A Basic Guide to Keeping a Bearded Dragon - Common Questions Answered
Bearded Dragons have become an ever increasingly popular reptile within the UK, with many people buying one as a “starter” reptile due to their very docile nature and how easy they are to keep and handle.
This said, Bearded Dragons still have some basic needs that must be catered for for a variety of reasons, otherwise the health of the animal will suffer.
This is not meant as a complete guide, in fact, it only really scratches the surface, but I hope to answer some very basic questions and give a good guide to allow you to setup for a Bearded Dragon and give it the best start in life you can. If you wish to get a Bearded dragon I would recommend reading through this before buying to enable you to correctly establish a vivarium as well as be prepared for its feeding requirements.
You should still do some research for yourself, ask other keepers questions and continue to try to learn more about them, as this will save you money in vets bills in the long term as well as help ensure the animal gets the correct care and is able to live a long and healthy life.
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND
Bearded Dragons originate from Australia, and there are several different species, the most commonly found are the Central Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona Vitticeps) and Rankins Dragons (Pogona Henrylawsoni / Rankini).
In total, there are nine different types of Bearded Dragon, all with slightly different care requirements, that are spread across Australia but as it is the Central that is most widely owned and sold I will focus on these. You can find information on all of the others through search engines online but the main two things that will vary with other species will be the temperature, lighting and humidity requirements.
Through selective breeding, there are many different versions of the Central Inland Bearded Dragon, these are referred to as “Morphs”, within this there are a few main genetic traits, Hypomelanism and Translucents. These refer to traits physically displayed by the dragon, Hypomelanism (or Hypo’s) tend to have more vibrant colouration and lighter colours as well as very light brown/see through claws, Translucents (or Trans) have a slightly opaque quality to their skin, making their colours seem stronger and also have black eyes. There are also “Leatherbacks” (reduced scale texture to give a smoother skin) and “Silkbacks” (Highly reduced scale texture and very soft outer skin) and “German Giants” (Noticeably larger than your average bearded dragon and a true GGiant will require a larger vivarium)
Silkbacks in particular require special care as they have far more delicate skin and as such require different UV and humidity requirements. They also tend to live shorter lifespans. There are some moral/ethical objections to this type of Bearded Dragon but putting those to one side, I would still not recommend getting one unless you are an experienced reptile keeper. They require a much higher level of knowledge to be properly looked after.
Added to this there are various patterns such as “Tiger” and colour types such as “Citrus” (yellows and greens) “Oranges” and “Reds”, there are also more extreme morphs that have been bred such as “Witblits” (Light Grey/Smokey) “Paradox (the colouration has patches where grey/purple patches appear instead of its normal skin colour) and “Zeros” (Smokey Grey with purple tints, and almost see through skin).
Over the years, many different breeders have selective bred certain lines to emphasis these traits and will often name their own, “Rainbow Tigers”, “Sandfires”, “Fire & Ice” …. the list goes on and on, all with either their own colouration, patterns or physical traits.
Bearded Dragons are solitary animals, meaning they should not be kept in pairs or colonies. These animals are territorial and will fight, two males together will end up with one killing the other, a male and female together will lead to the male dominating the female and over breeding her, severely impacting the female’s health and wellbeing, and two females together will also establish a dominant/submissive hierarchy.
Dominant Dragons will take the best basking spots, food and the majority of the vivarium space as their own, and will force the submissive dragon to be less active, not feed properly and generally have a miserable life. In the wild this isn’t a huge problem, females can run away from a male to avoid mating or the dragon can establish its own territory and find alternative food supplies, in a vivarium they can’t get away and they will suffer in the long term.
Simply put, EVERY bearded dragon should have its own vivarium, there are cases where two females can co-habit but this requires an experienced keeper and constant monitoring in case domination behaviour starts. This behaviour can be very subtle and most keepers won’t even know until one of the dragons stops feeding altogether or starts continually hiding away.
For the animal’s sake, NEVER keep more than one dragon in a vivarium.
