CaliDragons Care Sheet

I would like to emphasize that Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) care is largely subjective and has been learned through many years of experience and research by well established Dragon breeders and keepers. Our goal for providing this care sheet is to help you take top notch care of the Dragons in your life.

 

Housing

Hatchlings can be kept in a 10-20 gallon tank. They grow quickly, so they will need a larger tank in a few months. If you already have a larger tank and can't afford to get a smaller one as well, it is o.k. to section the larger one off. A basking rock and a climbing branch should be provided. Try and keep the decorations to a minimum. Babies need a smaller area to feel secure and so that their food is easily accessible. If you keep multiple hatchings, remember it is not always safe to house hatchlings of different sizes together. The larger hatchlings will often attack, harass and bully their smaller cagemates.

Adults should be kept in a large tank. A 40 gallon tank will do but a 65 gallon is better. A large basking rock and a climbing branch are recommended. 

 

 Substrate

There are many substrates available. Dragons up to 12 inches should be kept on non adhesive shelf liner, paper towels or other non particulate substrate. Reptile carpet also works well, it's just a little bit of a pain to clean. Never put your beardies on sand until they are at least 12" long! There is a lot of controversy about sand use, and our only recommendation is that you do your research and make the decision for yourself. If you feel that you have to use it or wish to use it, the only sand we would recommend is washed and sifted play sand. This can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes or Toys-R-Us. This does increase their chances of impaction, but many breeders have kept their beardies on sand without any problems.  Do not use any of the "reptile sands" sold at pet stores. They claim to be digestible and that they dissolve. This is not the case and these pose a significant risk of impaction. Stay away from Calci-Sand, Vita-Sand, Repti-Sand and any other commercially marketed reptile sand. They are over priced and pose serious health risks to your beardie. If you are concerned about them eating sand, but want to offer a place for them to dig, you can use non adhesive shelf liner and provide a sand box. If you decide on sand, it is a good idea to feed your dragon in a separate feeding bin. A Rubbermaid container works well for this. In addition, stay away from ground walnut shells and bark or wood chips. They are more likely to cause impaction and possibly damage your dragon's insides if ingested. Our personal recommendation is Shelf liner, it is inexpensive, washable for re-use, easy to clean, and attractive.  We have recently started housing some of our larger dragons on sand without any problems at all. Beardies are active and love to dig, and playsand is attractive and easy to keep clean.

 

Lighting

Beardies do best in bright enclosures. You will need a basking spot that reaches 105 to 110 degrees.  They sell reptile basking lights, but a household light will work fine for small enclosures and a halogen spot light will work for larger enclosures. You need to figure out what wattage will raise the basking spot to the correct temperature. It helps to have your basking light on a dimmer to achieve the right temps. UVB is vital for the health and growth of your bearded dragon. Reptiles utilize exposure to UVB light of the correct quality and intensity to photo-biosynthesize the cholesterol in the blood vessels just beneath their skin into vitamin D3. This vitamin is essential for reptiles to metabolize calcium in their diet. It is therefore very important to ensure that your Dragons receive adequate supplements of calcium in their diet when kept under vital UVB light. They can also get their UVB requirements from natural sunlight, but most people are not able to keep their beardies outside year round and also remember that glass windows block the UVB light spectrum. The lights need to be on 12-14 hours a day. The best way to achieve this consistently is to put the lights on a timer.

