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Bearded dragons are one of the best pet lizards available in the trade. They are extremely social and personable animals, and they will act as though their owner is part of their social group. They are large enough to be handled without too much concern, but they are not so large that they are overly difficult to handle. They are highly recommended as pet lizards.

Diet

Zeigler Monster Bearded Dragon Diets are designed to be a nutritionally complete diet. Use the juvenile diet until your animal is mature, at approximately one year of age. The adult diet is designed for mature animals.

In addition to the Monster Diet, you can offer your dragons both insects and veggies as treats. You should not make this a significant portion of the dragon's diet, or you may cause nutritional problems. The Monster Diets are designed to be nutritionally complete, but if they are diluted by too much 'treat' food, it will not be a complete diet. You should not allow dietary treats to exceed 10% of your dragons diet.

Crickets, mealworms and superworms are all good supplements. Crickets should be no larger than half the size of the dragons head. Use care when feeding worms to smaller dragons as they tend to overeat and can become impacted. Dragons should be about 1/2 grown before eating mealworms, and nearly full grown before eating superworms.

All insects fed to your dragons should be gut-loaded for at least 24 hours on a high quality insect diet, such as Zeigler Monster Cricket Diet. Additional vitamin/mineral supplements are not needed if you use the Bearded Dragon Monster Diet as the primary feed.

Veggies are also excellent treats for your dragons, especially for older lizards. Chopped dark leafy greens are the best supplement. Offer collards, mustard or turnip greens, romaine lettuce, etc. Shredded veggies (a cheese grater works well for this) such as zucchini, squash, green beans, etc. are good supplements as well. Again, make sure your dragon's diet does not have more than 10% of these treat foods. Your pet may really enjoy these treats, but the Zeigler Monster Bearded Dragon Diet is designed to fed as an exclusive diet for it to meet the nutritional needs of your dragon.

Housing

Bearded dragons do require a fair bit of room. Juveniles will do fine in a 20 gallon terrarium, but adults will need larger accommodations. It is possible to get by with smaller housing, but as a general recommendation, a 55 gallon aquarium will work well for a single animal, while a 75 gallon aquarium or larger for a pair or trio is recommended. Large, custom built cages are also very good to house bearded dragons.

Required Equipment

Bearded dragons are basking lizards, and will require heat lamps, full spectrum lighting, fixtures to bask on, a secure lid and food and water bowls.

Vivariums with bearded dragons should be set up with either rockwork or driftwood to create basking spots, hide areas, and visual barriers for enclosures that house multiple dragons.

Heat lamps should be set up above the basking spot. This should be located on one end of the cage to create a heat gradient from the warm end to the cool end of the cage. The basking spot should be around 100� F, but the cage must be well ventilated enough that the cool end of the cage is around 80� F. Nighttime temperature drops are fine, but if the nighttime lows are below 75� F, supplemental heating should be provided with an under-tank heating pad or with a heat lamp using a red bulb.

As they are basking animals, bearded dragons require full spectrum fluorescent lighting. Choose a bulb that can provide UVB light for your dragons. There are many brands of full spectrum bulbs available. Your local pet shop should be able to help you choose an appropriate bulb.

Dragons are very good at jumping, so a secure screen lid is essential.

Bearded dragons are active animals, and they will tip over a light food or water bowl. Use a heavy shallow dish for both food and water.

Substrate

Newspaper is an ideal substrate. Unfortunately, it is not very aesthetic. Cage carpets are a good substitute if appearance is important. Avoid carpets with loose threads, as these may be ingested or become wrapped around toes.

Sand is often recommended as a substrate. Both silica and calcium based sand may be used. Bear in mind that, while rare, sand impactions are always a risk with lizards. To be safe it is best to wait until a dragon is at least 1/3 grown before placing them on sand, as they are less likely to get impactions at this size. Sand impactions are a risk with any kind of sand, even calcium based sands which may be more digestible. To reduce the risk of impactions always feed your dragons in a shallow dish so they are less likely to accidentally ingest any sand.

Bark chips can also be used as a substrate, but they need to be dry before they are used for your dragons. Dragons do not appreciate a high humidity, and bark chips may contribute to raising the humidity.

Maintenance

Juvenile bearded dragons need to eat a tremendous amount. Make sure they are offered food every morning. Adult dragons can be fed every other day, and can go a little longer occasionally. If you are breeding your dragons, they will go through a cool-down period where they will not eat. Check the references for more details.

Water should be provided daily. Juvenile dragons may not drink out of a dish very readily, so make sure that they are misted twice a day until you are certain that they are drinking from a dish.

Make sure that your dragon's cage stays clean. Dirty cages can contribute to health problems with your dragon. If you use newspaper or cage carpet, make sure it is changed or cleaned daily. If you use a particulate substrate spot-clean it every day. In either case, disinfect the cage with a dilute (~10%) bleach solution periodically. The cage must be rinsed and dried thoroughly before your pet is returned to the cage.

References

deVosjoli, P. The Bearded Dragon Manual. AVS Publishing. 2001.

For many natural history and reptile related references, check with www.zoobooksales.com

For help in finding a reptile veterinarian, check with the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, at www.arav.org

 
     






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