HOUSING A BEARDED DRAGON
To keep a Bearded Dragon, you will need to establish a vivarium for it, these animals come from a desert environment and naturally dig to create themselves burrows to shelter from extreme conditions. Unless you happen to live in an environment like this yourself the dragon will suffer massive health issues and possible even die if you do not create a suitable home for it.
Vivarium’s for a bearded dragon should be wooden with glass doors, there are literally hundreds of different styles and makes out there, so consider very carefully which one you wish to get. That said, there are some important MINIMUM requirements for a vivarium for a bearded dragon.
Firstly, it must be at least (and I mean at least, the bigger the better) 4-foot-long, 2-foot-deep and 2 foot high. This is important for several reasons, firstly, it needs to provide a reasonable amount of floor space for the dragon to freely move around and be active, secondly, the length needs to be enough that you can establish a Thermal Gradient which is massively important to the dragon’s biological needs and thirdly, it needs to be tall enough that you can have a suitably raised basking platform as well as branches for it to climb on without being able to get too close to the light sources.
Many people buy smaller vivarium’s, and this is a massive mistake, they cannot establish suitable thermal gradients, humidity is often incorrect and the dragon suffers being caught up in a space that is far too small. Added to that many suffer damage to their eye sight where lights are then too close and in general, the animal has a miserable life.
It is pointless to buy a smaller vivarium for a juvenile (young) dragon; it will rapidly outgrow it within a matter of months. Buy right, buy once.
Being desert creatures these animals have evolved to need high UV levels, and luckily, the industry making UV bulbs has advanced over the years and now produces some excellent UV lights. The UV is used for a variety of reasons, but most notably for D3 production, a vitamin that allows them to process calcium which plays an incredibly important role in a huge amount of the animal’s biology, including bone structure and muscle contraction. Without UV being suitably provided these animals will suffer some horrendous illnesses and it can lead to permanent health issues if not death.
I would very, very strongly recommend Arcadia T5 12% or 14% UV tube lights, to my knowledge, Arcadia are the only brand that guarantee their products for 12 months, most others will start to fail at 6 months and some will even be totally useless by 6 months.
The T5 series are slimmer tubes, have a much better light output and are far more efficient in their use of electricity.
Whatever you do, avoid Exoterra (to be honest, avoid anything Exoterra make) they cost the same as Arcadia and have a much higher level of brand recognition at the moment, but they are cheaply made and much lower quality. An Exoterra UV light will only go up to 10.0, will be useless within 6 months and need replacing and they only currently do the older T8 (wider tubes and a much lower output) I won’t go into much more detail but this pattern of cheap materials and low quality is something I have personally noticed with all of their range, from lighting right through to cricket keeping boxes or food bowls, and they charge you full price due to how widely they are recognised.
Whatever UV light you use, it is important that the bulb is approximately two thirds of the length of the vivarium, that it is fitted to run from right up in the warm end (where the basking lamp is situated) down towards the cool end and leave a gap that is left unexposed to UV in the cool end.
It should also be fitted with a reflector to maximise the bulbs effectiveness and help extend its range. A T5 12% should be fitted roughly 12 inches Bulb-Basking spot, a T5 14% at 15 inches.
Remember the basking spot should be a raised platform like area and as such, this will mean it’s a greater distance from bulb to ground surface.
You can get away with a bulb that runs the entire length, but in doing so you MUST create far more areas that have shade where the animal can get out from UV exposure. In doing this, you invite other issues, which for an experienced keeper, can be recognised fairly easily and action taken to remedy it, but for a novice, I suggest making your life easier, get one that is two thirds of the length and avoid some of the behavioural issues that over-exposure can lead to.
HEAT SOURCES/BASKING LAMPS
You will need a suitable heat source, and this should be a light emitting source commonly referred to as a “Basking Lamp”. Some people use ceramics, but frankly, these are far less effective as creating suitable basking areas and will take far more work to create a good thermal gradient.
