the Bearded Dragon
Pogona henrylawsoni – Pygmy Bearded Dragon
Pogona vitticeps – Central Bearded Dragon
Adult Size: Pygmy Bearded Dragons 20-25cm Central Bearded Dragons 40-55cm
Housing: Pygmy Bearded Dragons Central Bearded Dragons
60cm Terrarium – Single Adult 90cm Terrarium- Single Adult
90cm Terrarium – Pair or trio 120cm Terrarium- Pair or Trio
Lifespan: 7-10 years
Lighting: Heat, Uvb, Broad Spectrum.
Temperatures: Hot Spot 40-44C Cool Side 20-29C
Diet: Omnivorous, variety of insects as well as vegetables, greens and fruit.
Ease of Care: Easy-Medium
Aptly named the ‘bearded’ dragon due to its ability to splay outward it’s ‘beard’ of tubercle scales on its throat in defence or in times of territorial aggression, although the bearded dragon seems to find itself more fond of beard tickles in a captive environment. The Pygmy bearded dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni) is the smaller cousin. The Pygmy does not have the same ability to splay its beard in such effect, however it does make an equally great companion for children, with an equally docile nature in a compact size.
Naturally found in clay pans, rock outcrops and semi-arid grass and woodlands of Central Australia. A solitary animal by nature, bearded dragons only find company in the wild for a moment of territorial defence (males will fight fiercely for territory) or a moment to display for the company of a female for breeding. I would describe the dragon as terrestrial (ground dwelling) and semi-arboreal. Young dragons will tend to perch high up on branches to camouflage and stay clear of predators and adults enjoy splaying themselves high on rocks or fence posts in the sun. Bearded dragons are active during the day (diurnal) and will generally brumate (slow) for up to 4 months of the year as adults. Generally a light underside with a dorsal region of grey to yellow, to brownish red and orange, markings of pale occelates and formations of white raised cone tubercles and splayed spines down the sides, with banding on the tail. Due to their eagerness to breed in captivity an array of colour morphs and variant lineages are ever expanding into new varieties; translucent, Dunner, Pied, leatherbacks, silkback and albino’s, not to mention a variety of high colour morphs are also available.
Solitary by nature, Bearded Dragons thrive in captivity when housed alone. Growth rates, overall health, stress levels and overall wellbeing are ideal with solitary individuals. When individuals are housed together in captivity they build hierarchies, the dominant animal will signal the others to be submissive, such co-habitation cause’s stress to all involved and you will begin to see size and health differences, lowered immunity, breeding, possibly aggression, injury and even death. Your main ambition should be to create a stress free environment. It is common practice to keep young dragons in small groups, although the occasional toe or tail tip can go mysteriously missing. For the same reason, only keep animals of a similar size together. We recommend a watchful eye and aggressors to be separated and animals be raised separately whenever possible. Having said this, Pygmy bearded dragons tend to have a less stressful and violent social group, females and pair/trios work well in relative harmony.
Hatchlings begin life at about 7cm in length, after spending roughly 62 days in an egg. By one to two months of age Juveniles will be around 10-15cm and begin to grow quickly, gaining anywhere from 0.5-2cm a week.. Healthy and well-fed individuals should reach this size within 9-12 months and may continue to grow till the age of 1.5 years. Animals who do not reach adult size within this period of time will be stunted in growth. They are still more than capable of leading happy and healthy lives.
Here in Australia, we recommend using glass terrariums with a mesh top and cross ventilation on at least one side (to bring in cool air and allow the heat to rise). Your ambition is not to conserve and hold heat in like you would when housing a python in a wooden vivarium. Dragons require a very hot basking spot of at least 40C without heating the entire enclosure. Wooden vivariums are difficult to control a temperature gradient from 40C all the way down to 25C without creating an oven like effect. Mesh top, glass terrariums allow excess heat to escape preventing overheating, particularly on sweltering hot summer days!
Juveniles (under 25cm or so) can be housed in a glass mesh top vivarium measuring 60x45cm or larger. The bigger the better! Adults should be housed in a mesh top enclosure measuring 90x45cm or larger, we recommend the 120x60cm Terrariums as they do enjoy the space. If you choose to house multiple adults together, provide multiple hides, basking spots/lamps and allow yourself the option to separate individuals. When decorating, keep in mind that dragons enjoy being high up and climbing, plenty of Driftwood, branches and hammocks are helpful to allow this natural behaviour and these enable your dragon to get close to your Uv and Heat lamps. Ensure your enclosure is placed in a room that is well lit, although away from direct sunlight, and has a stable temperature no higher than 25C.
