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Bearded Dragon

From The Reptile File Wiki

Contents

Taxonomy

Order: Squamata
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Pogona
Species: Vitticeps

Introduction

Bearded Dragons are easily and quickly becoming one of the most popular lizards in the pet industry. These Australian gems are easy to handle often being called the "puppy dogs" of the lizard world. While the males sometimes tend to get sassy - they're size still makes them fairly easy to handle. This makes them easy for a household with children, as well. Many even seem to ask to come out for some "family time".

Homer - Owned by Snakewrangler
Homer - Owned by Snakewrangler

Bearded dragons - or beardies - do not typically live in an all-sand environment. Instead they prefer to live in rocky outcroppings where they can escape the heat of the day and predators. They can easily wedge themselves into the crevices and fill themselves with air. Their spiky tail covers the opening. This makes it very hard for anything trying to eat it to get a hold of it for a meal. The sand they do come into contact with is simply getting from one place to another - or the loose sand that wears away from the rocks as they weather.

Males are larger than females as adults. They have hard spikes covering many parts of their body, including the "beard" they're known for. Females also have this beard, but the males tend to use them more for display than the girls. When acting out in territorial disputes the male will flare this beard as large as it can while also turning it to a rich, black color. Never place two males in the same habitat. They're fierce when defending what's theirs. A male can often be housed with several females, however.

Like most lizards, beardies have a third eye called the parietal eye. This is located on the very top of the head and looks like a milky scale. This is a fully functioning eye, however it is only able to detect light and dark such as shadows going overhead. This is part of their advanced warning system that allows them to see birds of prey flying overhead. They act accordingly by darting into the foliage or rocky crevices out of sight and relative safety. For this reason it is always best to go into the cage from the front and not overhead. You will be seen as a predator because of the shadow caused by your hand.

Bearded dragons are a lizard that goes through a dormancy period called brumation. This is a period where metabolism slows down and eating comes every few days or longer during the winter months. Not all beardies brumate, but many do. This period can last anywhere from just a couple of weeks, to the entire winter season. Those under a year rarely go into this state of dormancy, but most adults will. Adjust temps accordingly and follow the feeding guide.

--Prism wolf 19:26, 13 March 2008 (EDT)

Difficulty

Moderate - Advanced. The only reason they are a moderate to advanced reptile is the specific care requirements needed to keep them healthy. They're not a cheap lizard to set up for. They require special lighting, temperatures and diet. The habitat is not something a child could easily afford, but with the backing of a responsible parent, this is a great first lizard as an introductory to the more care specific reptiles.

--Prism wolf 19:30, 13 March 2008 (EDT)

Basic Info

Size

Bearded dragons grow to 18-24 inches.

Lifespan

Beards can live to be 8yrs or older.

Handling

They can be a little skittish if they are not handled much, but with regular handling they can be as tame as a well behaved dog. Generally, they love to be handled. However, during brumation they should be left to do so. Handling will disrupt this process causing undo stress on their system. Once out of brumation then regular handling can be resumed...and often welcomed by the beardie.

Housing

Bearded dragons will need at least a 40gal breeder type tank or larger. They can only be kept together if you have females and one male. Beards also love to climb so several branches and/or vines are needed. Having flat stones for rocky outcroppings and ledges is their favorite type of cage accessory. The only thing needed is added security by using wire to keep them secure. You could also drill holes in the rock (make sure you cool with water while drilling) and bolting them together. Make sure the rock is only secure enough so you can get the beardie out from under them again should they decide to hide, wedge, expand, and stick.

Substrate

Beards should not have sand as a substrate, especially juveniles. Pet store sand, even if it says safe for beards, can cause impaction. Children's play sand is fine, cheap and safe for older animals suggesting you use a separate feed box for live prey. I have found that newspaper works the best for babies. It is safer to use reptile carpet, news paper or you can even tile the cage (thats great for keeping there nails short). The reason they say sand is not suitable from young dragon is because they tend to be sloppy eaters. Cedar oils are toxic to most reptiles.

Temperature

Use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer w/hygrometer for the best accuracy. You can get these for about $15 - $20 U.S. currency. Once you get the thermometer your goal is meeting the required temperature gradients in three different spots:

  • Basking: 100-105 for adults, 105-110 for babies
  • Ambient: 80-85
  • Cool end/night time: 70 for babies under a year, 60 for adults.

Without the correct temps, especially the high basking temps...all that good food going in will not get digested properly and organ functions will be trying to run on less than ideal capacity. Nutrients are lost and illness sets in. Don’t use heat rocks as beards mainly absorb heat from above.

Bearded dragons will need a different set of temperatures during brumation. This should be done at the first signs that they are beginning to brumate which often begins about the time cool weather is upon us (i.e. sleeping more, eating less). Allowing the temps to drop slowly over a two week period to approx. 10-15 degrees is not only normal, but healthier for a beardie during this period.

Humidity

Humidity levels are acceptable at 40%-50%. This is fairly easy to do with a dish of water and daily mistings. A good humidity level is essential for good sheds.

Lighting

Basking lights are very easy and inexpensive if you stay away from the pet stores for this one. They need a photoperiod with daylight and nighttime as they would in their natural home. Instead of using the expensive "reptile basking lights", go to your local retail store and get a regular incandescent light bulb, such as what you would use for a lamp.

