FAQ: This is a listing of some of the questions we have been asked and we wanted to post them so they are available for everyone. If you do not see the answer to your question, here feel free to contact us and we will do our best to assist you. Please bear with us while we work on this page since we are frequently adding & updating the questions and answers.
Many aspects of caring for bearded dragons are controversial and there are many opinions on what works best. Please remember that what works for one person may not work as well for you. The answers to these questions are our personal opinion, and have been developed after many years, and after trying many of the options available. We encourage you to get as much information as you can from books, forums, people you may know, pet stores, expos, and other bearded dragon websites. And then find out what works best for you. It is also a good idea to join your local Herpetology Association. This provides you the opportunity to meet and talk to a lot of people who are experienced in the care of reptiles, and can be an invaluable resource.
Please use caution when you are using information from the internet. You really don’t know the knowledge level, experience, or motivation of the people providing the information and some of it can be harmful to your bearded dragon.
This is a collection of the questions we are frequently asked. They are sorted into categories to make searching for information easier. If you don’t see your question or would like more information just call or send us a contact form and we will do our best to help you.
Appearance & Color Question: What color are bearded dragons? Answer: Normal bearded dragons are generally colored grey to brown with varying shades depending on the environment, temperature, and during displays. For years breeders have been selectively breeding the most colorful bearded dragons so now you can get bearded dragons in just about any color you can imagine. These are known as color morphs.
Question: Sometimes my dragon has these weird dark markings on its belly that look like snakeskin? Answer: They are called stress marks, but they don't always mean your dragon is stressed. They usually appear when a bearded dragon is stressed, but can also appear when they are cold, irritated, interested in something else, and sometimes for no reason that you can figure out. They are completely normal and are not anything to worry about.
Question:What are the dots on the bottom of my bearded dragons back legs? Answer: They are called the femoral pores. Sometimes they are more pronounced on males, but they should not be used to determine the sex of your dragon.
Question:What is a “HET” dragon? Answer: “Het” is the abbreviation for the word Heterozygous. It simply means that he dragon carries the gene required to produce the trait, and that they may produce it in their babies. When you see a description that a dragon is 50% het for trans and hypo, then the dragon has a 50% chance to carry both genes. By selectively breeding dragons that are “het” for specific traits, it is possible to increase the chances that the offspring will display the desired traits.
Behavior Question: I just bought a bearded dragon and he is not eating very much, is there something wrong with it? Answer: Most bearded dragons will experience stress when they are moved to a new environment and it will take a few days before they become acclimated and start eating well. The first thing to do is to check the enclosure, diet, lighting, and temperatures to make sure they are appropriate. Relocation stress usually only lasts 2-3 days, but can last much longer in rare instances. Be patient and wait a 2-3 days to see they start to eat. You can also try to feed them a couple of worms (super, wax, butter, etc) or some of the foods which are classified as “treats” in the food classification chart on our resources page. Some people sell bearded dragons when they are very young, and it is very important to be aware that small animals do not have the resources to sustain not eating for very long. If your dragon is less than 7” or so, it will have a hard time if it does not eat anything for more than 3-4 days. Please call us before that time and we will try to help you through this period, but It may be necessary to bring your dragon to a vet that specializes in reptiles. We have a lot more information on bearded dragon stress on our Resources & Links page.
Question: My bearded dragon has not been eating much and is not very active. Is this normal? Answer: There are a few different reasons why your dragon is not eating well and is not active. We will briefly describe them here, but for more information please check out our resources & links page.
The most common cause in newly acquired dragons is relocation stress. In established dragons the most common cause is improper diet, heating, lighting, or enclosure set up. You should have a heat source for basking, and a source of UVB light. Adult basking spots should reach around 100º-110º, while juveniles should be 110º - 120º degrees. There should also be something to climb on, located near the basking light, and some sort of cave or hide at the cool end of the enclosure. The enclosure should be well ventilated and provide a temperature gradient with the basking spot at one end being the high temp, and the cool end should be around 75º-80º
As far as the diet goes, they should be provided greens & insects daily. The most common insects for bearded dragons are crickets, but there are many others that can be used. Never feed fireflies, mealworms, or any insects that you catch outside as they are, or may be detrimental to your dragons health. The staple greens usually provided are collard, mustard, or turnip greens, with various other greens, vegetables, or fruits mixed in for variety. For a reference you can look at the food chart on the resources & links page.
Another possibility is that your dragon is starting to bruminate. This is a form of reptile hibernation, and each bearded goes through it differently. It can last from a week to months and is a normal behavior when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. It usually occurs when the dragon is about a year old. In temperate climates your dragon may not bruminate at all. If your dragon is bruminating for an extended period, it is advised to wake them to at least give them water. It may also be possible to shorten or end the brumination period by adjusting the length of time the lights are on, and by frequent handling.
Gravid females may also start eating less, but they will also generally display increased activity, primarily digging, when they are ready to lay their eggs. They should be moved to a laying bin, or provided a container suitable for laying their eggs.
Sometimes when bearded dragons are ready to shed, or are shedding they may slow down, hide in their cave, or stop eating. Their color will also change. You should bathe and spray them to assist in the shedding process, but do not pull the skin off.
Another thing which may cause your dragon to stop eating and be less active is that they may have an infection or a high load of parasites. Most living things, including people, carry germs & parasites that are usually kept in check by healthy animals. If the animal is stressed or is weakened in some way it may allow them to increase to a level that is detrimental to their health. In this case your dragon should be brought to a vet that specializes in reptiles. They will probably do a fecal exam, and if it is positive they should prescribe something to treat your dragon.
Question: Do bearded dragons bite? Answer: Most bearded dragons are quite tame and social. Usually by frequently handling them as babies and juveniles they form bonds and develop a gentle temperament, and are content to be held. There are always exceptions and there may be a dragon that has an attitude problem, but this is usually caused by poor treatment and may be corrected by proper care and frequent handling. If you hand feed your dragon it is also possible that they may bite you by accident.
Question: Are bearded dragons social animals? Answer: Bearded dragons are very social and sometimes appear to prefer the company of people to that of other bearded dragons. Most bearded dragons seem to enjoy being held or to lay on your chest or shoulder while you watch TV. Some people even let them roam around a room or their house. If you let your dragon roam you need to “dragon proof” the room/house so there is nothing that can harm the dragon. Sometimes it may even appear that your dragon is actually listening to and understanding what you are saying to them.
Question: I have a male and a female bearded dragon in the same enclosure. The female is not eating and spends most of her time sleeping in the cave, while the male is eating normally and active. Is there something wrong with her? Answer: Housing more than one dragon in an enclosure is not recommended. If you keep more than 1 dragon in the same enclosure there is a real possibility that one will dominate the other and not allow them to eat, bask, etc, which will stress them out and adversely effect their health. Since Male dragons are usually larger, it is usually the male who will dominate the female, however with an older female dragon and a younger male dragon the roles can be reversed. Another reason not to keep more than 1 dragon in the same enclosure is that they will mate. This is important because you may be breeding brother and sister which usually results in the eggs dying or in the hatching of dragons which are deformed and sickly. It can also impact the health of the female who will drain her resources to produce and lay the eggs. She may also become egg bound without the proper laying conditions and require expensive medical treatment or die. Even if you keep 2 females in the same enclosure they may become gravid. Of course the eggs will not be fertile, but it carries the same risks as a viable pregnancy.
Question:My bearded dragon is about 2 months old and recently started doing this thing where he shakes his head up and down. Sometimes his beard turns black, and sometimes it looks like he is waving his arms. Is he sick? Answer: It sounds like your bearded dragon has discovered head bobbing, waving, and the ability to puff out & darken his beard. These are some of the more common forms of body language that bearded dragons use to communicate, and are displayed by both sexes. At 2 months old, I would speculate that they are just amusing themselves by trying out their new abilities. In older dragons they usually have more specific meanings. Head bobbing and the darkening & puffing out their beards are generally used to show dominance, but are sometimes used when they don’t want to be bothered or are scared of something. Bobbing of the head and stomping is usually reserved for male dragons older than about 1 year old who are in the mood for love and ready to mate, but will sometimes be displayed by females if smaller male or female dragons are in view. Waving of the arms is generally a display of submission. When one dragon puffs out their beard and bobs their head they are saying “I am the man”. When another dragon waves their arms, they are basically saying “yes you are”. Once again, in younger dragons they may be displaying these behaviors because they just discovered them and they are having fun, not for any of the reasons that are related to dominance.
Question: Why does my bearded dragon sit under his basking light with it's mouth open? Answer: This is a concerning behaviour in many reptiles but is normal behaviour for bearded dragons, and a good sign that the temperatures in the enclosure are correct. When a bearded dragon reaches their optimal temperature, they will gape. This allows them to dissipate extra body heat, regulating their temperature, and allowing them to remain in their basking spot. If the temperature in the enclosure is not correct then bearded dragons will not reach their optimal temperatures and will not gape.