Although there are many different types of basking lamps there are some important things to remember, the bulb itself should be a white light, it should not be a focused or “intense” beam and it should be fitted in a ceramic/porcelain bulb fitting. Plastic ones will melt and you will end up with the risk of an electrical fire. I would strongly advise using a halogen basking bulb, either a “Flood” beam or regular halogen and this can be fitted inside a reflector hood to help direct all the light/heat downwards. This is particularly useful for flood beams as they are wide angled lights. The bulb should be a high enough wattage that it can create a suitable basking spot whilst still being at least 20cm away (bulb surface to basking surface). This is a complete minimum distance, and you should ideally get a bulb that will do it with something like a 25cm/30cm distance.
It is VITAL that this heat source is on a dimming thermostat to regulate the temperatures within the vivarium. This can effectively save your animal's life, overheating can kill, too low temperatures can cause all sorts of health issues as well and long term will lead to chronic illness if not death.
I would highly recommend using a High Range Dimming Thermostat and a QUALITY make such as Microclimate or Habitstat, it needs to be reliable and accurate and cheap own-brand ones are very often very poor quality and inaccurate!
I personally use Micro Climate High Range Dimming thermostats, they come with a 5 year guarantee and are competitively priced. Using a high range stat will enable you to position the probe right next to the basking spot, making your life far far easier when trying to balance the temperatures within the vivarium.
Regular dimming stats will work, but you will have to spend days going back and forth to the vivarium trying to find the right temperature setting and position for the probe to enable you to get the basking spot temps and cool end temps correct. (And i mean days....) So considering a high range is pretty much the same price.... Make your life easier.
Ceramics will heat a vivarium in an ambient way, meaning the heat will spread out all over the vivarium, a proper basking bulb (so light emitting) will direct the majority of the heat downwards and are far more effective in creating a basking spot. With this directional heat source, it then means heat slowly radiates away from it to create a thermal gradient.
Now, I’ve mentioned thermal gradients a couple of times and you are probably wondering what it is and why the relevance. Thermal gradients are simply a change in temperature over distance, and the reason why it is so important with these animals is that they do something called “Thermoregulation”. Bearded Dragons are cold blooded animals; they absorb the heat they need from the sun (Light) which is yet another important reason why the heat source should be a light emitting one.
By having a gradient of temperatures, so the warmest being the basking spot (an area directly below the basking lamp) and the coolest being the far end of the vivarium (The Cool End) this allows the Dragon to change its body temperature by choosing where it sits. It can either bask directly below the basking lamp to warm up, or move away to allow itself to cool down. This process is vital to how they control their body temperature and as such has a direct impact on their internal biology.
There are two basic temperatures which must be controlled, one is the "Basking Spot" which is a surface temperature reading.
For this you will need an InfraRed Thermometer, digital thermometers read ambient temperatures (Air temps).
The other is the "Cool End", which is an ambient (air) temperature reading taken at the far side away from the basking are.
A Basking Spot should be approximately 45C (110F to 115F) and the Cool End should be roughly 24C (70F to 75F). The thermal gradient will then establish itself between these two points.
Now, most people think that because these animals live in the desert they must need dry environments, but this simply is not true. These animals are natural born diggers, in the wild they will easily dig down into the earth to create themselves burrows and will use these to provide homes for themselves, in these burrows they are also given protections, not just from predators, but from the elements themselves. It will protect them from temperature drops at night and also maintain a higher humidity level during the day. The vivarium should be misted in the morning (taking care to avoid the lights) to create a peak in humidity, and there should be a large shallow water bowl in the cool end.
