If you are looking for an exotic type of pet, bearded dragons may be just what you are looking for. They are affectionate, easy to maintain and it is not necessary to take them out for a walk. With only some basic care, bearded dragons can be excellent pets.
Fun and curious facts about bearded dragons:
- Bearded dragons have been named for the scales they have in the lower part of the head. These, when inflated, resemble a beard.
- Bearded dragons have a size of 30 to 60 cm depending on the species, gender, environment, and diet.
- They are native to the Australian deserts, although it is also known that they inhabit forests and savannas.
- With the right care, bearded dragons can grow up with your children and get to live until they reach adolescence.
Now, let’s start talking about the care and habitat these reptiles need.
The first step is to create a home for your bearded dragon
Bearded dragons can live comfortably in a tank, a cage or a terrarium . Glass fish aquariums are a popular choice because they have the right sizes, are transparent and easy to find. On the other hand, among the cages, the most common are PVC and melamine. These cages vary in cost and each model has its pros and cons. The most important thing is that, regardless of the model you choose, always have good ventilation to prevent moisture accumulation.
In addition, you must bear in mind that bearded dragons grow more the more space they are left available, so the ideal is that the size of your enclosure is bigger the better.
Once you have your tank or cage, you will need a series of accessories:
- Lighting: You must think that bearded dragons are desert reptiles and need to receive a light similar to that found in these dry and well-lit environments. On the one hand, your bearded dragon will need a UVB light that covers the entire length of its tank and that is at least 30cm from where your pet is usually. On the other hand, your tank must have another light that provides heat. This type of light must be bright white and it has to raise the temperature of the tank to 24 to 30ºC, being able to reach between 32 and 37ºC in the place where the lamp is located.
- A substrate: the tank of your bearded dragon needs a suitable background to it. The natural substrate of this type of reptile is coarse sand, but you can also use aquarium gravel, newspaper, and even carpets for reptiles.
- Decorative elements: Just as at home you would not want a room without a sofa, do not let your bearded dragon cannot enjoy some luxuries and comforts. Ideally, you buy decorative elements that make you feel as if you lived in your natural habitat. Some of them can be branches where you can climb and approach the light to warm up or caves to go to sleep and shelter when you need it.
What do bearded dragons eat?
In the wilds of Australia, bearded dragons eat small insects, fruits and vegetables. Therefore, the diet of your bearded dragon should mimic that.
- Insects are the basis of the feeding of bearded dragons, especially for those who are babies. Their growing bodies need the proteins that insects provide, so you must provide them as many times as you give them to eat. Of course, do not neglect the rest of the diet, always have to eat fruits and vegetables, just that baby bearded dragons need more insects than adults. Among the insects that you can use to feed your bearded dragon are crickets, earthworms, lobsters and butter worms, the latter only when they are babies. Once they are adults, you can even give them mice as a reward from time to time.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: These should be left in the tank at all times so that your bearded dragon can eat whenever he wants. Make sure you keep them fresh and replace them as necessary. Some good choices of vegetables and fruits are peppers, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, celery, apples, cranberries, pears, plums, and raisins. In addition, they can also eat certain herbs such as basil, chives, clover, dandelion leaves, oregano, sage, and thyme.
On the other hand, you should keep in mind that bearded dragons cannot eat certain types of food. Never give the bearded dragon insects that you have raised or captured anywhere, as they may have parasites. You should also avoid certain fruits and vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, and avocados.
It is also recommended that you provide food supplements, as there are certain vitamins and minerals that bearded dragons bred in captivity can not access. Providing supplements with iron, vitamin D3, and calcium will improve the general health of your reptile and make visits to the veterinarian less frequent.
What kind of care do bearded dragons need?
Bearded dragons have some behaviors that may seem quite abnormal. The key to knowing if your bearded dragon is sick or not before a strange behavior is to know how this species really thinks and acts.
- Hibernation: This change is experienced by all bearded dragons naturally. It usually occurs in autumn or winter and always in response to changes in lighting and temperature in the environment. Each bearded dragon has a different hibernation cycle. Some bearded dragons will sleep for full days, while others will take only long naps each day. In addition, the hibernation cycle can last from a week to several months. During these cycles, bearded dragons may or may not eat, but in all cases, they must maintain their normal weight. If you see that he wakes up, give him fruits and vegetables to see if he has an appetite. However, if he does not eat, do not worry too much.
- The molting: This is a process that all bearded dragons go through. Your pet will leave behind its old skin and renew it for a new one. Baby bearded dragons will move more often to promote growth, while adults will move only once or twice a year. To help you, you can keep it hydrated with lukewarm water baths. Never take your skin off on your own. It is a natural process and, when your bearded dragon is ready, your skin will come out alone. You can identify the signs that your bearded dragon is beginning to shed its skin if you see any of the following symptoms: opacity in the color and appearance of your skin and swollen eyes as the skin becomes loose. Of course, you must control that there are no abnormal secretions from the eyes of your bearded dragon or that it shows no discomfort.
On the other hand, bearded dragons have a series of abnormal behaviors that show that they are sick. Some of them are:
- Bowel obstruction or paralysis: Feeding your bearded dragon with food larger than the space between his eyes can cause paralysis. This is because as the food moves through the intestinal tract, it can put pressure on the spine and cause loss of use of their legs. You may also notice that your bearded dragon has not done his needy for a while. To remedy any of these two problems, start by bathing in warm water and gently massage its belly. This helps to warm up your reptile, stimulating their body and causing the whole digestion process to start again. Also, as a preventive measure avoid feeding your bearded dragon with excessively large food and always keep clean and fresh water at their disposal.
- Diarrhea: Bearded dragons can suffer from diarrhea due to stress, consumption of food they should not eat and even parasites in their body. If diarrhea does not disappear by eliminating the causes of its stress or by feeding the wrong food, you should consult a veterinarian specializing in this type of reptile.
- Dehydration: This can be a very worrying topic. Even animals that live in deserts need a minimum of water to survive, and bearded dragons are no exception. The most common signs of dehydration are sunken eyes, lack of energy or appetite and wrinkled or withered skin. If you see some of these symptoms, give your bearded dragon a drink. If it does not have the energy to do it, put a dropper in their mouth until it gets up. If the situation worsens, go immediately to a specialized veterinarian.
- Bone diseases: Mainly caused by the lack of calcium or vitamin D in the diets of the bearded dragons, can be solved if treated in time, but you need to go to the vet immediately. It is highly recommended that you give your bearded dragon dietary supplements with vitamin D and calcium throughout his life. If you see that this disease happens to your reptile, even giving him the supplements, check that the lighting that you have put is appropriate for him. Some of the symptoms of this disease are sudden or nervous movements, strange swellings or protuberances in the legs, jaw or spine and spasms or tremors when standing still.
- Mites, parasites and other insects that suck blood: Fortunately, your bearded dragon has a thick layer of armor that keeps him protected from most mites and parasites. However, sensitive areas such as the eyes, ears and gastrointestinal tract are always in danger. Consult your veterinarian if your bearded dragon shows signs of mites or parasites, such as swelling in the eyes, excessive weight loss while eating normally or diarrhea that does not heal in conventional ways.