TAKING CARE OF YOUR DRAGON
When considering getting a bearded dragon remember, dragons grow quickly and ultimately you will need a 40 gallon breeder tank. You will be able to start out with a 10 or 20 gallon long tank, but by the time they're 6-12 months old, they're going to require at least a 40 gallon breeder tank as previously mentioned. Lots of bearded dragon owners prefer custom built cages. the benefits to custom enclosures is the ability to have heating and lighting out of the way and not sitting on top of the cage's screen lid. Giving you easier and safer access to your dragon, without having to worry about bumping and damaging lights. Various examples and custom options are viewable on youtube and can be very helpful when deciding on the type of enclosure you want for your dragon or dragons.
For substrate, paper towels, reptile carpet, or newspaper, for young dragons are the go to. Once they get around 6 months of age, you can put them on very fine sand like Repti-Sand. Do not use Calci-Sand. Their have been too many reports of impaction as the Calci-Sand seems to clump together when wet. Paper towel, reptile carpet and newspaper are pretty much the go to as cleanup is easy which promotes over all good dragon health. Be very careful with any substrate you use. If you go with a substrate like Repti-Sand I would caution you when feeding your dragon. Consider removing it from it's home and feeding him in another enclosure or space with clean newspaper so the chances of the sand being eaten are drastically reduced. Why take a chance.
Whatever type of enclosure you choose, KEEP IT CLEAN! You should be thoroughly cleaning your enclosure once a week and spot cleaning daily. Parasites and bacteria from ingesting their fecal matter and urates can make your dragon ill and even be fatal. If you see your dragon has voided in the enclosure, do a spot cleaning and keep your dragon healthy. Bleach is an option for the thorough cleaning. Just make sure you rinse until you can't smell bleach any more. Even after all that, I put everything I can in the sun to dry out.
Bearded dragons need to be provided UVB lighting as well as a basking heat source. Most of us can't keep our dragons outside year round so their are many ways to provide your dragons the lighting need. You could just pick up a lower cost incandescent bulb or 60 watt flood light for basking and combine that with a ReptiSun 10.0 OR a T-5 HIGH OUTPUT D3 + 12% Arcadia bulb for the UVB they need. Another option would be to go with a mercury vapor bulb. Even though this bulb is an "all in one ", we recommend putting a secondary UVB bar inside the tank, not just to assist in proper UVB levels, but to help keep the entire cage lit up nicely, which dragons appreciate. Dragons need a 12 hours on and 12 hours off lighting cycle.
Enclosure temperature is very important to your bearded dragon. Proper lighting directly affects the health and well being of your dragon. Giving your dragons choices with regards to the temps it feels it needs is important. You will want a side of the enclosure to be cooler than the area directly below the heat source. You need to offer a basking site which needs to be at least 100F-110F and then you need to offer an area in the enclosure that stays around 80F. Monitering the temperatures in your enclosure needs to be high priority. Invest in a temperature gun or a good digital thermometer. All of your dragon's metabolic functions are related to temperature. Your dragon's heat source should always come from above and never below. Never use under tank heaters, heating pads or hot rocks. Unless the area of the home your dragon's enclosure is kept in varies in temps nightly, with a low of 68F, you shouldn't need to use any heat at night. If it does, you should use a ceramic heater to provide some supplemental heat.
FEEDING YOUR DRAGON
All of our dragons are started on RepCal pellets once they begin eating, so keeping them on it is easy and quite
inexpensive. Opinions differ on what the exact ratio of animal protein (insects) to plant protein (vegetables) is at this age but we believe that a very balanced
and varied diet is the key to a healthy and long lived dragon.
Adult bearded dragons (over 1 year of age) have different needs from when they were younger.
They are not growing rapidly and don't need as much insect protein. If constantly fed the same as when they were juveniles, you will notice your
dragon becoming obese, which can lead to fatty liver disease and/or renal failure. Adult dragons should be fed crickets/dubias twice a week, RepCal pellets (adult formula) four times a week while offering mixed veggies on a daily basis.
Bearded dragons should be offered freshly cut vegetables every day. We feed all our dragons a variety of veggies including collard greens, mustard greens, endive, spring mix (without spinach),dandelion greens (some will enjoy the dandelion flowers aswell) and turnip greens. They also love hibiscus leaves. When preparing your dragons salads WASH IT ALL FIRST! insecticides and herbicides can be harmful and fatal to your dragon.
Offer your dragons greens early in the day so they have time to digest them properly. Misting the greens will help ensure your dragons stay hydrated. Hydration is very important with all dragons, but especially so for baby dragons under the age of 10 weeks. You can also offer water to these smaller dragons with an eye dropper or misting bottle. Just let it drip on their nose and you will see them lick it up.
Many bearded dragon owners, us included, periodically mist their dragons as well to ensure proper hydration.
Soaking your dragon in shallow warm water is also a very effective way to help keep them hydrated.
Remember that dragons don't like high humidity levels so we wouldn't recommend keeping any water in their enclosure as that would drive up the humidity
to unsafe levels.
It's advisable not to offer animal protein after 6:00PM if it can be helpped, as their light cycle will be coming to an end and their digestion will slow. Crickets are a common feeder insect as they're redily available in most pet stores. We here at the Dragon Hive prefer DUBIA ROACHES as our primary feeder insect.
Crickets are fine IF THEY ARE FED PROPERLY and if they are gut loaded 48 hours prior to feeding them to your dragon, otherwise your dragon isn't getting any real nutritional valuye from the insect. Many people prefer to feed Dubia roaches.
Their are a lot of advantages to feeding roaches to your bearded dragon. As with the cricket, it is important to feed your roaches a proper diet to ensure
your dragon optimal nutrition. Remember, WHAT GOES INTO YOUR FEEDER GOES INTO YOUR DRAGON!
Bearded Dragons can easily become impacted by eating feeder insects that are too large. Impaction can be fatal.
A rule of thumb that you hear and read about a lot is not to feed your dragon any insect that is longer than the space between their eyes.
I sort of follow this rule if I am feeding multiple insects at once. Don't think a smaller dragon wouldn't go after and try to eat a cricket or roach much larger if
given the chance. They do and all will be okay. Just don't give them access to more than one or two.
Some other common feeder insects are hornworms, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae, and superworms.
Be careful with the superworms and don't overdo it. DO NOT FEED MEALWORMS TO YOUR DRAGON!
Remember to dust your feeder insects with calcium (w/ D3) once a day. Many people place their feeders in Ziploc sandwich bags or plastic deli cups and get them covered nicely before offering them to the dragons.
ODDS AND ENDS
Give your dragon a bath a couple times a week. Most enjoy it and it helps to ensure proper hydration and can also help if you feel your dragon has become impacted. Most will defecate in their bath which makes clean up much easier than them doing it in their enclosure. Make sure you disinfect afterwards! Use a bleach rinse and a light scrub should suffice.
NEVER feed any insects caught around the house or in the yard.
NEVER feed your bearded dragons lightning bugs (fireflies). They are toxic and just one will kill your beardie! It's not worth it!
Get your dragon outside whenever temperatures allow it! They love the outdoors and the sun, but never leave them in full sun as they may overheat. Always provide a shady area and always protect them from predators. Your constant supervision is required when your dragon is outside of it's enclosure.
Please do not hesitate to email us if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org!