There are two types of UVB lights on the market. The first is a long fluorescent tube. They come in many sizes. These work well for small enclosures but you will need an additional basking light for heat  because UVB fluorescents are normally in the 15 watt range and do not put out much heat. We use the ReptiSun 10.0 UVB in one of our shorter enclosures with 75 watt reveal basking bulb and a ceramic base dome reflector from Walmart. You need to get your beardie within 6 to 10 inches for them to absorb enough UVB rays. Approximately one hour of sun is equal to a whole day under most UVB bulbs. Remember, most types of glass will block Ultra Violet B rays so make sure you have a screen top not glass. Sunlight through a window will also have the same problem and will not provide UVB requirements. There are many different full spectrum UVB fluorescents available on the market today. You can check out beautifuldragons.com or reptilerooms.com to compare UVB output. It is recommended that these be changed every 6-12 months because the UV output drops with age so replace it to maintain the maximum UVB output for your dragons health. Our preferred choice is a mercury vapor bulb, or MVB which help to bring out those amazing colors even more. These have a much higher UVB output than fluorescents. They also provide a good heat source for basking, as they reach high temperatures. Note they will not work on a dimmer switch and incorporate an internal safety thermo switch which will not allow them to re-light until they cool off, so if you turn it off you may have to wait 15 minutes before it will turn back on. Measure the basking spot temperature and set the correct distance for proper temps. There are several good Mercury Vapor lights on the market. Look around and then decide which UVB source will be best for your enclosure and budget. Our recommended MVB bulbs are the self-ballasted 100 watt T-Rex active flood UV heat bulb or the Zoo-Med 100 watt Power Sun UVB which make an ideal solution for providing both heat and vital UVB rays, it’s what we use on our 40-60 gallon tanks but make sure you don't use them on small tanks unless you want crispy critters or raise it higher above the tank. They are a relatively inexpensive alternative to using the dual fluorescent UVB and heat fixture combo and should last about 2 years. Keep in mind that Beardies like it bright, so if you choose to use MVB as we do, we also use a small “daylight” screw-in type fluorescent bulb to make the tank brighter. The best MVB on the market right now is Mega-Ray EB flood lamp from reptileuv.com. They are initially expensive, but they last a long time, and come with a great guarantee.

UVB lighting along with calcium supplements are crucial in preventing a common condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease, (MBD). This often occurs when there is improper UVB or it is not provided at all. Mader's "Reptile Medicine and Surgery" states,  "MBD is most commonly seen in rapidly growing animals and is generally the long-term result of dietary deficiency of calcium or vitamin D, a negative dietary calcium to phosphorus ratio, and/or lack of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light."  We tend to see a lot of cases on the forums where owners are providing proper diet but are lacking the essential UVB source. The Mercury Vapor bulbs are great for treating MBD and if caught in the early stages, usually noted by a twitching that starts in the foot and leg regions, even 24 hours under a MVB can show remarkably fast improvement in combination with Calcium D3. If you would like further information, the Health section of Beautiful Dragons discusses MBD in more detail. There is also a Study of the effect of UVB lights on bearded dragons on Reptile Rooms.

 

Temperature

There should be a temperature gradient in your enclosure. It should be around 80 degrees on the cool side. Which, is the end furthest from the basking light. It should reach 105 F to 110 F degrees on the basking spot which should be at the far left or right side of the enclosure. A high temperature basking spot is necessary for your bearded dragon to properly digest their food. There are two ways you can measure temps. First, is a digital thermometer with a probe placed on the basking spot. These can be found at Wal-Mart or a similar store. The second option is a temp gun, available at tempgun.com. Do not use stick-on thermometers. They are very inaccurate and you will not be able to set correct temps with them. Your heat source should come from above and shine down on a basking rock or branch.   Bearded dragons are naturally drawn to the brightest spot for their heat source and can't gauge heat from the bottom or on their stomachs well so Do not use heat rocks or pads. Heat rocks have also been known to cause severe burns and even death. There is no need for a night-time heat source unless your house temps go below 65 degrees. You can use a ceramic heat emitter to provide heat as needed. If your beardie is not eating or basking as they should be, the first thing you should check are the temps. Incorrect temperatures are often the cause and correcting them will get your dragon back on track.

