FAQ - Bearded Dragon Care
 

 

Adult Bearded Dragon. Image courtesy of Kim Baker Bearded dragons are diurnal (awake during daylight hours), omnivorous reptiles accustomed to high temperatures in arid (dry) environments. They are native of the deserts and arid woodlands of Australia and spend the majority of their day searching for food amongst bushes and trees or basking on rocks. They live an average of 5-8 years in captivity with some living as long as 10 years. As with most reptiles, the most common medical issues we treat is caused by inappropriate or inadequate diet and improper husbandry.  

Diet

The diet recommended for bearded dragons consists of an herbivorous part, similar to green iguanas, with the addition of insects and pinkies.  The following list of plants is appropriate when a mixture of 3 or more types is used in each meal.  

Plant Items

Beet Greens

Dandelion
(Greens & Flowers)

Grape Leaves

Parsley

Bok Choy

Kale

Spinach

Chard

Hibiscus
(Flowers & Leaves)

Endive

Rose Petals

Mulberry Leaves

Cilantro

Snow Peas

Collard Greens

Escarole

Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens

Animal Items*

Isopods (pill bugs)

Waxworms

Moths

Beetles

Grasshoppers

Grubs

Pinky Mice

Crickets & Mealworms may be fed, but require gut-loading 2 days prior to feeding.

*Never offer scorpions, fireflies or lightning bugs.

A diet consisting of equal parts plant and animal items is nutritionally complete. Vitamin supplements are unnecessary, and in fact are often harmful. When feeding live insects, only provide as many insects as the animal can eat in a few hours. Young bearded dragons typically eat a larger percentage of insects to plant material with the number of insects decreasing with age. Clean water should be available at all times in a shallow dish.

Temperature and Lighting

Daytime ambient temperature (everywhere in the enclosure) should be maintained at 85-95 degrees F (29 - 35 C). Night time ambient temperature should be maintained at 72 - 75 degrees F (29.5 - 35 C).   An Incandescent lamp for basking should also be provided. Light bulb wattage should be adequate to provide a basking temperature around 100 degrees F (37 C). This temperature should be measured with a thermometer placed directly at the basking site.

Bearded dragons require a good source of UVB light for at least 8 hours every day.  Fluorescent lamps with a stronger UVB output, such as the Repti-sun 8.0 (ZooMed) or ReptiGlo 8.0 (Exoterra) are appropriate. The lamp should be within 18 inches of the animal's body, with no glass or plastic between them.

Housing

Bearded dragons are best housed individually, as fighting with cage mates can occur between all combinations of bearded dragons.   If breeding is desired, males and females should be introduced together only during spring or early summer. 

Recommended cage substrates include desert topsoil, coarse gravel, and folded paper.  The majority of intestinal impactions occur due to sand (including Calci-Sand), crushed walnut shell, or other substrates composed of small, equal-sized particles and therefore these are not recommended.  Indoor-outdoor carpeting is also not recommended due to the possibility of carpet threads constricting toes or being ingested.

Gut-Loading

Gut-loading is the practice of feeding insects a diet high in calcium, protein, and other nutrients prior to offering the insects to reptiles and amphibians.  Domestic crickets and meal worms should be fed a diet consisting of four parts chicken or turkey starter mash and one part calcium carbonate for two or three days before offering the crickets to your pet. Also, offer the crickets water in a shallow dish or wet sponge.  Gut-loading beyond 2-3 days is not beneficial, and can actually decrease the life expectancy of the insects.

Wild Uromastyx. Image courtesy of Jan-Michael BreiderUromastyx species may be cared for in the same way.  They tolerate slightly higher temperatures and accept the addition of native plants such as mallows and legumes to the diet.





Sonora Veterinary Group, 2011  Free for distribution with proper citation. Images courtesy of listed individuals. 

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