For young juveniles, we recommend non particle substrates. Not only does this prevent accidental indigestion of substrate (which can cause impaction, particularly in very small dragons) but it also makes cleaning very easy. Our recommendations are paper towel, sand-mats, repti-carpet and newsprint. EXO TERRA Sand mats are our suggested option, they are easy to clean, cut to size, and are a natural looking alternative. Sand mats provide grip and a natural texture for keeping claws trim, while being particle free and a safer alternative.
For adults, we recommend washed and sifted Terrarium Sand (the quarts grain sand we sell in store). Sand allows for natural behaviours like digging and will keep your dragon occupied throughout day, if also makes spot cleaning easy. Use your sand sieve to scoop out and spot clean waste as required. Particle substrates should be removed and replaced at least every 6-8 weeks (depending on spoilage). Adults can be kept on Course Bark substrate (pieces large enough not to be ingested) this is also a natural option. Steer clear of Red Desert Sands and Calcium based substrates for high risk of impaction and respiratory related issues.
In the wild, the sun provides the Bearded Dragon with heat, light and UV radiation. In captivity it is vital that we replicate this to the best of our ability for the health of the animal. Without sufficient heat, light or UV radiation, the health of your bearded dragon is at risk. The spectrums of Light are easier to understand if we part them into four sections.
– ‘visual light spectrums’ also plays an important role. This can often be provided with ‘broad spectrum’ basking lights, plant growth LED’s or ‘bright white’ fluorescent lighting.
-UVA- long wave ultraviolet, ranges from 320-400nm and is essential for reptile vision, wellbeing and pupil retraction.
-UVB Medium wave ultraviolet B, ranges from 290-32 nm and it essential for synthesis of vitamin D3 metabolically.
-UVC- Short wave ultraviolet C (the bad guy) ranges from 180-290 nm and is dangerous and a health hazard.
Heat- Bearded dragons, like all reptiles are ectomorphs (they rely on their environment to give them heat; in this case, from the lighting you are providing). The habitat you create for your bearded dragon must provide adequate heat and a temperature gradient that allows for healthy thermoregulation. A basking spot of 40-44C with a temperature gradient down to 20-25C at the cool side. Heating elements should be run on a thermostat and be set to dim or turn off when the cool side reaches a maximum of 27-28C to prevent overheating.
Light- The lighting you choose must provide enough visible brightness (in wavelengths that seem bright to your dragon, keep in mind they see a much broader spectrum of light than you or I see). Bright broad spectrum lighting is also important in order to allow your dragons pupils retract, preventing damage from artificial lighting. The reason this is important, is that artificial lighting also creates small amounts of UVC wavelengths that can be damaging to the eye. Proper retraction of the pupil protects the eye from damage and the common photo-kerato-conjunctivitis (infection from light damage.)
Uvb Lighting should be used in conjunction with Reptile Vision, Broad spectrum or regular high light bulbs for brightness and stimulation. Your Dragons third eye, directly on top of his head (looks like a clear scale) is called the Pineal Eye. This organ is partially responsible for your dragons behaviour, proper stimulation can make the difference between a normal and healthy yearly cycle and an under stimulated dragon. This eye actually differentiates between light and dark to effect behaviour and acts as an emergency response system for overhead shadows (predators), this organ notices the hours of light in a day and the intensity, this effects behaviour, brumation and breeding cycles as well as mood and appetite, another important reason that a bright stimulating terrarium lighting is important.
UVB- Ultra violet radiation is 100% essential for the health and longevity of your dragon. Without this, your dragon is incapable of performing the synthesis of vitamin D3 (which allows the absorption of calcium- essential for proper bone formation, not to mention metabolic function, hormone regulation, brain and organ function, muscle development etc.). Bearded dragons are designed to synthesis (create) their own vitamin D3 within the layers of their skin when exposed to UV radiation. Without a healthy amount of exposure to UVB, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will take place, bones will fracture and break easily and bone deformities will begin (splayed hips, lethargy and twitching, curves in the spine and tail are common as well as health defects like muscle calcification and organ failure.
