WHEN DO I SEE A VET?
- Annual wellness exam for physical exam, fecal, and bloodwork baseline testing
- Pre and post brumation (hibernation) wellness exams
- Not eating or pooping for over a week
- Open mouth breathing or noise while breathing
- Diarrhea, blood in feces, vomiting, or regurgitation
- Retained shed, redness, swelling, or open wounds of the skin
- Enlarged eyes, swelling or bleeding of the mouth
- Any health concerns or questions
Babies: A 20 gallon long (30” L x 12” W x 12” H) or larger enclosure
Adults: A 40 gallon (36” L x 18” W x 16” H) or larger enclosure
Enclosures should have a basking area, hide, water dish, and décor to provide enrichment to your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are terrestrial reptiles that require more floorspace then vertical space.
Bearded dragons are solitary territorial reptiles where both males and females will show aggression towards each other and should be housed alone. Housing together is a risk for injury and fighting that can be harmful to your bearded dragon’s health.
Paper towels, reptile carpet, tile flooring, shelf liners, and felt inserts are all acceptable flooring items. Bearded dragons are known to be infected by a virus called Atadenovirus that can lead to illness such as gastrointestinal issues. Two negative test results are suggested to rule out this virus before allowing your bearded dragon on a fine substrate such as “WASHED” playsand. Fine washed playsand has sharp silicates removed and is an acceptable substrate to be used. It is important to monitor hydration, volumes of sand being consumed, and exposure to other bearded dragons while on a substrate such as washed playsand.
Lighting and Heating
Proper temperatures and lighting are essential for the development, growth, and maintenance of your bearded dragon.
Lighting: Bearded dragons are a long day basking diurnal desert species. They require a high output UVB lighting for proper vitamin D3 synthesis starting with their skin. Ideal hours of daylight to nightlight are 12 hours on and 12 hours off, and this can be achieved by a timer connected to their lights. UVB lights lose strength over time even though they may still emit light and should be changed every 6 months. Sources of natural sunlight are great for bearded dragons when temperatures are in their healthy range. It is important to know that windows and glass block UVB rays and screens and mesh can decrease UVB strength to your bearded dragon. Avoid placing glass enclosures in direct sunlight as this can heat up much higher than anticipated.
Recommended UVB lights include:
T5 Strip Lights:
Arcadia T5 D3+ Reptile Lamp 12 or 14% UVB
Zoomed Reptisun 10.0 UVB T5-HO
Mercury Vapor Bulbs:
Zoomed Reptisun 100 or 160 Watt
MegaRay 100 or 160 Watt
Osram GmbH Ultravitalux 300W
Heating: Bearded dragons are ectotherms or poikilothermous meaning they get their body temperature from the environment. This is key for proper metabolism and digestion of their food as well as overall health and function. During the day your bearded dragon should have a basking area that reaches 100-105°F, with a cool side having an ambient air temperature of 80-85°F. During the night ideal temperatures should remain between 70-75°F, avoiding any temperatures below 65°F due to risk of causing digestive issue and other illnesses.
Humidity and Hydration
Humidity and hydration play several important roles in your bearded dragons health. Humidity assists in proper shedding and rate of dehydration, but cause respiratory issues if too high. Ideal humidity for a bearded dragon is 20-40% humidity and should be monitored using a hygrometer inside the enclosure. It is important to have a clean water source at all times in your bearded dragon’s enclosure to allow for drinking and proper hydration. Additional methods to stimulate drinking include morning misting, a moving water source, and weekly soakings.
Nutrition is a very important part of allowing for proper growth and development of a bearded dragon. Understanding and knowing the appropriate food choices can help your bearded dragon stay healthy and avoid many medical complications. Baby and juvenile bearded dragons can be fed as much as 2-3 times a day, while adults can be fed 1-2 times a day or as needed to maintain desired weight. It is important to supplement your bearded dragon’s food with calcium and vitamin dustings to provide additional nutrients. Dusting your feeder insects 2-3 times a week with calcium is needed for a bearded dragon. Consult with a veterinarian to discuss the possible need of adding vitamin D3 to your calcium dusting as in some cases it may be recommended. A list of recommended supplementations can be found below. Bearded dragons are omnivores and eat a variety of plants and insects. There are several appropriate methods to feeding including offering greens in the morning and insects in the afternoon, rotating days offering greens one day and insects the other, or even offering greens for two days and insects for the next two days. Maintaining a balance and routine diet is important to maintaining stable health in a bearded dragon.
Main Insect Food Sources: (~90% of Insect Diet)
Crickets, dubia roaches, or grasshoppers due to low fat to high protein ratios.
Snack Insect Sources: (~10% of Insect Diet)
Superworms, hornworms, phoenix worms, silkworms, or butterworms due to high fat or low protein rations. (Hornworms are a good source of fluids, and Phoenix worms are a good source of calcium)
Greens and Vegetable Options:
Mustard greens, collard greens, shredded carrots, spineless prickly pear, dandelion flowers and greens, or shredded yellow squash.
Recommended Dusting Supplements:
Repashy Calcium Plus Reptile Supplement
Flukers Calcium without D3 and phosphorus free
ZooMed Repti Calcium without D3
Enrichment is an important and stimulating part of a bearded dragon’s day to day life.
Several Enrichment options are listed below:
Thrive Feeding Ball – Allows your bearded dragon to stay stimulated and rotate a plastic ball to gain access to a food source.
Obstacle Mazes – Creating mazes or obstacles that require the bearded dragon to move to get to its food stimulates activity and exercise for your bearded dragon.
Supervised Time Outside Their Enclosure – Make sure to have a clean, item free area where you can supervise the activity of your bearded dragon. Make sure no other pets including dogs, or cats have access to the bearded dragon when outside its enclosure.
Outdoor Enclosure – This is beneficial by not only providing natural sunlight on days where weather is appropriate, but stimulation of another environment. Make sure that the weather is appropriate to their needed temperatures, provide them with shelter and a water source, and do not leave them unsupervised unless they are in an enclosure safe from predators and secure from escaping.
Is My Bearded Dragon A Male or Female?
As adults bearded dragons have a few characteristics that make them sexually dimorphic, meaning we can visually differentiate a male from a female. In addition, the most reliable way in determining sex can be done by a skilled veterinary professional through several methods at a younger age including probing for hemipene pockets, endoscopic sex determination, and ultrasound sex determination. Listed below are some characteristics that you look for to visually differentiate a male and female.
Femoral Pores – As adults, male bearded dragons have more prominent and larger femoral pores. These can be found in a line running along the ventral (bottom) aspect of their femur, giving them the name femoral pores. As adults, females tend to have very small to almost nonvisible femoral pores present. It is important to note that these can become impacted and enlarged if there isn’t appropriate humidity and surfaces in the enclosure to allow for appropriate expression. If you notice enlarged or hard femoral pores you should see a veterinarian for proper treatment.
Hemipene Bulges – Adult male bearded dragons will have enlarged bulges around the ventral (bottom) aspect of their tail base just behind the vent. This can be easier or harder to see depending on the weight and body condition of the bearded dragon. Females lack hemipenes and do not develop the same bulge seen in the males.
Dewlap or Beard Coloration – Another visual characteristic that males tend to display during maturity and mating season is a darked or black dewlap or beard. This is less reliable due to also being triggered by stress and high hormonal periods in females that can cause darkening of the dewlap or beard as well. This alone should not be used to determine sex, but can be used along with other visual characteristics.
Want this information in hand? Download the Bearded Dragon Care Guide below!