If your dragon is gaping all the time, or is sitting in the cool end of the enclosure and gaping, it probably means that the temperature in the enclosure is too high and needs to be adjusted. There should be a thermal gradient in the enclosure with the basking spot around 100º and the cool end around 80º, so they can cool down when they want. If your dragon is always gaping, or may even appear to be choking, and also has mucus around their nose or mouth they probably have an upper respiratory infection and need to see a reptile vet as son as possible.
Question: I have a 1 year old dragon and she has started gaping and making croaking noises. Is this normal? Answer: Bearded dragons normally do not make many sounds except an occasional hissing noise when they want to be left alone, and croaking is not normal. Most wheezing and gasping noises are related to upper respiratory infections, or to incorrect temperatures in their enclosure. Incorrect temperatures can cause them to improperly digest their food and possible regurgitation. If the temperatures in the enclosure are correct, then she needs to go see the vet.
Question: My bearded dragon has started to twitch, what should I do? Answer: Most times twitching and shaking are caused by a calcium and/or vitamin D3 deficiency which leads to metabolic bone disease. To treat a calcium deficiency increase the amount of calcium supplements, and reduce the amount of potassium rich foods they are given. To treat a vitamin D3 deficiency, check your UVB lighting and replace it if necessary, and expose your dragon direct sunlight as much as possible. Glass and plastic filters out UVB so the sunlight must be direct.
Question: Sometimes my bearded dragons eyes look like they are going to pop out, is something wrong whit him? Answer: This is a normal behaviour that is thought to help loosen the skin around the dragons eyes when they are shedding. You can help him by misting & bathing him. Do not pull the skin off since you may damage the skin underneath if it is not fully formed.
Question: Is it normal for my dragon to sleep standing up in the corner? Answer: This is completely normal. Bearded dragons can fall asleep in some strange positions. Standing against the enclosure is actually one of the more normal/common positions that bearded dragons sleep in.
Breeding & Incubation Question: How old do bearded dragons have to be before they can be bred? Answer: Bearded dragons can reach their sexual maturity at about 10-12 months, but some may not reach their full maturity until 18 months. Females usually take a little longer than the males. We do not like to breed our dragons until they are 12-18 months old and at least 350 grams. When they are ready to breed you should start to see mating behavior. The males will usually display this by puffing out & blackening their beards. And by bobbing & stomping. Females may wave and try to get to the males. When they are put together the male will chase the female around and bite on the back of her frill.
Question: This is my first time hatching bearded dragon eggs and there is mold on them. What can I do? Answer: Don’t throw them away. You don’t say how long they have been in the incubator so I don’t know how far along in their development they are, or how you are incubating them, but healthy bearded dragons can hatch from eggs with mold on them as long as they haven’t changed color and started to smell. Once they start to smell they should be removed immediately. First gently wipe the mold off with a clean dry cloth. If you have not marked the top of the eggs do it before you move them or you will drown the embryos, since this is the location of the air sack. Get some anti-fungal medication. You can get this from just about any drugstore, grocery store, walmart, etc. We apply the medicine to a clean q-tip, and use the q-tip to apply it to the affected eggs. After that continue incubating the eggs Enclosure & Furnishings
Question: What size cage do I need for a bearded dragon? Answer: There are many types of enclosures, but whatever you use needs to be secure, well ventilated, and allow you to maintain an appropriate temperature gradient throughout the enclosure. The size of the enclosure that you use should be appropriate for the size of the dragon, and the amount of floor space is more important than the height. If the sides are too high it may also be difficult to position the heat light & UVB light at the proper distances to be effective.
Baby bearded dragons can initially be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium, but they will outgrow it pretty quickly. As adults they will require a minimum of a 40 gallon breeder aquarium or the equivalent in an enclosure. We recommend at least 6 square feet of floor space in an enclosure for a full grown bearded dragon, and some breeds like the German giants would benefit from more. Fish aquariums generally provide additional space vertically, which makes providing the proper heating & UVB difficult, so they are not optimal for bearded dragons. But can be used if the proper modifications are made to the light fixtures so they are positioned at the proper distances. A 40 gallon breeder tank measures 36” long X 18” wide, while a 55 gallon fish aquarium measures approximately 36” long X 15 inches wide. The 55 gallon aquarium costs a lot more, but actually has less floor space, and is much more difficult to provide the proper heating, UVB lighting, and temperature gradients required for a bearded dragon. The enclosure should be small enough so they don’t have to chase their food too far, but large enough to fit all their furnishing (cave, something to climb on for basking, food & water dishes), and also have sufficient floor space to allow them to get some exercise. To save money, and the problems with storing multiple enclosures as your dragon outgrows them, we recommend purchasing an enclosure or aquarium that is appropriate for a full grown dragon and partitioning off parts of it until your dragons is full grown.
Question: My dragon is in a 20 gallon long aquarium, when should I move her to the 40 gallon breeder tank I have waiting. When is the best time to move her over? Answer: The enclosure should be small enough so they don’t have to chase their food too far, but large enough to fit all their furnishing (cave, something to climb on for basking, food & water dishes), and also have sufficient floor space to allow them to get some exercise. If the enclosure is too big she might have trouble chasing down the crickets, so the one you have is fine for now. Once she reaches about 12-15 inches it would be time to move her to the 40 gallon breeder. Generally, bearded dragons are curious and enjoy having their enclosures redecorated, but moving her to a new enclosure may cause her some relocation stress. You can probably minimize this by putting the new enclosure in the same spot as her old enclosure so she has all views she is used to, just with more space. I don't know what kind of a top you have for the 40 gal breeder, but most of them are unhinged, which is a pain for bearded dragons since you have to move the heat and or UVB light to open the cage. Since you have a few months, you can search around the internet and find one with hinges, or build one to make your life easier. Another option is to buy or build something to move the lights inside the enclosure so you can open it without moving them. This will also increase the effectiveness, and the longevity of the heating & UVB lights. Another option would be to move her now and partition off part of the enclosure. She may go through some stress, but then as she grows you can move the partition to increase the living space. This will allow you to increase the living space as she grow, and may reduce the future relocation stress since she will be in her familiar surroundings, and periodically get more space.
Question: My dragon’s tank is in the living room which is the busiest room of the house. The TV and lights are on much later than when her lights go out. She seems to sleep through it, but should I either move the cage or drape some kind of cover around the sides to give her darkness when her lights go out? Answer: The enclosure should be fine where it is. We have a lot of cages in the living room and it doesn't seem to bother them at all. Like you noticed they will put themselves to bed when they are tired, sometimes even before the lights go out. They seem to like to be in busy areas where they can see a lot of activity, and I frequently catch them watching us as much as we watch them. As long as she is eating, pooping, and sleeping normally, there is no need to change or drape anything, and it may even depress her since they are very curious and like to watch the stuff going on around them.
Question: I have seen pictures of bearded dragons with stuffed animals or toys in their enclosures. I was wondering is this harmful or will they actually play with it? Answer: It is not in itself harmful as long as they are cleaned, sanitized, and don’t have any rips or small parts that they can swallow. Unfortunately the closest they will come to playing with them are climbing over them or pooping on them. Anything you put in the enclosure will get pooped on and will need to be cleaned frequently. If you put stuffed animals in the enclosure and they get messy, it will be very difficult to clean them completely, and they will become a breeding ground for germs, mold, and fungus which will have a detrimental effect on your dragon’s health. Plastic & rubber toys are easily cleaned by soaking them in a 10% bleach solution or one of the commercial products, rinsing thoroughly, and then allowing them to dry completely to remove all the chlorine which can produce toxic fumes when exposed to UVB light.
Question: I have heard to use something with three percent bleach when cleaning my dragon’s cage & furnishings. Won’t this hurt the dragon? Answer: There are commercial products available (nolvasan, wipeout, etc) to clean your dragons enclosure & furnishings, but they tend to get expensive. We use a 10% bleach solution to clean the enclosure and we and soak the (non-wood) furnishings for 20-30 minutes. It needs to be rinsed completely so you cannot smell the bleach, and then allowed to dry completely to allow any remaining chlorine to evaporate. If there is any chlorine left then the heat from the lights can cause toxic fumes. For wood, stone, and tile accessories you can bake them in an oven @ 200° for 1 hour to sanitize them.
