Are Bearded Dragons Easy to Take Care Of?
Bearded Dragons make great pets and are very rewarding to raise and nurture, however, as with all pets, you should research what exactly is involved with keeping a bearded dragon and research if this exotic pet is for you.
So are bearded dragons easy to take care of?
Yes, but there are some nuances that you need to be aware of before making a purchasing decision, these are mostly centred around the regular upkeep commitments and ongoing costs.
When taking care of a bearded dragon there are some aspects of maintenance and care that you will need to fully understand to ensure of his survival, I will list these below along with details on the very basics of each.
Bearded Dragon Facts to Consider Before Purchase
There are many facts to consider before purchasing a bearded dragon, your first thought should be around the commitment involved and ask yourself if you are really able to commit for this period of time.
Bearded Dragons have quite a long lifespan, often they live until around 10 to 15 years of age on average, there have been reported occasions where they have lived into their late teens, this means you need to be prepared to look after the animal for at least the next decade, if you’re unsure about this period of time then I would advise against buying one.
Bearded Dragons will grow from being a relatively small creature to quite a big one, an average adult will usually end up being around 18 to 24 inches in length, so you need to consider if you have space to suitably house an adult bearded dragon in the future.
A fully grown adult bearded dragon will need an enclosure that is at least 4ft in length, so you will need additional space in your home for this.
Another fact to consider is that a bearded dragon requires stimulation, even though they are bred in captivity before you buy them, it’s always nice to interact with the dragon on a regular basis, this enables them to thrive and live a happier life, it also means you get the most out of being a bearded dragon owner.
Cost is another aspect to consider, not only will you have the cost of the bearded dragon initially, but you will also have to purchase a variety of different foods in the form of worms, crickets and vegetables.
You will also need to buy equipment to house your bearded dragon which includes enclosures which may need to be replaced as they grow, as well as heating and lighting equipment which usually needs to be replaced fairly often.
Bearded Dragons are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day and asleep at night just like most humans.
What Enclosure Should a Bearded Dragon be Kept In?
Bearded Dragons can be kept in a variety of different types of enclosures of varying costs, however, the main point I want to get across here is that it’s extremely important that you give your bearded dragon enough room to live in.
You will also need to ensure that there are hiding spots inside the enclosure as well as places the bearded dragon can climb and investigate, you want to provide the most interesting living environment you can to stimulate your pet.
Often, new owners will buy fish tanks and keep their bearded dragons in one of these, this is generally fine, but you need to consider if that fish tank will be big enough when he is an adult, if not then you will absolutely need to replace the housing as he grows.
As a rule of thumb, a fully grown adult will need at LEAST a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft enclosure, anything else will just be too small and will restrict them.
So when you buy your first enclosure, it’s always best to go with the biggest you can afford and let them grow into that, my advice would be to buy a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft vivarium even if you have just purchased a baby, this means you won’t ever have to worry about his housing again or replace it.
If you choose to house your bearded dragon in a fish tank then there are a few pointers that you need to consider.
- make sure the fish tank has a metal or a mesh lid that is 100% secure, bearded dragons make great escape artists if motivated enough.
- don’t use plastic lids, they flex slightly which can provide a means of escape, also plastic melts and you will be using some hot bulbs and heating equipment.
- be wary of too much reflection on the glass, adult bearded dragons don’t usually enjoy company too much and that includes their own reflection, so this may be a source of stress for the animal.
- make sure it’s easy to access to clean regularly, nobody likes living in a stinky home, including your dragon.
- be sure to check that the tank is well ventilated.
My preferred option when it comes to housing your bearded dragon is to just buy a decently sized vivarium, these are houses that are tailor-made for reptiles so you generally don’t have to worry about all of the above points, they tend to be very secure, little to no reflective surfaces and are very easy to clean.
My suggestion would be to buy a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft vivarium right from the outset, I know it’s a little more expensive up front, but it will save you a tonne of money and hassle in the long run.
What Temperature Should a Bearded Dragon Be Kept In?
In basic terms, your bearded dragon will need to have access to a range of temperatures, on one side of the enclosure you need to place a basking light, this is a spotlight which will kick out some serious heat for your bearded dragon to bask in, typically this will be around 100F to 110F and is concentrated in one spot.
At the opposite end of the enclosure is where your bearded dragon will retreat to when he wants to cool down, this should be around 75F to 85F.
Everywhere else in the enclosure is considered somewhere in between, this means that your bearded dragon has access to intense heat when he needs it and will then be able to cool off in the cooler area.
Once a bearded dragon is up to his maximum core temperature under the basking spotlight, then often they will open their mouths to dissipate some of this heat before they move.
