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bearded dragon care
Bearded Dragon Care Guide
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Bearded Dragon Care Guide

This guide has been created to help you make the important decisions in your new pets life. In the guide below I will go over the purchasing, housing, feeding, bathing, vet visits, behavior and exercise. This is rather lengthy as I tried to go into some detail. This is based off my research and experience in raising my 3 dragons.

Purchasing

When making your initial purchase you will want a dragon that is healthy and active. Check the fingers, toes, and tail for any obvious signs of damage. Look over the bearded dragon for any signs of injury or infection. Sometimes the dragons can be injured during transport or because of the other dragons he is housed with. Make sure the dragon you choose is active. An active dragon means he is probably a health dragon and will be able to chase his food.

Both Cessna and Piper (our first 2 dragons), did have some signs of damage. Cessna has a shorter tail than the average dragon. The break was healed over and his activity level was high, which indicated to us that he was overall a healthy dragon. Piper also has a shorter tail; however, his is even shorter than Cessna's. It had healed nicely and he seemed to get around fine. Once we got him home we also found that he has a crooked toe. This did not seem to affect his mobility. As they got older we definitely saw differences in the rate of growth and dominance issues.

If you plan on purchasing more than one dragon, please keep in mind that if they are both males, they will probably not be able to live together. Since you will not be able to tell a dragon's sex until they is about a month old, you will need to watch them carefully for fighting.

Cessna started fighting with Piper when they shared a 55 gallon tank. They were probably about six months old at that time. We quickly separated them. Thankfully, we had extra tanks that they were in until we could get something more substantial. During the time they did live together, Piper developed an abscess that needed medical treatment. We had to treat the wound twice a day with a cream. His wound has since healed but he will always have evidence of his injury.

Housing

It is important to have the proper size cage to make sure the dragon is comfortable and can move about with ease. A glass tank is preferred to keep the heat in. A screen top will allow the light and heat to pass through into the cage. What we found works best for us are the front opening terrariums made by Exo Terra. This way you do not have to remove the lid each time you need to access the cage.

A 10 or 20 gallon fish tank will be good for a young dragon. By the time he is about 6 months old, he will be needing a bigger cage. A 55 to 60 gallon tank will work well for an adult dragon. I found fish tanks to be narrow and the dragon could not turn around with ease. My husband and I upgraded to the Exo Terra large terrarium X-Tall which is 36x18x36. It is a large cage, but the dragons love to climb up and down the rock background that it comes with.

It is important to provide your dragon with areas to bask in and to hide in. A branch or a log to climb on will also make him a happy dragon. He will be able to get close to the heat when he wants to and when he needs to cool down he will be able to find shade under the log. A house maybe good for them as well. Some dragons do go through a brumation (like hibernation) and will want to hide during that time.

The substrate at the bottom of the cage can vary. Take a look to see what your pet store offers. We use newspaper because it is an easy clean up, inexpensive, and the dragons cannot eat it. During your decision making, please keep in mind if you choose to use sand as your substrate the dragon can accidentally ingest it and become impacted. They cannot digest the sand and it can cause health issues. You will also have to scoop the sand to clean it (like a litter box) and replace the sand entirely every so often due to bacteria growth.

Your new pet will need special lighting and maybe heat depending on the size of the cage. All dragons need UVA and UVB lighting. The UVA will generate heat and will be good for a small cage. For a larger cage you may want a porcelain heater in addition to the UVA light. We have the heater on the inside of the cages and Cessna, in particular, looks like he is often praying to the god of heat. The UVB 10 is a florescent light and is specifically for desert reptiles. I would recommend a power strip that has a timer built into it. This way you can program when the lights go off and come on. Since the dragons sleep at night, they do not need the heat or the lights (dragons may vary). Some of our dragons have the heater on all the time during the winter because the house is overall cooler. You will want to make adjustments to meet your dragon's needs.

Feeding

Your baby dragon will need to have lots of protein and calcium to help him grow. We would feed our dragons as many crickets as they could eat twice a day. We purchased crickets by the thousands from local pet store and housed them in a bin in the garage until their time was up. There are other forms of protein as well that your pet store should have available such as super worms and dubia roaches (they loves these!). The rule of thumb for buying the right size of food is to not feed your dragon anything that is larger than his head.

If you choose, you can purchase dried food. Our dragons did not seem to like the pre-made mixes of dried food, but every dragon is different. The 3 dragons seem to prefer to have their food move around, which is why I call their food "wrigglies". Sometimes waiving their greens in front of them will also get them to eat.

In between meals, you can give your baby dragon greens to munch on. This will also get them use to trying different vegetables for when they are older. Be sure to sprinkle some powdered calcium on the greens. If your dragon does not have enough calcium his bones will not form correctly. It is best to check the internet before introducing a new food. Some vegetables can be toxic for a dragon.

Water

Dragons do not necessarily need a bowl of water to drink from. You can certainly provide a shallow bowl for your dragon; however, he may have more fun playing in it than drinking it. There are a few different ways to make sure your dragon gets enough water. One way is to spray him and/or his cage with water. He will lick the water droplets. Our dragons did not seem to like it when we made it "rain" in their cages so we had to find an alternative. We use a dropper or a syringe to give them water. We drop the water on the tip of their mouth and they will lick it up if they are thirsty. Another way to keep them hydrated is to give them a warm bath. We bathe our dragons about once a week or more if necessary. They are able to absorb the water through their skin. Dragons are also able to get the water they need through their food, such as greens and fruit.

Vet

It is important to take your dragon to the vet when you first get him. The vet will look them over and will also collect a stool sample. If you can bring one in, that would be better for the dragon. The fecal test the vet will run is to check for any parasites. All 3 of our dragons have had parasites at one time or another. Some parasites require treatment of medication while others will resolve themselves. The medication is a liquid that the dragon will get through a syringe, just like we do for the water. You should have their stool tested about once a year. Other than the first visit to the vet, it is only necessary in instances of illness or injury.

Behavior

Since we have more than one dragon, we are able to witness behaviors some may not. There is the classic head bob and arm waive communication styles the dragons do. Some research on the internet have said the arm waive is a sign on submission while the head bob is a sign of dominance. I; however, do not necessarily believe this. I have seen different types of head bobs and arm waiving and even some combined. I think they are just simply communicating. You can certainly tell when one dragon is upset and wants to fight by his beard turning black and blowing out with a vigorous head bob/arm waive combined. We may never understand what it means, but it is interesting to watch.

Exercise

It is important to have your dragon out with you to run around and get exercise. With Hawker in particular, if he does not get his exercise on a regular basis he will not go potty for about a week. When that happens we have to bring out another dragon with him. With both dragons on a harness we can safely get them exercise which helps to get things moving. Hawker's kind of exercise it a little extreme in that he gets all riled up and wants to maim or injure Cessna or Piper, but it works and as long as he does not get close enough to hurt them it is harmless.

I hope all of this information is able to help you raise a happy, healthy, beautiful dragon!


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