Question: Can I house two bearded dragons together? Answer: It is possible to have more than one bearded dragon in the same enclosure but we do not recommend this arrangement after the dragons start to mature. Bearded dragons are solitary creatures and housing them together will not provide a healthy situation for at least one of them. Whenever bearded dragons are kept together you will always have dominance issues for lighting, food, exc., and the dominated dragon will constantly be under stress. This may cause the dominated dragon to fail to grow and even lose weight. Constantly being under stress will also cause the dragon to be more susceptible to diseases & infection. This may cause the dragon to be unable to control the bacteria & parasites that every animal normally carries to grow into an infection/infestation and require treatment. If you chose to house bearded dragons together it is important to have a second enclosure available in case the less dominant dragon begins to feed less and loses weight. If you already have a second enclosure, it would be more logical, and healthy for the dragons to keep each dragon in their own enclosure. Additionally if you try to keep 2 males together, they will fight, get injured, and maybe even killed. If you keep 2 females together then they won’t usually fight, but the smaller one will be dominated by the larger one, and they may become gravid. The eggs will not be fertile but you will still have all the same issues and risks as with a normal mating, including the possibility that they may become egg bound. Keeping a male & a female together will also result in the smaller dragon (male or female) being dominated by the larger one, and they will mate and you will need to be prepared for the work & expense of providing a laying box, incubating the eggs, caring for and feeding the hatchlings, and finding them new homes. If the male & female dragons that are kept together are related you will have additional issues to deal with such as a stillborn and malformed babies, and this should be avoided at all costs.
Some people suggest that you can keep a male with 2-3 females in the same enclosure. While they generally will not fight, the smallest dragon will be dominated by the 2 larger dragons, will constantly be under stress and will need to compete with 2 the 2 larger dragons for the resources. This is certainly not a good arrangement, at least for the smallest dragon. The male will also mate with all of the available females in the enclosure, and you will have multiple clutches of eggs to deal with.
Question: How do I setup a bearded dragon habitat? Answer: At a minimum a bearded dragon’s enclosure needs to be well ventilated and needs to have some sort of substrate or covering for the bottom. It will also need a hide/cave, something to climb on for basking, a heat light, a UVB light, and a food dish.
It can also be decorated with wood, stone, plastic, clay accessories or potted plants. All accessories need to be sanitized before being placed in the enclosure and any plants will need to be washed and repotted in organic soil that does not have any pesticides or fertilizer which may be toxic to your dragon. You can also provide a water dish for the dragon to bathe (and poop) in but it must be cleaned when it becomes soiled.
Question: What kind of plants can be placed in their cages? Answer: Any plant that you put in the enclosure will need to be washed and repotted in organic soil that does not have any pesticides or fertilizer which may be toxic to your dragon. You will also need to use plants that are not toxic to the dragon since they will eat them. Some of the plants that you can use are nasturtiums, hibiscus, dahlia, some cactuses, ficus, geranium, petunia, pothos, pursule, and violets are some of the plants that are commonly used in bearded dragon habitats.
Food, Supplements & Poo Food questions Question: What should bearded dragons be fed? Answer: Bearded dragons are omnivores and should be fed a variety of greens and live insects. There are also some commercial freeze dried mixtures that are now available but a lot of dragons will not eat them.
The insects which are commonly fed to bearded dragons are crickets, roaches, locusts, super worms, phoenix or calci worms, horn worms, butter worms, wax worms, and silk worms. All of the worms should only be fed in moderation as a treat because they are high in fat and can lead to fatty liver disease. Insects are also high in potassium so they should also be provided a reptile calcium supplement, either on the insects or on their greens. Meal worms should never be fed to bearded dragons because they have a difficult time digesting the chitin and they can cause impaction. They should never be fed any kind of meat or chicken as the protein can kill them. Lightning bugs and some spiders are also toxic to bearded dragons. Your dragon should never be fed anything that you catch outside since wild insects are exposed to pesticides, fertilizers, and many other things which can be harmful or toxic to your dragon.
The type of greens, vegetables, and fruits that are provided are also important. They should have a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of at least 2Ca:1P and be low in oxalic acid. Potassium binds with calcium preventing your dragon from metabolizing the calcium. Insufficient calcium can lead to metabolic bone disease and other health issues. Please check out the food chart on the resources page of our website for a listing of foods to feed every day (staple foods), as well as foods that can be fed occasionally, and which foods to avoid.
Question: How much does a bearded dragon eat, what does it eat? Answer: When feeding a bearded dragon you need to make sure that you can provide insects as well as greens, fruits, and vegetables. Bearded dragons are omnivores and require foods from both groups or they will not be healthy.
The age of the bearded dragon needs to be taken into consideration when feeding a bearded dragon. Baby and juvenile dragons need to have more proteins in the diet to supplement for growing bones and tissues, but they should still be provided with greens & veggies, about 70% insects and 30% greens.
An adult bearded dragon diet should consist of mostly greens and vegetables with the ratio gradually changing to 30% insects and 70% greens. Fruit can be provided 1-2 times each week as a treat, or a small amount mixed into their staple greens to provide variety. Feeding your dragon too much fruit or too often can cause diarrhea & dehydrate your dragon. Worms, (super, butter, wax, etc.) should not be used as the staple insect, but should be used as treats. Most of them are high in fat and can lead to fatty liver disease. Instead try to use crickets, roaches, locusts, etc. Mealworms should never be fed to bearded dragons because they can cause impaction.
Baby and juvenile bearded dragons should be given as many appropriately sized feeder insects as they will eat within 15-20 minutes 2-3 times each day. Some dragons may even take a little break while they are eating. Start with a known number of crickets, if they eat them all, give them a couple more. If they don’t eat them all then give them less the next time. After a few days you should have a good idea of how many they will eat at each feeding. Some people recommend feeding the dragon in a separate enclosure like a plastic tote, or removing any uneaten insects so they do not harm your dragon. We have heard stories about crickets harming bearded dragons, but have never had it happen to us or heard it directly from anyone it happened to, and we do not remove the uneaten insects but the choice is yours. They should also be provided greens every day even if they do not eat them. This allows them to get used to the greens and provides a source of moisture for the dragon.
After 1 year, the young adult dragons can be given insects once each day. After 2 years or so the insects can be cut down to once every 2-3 days. All ages of dragons should always be provided fresh greens & vegetables daily.
Bearded dragons should be fed 30 minutes to 1 hour after the lights (heat) go on to allow them to warm up from the night and properly digest their food. At the end of the day any remaining greens should be removed 1 hour before the lights go out to allow them time to start digesting what they have eaten before they cool off for the night. The dish can be washed with soap and water and allowed to dry overnight so it is ready for the next day. The insects and/or the greens should also be dusted with calcium (5-6 times each week), and with a reptile multi-vitamin (1-2 days each week). Some vitamins can be toxic in high doses.
Question: How much and how often should a bearded dragon be fed? Answer: When bearded dragons are young, 70% of their diet should consist of insects and 30% from greens. They should be fed insects 2-3 times per day until they are 10-12 months old. Young and juvenile bearded dragons grow very quickly and the extra protein is necessary to support that growth. As they age their diet will shift, until as adults their nutritional needs should come approximately 30% from insects & 70% from greens.
For all of our dragons we put fresh greens in the enclosures starting about 1 hour after the lights go on in the morning. They are left in the enclosure and are removed about 1 hour before the lights go out in the evening. They should also be fed their insects about 1 hour after the lights go on. The time between lights on and feeding allows them time to warm up after the cooling down of night. Baby and juvenile dragons should be fed insects 2-3 times/day (<1 year old). Young adults should be fed insects once per day (1-2 years old), and older dragons can get by on being fed insects every 2-3 days.
Question: What size crickets should I feed my dragon? Answer: They should be eating 1/2" - 5/8" crickets. That’s what they were eating on 9/15. I have noticed on some of mine that if they crickets are too small they won’t chase them, I guess the hunt isn't worth the reward. It may be why she won’t hunt them down. Try larger crickets, and she may hunt them down. Also when you put the crickets in her enclosure, dump them on the greens. If the bowl is 1/2 full or less some of the crickets should stay in the bowl and she will eat some greens while eating the crickets and realize she likes them. Also any calcium/vitamins that falls off the crickets will land on the greens & she will still get them. We don’t feed ours in a separate container, but if you prefer that way you could put them in a plastic tote. Our lights go on @ 7:00 am and they get their veggies at 8:00 which are left in all day and taken out about 1 hour before lights out. They also get their crickets @ 8:00 and then get them again around 3:00.
Baby & small bearded dragons need to be fed small crickets. Babies should start out with 1/4” or 3/8” crickets and as the dragon grows they should be provided larger insects. Once the dragon gets to about 9”-10” long you can start using 1/2"-5/8” crickets, then 3/4”-7/8” crickets. You should not feed adult crickets to your dragon until they are at least 12”-13” long.
