Bearded Dragon Care sheet for hatchlings and adults.
Hatchlings require an enclosure of at least 20 gallons. It should be longer rather than tall as beardies need a lot of floor space. If given the proper care, it will out grow the 20 gallon very quickly, but is best to start them in a smaller space as a hatchling, as to much space may cause them to become stressed, and they may have a hard time hunting their prey. A 40 gallon breeder tank, (36x18x18), will do it’s whole life, as it becomes an adult, but the more space they have, the happier they will be. As they reach sub adult and adult hood, if you have the space, a custom built enclosure would make a perfect home for your bearded dragon, and he/she would certainly love all the space to run around. The smallest sized enclosure that would be suitable for an adult would be 4 foot long, at least 2 foot wide, and 2-3 foot tall.
Keep it simple. Again, beardies need and want floor space. They should have something to bask on like a log or rock for the hot and cool end, and a hide for both ends of the tank. Make sure to have a shady area for them if needed.Beardies do not like clutter so keep the floor space open. You can use a log or flat rocks from outside, but first you will have to soak them for a few hours in bleach solution and hot water, 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, and then bake them in your oven for 1-2 hours at 250. Once cooled you can add it to your beardies enclosure.
There are a lot of options out there as to what to use for a substrate, you can use a non adhesive shelf liner, paper towel, newspaper, reptile carpet, indoor/outdoor carpet, which looks great, or tile, like slate tile which has a rough topping to keep the nails trimmed for you. You can also use sand, but you can only use washed and sifted play sand easily required from any hardware store. (Silica free) You will also have to sift it yourself as there are always tiny pebbles in it which can lead to your beardies death if ingested. NEVER use any pet store sand which has added calcium which is stated to be good for reptiles when it is in fact the #1 killer of reptiles. Due to the calcium in the sand, beardies love the taste and when injested clumps in their digestive tract and intestines causing them to become impacted and if not caught in time, will lead to death. Remember, beardies do NOT live on sand in the wild, but more of a hard compacted clay, with sandy areas. If you are to use play sand, the basking temps should be 110f-115f so if ingested can be passed easily with the fecal matter. The cool end of the tank should be between 80-85f also. And be sure with the high temps your beardie stays well hydrated.
Heating and lighting.
Bearded Dragons require UVA/UVB lighting in order to ensure a long happy healthy life with you, and without it they cannot survive and will die a slow painful death from MBD, or Metabolic bone disease, which causes the bones to become weak and deform.
UVA, is responsible for normal behaviors such as feeding, how active they are, mating, etc.
UVB, is a non-visible wavelength which allows the synthesis of vitamin D3 which helps to process the calcium offered in the diet, and prevent MBD.
UVC, is also a non-visible wavelength and does not seem to be required by reptiles. UVC is often used as the light source for UV sterilization for killing bacteria, and at high levels of exposure can be harmful to most reptiles.
Some UVB lighting made for reptiles have been found to cause them serious health issues, they either emit dangerous levels of UVI, or little to no UVB, These bulbs include compact and coiled lights, and there have been reported cases of the ReptiGlo 10 tube UVB light that have caused serious eye issues as well. (photo-kerato-conjunctivits) The safest UVB to use are either the ReptiSUN 10 linear fluorescent tube, or a MVB, (Mercury vapor bulb) The MVB’s emit both UVB and heat all in one, making these the best choice out there. The UVB emissions of some also last a full year before needing to be replaced unlike the tubes which should be replaced every 6-8 months. The MVB bulbs do come with a few requirements so if you choose to use them, make sure to read the instructions carefully. For the 100 watt MVB, they must be at least 12" away from the basking spot due to the high emissions of heat and UVB, and at 40 gallon breeder tank is the smallest tank you could use one, otherwise you risk overheating your beardie. If you choose to use the Reptisun 10 linear tube, it must be a distance of 6-8" from your beardie, and should run the whole length of the top of the cage.
For more info on the bad bulbs not to use, please go to... http://www.uvguide.co.uk/
Beardies also require bright lighting to keep them active as well, if throughout the cage is to dark, they will become inactive and may even refuse to eat, so even adding regular fluorescent lighting will work for brightness, even an old fish tank light.