Taking your dragon out in Natural Sunlight is incredibly beneficial and recommended, although unless you are doing this a minimum of 2 hours every day, it does not replace the necessity of artificial Uv Lighting. Not to mention the lack of UVB stimulation for the remaining 10 hours of the day will affect the animal’s behaviour throughout. Natural sunlight emits around 130-250uwcm^2 of UVB on your standard day, with mid-summer heat waves bringing in up to 260uwcm^2. Generally speaking, your standard UVB tube emits around 20-60uwcm^2 which is pretty pathetic especially considering your dragon needs to be within 16-20cm of the UVB tube to be receiving these wavelengths. The choice you make when choosing your source of UV, could make the difference between living and thriving.
The only UVB source that gets anywhere close to the amount of UVB the sun is emitting, is called a mercury vapour bulb (MVB.) and its stronger cousin, the Metal Halide Sunray. These products emit between 175-360uwcm^2 at 30-60cm. These bulbs are our number one recommendation. We find our reptiles are far more active, healthy and vivacious under these lamps. Enclosures that are over 45cm in height should be using high output globes such as these. Talk to us in store about the right lighting option for you and your dragon. These higher output globes are much more cost effective (considering they last 10-12 months) than your other options and will be incredibly beneficial to the health of your dragon.
Our second choice is the good old-fashioned UVB tube. We recommend the Reptisun and ReptiGlo 10.0 (60uwcm^2 when 20cm from tube.) Allow your dragons a surplus of branches to get within 20cm from the tubes surface and a basking spot nice and high. Tube form UVB should span the entire length of the enclosure. We urge you to consider using a twin tube reflector, using a tube form UVB tube in conjunction with a regular fluorescent encourages correct pupil retraction, and the brightness encourages natural daytime behaviour. Artificial UVB tubes are incredibly dull through the eyes of a reptile and the regular fluorescent helps counteract this. Florescent tubes like Power-Glo and Repti-Glo 2.0 (Natural Light) are both great options to be paired with a High Output Uv Tube. These tube form UVB Globes need to be changes at least every 8 months, ideally every 6 months. Even if your globe is emitting light, the wavelength decrease dramatically. 6 months is an ideal total lifespan for these globes.
The third option on the market is the compact form UVB. This form of UV radiation is suited to short terrariums 30-45cm in Height and are ideally installed horizontally in hoods like Exo-Terra Compact Light Units or in high reflective fittings like VenomGear reflected domes, this allows maximum exposure to the globe surface. If you choose to use these bulbs it is incredibly important that your animals get within 20cm of the globe in order for them to receive adequate amounts of Uv Radiation. It is also very important which brand you choose, we only stock brands that are from high quality factories and rigorously tested. VenomGear and ExoTerra among others. Compact globes should be replaced every 6 months. Besides Adequate Uv Radiation, It is important to mention that Fluorescent Tubes and Compact Uv Bulbs are best used in conjunction with visual light, as the these forms of Uv are often not bright enough in the spectrums that reptiles see as visible. Tube form should be used in a double fitting in conjunction with a 2.0 Natural Light or Broad Spectrum Visual Lighting. Compacts housed in a multi-hood unit with a Visible Light or 2.0 Natural Light Bulb as well as broad spectrum bright white light or Neodymium basking globes.
Artificial Uv lighting fades over time, although every bulb is slightly different, some bulbs may drop up to 90% output over the first 2000 hours, visually, there is no way to test this. For this reason, Compact bulbs and fluorescent tubes should be replaced every 6 months, Mercury Vapour Bulbs at least every 10 months, and Halides after 12 months of normal use. However, we have a Uv Solarmeter in store to test your bulbs decay, simply bring in your bulb and fitting and ask our staff to help you out, this will let you know very quickly if your bulb is ready to be replaced.