Question: How do you take care of the crickets that dragons eat? Answer: The crickets that you feed to your dragon should be healthy and well-fed. Some people recommend gut loading the crickets, but we believe that it is not necessary and may be detrimental. Crickets have a very high metabolism so unless you feed them to your dragon just after the cricket has eaten then they will not benefit from the gut loading. The other issue we have with gut loading the crickets is that they have a very short lifespan (about 9 weeks), so gut loading them with nutritious & enriched food only tends to make them grow quicker and die faster. The crickets can be kept in a well ventilated plastic tote. We cut the center of the top out and also put holes in one of the sides near the top. We then attach steel or aluminum screening over the holes to keep the crickets in. They need to be provided food & water. To provide water you can use polymer water crystals, one of the commercially available “cricket water” products. (most of them are just water crystals with food coloring and sometimes other stuff added), a dish with a sponge, or a cricket waterer. Crickets drown easily so we use polymer water crystals which are easy and relatively inexpensive. We are working on a care sheet for crickets, but you can find them on multiple web sites.
To cut down on the expense, we do not recommend purchasing the crickets at a chain pet store as this can get quite expensive. Some of them charge as much as $0.15 each, and bearded dragons eat a lot of insects. If you are lucky you may live near a good reptile pet store and some of them will order & sell you insects by the thousands. If not we suggest ordering them online by the thousands. Usually 1000 crickets are not much more expensive than 500 and you have enough to cover any that die. Even with the shipping they are much cheaper than $0.15 each. We also recommend that you order crickets that are a 2-3 sizes smaller than you would normally feed. This will allow you to order all the crickets you need for 3-4 weeks and will cut down on the shipping costs. Initially you may have to feed them more crickets since they are smaller, but the crickets will grow and you will be able to feed less. If you order the size you are currently feeding, then after a week or 2 they may be too large to safely feed your dragon, or they may die if you order large crickets. After a few orders you should be able to figure out which size to buy and how long they will last. Another option would be if you know anyone else who has a bearded dragon or a reptile that eats insects. If you order together you can split the shipping costs.
Question: Our Dagon is such a proper little lady and much prefers to be hand fed rather than hunt down her food, but she won't touch greens or veggies unless I sneak in a piece of squash. So far I've only fed her crickets with the back legs taken off. Answer: What kind of greens are you giving her, and how small are you tearing it up 3/4 - 1/2 " should be fine, and larger pieces as they get bigger. We start feeding greens when they are 3-4 weeks old. Babies should get about 70% of their nutrition from bugs, and 30% from greens. This will change over time to be 70% greens & 30 % bugs by about 1 to 1 1/2 years old. However, bearded dragons would prefer to only eat bugs if you let them. It’s really not necessary to take the legs off the crickets. The chase gives them a chance to exercise and they won’t hurt her. If you cut down or skip the crickets for a day or 2 she will most likely eat the greens. I feed them collard, mustard, or turnip greens as the staple greens, and mix in something different every week for variety (color & flavor). I usually mix in acorn or butternut squash, red/yellow bell peppers, parsnip, fennel, alfalfa, bok choy, occasionally frozen mixed vegetables (they don’t seem to like the lima beans), & carrots (easy on the carrots since they are high in vitamin A and it can be toxic at high levels). Once in a while we give them fruit, but too much will cause diarrhea & dehydration.
Question: What kind of insects should I feed my dragon? Answer: There are many sites online that sell feeder insects and some of them also sell small super worms which are ok for younger dragons. You can also get small super worms at some of the chain pet stores, but you need to open them up and make sure they are still small & fresh since they can sit on the shelf for a long time and grow into large super worms. NEVER feed mealworms. I don’t think there is any real difference between the phoenix worms, repti-worms, calci-worms, etc. They are pretty much the same and are supposed to be easy to breed. The biggest problem with all the worms is that they are very high in fat and it can cause health issues (fatty liver disease for example) if they are fed a lot of, or only worms. This includes the super worms, butter worms, horn worms, wax worms, phoenix worms, etc. Worms are basically dragon candy so they should not be fed worms a lot. We usually feed our dragons some kind of worms once a week, and that’s the day we dust them with the multi-vitamin. This increases the chance that they will get the vitamin supplement before it falls off, or if they don’t feel like eating right then it usually encourages them to. I understand that it is fun to hand feed your dragon baby worms, we hand feed ours, but when you do feed worms make sure to put some of them in the greens and it will encourage your dragon to eat the greens and also catch the supplements that falls off the worms. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to crickets, you might want to check out dubia roaches. they are higher in meat/shell ratio, live a long time, don’t smell, bite, climb, or jump, and produce a lot of babies. They are a little expensive right now unless you raise your own since they are not sold in the pet stores. They are pretty easy to breed and you can check out our dubia roach page if you would like more information.
Question: Can I feed my bearded dragon bugs from outside? Answer: No, never feed bugs or anything from outside. You don’t know where the insects have been and what chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.), they have been exposed to. Insects from outside could be toxic or full of parasites. Live feeder insects from farms are raised in a controlled environment that limits their exposure to chemicals and bacteria. They are also fed a more nutritious diet meant just for feeding pet reptiles. Some insects are also toxic to bearded dragons. Fireflies and spiders should never be fed to your dragon since they may kill them.
Supplement questions Question: I have been dusting the crickets every other day, alternating between herptivite, and calcium with vitamin D3. I've also seen other ones that include probiotics, are they necessary? Answer: Calcium should be used daily for all bearded dragons for growth & to avoid metabolic bone disease. The old thinking used to be that you used calcium with vitamin D3 if you were using a tube type fluorescent bulb to provide the UVB, and you would use the calcium without the vitamin D3 if you were using a self ballasted mercury vapor bulb to provide both heat & the UVB. However, the latest studies indicate that bearded dragons are not able to metabolize the D3 that they put into the calcium. What this means is that it won’t hurt them, but they are not getting anything out of it so if it costs more, then you are just wasting your money. We give our dragons, especially the babies, calcium 6 days/week and multivitamins only 1 day. Some of the vitamins that are in the reptavite/herptavite are toxic at high levels. Since the babies and young dragons are smaller than full grown dragons they can build up to toxic levels faster than full grown dragons. One of the most important things is the UVB which is necessary for them to metabolize vitamin D3, and the best source of UVB is natural sunlight.
The probiotics are usually something similar to the “good” bacteria that is commonly found in yogurt. It is relatively new as an additive to the multivitamins. It is also available separately, or in commercial combination products. One of the issues with the probiotics is that a lot of them are based on milk-grown cultures and bearded dragons can’t digest milk products, they are all lactose intolerant. If you need to use a pro-biotic you need to find one that is not grown from a milk culture. We are not sure if it would hurt given continuously, but we do not believe in preventively medicating our animals since too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. We only use probiotics after administering antibiotics, or if there is an indication that the dragon may not be digesting all of their food. We would also have to determine why the dragon was not digesting all of their food and treat the underlying cause.
Question: If you sprinkle calcium power on crickets, do dragons grow faster? Answer: Calcium is sprinkled on the insects or greens to provide the calcium needed for bone growth in young dragons, and to maintain the bone in older dragons. Some vendors also sell liquid vitamins, but you would need to read the label and see how it compares with the powdered supplements. The calcium prevents the dragon from developing metabolic bone disease (MBD). The greens or insects should be dusted with calcium 5-6 days/week, and with a good reptile multivitamin 1-2 days/week.
Question: What kind of vitamins should I give my bearded dragon? Answer: Bearded dragons should be given a good reptile multivitamin 1-2 days/week, and be given calcium the other days. There are also liquid multivitamin supplements that can be used. Some of them have reduced or removed the Vitamin A and replaced it with caretenoids, which are precursors to vitamin A, so there is less risk of toxic vitamin A levels building up (Hypervitaminosis).
POO Questions Question: How often should my bearded dragon poo? Answer: That depends on the diet, the age of the dragon, and the season. Babies & juveniles generally have a bowel movement at least once a day, usually more. An adult may also poo every day, but it is not unusual for them to only go 1-4 times each week. Feeding your dragon a lot of “worms” that are high in fat will increase the frequency of their bowel movements. When bearded dragons are bruminating, they sleep a lot and don’t eat as much, so they don’t poo as often.
Question: Why don't I ever see urine in my bearded dragon’s enclosure? Answer: You don't see urine because bearded dragons, and a lot of other reptiles & birds, expel their waste differently than humans. To try and conserve moisture bearded dragons produce urates instead of urine. Urates are the white, hard, chalky substance that you see when your dragon poos. There is some fluid, but it should not be a lot.
Question: My Bearded Dragon has messy, smelly poop. Is that normal? Answer: It can be normal depending on their diet, or it could be a sign of parasites. If you are concerned or if it continues even after you change their diet then the only way to tell for sure is to bring a fresh fecal sample to your vet for testing. If it is parasites they will prescribe the correct medicine for the type of parasites that they found. Panacur is commonly used, but there are some parasites that are resistant to it and who are more effectively treated with other medications.
