While your bearded dragon may prove to be quite the character, when it comes to their care and maintenance, it isn’t too difficult to ensure they are healthy and always there to give you that little wave.
Bearded Dragon Fact File
Life span – Up to 12-15 years
Size – 40-60cm (including their tail)
Diet – Veggies, insects, meat, pellets and fruit as treats
Home – At least 100cm x 50cm x 60cm enclosure
Care and maintenance
Make sure your dragon is healthy before you bring them home. A healthy dragon will not be lethargic and will keep their head up, especially when you approach them. Check their eyes and nostrils are clear and not runny, and that there are no external injuries.
Their habitat will need to be monitored to give them specific exposure to heat and light, but some pets will still go into brumation. Like hibernation, colder weather will make them dormant for weeks or even months. Your pet will be less active, sleep more and eat less. As long as they are provided with a warm, dark space to retreat into they will be happy.
Feed your pet a nutrient-filled diet and take them into the sunlight for 20–30 minutes at least 2–3 times per week. Their enclosure should be escape and predator proof, with access to shade to prevent overheating.
Growing between 40 and 60cm in length (including the tail), the recommended size for a bearded dragon’s enclosure is at least 100cm long x 50cm wide x 60cm high. Visit your local Petbarn where a trained team member will be happy to recommend the right housing for your dragon.
Line the enclosure with bedding such as soil, sand or a mix of both to create the basis for your lizard’s new home. Recycled paper can also be used.
Be sure to include plenty of branches and rocks for your lizard to climb on and make sure they have a secluded spot where they can cool down or hide.
The most important thing when setting up your bearded dragon’s enclosure is that they have an incandescent UV light that provides UVB light, though remember that there is no substitute for natural unfiltered sunlight. Make sure that the temperature of their enclosure is a thermo-regulated gradient. This means they have a ‘hot end’ (35-40°C) and a ‘cool end’ (25-28°C).
Like all reptiles, your bearded dragon will rely on external sources to regulate their temperature. If they’re in their enclosure and not exposed to the sun, your tank will need to provide a replacement so your pet can synthesise, produce crucial vitamins and stay healthy. Talk to your local Petbarn team member about what heating and lighting elements your tank will need.
All Australian reptiles are protected in Australia. In order to legally house a bearded dragon, you must register with your local government by applying for a ‘Companion Animal Keeper Licence’. This varies from state to state, so find the relevant information on your government website. For example, in NSW, the ‘Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Reptiles’ keeps you up to date with the rules and regulations relevant to your new pet. You can then apply for your licence online or call the provided number.
Bearded dragons are omnivorous. However they gradually become more herbivorous as they age. Feed them a variety of insects such as moths, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, spiders and organ meats like chicken heart or liver, many of which can be found at your local Petbarn store. Insects should be “gut loaded”. They also like a variety of vegetables such as Asian greens, endive, dandelion and squash, just to name a few. Fruit can be fed as treats.
Different dragons like different foods and their preferences will change with age, so don’t hesitate to mix up their diet to provide them with a broad range of vitamins and nutrients.
They’ll also need access to fresh water at all times. Provide a bowl with a small amount of water; the water depth must be shallow to ensure they cannot drown.
Leave your pet be for the first week so they can familiarise themselves with their new surroundings. After this period, picking them up every so often or letting them out of their enclosure will give you bonding time. When picking up your lizard, flatten out your hand, holding it low to the ground and wait for them to come to you. Support their body from underneath and avoid squeezing them.
When transporting your dragon, keep them warm by wrapping them in a towel and placing them in a ventilated box. A plastic container with holes for air would be sufficient. You could even put in a hot water bottle to keep your pet extra cosy. Ensure there is room to move away from it.
Bearded dragons are susceptible to internal and external parasites, gastrointestinal bugs, skin infections and nutrient deficiencies, which can be fatal if not treated properly.
Check your dragon regularly for signs of infection. Look for frequent skin sheds, blisters, abrasions, ulcers or discoloured spots. If they’re not eating, it could be because of an ailment or it could be part of their brumation. If you’re unsure, ask your local Greencross Vets.
To avoid illness, feed your pet a variety of veggies and insects. Keep their enclosure as clean as possible. Take them outside to enjoy the sun to keep their nutrient and vitamin levels up.
If you notice any symptoms or significant changes in your bearded dragon and you’re not sure how to handle it, do not hesitate to refer to your local Greencross Vets.
Pet safety tips
Monitor how your pet is going in their new home by keeping a record of their habits. When they are young, be sure to weigh them every week or so. This will make it easier to pinpoint what’s wrong if your pet becomes unwell.
If you’re housing more than one bearded dragon – especially if you have multiple males – give them their own individual space to avoid bullying or fighting. Try using rocks to create divisions in their enclosure.
It’s very important to let your bearded dragon out of their enclosure every so often. This will do a great deal for their health and will help them to familiarise themselves with human touch. Just be sure to keep an eye on them!
Tip: Be sure to check your heat lamps every month
Bearded Dragon Checklist
- Feeder insects
- Soft pellets
- Chicken, or organ meats
- Soft fruit as treats
- Sand sifter
- Soap or dishwashing detergent
- Rubber gloves