Male bearded dragon named Elias shedding heavily around the neck. He's also waiting for a treat.

How To Care For Your Bearded Dragon

How To Care For Your Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons have dragon sized personalities. They are a willing companion pet. Cuddling to maintain body heat. Requesting chin strokes. Foot massages for relaxing. Intelligent and opinionated, a beardie learns routines quickly. Beardies display in different beautiful colors with their geometric scales, random spikes, and crafted by nature patterned skin. No two dragons are alike.

The back of an adult bearded dragon showing his scales, ridge spikes, and color patterns.

Dragons originate from the arid and semi-arid parts of Australia. So, temperature and environment are key components in your dragon’s den.

Beardie temperature and environment needs.

Healthy Temperatures

  • A basking area that is between 95F (37C) and 110F (43C) is vital for your dragon’s healthy digestion of food.
  • A cool-down area that is between 80F (26C) and 90F (32C).
  • Overnight temperatures of 65F (18C) to 75F (23C) are acceptable.

Bearded Dragon lights, setup, and bulb size.

  • Spring to Summer keep a 12-hour light cycle. Fall and Winter, 10-hour light cycle.
  • You’ll need both a basking light and a UVB light specifically made for bearded dragons.
  • The strength of the UVB light depends on how you mount it. If the light has to filter through a screen, a T5 39-watt UVB light works well.
  • For basking, your beardie needs to be 12 inches from the light. If you have a tall enclosure, add a hide/climbing feature so your dragon gets the right amount of heat. A 100 watts or higher basking lamp hovering 12-inches over your dragon is an excellent ratio.
  • Have a thermometer in both the basking and cooler sides to ensure their enclosure is offering optimum temperature options. This will also help you dial in the watt size of your basking lamp.
Freya, female adult bearded dragon, climbing up on her rocks to position herself under her basking light just 12 inches above.

    Your dragon will sleep more in the low light and colder temperatures of Winter. Beardies older than one-year brumate (hibernate) for two weeks to two months in the Fall and Winter each year. Every dragon is different.

    Bearded Dragon Enclosure Set Up

    • A dragon needs a minimum 36W X 18D X 24H (40-gallon terrarium). Bigger is always better.
    • Females like to have a dig box full of sand.
    • If your terrarium is all glass, your beardie may show aggressive behavior to their reflection. Aquarium background liners help cut down on the reflection.
    • An adult bearded dragon is upwards of 17 inches long. The minimum suggested 36-inch enclosure is only twice their body length. Again, BIGGER is always BETTER.
    Freya digging in her bearded dragon sandbox for warming and enjoyment.

      Bearded Dragon Feeding

      • Juveniles (up to a year old) need 80% protein and 20% vegetables. Protein should be live crickets, super worms, large meal worms, Black Fly Soldier Larva, and hornworms. Young hatchling dragons may not want to eat live food. Soft dragon food will work until she is ready to hunt. Beardies are sight hunters. Movement triggers eating. They need time to grow into that instinct. Remove uneaten crickets after 15 minutes. Crickets can bite your beardie.
      • A mature dragon (2 years and older) needs 80% vegetables and 20% protein. They do not need to eat every day. Providing greens every day is a good idea, but your beardie may not eat.
      • Vegetables and fruits include shredded greens, green beans, sugar snap peas, orange-fleshed squash, red or orange peppers, carrots, escarole, parsley, mustard, dandelion and collard greens, arugula, romaine, blueberries, raspberries, mango, and cantaloupe. Feed fruits only twice a week because of sugars. Sprinkle their greens with a multivitamin powder once a week.

      Bearded Dragon Live Food Care

      • Feed the feeders. You want healthy live foods. Gut-loading vegetables like carrot slices or yam chunks creates nutritional bug lunches.
      • Store your Superworms in bran flakes or oatmeal. They like to burrow down while eating. Shredded carrots on top give more nutrition and a water source.
      • Crickets need water. Cricket drink keeps them safe from drowning while adding nutrition. Cricket food. Cricket drink.
      • Dust live food with calcium powder at mealtime. Do not use calcium power with D3 added if you have good UVB lighting.
      • A pair of feeding tongs makes presenting live meals easier. 

      Bearded dragons are the mood ring of the lizard world. They change colors based on temperature and emotion. Their beard will turn black when they are upset. Males puff out their beard to intimidate. Their beard will darken during mating season.

      Elias showing his tough looking black beard of intimidation that isn't working at all because he is so cute when he's mad.

      Dragons shed during growth spurts. Do not pull the skin as it may hurt your beardie. Warm baths and brushing with a soft toothbrush during a shed help comfort. A young, bearded dragon can shed once a month. A mature bearded dragon may shed only once or twice a year.

      Elias in a full head shed looking annoyed with all that shedding.

      Bearded dragons are social and curious. They enjoy their humans and exploring. Pick up your dragon by putting a hand under their belly to support their body. A beardie who doesn’t want to be picked up will “helicopter” their tail, so beware or be whacked. Create a controlled environment for exploring. Beardies wedge themselves into spots that seem impossible. It’ll be impossible to get them out. Dragons know their name and can learn to come when called. They can identify colors and shapes of their favorite food bowls. On sunny days, dress your dragon in a harness and leash combo and take them outside. Don’t let your dragon eat outdoor insect or vegetation, as they may carry parasites, pesticides, or bacteria.

      Spending quality time with your dragon is key to knowing your dragon’s personality, behavior, food consumption, activity level, and appearance. Knowing your dragon’s normal helps you see the abnormal. A yearly vet visit and checkup supports your dragon and his dragon size personality. A bearded dragon believes they are the biggest and best dragon in the world. They are all right.

      Editor’s Note:  Credit and thanks to Irene Wagner. Writer, Dragon Rescuer, and ultimate Bearded Dragon mom. Without her efforts and knowledge this article wouldn’t exist. Dragony thanks to Freya and Elias for tolerating their photoshoots for the edification of mankind. You are both the biggest and best dragons in the world.

      Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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