General / Misc Info Question: What should I look for when I buy a bearded dragon? Answer: If you are buying the dragon in person, you want to make sure that it looks healthy, has all its digits and tail tip, is not too thin with bones showing, and is active. You should hold the dragon and observe its behavior. A bearded dragon that has been shown a lot of attention should be calm while a dragon which is rarely held may be nervous. If you are unable to pick out your dragon in person then you should only purchase a dragon from a reliable and trusted breeder. You want to make sure that the dragon is eating, pooping and basking. Remember that your dragon may experience relocation stress and may not be as active or eating much when you first get them. It is OK to wait a little to let the dragon adjust to its new environment before panicking, but remember that smaller dragons cannot go long without eating. The breeder should also be available to talk you through the adjustment period. For more information on stress please visit our resources page. If you are buying an older dragon in the winter, it may be going through brumination which shares a lot of behaviors that are also associated with stress. Ask the breeder lots of questions and if you are buying a dragon for specific traits (colors, size, etc.) then ask to see pictures of the parents. Ask the breeder about their health and satisfaction guarantee, and any other questions you may have about bearded dragons. Most reputable breeders will have a guarantee, and will take the time to make sure that you have all the information you need to make an informed decision on if a bearded dragon is right for you.
Question: How long do Bearded Dragons live? Answer: Bearded dragons usually live from 4-12 years with the average around 7 years.
Question: How big do bearded dragons get?
Answer: Bearded dragons usually grow from 15”-20”, and the average is around 18”. There is also a breed of bearded dragon known as a German giant which can grow to 24” and weigh twice as much as a “normal” bearded dragon.
Question: Do bearded dragons bite?Answer: Bearded dragons do not usually bite. Most of them are very tame and social, especially if they are handled a lot when they are babies. Of course there are always exceptions and you may come across a dragon that just doesn’t want to be handled. They may even flatten out, open their mouths, and hiss at you. While this display appears threatening, and is intended to, bearded dragons rarely follow up with any aggression. The behavior may be a reflection on its prior treatment, or it may just have an attitude. If you happen to get a dragon that does not want to be handled, I would recommend handling them even more. Once the dragon figures out that you are not going to hurt them they should start to be more relaxed and bond with you.
Question: Are bearded dragons social? Answer: Yes, Bearded dragons are one of the most social reptiles and appear to prefer the company of people over that of other bearded dragons. They actually seem to enjoy being held & petted. It may also appear that they are actually be listening to, and understanding their owners.
Question: Can I clip my bearded dragon’s nails? Answer: Not only can you but you should. In the wild their claws are worn down by the rocks & ground as they walk around. In captivity they do not have the same environment so their nails can grow quite long and sharp. You can cut their nails with nail clippers, a cuticle cutter, or pet nail clippers. You only want to cut off the clear tip, avoiding the quick. Before you try this make sure you have something to put on it just in case you cut too much & they bleed. Bearded dragons usually don’t mind sitting on your lap and letting you cut their nails. If you are nervous ask your vet, or someone you know who is more experienced with bearded dragons, and they may show you the proper way to clip their nails.
Question: Do bearded dragons get along with each other? Answer: When they are small they may be kept together, but as they mature they will start to dominate the smaller dragons. The smaller dragon will be constantly under stress and may lose weight and be more susceptible to diseases and parasites. If 2 males are kept together they will fight and try to hurt each other. They can appear to be tolerant of the other dragons, but they may become aggressive and hurt or even kill the other dragon.
Question: How often should bearded dragons have health checks? Answer: Bearded dragons are hardy animals and live in a controlled environment so it may not be necessary for routine health checks. It is always a good idea to take them to the vet when you first get them to make sure they are healthy, to meet the vet who may be taking care of your dragon, and it can also provide you another source to ask any questions that you may have. Most reptile vets are very knowledgeable and will freely answer your questions. It also allows the vet to have a baseline on your dragon in case they need treatment in the future. Not all vets treat reptiles and you may need to look around for one that does. It is usually only necessary to bring your dragon to a vet if their behavior indicates that they may have a health issue (infection, parasites, etc.), or if it is injured, but a yearly checkup would not be a bad idea.
Question: What are the types of diseases can bearded dragons get? Answer: Even though bearded dragons are very hardy, they are still living animals so the range & types of illness and injuries that they can get is pretty extensive. They can become injured by accident (falling), or they can become injured through improper care (thermal burns from a hot rock). They are also susceptible to many different fungal infections, mites, & parasites, most of which they are exposed to by the insects and greens that they eat. A lot of the most common health issues that bearded dragons are prone to are related to improper care. Bearded dragons are susceptible to respiratory infections, GI issues, eye issues, vitamin issues, dehydration, metabolic bone disease (MBD), mouth rot, paralysis caused by impaction, skin issues, fatty liver disease, and many more.
Question: How do I know when my bearded dragon is sick? Answer: Since your bearded dragon can’t tell you when it is sick or hurt it is important for you to watch them and notice any changes in their behavior that may indicate they are not feeling well. Some changes in behavior are completely natural and may be related to the changing seasons or natural cycles. Their behavior may change during winter brumination, breeding season, when they shed, or after change in environment or diet, but it is important to recognize the behavior changes and try to determine the cause. Many of the same behaviors that they exhibit during these natural changes can also indicate an illness, infection, or infestation.
Question: Do bearded dragons enjoy walks? Answer: Bearded dragons seem to enjoy roaming around the house and walking outside in the sun, but you must use caution. Many of the chemicals that we use in our house every day can be harmful or toxic to bearded dragons. Outside the environment is even more dangerous for bearded dragons. Pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, and many other harmful chemicals are distributed everywhere through the air and by rain. Even if you don’t use any of these chemicals they may still be present in your yard. In addition there are many insects, some of which are toxic to bearded dragons, or that may have ingested these chemicals and have immunity to them. If your dragon eats these insects they will not share that immunity and may become very ill or die.
Handling Question: I like to hold my bearded dragon but I want to make sure I don't hold it too much what is the ideal length of time? Answer: There is no “ideal” length of time to hold your dragon, but most bearded dragons appear to like being held and petted, and may even appear to understand and communicate with their owners using facial expressions and behavior. Do not you’re your dragon tight. They prefer to sit on your hand over being constrained. With frequent handling bearded dragons quickly bond with people. We handle our dragons a lot and they would be happy to sit on our chest or shoulder for hours if we let them. As long as the dragon is behaving normally (eating, basking, and pooping), you can hold them as long as you like. You may come across a dragon who does not like to be held. This may be related to its previous treatment, or it may just have an attitude. They may flatten out, open their mouths, and even hiss as a threat, but they rarely follow up the display with any aggressive behavior. In either case, we recommend holding the dragon frequently, but for short periods of time. This will initially stress out the dragon, but it will figure out that you are not going to harm. Over time they will start to enjoy the time out of their enclosure and bond with you.
Question: Can you train a bearded dragon? Answer: I’m not sure what you want to train your dragon to do. If you are talking about training them to do tricks, then I don’t think so, but it may be possible. If you are talking about training it to tolerate being held, then you don’t really have to. Most bearded dragons like to be held, are very gentle, and quickly bond with their owners. If they display a behavior that you would like them to perform on command then it may be possible to teach them to perform the behavior when you do something specific. We have a dragon who really likes to be held. One day when we opened his enclosure to feed him, he jumped out of the enclosure onto my chest, and stayed there. He didn’t try to escape, he just wanted to be held. After holding him a while I put him back and finished feeding everyone. A couple of days later, he did the same thing. I thought it would be cool if I could get him to jump onto my chest on command and tried to get him to do it when I tapped the front of the enclosure. So far I have not had any luck. Sometimes he wants to be held and he jumps to my chest, sometimes he doesn’t. It really doesn’t matter though because it allowed us to spend time together which we both enjoyed. If you want to try and teach them a “trick”, I say go for it. Be patient and persistent and maybe you can teach them do their trick. I saw on the news the other day that a dog drove a car without anyone in it with them, so who knows anything is possible
Heating Question: What should the temperature be in my bearded dragons’ cage during the day and night? Answer: Bearded dragons need to have a temperature gradient in their enclosure so they can regulate their temperature for proper metabolism. Their basking spot should be around 110ºF during the day, and the cool side of the enclosure should be around 70F°-80F°. This will allow the dragon to heat up and cool down as it wants. The basking area should have something to climb on (rock, branch, etc.), but do not use their cave/hide. If you place their cave under the basking light it will turn into an oven and could cook your dragon. At night bearded dragons need to cool off so they can slow down their metabolism and sleep. As long as the temperature is above 60F° there is no need for a night light or ceramic heat emitter (CHE). If you do use a “night light”, it should be a black light so there is no visible light to interfere with your dragons sleep.