Basking temps for a baby must be 110F. The air around the basking spot should be mid 90’s, and the cool end should be 80-85f. Babies need these temps in order to digest their food properly, and to stay healthy. Temps to low may cause a baby to become impacted from undigested food, and even death. Basking temps for adults can vary depending on the dragon. They are all different, and some like it hotter than others. For example, some of my adults still like basking temps of 110f, while my older adults like basking temps of 100-105f. It is best to keep the basking temps for adults at least 100-105f, and if your dragon is doing well with those temps, then you know they are ok. However, if your dragon becomes a poor eater, or becomes constipated, or inactive, then they will most likely need to be raised higher. Watch your dragon, he/she will show you what they need
For heat you can use a dome fixture with regular house hold bulbs, and the wattage will depend on the temperatures so you may have to play around with different wattages to achieve correct temps of 110f. To measure temps accurately, only a digital thermometer with a probe will do, a temp gun, or an infrared thermometer. Stick on thermometers or dials may be off as much as 20 degrees, so those will NOT work.
Bearded dragons do not need any heat source at night as long as the temps do not drop below 60-65f. They need to be able to *shut down* properly at night and cannot do so with heat or light. If temps do drop below 60f, you can use a ceramic heat emitter which will offer heat, but no light at all. Do not use red or any color bulbs as they disturb the sleep, and are harsh on the eyes as well. Black moon glo bulbs are fine that are made for reptiles.
Never use heat rocks, they have caused serious burns to bearded dragons as beardies need heat from above, not below...
You will need a total of three supplements to be offered to your beardie it’s whole life to ensure strong bone growth and for it to stay healthy.
Rep cal pure calcium, it must be D3 and phosphorus free, it has a green label.
Rep cal calcium with D3, it has a pink label.
Rep cal Herpivite which is the Multivitamin, it has a blue label.
Dosage is as follows:
Between the age of 2-4 months, pure calcium, no D3, 2 x a day
calcium with D3 2 x per week
Multivitamin 2 x a week.
Between the ages of 4-8 months, pure calcium, no D3 once a day,
calcium with D3 2 x per week
Multivitamin 2 x per week
After 1 year old to 18 months, pure calcium, no D3, 3 x a week,
calcium with D3 2 x per week
Multivitamin 2 x per week
D3 is only offered once or twice per week only as to much is toxic for beardies and can kill them if given to much, but that little bit once a week is needed to help them absorb the pure calcium, as well as the proper UVB lighting, otherwise the calcium will be passed through the body without doing no good at all. Symptoms of D3 toxicity are twitching of the limbs,it will become inactive and lethargic, it may stop eating and basking, and may even throw up in more severe cases, and will eventually lead to death if not caught in time. If you choose to use a MVB, no D3 is needed at all, these lights help them produce enough D3.
Staple feeders for beardies are crickets, silkworms, roaches, and phoenix worms are great for hatchlings due to the soft body and small size, and they are packed full of calcium. Treat feeders for beardies are butterworms, super worms, and wax worms, but waxies are for rare treats, they are so high in fat that if given to many constantly, may eventually lead to fatty liver disease. Supers should never be fed to baby dragons unless the worms are in fact babies themselves. Never feed a beardie of any age meal worms, they have a hard chitin shell which beardies cannot digest and will leave them impacted, and they are also high in fat, and low in calcium.
The rule of thumb is to never feed your beardie anything bigger than the space between it’s eyes, insects to big for them will again, leave them impacted, which means a blockage of the intestines leaving them unable pass the fecal matter until it kills them.
Fresh greens should be offered daily, and finely chopped for a baby. For a wonderful nutritious list of greens, go to beautifuldragons.com, and click on nutrition content. Staple greens include, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, endive, escarole, and all squash as well. You can also feed the dandelion greens and the flower, that can be picked and washed from outside, as long as you are 100% sure the grass they grow in has not been treated with any kind of pesticide which can kill your bearded dragon. Dandelion greens make an excellent staple food for your beardie as it’s high in calcium. NEVER feed your beardie spinach as a staple, if at all, it binds the calcium intake. Carrot also should only be as a rare treat as it is high in Vitamin A and to much of that can be toxic for them also.
For a hatchling. it should be offered live prey, 2-3 x a day, as much as it will eat in a 10-15 min period, and be sure to remove any and all live prey as starving crickets can become the hunter for a hatchling instead of being the hunted. They have been known to kill baby bearded dragons if they are hungry enough. If you are not sure if you have gotten them all out of the tank, leave a few left over beardie greens on the tank floor, this way they will not bother your beardie while it sleeps.
After a year old, beardies only need to be fed live feeders 3 x a week, to much protein for them after that age may cause fatty liver disease and or kidney failure. Again, as much as they will eat in a 10-15 min period. Fresh greens every day, for life, at this age they need more greens than insects, and once they reach old age they will eat greens only, no feeders at all.
Other important things to know.
