explore can help reduce stress and prevent boredom.
Overall, understanding your bearded dragon’s behavior is key to keeping your pet happy and healthy. By providing a safe, comfortable environment and a nutritious diet, you can help ensure that your bearded dragon lives a long and happy life.
Bearded Dragon Habitat Basics
Bearded dragons come from the depths of the Australian outback, so they’re pretty hardy creatures. But, that doesn’t mean you can slack off on their vivarium setup! Here are some of the most important details you should know before setting up your beardie’s terrarium.
Bearded dragons are accustomed to a constant input of light, having lived in the desert, after all. Beardies, much like other reptiles, need ultraviolet light B (UVB) to help get all the required nutrients and regulate their internal temperature.
There are a couple of different bulbs you can use to give your beardie the right kind of lighting, but we recommend using a full spectrum fluorescent light. This gives your beardie both heat, UVB, and light. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive and work with most terrarium setups. You’ll need a ballast for your bulbs, but those are also easy to come buy.
Your beardie will need about 8-10% UVB for around 12-14 hours a day in the winter, and 14-16 hours a day in the summer. It’s important to turn off the lights completely at nighttime, as this helps your beardie regulate their biorhythms.
Since bearded dragons are used to the hot weather in the Australian deserts, temperature is a pretty big factor in their happiness.
Before you introduce your bearded dragon into their new terrarium, you should plan a few days where you can monitor the temperatures and adjust as needed. Use a reptile thermometer to get the best readings, and adjust the temperature by moving the lights, ceramic bulbs, etc.
You should aim to create a temperature gradient in the tank, meaning one end has a high temperature, AKA the basking area, and the other end has cooler temperatures, a place where the beardie can have some respite.
Here’s a breakdown of the required temperatures for adult bearded dragons:
- 90°F – 95°F in a basking area
- 80°F – 90°F during the day
- No lower than 70°F during the night
While you might think you don’t have to worry about humidity for your bearded dragon because they live in an arid climate, you’re wrong! You must monitor the humidity of your bearded dragon terrarium because if it climbs too high–from natural factors–it could spell doom for your beardie’s respiratory and skin health.
The ideal humidity range is between 35% and 40%. Anything more than that is detrimental to your beardie’s health.
The best way to keep a constant humidity level is to use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity over the course of a few days. You can experiment with lowering the humidity by adding/removing plants, rocks, or substrates. Another good thing to keep in mind is that closed-top terrariums (like with a solid lid) retain moisture and increase humidity.
For beardies, it’s best if they have a mesh or open-top terrarium, as this allows optimum airflow.
As a new reptile owner, you might think that you must match your beardie’s terrarium as closely as possible to their natural environment. This is where many pet owners go astray, simply because they try too hard to mimic real life.
In the Australian deserts, beardies spend a lot of time on the ground, but sand and loose dirt aren’t good terrarium substrates. Bearded dragons can get sand in their eyes, nose, and even eat it if they’re deprived of calcium. Sand in their system can cause impaction and other digestion issues, so avoid sand at all costs.
Reptile carpet is a good choice for most reptiles because of its natural look and feel. It’s also easy to clean!
You can also use ceramic tiles in your beardie’s terrarium. They look natural and help retain some heat during the night.
Avoid clay or gravel, as both of them can cause problems for your beardie’s skin. The best substrate is one that’s easy to clean and cheap. Newspaper even works in a pinch, though it doesn’t look very nice.
Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded dragons should be fed a diet of specially prepared food, vegetables, and occasional live insects. Unlike other pet reptiles, bearded dragons aren’t picky eaters. In the wild, they tend to eat anything they can find, since they primarily live in arid climates.
Generally, you should provide adult beardies with a diet that’s 3/4 vegetables, greens, and fruits, and 1/4 live insects or small animals, like mice. Juvenile bearded dragons require more protein since they’re still growing, so swapping the values to provide a 3/4 live insects and 1/4 greens diet will ensure your young beardie has the right nutrients.
Vegetables and fruits bearded dragons like to eat include:
- Kale, dandelion greens, collard greens
- Pumpkin, squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots
- Grapes, bananas, apples, peaches
- Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries
The insects that bearded dragons like to eat include:
To ensure that your bearded dragon is getting all of the nutrients it needs, it is also important to provide a balanced diet with vitamins to supplement their food. Sprinkling calcium powder on their food is critical for bone health, and this should be done twice a week.
Speaking of feeding schedules, it’s a good idea to keep a bearded dragon feeding chart. This helps you remember what you fed your reptile, when you fed him, and what you should be feeding him next.
Generally, you only have to feed your adult beardie once a day. Juveniles eat a lot more frequently, up to three times a day.
A juvenile might eat around 30 crickets or dubia, a handful of collard greens, some vegetable pieces, and a few small pieces of fruit in a day. They should be fed in the morning, afternoon, and night. Sticking to a schedule will help your young beardie know when food is coming and regulate their natural biorhythms.
Adult bearded dragons only need to eat once a day, and they consume a lot less food. Feed them 5-6 insects, a lot of greens, vegetables, and fruit. (More greens and vegetables than fruit).