The vivarium should have a humidity of about 35% to 45% during the day, and will peak up to around 60% once misted. It should never be allowed to drop below 35% and I would personally aim to keep it around 40% to 45%. Humidity doesn’t need to be as strictly controlled as things such as UV or heat but it is still important, and you should have some way of measuring it even if it’s only an approximation (like a small analogue humidity dial or for exact readings a digital hygrometer)
When setting up your vivarium it’s important to remember this, and a suitable substrate (floor covering) should be provided. Most experienced keepers will use a mix of fine grain washed sand (Play sand or Sharp sand) and Topsoil (a good quality lime free and sterilised topsoil) and both of these things can be found very cheaply from garden centres or DIY stores. Don’t fall into the trap of buying reptile carpet (they can’t dig in it, it’s a breeding ground for bacteria and its expensive) or buying “reptile sand” which is 100% the same as washed play sand, only ten times more expensive.
Pet shops are there to make money, never, ever forget this.
Using a 40% sand to 60% topsoil mix about 3 or 4 inches deep will allow your dragon to dig when it wants to (most often being as it tucks itself in at night or when bored during the day) and it will also help maintain humidity within the vivarium. Humidity helps keep your dragon hydrated by slowing down its water loss, and this in turn has a hugely beneficial effect on its health, most notably its digestive health and greatly reducing the risk of things like impaction.
Alongside having a raised basking area there should also be suitable branches and hiding areas within the vivarium. Part of the reason for having a wooden vivarium is that it doesn’t leave the animal feeling exposed on all sides, these animals are preyed upon in the wild and their instincts tell them to be wary of possible threats.This should also be considered when adding in decoration to the vivarium.
You should provide things such as sections of cork bark, bits of driftwood and wooden branches that the animal can climb on, hide behind/under and generally make the vivarium look a little more appealing. It is important that you do not overcrowd the vivarium, the animal should still be able to freely move around at ground level but Bearded Dragons love sitting up on branches (they are considered to be semi-arboreal).
When creating the basking area, it is highly advisable to use natural stone and slate makes an excellent material for this, stone will hold and reflect heat in a way far more alike to the environment they are naturally evolved to live in and it will also mean when they bask it provides a source of warmth to their belly as well as heat from the basking lamp. This helps digestion and also means once the heat lamp goes off there’s still a warm spot they can sit on as they go into the evening hours.
Whatever decorations you provide try to keep it natural, avoid things like plastic plants as they have been known to try to eat them and this can be a huge health risk if they swallow a plastic leaf (possibly even fatal)
I have mentioned about substrate when talking about humidity, but I should also mention there are some substrates that are bought for decorative reasons such as Calci sand. Calci sand comes in a variety of colours and might seem like an excellent idea. I cannot stress what I say next strongly enough. Never, ever, ever buy it. Calci sand is great in theory, if the animal swallows it, it’s meant to dissolve and then gives the animal a calcium intake boost, this is not what happens.
Calci sand can literally be lethal. Rather than behaving in the way its makers would like you to believe it more often does something very different. It has a very common and nasty habit of getting wet in the stomach, the outer surface of it becomes sticky and then it sticks either to the intestines of the animal or clumps up with more Calci sand and becomes a massive, massive impaction risk. Impaction is where something blocks the animal’s digestive tract, and this can end up killing the animal. Under no circumstances should you ever, ever use this stuff.
FEEDING YOUR DRAGON
There is one sentence that should be considered at all times when providing food for your dragon.
VARIETY IS KEY.
So many people out there only feed one type of insect or one or two types of vegetable/fruit and as time goes by, the animal invariably ends up either with some sort of behavioural problem and refuses to eat anything but what it’s been raised on, or ends up at the vets with health problems.
These animals are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals (insects to be more precise) and this is something that must be provided for otherwise it will end up being ill.
Now, I know not everyone has the time and space to grow a range of herbs, weeds and veggies so when I give you a list a little later on I have made sure these are all things that can be found very easily in many different supermarkets. Having said that, the foods I have listed below are not a complete list, far from it, and if you can find the time to do a little research on the web there’s dozens of food lists out there, in fact, even on this site there’s some excellent ones.
PLANTS -VEGETABLES AND FRUITS
You should be aiming to provide a minimum of five different types of plant matter on a daily basis, now, this might seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the variety these guys would much on out in the wild, and more variety you provide, the better the range of nutrients it gets and the better the chances you stand of never having to take it to a vets. By providing a good varied diet you might spend a few more pounds a week (at most.) but you will save yourself hundreds of pounds on vet appointments, treatments and follow up care.
