Bearded Dragon Care Overview
Welcome and glad you stopped by! We have a detailed guide surrounding everything on bearded dragon care. It is vital to understand how to keep your beardie healthy and live an awesome quality of life. Read the quick overview below and then dive in!
The name “bearded dragon” refers to the “beard” of the dragon, the underside of the throat.Wikipedia
Bearded Dragons are found natural in the outback of Australia. There are several closely related species, but the Central Bearded Dragon is the one most commonly kept as a pet. As a pet species, bearded dragons are quickly becoming a popular first choice.
Thanks to advances in technology, bearded dragon care is becoming more easy and fun! The four most commonly kept types are the Standard or Classic Morph, Hypomelanistic Morph, Leatherback Morph and the German Giant.
A healthy beardie can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years if fed well and kept in a suitable terrarium. After 60 days of growth inside their egg, beardies will start to hatch. The first to hatch encourages the rest of the batch to hatch as well. If you are breeding your bearded dragons, it is best to have an egg incubator. To allow the female to lay, she needs to have a nest box large enough that she is able to turn around inside it. Bearded dragons are considered mature around 18 months of age.
When fully grown the average size of a beardie is 45cm including the tail. There are 11 recognised morphs (a way of describing colour, patterns and estimated adult size) .
Bearded Dragon Facts: Did you know bearded dragons are illegal in Hawaii? What about them waving or bobbing to each other? Or maybe you knew that they see in full color or run on 2 legs?
Bearded Dragon Morphs
Read some of the morphs below. If you want to see more morphs, check out our bearded dragon morphs page!
Classic/Standard – inexpensive and can be purchased from reputable pet shops. This is the morph most commonly recognized as a beardie. They have a large triangular head, spikes along their back and a ‘beard’ under the chin. Colours include red, yellow or tan with black or orange markings.
Hypomelanistic – similar to albinism, these morphs look a little washed out or pastel in their colouration. Hypomelanism means they are unable to produce dark markings. They are a fairly common morph and they also have spikes along the back like standards.
Leatherback – rather than spikes along the back, they have them around their head and sides of the body. The back is smooth and as adults they are slightly smaller than the more common standard morph.
German Giant – remarkably similar to standard/classic but grow larger and need a bigger terrarium. It can be difficult to tell whether you have a standard or German giant until the beardie is older.
Beared Dragon Terrarium
This is where it all starts in bearded dragon care!
There are many elements to consider when setting up your bearded dragon terrarium. We cover the various categories below. Further details can be found in our bearded dragon habitat setup guide!
As a reptile species Bearded Dragons are unable to regulate their own body temperature, so their terrarium needs to be temperature controlled. Their body produces energy from heat and solar rays, so they need a hot end of their terrarium with a UV light and a basking spot. The optimum temperature range is 38-42°C. To enable them to cool down as they would naturally do by finding a burrow, there also needs to be a cool end, set at 22-26°C. Very important aspect in bearded dragon care! Bearded dragons also LOVE to sun bath outside or in a window. If you decide to take your pet outside, be sure to have them on a bearded dragon harness or leash!
To maintain good air flow and temperature control the terrarium should be approximately 4 x 2 x 2ft and well ventilated. Wooden terrariums are best, especially in countries with a cold and humid climate.
The terrarium should have low humidity between 30 and 40%.
The basking lamp should be kept at the same side of the terrarium and a thermostat will help keep a consistent temperature. It is recommended to have the basking light on for 10-12 hours per day. To ensure your beardie has a clear day/night cycles, all lights should be switched off at night, so the terrarium is dark. To maintain the correct night temperature, a ceramic lamp can be added. It does not produce light, but it will automatically come on when the temperature of the terrarium drops below the optimum range. The thermostat will keep this lamp off during the day.
When choosing a substrate, it needs to be a dust-free option that will not have an impact on the humidity of the enclosure. A good option would be a beech woodchip or a mix of sand, soil and clay. If you are keeping your beardie in a bio-active terrarium then a mix of clay and nutrient rich soil is essential. It is also advised to mix a little sand in for aeration. These substrate types are easy to spot clean with a simple terrarium sieve and are not likely to get stuck to your beardie’s food.
To give them extra heat availability, decorations such as slate or a hard wood are great choices as they retain heat on their surface. This means your beardie can warm his belly as well as basking under the lamp. They will sometimes want to climb higher to get to a warmer spot so consider adding decorations such as ledges or logs, but not so tall that your bearded dragon is at risk of touching the heat lamp.
Spot cleans should be done everyday to remove small amounts of dirt and waste from the substrate. A full terrarium clean should be done once a month. You need to remove all decorations and substrate. To clean the terrarium you can use a reptile-friendly disinfectant that you can purchased from your local pet store. All sides and the base should be sprayed and wiped clean with a dry paper towel.
The same method can be used to clean the decorations, but they will need to be thoroughly rinsed with water before drying to ensure all traces of disinfectant are removed. It is not recommended that cleaning be done too close to evening. Afternoon is best as it means your beardie will still have a few hours of basking time before the lamps are switched off for the night.
