Bearded Dragon Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Bearded Dragon Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

INTRODUCTION: Bearded dragons are native to Australia. Lifespan in captivity is approximately 10 years, with adult size around 12 to 14 inches. They can make good pets if kept properly in captivity.

 

HOUSING: Bearded dragons should generally be housed singly throughout their lives. Although not usually recommended, with the proper setup, it may be possible to keep them in breeding pairs, or in groups with one male and two or more females.

 

– Cage – A 10-20 gallon enclosure is adequate for a single juvenile dragon. Several similarly sized juveniles may be kept together provided there is ample space and food. Smaller animals should be separated if not thriving. A single adult dragon requires a minimum enclosure size of about 48 inches long x 19 inches wide x 22 inches high (75 gallon aquarium).

– Bedding/substrate – Newspapers/paper towels are safest and easiest to replace/clean. Vinyl tile (from hardware store) or Repti-Carpet can also be used. If a paper pulp material (Carefresh) is used, you should feed your pet in a separate enclosure to prevent ingestion. Replace bedding/substrate or clean the surface every 1-2 days to prevent exposure to waste. **SAND, GRAVEL, MULCH/BARK, AND OTHER NATURAL SUBSTRATES SHOULD NOT BE USED DUE TO DIFFICULTY CLEANING, RISK OF GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES IF EATEN, AND PROBLEMS WITH IRRITATION OF EYES/MOUTH.

– Cage “furniture” – Branches, driftwood, cork bark and/or large rocks can be provided for climbing. A hiding box can be placed on the warm side of the enclosure. In addition to providing adequate floor space, it is necessary to provide several basking sites and hiding areas if multiple dragons are housed together. **HEATED ROCKS SHOULD NEVER BE USED DUE TO RISK OF THERMAL BURNS.

– Temperature/heating – A temperature gradient should be created in the enclosure, with a warm side and a cool side. This allows the dragon to regulate its temperature by changing location. Provide a daytime focal basking area of 85-95°F on the warm side of the enclosure (use incandescent bulb, ceramic heating element, or red/other bulb; under tank heating pad can also be used if needed). Daytime temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-80°F. Use multiple digital thermometers with probes to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained. Dial thermometers are often inaccurate. Provide a nighttime temperature range of 60-70°F throughout the enclosure. If needed, a safe under tank heating pad, ceramic heating element, or red bulb can help in maintaining recommended temperatures. Due to risk of burn injuries, always use appropriate rheostats/thermostats if using the commonly available ZooMed heating pads. Heating pads with which we have had good experiences include Ultratherm Heat Pads (beanfarm.com) and Cobra T-Rex Heat Pads (available from many pet stores).

– Lighting – Provide an ultraviolet B (5.0 UVB) light over the basking area (within 18 inches, no glass/acrylic in between) for 12-14 hours in summer and 10-12 hours in winter. UVB is necessary for vitamin D production and appropriate absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal system. Replace this bulb approximately every 6 months, as UVB production decreases with time.

 

FEEDING JUVENILES: Omnivorous (eat about 50% animal matter and 50% plant matter).

 

– Vegetables (approximately 50% of diet) – Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, green/red leaf lettuce, or Boston lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, baby kale, endive, dandelion greens, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli (leaves and florets). Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate ONCE OR TWICE DAILY.

– Insects (approximately 50% of diet) – Offer appropriately sized gut-loaded insects ONCE OR TWICE DAILY. Crickets should be no longer than width of dragon’s head. To properly gut load, provide insects with a complete diet, such as rodent chow, dry dog food, or bird pellets. Insects should primarily be crickets. Mealworms, giant mealworms and wax moth larvae are high in fat, and should be offered only in small amounts. To prevent injury to your dragon, remove uneaten crickets immediately.

– Vitamin supplements – Dust salad and insects with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 4-5 times a week. Dust insects with a high quality multi-vitamin (with a vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene) once a week.

– Other foods – Commercial bearded dragon diets (moistened with water) can be offered, but should not make up more than 50% of the diet. Due to higher vitamin and mineral content, dragons eating mainly a commercial diet may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.

 

FEEDING ADULTS: Primarily herbivorous (eat mostly plant matter).

 

– Vegetables (approximately 80% of diet) – Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, green/red lead lettuce, or Boston lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, baby kale, endive, dandelion greens, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli (leaves and florets). Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate ONCE DAILY TO EVERY OTHER DAY.

– Insects (approximately 20% of diet) – Offer gut-loaded insects TWO TO THREE TIMES PER WEEK. To properly gut load, provide insects with a complete diet, such as rodent chow, dry dog food, or bird pellets. Insects should primarily be crickets. Mealworms, giant mealworms and wax moth larvae are high in fat, and should be offered only in small amounts. To prevent injury to your dragon, remove uneaten crickets immediately.

– Vitamin supplements – Dust salad and insects with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 2-3 times a week. Dust insects with a high quality multi-vitamin (with vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene) once every other week.

– Other foods – Commercial bearded dragon diets (moistened with water) can be offered, but should not make up more than 50% of the diet. Due to the higher vitamin and mineral content, dragons eating mainly a commercial diet may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.

 

WATER

 

– Water bowl – Provide clean, fresh water in a dish/bowl into which your dragon can easily climb (small/low for juveniles). Change water daily.

– Encourage drinking – Mist the environment once daily with water in a spray bottle. You can also drip water on your dragon’s head with a water bottle.

– Soaking – Soak your pet 2-3 times a week in warm, shallow water for 15-20 minutes to encourage drinking, improve hydration, and help with shedding.

 

SIGNS OF ILLNESS: We highly recommend that your pet be seen for an annual physical examination and fecal analysis with an experienced reptile veterinarian. Please consult a reptile veterinarian should you notice any of the following signs: weight loss, decreased appetite/thirst, abnormal stools, twitching/tremors/seizures, swelling of the limbs, inability to close the mouth properly, discharge from eyes and/or mouth, difficulty breathing, distension of the abdomen in non-breeding animals, masses/lumps, or wounds/cuts/scrapes.

 

Specific Requirements
UVB necessary, appropriate calcium and multivitamin supplementation needed
Reasons To
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating, diarrhea, swollen digits/limbs, lethargy
Category