Here you will find everything you need to know about caring for your bearded dragon, from setting up your vivarium to feeding and handling your dragon. Click on the content links below to get to your desired information.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and consistently eat two types of food – insects and vegetables. When feeding your dragon, you must bear in mind that they also require a varied diet, so it is not recommended that you offer them the same vegetables or salad all of the time – a variety will give them all the different nutrients that they need to stay healthy and thrive.
Bearded dragons can eat a variety of different insects and live food, such as crickets, locusts (hoppers), wax worms (these are like sweets for your dragon – they taste good but are not so nutritious), and meal worms (again, not very nutritious so avoid providing these daily).
Important tip! Whatever insect you choose to feed your dragon must be no larger than the space between his eyes as if it is, this has been known to cause issues with their food digestion and could lead to impaction or paralysis of the back legs.
Important tip! When feeding live food to your dragon, remember to dust the food with calci-powder!
Crickets are the most popular choice of food for bearded dragons because you get a lot of crickets, (30 in each box), in comparison to another insects like locusts (10 in a box).
Otherwise known as juveniles, their feeding can be very expensive as they need to consistently be given live food two or three times a day. At each feed, allow them to eat as much as they can manage within 5 to 10 minutes. If they look satisfied and cannot manage the rest of the live food, remove these from the enclosure.
When your dragon is older and has put on some weight you can move onto feeding them live food once per day.
As your bearded dragon grows older you will find they generally eat less live food. You should be feeding your dragon gut loaded live insects twice per week, again as much as they want to eat in 5 to 10 minutes.
In this section I have detailed the types of live food you may choose to feed your bearded dragon(s). Each cost different prices, some are more easy to keep than others. I personally chose locusts - although more expensive, they are easy to feed and readily avaliable in many sizes at your local pet store.
Feeding crickets in your enclosure may be problematic, particularly with juveniles, as they can quickly escape and hide from sight under a rock or behind some decorations. If insects are left in the enclosure overnight, they will soon get hungry and nibble on the soft parts of your bearded dragon during the night, which can upset it. If there are some escapees in the enclosure that you cannot catch, you should leave some food in the bowl overnight to tempt them away from your dragon, or simply squash and remove them.
You may find it easier to feed juveniles outside their enclosure in a large bowl. When you introduce your dragon to the bowl they will then be able to hunt in a much smaller area, allowing them to get all the live food they want from the feed. If you don't want to feed live food outside of the enclosure, you can always bag up the crickets and put them in the fridge for 5 minutes which slows them right down, If your juvenile is still struggling, you can pull the legs of the insects to ensure they don't run away before your dragon is properly fed!
If you don't want to feed live food outside of the enclosure, you can always bag up the crickets and put them in the fridge for 5 minutes which slows them right down, If your juvenile is still struggling, you can pull the legs of the insects to ensure they don't run away before your dragon is properly fed!
As mentioned above, you don't get so many hoppers in a box, although I found it much easier to feed my dragon with these, and escapees tend to be much easier to catch. They tend to walk about a little and then freeze when they see your dragon to prevent being eaten... This is not much use with a hungry dragon who is launching himself around the enclosure for live food; when the dragon gets too close, the hoppers bounce away, only to be chased and eaten!
I have no experience yet with roaches, although I have read these are great as a staple diet for bearded dragons and are really easy to keep. As soon as I mentioned this to my partner, she refused to let me buy a starter colony!
Although they are cheap and easy to keep, I have heard that they are noisy and can also smell; it would certainly save you a lot of money breeding these to feed your dragon(s) though.
GUTLOADING: To ensure you are caring properly for your bearded dragon, you should 'gutload' all your live food. This is where you feed the insects the same vegetables/salad as you feed your bearded dragon, thus allowing your dragon to gain these nutrients from the live food as well as from the vegetables.
Remember: Remove all live food from the enclosure when not feeding, especially during the evening and overnight to prevent an unhappy beardy that has been nibbled!