I honestly mean that, if you don’t provide a good diet for the animal you WILL end up spending hundreds and hundreds of pounds trying to undo the long term health complications of providing inadequate nutrition. You won’t know there’s something wrong until its reached a stage that its having a physical impact that it can’t hide anymore, and Bearded Dragons (indeed reptiles in general) hide illness VERY well.
There are things that can be fed every day, some that should be fed only a few times a week and some that should only be fed 4 or 5 times a year, as well as things you should never ever feed a Bearded Dragon. This is due to a variety of things that can be found in these plants, some are toxic, some interfere with calcium absorption and others have a direct negative impact on health. Others have high levels of things that a Dragon can only have in limited quantity (and nutrition is a huge, huge subject so I can’t explain it all her)
The easiest way to provide a good mix of “Veggies” is to pick something like 5 different veggies that can be fed on a daily basis. To this pick a couple of things that are occasional veggies and make a batch of salad up that will last 3 or 4 days. This can then go in the fridge in a plastic container to keep it fresh. Misting it after a couple of days will help maintain its shelf life.
Then, when you make the next batch, exclude the two veggies that were taken from the occasional veggies list and chose two different ones. This way, you can end up creating a rotation, ensuring a good variety of veggies and as such providing a wide variety of nutrients and a balanced health diet.
When preparing salad, you should cut out any stems or thick veins in leaves (like the central veins in romaine lettuce or spring greens) and chop it into suitably sized bits. The younger the dragon, the smaller it should be. Adults are quite able to much away on a large leaf but babies or juveniles will struggle.
Staple foods you can easily find in your supermarket:
Spring Greens, Butternut Squash, Radicchio, Lambs Lettuce, Watercress, Basil, Endive/Frisee Lettuce, Rocket, Cucumber, Sweetheart Cabbage, Sage (There are lots and lots more…)
Occasional foods you can easily find in your supermarket:
Blueberries, Apple, Strawberries, Papaya (In fact any fruit they can have should be occasional and used as a treat) Celery, Bell Peppers, Pea Shoots, Carrot, Bok Choi, Parsley, Romaine Lettuce (There are lots and lots more…)
Foods you should never feed:
Spinach, Citrus Fruit (Orange, Lemon etc.) Rhubarb, Avocado, Bran, Wheat, Eggplant, Garlic (This list goes on)
It’s important that if you try to feed anything new you check before that its suitable, some foods will be listed as “Never Feed” for a variety of reasons, for example, Orange and Spinach CAN be fed but only in small amounts and only a couple of times a YEAR…as such they will be considered items not to use.
Things such as Rhubarb are listed as Never for a very different reason, they are toxic to Bearded Dragons, as such, never means NEVER
Live food is equally important to Bearded Dragon, it’s an important source of protein and in the wild they will actively hunt. Although you can get away with things like freeze-dried crickets these do not offer the same nutrition, have practically no hydration benefit to them and are vastly inferior to proper live insects.
Insects should also be “Gut loaded” meaning they are fed things like salad before being used to feed the Bearded Dragon, whenever you buy insects from a store they will be dehydrated and hungry, it’s important to give them some food not only to help benefit your Dragon but to extend the lifespan of the insects so they don’t all die before you can feed them to the Dragon. When gut loading/feeding insects simply use the same salad you would use to feed your dragon.
Insects should also be dusted with a calcium supplement when used to feed.
In exactly the same way that veggies should be varied, so should insects, and you will find that your Bearded Dragon LOVES insects, which means you have to be in control of how many you feed or it will binge on them until it cannot physically eat another one.
Great feeders (insects) are Dubia Roaches, Calci Worms and Silkworms, all of which have great nutritional value and even some health benefits (Silkworm can help control microbial parasites for example). I would use these as your main feeders, as well as getting things like Locusts, Brown Crickets, Black Crickets, Morio Worms, Meal Worms.
