Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
We know how much you love your bearded dragon and want to ensure that you have the most pleasurable experience with your dragon as well as providing the best care possible. So we’ve taken the time to construct this detailed care sheet, with all the specifics as well as little tips and pointers to help you provide the best husbandry possible. Through out this care sheet we mention various items that you may need, if you don’t have them already to make caring for your dragon easier. All of these products are underlined and accessible directly through this site by simply clicking on the product mentioned. We hope that this is helpful to you and wish you, “Peace, Love, & Pogonas”!
We recommend nothing smaller than a 40 gallon breeder aquarium for a single adult bearded dragon. You can start a hatchling or smaller juvenile in a 20gal Long aquarium if necessary or preffered. However you r dragon may quickly out grow this enclosure(4-6 months) depending upon age and size. A 40 gal breeder is adequate for the entire duration of a bearded dragon’s lifetime.
We’ve had many customers ask us, “Is there such thing as too much space for a bearded dragon?” Definitely a fair question to ask. We like to respond with the statement that, in its natural environment the bearded dragon has no walls, and there is no enclosure larger than outside. That being said the general thought is that the more space offered the better However you do want to consider a few things when picking out as well as setting up your enclosure for your bearded dragon.
Some things to consider:
For the most part we custom build our enclosures from wood. We house single dragons in a 36″x 18″ x 18″ enclosure and multiple dragons in a 48″ x 18″ x 18″ enclosure. This route can be more time consuming but a lot less costly, especially if you’re wanting a larger size enclosure. Building your own enclosure also has many benefits such as specifying the design of your enclosure to your individual needs. Not to mention the reward and satisfaction of knowing you built the enclosure with your own hands.
(Click here to watch our detailed video on building your own enclosure.)
- Whether you decide to build an enclosure or purchase an aquarium, make sure you have the proper ventilation as bearded dragons prefer a low humidity . If you decide to go with a glass aquarium you will need a screen lid, not only for ventilation but also to contain your dragon and have a place to sit your lighting.
We’ve tried just about everything under the sun when it comes to substrate. We’ve tried calcium sand and colored sand, repti bark and reptichip, paper towels and newspaper. Each has their pros and cons but our of all the substrates mentioned we prefer, paper towels (for our hatchling racks), and newspaper. Honestly we prefer newspaper over paper towels, as news paper can be much cheaper if not free, but find paper towels work ideally for our hatchling tubs.
With newspaper and paper towels you dont have to worry about impaction, stained feet and stomach, or a cloud of dust when cleaning out the enclosure. All of which are problems that you encounter when dealing with calcium/colored sand. there also isn’t the worry of accidental choking which ma occur with some other substrates such as repti bark or small stones and gravel.
We find newspaper and paper towels to be easy to find, easy to afford, and easy to clean. Three qualities we highly value, especially with the amount of animals we have to care for. Though some don’t find these two options as aesthetically pleasing, we feel it gives the enclosures a somewhat “industrial chic” look that we have grown quite fond of.
If you want something that can give you the aesthetic value of sand but the easy clean up of paper towels or newspaper, you can never go wrong with Reptile Carpet. Its affordable, easy to use and clean, and it has a nice look to it. If we had fewer dragons we probably would still be using it ourselves.
Its okay to experiment and figure out what works best for you personally. Just be sure to do some homework when choosing a substrate, and ALWAYS TAKE YOUR DRAGONS COMFORT AND SAFETY INTO CONSIDERATION FIRST!
Lighting & Temperature
Essentially there are two things you want to achieve when choosing the lighting for your bearded dragon, heat and UVB. Let’s start by addressing the heating and proper temperatures for your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons like most reptiles are ecotherms, which means that they use their environment to regulate their body temperature. This why you want to have a hot side and a cool side as well as a basking spot for your bearded dragon. Having a hot side with a basking spot as well as cool side will allow your bearded dragons to warm up or cool down as needed.
On the hot side you want to maintain a temperature between 90-100 degrees F, with a basking spot between 100-105 degrees. On the opposite side of the tank, on your cool side, you want to maintain a temperature between 80-90 degrees F. Sufficient heat and proper temperatures are essential to bearded dragon digestion and health. Make sure you have a thermometer, or temp gun to regulate temperatures. You can also purchase a combined thermometer and hygrometer to measure both heat and humidity.
You can achieve higher temps by using heat mats, heat rocks or even heat cables. However we do not recommend or suggest using the applications as they can be dangerous. These applications may over heat and even burn your bearded dragon. That being said using a reptile specific heat bulb is your best option.
UVB is very important for the health of your bearded dragon. UVB is a type of ultra violet light your dragon would normally receive from the sun in the wild. UVB helps with the synthesis of D3 and calcium absorption, which is crucial to bone health and growth, organ function, and your dragons immune system. It’s so important to a bearded dragon’s health that dragons have a “third eye” (pineal eye) on the top of their heads to help detect it.