Throughout the year your bearded dragon may go through periods where they seem out of sorts but are actually healthy and going through normal processes.
Brumation is similar to hibernation and usually occurs towards the end of Autumn and into Winter due to changes in light levels and temperature. Some owners may use the temperature and lighting within the terrarium to prevent brumation, but it is advisable to leave your bearded dragon to be as natural as possible. During this period, your beardie will be less active, either taking longer naps or sleeping right through. This can be for a week or several months. Every bearded dragon is different. Some may not experience brumation at all.
Shedding is common and necessary. As they grow, young bearded dragons will shed regularly, however, fully grown beardies may only shed once or twice a year. It is easy to spot when a shed is close as the skin will become dull and their eyes may appear puffed. Since the skin can quickly become dehydrated during shedding you can give your beardie a quick wash with warm water or mist them lightly with a spray bottle. You may see your bearded dragon bathing in their water bowl during a shed. It is not advised to pull off the shedded skin as you can cause damage to the new scales underneath. The shedded skin will fall off on its own.
Keep an eye on the tip of the tail and toes. These areas are difficult for shedding skin to be lost so you may need to help remove it. If you pull lightly and there is resistance, the skin is not ready. Leaving shedded skin on the toes or tail can create tightness and restrict blood flow, causing tissue damage.
Bearded Dragon Care – Health Video
Watch this quick bearded dragon health video for more information.
Common Health Issues
Impaction is quite common, but can cause serious health issues if not treated. If you have noticed that your bearded dragon has not went to the bathroom for several days but is still eating normal, he may be suffering from impaction. Normally this can be helped by giving your dragon a bath in warm water for 10 minutes. During this bath, you should gently massage the stomach. If their constipation is due to being too cold, this will encourage them to defecate, usually within 24 hours. If nothing occurs after 24 hours, you should see a vet as soon as possible to rule out more serious illness.
Stress or a change in diet can cause diarrhoea. This should only be temporary, and you should notice that your beardie’s stool becomes more solid. If this is not the case, you should see a vet as this could be a sign of worms or intestinal parasites. If your dragon has puffy eyes but is not shedding it could be an indication of an eye infection. These are common and can be easily treated with medication.
Bearded Dragons are also prone to non-infectious skin diseases, metabolic bone disease, and internal parasites.
Like many lizard species bearded dragons are omnivorous, requiring a diet of vegetables and live insects.
Many people want to feed them human food such as frut and meat but this is just bad bearded dragon care! Fruit and meat can cause stomach issues, so it is advised to avoid these.
The most inexpensive option and easiest for beardies to hunt is brown crickets. They are easy to digest and highly nutritious. If you have a fussy bearded dragon you can also try black crickets or locusts as an equally nutritious alternative. Good treat options include cockroaches, waxworms or beetle grubs, but these should be limited to once or twice a week as they can be more difficult to digest and worms can be quite fatty.
Healthy vegetable options are leafy greens such as kale and parsley, grated carrot, bell peppers and parsnip. Avoid acidic vegetables like onions and iceberg lettuce. It is also best to avoid is spinach and peas. A couple of times a week roughage should be added to the salad such as dandelion or chickweed. Flower mixes are a good alternative or dry herb cobs. Both of these options need to be rehydrated and mixed into the salad.
Supplements are also required. Bearded dragons get most of their nutrients from their diet, however, they do need calcium and certain vitamins in higher concentrations. These are usually given in powder form to be sprinkled over their salad or live food. These supplement mixes can be purchased from any pet store or online pet market.
Bearded Dragon Care FAQ
Expensive to keep and need regular handling, extra care during shedding
Gentle handling is advised when interacting with dragons, but they do not ‘play’ like other pets might.
If distress or threatened they can bite. Their venom is not toxic to humans but can cause an infection if the bite would is not cleaned.
They can give a sharp bite but only show aggression when distressed or handled incorrectly.
If handling is part of their daily routine, beardie will look forward to attention from their owners.
Cuddling is common with beardies and is seen as affection, however, it is most likely because they are enjoying your body heat. Regularly handled beardies will seek contact on their own if they enjoy it.
They can live alone quite happily but can be kept in pairs. You may often see them basking on top of each other.
If careful introduction is not followed, bearded dragons will feel distressed around other pets, especially cats and dogs. They are also sensitive to loud noises and vibrations.
Generally no, unless their enclosure has not be properly cleaned.
This is likely because he feels threatened. Be careful when handling and never grab them from above or by the tail.
Terrariums use a lot of electricity so owning a dragon can be expensive. Also, they are very time consuming a require daily upkeep and attention. If you do not have the time to commit, you should not get a bearded dragon.
Daily if possible and only when your dragon seems comfortable to be handled.
They carry bacteria and viruses within their body and are a common cause of salmonella. It is advised to never kiss your beardie, wash your hands after handling and do not let children under five handle them.
If introduced carefully from a young age, they may grow to tolerate or even enjoy contact with cats and dogs.
If you have the time and finances to give, owning a bearded dragon can be extremely rewarding. Just like people, all beardies have their own personality and characters. It is important that you do your research, especially if you have not owned reptiles before, as they have a lot of complicated requirements.