Water

While most breeders agree that quality un-chlorinated water is crucial, there are two lines of thought on the best way to hydrate bearded dragons. The first way is to provide a water dish. here is the debate about this raising humidity levels and supplying a place for bacteria to grow. I choose to not keep a water dish for this reason, they grow bacteria. You can use a dropper and place drops on your beardies snout and they will usually lick it off. You can also make sure that the greens provided are misted heavily. Silkworms help to provide moisture as well. Whether you use a dropper, mist bottle, or a water dish, it is important to mist your hatchling several times a day with room temperature water. You can also give your beardies a bath up to 2 times a week in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Following these suggestions will help them stay properly hydrated.

Feeding

NEVER FEED YOUR DRAGON LIGHTNING BUGS/FIRE FLIES.....THEY ARE DEADLY!

 

Bearded dragons are omnivorous, hatchlings and juveniles require large amounts of protein to support their rapid growth rate. We have seen our Dragons grow as much as a half inch a week during the first few months which requires aggressive feeding and supplementation. Crickets and silkworms are good sources of protein. It is important to make sure that the length of the prey items is less than the space between your beardie's eyes. Feeding too large of insects can cause impaction which can lead to paralysis and death. Silkworms do not follow this rule because they do not have a hard exoskeleton. 1/4 inch crickets are usually the correct size for a 6 week old hatchling. If you are up to it, appropriate sized feeder roaches are also a good protein staple. You should feed your hatchling as many crickets as it will eat in a 10-15 minute period 2-3 times a day. They can often eat anywhere from 40 to 75 crickets a day. In between feedings you should always remove any leftover insects from your dragons housing. Insects like crickets can cause a dragon to stress and become irritated causing your dragon to lose interest in this particular food source. Too many insects at one time in your dragons tank can also cause stress and irritation, your dragon may even panic instead of trying to eat. Do not feed your dragon just before its lights go out because it will not have time to start the digestion process. Never leave such insects as crickets or roaches in your dragon’s tank overnight because insects like these will actually try to eat away at soft tissue areas of your dragon while he sleeps. Due to these issues some owners have decided to use a separate tank or Rubbermaid container for feeding insects to their dragons and only placing vegetable and fruit items within the dragon’s normal housing area. When your dragon reaches 3-4 months you can feed twice a day. Crickets should be properly gut loaded. This can be achieved with a commercial cricket food or by providing a protein rich food source. We also feed  our crickets carrot sticks, greens, and fruit for moisture. Remember, what you feed the crickets is what you feed your dragon. There are many ways to gut load, look around and decide which method will work best for you. Our personal recommendation is from www.Cricketfood.com , their premium gutload, but we have seen many reptile breeders who just keep a few carrot sticks in with their crickets.

As dragons reach 6 months and/or 12 inches more variety can be added to the protein portion of their diet. Super worms should be used only as treats because they are very high in fat. They also have a higher phosphorus level, so I dust each one with pure calcium carbonate. I recommend these only be fed to larger dragons, because their shell is hard to digest and can cause impaction in younger dragons. Super worms can be purchased in different sizes.  Many people feed their beardies meal worms but they should be used sparingly, if at all, as they have low calcium, high phosphorus and a hard shell. Super worms have a higher meat to shell ratio and I feel are a better alternative. There is all kinds of discussion on the forums about meal worms and super worms. It is always good to take the time and do your research.

Once your beardie reaches between 9-12 months feedings can be cut down to once a day. It is important to feed your dragon no later than 2 hours before the lights go out. They need time to bask and properly digest their food. They should be eating more of their greens and veggies by this age and requiring less protein items.

Dragons usually reach adulthood at 18-24 months. At this time their diet should consist of mainly greens and veggies. Protein sources can be offered every other day. They should still be fed their salads daily. Feeding your adult too much protein will most likely result in fatty liver disease and shorten their lifespan.

 beautifuldragons.com has a comprehensive list of greens, fruits and vegetables and their nutritional content. Good staples are collards greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, butternut squash and acorn squash. You can add variety by offering various fruits and vegetables to their salads.  Do not feed iceberg lettuce to your beardie. It does not have any nutritional content and will cause loose stools so use clean leafy greens. It is also recommended against feeding spinach and too much kale, as they bind calcium and keep it from being utilized by your dragon. I also moisten Rep-Cal Bearded Dragon Pellets and sprinkle them on their salads daily. Variety is key and will keep your beardie healthy and happy.

