How to keep a healthy and happy bearded dragon!
Bearded dragons are becoming the most popular exotic pet to have in the 21st century! They are very interactive and love attention from humans. Bearded dragons are great pets for adults or children, and are often used in schools as class pets. A Bearded dragon takes up much less space than a dog or cat and is much less messy. I have composed a basic care sheet covering the major areas involved with keeping a happy and healthy bearded dragon.
Hatchlings can be kept in as small as a 20 gallon long aquarium. Soon they will outgrow that and move to a larger aquarium/cage. Adult bearded dragons must have a minimum of a 40 gallon cage, preferably 50 gallon or larger. You can line the cage with new paper, paper towels, or reptile carpet. However we prefer to use Wheat bran as a substrate instead. Simply put an inch of wheat bran in the bottom of the cage. The reason is that if you dragon accidentally injests some, it is easily digestable. Some people use washed play sand as a substrate, but this can cause deadly intestinal impactions. For this reason we don't suggest using play sand.
Bearded dragons need a full spectrum (UVB) light as well as a basking light. You can use a Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 UVB reptile bulb, or the exo-terra Reptiglo 8.0 for a full spectrum light. For the basking site you need a basking (UVA) lamp available at pet stores. You can keep track of when you UVB bulbs need to be replace with a UVB meter. This will save you money by not replacing your bulbs early. Also this will make sure that you bulbs are still giving off enough life sustaining UVB for your bearded dragon. Get a timer and set it for 12-14 hours of light. Both the basking light and the UVB light need to be set to go on and off with the timer.
Remember bearded dragons must be able to thermo-regulate. That means they alter their temperature by going from the basking spot at the hot end of the cage to the cool side of the cage. This allows them to properly digest their food and also cool off when necessary. Make sure that you place the basking site at one end of the cage, not in the middle. The important thing with the basking lamp is that directly under it at the basking site the temperature reaches 100-110 F within an hour. Place a reptile thermometer directly on the rock or stick they will be perching on to bask. If the temperature is too low get a larger wattage lamp or lower the lamp an inch or two and try again. If the temperature is too high then get a lower wattage lamp or raise the light an inch or two from the basking site. Now you need to make sure that the cool side of the cage is around 80-85 Ferenheit or less. If your bearded dragon can't cool off they can dehydrate and die. If it isn't warm enogh under the basking site, your dragon can't properly digest their food. Therefore it is essential that your temperatures are set correctly.
NO MEAL WORMS! Bearded dragons need the correct size crickets for the size dragon you have. The crickets can't be longer than the width between the eyes of your dragon. Too large of prey can harm or even kill your dragon. Hatchlings eat crickets 3-4 times per day starting an hour after the lights come on. Juvenile dragons eat 1-2 times per day, and adults eat once per day. Every day dust the crickets with rep-cal calcium supplement and use herpavite once a week. Also offer a variety of finely chopped greens for hatchlings once a day, i.e.. mustard greens, collard greens, romaine lettice, leaf lettice. For juvenile to adult bearded dragons chop into 1/4 inch pieces and you can add frozen vegetables, or fresh fruit chopped into bite-size peaces mixed in with their greens. Remember that only a little vegetables or fruit mixed with the greens.
To keep your dragon hydrated give them a bath 1-2 times per week. You can use a rubbermaid container, fill with luke warm water up to the the dragons shoulders, or only up to their knees for babies. Also you can mist your dragon on the head once per day. Mist and then wait a few seconds. Then mist again and until they drink, mist until they stop licking. It is extremely important to keep your bearded dragons hydrated to insure their health.
Follow these simple guidelines to keep your bearded dragon happy and healthy for years to come. It is extremely important to make sure your setup is correct before getting a bearded dragon. Check to see that your basking temperature is correct, and also that the cool end of the cage is cool enough. Keep your dragon hydrated with weekly baths. Also make sure you feed the correct sized crickets, and feed your dragon fresh leafy greens daily. Thank you for take the best care possible of your bearded dragons.
About the Author: Composed by Jason T. Couch a breeder of bearded dragons with over 5 years of experience. He is the owner and operator of beardeddragons.biz. For further information visit his website: http://www.beardeddragons.biz