You can offer a water dish in your beardies enclosure, but most beardies do not recognize standing water, so some do not offer a water dish at all, they are desert reptiles after all, but does not mean they cannot become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are the eyes will appear sunken in, and the skin will become wrinkled, and will not go back into place if you lightly pinch it, and the urates may be yellow in color. A well hydrated beardie will have white urates. To big of a water dish also, may bring up the humidity to high. Beardies need humidity around 40% To much humidity for long periods of time can cause RI, or Respiratory infection. Signs of RI will include heavy breathing, wheezing or popping noises while breathing, runny nose, or saliva coming from the mouth. If the humidity is to low, it will also cause shedding issues, and or *stuck shed* which can lead to serious problems.
To ensure your beardie stays hydrated, on a daily basis you can offer water through a syringe or dropper. Drip it on the snout and if he or she is thirsty, will lick it off, keep dropping until it stops drinking. Also, they like misting couple x a day as well with warm water, just the beardie, not the cage. Bathing is a must for bearded dragons. 2-3 x a week, a beardie should be soaked in luke warm water, or 95f, the water should be up to the shoulders, and should be soaked for 20 min or so, making sure the vent area is in the water, this will hydrate them also. For an adult you can use your bath tub, be warned though, warm water will most likely make it go *potty* in the water, or you can use a plastic Rubbermaid sweater box, big enough for the whole body to fit in, just make sure it is see through, to keep your beardie from becoming stressed. Whatever you choose to bathe them in, should be disinfected before and after every bath.
Once you bring your new baby home, no matter what the age, for the first few days it may refuse to eat. Some people think they have a sick beardie due to this but that’s not the case. It will need time to adjust to you, as well as the new surroundings, some take a few days to settle in, while others may take a few weeks, and some pick up right where they left off. If the beardie has not been tamed or handled a lot, it may open it’s mouth at you as if it were going to bite, and may run or hide. Be patient, and take it slow. Start by placing your hand in the cage a few times throughout the day until it realizes your hand is not to harm him. Once you can do this, you can gently place your hand under the belly and gently scoop him up. If he runs away though, do NOT continue to chase him around the cage or he may never learn to trust you and may not want to be handled at all. If it runs from you, quit and try a little later. Hand feeding is a great way to form that bond between you and your new baby as well. Give him time, and be patient, he will come around and be your best little friend. Once you and your beardie have formed that trust, they love to be handled and cuddled, and are great little companions.
Never house two beardies together of any sex. Even as hatchlings at times they will end up with bitten off tail tips or toes, and bitten tails can become fatal as it can turn into tail rot if infection sets in, and it will most likely loose part or all of the tail as a result. One beardie will dominate the other leaving the other hiding instead of basking and eating. A male/female could only be housed together for breeding purposes as a male will mate a female even before she is ready or old enough, which is at least 18 months of age, and egg laying is extremely hard on them, not to mention a female only has to mated one time, and can store sperm causing her to lay many clutches of eggs every month for up to one year, and if she is not the correct age or weight to be mated, she will take all the calcium from her bones if she has to for the eggs which will leave her in a very bad condition. Two males living together would surely kill one another. Some professional breeders do house two or more females together with no issues, but to do so, they must be from the same clutch, and or they must be the same size, but even then at times disaster will happen, and a fight will break out leaving one or both injured.
Once mature (after one year of age), bearded dragons will go into Brumation, or *winter shut down* They will become inactive, hidden in shelters, or laying on the ground eating very little if at all. During Brumation, beardies must be kept at cooler temperatures 60-70f, no higher. If you cannot achieve these temps, one thing you could do is place the tank on the floor. Basking lights should be reduced to 75-80f, and left on only 8-10 hours a day instead of the usual 12-14 hours a day, until you can completely shut them all off. A lot of people worry their dragons are getting sick during Brumation, but it’s quite normal for them to act this way during the winter months. Brumation can last anywhere from a few days or weeks, even up to five months. If a beardie is healthy and parasite free, it will loose little to no weight during their sleep, will remain in good condition, and will show no signs of disease such as sunken eyes, gaping, or twitching. Never let them shut down with food in their belly, food rotting in the gut will cause paracite *flair ups*, which can lead to secondary infections, so make sure they have passed all food they may have eaten. You can achieve this by a nice long warm soak in the bath. One thing that should be done before shut down is to reduce, then eliminate food for the dragon about one week before the onset of cooler temps. You can wait and observe the dragon closely, and then create shut down conditions as soon as the dragon shows signs of reduction in activity and food intake. At the end of winter shut down you will notice a shift in behaviors following the increase of heating and lighting. They will return to normal as soon as they start to bask and eat again.
This is my own personal care sheet that I have put together from experience and from the help of professional herp specialist as well, and if you follow the guide lines of this care sheet you will have a happy, healthy beardie and friend for may years to come
Beautiful Dragons food chart: http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html