A & J Animal Farm Bearded Dragon Care Page

 

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Inland Bearded Dragon Care

(Pogona vitticeps)

 

The Inland Bearded Dragon, the most common in the pet industry, gets it's name from the beard that is located in the throat are of the lizard it can be puffed up and displayed either as sign of aggression or during the mating process.  Adults are usually average somewhere around 12 to 14 inches in length while the babies are very tiny at a small 3 to 4 inches when just coming out of the egg.  Bearded dragons usually are at breeding age when the reach around 1 year old.  There has been some cases where they have been known to breed as early as 6 months of age.  We do not advise this as the female beardies are still growing at this stage of life and every egg takes much needed calcium for bone formation away from the growing beard.  If you have purchased a beard that is a Morph (colored).  They will normally start to show there colors around 3 to 4 months of age.  Proper lighting will enhance your dragons color.  If you purchased a morph and after a short time it becomes dull in color or it's color fades away this may be because the breeder you got your Bearded Dragon may be using High Output lighting  or your baby may have been raised in and outside breeding facility.  If your dragon is still it's usual self but dull in color contact your breeder to find out what lighting they use on there dragons.

 

Bearded Dragons originate from Australia.  During the night there temps in the wild are cool and during the day the sun is scorching.  To maintain a healthy beard we must simulate there environment as close as possible.  Water is scarce but it is still existent.  The ground they live on is very hard and well packed.  Bearded dragons are mainly ground dwellers but are also semi arboreal, which means they will climb trees and rocks.  Of a night beardies try to blend in and get there sleep as there body cools.  They are quite sound sleepers.  Of a morning as the sun rises they seek out heat to warm the body up.  It has been said that is takes approximatly 30 to 40 minutes to heat there body to the desired temp but yet it takes them approximately 2 hours or longer to loose there full body heat. 

Cage and Heating

Cages can come in many shapes and sizes.  It is not recommended that you keep an adult beard in a 10 gallon tank, I wouldn't recommend anything smaller then a 20 gallon long for you adult beard, but I even think this is a little small as it will be hard for your dragon to get out of the heat when needed.  You may however start a baby in a 10 gallon but your new friend will quickly outgrow there enclosure.  Baby Beards grow about 300% within the first few months of life.  The most common enclosure is an all glass aquarium with screen top.  Custom built cages are also nice as well as a display area for all your friends and family to see your beardies up close and personal.  Bearded Dragons regulate there own body temperature so remember that they need a basking area of 95 to 105 degrees.  We keep out basking areas right around 100 degrees for babies and right around 105 for adults, our bulb of choice is a Zoomed Day bulb, which produces UV-A,  for tank enclosurse.  A proper basking area is essential as the heat from the bulb and the warmth of the dragons belly is how a bearded dragon digest it's food.  Without proper heat the food will lay in your bearded dragons belly and rot.  They also need  a cooler area to retreat to around 75 to 80 we have found does well.  The beardies will thermoregulate themselves  as needed.  For night temperatures your enclosure temp can fall down to mid to upper 60's.  Of a night your dragons body cools as they sleep of a morning you when your day lights come on your beards will seek out the hot spot.  To soak up the heat your beards will usually flatten themselves out and even go to the extent of even darkening there color.

To make a proper hotspot you may use a rocks, logs, ceramic hides.  Wood and/or rock, such as slate,  is generally best as they absorb and hold the heat better then most items and your bearded dragon will soak up the heat from that as well as from the light above.

To maintain and adjust your temperatures it is best if you use a rheostat hooked to your lights.  These can be easily made with a few supplies from your local hardware store.  If  you have any questions about rheostats please let us know we can give you instructions on how to build them. 

HOT ROCKS AND UNDERTANK HEATERS

We don't use hot rocks ourselves and they are not generaly recommended as miss use can end up costing you your friend.  If you do wish to use a hot rock here is some good sound advice.  NEVER buy a new hot rock and place it in your tank without testing it first.  NEVER place your hot rock under the basking light as the temp will be to hot on the rock and your beards will burn. YOU MUST MUST MUST check your hot rocks on a daily basis as anything can go wrong with them at anytime and burn your dragon.