You can also get “Treat” insects, such as Waxworms, but these should not be used on a regular basis.
ALL live feeds should be dusted when given, and it doesn’t hurt to give the salad a light dusting when feeding an older dragon. It’s very important that you control what you feed, as well as using a good quality supplement. Personally, I use Arcadia EarthPro A as it’s the only supplement available that’s an all in one, 100% natural and doesn’t have any overdose risk.
It’s not the only supplement available but I find the stuff to be excellent compared to the varieties I used before and it’s a lot easier to use as well. If you aren’t going to use it you will need to get a Calcium Powder (D3 free) and a Multivitamin, but you must be careful with the Multivitamin.
When still rapidly growing (So under 6 months old) you can use the Multivitamin 3 times a week, and calcium powder the rest of the week. Space it out so its spread over the week. For older dragons you cannot use it more than twice a week otherwise you risk overdosing the animal.
Multivitamins also contain a lot of synthetic product, which is another reason why I prefer the Arcadia EarthPro, it uses natural sources for its contents and also precursors for several key vitamins like Vit A, meaning the animal only processes what it actually needs into Vit A rather than getting it in a pure form. Hence why you can use it daily and it won’t overdose the Bearded Dragon.
It’s important that any supplements you get are D3 FREE otherwise this too can cause complications, the UV lighting will mean the animal is producing its own D3 and self-regulating meaning added D3 will have a negative effect on the animal. You might ask why provide UV then? Why not just get supplements with D3 in…?
And the answer is simple, UV not only means you don’t have to provide D3 but it takes the guesswork out of how MUCH D3 needs to be provided. It’s also far more effective when the animal produces its own rather than trying to rely on absorption from an external source.
Added to this, the animal will thrive far better off UV (which serves other purposes not just D3 production) than trying to absorb it through supplements and it will have a better, healthier existence.
As Bearded Dragons get older, they feeding patterns change, in the wild, this change happens naturally.
There are times of year when insects are available or are in limit supply, they also have to hunt for food rather than have it readily available to them from their owner.
As such, it comes down to the owner to control the animal’s food intake, and this is an important part of the animal’s care. The Bearded Dragon will always favour insects over veggies, which means you have to encourage it to eat veggies and the older it gets the more veggies it should be eating.
If a Dragon is allowed to eat all the insects it wants on a long term basis it will often refuse veggies, and if it doesn’t eat its veggies then it WILL suffer health complications, some of which can be very serious indeed.
The easiest way to try and regulate insect intake is to think of it like a point system.
Dubia Roaches are worth 3 crickets for example, 4 crickets are about 2 locusts…
Think of it in terms of size and nutritional value, and control how many insects you feed.
When you feed your dragon is should always be left wanting more insects, that’s not to say you don’t feed enough, but rather you don’t allow it to binge feed on insects. While they are growing they will need roughly 80% live food and 20% veggies, as adults the reverse is true.
This means you need to be encouraging it to eat more salad as it gets older, at around 9 months old it should be roughly 50/50 on insects and veggies.
When young, start by putting the salad in first thing in the morning, this is something you will always do all the way through to adulthood, under 6 months you can give two separate live feeds, one before lunch, one mid-afternoon. Remember to CONTROL how many insects you feed on a daily basis and separate this into two feeds. With the salad in first, if its hungry, it will eat that before lunchtime, it will also use it to top itself up where it hasn’t been able to stuff itself silly with insects.
At six months old, drop the feed just before lunchtime, halving the amount of insects you feed on a daily basis. This will mean it will eat more of the salad, it has to wait longer until the live feed, so will naturally increase the amount of veggies it eats. It’s also not getting as many insects, meaning it will eat more salad.
At a year old, begin to alternate the days with the live food, so it’s now getting 25% of the amount of insects it did as a young juvenile. Be prepared to top the salad bowl up in the afternoon instead.
