What is a bearded dragon? How can you care for a bearded dragon? Get to know all about it in this article.
A bearded dragon is probably the most loved pet on the internet. And with a smile like that, it is impossible not to fall in love with this creature. These pets have gained popularity over the past few years. They are affectionate as well as exotic.
And want to know something cool? It’s effortless to take care of this lizard and keep them as a pet.
Get to know every detail of a bearded dragon as well as how to care for them in this article in just 10 minutes.
The basics of a bearded dragon
1. Origin and species
It is a kind of a lizard belonging to the pogona genus and originally an Australian native.
But recently, due to their popularity and ease of caring, they are available all over the world. Their winning personalities have found their way to various pet stores and homes of exotic pet lovers around the globe. The central bearded dragon ( scientific name: pogona vitticeps) is a desired pet among exotic pet lovers.
2. Nature of a bearded dragon
These animals are semi-arboreal. They are often seen basking in the sun most of the time. Though a bearded dragon is commonly referred to as the king of chill, you’d be surprised to know that they are not that chill with each other.
Often you will see a beardie fighting another for a good spot in the sun! The bearded dragon behavior varies and can be pretty aggressive to other males , especially when one does not show a submissive attitude. ( Arm wave is an act of submissive attitude).
Fighting and intimidating are a big part of their lives. They create hierarchies that they have to protect for survival.
3. How did they get this peculiar name?
A bearded dragon gets its name from its throat that is covered in dull spikes. This spiked throat is an object of great significance in their lives, which we will get into later!
To show dominance to others, it inflates its throat and can even change the colors of their bodies. The most aggressive color display is jet black which is not to be messed with.
4. Temperature regulation of body
This color change of body, as mentioned earlier, does not only occur during a confrontation. This is also a technique used by them to absorb heat.
They often change their body color into something darker to absorb heat quickly. When dark, they can get to their active body temperature of 40 degrees Celcius about 22 minutes faster than usual! This saves a lot of time and helps them to look for mates, which brings us to our next point.
Their beards and throats have a vital role to play during courtship and mating too!
During courtship, the male bearded dragon does a thing that might seem very adorable to us humans! To impress the females, they do a head bob and open its mouth to flash out the tongue. This is not only an act of dominance but also to warn off any competing males!
In addition to this, the males will also flash their throats as well as stomp their feet to get a female’s attention. If she draws near him, that means he is the chosen one!
6. Beardie Babies!
The babies of a bearded dragon are unique indeed. Their genders are dependent on temperature, not chromosomes. If the eggs are incubated at a temperature of over 34-degree Celsius, it will be a female. If the eggs are incubated at a temperature less than that, the babies will be males.
Mating occurs at the end of winter after the males brumate. Brumation is the hibernation in the case of reptiles, where they slow down their metabolic rates and stop drinking and eating. This also saves them from intense, harsh colds and from spending excess energy too.
Similarly, during scorching summers, they dig holes and hide underground to save themselves from the heat.
7. Diet of a bearded dragon
Bearded dragons are omnivores. A young one eats insects mainly. But as they get older, their diets are diverse. They start eating more greens!
8. A few congenital disabilities
8.1 Bicephalism is a common thing in bearded dragons. This is a congenital defect where a bearded dragon is born with two heads and a single body. They can even survive in such a situation!
8.2 Schistosomes reflexus is another such congenital defect where the bearded dragon has its internal organs developing outside its body.
8.3 Hermaphroditism is another such problem that results in the infertility of such species as they are born with reproductive organs of both males and females.
How to take care of a bearded dragon as a pet
The bearded dragon care plan is simple indeed. Here I’m going to break down all the facts and tips on how to keep it as a pet.
1. Picking a healthy bearded dragon
This is an essential step. You can choose this pet directly from a breeder, which I’d recommend because if you want different skin types as well as colors, then a breeder of these species is probably the best place to go.
You can also get your pet from a standard pet store. But often, these pet stores buy wild bearded dragons from a mass producer, and you might not get the best quality of this species.
If you stay in the USA, there will be a lot of Reptile Expos around you, from where you can get good quality bearded dragons!
Now whether you want a baby beardie or an adult is entirely up to you. You might want a baby in case you want to watch them grow. But people mainly go for adults as in the case of babies. You are entirely responsible for giving them the start of a good life.
Also, the cost of keeping a bearded baby dragon is quite more as they need a lot of protein and calcium as they are developing. So if you are thinking about keeping a cute little beardie, keep the costing factor in mind.
Another point to be noted is that if you do decide to get two beardies, always keep them separately. Whenever you are in a pet store or an expo, you might see cute baby beardies together, basking in the sun like chill buddies, but that will not be the case when they grow up. They are very territorial species, and if you keep two male beardies together, they are bound to fight and get aggressive.