One of the most important things to do before taking home your new bearded dragon, is to educate yourself. All artificial florescent bulbs are going to emit varying amounts of wavelengths within the visible and ultra violet light spectrums. It is important to note exactly which wavelengths you’re exposing your reptile to. Please ask our helpful staff to point you in the right direction.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to heating is that 90% of the heat sensors on a bearded dragon’s body are on the top, not the bottom. So heating from above is the safest most natural method of heating. As your beardie begins to splay his ribs and expand his sides (to expose as much surface area) toward to heat, you’ll see how naturally this behaviour of basking under sunlight comes to him. We recommend a heat lamp (generally 50-100 watt depending on enclosure) placed on the metal mesh top in a heat resistant dome lamp. Placing lamps on top of the mesh, prevent the dragon ever making contact with the globe. Lamps that are installed internally should be well out of reach, we do not suggest light cages with dragons as they encourage climbing. Place a basking spot (log, rock, driftwood, hammock or slate) below the lamp at an appropriate distance that allows a basking temperature of 40-44C. Make sure you’re using a digital thermometer with prove or an infrared thermometer (to make sure you’re being accurate with your temperature readings). This spot only need be a small area directly under the heat lamp. Keep in mind that your dragon will spend most of the day around this heat source so make sure he’s still within an appropriate distance of the UV source in this area!
During the night, we recommend using a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) to provide a hot spot of 33C. This way you are providing a temperature drop by night, but still allowing your dragon to stay warm enough to digest throughout (keeping the body functioning at a healthy temperature). We recommend this mainly for hatchlings and juveniles experiencing their first winter, although adults seem to thrive on this method as well. Some dragons however enjoy cooling completely by night and you may find them retreating to the cool end by night. The option for an Under Tank Heater (UTH) cord or mat is also available. The UTH should be installed correctly allowing adequate airflow beneath the glass terrarium (not inside the enclosure). Allow your heat mat/cord to heat no more then 1/3 of the enclosures floor space.
Hiding places are essential (although rarely used unless brumating). I would recommend placing one hide over the ETH heat source, and one on the cool side, allowing choice for your dragon to retreat when frightened or when it comes time for brumation. We recommend Exo-Terra Reptile Caves as they are light and spacious and allow an almost completely enclosed hide, which will make your dragon feel secure. You can also use many of the artificial plants and ornaments available to offer coverage for very young dragons to offer a sense of security. We carry a huge variety of natural and artificial hides in store. Retreat away from heat and light is important for good health.
Bearded Dragons are Omnivorous, meaning their diet consists both animal protein and vegetation. Their diet consists of live and canned insects like Crickets, wood-roaches, silkworms, soldier fly larvae, and mealworms and the occasional pinkie mouse (Adults only) and a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and greens. Variety should be given as not one single food item provides complete nutrition. Feeding live insects should occur for juveniles as often as you would eat. Breakfast lunch and dinner until your dragon is adult size. Juveniles should be offered as much as they can eat in 10 mins 3 times a day, we all lead busy lives- so at least before you leave for work/school, and when you get home. Adults should be offered live prey as much as they can eat in 10 mins 3 times a week. There’s not a more exciting time for a bearded dragon then when there are bugs to chase. We recommend using the ‘feeding tub’ method. Use a large storage container to place your dragon in, and simply put in the live feed as well (just a few at a time). This provides a small hunting ground, a safe consumption zone (free from substrate) and enables the keeper to see just how much food is being consumed. Young dragons may become overwhelmed if too many insects are added at once. Your dragon will also quickly learn to trust you as when you handle him, he is rewarded with the feeding tub. If you choose to feed within the enclosure, uneaten prey should be removed after feeding, as the can be a hazard by nibbling on your dragon as they sleep.
Your Bearded Dragon’s diet within the first 18 months of life should consist of 70-80% protein (feeder insects) and 20-30% vegetation. As an adult, their diet should reverse, being 50-60 vegetation and 40-50% protein. Feeder insects should be Gutloaded at least 2 hours before feeding, this means you feed the insects healthy nutritious foods so their guts are full of vitamins, minerals and protein. We sell Gutload in store, right next to our live insects.
Most commonly available feeder insects alone are not meeting the requirements of your Bearded Dragon on a Protein, vitamin and mineral balance. Staple Protein Diets should consist of Soldier Fly Pupae, Crickets, Woodies (wood roach), Giant Mealworms (Zophobas Morio/ Adult Dragons Only), and Silkworms. Occasional treats can be Mealworms and Pinky Mice (Adult Only and max 1 Pinky mouse per fortnight.) Mealworms fed to very small dragons very frequently lead to impaction, dehydration and even death. This is due to the high chitin content in mealworms and small dragons having difficulty digesting them, they often regurgitate the meal or pass them semi digested. To add variety to the diet, we supply a range of Live, Frozen and canned Insects as well as Pellet Foods.
