Guide to Owning a Pet Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)
A Pet Bearded Dragon is one of the most popular lizards to own.
Beardies are from central Australia and will grow to
16 to 22 inches with a life span of 7 to 10 years (females are slightly
smaller). These extremely popular pet lizards are relatively easy to
care for given their pleasant temperament. They do require a
large 75 gallon to 120 gallon terrarium that resembles the desert
savanna type environment (desert and dry forest, scrub lands).
They dwell on the ground, and will
climb on lower branches and rocks. Adults mature between month 10
and 18. The reptile is most active during the day.
In the wild, Bearded Dragons will look for food in the AM and
afternoon, and spend the hot part of the day underground in an burrow.
The lizard does well in captivity and are relatively easy to care
for. The lizard's temperament is calm and they do not stress when
Bearded Dragon Statistics
|18 - 22 inches
(45cm - 56 cm)
|285 -510 g (10 - 18 oz)
of sexual maturity
|1 to 2 yrs.
at sexual maturity
|12 - 16 inches
(30cm - 40cm)
per clutch or grouping
|15 - 25, multiple clutches per
Dragon Life span
|10 to 15 years
Source: Exotic DVM, Volume 8, Issue 5
A Pet Bearded Dragon does well in
captivity and makes a good pet reptile. The name comes from the dark
distended throat of the male. When purchasing, looks for these signs of
good health. Have a Veterinarian check your lizard after purchase
Source: Exotic DVM
Bearded Dragon Cages
A Pet Bearded Dragon requires a hot, dry or savanna
like environment in a long and
wide cage. It doesn't not
have to be tall. The cage does require a secure screen top. Look
for a 10 gallon to 15 gallon lizard terrarium
raising babies. As the lizard grows, a larger terrarium is required
with the minimum floor space being 18 x 48 inches (46x122 cm). In
gallons a bearded dragon terrarium should be at least 75 gallons or
larger. We suggest keeping only 1 male per cage, but there can be 2
females. If 2 males are housed together, there can be dominance
problems. Breeders often house 2 males together since this can
Pet Bearded Dragon Cage
Source: Exotic DVM
: A pet Bearded Dragon
ingest any substrate made of small particles. For this reason do not
use these types of covering; reptile sand, cat litter, walnut shell,
wood shavings, gravel or wood
chips. Preferred substrates are newspaper, reptile carpet, alfalfa
pellets, cypress mulch or sterile
potting soil if it can be disposed of with every cage cleaning.
Decor and Furniture
should include basking rocks that are glued down so that they cannot
move and injure the lizard (use silicon to glue on place). The bearded
dragon cage should include
climbing branches and a hiding shelter. Plants that thrive in this type
of arid environment includes sansevieria, aloe, palms, and cycads.
: A pet bearded
terrarium should contain a hiding box. Wood hiding boxes can be
periodically soaked in water to improve humidity levels.
: Bearded Dragons
require direct sunlight or UVB light (no less than 5% UVB on package)
in order to properly metabolize calcium. Sunlight that passes through
windows or Plexiglas do not provide the required UV light. Recommended
brands include the fluorescent UV light ZooMed
or the Mercury vapor bulb based ZooMed
Fluorescent UV light should be located 18 - 20 inches from the lizard.
Change fluorescent bulbs every 6 months when the lizard is young, and
1x per year as an adult. If using a Mercury Vapor bulb, change the bulb
Provide a water pan
that will allow the entire pet bearded
dragon to soak at least 1 to 2 times per week. Unfortunately, the
lizard will drop feces in the water,
so be sure to clean daily and disinfect the water pan with bleach
weekly. Some bearded dragons will not drink from a water
dish. To hydrate these lizards, provide the soaking pan and rinse
any greens with water just before feeding so that the lizard ingests
the water droplets.
: Any Pet Bearded Dragon cage should be well ventilated
humidity at 40% to 60% RH). Note that sand or newspaper could decrease
cage humidity. Keep burrows and hiding boxes more humid than the
rest of the bearded dragon terrarium.
A pet bearded
dragon requires the following daytime and night time
Do not let temperatures fall below
70F. During the day, the best approach is a temperature gradient
with the cool side at 80F, moving to the heated side at 95F.
End of Cage
Area surface temperature
|80F - 85F
|88F - 95F
(43.3C - 51.6C)
|70F - 75F
Pet Bearded Dragon Care
Young Lizards require a good amount of food to fuel their growth. They
are approximately 3 inches at birth. By the end of month 2 they will be
twice the length. They will reach full size (1 to 2 feet) after a year.
The nails do need to be clipped. Cat claw trimmers are the best way to
clip the nails. Do not clip too close to the foot. Bleeding can be
stopped by applying corn starch. Nails should be clipped ever few weeks.
Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded Dragon Food:
A pet Bearded dragon is an omnivore when a
juvenile, feeding primarily on crickets and
greens. The adult bearded dragon diet is mostly herbivorous, with some
insects. Do not feed lightening bugs to Bearded Dragons.
The fruits and plants listed below can be added as an
occasional treat. All food should be provided in a shallow dish
to avoid the lizard ingesting any cage substrate with the food. At
first, feed small crickets such as pinhead crickets and tiny just
molted worms. Over time, the food can be increased in size.
