Bearded dragons are docile lizards that are commonly referred to as a beginner’s lizard, but here are ten things you need to know before owning one.
They Are Solitary
Contrary to popular belief, Bearded dragons should not be housed with other lizards of their own kind, or of any other species. Some keepers swear that females can live together, but co-habiting these lizards can result in disastrous consequences. Unlike mammals, these lizards do not form social bonds as we see in many other domestic pets, and it’s much better for their health to keep them on their own. If you see photos of Bearded dragons cuddling up, they are actually competing for a resource, most the time a heat source. This means the smaller dragon will miss out on the best basking spot which will ultimately affect their health. Another common issue is they can mistake a cage mate for food, and although they may look harmless, they can cause a lot of damage. Even dragons that have lived together for years can hurt each other. It’s just not worth the risk.
Vet Trips Are Costly
Bearded dragons are classed as an exotic species and this means your usual vet probably won’t be able to treat them. This is because the vet will need extra training to treat reptiles and it is a field a vet will specialise in. Because of this, it also means vet trips will be more expensive than if you were taking in a dog or cat and the surgery may be further afield. Before getting your Bearded dragon, make sure you know where your nearest exotic vet is, and it might be worth asking what their consult fee is to give you an idea of cost.
Unlike mammals, Bearded dragons need to warm themselves up with an external source, such as the sun or a heat lamp, and to cool down, they need to move to a cool area. This means that in your dragon’s vivarium you need to create a hot end and a cool end to allow this to happen. Without this, they would be unable to digest their food.
They Need Lots Of Room
Bearded dragons are fairly large lizards, getting to 12-24 inches when fully grown. Of course, this means they need a large vivarium to give them enough space to move and thermoregulate. A 4x2x2ft vivarium is a good size for an adult Bearded Dragon.
They Shouldn’t Have Calci Sand
Bearded dragons originate from Australia, and it is a common misconception that they should have sand in their vivarium to mimic the Australian outback, however, this can be very dangerous. Calci sand is marketed as being safe to pass through the digestive system, but it can and still does clump in the digestive system, causing blockages. Loose substrates should be avoided at all costs. Lino or ceramic tiles are much safer options.
They Eat Live Food
Your Bearded dragon’s diet will vary quite a lot depending on their age, however, they will always require live food. Although adults need less live food than juveniles, it is still an important part of their diet. Keeping your live food in good health is important as the healthier the insects are, the healthier your dragon is. Live food should be ‘gut loaded’ and this means feeding them a good diet so they can pass all the good nutrients on to your lizard. Live food should also be dusted with calcium and vitamins to supplement your lizard. Good live food options are locusts, crickets, Morio worms, Dubia roaches and wax worms. Never leave uneaten live food in with your lizard as they can actually bite them.
Their Beards Can Go Black
Bearded dragons can change the colour of their beard to black, and this usually means they are unhappy. If a male sees another male, it will change it’s beard to black to threaten the other one. They also change them if they are scared, excited or unwell.
They Can Live For 10 Years
Another good thing about Bearded dragons is they can reach 10 years old, which means you should have your pet for a long time. This does mean they are a big responsibility, and adopting one should not be taken lightly. Ask yourself if you can commit the next decade to your lizard, and make sure you have thought about who could look after them when you are on holiday. These animals need specialist care, so you might want to research pet boarded facilities way before you book a trip away.
Their Set Up Is Expensive
Bearded dragons are not cheap pets to own. As mentioned earlier, they need a large vivarium which can cost a few hundred pounds. On top of this, they need a UV strip light and a basking spot which is attached to a thermostat. Thermostats are vital and ensure your basking area doesn’t get too hot and cook your pet. It’s also a good idea to have a thermometer at each end, or a heat gun to check your temperatures. As well as all the heating and lighting, they will also need enrichment in their cage, such as logs to climb on and somewhere to hide away to sleep.
They Need Baths
Ok, so they don’t need bubble baths, but lukewarm baths (without the rubber duckie) are important to dragons. They will use this opportunity to drink and most the time will also poop in the tub too! It also helps them shed easier, and this is important if they are having trouble shedding.
Overall, Bearded dragons make excellent pets, however, you must make sure you have fully researched them before taking one on.