All prey should be smaller than the space between your dragon’s eyes, to prevent choking or excessive pressure on the spine while swallowing or digesting.
Keep in mind that both protein, and vegetation should be incredibly varied to prevent malnutrition. The portion of vegetable matter should consist of 70% greens like rocket, kale, endive, buck choy, choy sum, watercress and dandelion. 20% vegetable matter like squash, carrot, beans, and broccoli. The last 10% should be fruits and berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, papaya, mango, apple, pear, peach, banana and grapes. It is easy to grow rocket, dandelion and kale in pots or the garden, a healthy human diet should always have the appropriate vegetables in the fridge and a supply of frozen berries in the freezer seems to make that special treat easy. Although you will likely find yourself picking out a special treat for your scaled friend when grocery shopping.
Your feeder insects should always be fed well for at least two hours before being fed to your Dragons. You are what you eat, and so is their food. If you are able to feed your insects a diet that is high in vitamins and minerals, the benefit will pass on to your Dragon. Offer a specialised ‘Gut load’ or make your own with Reptile pellet feed, always offer your live feed fresh carrot. Insects should be dusted before feeding, every second feed with calcium with D3 and Multivitamin. We use, trust and recommend Rep-cal supplements as a premium and safer alternative.
Provide your Bearded Dragon with a shallow sturdy water dish. Provide clean water regularly and remember to rinse and scrub the dish at least once a week to prevent bacterial growth. It is common behaviour for your Dragon to wade and swim in their water dish, and water seems to make them defecate, so make sure the dish stays clean and clear. Beardies are not very adapt to seeing water unless it is moving, so regular misting or bathing will be required to keep your dragon hydrated. Young dragons should have shallow dishes to prevent drowning (generally only an issue when young are kept in groups due to trampling).
While your dragons are naturally efficient at conserving water, youngsters tend to dehydrate quickly if they are not misted or bathed regularly. We recommend misting your hatchling and juvenile dragons at least once daily, while initially this may frighten them, this is just a natural instinct to get to cover and up high and safe when the rains come, they will quickly adjust and begin to enjoy it. Remember in summer during the desert, evening thunderstorms do happen regularly. Droplets may be placed on their noses which they will lick up willingly.
Bathing seems to be a necessary role in keeping a well-hydrated and clean Bearded Dragon, besides, most seem to enjoy the experience. Not only is bathing a great bonding process, but it also allows your dragon to hydrate, and defecate. You can either fill the bathroom sink or bath with slightly cooler than luke-warm water to the height of your beardies chest only, or simply run a luke-warm shower. The dragon will generally wade and wriggle off loose shedding skin, drink, and sometimes even duck dive. Always supervise your bearded dragon and allow him to perch on your hand, or a washcloth if the basin surface is too slippery. Generally after a bit of wading and swimming your dragon will defecate, he’s just trying to tell you that he’s had enough fun in the bath and it’s time to get dry.
New dragons often experience relocation stress which means that they may have a timid disposition and go off food when exposed to a new environment. New dragons should be left in their new enclosures for the first week without excessive handling to limit stress levels during this transition. Young dragons that are skittish or flighty should be handled for short periods of time in dim lighting or at dusk, or for short periods within the enclosure, allowing the dragons to jump off your hand when threatened or uncomfortable. The low light at dusk makes the dragon feel safe and submit to sleep; you may even find your dragon falling asleep on you. I find this technique seems to enforce trust on young dragons. Time and regular contact will also subdue the wild streaks of a juvenile dragon. Some notes to consider when handling your dragon, always support both the front chest and hips when handling, using either two hands, or allowing your large dragon to lay across your forearm. Never pick up a dragon up by the tail, this often causes a very negative and thrashing reaction and can damage the spine and tail. Very small dragons should always have a firm hold on the tail base while handling, as they can be flighty and skittish when young. If you need some tips on how to handle a bearded dragon, ask our staff and come meet our dragons!
