bearded dragon care guide - climbing on log

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on bearded dragon care! These fascinating reptiles, native to Australia, have become increasingly popular pets due to their friendly nature and relatively easy care requirements. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure your bearded dragon thrives in captivity.

Quick Answer

Habitat:

  • Basking Temp: 95-110°F
  • Cool Side Temp: 75-85°F
  • Enclosure Size: 75 gallons or larger
  • Humidity: 30-40%
  • Lighting: 12-14 hours of UVB light daily

Diet:

  • Young Dragons: 80% insects, 20% vegetables
  • Adults: 20% insects, 80% vegetables
  • Supplements: Calcium powder 3-4 times a week, multivitamins once a week

Health:

  • Common Issues: Watch for lethargy, appetite loss, abnormal droppings
  • Hydration: Fresh water daily, mist vegetables
  • Vet Visits: Annual check-ups

Handling:

  • Techniques: Support body and limbs, start with short sessions
  • Socialization: Spend time near the enclosure, hand-feed for trust

Setting Up the Perfect Habitat

Creating an ideal home for your bearded dragon is crucial for its health and happiness. Let’s dive into the essentials of a proper enclosure:

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Enclosure Size and Type

Adult bearded dragons require a spacious enclosure, ideally a 40-50 gallon tank or larger. Glass terrariums with front-opening doors are popular choices, as they provide easy access for cleaning and feeding.

Substrate Options

Choose a safe substrate that’s easy to clean and doesn’t pose a risk of impaction. Reptile carpet, ceramic tiles, or newspaper are excellent options. Avoid loose substrates like sand, especially for young dragons.

Lighting and Heating

Proper lighting and heating are crucial for your bearded dragon’s health. Provide a basking spot with temperatures between 95-105°F (35-40°C) during the day, and a cooler area around 80-85°F (27-29°C). Use a combination of UVB lighting and heat lamps to meet their needs.

Humidity Control

Maintain humidity levels between 30-40% for optimal health. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity and mist the enclosure lightly if needed.

bearded dragon care guide - basking on rock

Bearded Dragon Habitat Requirements

Creating the perfect home for your bearded dragon is essential for their health and happiness. Here’s a quick guide to setting up their habitat. And for a deeper dive, check out our guide to lighting, temperature, and humidity.

Basking Temp:

Bearded dragons love to soak up the heat! Keep the basking spot at a toasty 95-110°F. This high temperature helps them digest their food properly.

Cool Side Temp:

Just like us, bearded dragons need a cool spot to chill out. The cooler side of their enclosure should be around 75-85°F. This gradient allows them to regulate their body temperature.

Enclosure Size:

Your bearded dragon needs plenty of space to roam and explore. For an adult, aim for an enclosure that’s at least 75 gallons. Bigger is always better when it comes to their living space!

Humidity:

Maintaining the right humidity level is crucial. Aim for a range of 30-40%. Too much humidity can cause respiratory issues, while too little can lead to dehydration.

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Lighting:

Proper lighting mimics the natural day-night cycle. Provide 12-14 hours of UVB light daily. This not only helps them synthesize vitamin D3 but also keeps their activity levels up.

 

Nutrition and Feeding

A balanced diet is essential for your bearded dragon’s health. Their dietary needs change as they grow, so it’s important to adjust accordingly.

Dietary Needs at Different Life Stages

Young bearded dragons require a diet higher in protein, consisting of about 80% insects and 20% vegetables. As they mature, this ratio should shift to 20% insects and 80% vegetables.

Balancing Vegetables and Insects

Offer a variety of leafy greens like collard greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens. For insects, provide crickets, dubia roaches, and occasional treats like waxworms. Learn more about their natural diet.

Feeding Schedule and Portion Sizes

Young dragons should be fed 2-3 times daily, while adults can be fed once a day. Offer as many insects as they can eat in 10-15 minutes, and provide fresh vegetables daily.

Supplements and Vitamins

Dust insects with calcium powder 3-4 times a week and use a multivitamin supplement once a week to ensure proper nutrition.

Insects

Crickets, dubia roaches, and occasional treats like waxworms

Vegetables

Leafy greens like collard greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens

Supplements

Calcium powder (3-4 times a week) and multivitamin supplement (once a week)

Water

Fresh, clean water daily

Health and Wellness

Maintaining your bearded dragon’s health involves regular monitoring and preventive care. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Common Health Issues and Symptoms

Be vigilant for signs of illness such as lethargy, loss of appetite, abnormal droppings, or respiratory issues. Learn to recognize key signs of illness.

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Preventing and Treating Dehydration

Dehydration is a common issue in bearded dragons. Offer fresh water daily and mist vegetables to increase water intake. Recognize signs of dehydration and address them promptly.

Regular Health Check-ups and Vet Visits

Schedule annual check-ups with a reptile veterinarian to ensure your dragon’s ongoing health. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you notice any concerning symptoms.

Grooming and Shedding Care

Assist your dragon during shedding by providing a shallow bath and gently removing loose skin if necessary. Regular baths can also help with hydration and hygiene.

Bearded Dragon Health Checklist

  • Monitor appetite and weight: Bearded dragons should eat 1-2% of their body weight daily
  • Check for clear eyes and nostrils: Cloudy eyes may indicate respiratory issues
  • Observe regular shedding: Typically occurs every 2-3 months
  • Ensure proper bowel movements: 1-2 per day is recommended
  • Watch for normal activity levels: Inactivity may indicate stress or illness
  • Maintain clean habitat conditions: Clean enclosure weekly, replace substrate every 2-3 months

Handling and Socialization

Bearded dragons are known for their docile nature and can become quite social with proper handling and care.

Proper Handling Techniques

Always support your dragon’s body and limbs when handling. Start with short, gentle sessions and gradually increase duration as your pet becomes more comfortable.

Building Trust with Your Bearded Dragon

Spend time near the enclosure, talking softly to your dragon. Offer food by hand to create positive associations with your presence.

Enrichment Activities and Toys

Provide climbing branches, hide boxes, and safe toys to keep your dragon mentally stimulated. Supervised exploration outside the enclosure can also be beneficial.

Interaction with Other Pets and Family Members

Introduce your bearded dragon to family members slowly and always supervise interactions with other pets to ensure safety.

Long-term Care and Commitment

Owning a bearded dragon is a long-term commitment. These reptiles can live up to 10-15 years with proper care.

Final Thoughts

These charming reptiles make wonderful pets, and with the right knowledge and preparation, you can ensure they live a long, healthy, and happy life. From setting up a perfect habitat to providing balanced nutrition and regular health care, every aspect of their well-being is crucial. Remember, a bearded dragon is a long-term commitment that brings years of joy and companionship. We hope this guide has equipped you with the essential tips and confidence to care for your new scaly friend. Happy dragon keeping!