There are several different types of UVB lights you can choose from. There is the previously mentioned mercury bulb, which provides both heat and UVB, as well as coil bulbs and fluorescent strip lights. You want to make sure choose a desert reptile UVB bulb. Desert reptiles generally require a higher UVB intensity than tropical animals. UVB wave lengths can weaken the further your animal is from the bulb. So when setting up your enclosure try to ensure that your dragon can get within 6″ of the UVB bulb.
Finally, you want to have a lighting schedule. We recommend during 12 hours on and 12 hours off. This schedule can be adjusted in either direction to help simulate specific seasons and induce brumation.
- You need heat and UVB
- Use reptile specific bulbs
- Have a lighting schedule to simulate day and night
- When setting up your enclosure try to ensure your dragon can get within an adequate distance of the heat and UVB lighting.
Water & Humidity
Bearded Dragons are desert animals and because of this prefer a dry and arid environment. They also are able to receive hydration through the food they eat and do a great job of retaining it.
What this means is that you are going to want to maintain a lower humidity in your dragon’s enclosure, between 30 – 40% being ideal. To monitor the humidity in your dragon’s enclosure you definitely want to purchase a hygrometer.
Also with a proper diet and routine soaks your dragon should have no problem staying hydrated and keeping a water dish in the enclosure isn’t necessary. Not to mention a water dish can increase the humidity in the enclosure, and dragons have a hard time recognizing still water. Most dragons will turn their water bowls into a toilet which can require frequent changing, as well as water dishes posing the risk of drowning if too deep for smaller dragons especially.
We would like to mention that hatchlings do tend to need water a little more than older dragons and do well with a slightly higher humidity. Regular soaking (2-3x a week) as well as occasional/daily misting can be quite helpful for younger bearded dragons. That being said you may also want to have a reliable mister handy.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and very hardy animals. There isn’t too much they can’t eat and hardly anything they won’t eat. This makes them that much more entertaining and enjoyable to own. You can offer your dragon a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and proteins. We will outline a simple staple diet to build from which will be both delicious and nutritious for your dragon and is also the base diet we use for our own animals.
With bearded dragons we find that variety is key. We offer our dragons 4 different staple sources of protein and 3 different staple sources of vegetation.
For proteins we offer superworms, dubia roaches(and other soft bodied roaches), Repashy Grub pie or Beardie Buffet, and very rarely, crickets.
With any of these feeders you want to offer the size relative to your dragon. For our smaller/ hatchling dragons we offer small dubia, baby superworms and pin head to 1/4″ crickets. We also make sure to dice up our Repashy feed into appropriate sized pieces as well. For larger dragons we use larger feeders and larger pieces of Repashy.
- A commonly used rule of thumb is to make sure the feeder is no bigger than the space between your dragons eyes.
This rule of thumb doesn’t have to be take too literally but is a good starting point of understanding, especially for younger dragons.
Our 3 staple veggies are leafy greens. Turnips, Collards, and Mustard greens to be specific. We generally offer Turnips 4 days our of 7 and rotate in Collards and Mustards between the remaining 3 days. We recommend doing the same thing with your greens as you did with your proteins, and that is offering size appropriate pieces. Dicing greens into smaler pieces for smaller dragons and larger ieces fro larger dragons. Though its unlikely for the greens to cause impaction like offering feeders that are too large can, larger pieces of greens can cause regurgitation which can also be harmful to your dragon.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what to offer, let’s talk about how and when to offer it.
-“Should I just drop the roaches in there or should I feed them off one at a time?”
This is a question we get asked frequently when talking to customers about feeding their dragon. Honestly you could do both but we wouldn’t recommend either. You’ll find that by dropping a surplus of insects, whether supers, roaches, or crickets into your dragon’s enclosure at once, many will go uneaten, scattering faster than your dragon can get to them. They’ll hide wherever they can and you have to either catch them all, deal with the never ending cricket sounds, or discover them dead or alive later when you go to clean the enclosure. Non of the above are great options and can be a waist of time and money. Feeding your dragon one bug a a time can be more effective and probably is your most viable option if feeding crickets, but this is time consuming as well.
What we do is we place our roaches and superworms and even our Repashy (if not mixed in with their salad) into an escape proof bug bowl. This way your dragon can eat as it pleases without the worry of bugs running loose in the enclosure.
With our greens its pretty much the same process. We place our greens in a veggie bowl and leave them for our dragons to eat as they please. We make sure to empty the veggie bowl after 4-6 hours and always offer fresh greens each day.