Black Beards- generally a sign of aggression, or displeasure, although for males in the presence of females in breeding season it is generally a sign of dominance and sexual display.
Flaring- flaring the beard, and splaying the ribs is a territorial and defensive gesture. It is used to make the dragon seem larger and more aggressive and is designed to scare off the aggravator. Generally this is a warning before biting and is accompanied by a hiss. Dragons may also splay their ribs while basking to increase their body size to absorb heat faster.
Hissing- Hissing is also a warning and is usually only used when flaring.
Head bobbing- When performed quickly or in rapid concession, this is a sign of dominance, and when performed slowly it is a sign of submission. It’s a method of two dragons developing or reinforcing hierarchy and dominance from a distance.
Eye bulging- generally during shedding, bearded dragons will bulge their eyes to stretch the soft skin around there eyes to loosen shedding skin.
Gaping- generally under the heat source, this is a method of thermo-regulation, much like a dog would pant to cool down.
Licking- Dragons lick objects, sand, and food sources to identify them, they dab their tongue and push it into a compartment on the roof of their mouths called a Jacobson Organ, this is a method of smell/tasting. They are identifying pheromones from other dragons, the scent of prey or food, the mineral in the earth and a neighbours territory boundaries.
Geophagia- Dragons intentionally ingest soil in a desperate attempt to gain mineral when their body’s resources run low. Proper supplementation often helps keep the body in good supply of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. This is a very important reason that calcium sands should not be used as rapid ingestion of mineral can also encourage health issues like impaction.
Reptiles change their behaviour seasonally, the main reason for this is the lack of available food through winter (in the wild), and in preparation for breeding in spring. Coming into winter, the night time temperatures drop and daylight hours are reduced, at this time your dragons appetite may decrease, and they may choose to sleep, burrow, or hide for most of the day. Some animals will sleep for weeks, or months on end, generally no longer than 3-4 months. At which point in time spring will return with warmth, and they will begin to resume life and feeding as per usual. Young dragons under one year of age should not be encouraged to brumate, this period without food intake and normal behaviour can affect their growth rates and overall health. Young dragons should have a night time basking spot of 33C (they may not use it, although it will help keep the ambient temperature higher than usual through winter). It is always a good idea to regularly check your basking spot, cool side, and night time temperatures seasonally as the wattage of your bulbs may change between summer and winter. Night time heating such as ceramic heat emitters or heat mats should be considered for your dragons first winter. Brumation is important for breeding adults, as without a deep sleep, they are unlikely to breed successfully or produce large viable clutches.
Adults who are in a deep Brumation slumber, can still have their regular lighting and heat on and cycling as per usual. If you wish to induce Brumation, simply limit your hours of light by 15 minutes less every day for a month coming into winter and vice versa coming into summer, night time heating such as mats and ceramic heat emitters can be turned off during winter. A slightly cooler than luke-warm bath should be given to adults showing signs of entering brumation to encourage defecation, preventing semi digested food rotting in the gut while sleeping.
Common health issues
Intestinal Parasites; while most reptiles have a normal level of intestinal parasites or worms (commonly coccidia) captive environmental stresses can lead these levels to sky rocket and effect the health of your Reptile. It is a good idea to take a fresh faecal sample to your Reptile specialist veterinarian for a test at the first sign of illness, and a treatment can be prescribed. Weight loss, sunken in eyes, stunted growth, lethargy, and diarrhoea are all common signs.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD); Calcium and D3 Deficiency, caused by a lack of adequate ultraviolet radiation, dietary imbalance or lack of supplementation. Signs include lethargy, muscle twitches and spasms, broken or soft bones, tail deformations and splayed hips, under bite. Treatment for these issues will need a consultation with your vet.
Dysecdysis; Abnormal or incomplete shedding. While a bearded dragons shed may come off in patches, low humidity or infrequent bathing can result in retained shed, particularly in silkback bearded dragons. Retained shed may pinch tails and toes and result in docking. In extreme cases, patchy and inconsistent shedding may be a sign of external parasites. Bathing and misting will often assist difficult sheds.
Dehydration; Young dragons in particular can dehydrate in the summer heat, regular misting is required. A water bowl should always be provided and regular bathing is often helpful.