Question: I was told that one side of the enclosure should be around 100F° and the other side near 80F°. How do I keep that temperature range and how do I know if it too hot or too cold? Answer: The only way to tell if you have the correct temperatures is to get a thermometer. Do not use one of the ones that stick to the side of the enclosure, since bearded dragons never stick to the wall. The temperature needs to be measured at the basking spot (100F°-110F°), and should also be measured at the cool side (70F°-85F°). It is best to use an infrared thermometer, or one with a probe, and they are relatively inexpensive ($10.00-$15.00). You could also use a high temp candy thermometer. Never guess at the temperatures. Your bearded dragon needs the proper heat and heat gradient to be healthy and incorrect temperature can lead to many health issues for bearded dragons. As long as your enclosure is large enough, and is well ventilated then maintaining the temperature gradient is the easy part. The cool end will be at a temperature that is between the temp inside the room that the enclosure is in, and some heat from the basking light. All you have to do is to get the proper temperature for the basking spot. Let it run for 20-30 minutes and measure the cool end. If the temperature in the cool end is too hot, then your heat light produces too much heat or there is insufficient ventilation. To decrease the temperature in the cool end, you will need to a different type of basking light bulb. Since it is only providing heat, it does not have to be a bulb made for reptiles. You can go to a home improvement store, a chain “everything: store, or a grocery store etc. and look at their floodlight bulbs. There are many different sizes of light bulbs and the bulbs with the smaller face diameters produce less ambient heat and will allow the temperature in the cool end to drop. Additionally there are “spot” flood lights and lights for curio cabinets that have a very small face surface area and also have a directed beam of light (heat) which produce very little ambient temperature. You may have to modify the basking spot by raising, lowering, or moving the basking spot slightly away from the light to achieve the optimal basking temp, but once you find the correct bulb the gradient should not change much. Be aware that in the winter, most people’s houses are a little cooler than in the summer and it may change the temperature or gradients within the enclosure so it may be necessary to change the bulb or move the basking spot.
Question: Why shouldn't I use a hot rock? My best friend has a hot rock and his dragon loves it. Answer: While hot rocks are appropriate for some types of reptiles, (primarily snakes), they are not suitable for bearded dragons. Snakes absorb their heat from the sun and from laying on heated surfaces. Because of this they are able to sense the heat on their undersides. Bearded dragons are not able to sense heat on their undersides so using a hot rock, under tank heater, or other contact heat source can cause thermal burns to your dragon’s abdomen. This can be very serious and your dragon won’t even feel it so they don’t move. Bearded dragons can only sense heat from the top of their bodies so it is vital that they be provided a heat light so they can sense the heat and regulate the temperature.
Question: What should the humidity in my bearded dragon’s enclosure be? Answer: Bearded dragons are desert reptiles and thrive in low humidity. As long as you mist your dragon every 1-2 days, and bathe them every 1-2 weeks, then there should not be any need to measure, or adjust the humidity in the enclosure. If your dragon is having trouble shedding then the humidity in the enclosure may be too low. You can bathe them to help with the shedding, and start misting them more frequently. When you mist them it provides moisture and raises the humidity in the enclosure. Do not mist them more than 2-3 times per day as this may prevent them from raising their core temperature and interfere with their metabolism and digestion. Another option would be to put a pool in their enclosure for them to lie in, at least while they are shedding. This will make their shedding easier, and also raise the humidity n the enclosure. If you are using a pool, you need to be vigilant on keeping it clean. Bearded dragons frequently defecate when they are put in water or given a bath. The water must be kept clean to avoid bacteria and other infections. If your bearded dragons soils the water, it must immediately be removed, the dish sanitized, and the water replaced. This also applies to bathing time.
Question: Do bearded dragons need to be warm at night? Answer: Bearded dragons do not need a source of heat at night unless the temperature drops below 60F°-65F°. They need to cool down so they can slow their metabolism and sleep. If a night source of heat is used it should be a ceramic heat emitter or a “black” light type of bulb that does not give off any visible light. If it is necessary to heat the enclosure at night make sure to only heat it up to 70-80 degrees so they can slow down their metabolism and sleep properly.
QUESTION: We don’t warm the whole house during the winter. Will it get too cold for a bearded dragon? Answer: Bearded dragons are fine as long as the temp doesn’t get lower than 60-65 degrees. If it does you can use a black light, or a CHE (ceramic heat emitter) to provide additional heat during the night. Connect the CHE to a separate timer so it is set to go on about 5-15 minutes after the “daytime” lights go off, and it goes off about 5-15 minutes before the “daytime” lights go on. The time difference is to assure that both sets of lights are not on at the same time so you do not cook your dragon. If it is necessary to heat the enclosure at night make sure to only heat it up to 70-80 degrees so they can slow down their metabolism and sleep properly. If the room that the dragons are in gets very cold, it is important that the enclosure have the correct basking temperature and temperature gradient during the day. This may require that you try different sizes and wattages of heat bulbs until you find the correct one. Larger faced bulbs will generally provide more ambient heat to warm the rest of the enclosure, while the smaller faced bulbs will produce less.
Question: How many lights do I need and how should they be positioned? Answer: You need a source of UVB light and a basking light to provide heat. These can be separate or there are also many mercury vapour bulbs that are supposed to provide both. We have tried all the mercury vapour bulbs and believe they all have issues. We do not feel that they are the best for your dragon, and we do not use them anymore. The mercury vapour bulbs are very expensive ($50.00 - $80.00), and have to be replaced about every 6 months to a year, unless you have an expensive UVB meter to tell when they stop producing UVB. Another issue is that when you use a single source for both heat & UVB it may be difficult to position the bulb at the correct distance to achieve the correct heat & UVB exposure, and the bulbs will continue to produce light & heat long after they stop producing UVB, so you may forget to change them. The amount of UVB produced by any bulb diminishes over time, so if you try to move the bulb closer for more UVB then it may be too hot for the dragon. The last issue we have is that the dragon knows what it needs. It may want UVB and not the heat or want to bask but not the UVB, with a single source they do not have a choice. If they want heat, then they are also getting UVB, and if they want UVB then they also have to get the heat.
We prefer to use separate sources for heat & UVB. They are mounted inside the enclosure so the UVB and heat are not blocked by anything. Putting the UVB through a screen top can block up to ½ of the UVB. THE heat source should be mounted at one end to allow a proper temperature gradient across the enclosure. The UVB should be positioned so it overlaps the basking area, in case they want both, but also leaves some area of the enclosure free from UVB. Bearded dragons can get sunburned from too much UVB exposure, and it is frequently difficult to tell.
UVB is necessary for your dragon to produce vitamin D3. For the UVB light we recommend using a tube type fluorescent bulb. There have been many reports of the new compact fluorescent coil bulbs injuring and even blinding bearded dragons and we will not even try them. There are many options available when choosing the UVB bulb. They should be replaced every 6 months, unless you can measure the UVB, and can range in price from about $20.00 - $50.00. They should also be positioned according to the manufacturers’ instructions. We have tried, and tested them all and have found that the more expensive bulbs are considerably better than the cheaper bulbs, and some of them may even be harmful to your dragon. Another thing to remember is that there are no UVB bulbs that are sufficient to replace natural sunlight, and we recommend bringing your dragon outside to be exposed to natural sunlight as long, and whenever the temperature allows.
For the heat light, we recommend that you use a floodlight bulb, curio cabinet bulb, or a spot floodlight bulb. These are relatively inexpensive, last a long time, and can be purchased at just about any home improvement, department, or grocery store. Depending on the size and type of enclosure we have found that a 30 watt to 60 watt bulb is all that is required to provide the correct temperatures. These bulbs all fit into standard light sockets and come in various lengths and diameters. This is very helpful when setting up your enclosure to provide both the correct basking temperature and the correct temperature gradient.
A shorter bulb will increase the basking distance, be less intrusive to the enclosure, and can be used in combinations with the height of the basking rock, branch, etc, to optimize the temperature. A bulb with a smaller diameter face will produce less ambient heat and increase the temperature gradient in the enclosure, while a bulb with a larger face will produce more ambient heat and decrease the temperature gradient. By trying different sizes and wattages of bulbs it should be easy to provide the appropriate basking temperature and temperature gradient. Our enclosures are constructed to provide the appropriate temperatures using a 45-50 watt PAR20 halogen spot flood light bulb. Also remember that in the summer and in the winter the air temperature inside your house may be hotter or colder than when you checked the temperature and selected the appropriate bulb, so it may be necessary to use a different bulb to provide the correct temperatures.
Question: What is the difference between a mercury vapor and a tube fluorescent bulb? Answer: These are two of the heating/lighting options that are commonly used for bearded dragons. The difference is in the type of bulb that is used. A mercury vapor bulb is large, looks like a floodlight bulb, and is available in sizes from 75 watts to 300 watts. They are built to emit both heat & UVB.