Undertank Heaters can be used but the same guidelines need to be followed they must be routinely checked for proper operation.

Lighting

Daytime Lighting

Proper lighting is an essential park of a healthy dragons life.  In the wild the dragons use the sunlight to warm there bodies to the desired temperature and also soak up the UV rays emitted by the sun.  A dimly lighted enclosure can lead to a dull dragon, in color and personality,  as the are considered high light output lizards.  There are two types of UV rays.  UV-A and UV-B.  UV-A is know to stimulate your adult beards during the breeding season.  UV-B stimulates the dragons to produce a chemical called D-3.  D-3 is essential to your dragons as it is this chemical that allows your beards body to use the calcium that is in there diet.  Without D-3 and the lack of calcium in there diet they will have major bone loss called metabolic bone disease.  This bone loss can lead to deformities, poor health, and eventually death.  It is essential for your beards to be able to process calcium. For proper UV-A and UV-B lighting there is a wide variety of bulbs and makers of bulbs that can be used.  We have found out that we prefer the Zoomed bulbs above others.  Zoomed fluorescents produce both UV-A and UV-B lighting.  Depending on your requirements and the size of your enclosure/display area depends on which bulb will best suite you.  For tanks there is a variety of Zoomed bulbs that can be used, Reptiglo Compacts come in either 5.0 or the new 10.0 rating.  For standard size Fluorescent, there is the zoomed 2.0, 5.0 and the NEW 10.0 and these come in lengths of 18" to 48" size.  For proper lighting see our lighting specs for these bulbs and choose the best one that fits your needs.  For large enclosures there is also a Zoomed Flood lamp called the Sunglow that will also produce UV-A and UV-B lighting.  When using the UV bulbs one must remember that eventually even if the light does not burn out that the UV output of the bulb diminishes over time.  On standard incandescent bulbs the UV out generally last about 6 to 8 months where as on a fluorescent tube the UV output last about a year to a year and a half.  We like to rotate our fluorescents out every twelve months to maintain the UV output needed by our dragons.

Nighttime lighting

There are various bulbs that can be used.  Nighttime bulbs are generally for your viewing pleasure as your beards generally are sleeping at this time.  A good quality infrared bulb or a black light bulb is  best as your dragons cannot see infrared so you will not disturb there sleep habits.  REMEMBER you nighttime heat requirements.  The temperature must drop so watch the size of bulb you use, this is also where a rheostat on you fixture will also come in handy.  If your house is warm enough to maintain there enclosure temp at required levels a night bulb may not even be needed or cannot be used or you may warm there enclosure to much.  The nighttime temperature  drop is essential to a healthy happy beard.

Food and Supplements

Water

Bearded Dragons CAN NOT see standing water, a water dish in there enclosure is not a requirement.  At best a water dish will just harbor bacteria.  Some adult dragons can learn to drink from a water dish but most do NOT.  To water your dragons you can mist them lightly in the face and as the water runs down there face they will lap it up.  If housing multiple dragons together they will lick the water from each other as you mist them.  They will drink water that may be running down the glass as well.  On baby dragons you can also water them by using an eye dropper and placing a small bead of water on the tip of there nose and see if they will lick it from there nose.  Another way to water your dragons is to place them in a shallow bowl of water, do not use to much water or your bearded dragon could drown  You want them to be able to stand in the bowl/container and still keep there head above water.  For babies the water needs to be around 90 to 95 and for adults around 100 degrees.

Food

Bearded dragons are considered omnivores.  Which means they eat both fruit and vegetable as well at meat.  As babies your dragon will be mainly a meat eater (carnivore), but you should still offer greens.  Meat will make up about 95% of a babies diet.  As your dragons start to get older they will begin to eat more greens.  STAY AWAY from Iceberg Lettuce is has NO nutritional Value as it is all water and fiber.  Your large dark leaf brands of greens are high in nutrition and calcium content.  We always offer a variety of 3 or more mixed together.  Use list one as your main items and use list 2 to mix it up a little (variety). Dust greens with good quality Calcium supplement.   Here is a list of some good quality greens to feed:

List 1

collard greens
escarole
turnip greens
mustard greens
romaine
dandelion greens
parsley
kale (good for calcium)
carrot tops
 

List 2

bok choi
red cabbage
endive cilantro
radicchio
 

Spinach can be fed sparingly as it blocks the bodies ability to absorb calcium. 

