- Size – 1.5 to 2 feet.
- Lifespan – with good care, your beardie can live up to 10 years, although some owners report as low as 6 and others insist they can survive for much longer.
- Personality – bearded dragons seem to come pre-tamed. In fact, they have such a docile nature that many residents of Australia are able to pick up wild ones and handle them with no problems. Now, that’s not to say there can’t be exceptions. Generally, beardies make very good pets for a variety of people and even young children.
- Cage size – a 40 gallon breeder aquarium is the acceptable standard, although, as always, bigger is definitely better.
Beardies are omnivorous, meaning they eat both vegetables and meat. “Meat” in this case, however, means insects. Crickets, dubia roaches, and superworms or mealworms are perfect for a happy beardy. As with all other reptiles who eat insects, remember to dust your feeders with powdered calcium to ensure that they get enough to meet their needs! To dust, you can separate the feeders you’ll be offering that day into a separate container (a baggie or tupperware works fine) and sprinkle some calcium powder over the insects. You can then shake the container gently to help coat the bugs with the powder. They’ll come out looking white and this is when you can offer them.
Young beardies need more protein (AKA insects) than adult beardies. You should offer as many appropriately sized crickets or dubias as they can eat in a 5-10 minute time frame. To ensure the proper size, take note of the length between the eye “bumps.” Your feeder items should not be any longer than this or it may cause impaction problems for your dragon. Vegetables should also be provided. Great staples for a young beardy diet include (make sure these are chopped to an appropriate size): mustard, turnip, collard, or dandelion greens; endive; watercress; escarole; acorn, butternut, or yellow squash; green beans; parsnips; zucchini; and peas. Protein and vegetables should be offered daily to a growing beardy.
For an adult dragon, this differs slightly. They should only be offered about 50 insects per week. Providing more may lead to obesity problems and, subsequently, other health issues. Try to keep the ratio of bugs to veggies at approximately 30% insects and 70% vegetables. If you’re lucky, you might be able to convince your beardy to eat the pellets that petstores sell but these brands differ wildly and, honestly, I’m not convinced that the dragon gets everything he needs from these. If you wanted to try pellets as a way to supplement his diet while still offering insects and vegetables then more power to you! Great staples for a adult beardies include the same as for younglings (again, make sure these are chopped to an appropriate size): mustard, turnip, collard, or dandelion greens; endive; watercress; escarole; acorn, butternut, or yellow squash; green beans; parsnips; zucchini; and peas. You can add some variety by introducing fruits in moderation. Mango and papaya are perfect. Peeled apples, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, and bananas are great for the occasional treats.
A more detailed list of proper food items can be found here.
Dragons need a basking spot on one end of their enclosure in the high 90’s to about 110, depending on age. For babies, 105° to 110°. I like to keep my adults at exactly 100°. UVA/UVB light must also be provided. Like most lizards, dragons are susceptible to metabolic bone disease (MBD) if they are not exposed to proper lighting.
A cool side of 80° must be provided for your dragon. If you’re using at least a 40 gallon breeder (like you should be!), this is easily achieved as it provides enough space for the heat from your lamp to disperse.
You’ll find a common item in petstores that advertises itself as calcium sand, or some such variation. Do not use this. This sand is very fine and has a tendency to clump together when wet. It can cause severe impaction problems in your dragon. If you want to use sand, buy a big bag of play sand from Home Depot or another hardware store. This sand is infinitely better because it does not clump. Newspaper, paper towel, or other absorbent medium is the best, but understandably does not look the greatest.