For the article on this lizard, see Bearded Dragon.
Bearded Dragons are a popular reptiles/lizards among beginners. Because of there calm temperament, they have been a favorite among childrens and breeders alike. Bearded Dragons are found in the Wild, in the deserts of Australia.
If you have got your baby dragon from a good reptile store or breeder it will hopefully not be too stressed when you get it home. However, don't be surprised if it doesn't eat properly at first - they can take up to two weeks to settle in. Good breeders/stores won't sell beardies under six weeks of age - by that time they have built up some reserves so it doesn't matter if they have a few days of not eating. Try not to handle too much for the first couple of weeks to give your new pet time to get used to you. Beardies are very tame, but need time to get to know you. Try to discourage children from constantly picking them up or touching them during the settling in period.
Baby bearded dragons need to have a lot to eat to help them to grow, the right vitamins, water, heat and light.
The best food for them until they reach approx 8 inches in length are crickets - these are more nutritious than any other food. They should also be offered vegetable including a high level of calcium. Curly kale is a favourite, and they may also enjoy salad cress and finely grated and chopped carrots.The rule of thumb is never to feed your dragon anything which is longer than the distance between its eyes.
Bearded dragons come from the inland deserts of Australia. They cannot exist in most climates without additional heat. Only in some very warm parts of the world (California for example), can they be kept outside at least part of the time. The vivarium should be heated in such a manner so that the vivarium can have a hot and a cooler end. Beardies are cold blooded, and self regulate their own temparature by heating up under a basking lamp, and then being able to go to the cooller end to cool down. Dragons will not be happy, will not thrive and may well die if they do not have the correct heat gradient in their vivarium.
Ideally the 'hot end' should be around 98 - 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cooler end around 84 degrees. Either two thermometers, or a good quality digital thermometer with two read outs are required so you can check that the temperature is being maintained correctly. Cheap stick on thermometers are not sufficient to measure the temparature properly.
Heat lamps are the best source of heat - the lizards can bask under these lamps as they would do on a rock in the wild. There are a variety of heat lamps on the market - basically you can choose which suits you and your pocket. We use infra red lamps as we have the benefit of being able to be sure when they are on.
A thermostat controller is necessary to make sure you maintain the correct heat - a dimming controller, such as the Habistat range is recommended. Not only is the dimmer kinder on the lightbulb life, the effect is more natural and less stressful for the lizards. The probe for the thermostat is best placed at the cool end of the viv - that way you know that the cool end is at the right temparature, and you beardie is not going to overheat.
Unfortunately, setting up a vivarium is not cheap if you do it properly, but it is always worth looking for second hand bargains on Ebay or cregs list.
Apart from heat, the desert also has sunlight, and this is something else that needs to be mimicked in an indoor vivarium. Bearded dragons need UV light in order to absorb vitamin D and make use of the minerals and vitamins they are ingesting. Adequate light can be provided by a flourescent tube running the length of the vivarium. Special tubes are made for reptiles - bearded dragons need 10% UVB, and Repti-Glo, for example, make a bulb especially for desert vivariums.Baby dragons should have a vitamin suppliment added to their food at least once a day while they are young. This should be posdered calcium carbonate and a vitamin-mineral suppliment. One of the main dangers at this stage is calcium deficency. Dragons grow very quickly, and need large amounts to calcium to promote healthy bone growth. The suppliment should be dusted lightly on the crickets, and on the vegetables that are being offered.
As well as food, water should be available for the babies - this should be offered in a shallow drinking container or a saucer. Dragons at this age may have difficulty recognising water, so until you are sure they know where the water is it is useful to spray the sides of the vivarium, or plants, so they can see water dripping down. Be careful not to overdo it though - this is a desert vivarium, and you are not trying to create a sauna! It can also be helpful to spray the beardie lightly, especially if you are worried they might be dehydrated.
Heat and LightEditWhen dragons get too hot they open their mouths to help them cool down. This is perfectly normal behaviour, and nothing to get concerned about! As the lizards grow larger they can start to be offered locusts - get the smaller size at first, and make sure they are 'hoppers' (not the adults with wings!). Locusts are a great food source and well loved by beardies. The only downside is that some dragons like them too much! Locusts are more expensive than crickets, but some lizards are reluctant to go back to crickets after eating this new treat!
I offer locusts at the weekend only - Shrek and Fiona seem to know that Saturday is Locust Day, and don't bother waiting for them on other days now.
As they've grown older they do appreciate their greens more! Lambs lettuce has turned out to be a favourite, along with apples which Shrek scoffs down as fast as he can. Dandelion leaves are another good source of food for them.