Also known as the Inland Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps
is hardy, easy to breed and adjusts well to gentle handling. Bearded Dragons are native to the grasslands and semi-deserts of central and Eastern Australia.
In contrast to most lizards, bearded dragons are usually quite easy to handle. They are less active than most lizards and spend most of their time basking. If threatened, breaded dragons expand their throat into a dark pointy "beard". This is usually a bluff, and even wary bearded dragons rarely bite. These lizards also use body posture and arm waving to communicate.
Bearded Dragons are less active than most lizards, but are very aware of what is going on outside their terrarium. Possibly in response to an "internal clock", they sometimes refuse food during the winter. This is not a concern in healthy animals, which usually begin feeding with spring's arrival.
Setting up the Terrarium
Bearded dragons should be provided as much space as possible. Juveniles can be housed in 10-20 gallon aquariums while a single adult will require an enclosure of at least 36 x 18 inches. Larger enclosures will allow your lizard to thermoregulate, adjusting its body temperature as needed by moving from warmer to cooler areas of the cage.
Bearded dragons are largely terrestrial, but will use rocks
as perches and basking sites.
Air flow is important for all animals native to arid habitats, so your terrarium should be equipped with a screen top
Bearded dragons inhabit sandy environments, but captives sometimes suffer impactions due to swallowing too much sand along with their food. Although calcium-based reptile sand
is available and is much safer than many other substrates, it is best to offer most food in large bowls
so that ingestion of sand is limited. This is especially true for juveniles, which should ideally be kept on newspaper or paper towels until they are larger. Soil, moss, and other water-absorbing materials should be avoided, as bearded dragons can become quickly ill in damp surroundings.
Light, Heat and Humidity
Bearded dragons will not thrive without a source of UVB radiation. Fluorescent reptile bulbs
should be place within 6-12 inches of the basking area, and mercury vapor bulbs
can also be used to provide UVB radiation as well as heat in larger cages. Incandescent bulbs can be used for heat during the day, and a ceramic heater
or red/black bulb can be used after dark if supplemental heat is necessary.
Bearded dragons require a basking temperature of 95-110°F but must be able to move into cooler areas of 75-85°F. Temperatures can drop into the 70's at night without issue. Humidity should be kept low, and the substrate must be dry at all times.
Despite being generally calm around people, Bearded Dragons are sometimes aggressive towards each other. Females and juveniles usually co-exist, but groups must be watched as dominant individuals may prevent others from feeding and basking. Mature males cannot be kept together.
Bearded dragons prefer insects to vegetation, but they should be offered both. Juveniles tend to eat more insects, ingesting a larger proportion of plants as they mature. Vegetation can be offered in the form of kale, string beans, squash, collard greens, dandelion, carrots, and other leafy greens. Spinach binds calcium, making it unusable, and should be avoided.
The insect portion of the diet should consist of crickets, roaches, waxworms, superworms, and other commercially available species. Insects should be fed nutritious cricket food
for at least one day prior to being offered to your lizard. Wild-collected insects can also be offered, provided you learn to recognize toxic species and collect insects only from pesticide-free areas.
A calcium supplement
should be used at nearly every feeding, and a multivitamin powder
should be used 2-3 times per week. Commercial bearded dragon food
can be used as well, as long as it makes up no more than 25% of your lizard's diet.
Adults can be fed every other day, while juveniles should be fed nearly every day.
Some individuals will drink water from a bowl, but most prefer to lap water that has been sprayed onto a small section of the enclosure, as long as it dries quickly after misting. If a bowl is used, make sure that it does not spill and cause the cage to become damp. Bearded dragons may also be soaked in shallow lukewarm water once or twice per week, and any washed vegetables that are offered can be left wet to provide additional access to water.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check your pet daily for signs of injury or disease including missing toes, abrasions, ulcers and blisters, Bearded dragons should always appear alert. Animals that seem limp or do not hold themselves erect when active are likely in poor health.
Daily care includes misting, feeding, and removing waste and uneaten food.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide "Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations" for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our reptile room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1246 or [email protected]