If you have or are considering buying a new bearded dragon to be a little companion for your home, it’s important to get to know a little bit of background about them so you know exactly how they live and what they like. This way you can ensure your new reptilian friend will have a happy and healthy life whilst in captivity.
Bearded Dragons at a Glance
What we call bearded dragons are actually a genus of reptiles which contains 9 different species, with the species Pogona vitticeps (the central or inland bearded dragons) being most commonly kept as pets. They are considered medium-sized lizards with a typical adult size range of between 12 and 24 inches. All species of bearded dragon can be found around Australia and the color of those found in the wild will reflect on the environment they live but pets are often selectively bred for their colors.
They do make cute pets, with their comically dissatisfied smile and lazy eyes which jerk with excitement when they know the food is on the way. They are called bearded dragons due to the baggy underside of their throat that’s lined with spines which they puff up with air and turn black when they perceive a threat to make themselves look larger and scarier to a potential predator.
Compared to other exotic pets, bearded dragons are relativity easy to care for, are resilient and can be quite relaxed when it comes to human interaction, depending on whether they are used to the presence of people and have been handled with care in the past.
What do Bearded Dragons Eat?
They’re not fussy eaters and are omnivorous in nature which gives you a lot of options in providing them with a balanced diet. Typically as a source of protein, people often buy their bearded dragons live house crickets because they are cheap, easy and fun to watch the dragon spring to life after basking to hunt. People also like to feed the dragons mealworms, as they’re easier for the lizard to grab and are not likely to bite the dragon back.
A general rule to avoid stray crickets in the enclosure is if the insect is longer than the space between the lizard’s eyes; it is too big to handle and your pet might just leave it alone. If you are looking to keep the crickets yourself and breed them you may want to look into what the crickets eat too!
You should also provide your reptilian buddy with a source of vitamins to promote healthy skin shedding and regrowth with vegetarian options; consider this comprehensive guide of fruit, vegetables, and plants that are known to be safe for a bearded dragon to consume.
Just a word of advice, never catch insects from the wild to feed to your bearded dragon as they could contain parasites or trace amount of pesticides, and this would only risk making your pet sick!
Bearded Dragon Set Up Guide
You can call your enclosure a vivarium, tank or terrarium, the words are often interchangeable and it needs to be at a certain standard to ensure your bearded dragon has a happy and healthy life.
Size: For a start bear in mind that an adult bearded dragon will need a 40-gallon tank and based on the terrestrial environment they prefer should be 32 inches long. Whether you want to start with a larger tank for a younger dragon is up to you but growing in a small tank could inhibit their growth altogether.
Temperature: Being ectotherms, bearded dragons need a warm area heated by a light source and ceramic heat emitter and a cooler area so they can alternate between both. Humidity needs to be between 20 and 30% so be sure to have a thermometer at each end of the tank and a humidity gauge. The heat light should be placed over a basking rock or wood and set between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 degrees Celsius) and the ceramic emitter for night time.
Bedding: The environment you provide is important; to make your pet feel at home it would prefer either calcium sand or a reptile carpet. The benefit for you is that their waste is easier to scoop out and the material is easy to replace.
It’s recommended to use firm material rather than loose for younger dragons and so dragon carpet is the best choice but newspaper, paper towels or butcher paper can be suitable while their young.
Décor: Use branches or reptile hides for them to climb on, get away from the heat or get some private time if they want to and a shallow dish for water. There are hammocks available which they love to chill out in. Also, ensure your dragon feels secure by putting a background around the sides and back of the enclosure if you have an all glass one.
Our Top Pick
Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium
Taking into account the size and dimensional requirements of a bearded dragon; the “large wide” model of exo terra allglass terrarium is the best bearded dragon tank on Amazon. It has plenty of space and is highly functional, built with the pet’s safety and your convenience in mind.
The unique patented design of this tank was made with the advice of reputable herpetologists. The front doors open outwards and can be opened separately so you can maintain control and reduce the risk of any escapees whether it’s your pets or their food! This door design is also superior to sliding doors and enables you to retain humidity and heat better. They also have a locking mechanism preventing the door from accidentally being opened by the pets or naughty children.
The top to the tank is a ventilation mesh which allows you to place a heat light over the top and can be removed for over the top access to the tank too. It too has a locking mechanism preventing any accidents. It’s also built with a raised lower frame which not only allows for the installation of an underside heat source but effectively increased the surface area of the floor, giving your lizard the space that it would expect from it’s natural environment.
Bearded Dragon Tank Equipment
Here are our suggested equipment choices to go with your Exo Terra Tank. We have selected these due to their compatibility with that particular vivarium.
You may also appreciate the useful tools and accessories you can use to make your job easier when it comes to looking after your reptiles and also to make them feel at home with some cool furniture picks.
Exo Terra Lamp Holder Bracket for Reptiles
Use this to hang your heat lamp above the tank.
Zoo Med Labs Mini Combo Deep Dome Dual Lamp Fixture
This particular dual heat lamp will provide your pet with what they need to survive. Remember, bearded dragons are cold-blooded reptiles and can’t live without the correct temperature!
Zoo Med Economy Analog Dual Thermometer and Humidity Gauge
This will help you to control the temperature and humidity in the tank all at once! Remember that if the humidity falls below the suggested range, give the tank a spray with water in a mist bottle.
Reptile Sciences Terrarium Sand for Aquarium, 10-Pound, Natural White
Use this to make the dragon feel like they are at home in the deserts of central Australia.
Zoo Med Repti Cage Carpet
This is a perfect reptile carpet for younger dragons.
Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Litter Cleaner Corner Scoop
Never forget a scoop! This one, in particular, is designed to get into the corners of the terrarium to make life easier and to make poop scooping as straightforward as it can be.
Imagitarium Corner Bowl Terrarium Décor
A nice, decorative shallow bowl to go in the corner of the terrarium and to make sure your dragon has a refreshing water source. Remember to clean this out daily to ensure their water source is fresh.
Reptiles Hide, Petforu Tree Bark Pet Habitat
Give your pets a place to hide in and bask on with this resin, log styled hide.
Reptology Life Science Turtle-pier by Penn-Plax
This is a great option for basking for your lizard and would be perfect for placing underneath the heat source as it’s got plenty of surface area to heat up and will also provide shade underneath.
Exo Terra Crocodile Skull Terrarium D
Spice up the look of your terrarium, and give your dragons a nice choice of furniture to bask on.