A fluorescent UVB bulb is a long tube type bulb that does not create a significant amount of heat so it must be used in combination with a separate heat/basking light. There are many brands available at around $20.00 - $50.00, and in lengths from 18” – 48”. We have tried, and tested them all and have found that the more expensive bulbs are considerably better than the cheaper bulbs, and some of them may even be harmful to your dragon. Another thing to remember is that there are no UVB bulbs that are sufficient to replace natural sunlight, and we recommend bringing your dragon outside to be exposed to natural sunlight as long, and whenever the temperature allows for exposure to natural sunlight. .
Question: How important is Vitamin D3 and how does UVB lighting affect it for bearded dragons? Answer: Calcium is a very important element in all living organisms and is vital for many processes and structures in the body. It is used in everything from muscle contractions, to your heart beating, to bone growth. Vitamin D3 is required for the body to regulate, absorb, and use the calcium. Vitamin D3 is made in the skin when exposed to UVB light at a wavelength between 270 nm - 300 nm, with the most effective UVB in the range of 295 nm – 297 nm. This is very difficult to produce in manufactured bulbs and none of them are as effective as natural sunlight, so we recommend bringing your dragon outside to be exposed to natural sunlight for as long, and whenever the temperature allows for exposure to natural sunlight.
Question: Is it ok for my bearded dragon to sleep under the night light? Answer: It depends on the type of night light. In general a bearded dragon does not need a heat light at night, unless the temperature in their enclosure drops below 60F° - 65F°. If your dragon is sleeping under her light, I would suspect that the temperature in the enclosure my drop too low in the night, and I would suggest checking the night time temperature at different places in the enclosure. You may need to use a hotter light/ceramic heat emitter (CHE) to warm the entire enclosure to 70F° - 80F°. You should also check the daytime temperatures because the basking temperature may be too low.
Question: My dragons’ light schedule is on at 7:00AM and off at 8:00 PM. Lately, she has been "putting herself to bed" in her favorite bunch of cage greenery at around 6:30 PM. Is that normal? Should I change her light schedule? Do you do a light schedule change for winter brumation? If so, when do the light schedule changes take place? Answer: Bearded dragons are diurnal, which means they are active during the day and sleep during the night. The schedule for their lights should be about the same as sunrise & sunset. In the summer, they should get about 13 - 14 hours of light and 10 hours of dark. In spring & fall they can be set for about 12 hours of light & 12 hours of dark. In the winter the days get shorter so they should get about 10 hours of light. In some places n the country there is not a significant change in some of the seasons so it is up to you when & if to change the schedule. Some breeders change the lighting schedules on groups of dragons to mimic the changes in seasons so some of the dragons always think it is spring and they can breed their dragons year round. On the other extreme, some people who keep them as pets don’t change the schedule at all, but leave it at 12-14 hours of daylight year round. This really doesn’t fool the dragons because they can tell when the days get shorter and colder and tend to put themselves to bed before the lights go out.
Question: What can I use for shade on the cool side?Answer: I don’t really understand what you are shading them from. The cool side should not have any heat lights so shade is not really an issue. You can use decorative cliffs, but we generally put their cave/hide on the cool side so they can hide and cool off when they want. Never put their cave under the basking spot since the heat can turn it into an oven.
Question: I made the big mistake of thinking the coil lights were an improvement on the tube type. When I read that they were not only useless, but dangerous, I stopped using it immediately. Instead I take her outside for natural sunshine at least an hour a day, usually in two sessions. During her first sunning she will go to her preferred corner and defecate within 15 minutes daily, her poop is of a normal size, consistency and color without a strong odor. The sunshine just makes her light up like a Christmas tree with so many shades of gold, orange and white that pictures just don't do her justice. She is going to be show stopper when she's grown, I can only imagine what breath taking babies she could have one day? Answer: On the lighting the compact fluorescent coil UVB bulbs are not good. There have been many reports of them injuring and even blinding bearded dragons and we will not even try them. The Repti-sun 10.0 UVB is probably the best UVB tube fluorescent bulb for bearded dragons and other lizards that require a lot of exposure to UVB, and that’s why they cost more than the other brands. Some of the less expensive fluorescent UVB tube bulbs do not provide an adequate amount of UVB, or provide it in the correct wavelengths and may even be harmful to your dragon. The only problem I see is that it is on top of the screen cover on your enclosure. Up to 1/2 of the UVB emitted can be blocked by the screen. 100% is blocked by plastic or glass, so if your fixture came with a plastic cover then take it off. Additionally the UVB decreases by the inverse square rule, so for about every inch you move farther from the light the UVB decreases by 1/2. I still have a couple of dragons in aquariums and we hang the UVB lights inside the aquariums on stiff wire so we can raise or lower them to provide the optimal UVB as the bulb ages and starts producing less.
Question: Even with her new lighting, I still take her outside to get some natural sunshine at least an hour a day when the weather allows, is this too much? Answer: As long as it’s warm enough for them, there is no such thing as too much sunlight. Bearded dragons need UVB to produce Vitamin D3, and the best source of UVB is natural sunlight.
SexingQustion: My red beardie is small, only about 8 inches including his tail. How do I tell if Horace is a he or a she? Also is the right side of his lower abdomen supposed to be hard? Is that his poo or is there something wrong with him? Answer: You don’t say how old Horace is, but judging from the size it may be still too young to tell for certain. It is difficult to sex younger dragons because they may not have reached sexual maturity. Bearded dragons can take up to a year or more too fully mature, but you can usually tell by 4-6 months. Place your dragon in the palm of your hand or on a flat surface. Gently lift up his tail so that you can see slit (vent) at the base of the tail. Do not lift the tail more than 80° - 90° because you can seriously hurt your dragon. Once the vent is exposed, look just above the vent at the base of the tail. If you see 1 central bump, then it is a female, If there are 2 bumps located to the sides of the tail (hemipenal bulges) and a slight depression in the center, then it is a male. With younger dragons, the absence of hemipenal bulges does not guarantee that the dragon is a female, it may also be a male who has not yet sexually developed. For images and more information on sexing your dragon, please take a look at our resources page.
For your other question, the right side of the lower abdomen is supposed to be hard. This is normal and is not his feces. Bearded dragons’ internal anatomy is quite different than in people, or other animals, and it is nothing to worry about.
Shedding Question: Why is my bearded dragon biting all its’ fingers and toes and making them bleed, is this normal? Can I do anything to prevent this from happening? Answer: This is not normal, and is very harmful behavior. If he continues to do this he could lose his fingers and toes or get an infection. When bearded dragons bite their digits it is usually related to retained sheds. This is old dried skin/scales that did not come off like it is supposed to. As the dragon grows the dried skin cuts off the circulation in the fingers and toes and the dragon tries to bite it off, hurting themselves in the process. Retaining sheds is usually related to the humidity of the enclosure. Daily misting and weekly bathing is usually all that is required to provide adequate humidity and avoid incomplete sheds. In very dry areas additional misting or a bathing pool in the enclosure may also be necessary.
The first thing you need to do is bathe him in about 100° water, every day if necessary, until the old sheds come off. You could also try one of the commercial products that you add to the bath water that are supposed to make shedding easier. It may also be necessary to very, very gently rub the shed with a very soft toothbrush. This may be painful for the dragon due to the open wounds. The next thing you need to do is to treat the wounds with neosporin, betadine, or a similar product to prevent infection.
Some of the signs of infection are pus, a really bad smell, discoloration, and swelling. If you start to see any signs of an infection, or if the wounds are serious, you should take them to a reptile vet as soon as possible.
Size & Age Question: How big will my Bearded Dragon get? Answer: Bearded dragons usually grow from 15”-20”, and the average is around 18”. There is also a breed of bearded dragon known as a German giant which can grow to 24” and weigh twice as much as a “normal” bearded dragon. There are many factors that can affect the growth of your bearded dragon, and the first 6 months are the most important. With proper care bearded dragons can grow from 3” to 16” or more in the first 6 months of their life. The factors which can influence the growth of your dragon include, the type and amount of food, genetics, enclosure size, proper heating & lighting, proper supplements & vitamins, competition for resources, stress, and the general health of the dragon.