Mites; Dragons may seem irritable and scratch frequently, sometimes sitting almost full submerged in the water dish. Small mites are often visible around the eyes. Mite sprays are available, a full clean out of vivarium, equipment, ornaments and surrounds will be required to rid the environment.
Respiratory Infections; Often caused by stress, low temperatures and high humidity, or dust from calcium sands, respiratory infections give symptoms similar to the flu. Symptoms include Coughing, wheezing, mucus from mouth or nostrils, continual gaping, heavy breathing and lethargy. A vet visit is required for prescription medication to cure a respiratory infection.
Eye infections; closed, irritated, swollen, or mucus covered eyes, often caused by scratches, or dust. Eye infections can turn sour quickly without treatment from a vet.
Impaction; when a food item, solid or substrate has become lodged in the gut lining preventing defecation and putting pressure on the spine. Commonly seen in juveniles who are fed Mealworms, or have ingested coco-fibre, bark, or calcium sands. These experiences are made worse when the animal is dehydrated, or kept in an improper temperature gradient, or fed too early or too late in the day. Often the animal will attempt to regurgitate (semi digested mealworms), or will be seen gagging or wriggling. In extreme cases the animal will experience lethargy, have a slumped posture, and refuse to move. A luke-warm bath and gentle massaging of the underside may help the blockage pass. Failure to pass, a vet visit will be required to assess the situation and an enema or surgery may be required.
Hypervitaminosis: Commonly an over supplementation of Vitamin A. In most cases this is only possible when using vitamin supplements containing Vit A (Herptivite multivitamin does not contain Vitamin A, rather the building blocks for the animal to create it as required). Signs will be swelling around the eyes, limbs, throat and body. Contact your local exotics veterinarian for an appointment.
A correct setup, temperature gradient, lighting and diet is the best prevention for most common issues. Abnormal behaviours should be looked over by a Reptile Veterinarian. These behaviours may include star gazing, disorientation, head spins, rolling, twitching, tremors, lethargy, loss of appetite, hunched over stature and diarrhoea.
Be warned, that breeding bearded dragons is not a small-scale operation. Expect anywhere from 4-8 clutches of eggs, containing anywhere from 16-35 eggs, generally 4 weeks apart. That’s a lot of extra hatchling enclosures, lighting, and a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Bearded dragons can attain breeding age within 12 months (although more commonly at 18months to 2 years of age.) Size and sexual maturity are reached at variable times as growth is determined by health and diet. Females should not be submitted to breeding unless they are of full adult size, at least 18 months of age and in very healthy condition. Sexing mature specimens is simple; males have hemi-penal bulges and spurs (two bulges on the underside below the vent, and spurs on the undersides of the hind limbs). It is not necessary to bend the tail upward to see the bulges, it is often evident whether there is one of two present from sight. Head shape is also a consideration when sexing individuals, males are often more angular and sharp, where females tend to be more rounded, males tend to have a much thicker tail base as well. If you would like us to correctly identify the gender of your dragons, bring them in store! It is incredibly important that you feed your females regularly and abundantly, the production of eggs can take a lot of nutrient and calcium from her body, and it is important that you replace these nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep her (and her young) in good health.
Your dragons will naturally feel the slight temperature changed between summer and winter, it’s almost impossible to fool reptiles from the natural seasons beyond the walls of their enclosure. Spring will be the time that your males will begin to court your females, they will black beard, head bob aggressively and wave, and if she is submissive she will generally head bob slowly and wave slowly, and as he advances, lower her body to the ground. Until she is ready she will likely ignore and wriggle away from him or even hiss and beard in defence. When the pair are ready, the male will bite the nape of the female’s neck and manoeuvre his tail below hers and lock. We thoroughly suggest if you do choose to breed, to simply introduce the male and female together for supervised mating throughout the season, as if they are left alone the female will experience severe stress as the male will likely try the ritual multiple times daily. The female is capable of holding semen to produce anywhere between 4 and 8 clutches each generally consisting of anywhere between 15-25 eggs, although higher hatch rates will be experienced with regular courtship. You will notice the female will begin to swell in size and you may even see the bulges of the eggs within her abdomen. It is vitally important that you provide a comfortable place for your female to deposit her eggs. If she is not presented with an appropriate place she will hold them and lay them in an inappropriate area (which is stressful and will be detrimental to the health of her young) or she will choose not to lay and become egg bound (which can lead to death.) Provide a deep digging box up to 30cm deep of moist (but not wet) sand; I tend to use a dark storage container with a hole cut in the lid. The darkness provides security, although she will likely dig to the very bottom to deposit her eggs. If you choose to incubate the eggs use a mix of coarse vermiculite or perlite (one part water to one part vermiculite by weight, or one part water to two parts vermiculite) generally the first clutch is infertile, so don’t feel too disappointed! Fertile eggs will generally hatch within 60-80 days at 29C. Feel free to talk to us about setting up an incubator, we’re more than happy to help you through the process.
