Bearded dragons are getting to be popular pets, and it’s not hard to see why. Babies are extremely cute, and the adults so calm and placid that even people who say they would not have a reptile at the home tend to be swayed to change their mind once they’ve have an chance to get up close to them.
Many are purchased as pets as an impulse buy – infants are being sold quite cheaply nowadays and are readily accessible, and although some people do read up and prepare for their new pet, there are still a huge number who take one on with little or no advice in any way. Regrettably many staff in pet stores and reptile centres are ignorant regarding the proper housing and feeding arrangements leading to bearded dragons which have a unhealthy and often short life.
If you’re tempted to buy a baby bearded dragon here is some advice that will help you to raise a bearded dragon correctly.
Although you might be taking a look at a baby that’s only 5 to 6 inches in length, by the time it is twelve months old it will be between 18 and 22 inches long and will weigh around 700 grams. Adults require a vivarium that is 4ft x 2ft x 2ft in size, and will most likely need this by the time they are eight to ten months old. It is therefore a false economy to buy a smaller vivarium with the intention to update as it grows larger, and it’s ideal to purchase the larger size . Too many live in vivariums in which they can’t turn round properly without slamming their nose on the glass and tail on the background.
Despite the fantasy baby bearded dragons do not feel lost in a large vivarium – after all, in the desert no one gives them a pen for the first couple of weeks!
To increase at the rate they do means they have large appetites and have to be fed lots and often as infants. They are not cheap pets to keep – a bearded dragon can cost up to a little cat or dog to feed every week.
- Bearded Dragons need the Right Temperatures
Coming from the hot arid desert of Australia that they need to have a temperature range in their vivarium that mimics their natural surroundings. Setting up a mini desert in your home is part of the fun of keeping them. Being cold blooded creatures they thermoregulate – that is, when too hot they should be able to move to a cooler place, and if too cold should be able to proceed to get warm. The vivarium needs to have a basking spot under a heat lamp that reaches a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the other end’the trendy end’ of the vivarium should be no more than 85 degrees. At night they should be able to experience a good temperature fall, so the heating should be turned off as long as the ambient temperature doesn’t fall below 65 degrees for infants, and 60 degrees for adults. Temperatures should be maintained at the correct levels by using a thermostat.
Heat should be provided by way of a heat lamp – bearded dragons do not absorb heat from below, and really, cannot feel it. Heat rocks and heat mats can easily burn them so should not be used.
- Bearded dragons need Exposure to UVB
In the desert they bask under the strong rays of sunlight which provides UVB and helps them synthesize vitamin D3. This is vital since it means they can use calcium that’s essential to aid their growth. The lack of UVB will lead to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) which causes deformities of the limbs, and which can only be treated if caught early, and can be deadly. Their UVB requirements are the greatest of all reptiles kept in captivity. A fluorescent tube running the length of the vivarium ensures they are exposed to UVB for the whole time that the light in on. The top tubes to use are the Reptisun 10% or Arcadia 12%.
If they are exposed to UVB for 12 hours in the vivarium they get adequate UVB, but even this is only equivalent to about 20 minutes under the full Australian sun. For that reason hides should not be provided for bearded dragons as hiding away will lessen their vulnerability to the beneficial UVB rays.
Babies are not accurate feeders and tend to pick up loose substrate with mouthfuls of food. Kitchen towel is the best substrate for infants as it carries no risk. Don’t use sand until the baby is six months old, and NEVER use woodchip. This is to avoid impaction in the stomach which is usually fatal.
- Set up the Vivarium Before buying a Bearded Dragon
When you’ve your vivarium you’ll get the temperatures will fluctuate at first, and you will need time to fool around with the position of the probe to the thermostat before you obtain the correct temperature range.
Most infants will travel very comfortably in a small dark box. There’s absolutely not any need for extra heating unless the weather is quite cold. In this case you can use a hot water bottle to keep the box warm.
Once you first bring your new baby home you may find it eats the first lot of crickets you put in the vivarium, and then refuses to eat. Many new owners worry about it, but it’s only a reaction to the stress of moving. It takes up to a fortnight for a baby to settle into a normal eating pattern.
To help it settle in it’s best to resist that impulse to take it out and manage it. Give it two weeks to settle until you pick it up. You can begin getting it used to you by putting your hand in the vivarium when cleaning or feeding it out.
When it is time to begin tackling, pick it up by slipping your hand under it and scooping it up. In the wild their main predators are birds, so anything coming at them above scares them. These are stress lines, but don’t over worry about them. Many things cause momentary stress to a baby, and many are nothing to be concerned about. It could be a dark coloured coat they suddenly see from the corner of the eye. It takes about an hour for them to warm up and start moving around which is just as it would be in the desert. Just ensure you allow them time to wake up properly before offering food.
Babies up to age 12 weeks will need to be fed 3 times a day with small sized crickets (first or second instar). Each feed needs to be as numerous as they can eat in 10 minutes. One feed every day ought to be dusted with calcium to prevent MBD. Finely chopped vegetables or fruit should remain available. When mature your beardie will be 80% vegetarian, so he wants to get used to eating veggies early.
The best livefood is crickets due to the amount they eat. It is possible to feed locusts, but this will work out much more expensive, and as soon as they have eaten locusts some don’t take to eating crickets against as they’re more bitter. Do not feed a staple diet of meal worms because their skins are high in chitin which bearded dragons cannot digest very well. Meal worms and wax worms can be offered as an occasional treat.
Most bearded dragons do not eat frozen or dried food, so you’ll need to get used to feeding livefood. Join a Forum
Baby bearded dragons seem to relish perplexing and stressing their new owners. Join a bearded dragon or reptile forum so you can ask for advice from people who’ve had the same worries as you and will be able to offer you advice and reassurance.
Raising a reptile which grows so rapidly is a great experience, and if you ensure their surroundings and feeding regime is appropriate you are going to have a pet who will live a healthier live in excess of a decade. The first few weeks and months are a critical phase in raising a baby bearded dragon – they aren’t difficult to keep just so long as you take care to understand what they need to grow and develop correctly.