These care tips are meant to share some of the most important dragon care items that we've learned from experience, from books, and from web sites. They are not a complete guide to bearded dragon care; more comprehensive care information is available from Melissa Kaplan: Dragons Down Under and from Kid0002: General Bearded Dragon Care.
A very important point for beginner reptile owners: get care information before you buy your reptile and bring it home.
Click on one of the links to jump right to a particular section, or just scroll down to read the sections in order.
It is important to select a healthy, well-adjusted young dragon. Usually, it is best to get a very young dragon so that you can have the fun of watching it grow, and so that you can get it used to people and handling. Buying a lizard mail-order, sight unseen, is pretty chancy, and should be avoided.
Before you go to pick up a new dragon at the pet store or from a breeder, make sure you've got his new home already set up. It is very clumsy and frustrating to try to set up the lizard terrarium or cage while the new lizard is sitting around in his little pet store carrier; to minimize problems it is best to have the cage ready before!
Here is a checklist of the lizard habitat you should make sure to have ready before making the big trip to the pet store to pick up the new dragon.
When you first bring home a new baby dragon, put him in his new cage and leave him alone. Moving to a new home is stressful, and a bunch of handling on his first day could exascerbate that stress. Let him bask and explore in peace and quite; sure, you can watch quietly, but leave him in the cage to get used to it.
In the wild, bearded dragons are omnivorous; they eat insects, fruit, flowers, shoots, and more. In captivity, most owners feed a mixture of live insects and vegetables. Young beardies need more protein to fuel their growth, so many owners emphasize the live foods earlier in life, and gradually increase the proportion of vegetables as the lizard reaches adulthood.
Bearded dragons are both predator and prey in their natural environment. Their basic defense strategy is to hide, to blend in with their environment (protective coloration), and to be alert to possible threats. Usually, if a beardie feels mildly threatened or anxious, he'll just stand perfectly still. When directly threatened, a bearded dragon will either scamper away, or face down the attack with an impressive display of wide-open mouth and puffed-out beard. As a last resort, a beardie will bite; they can bite pretty hard, too.
The list below describes a few common behaviors you'll observe a beardie doing, and what they mean.
The size and behavior patterns of bearded dragons combine to make them excellent pets. In contrast to anoles, who use a flight-based defense, beardies seem calm and laid-back. They are big enough for a human to handle easily, but your beardie will never grow large enough to be a bother (like a 5 foot iguana) or a threat (like a 4 foot monitor). Safe and careful handling will help your bearded dragon become comfortable with you, and make him a friendlier and more enjoyable pet. Some handling tips and caveats are listed below.
Here are some more comprehensive bearded dragon care sheets that you can read on the web or download for printing.
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This page written by Neal Ziring, last modified 11/14/99.