Hatchlings should be kept on paper towel for ease of cleaning (changed daily) and provide adequate heating and UVB lighting. Keep the décor very simple, with a large smooth Riverstone being more than enough as a hot spot basking area. Separate into smaller groups when size differences or aggression arise and sell when at least 15cm (6”) and stable, active and eating. Hatchlings are fragile and should be handled very little.
Feeding: Bearded Dragons during their first year of life will require Live Food at least once (ideally twice) a day. As adults they can be fed every day to second day, alternating between Live Food and Vegetation.
Cleaning: Daily spot cleaning should be performed with a Sand Sieve, and the substrate should be fully removed at least every 2-3 months depending on spoilage. At this point, a good quality and safe enclosure cleaner can be used to sanitize the environment.
Handling: Bearded dragons should be handled regularly, exercise is essential to good health and time out of the enclosure in a safe environment is stimulating and a great opportunity for them to build strength and agility roaming the room. Adults should have some time out of the enclosure at least weekly (more often is best), hatchlings will require a little work to adapt to handling, and short sessions of 10-15 minutes will suffice.
Health & Hygiene
Bearded dragons are unlikely to bite, they will offer plenty of warning and show signs of distress and discomfort before doing so. Ask us in store about safe handling techniques. If a bite does occur, wash site, use an alcohol swab to clean area and apply a Band-Aid. They have teeny tiny teeth which often to not even break the skin. Bearded Dragons do carry salmonella, it is always a good idea to wash your hands before and after handling. Particularly with young children. The heat and lighting involved in a bearded dragon’s setup do get quite hot, be sure to turn all lamps off and let cool before handling fittings or bulbs. For the safety and longevity of your lighting and heating equipment, always run heating and lighting through a surge protected power board
Bearded dragons, like all reptiles and amphibians in NSW are protected species, by law a Permit is required to keep one. A Companion animal will allow you to keep just one Reptile, where as a Basic Class One Licence will allow you to keep multiples, and different species. Applying for your permit is easy to do online at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au applicants must be over the age of 16. A valid, in date Reptile keepers licence must be visually cited in store to purchase an animal, accompanied by the licence holder.
Best of luck!
If you have any further queries or questions, please don’t be afraid to ask one of our helpful staff members in store, on the phone or by email.
- Terrarium Enclosure (Minimum: 60x45cm for a Pygmy 90x45cm for a Central)
- Heat Lamp; Aim for low wattage, but enough to heat to get one area (basking spot) to 40-44C.
- UvB Light; Choose the best Uv source for your budget, chat to us about your options.
- Visual Light; The brighter the better! A Visual light heightens natural behaviour.
- Thermometer; A good Dual Zone Thermometer with Probe is ideal.
- Thermostat; highly recommended for those hot summer days to prevent overheating.
- Timer; A good thermostat will generally do this for you, but a timer makes life easier.
- Substrate; we recommend the Sandmat or Quartz Terrarium Sand.
- Basking spot; Driftwood or hammock to get your dragon within 20cm of heat and Uv.
- Hide; we recommend half logs and hide ornaments.
- Background; Easy to install, natural looking, and climbable.
- Artificial Plants; These enable your young dragon to hide and feel secure.
- Water Bowl
- Food Dish
- Live food; Crickets, Roaches, Black Soldier Fly Pupae are great starters.
- Supplements; Essential! A good quality Calcium with D3 and Multivitamin.
- Cricket Keeper; helpful in deterring escapes and making cricket keeping easy.
- Sand Sieve
- Feeding Tweezers
- Enclosure Cleaning Sanitizer
- Shed-Aid Spray: Highly recommended for Silkbacks.