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So You Want to Get a… Bearded Dragon

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— July 15, 2017

So You Want to Get a… Bearded Dragon

  • Want a pet that’s both scaly and cuddly? Unlike some lizards, bearded dragons are generally mellow and enjoy being handled.
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So You Want to Get a... Bearded Dragon

Choosing Wisely: Named for the spiky scales around their throats, these lizards come in different colors, or morphs, that include gray, brown, red, yellow, white and orange. Look for a dragon that’s alert and shows no signs of missing body parts, unhealed wounds or liquid around its mouth. If this is your first one try getting a young adult, which will be easier to care for than a juvenile.

The Setup: Get a relatively wide, shallow tank (ask the pet shop or breeder about tank sizing for your specific animal). Heat one end to about 90°, allowing the other end to hover around 70°. Use a UV lamp during the day, and either mist or soak your beardie once a day in addition to leaving a water dish in the tank. Using reptile carpet instead of loose material as flooring can prevent the dragon from eating it and becoming impacted, which is as bad as it sounds.

Accessorizing the Crib: Placing a reptile hide in the tank will give your beardie some needed alone time, while branches and reptile hammocks provide places to hang out and watch the world go by. Putting a dark rock beneath the UV lamp will allow for serious sunbathing.

Chow Time: Follow the 80/20 rule: Feed adults 80% vegetables and 20% insects and a reverse ratio—80% insects, 20% veggies—to the youngsters. Good veg for beardies includes cruciferous greens (collard, mustard, turnip), endive and squash (avoid avocados, lettuce, and spinach). Insects, such as crickets and red-worms, should be fed vitamin- and mineral-enriched chow and dusted with calcium before being offered to the dragon, as many as can be eaten within 15 minutes. Make sure nothing is too big (wider than the gap between the animal’s eyes) to avoid choking and other problems.

Stuff You Should Know: In late fall or early winter many dragons will go into brumation, a sort of hibernation marked by reduced appetite and frequent sleeping. They will also shed their skins several times a year, their color becoming dull and their eyes seeming puffy; don’t pick at the skin but bathe them instead to encourage complete shedding. When handling your dragon, support him or her from the bottom, and let the animal move from one hand to the other.

Call a Vet: All newly purchased animals should be checked out by a vet with experience in reptile care; ask as many questions about nutrition, upkeep, etc. as you need to feel comfortable. All a healthy animal will require after that are annual checkups but make an appointment immediately if your beardie becomes seriously constipated, has diarrhea on a regular basis, develops droopy eyes or seems unable to move.

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