Switching up their diets can also help them get all the right nutrients. For example, feed your beardie sweet potato for a few days, and then switch to squash or pumpkin for a few days. Keep their foods in rotations, and if you notice your pet doesn’t like a certain food, gradually lessen how much you feed them that food.
Complete Bearded Dragon Care: Health and Wellness
Like we said earlier, we’re not trained veterinarians, so we won’t try to tell you how to care for your bearded dragon if they’re sick. That’s when the professionals come up to bat.
Instead, we’ll outline some of the afflictions common among bearded dragons. That way, you can keep an eye out for any warning signs and consult your vet.
Bearded dragons are susceptible to a number of health problems, some of which can be fatal if not treated.
Some common health problems beardies experience include:
Respiratory infection – Symptoms of a respiratory infection include wheezing, labored breathing, and mucus discharge from the nose and mouth. If left untreated, a respiratory infection can lead to pneumonia, which is fatal.
Mouth rot – Mouth rot is an infection of the gums and mouth that’s caused by poor husbandry. Symptoms include discoloration of the gums, mucus discharge, and loss of appetite. If left untreated, mouth rot can lead to organ failure and death.
Parasites – Parasites are tiny creatures that live off of their host (in this case, your bearded dragon). Some common parasites include mites, ticks, and worms. Symptoms of parasites include weight loss, lethargy, and diarrhea. If left untreated, parasites can lead to anemia and death.
Vitamin A deficiency – A diet that’s low in vitamin A can lead to a number of health problems for your pet, including weight loss and organ failure.
Fungal infection – Fungal infections are caused by high humidity or poor husbandry practices. Symptoms include lethargy, discolored skin, scratching, and scaly patches on the body.
Metabolic bone disease–this is the most common illness that captive bearded dragons experience, and it’s completely preventable. Metabolic bone disease is caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in the diet, which leads to weak bones. Symptoms include twitching, tremors, softening of the jawbone, and paralysis. If left untreated, metabolic bone disease can be fatal.
It’s important to consult with a vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in your bearded dragon, as they may require medical attention.
One of the best ways to avoid many of these health problems is to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure clean. Parasites, bacteria, and fungi grow in the same warm conditions that bearded dragons require, so frequently changing your pet’s substrate and cleaning their tank with reptile-safe products will greatly reduce the risk of an infection.
Learn More About Bearded Dragons as Pets
Bearded Dragon Price: How Much Do They Cost?
Bearded dragons make popular pets because they’re docile, easy to care for, and come in a variety of colors. But before you bring one home, you need to know how much they cost.
Bearded dragons typically cost between $50 and $200, depending on the age, color, and sex of the dragon. Babies and juveniles are usually on the cheaper end, while adults and dragons with rare colors can be on the more expensive side.
The initial cost of your bearded dragon is just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to factor in the cost of food, housing, and veterinary care. Setting up their tank is particularly expensive because you need to have:
- A quality substrate
- Reptile thermometer and hygrometer
- Terrarium plants and terrain
- Heat lamps and basking stones
You have to buy all of these things and have the enclosure ready before you even think about buying a beardie. A lot of people preparing to become reptile owners will gradually buy the necessary products over time, setting up the tank weeks before they start looking for pet bearded dragons.
You also have to factor in the recurring cost of keeping a bearded dragon. Each month, you’ll have to pay for their food, replacement substrates, and vitamins, plus electricity for their lights and heating methods. And that’s not including any emergency vet visits.
Overall, owning a bearded dragon can get kind of pricey, so you should always make sure you’re ready to commit. Bearded dragons can live up to a decade in captivity on average, so you’ll need to be certain you want to invite a beardie into your family!
But thankfully, there are a lot of great places online to find affordable reptile supplies. Take a look at some of the great deals we found for reptile and terrarium products!
Bearded Dragon Care FAQs
Yes! While some people might be hesitant to deviate from the pet-store norm, buying bearded dragons online is not only a personal experience, but a safe one, too. Our recommended reptile breeders take great care of their animals, and ensure a safe, live delivery for all reptiles.
Beardies tend to live for 10 to 15 years in captivity, and that number is significantly less in the wild.
Well, the initial cost of keeping a bearded dragon is often a barrier to entry. The lizards themselves can cost anywhere from $100 to $200, but terrarium gear, food, substrates, and lighting will tack on at least another $500. Then, you have to consider monthly costs, which will include live feeders, fruits and vegetables, new substrate, and electricity.
We’d say that to get started, you’ll need at least $800 to be safe, and then budget around $100 a month for care and feeding costs.
Generally, you can house many crickets or roaches in the same tank. To keep them as healthy and nutritious as possible, you want to make sure the temperature remains between 70-75° F, with temps no more than 85° F and no lower than 60°F. Other feeders like waxworms or mealworms can be stored in the refrigerator.
Bearded dragons are very versatile creatures, and they’ve adapted to the harsh environment of the Australian deserts. Temperatures can drop drastically at night in the desert, so bearded dragons need to know how to adapt. That being said, you should aim to keep your beardie’s enclosure between 70-75° F at night with darkness to accompany those lower temps. This will help get your bearded dragon into a habit of rest, which is essential for maintaining their natural rhythms.