2. Choosing a place for your pet
The bigger space you can provide, the better it will be for your dragon. Your pet needs all the space it can get. Experts say 75 gallons for an adult is a decent-sized space, but the bigger, the better. By providing more space, your dragon will be happier, healthier, and will display more exciting and natural behaviors.
Two of the most popular enclosures to keep bearded dragons are Herptek and Vision enclosures. As these are made of plastic, they don’t reflect at your beardies, as glass does. Some bearded dragons get stressed in glass cages as they feel too much exposed and feel like their reflection is their rival.
Even if you decide to get a glass enclosure, try to fold a piece of paper and keep it outside the enclosure because this minimizes the reflection.
A proper bearded dragon setup should have the following-
- A basking spot and basking light
- A cool spot
- Hammocks and ledges for lounging and climbing
- A hiding place
- Food dish
- Textured substances for climbing purposes
- A safe soaking dish
3. Heating and lighting conditions
The lighting conditions can be a little bit daunting for new owners, so here is a complete guide. Most bearded dragons require two bulbs- one which has UVA/UVB light and a heat lamp. Reptiles need specialized lighting to get the nutrients from their food.
Now when it comes to heating, there should be a heated area as well as a cool area, as mentioned before. Bearded dragons should always get this choice of where they want to stay, and you will often find your dragon from one part to the other quite regularly. This is because they are thermoregulating.
As for heating, you can use a spot lamp, or you can keep a ceramic heater inside the enclosure. But a cool side inside an enclosure is essential too, your beardie will tend to switch sides often.
Tip: Many stores will try and trick you into buying a heat rock, but please do not. Heat rocks are known for causing a lot of problems with beardies. They often overheat and burn your animals and are known for being the cause of many house fires too.
An excellent reliable thermostat is essential too.
4. Picking a substrate
In the case of your beardies, the substrate is a sensitive issue and is something you have to be very careful about while picking. Some substrates are so detrimental to your pets that they can die.
Sands and especially calcium sands are irresistible to many bearded dragons. You will often find themselves just sitting there, all covered up in the sand. But this causes an issue called ‘Impaction’ where things get so messed up and sticky inside, that your pet bearded dragon gets its gut loaded and cannot pass any fecal matter. It gets infected, and your bearded dragon will die without surgery.
Tip: You can use a paper towel or newspapers too as these are very affordable and do the job of a substrate quite well. But these need to be changed daily. If you are in the United States, you will be able to get your hands on a reptile carpet.
Juveniles and sub-adult beardies certainly need a higher level of protein intake as compared to adults. For this reason, 80% protein and 20% green leaves are the best-recommended ratios for this age group. An adult bearded dragon needs comparatively less protein.
After they are two years old, switch this diet to 60% greens and 40% proteins.
One of the best inexpensive proteins for your pets is Dubia roaches. They can be easily found and are inexpensive as well. You can also feed Mealworms and Superworms in moderation as they have a lot of chitin, which is difficult for your pet to consume and digest in large quantities.
You might think that you have a lot of insects outside and could just feed those to your beardies. Try to avoid that as it might contain parasites.
Some of the best leafy greens for your bearded dragons are dandelion greens. Again do not attempt to pick this from your lawn outside!
Turnip greens and mustard greens are also highly recommended. Also, while giving your bearded dragons greens, add calcium and Vitamin D to it.
Apart from the food, vitamin, and lighting system, you need to realize that your pet is a lizard and so it will shed its skin. And for this, a soaking dish inside the enclosure is essential.
This will help them while shedding their skin. But there is also a drawback, as your pets might use this soaking dish as a toilet too. So it’s better to change and clean the water every day.
Also, you need to take care of their nails and make sure it’s not too long. You can use animal clippers that are available everywhere. Also, you need to check your bearded dragons for any insects hiding in their skin.
7. Some common Illnesses
Before you bring a beardie in your home, make sure you have a vet in your area who is comfortable treating a dragon. As they are exotic pets, not many vets have experience of treating a beardie.
Some owners tend to feed their dragons more. While they look adorable, this is a health hazard. If you see your pet getting a bit heavy, cut back on the treats and make it exercise more.
If your pet accidentally cuts itself or bleeds, always use cornstarch to stop that bleeding.
Also, calcium is essential to beardies, and if they don’t get enough of that, it may develop MBD (metabolic bone disease). This is a case where their bones become weak.
If you can make sure that all these conditions are met, you are eligible to keep a bearded dragon. It is a fun-loving animal and can be entertaining too! So what are you even waiting for? Let us know down in the comments if you have such exotic pets!
Also, click here if you want to read about other such exotic animals.