Bearded dragons are an increasingly popular pet among first-time reptile owners.
Their gentle temperaments and low-maintenance husbandry needs make them a great lizard for beginners. Even celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are hopping on the bearded dragon train!
This being said, however, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into and be prepared to care for the reptile, like any pet.
This article will guide you through exactly what you need to know before bringing a bearded dragon home. If you’re ready to welcome one of these sweet, curious reptiles into your home, read on!
#1. Before Adoption: Consider Your Lifestyle
Any time you’re thinking about getting a new pet, you should first consider your current lifestyle and whether you will be able to make the adjustment to caring for a pet.
People who take regular vacations, for example, might not do as well with a reptile, unless they’re prepared to pay for a sitter. On the other hand, a reptile could be perfect for someone who works long hours and can’t commit to the needs of a dog, but still wants some animal companionship.
The most important thing is not to take on more than you can handle.
If you’re not sure going in, and the reptile ends up taking up too much of your time, you are more likely to improperly care for, mistreat, or even cause illness/death of the pet.
As long as you have space in your home for the enclosure, finances to cover initial costs and upkeep, and a willingness to learn, you’ll be ready to take things to the next step!
#2. Be Prepared
Unfortunately, over 70% of reptiles that are adopted either die or need to be rehomed within the first year—this is greater than any other kind of domestic animal.
The number is so high because owners don’t know what to expect when they bring a reptile into their home, and don’t know how to care for it. This article will help you avoid being a part of this statistic.
One of the consequences of so many reptiles needing to be rehomed is a proliferation of reptile rescues. If you can, we recommend adopting your bearded dragon from one of these organizations, as opposed to buying from a breeder or a pet store.
A simple google search of “reptile rescue near me” will turn up at least a few organizations. From there, you can inquire in person or over the phone about what bearded dragons they have available for adoption (male/female, age, etc).
Not only is this usually a less costly option, but adopting is better for the animals, as well. The reptiles you’ll find in a rescue were mostly abandoned for no fault of their own, and you can be the one to give them a second chance!
In addition, not all breeders have the animals’ best interests at heart. It is a sad fact that some will even capture reptiles from the wild to sell them. This is not only harmful to the animals and ecosystems, it means that you’re likely to get a more aggressive, less docile pet.
#3. How to Care for Your Bearded Dragon
Out of all the reptiles commonly kept as pets, beardies are one of the lowest maintenance —however, this doesn’t mean no maintenance!
Adult bearded dragons should be fed a diet of crickets and leafy green vegetables, about 2-3 times per week. If you adopt a baby, you’ll need to feed it more frequently. Babies and juveniles eat at least once per day.
You can experiment a bit with their greens, and see which vegetables they like best—dandelions, romaine lettuce, beet tops, and zucchini are all good options.
Like many reptiles in captivity, bearded dragons will need a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. This comes in powder form and can easily be sprinkled on their regular meal of crickets.
Like all animals, bearded dragons should have constant access to fresh, clean water. (Pro tip : most beardies prefer to drink from a shallower water source—don’t give them a bowl that’s too deep!)
Enclosure, Lighting, and Heat
At a minimum, bearded dragons need a 50 gallon tank, however, they can thrive in a tank up to 120 gallons. You should never house more than one bearded dragon in a tank, as they can get territorial, and might injure each other.
Their enclosure should have both a UVB light and an infrared light for basking, set up so that there is a heat gradient, with distinct warm and cool sides of the tank.
Bearded dragons are diurnal (meaning active during the daytime), so they will need up to 12 hours of light per day.
Some owners get small harnesses and leashes for their bearded dragons, and take them outside on walks to experience natural sunlight! If you choose to take your beardie outdoors, just watch out for signs that it’s overheating: “smiling” with its mouth open is a major one.
There you have it – everything you need to know about adopting a bearded dragon! Consider how your new pet will fit into your lifestyle, find a reputable rescue organization to adopt from, and make sure you have everything you need to take care of the dragon, including food.
Do you have a bearded dragon at home? Were they your first reptile?
Hemopet would like to thank Johnathan David of Everything Reptiles for writing this guest post.