 

 

For even more variety in your greens, you can also offer any of the following: basil, Bermuda grass, chard, cilantro, clover, endive, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves and flowers, mallow, mint, cactus pads (remove spines before feeding), plantain, radish tops, rye grass, sorrel, violet leaves, watercress. As treats, dragons also readily accept edible (pesticide-free) flowers such as clover, dandelions (a real favorite), daylilies, hibiscus, honeysuckle, lettuce flowers, lilacs, nasturtiums, pansies, rose petals, squash blossoms, violets and wild mustard.  Make sure any of the above that you get from the wild is pesticide free.

 

NEVER FEED AVOCADO it is considered poisonous to your dragons

The following link will provide you with pictures of some good foods for your dragons as well as Nutritional Value Green Iguana Society.

Crickets are a dominant insect food at all ages. Other insects add variety for larger dragons, such as silkworms, mealworms and superworms.  Waxworms may also be fed but don't overfeed on these as they are high in fat. For adult beardies an occasional treat that they love is a pinky mouse.  We suggest you NEVER feed mealworms to a young dragon, since they can cause lethal impaction. You can also gather your insects from outside in the summer, but be sure they are free of pesticides. Don't offer lightning bugs or boxelder bugs, they are deadly to dragons.  Make sure you dust your insects with a good quality Vitamin/mineral supplement we like to use Repcal and Herptivite it is one of the most popular brands avialable on the market.

After feeding your beards there favorite thing (Crickets).  Remove excess crickets from there tank.  Crickets love to nibble on sleeping dragons.  As we said before dragons are sound sleepers.
 

Supplements

We have mentioned supplements a few times now.  In order to process calcium a dragon needs D3.  In the wild a Bearded Dragons body produces D3 by soaking up UVB Rays from the sun.  In captivity we supplement with a Calcium Supplement with D3 in it (no phosphorus) and Vitamin/Mineral supplement, Repcal and Herptivite are the most popular brand on the market.  Be careful with Calcium with D3 only dust your crickets and greens about ever other day.  In the wild dragons control there own D3 production but if we supplement it we can actually overfeed the D3 which is potentially fatal.  There is some controversy about D3 and Lighting.  If you use good lighting that produces both UVA and UVB you only need to dust your food about once to twice a week as the bearded dragons will naturally produce D3 themselves.  Other people say if you use good lighting then don't dust at all.  The reason being is once again with them producing it and you feeding it you could overdose them on it.  We use the UVB lighting and dust once a week lightly.  You must also remember the UVB production of you lights it is essential that you change your bulbs when required or you dragons end up getting light with no UVB and you are no longer supplementing them with D3 so they can not  process the calcium in there diet. 

Substrates

There are many different ways to decorate you dragons enclosure.  Some substrates include sand, small gravel, reptile carpet, newspaper, papertowls, and butchers paper.  For baby bearded dragons it is best if you use newspaper, papertowls or butchers paper with minimum tank decorations. Sand can cause lethal impaction if to much is ingested.  Baby dragons are not the best of hunters but they do learn very well as they grow.  So at first keep your decorations to a minimum so your babies can hunt there crickets with ease

Use of sand should only be used with your Adult dragons and it is best if you mix it with peat moss so it will pack down.  There are many types of sands on the market.  There is a sand out call Calcasand (calcium based).  This is not the best to use, if your dragons become calcium deficient they will eat the sand because of the taste and become impacted.  The best sand to use if you are going to use any is Filtered Playsand mixed with some peat moss as this will pack down and form a semi hard substrate.

Be Clean!!!!!

Bearded Dragons can be carriers of disease.  It is best to wash and sanitize your hands before you handle your dragons and after you handle your dragons.  We always keep a bottle of liquid hand sanitizer by are enclosures and wear latex gloves when cleaning our enclosures.

 

 

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