 Supplements

Again I want to stress, reptiles utilize exposure to UVB light of the correct quality and intensity to photo-biosynthesize the cholesterol in the blood vessels just beneath their skin into vitamin D3. This vitamin is essential for reptiles to metabolize calcium in their diet. It is therefore very important to ensure that your Dragons receive adequate supplements of calcium in their diet when kept under vital UVB light.

Supplementing your bearded dragons diet ensures they receive all of the necessary nutrients. We supplement our juvenile dragons daily placing some Rep-Cal Calcium with D3 in a plastic bag with some crickets and shaking it until the powder has coated the insects to be fed. Which ever calcium you choose, be sure it is phosphorus free. We also supplement with Rep-Cal Herptivite Multivitamins 1-2 times a week and Miner-all (I) Indoor formula. After they reach a year old, you can supplement calcium 2-3 times a week and multivitamins every week or so. By dusting their food, your beardie is more likely to receive all of the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. It is also important not to over do it with the supplements. Too much supplementation can cause problems as well as too little. If you feed a protein source high in phosphorus, such as super worms, it is a good idea to dust each one with pure calcium carbonate. This helps to offset the high phosphorus content. It is also a good idea to have a bottle of Acidophiliz+ on hand. This is a probiotic that helps condition your dragons digestive tract. This is essential if your beardie ever has to be on antibiotics or other medications. This also can be purchased on the Beautiful Dragons website.

Miscellaneous

Ideally bearded dragons should be housed separately. They are territorial in the wild and I feel they have the best chance of living a long healthy life separated in captivity. It is possible to keep two females of the same size in a large enclosure. They may or may not get along. There is usually a dominant dragon and they compete for resources such as basking spots and food. Do not keep two males together. They will fight and it is likely the weaker one will eventually be killed. It is equally important to not house males and females together. Many people think this is o.k. There are some who do this. I am whole heartedly against keeping even breeding pairs together. They can mate as early as 6-9 months. This is much too young. The male will stress the female out and try to mount her all the time. The result will be an unhealthy stressed out female that is in no condition to carry and lay eggs. You will cut your females life short by several years with this practice. It is not worth it.

It is a good idea as soon as your bearded dragon gets settled in (about a month) to have your vet do a fecal. There are parasites naturally occurring in your dragons system. Sometimes the stress of shipping will cause them to increase. A lot of the time their immune system will get them back to low levels, but sometimes medicine is necessary. Being lethargic, not eating and stinky poop are signs of possible parasite over load and you should have a fecal done. Common parasites are coccidia and pin worms.  We routinely treat with a natural parasitic medication that helps to keep parasite loads at a healthy level from www.parazap.com.

Lastly, it takes a good bit of time and money to care for your bearded dragon. They require proper lighting and nutrition to thrive. Your best bet of getting a healthy lizard is to obtain one from a reputable breeder who carefully tracks the bloodlines and can provide a lineage for each animal since there are a very limited number of bloodlines in the United States and very few new Dragons coming out of Australia. Do not buy a bearded dragon from someone willing to sell them before 6 weeks of age. They are more likely to be stressed and not adjust well this young. I do not recommend buying dragons from large pet stores. They usually have insufficient care and will cost you a lot of money and heart ache to get them healthy not to mention the inbreeding problems caused by limited bloodlines. There are always exceptions. Some pet stores do house and care for their beardies correctly. I strongly urge you to check The Fauna Original Board of Inquiry before purchasing from anyone. This is where people post their good and bad experiences with breeders. 

 Please feel free to contact us anytime with questions or concerns. You can generally reach us from 10 am to 10 pm, PST. 661/946-8146

or Denisebme@verizon.net