CARE OF BEARDED DRAGONS
Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) make ideal pets as they readily adapt to captivity, do not mind regular handling, are easy to feed and have fairly straightforward living requirements (for reptiles). Note that there are many different species of Bearded Dragon and they do vary in temperament and tolerance of handling. Make sure you know all about the species of Bearded Dragon you are thinking of getting before you commit to it.
Remember, like all reptiles, the cost of purchase of the animal is small compared to the cost of proper housing, lighting and heating and this should also be considered thoughtfully before proceeding.
Central Bearded Dragons come from the desert areas of central Australia and require a basking temperature of 35-40c. Create a basking area using ceramic or infra-red heat-lamps at one end of the enclosure. Provide logs or rocks under and around the heat source, allow your lizard to choose the right distance when basking and a hollow log or upturned flower pot provides a cool retreat. The cool end of the enclosure should be about 28-30c. Temperatures should be maintained at 20-25c at night. Juveniles (<2yo) should be kept at this temperature all year round. Adult dragons may start to bromate during the winter for 6-8 weeks and should be provided with a hide to shelter in.
Accurate thermometers and thermostats are essential. We recommend using dual probe digital thermometers to monitor the warm part and the cool part of the tank.
A source of ultraviolet light, either through exposure to unfiltered, natural sunlight, or an artificial UVB light will help prevent metabolic bone disease. Remember to replace the light regularly (every 6-12 months) as it will lose UV strength, even though it still emits visible light. There are a number of different lighting options and some research should be done to find one suitable for the enclosure you are using.
The enclosure should be large enough for your dragon to move around freely and a clean, good quality substrate, replaced regularly, will encourage it to burrow. Be careful of woodchips, coarse sand, kitty litter and tanbark as they often get eaten by mistake and cause impactions. We recommend newspaper or butchers paper as a safer option.
Humidity should be maintained between 30-50% to provide as natural as possible an environment for your Central Bearded dragons as they are from the desert. Some other species require 40-50% humidity. If you are getting a less common species you need to check this requirement.
Feed your adult Bearded Dragon every two days in warm weather, in colder weather every three days. Remember — if the enclosure temperature is not right your Bearded Dragon may refuse to eat.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores and will thrive on a diet that is about 70% insects and 30% vegetables. They should be offered a variety of foods such as insects e.g. crickets, worms, mealworms etc.
They will eat a range of chopped fruits and vegetables including dandelion, milk thistle, watercress, banana, apple, pawpaw, pear, green beans, carrots, alfafa sprouts, parsley and tomato. In addition, small amounts of moistened dog kibble and canned dog food may be given occasionally. Add a calcium supplement to the food once a week.
Health Care – reasons to take your Bearded Dragon to the veterinarian
- Post purchase health checks – should be done within seven days of purchase
- Annual Health checks
- Advice about feeding and husbandry
- Regular worming
- Parasite control
- Nutritional guidelines and obesity check
- Skin check
A yearly health check is essential to check faeces and detect general health problems including parasite infestations, bacterial infections, obesity and nutritional problems.
This is only a brief overview of keeping bearded dragons. For more detailed information on caring for Bearded Dragons there is concise guide called Keeping Bearded Dragons, published by Australian Reptile Keeper, readily available in pet shops and bookshops.