With insects fed once every other day, it will repeat what it did at 6 months, and eat more salad to make up the short fall.
You can of course do this entire process over time, rather than sudden changes, and this will make it even less noticeable and a far more natural event to the Dragon.
Thats not the end of it...
So that’s the -VERY- basic bits of keeping a bearded dragon.
There’s a lot more to learn, everything from bearded dragon behaviour, Brumation, Females laying eggs (which should be infertile as you should not be keeping a male and female together!) and far more in depth things about their natural habitat, biology and nutrition.
PLEASE PLEASE do try to read up on keeping these animals, i fully appreciate there's a lot of conflicting infomation out there, but this site can be an excellent source of info, and if you ever have questions there is always someone willing to try and help.
I’ve been keeping bearded dragons for over 8 years now, and I still have things to learn but I have tried to give you the basics that EVERYONE should know when getting a Bearded Dragon so they at least set off on the right foot.
It is still important that you find a Reptile (or Exotic) Specialist Vet and i would strongly recommend you do this BEFORE you actually need to.
It wont hurt to take your animal for a check up once a year for fecal tests (Paracites/Worms) and this will give you the chance to give your pet a MOT health check to ensure everything is going ok.
ONE LAST THING...
You will find plug socket timers are incredibly useful, you should have the UV on one timer and the basking lamp on another.
During summer, UV should be on for 14 hours, Autumn, 12 hours and Winter 10 hours.
Try to set the UV so it switches on at roughly the same time as the sun comes up, so 6am during summer, and later during winter. Set the Basking lamp to come on 30mins to an hour after the UV comes on (this will mean it acts a little more like it would in the wild in terms of warming up after first light) and to turn off early evening (two or three hours before the UV turns off)
It is also important that you do not feed your Bearded Dragon when there is less than 2 hours of basking time left, as they need this time to still absorb heat in order to digest their food.
Mine are currently set to run from 6:30 am to 8:30pm with the basking lamp coming on at 7am and switching off at 5:30pm. (Summer)
When its Autumn, i reduce an hour from either end, so 7:30am to 7:30 pm for UV with the Basking lamp coming on at 8am and switching off at 5pm.
During winter, I have the UV on from 8am to 6pm with the basking lamp on a reduced time of 8:30am to 4pm. I also slightly lower the temperatures and if they are going into brumation i will completely switch off all lights/heating during December/January - I do not advise you do this unless you know exactly what you are doing!
Brumation is something your Dragon should not do within their first year of life, and is something you will need to read up on. If you are going to allow your animals to brumate you need to prepare for it as well as allow the animal to wind down correctly. DO NOT attempt to force your Dragon to brumate EVER. (Brumation is quite important in terms of how you care for a Bearded Dragon so i strongly recommend researching it to learn about brumation properly).
Thank you for taking the time to read through all this, i hope you found something useful,
As already mentioned, this is NOT a complete guide to Beardies, It is intended to help people setup a new vivariums and cater for a Bearded Dragon, it does not cover everything that you may encounter and as such if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask them and i will try to answer.
If you have a specific issue with your dragon i recommend starting a new thread where you can describe your vivarium, how you feed and care for it and the issue you are having. Many people on here are capable of offering assistance but its important to remember that if it is health related the best solution is to see a Reptile Vet.
You cannot get health diagnosis through the internet, just peoples opinions and attempts to assist, this is not a suitable substitute for correct vetinary care.
Last edited by Azastral; 13-05-2016 at 10:06 PM..
You certainly put a good amount of work in this, I hope it will be very useful to new keepers.
I do have some comments:
Why a stat is needed underneath the basking spot. If a basking spot gets to warm the animal can simply move away. It's the cold side that shouldn't become too hot, that's what an stat is for. It doesn't matter much if the basking spot will become hotter than 45 degrees so long as the animal can seek shelter from the heat on the cool side.