It’s always a good idea to have a couple of thermometers and humidity gauges present which can alert you when the temperatures are not ideal, this will keep your bearded dragon at the right temperature and ensure he can self regulate correctly.
During the night all lamps get switched off, so both UV lights as well as basking spotlights are all powered off, this provides a much more relaxed environment for your bearded dragon to relax and get some good sleep.
Bearded Dragons need to keep a temperature of at least 65F during the night, and these cooler temperatures actually help the dragon be more active during the day.
Depending on where you live, 65F might be easily sustainable, but if you live in a cooler climate then you can always use a ceramic heater which emits no light, this will provide a mild source of heat.
One thing to note, if you pickup your bearded dragon in the morning and he feels cold, this is normal, bearded dragons are cold blooded so you shouldn’t expect to feel too much heat from them.
What are Substrates?
There are hugely varying opinions when it comes to bearded dragon substrate, basically, this is the material that is placed on the flooring of your enclosure.
The common options tend to be reptile carpet, clay, tiles or paper towels.
Using paper towels is the most convenient since you can just pick up any mess easily and replace it, however, it doesn’t look very appealing and can be moved around quite a bit to just expose the glass bottom of the enclosure.
Reptile carpet is a good option, it provides a rough bottom layer for your bearded dragon to walk on, this is a bit more work to clean but also helps with maintaining your bearded dragons claws as well as reducing the chance of impaction as your dragon won’t be able to eat it.
Impaction is the term used to describe what can happen if your bearded dragon decides to eat loose substrate like sand, this essentially can cause internal blockages and in some cases death, this is why a lot of owners will avoid sand, especially with baby dragons.
However, some owners like to use sand and have never had a problem, again this mostly comes down to the individual bearded dragon, but personally, I prefer to just remove it entirely just in case.
As a general guide, with younger bearded dragons avoid any substrates that are loose and could be consumed.
If you would like further information about substrate in particular, then be sure to checkout this article all about the best bearded dragon substrate.
Does a Bearded Dragon Need Special Lighting?
Absolutely, bearded dragons are desert creatures, and in the wild are heavily exposed to natural sunlight, bearded dragons actually require UV light in order to synthesise vitamin D3 in their bodies, this is then in turn used to allow them to absorb calcium which is critical for bone structure.
Without a source of UV light, the bearded dragon will be totally devoid of any source of calcium in his diet.
Typically in a standard bearded dragon enclosure, you will have one light to provide heat, and another to provide UV light, these combined will give your bearded dragon the heat he needs and also the UV light that he would usually get from natural sunlight.
These bulbs need to be checked regularly and replaced every 6 months which will incur an extra cost.
Does a Bearded Dragon Need Human Interaction and Handling?
Keeping a bearded dragon in an enclosure without any human interaction or handling is not advised, and you should become familiar with handling your bearded dragon as often as possible.
If you are unsure of how to handle your bearded dragon then check out this short guide I wrote, this will help you become familiar with this process and build a routine.
If you choose not to regularly handle your bearded dragon then you run the risk of having it become very shy and more difficult to handle, this is why it’s a great idea to get him used to the idea from the beginning and prevent your bearded dragon from getting into any hiding habits.
Where can I purchase a bearded dragon?
Bearded Dragons can be purchased from a number of breeders, specialised reptile shops or high street pet stores, I would strongly recommend NOT buying from a high street pet store as they are generally not kept particularly well and bought in bulk.
If you purchase directly from a breeder or from a reputable reptile dealer then you will always be sure to get a much healthier dragon.
In terms of the hardware you need such as a vivarium, foods, lighting and so on, these can all be purchased from Amazon.
What should I do If I decide I have to give up my bearded dragon?
You may have already purchased a bearded dragon and found that you’re unable to look after it properly.
My first bit of advice here would be to be honest with yourself, you want your bearded dragon to live a long and healthy life, and if you find that you are not fulfilling your duty then it might be time to re-home him.
It’s easy to feel guilty about rehoming a pet, and I agree that it’s probably one of the hardest things you can do, however, it’s important that you put the welfare of the animal before your feelings.
If you are unable to deal with your pet and you have decided to give him up then please contact your local animal authority such as the RSPCA to discuss how to do this. There are a number of “reptile rescues” around the world that will take your bearded dragon and re-home them.
Also, if you purchased your bearded dragon from a reputable dealer, it might also be worth speaking with them, they will unlikely refund you for your purchase but they will more than likely help you and may even be able to take back the bearded dragon.
Where can I purchase the items mentioned above to build my bearded dragon enclosure?
All of the items listed on this page can be purchased on Amazon, I will leave some links below to some hardware that will help you get set up.
You will also be able to browse around on Amazon in these categories to find anything else that you may need.