Authored by Todd Cornwell Unique Birthday Party Parties for Kids & Reptile Rescue
Bearded Dragons, Wonderful pets, we like to torture
Bearded Dragons, are super cool lizards, that breed voraciously, and willingly, in just about any circumstances. Which leads to many sellers, “back-yard” breeders, cheap prices, and a lack of complete knowledge of their care.
Beardies, as they are known, come from Australia, foraging for bugs, greens, small lizards, and anything else they can catch to eat. Why do they breed so much? Because despite the ferocious look to them, they are food for anything bigger than them, including bigger beardies. So while a female might lay 2-3 clutches of 18-30 eggs at a time.
Very few live to see adulthood in the wild.
20 years ago, (like most captive reptiles), beardies were rather expensive, and when you have an expensive pet, you do research, and spend what it takes to keep them healthy. At $15-25 now off craigslist, no one bothers to even read a care sheet. And when they do, and go see what the cost to actually maintain them properly? Too many say oh well, if it dies, I’ll just go buy another.
So here are a few tips to keep your beardie healthy:
A healthy beardie will utilize most, if not all of the space provided, a single beardie can be housed in a 40 gallon tank. A trio (1 male / 2 females: But remember, this will lead to more babies! And I do mean more!), need a 80+ gallon tank (never house 2 males together, once they reach maturity they will fight, biting off toes, legs, tails, even killing one another!) The bigger the tank, the better. Also, use plenty of climbing branches, rock platforms, plastic plants. Fill the tank with areas to bask, hide, and play in.
This is very important! Without UVB light, bearded dragons develop MBD (metabolic Bone Disease), which is similar to arthritis in humans, the joints don’t bend, they get crippled basically. One problem I hear is that I bought him a light, but he still got MBD, why? Turns out, they bought a UVB bulb when the first got the baby beardie, 2 ½ years ago, the fluorescent tube was still producing “light” so they thought it was working. In reality, most uvb bulbs start losing their effectiveness very quickly. And in 6-9 months, they don’t produce enough UVB. I recommend changing them on a regular schedule. Another issue, is UVB does not travel well, the lights are placed on top of the metal screen tops, and very little UVB rays actually get into where the dragon is, and the definitely do not travel though glass! I set up my UVB light inside the tank, by placing a stick (I have used all kinds of sticks, but a large paint stirrer stick cut to size works perfect!), lean the stick against the wall, and place the basking platform directly under the light (within 8-10 inches of the basking area), this allows for full absorption of the UVB rays.
Like snakes, I provide a temperature gradient. I place a heat lamp (I prefer a ceramic heat emitter) placed over the basking spot, and a UTH (under tank heater), in the middle of the tank. So the food/water side of the tank is cooler (about 85), and the basking area is 120+ on the basking platform. I cover the glass where the UTH is with a piece of self-stick tile, to keep a barrier from the direct heat. In the same way, I like deeper substrate, (about 2 – 3 inches) and let the heat radiate out naturally.
This is really a sticky point with some people. But for healthy beardies I prefer, recommend, and use, sand. It is special sand called Monterrey Sands Kiln Dried Sand, I get it at Home Depot for $4 a 50# bag. It is super fine, I have never once had an issue with impaction, it clumps nicely when they go to the bathroom, retains and radiates heat, and slowly cools down at night like it would in their natural environment. Another thing I have used is tile, just lay the tile in the bottom of the tank. I like the sand because while they do not live in a desert in the wild, humidity is there, and maintaining a water dish, and occasionally overfilling it, plus misting the veggies they eat, gives them the moisture they need.
This has been gone over many times before, and I won’t rehash the basics. But for adults veggies 3 times a week, and dusted bugs 2 times a week. What do I mean by dusted? Calcium dust, farm raised crickets do not eat the variety of foods that wild bugs do. In fact, the bugs you buy at the store and toss in your tank, may not have had food for a week! I recommend “Gut Loading” your crickets first, that means letting them eat & drink for a day or two before you feed them. This means your pet, will be getting food that has a full belly as well.
What your prey is eating, your pet is eating. So feed them good stuff. There are commercial “gut load or cricket food”, but any number of food items work.
Dusting with calcium though is super important. A lack of calcium, and a lack of UVB, are the two main issues with beardies that come into the rescue. No UVB – very little calcium absorption, and without calcium, their bones get soft and pliable. I have seen them with broken jaws, soft skulls, bent legs, all from a lack of care.
Beardies all in all make wonderful pets. With basic care, and after the initial set-up, are fairly easy to maintain.