The wild diet of adult bearded dragons contain about four times the amount of animal matter then the chart would suggest (according to: https://www.researchgate.net/publica...gona_vitticeps). The researchers found that 61% of the weight of their stomach contents was made up from animal matter. So it would seem to suggest that bearded dragons (at least seasonally) eat animal matter on much higher basis.
I completely agree that the cool end should be controlled, and this is part of balancing the temperatures within the vivarium.
I have listed the temps for the cool end, and as mentioned, this isnt a complete guide but yes...perhaps i should of mentioned some additional methods for regulating temperatures if the cool end is too warm even when you have a correct basking spot temperature.
You can lower the cool end temps by increasing ventilation, alternatively you can raise the height of the basking spot so it reaches the required temp using less energy - This will mean less heat overal is pumped into the vivarium and will in turn lower the temperature in the cool end. Be aware when raising the basking area you should still maintain a minimum distance from the bulb.
The reason why i use a high range stat and indeed recommend them, as well as positioning near the basking spot, is that the basking spot plays a huge role in terms of digestion and thermoregulation. There are many ways to establish temperatures within a vivarium but i find this to be the easiest way and most reliable in practice. It is very simple to regulate this temp directly as its the main source of heat, and the cool end can then have its temperature reduced by increasing ventilation in the vivarium. The cool side can afford to drop as low as 21C and as high as 26C so it has more "wiggle room", 24C is a good average i find as cooler than this they tend to avoid using the area.
As mentioned, ive intended the guide for beginners so i wanted to give a very simple, clean way to control the temperatures, it can require a lot more effort to try and balance the temperatures via the cool end, thats not to say it isnt possible because it totally is, but its not the easiest way and you can often end up controlling the cool end but then not providing enough heat in the warm end...well to be fair, theres all sorts of things that can happen with the thermal gradient. But thats exactly why i give the method i have, theres less to go wrong (but i should of mentioned the ventilation if the cool end was still too warm as above)
In terms of Diet, Bearded dragons love insects, the issue is when they have too many of them and start refusing veggies. Its also very true that long term diets of insects only commonly lead to things like fatty liver disease.
In the wild there will be times where insects simply arent available so the animal is forced to eat vegetation, many keepers find it hard to try and force their Dragon to eat veggies and will commonly give in before the animal does, the method i have given is a reliable way to ensure veggies are eaten but also means that if you do over feed on insects occationally it is not going to do any harm at all.
Its about maintaining veggies as being a consistant source of food for the adult, in order to avoid the possible issues that can arise when you do over feed on insects on a long term basis. In captivity both live and veg is readily available which means the eating patterns are different, you could try to emulate a more natural pattern where you feed more insects in spring/summer and then reduce as you go into winter but many keepers would find it difficult as theres a reluctance to let their Dragon go without food, which is what would happen in the wild and then force them to eat more vegetation. Keepers quite simply dont have the stomach to do it, and if you are able to balance their diet in captivity, then it would be fairer on the animal to do so rather than make it go through phases of fasting/starvation to force it to change its feeding habits.
I've written it in a way that following it will mean good nutrition is still given, but the odd fail isnt going to hurt either, as well as trying to make it as simple as i can for a beginner to understand and successfully implement.
Last edited by Azastral; 13-05-2016 at 10:33 PM..
Some really useful info there
I am getting a bearded dragon from a friend and was going to get a 3ft long home for him but i shall get a bigger one now, thank you also for the tips on what uv to get, the local pet store only has exoterra but i shall look online and get arcadia after you have said they last much longer.
Thank you as well for the list of food! My friend said i can just use rocket and squash, its good to know some other easy ones i can find and how good it is to feed them a variety.
Hopefully will give Rex a really good start!
In my view the best way to provide this is a Habistat Reptile Radiator, controlled by a Pulse Proportional Thermostat, this will allow you to efficiently provide the comfortable and stable ambient temperatures the Dragon will prefer during the even the coldest nights.
I wonder if the true answer is a higher percentage of animal protein but with less frequent feeding?
Has anyone ever found a reliable guide to ground, rather than air temperatures across their range?
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