Crickets should be no larger than the space between the lizard's
eyes. If large crickets are swallowed whole they can cause health
problems such as partial paralysis, loss of motor control, inability to
self-feed, and a tetanic seizure that can cause death. As a treat, feed
the lizard other insects on occasion such as wax worms (fatty, poor
source of nutrition), super worms, mealworms. Crickets and mealworms
be pre-fed or gut loaded to improve the nutritional value.
Hatchings are fed daily with small crickets, worms, flies and
moths. Also provide some greens with a calcium and mineral supplement.
Provide a vitamin supplement 1x per week.
For juveniles, dust insects before feeding with the calcium powder
immediately before feeding the lizard.
Adult pet Bearded Dragon feeding should occur every 24 to 48 hours.
Pinkie mice can be fed to the bearded dragon after 4 months of age.
Younger lizards are fed smaller, younger mice. Mice can be provided 1x
Also feed your bearded dragon a salad of calcium rich greens, including:
- collard greens
- dandelion greens and flowers
- grape leaves
- mustard greens
- turnip greens
Vegetables can also be added to the the salad of Bearded Dragon food
for additional vitamins:
- acorn squash
- red bell peppers
- green bell peppers
- butternut squash
- green beans
- lentils, peas
- snow peas
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
There are several fruits that can be used as a treat. Remove pits and
seeds before feeding to your lizard.
These plants can also be added for nutritional variety to Bearded
- Ficus benhamina
- hibiscus flowers
- hibiscus leaves
- rose petals
- rose leaves
- snail vine
The following Bearded Dragon foods have either low nutritional value or
if fed regularly could result in health issues:
Avoid or use the following sparingly in a Bearded Dragon diet since
they contain high levels of calcium oxalate which can lead to metabolic
Also use these sparingly since they contain goitrogens which decrease
the bearded dragon thyroid function:
These foods have low nutritional value:
Bearded Dragon Supplements:
Juveniles require a calcium supplement that does not contain phosphorus
or vitamin D). Provide the Bearded Dragon supplement 3x per week. Also
provide a reptile multivitamin 1x per month. Both can be
sprinkled on the salad ingredients described above. Also dust any
insects right before feeding.
Adults on a combination of leafy greens, gut loaded dusted insects and
occasional pinkie mice should get a 1x per week calcium supplement and
1x per month multivitamin supplement.
The Bearded Dragon communicates by moving the body. If you observe
behaviors such as a bobbing head, flattened body or tail whipping, the
lizard is communicating submission to you. Do not keep two males in the
same cage. One male can be kept with two females.
Bearded Dragon Handling Instructions
Baby Bearded Dragons: Life by placing your finger under the shin and
body. Babies will cling onto the finger. Then transfer to the hand with
the Bearded Dragon pointed at the fingers. Don't hold to tightly. Trap
by cupping the hand.
Adults: Carry by the body by scooping them up. Keep the head facing the
fingers. Support the tail. Over time, the lizard will get used to
handling. Always wear gloves to avoid scratching the skin on the rough
Bearded Dragon Handling involves
supporting the lizards body and tail with the hand
Source: Exotic DVM
Wash hands after handling.
Bearded Dragon Health
Bring a Bearded Dragon to a veterinarian after buying the lizard and
then every year. The vet will examine a feces sample at the annual
Signs of Bearded Dragon Disease:
- Sunken eyes
- Poor body condition
- Appetite loss (can also be caused by changes in behavior or the
- Gastrointestinal disease (sign of parasites)
Common Bearded Dragon Health Problems:
The following are common Bearded Dragon Health issues. If you have a
specific question, fill out the form on the bottom of this page and our
veterinary adviser will answer it for free. For urgent questions,
we suggest using this online
is that available 24 hours a day.
- Parasites: Bearded Dragons commonly come down with parasites such
as pinworms, coccidia and flagellated protozoa. Parasites cause
gastrointestinal issues such as changes to the feces.
- Impaction: This is where the gastrointestinal tract becomes
blocked. The condition is treated by swabbing the lizards
cloacal, or via rehydration, enemas or surgery.
- Nutritional Problems: The biggest health problem with a Pet
Bearded Dragon is calcium
deficiency. (called calcium metabolism disorders). Treatment for
calcium deficiency includes oral or injected calcium supplements.
- Reproduction Problems: A veterinarian will check for any physical
problems such as a malformed pelvic bone or over sized eggs.
- Bearded Dragon Eye Problems: Bearded Dragons commonly come down
with conjunctivitis and an infection called blepharospasm. Foreign
objects in the cage can also irritate the cornea. For eye infection or
scratches, the eye can be cleaned with saline and then a topical
antibiotic can be applied.
- Bearded Dragon Skin Problems: The skin can be affected by
bacteria or fungal infections. Topical antiseptics are used for
bacterial skin infections. Fungal infections are yellow in color and
are referred to as "yellow fungus disease." Treatment for yellow fungus
disease is not effective, with many Bearded Dragons failing to recover.
- Injury: Cuts, abrasions and burns are common. Fractures can also
occur when a cage rock lands on the lizard. Trauma is treated
based on severity.
- Behavior: Dominance problems are also common if two males
are housed together. Signs of stress due to dominance include weight
loss and a decline in condition.
Have a Lizard or Bearded Dragon Question for our Vet? We Will Answer it for Free!
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If your question is medical or behavior related, please include information such as species, age, diet, habitat and anything related to the medical history of your lizard.
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