Bearded Dragons as Pets
Have you ever considered keeping a dragon as a pet?
The Australian central bearded dragon is one of the most commonly kept reptile pets in the world and for good reason. These charismatic, highly interactive and intriguing lizards make the ideal ‘alternate’ pet for those looking for something a little bit different. Caring for these fascinating creatures can be a rewarding experience.
Lifespan: 10-15 years.
Adult Size: 40-60cm
Enclosure Size: 120 x 45 x 60cm (minimum).
Diet: Live insects, vegetables and commercial reptile diets.
Bearded dragons are active, sun-loving reptiles that spend considerable time basking each day. Dragons are solitary animals and should generally be housed on their own, to avoid dominance and aggression issues between dragons.
For one adult dragon a glass or timber enclosure of at least 120x45x60cm is recommended. It is important that the enclosure has sufficient ventilation as well as a secure, lockable door.
The enclosure can be furnished with a basking log or rock, background, artificial plants and a water and feed dish. A natural, absorbent substrate is also important such as a fine-grade reptile safe desert sand.
Equipment and Maintenance
Providing adequate temperature gradients within a dragon’s enclosure is essential for maintaining their health and wellbeing. Bearded dragons require a hot basking spot maintained between 42-44˚C. They should have access to an elevated piece of timber, or a rock ornament to allow them to bask within 30cm of the heat source. The cool end of the enclosure should be maintained between 24-26˚C and should not drop below 16-18˚C at night.
Temperatures should be checked daily and must be regulated with the use of a good quality thermostat. Recommended sources of heat include the use of incandescent, halogen and carbon fiber bulbs along with a heat mat as a secondary source of heating.
Ultraviolet light (UV) plays an important role in a dragon’s growth and development. A 12.0 – 14.0% T5 or LED UVB tube must be used as a source of artificial UV lighting in the dragon’s enclosure.
Dragons should also have access to unfiltered, natural light at least once or twice a week. Maintaining a ‘day and night’ cycle with heat and UV lights set on a timer that runs for approximately 8-10 hours each day, is also required.
It is important to maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene within the dragon’s enclosure. Daily ‘spot checks’ should be carried out, sifting substrate to remove any faeces, shed skin or uneaten food. A full substrate change should be carried out every 2-3 months (depending on what substrate is used) and the enclosure thoroughly cleaned with a reptile-safe disinfectant.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and feed on a range of live insects and plant matter. In captivity bearded dragons should be fed a variety of both live foods and leafy green vegetables.
Live foods suitable for bearded dragons include; crickets, woodies, black soldier fly larvae, mealworms (in moderation) and silkworms. Some live foods such as crickets and woodies should be dusted with a calcium and vitamin supplement before being offered.
Vegetables and fruits that can be offered include; kale, endive, parsley, Asian greens, apple, carrot, beans, broccoli, zucchini and squash. Commercially available lizard pellets can also be mixed through the chopped vegetables to provide extra nutrition for the dragon.
Fresh water should be available to the dragon at all times and changed daily.
To learn more about bearded dragons as well as other fascinating reptile pets, grab a copy of The Ultimate Pet Handbook today: www.bendessen.com.au
Article supplied and written by Ben Dessen