Beardies should NOT have night heat unless their nighttime temps go below the 60-65 degrees. Their bodies need to regulate to lower temps in order for them to "rest and recharge" for the next day.

Not all UVB lights are created equal. Some decay very quickly. You need no less than two 4' fluorescent UVB tubes. Short version - UVB helps the ig to process the calcium in their diet. Without the UVB...the calcium does not get absorbed and the result is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) and renal failure. The brands to go with:

  • Reptisun 5.0 or 10.0
  • Iguana Light 5.0
  • Exoterra 8.0
  • Arcadia 5.0 (UK)
  • Mega Ray EB (external ballast) http://www.reptileuv.com

Many of these can be purchased at http://www.reptiledirect.com for a more reasonable price than the pet stores. Once you provide these lights for your ig...set them in the 6" - 8" range (12" - 18" for the Mega Ray). Any farther and the UVB drops of so much that they don't do any good. A note on the compacts and spirals. These are no good for large lizards and reptiles. They do not cover nearly enough of the animal to benefit them. A UVB meter is an excellent way to keep on top of your bulbs.

Some EXCELLENT sources on UVB at the bottom.

Feeding

Diet

Babies should be fed 70% insects no larger than the space between their eyes (crickets, supper worms as a regular and sometimes wax worms as treats once a month or so) and 30% veggies (no lettuce of any kind) and a little bit of fruits. Adults are the opposite.

Greens Vegetables Fruit
alfalfa pellets bell pepper apple
bokchoy broccoli apricots
clover frozen mixed vegetables bananas (with skin)
collards grated carrots dates
dandelion greens green beans grapes
escarole okra igs
kale peas kiwi
mustard greens squash melon
parsley sweet potato papaya
swiss chard zucchini peaches
turnip greens plums
strawberries (seeds removed)
tomatoes

Large prey items have an adverse effect on the nervous system of bearded dragons in someway. Animals that suffer this will display the extension and twitching of their hind legs soon after the meal. In most cases, the animal will die. DO NOT FEED LARGE PREY ITEMS TO JUVENILE BEARDED DRAGONS! Again, only feed a beard food that is smaller than the space between their eyes. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR BEARD TO EAT FIREFLIES? LIGHTNING BUGS!!! They are toxic!!! One will kill your beard.


Eggs boiled and mashed are also a great source of protein, especially for pregnant beardies.

During brumation a beardies diet will drop dramatically. They may wake up every 3-4 days and come out for a nibble and sleep for several more days repeating until the season is over. Always keep at least a small amount of food available. They don't eat much, but they do still need to eat.

Supplements

Food should be dusted with calcium (without D3) and vitamins several times a week. If the beardie has a good and varied diet, then adding D3 to it could cause a serious vitamin overdose know as hypervitaminosis D3. This can cause kidney damage, calcification of the soft tissue, and premature death. This website, UV Guide UK - Sunlight an Vitamin D, helps explain how the process works and why too much D3 can cause such issues.

Hydration

Use a shallow dish for water, beards can have problems with dehydration so its best to let them swim in the tub or other type of basin as it help to re-hydrate them if they don’t use their water dish much for drinking. Keep in mind that many lizard species will refuse to drink from a dish. You will want to spray the cage lightly every day to provide water droplets that your dragon may lap up. You do not want to create a humid environment for them.

Advanced

Sexing

The easiest way to sex beardies is simply to look at their privates. All modesty aside for these guys and gals. Usually over the age of 3 months you can get a good idea. Gently lift the tail so that the underside stretches up. If there are two bulges on either side of the tail with a concaved "v" in between then you have a male. If there is just a single "hump" right under the center of the vent then you have a girl.

Breeding

When born, bearded dragons are a little less than 4 inches in total length. With proper care, they will mature in 12 to 18 months and attain a length of around 18-24 inches. Beards breed easily in captivity and can breed as early as 1.5yrs old.

Conclusion

So now that you have the basics of keeping the Inland bearded dragon - you can make a decision on keeping one of these amazing and friendly animals - or wait until you can be sure you can afford what they need. After the initial setup and costs are behind you, the upkeep and maintenance is relatively easy.

--Prism wolf 20:11, 13 March 2008 (EDT)

References

Websites

General Care
These are all great sites that have loads of info and show you how to make your own bearded dragon enclosure and platforms and many other great tips on beardie care.


UVB

Books

  • The Bearded Dragon Manual - by Philippe de Vosjoli, Robert Mailloux, Susan Donoghue, V.M.D., Roger Klingenberg, D.V.M., & Jerry Cole. Includes: Choosing a Dragon - Diet & Housing - Breeding & Health - Frilled Dragons - Care Tips for Beginners & Expert Herp Keepers.
  • The Bearded Dragon: An Owners Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet - by Steve Grenard
  • Terrarium and Cage Construction and Care - Richard D. Bartlett (excellent cage ideas)

Many of these books can be found on Amazon for very reasonable prices. Use the Amazon link on the main forum pages and help to contribute to the upkeep of all that is good here.

Author

This article was originally written by dadstoys2. View other articles by dadstoys2. Please note that others may have contributed to this article.

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