Remember: Do not feed your bearded dragon live food that is larger than the space between their eyes as you may end up killing it. It’s not worth the risk!
Beaded dragons of any age should be offered vegetables and salad daily. There are a variety of vegetables you can offer your bearded dragon, and some that are best avoided.
You should try and vary the vegetables and salad you give your bearded dragon, preparing a mix of three vegetables per day is hard work, although you can do it in one go at the start of the week - keep these in your fridge all finely chopped, and sprinkle water on them every so often so they stay fresh.
Try and vary the vegetables and salad you feed your bearded dragon; although preparing a mix of three vegetables per day is hard work, you can do it in one go at the start of the week, then keep these in your fridge all finely chopped, sprinkling water on them every so often to keep them fresh.
A continuous supply of water is essential for your bearded dragon. Make sure it is in a small, shallow dish and keep it fresh. You will rarely, if ever, see your bearded dragon drink from it but it is worth encouraging him to keep hydrated if he ever needs it. He may be showing signs of dehydration if he is down the cooler end of the enclosure and has his mouth open. Bearded dragons open their mouth to regulate their temperature and you can encourage him to drink by putting droplets of water on the tip of his nose.
Setting up your vivarium before your bearded dragon arrives is very important as you must get things just right to ensure that your bearded dragon moving in as easy and stress-free for them as possible.
Bearded dragons need both UVA and UVB light.
A UVB light source must be provided for your bearded dragon as without this, they cannot produce vitamin D3. This vitamin is needed to process calcium which in turn helps make their bones stronger and prevents them from getting ailments such as metabolic bone disease.
In the wild a bearded dragon would get vast amounts of UVB light, and will therefore produce plenty of vitamin D3; because of this, you will need to install a 10% or 12% UVB light tube that ideally will cover most of the vivarium as bearded dragons need from 10 to 12 hours of UVB light per day. You don’t want your bearded dragon basking or cooling down without UVB light.
For more information on this please refer to the vivarium set up section as there are different sizes and ratings of UVB florescent tubing. There is also information on all in one UVA/UVB heat bulbs (which I do not recommend for several reasons – see later comments).
Heating must be provided using a basking bulb which outputs strong UVA rays, producing the heat bearded dragons need in order to digest their food. There are several different types of bulbs that can provide this heat, although one which produces bright white light tends to make your bearded dragon want to bask in this area, as by instinct, bright light means sun and heat.
As bearded dragons need heat to digest their food, it is important that your vivarium is maintained at the correct temperatures. If the temperatures are too low, your dragon will not be able to digest its food properly allowing it to rot in its stomach; if they are too high, it won’t be able to cool down and will overheat, also adversely affecting its health.
So, with your bearded dragon’s well-being in mind, you need to create a gradient across the vivarium with the temperatures as below:
Basking spot temperature between 40.5 and 43.5 degrees C (105 and 110 degrees F)
Cool end between 23.5 and 29.5 degrees C (75 and 85 degrees F)
For more information regarding heating your vivarium, setting up the heat gradient and the different products you can buy, visit the vivarium heating set up section.
Bearded dragons generally like being handled and this is why they are the most popular reptile kept in the UK. Even when they are young, they enjoy being handled, although as with any pet, you need to earn their trust and ensure they feel comfortable with you handling them!
There are many different methods of handling your dragon and it is more easy to get them used to being handled when they are young and lighter to hold. However, if you buy or re-home an older bearded dragon, you must use the same technique, and persist in continuing to handle them without them feeling threatened. Try to avoid grabbing your bearded dragon around their back and always make sure you support them well by trying to scoop them up.
Information: Bearded dragons need to feel completely supported – if you choose to slide a hand beneath their front, you must also support their back legs and tail as otherwise, they will not enjoy being held!
Always know where your nearest reptile vet is located as if your bearded dragon becomes unwell, its health can deteriorate very quickly.
If your bearded dragon is not eating normally it may be worth taking a poo sample to the vets to get checked for the presence of parasites or any other abnormality. Also, make sure you check your temperatures are correct.