Question: How can I tell how old my bearded dragon is? Answer: Unfortunately it is impossible to tell the age of a bearded dragon without knowing the care it has received and their genetics. This is because the care that the dragon receives will have a big impact on the growth of the dragon, especially during the first 6 months of its life. A dragon given an insufficient amount of protein, insufficient UVB lighting, or improper care will not grow as well as a dragon provided a proper diet, sufficient lighting, and proper care. The genetics will also play an important role since each dragon has an individual genetic makeup and there will be a lot of variability in the sizes of clutch mates. We also breed a line of bearded dragons that are known as German giants and a lot of them are much larger, at all ages, than the normal bearded dragons. Although it is impossible to tell the exact age a bearded dragon, it is possible to get some clues from their behavior. Bearded dragons do not reach sexual maturity until they are 8 months to 1 ½ years old, so if they are, or are not, displaying mating behaviors can give you an age range. Also dragons less than 1 - 1 ½ years old do not bruminate, and this may help you depending on the time of year. Bearded dragons are omnivores and if you allow them to most dragons prefer to eat insects. However older dragons over 4-5 years old may prefer to eat more greens than insects and can give you an idea of the age.
Substrate Question: What is the best substrate to use in the bottom of my bearded dragons? Answer: There are many substrate options available to use for a bearded dragon, however some of them can be quite harmful. Try to avoid any type of particulate substrate because it can cause impaction which can be fatal. A good substrate should be non-absorbent, easy to clean, inexpensive, and unable to be ingested by the dragon. Unfortunately there is no perfect substrate, and each type has advantages & disadvantages. We have tried many different types of substrate and now use non-adhesive shelf liner. While this works for us, it may not be the best option for you. Some other good substrate materials include slate, tile, reptile carpet, news paper, masking paper, builder’s paper, and paper towels. Play sand or reptile sand can be used as a substrate for bearded dragons once they are more than 10”, but it should be sifted, washed, and baked at 200° for 1 hour, to sanitize it and reduce the change of impaction or infection. Smaller dragons must be kept on a substrate that cannot be ingested like slate, tile, paper towel, newspaper, or reptile carpet (as long as it does not have any frayed edges. The substrate should be spot cleaned daily and sanitized or replaced periodically depending on the type of substrate.
These are some of the options for substrates, and our thoughts on their use for bearded dragons. The descriptions are our opinion and are based on experience in using them, but remember that what works for us may not be the best option for you.
Paper towels, masking paper, builders’ paper, and Newspaper: These make a good inexpensive substrate but for newspaper you need to make sure that the ink is soy based and not made from a toxic substance. They are difficult to spot clean and will need to be changed frequently since it will absorb the moisture from your dragons’ waste which can become a breeding ground for germs. The moisture will also allow the paper to tear easily and may be ingested. The thinner paper products are not appropriate for older dragons since their increased weight & sharper claws will easily tear the paper increasing the chances of them ingesting it. When using any type of paper product for substrate, we recommend taping the edges to prevent the insects from hiding from your dragon, and prevent your dragon from ingesting any torn or frayed edges.
Cloth Towels or carpets: This is sometimes used as a substrate for babies, but it must be replaced & cleaned frequently since it will absorb the moisture from your dragons’ waste which can become a breeding ground for germs. Make sure that you thoroughly rinse all of the soap out of the cloth since some chemicals in the detergent may be toxic to your dragon, and it should also be allowed to dry thoroughly.
Non adhesive shelf liner: This is relatively inexpensive and can be used by itself or with paper towels, reptile carpet, or other substrates. It is easily spot cleaned with non-alcohol wipes and napkins or paper towels. There are many types to choose from and they come in many patterns. Do not use the porous or thinner shelf liner since they can easily be pierced by bearded dragon claws and will trap moisture promoting the growth of bacteria. They should be sanitized at least every month with a 10% bleach solution or anti-microbial dish soap. Make sure that you thoroughly rinse all of the soap or bleach out of the cloth since some chemicals in the detergent may be toxic to your dragon, and the bleach can produce toxic fumes when exposed to high heat & UVB light. Also make sure it is dried thoroughly. Some of our older dragons love to dig, so we also include a small sandbox in their enclosures.
Tiles, Slate, & Rocks: This is another common choice for substrate and may be permanently attached to the enclosure or removable. If the slate or tile is glued & grouted then it cannot be removed and it has to be cleaned in the enclosure. You need to make sure that whatever you use to clean it is completely removed or is non-toxic to your dragon. If it is not glued & grouted, it can be removed for easy cleaning, but it will also have gaps between the tiles that can trap waste & moisture which can breed mold & bacteria, so it would need to be removed and sanitized more frequently.
Sands: There are many types of sand that can be used and some are better than others. Any type of sand that use must be sifted to remove any clumps. It also needs to be washed to remove any dust, and baked to kill any pathogens. It should also not be used for dragons that are less than 10” since it can still cause impaction. It is easy to spot clean with a small plastic cup. The waste should be removed with some of the surrounding sand which has absorbed the excess moisture. If you use sand it should be completely removed and replaced or sifted, washed, & baked every 2-3 months. There are also many “reptile” sands available. There are some sands that contain calcium and some that contain vitamins, and they tend to be much more expensive than play sand. Additionally these are made so that bearded dragons like the taste and will eat it if their diet is lacking the proper calcium or vitamins that they need. We have used the calcium sands and have noticed that it clumps more readily and so there is the possibility of causing impaction. This can be diminished by meticulous spot cleaning & more frequent replacement or thorough cleanings. If you chose to use the sands that contain vitamins use caution. Vitamin sand also tends to clump more readily than play sand, but it is also important to know what vitamins it contains since some of the vitamins are harmful and may be toxic at high levels. If your dragon has an unlimited supply of the vitamins in the sand you will have no way to tell how much they are ingesting and they may slowly poison themselves. Some people also mix the sand with soil or moss to help it retain moisture and make it easier to dig. We only use this mixture temporarily for gravid females who are ready to lay their eggs. If it is used all the time it is difficult to clean and is a choice breeding ground for fungus, mold, & bacteria which can cause many health issues. Any mixture needs to be washed, sifted, & baked more frequently than sand alone. You also need to make sure that the soil of moss does not contain any fertilizers or insecticides that could harm your dragon, even some “organic” substances can harm your dragon.
Corn cob: In our opinion this is one of the worst choices for a substrate for bearded dragons. It has large easily ingestible particles that bearded dragons are unable to digest, so can easily cause impaction and possibly extensive medical bills or even the death of your dragon.
Crushed walnut shells: In our opinion this is another bad substrate to use for bearded dragons, and is sold under many different brand names. It also has large indigestible particles and it also has sharp edges so it can easily harm or kill your dragon. There are documented cases of bearded dragon deaths from crushed walnut shells.
Barks, fibers, and wood shavings: Bearded dragons have very short digestive tracts so even if a product is labeled as “digestible”, it may not be the case for bearded dragons, and we suggest avoiding them at all costs. They may be marketed under many different names, and many are appropriate for other types of reptiles. They may be made out of different types of bark, wood shavings, or fibers. The one thing they all have in common is that they may cause impaction, and some of them also contain substances that are toxic to bearded dragons. For more information on substrates please check out our detailed care sheet.
Question: Do Bearded Dragons like water? Answer: Most bearded dragons like to be misted and also like to take a bath. They frequently lick the drops from misting and can absorb water through their vents which help them from becoming dehydrated. They can be bathed in a sink, bathtub, or plastic container. Whatever you use it must be thoroughly cleaned before and after the bath to avoid contamination from germs or exposure to toxic chemicals. The water should be around 100F°, and should not be deeper than the height of their shoulder. They may drink out of the tub, and if they defecate in the water they should be removed, the container cleaned and sanitized before continuing their bath. They should not be bathed within 1 hour of lights out to allow them to warm up their core temperature before the heat goes off for the night. If the water is too deep, the dragon may inhale some water, and may be identified by your dragon gasping. Frequent inhalation of water can lead to a respiratory infection.
Question: Why won't my dragon drink out of a dish?Answer: Many dragons will not drink out of a dish or from their bath water and will only drink when misted. They should be misted at least once daily and will generally tip their heads and lick the drops coming off of their heads. It may be necessary to mist them and wait 15-20 seconds until they recognize it as a source of water. They should start to lick the drops from their heads, or from the enclosure walls. Then you can continue misting them. Avoid misting them more than 2-3 times each day and also avoid misting them within 1 hour of when the heat lights go off. This can prevent them from raising their core temperature sufficiently for proper digestion. Dragons that are shedding should be misted 1-2 times each day to avoid incomplete sheds. They should also be bathed weekly and may drink from their bath water.
Question: I have been using just plain tap water to mist the greenery in her cage twice a day and she'll lick up the drops as they fall. Should I use a reptile water conditioner additive? Answer: We suggest avoiding bottled water. Since it is not considered a "food" or a "supplement" there are very few regulations about how pure it has to be. It could be straight out of the stream and into a bottle. If you have a home water conditioner or city water then you know that most of the bad stuff is removed. If you are using well water, it would be best to boil it before using it on your dragon. It should not be necessary to use any reptile water conditioners if the water is clean and their diet & supplements are appropriate.