Rio Reptiles
Rio Reptiles - A Rescue Resort


Common Questions

There is a lot to learn when you get a bearded dragon for a pet.  Most people start out by getting a baby bearded dragon first, then trying to figure out what they need and how to take care of it afterwards. 

To get you started, here are some answers to the basic questions most people have.

  What should I feed my bearded dragon?  Beardies are omnivores, which mean the eat both plants and insects as their primary food source.  When they are young, eighty percent of their diet should be insects and approximately twenty percent should be vegetables.  As they become adults this ratio gradually shifts to just the opposite amount of eighty percent vegetables and twenty percent insects.  The insects of choice are mainly crickets, roaches, and certain varieties of worms, most of which are available to purchase online.  As for their vegetable staples, they should consist mainly of dark leafy greens and squash with high Calcium to Phosphorous ratios to help balance their nutrition.  For what you can’t make up with fresh greens and live insects, a calcium supplement should be used five days per week along with a vitamin supplement such as Herptivite, two days per week.  For more details on feeders...  
  How much should I feed my bearded dragon and how often?  When beardies are young their appetites can be seemingly endless. The rule of thumb is to feed them as many crickets as they can eat in ten to fifteen minutes with the crickets being no bigger in length than the space between the beardies eyes.   Baby and juvenile beardies will eat two or three times a day and as they get older you can replace a feeding with a salad.  They may not readily eat greens when they are very young, but  you should always make them available so that they are used to having them, eventually they will start eating a little at a time. As they become sub adults, their salad bowl should be filled with fresh leafy greens such as collards or mustard greens and squash and only offer insects once a day.  
  Why isn’t my new bearded dragon eating?  When you first get your beardie everything may seem normal for a day or two and then they might stop eating and behaving as you expect they should.  Most of the time new bearies suffer from some kind of relocation stress that can last anywhere from days to two or three weeks. This adjustment period is perfectly normal and during this time a bearded dragon may not eat much, seem to be less active, or not bask as much.  It is important that you be patient and do whatever you can to avoid stressing your dragon and make it as comfortable as possible.  Sometimes they can be picky and not like particular foods you are offering so it is always a good idea to try a variety of insects and greens.  It isn’t uncommon for a beardie to dislike crickets but love roaches or prefer collard greens over mustard greens, so don’t give up offering different things until you find out their favorites.  
  Do bearded dragons drink water?  Not all bearded dragons drink water directly from a dish, most of the time they have to be taught or by given it by dripping it on their nose with a dropper.  To help keep your dragon hydrated, it is good to bathe it every day or two or offer water daily with a dropper.  Not all dragons like the bath, but if you start when they are young they will be more likely to like it when they get older. Dragons who are used to getting baths will usually look forward to drinking from it as soon as they get in. Baby dragons are more prone dehydration due to their small size and higher basking temps, they will readily drink once or twice per day from a dropper from 1cc to 3cc's at a time.  
  What kind of lighting should I have for my bearded dragon?  Proper lighting is very essential to the health of bearded dragons.  Most importantly, their are specific requirements in regards to UV quality and heat output that is necessary for bearded dragons digestion, metabolism and general well being.  It is extremely important that your dragon has a special UV bulb that puts out the right amount of UVB in the correct quality so that their bodies can effectively use the calcium they need.  Their are different types of these bulbs on the market with the best being the mercury vapor type but there are also a few good that are widely recommended and used.  It is most important to do the research and get the best one without endangering your beardies health because some brands have been known to emit higher levels of UV that can cause damage to their eyes.  For their well being, it is best that they have a bright light like the sun during the day and complete darkness at night so that they get restful sleep.  
  What should the temperature be for my bearded dragon?  Bearded dragons are native to the deserts of Australia so their habitats should consist of dry air, hot basking areas and cool shady areas.  Temperatures in the basking spot should range from 100ºF to 110ºF with a cooler shady area at the other end of the enclosure with temps between 75 ºF to 85ºF.  It is also important that the low temps never get below 65ºF at night during the winter, an under tank heater can be used where they sleep to prevent it from getting too cold during these times but should not be used if it isn’t necessary.  A with remote probe should be a regular part of your setup so that you can always make sure your temps are optimum. Dragons will enjoy the higher temps first thing in the morning and right after eating while preferring the cooler temps between meals.  
  What size cage should I get for my bearded dragon? Baby bearded dragons can be kept in a small tank for a short time, maybe a couple of months, before they go through their growth spurt.  During this time you will need to decide on buying or building a decent sized enclosure to house your dragon.  If you have the space available, the bigger you can go, the better.  The most popular large size recommended these days is a 2 ft x 4 ft x 2 ft enclosure but try not go go with anything smaller than a 40 gallon breeder which measures 18” x 36” x 16”.  They need to have ample ventilation and the ability to regulate and maintain proper temperatures while giving your dragon enough space too avoid stress.  Here are a few places who sell enclosures or you may even decide to build your own.  
  What is the best substrate to use in my bearded dragon cage?  The best substrate to use for a bearded dragon is usually a surprise to most misinformed pet store shoppers.  One of the most misleading products sold to most new beardie owners is probably most hazardous substrate you could possibly use which is known as calci-sand. This product is known to lead to impaction which can cause serious problems and possibly death in young bearded dragons.  It is probably best to avoid it all together.  If you want to do it right from the start, a natural stone tile of either slate or tumbled marble is great to use in regards to sanitation and easy maintenance.  You just don’t want to use anything with a glaze that would be too slippery.  When they are babies, it is easiest to use paper towels or one of the reptile carpets available to eliminate any chance of ingestion.  
  How often should my bearded dragon poop?  Unfortunately, you have to take the bad with the good.  If you’re going to have animals, you’re always going to have poop.  Actually, your bearded dragons poop always tells a story about their health, and it does so on a daily basis.  You should expect your beardie to go at least once a day, but again, this is related directly to how much they eat and the quality of their basking time.  If your beardie has a big appetite, you will be cleaning up after them two or even three times a day.  If you see undigested food in their poop, it means their basking temps are too low or too short.  If it is runny and exceptionally smelly, you may have a bacterial infection or maybe even parasites.  An inspection of their urates (white part) will also tell you something,  if they are dehydrated, it will be harder, or too much calcium could cause it to be chalky.  The poo itself should be firm and well formed even if extra water is expelled around it.  This only means they are well hydrated.  
  How big will my bearded dragon get?  A healthy bearded dragon as an adult may get anywhere from 16 inches in length to 24” total including the tail.  Smaller beardies may have been stunted from sickness or malnutrition during their growth spurts, or some are runts and born smaller.  Large beardies can be bred with larger types of bearded dragon species that have helped make them more hearty.  They do most of their growing in the first 12 to 18 months then it slows considerably.  A good indicator of how big they will get can be detected early on if they are growing rapidly.  



© 2009-2010 Rio Reptiles. All Rights Reserved