We generally feed our dragons 2-3 times a day. We start them off in the morning with greens. We find they’re more receptive to eating greens if they haven’t eaten already that day. A few hours later we will offer them protein such as feeder insects or Repashy. Usually this is sufficient for the day, however some dragons eat more than others, and to ensure that every one is full and happy we will offer one more serving of food proteins or vegetation to whom ever will accept it.
Something to know in keep and mind is that younger dragons diet should be rich in protein, consisting of about 80% protein and 20% vegetation. As they age this will ratio will due a complete reversal and as adults their diet should be 80% vegetation and 20% protein. Also you should be sure to dust your feeders with Calcium with D3 and you can even sprinkle it on their greens or fruit. Calcium is a very important art of your dragon’s diet.
Keep in mind that this is a simplified diet we use and offer to you as a guideline to build and expand upon. Variety is key and we implement other foods in our dragon’s diet such as, Horn worms, wax worms, and pheonix worms. As well as apples, blue berries, and butternut squash to name a few.
Do your research on what’s okay and not okay to feed your dragon. Offer variety, see what your dragon prefers and have fun with it!
Props & Accessories
When it comes to props and accessories it’s mainly a matter of preference. Some people prefer a very simple look and take a minimalistic approach, while others like all the bells and whistles. Whichever you prefer there are a few things to take into consideration when setting up your dragon’s enclosure.
The primary concerns are safety and functionality. You want to be careful that any props you use do not risk hazard of choking, poisoning, injury or discomfort. This being said you want to avoid accessories such as small stones that can be ingested, live plants that may be poisonous if ingested, and large and unstable structures that may fall over and injure your dragon. You also want to make sure that props and accessories you choose are functional and don’t require your constant attention to replace them.
We recommend a few items that we use in all of our dragon’s enclosures and feel are a must have for every dragon owner.
- Hide– The hide is definitely an essential piece of any setup and will serve multiple purposes for your dragon. Primarily your dragon will use the hide as a place to feel comfortable from the big world outside of it’s tank. It may also use this a place to sleep and might even find its self on top of it for a spot to bask. We prefer a wood hut for a hide because its easy for your dragon to climb and has a natural look.
- climbing structure– You want to offer your dragon some entertainment and dragons are semi arboreal animals. This means that they like to do a little climbing. There are many different types of props you can use for this purpose but we prefer Mopani wood. Its a natural wood that has been sand blasted clean and is ready to use. Since it’s a natural wood each piece tends to have its own unique shape and look. This adds a little personality to the tank and keeps with our natural theme. Another benefit of having a climbing structure is that it will allow your dragon to get closer to the light.
- Food bowl– Though your dragon doesn’t need a water bowl it is a good idea to have a food bowl for salads, fruit and even Repashy. We try to keep a natural looking theme through out the tank and chose the bowl the best fit the theme while still serving the purpose.
- Stacking stones– Okay, so maybe stones aren’t quite a necessity for you, but they are a must have for us. They not only do a lot for aesthetics but they they also do a good job of keeping the newspaper we use as substrate in place.
Anything else you decide to include in your tank is up to you. Just remember to always do your research and consider the of your dragon first and foremost.
We hope this care sheet was informative and helpful. We took the liberty of listing the products we feel you will need and that will come in handy, as well as including the links to where you can purchase them to help save you some time and energy. With the items on the list you shoud be fully prepared to provide the optimal care for your new pet bearded dragon.
Having the right tools on hand will make your experience a lot easier and more enjoyable. “It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” -someone wise
All the right tools:
This is for the owner who would like to start their dragon off in a tank smaller than a 40 gallon breeder and let it grow into a larger enclosure. A 20 gal Long is the smallest tank we recommend using for a bearded dragon.
This enclosure will be adequate for the entire duration of your bearded dragons life time. It can be used for hatchling to adult.
Ventilation is important to maintain a low humidity and allow fresh air into your enclosure. A screen lid is your best option when using a glass aquarium. Not only will it allow ventilation but will also contain your dragon, and provide a place to sit the lighting.
This is an substrate that is reusable, easy to clean, easy to afford and easy on the eyes. I guess you can say its an easy choice.
We highly recommend the mercury bulb because it best simulates the sun by allowing your dragon to get both heat and UVB from one light source as opposed to multiple sources.
Having the bulb is only half the battle. You will still need a light fixture for the bulb. We have suggested a 100watt mercury bulb and you want to make sure the fixture you choose can support the wattage. So we recommend this fixture which should be more than sufficient. It can support up to a 160 watt bulb.
Its important to be able to monitor the temperature and humidity in your dragon’s enclosure. This inexpensive combined thermometer and hygrometer will allow you to do both.
the thermometer will allow you monitor the temps where it’s place but what about everywhere else in your dragons enclosure? You want to be able to monitor the basking spot temps, the hot side temps, and the cool side temps. Having this digital infrared temp gun will allow you to do just that! It not only makes life a lot easier, we consider it to be a necessity.