Rio Reptiles
Rio Reptiles - A Rescue Resort



The Sub Adult Dragon

So you have had your dragon now for 4 to 6 months and everything is going great. You have memorized all the greens with high calcium to phosphorus ratios and make amazingly healthy, colorful salads that your dragon gobbles up. All your phobias about bugs are a thing of the past, you've learned to hate crickets, you're dubia colony is wonderful and you don't think twice about grabbing a superworm to hand feed you're favorite family member. It amazes you how much food that guy or girl can devour on a daily basis, and you wonder over how much he or she has grown since the day you brought him or her home. It's hard to imagine things being any different than they are, you are so used to the routine. Remember at about four months of age when the poops first started being as big as a small dogs? It's truly amazing how much food a dragon can put away, literally hundreds of bugs per week. We feel good about this because we know our animals are healthy and full of life, after all, if a dragon stops eating, that's the first sign that something is wrong.
Then sometime between 8 months to a year, you go to offer the daily meal and you get the little lick and maybe a turned head. So you follow the head with that poor bug wiggling on the end of the tongs, then do a circular motion in front of your dragons nose, and you get the closed eyes like "no thank you". Seems kind of weird but no big deal, it happens on occasion, maybe during a shed or off day, he'll eat tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and you toss in a worm, it crawls away, under something out of sight. Lazy dragon, should have never spoiled him with the hand feeding, he won't even go after his own food. You dig it out and put it right in front of him... he doesn't even acknowledge it or you. So he doesn't eat another day, fine, he'll come around. Day three, you dig out some freshly shed super worms all nice and bright white, you drop one in front of him and bam, he gobbles it up. Finally success, you offer another... ... here we go again. He doesn't even look at it, plays completely dumb and blind. You do all the normal things to get him interested and he acts like you don't even exist. This has to be temporary, it's just not like him, he'll come around.

It's been a month, maybe six weeks and that tub of supers you bought 2 months ago is still crawling with at least three quarters of what you started with. Maybe something is wrong? Could he be sick, does he have parasites? He seems fine, maybe a little lazier than normal but no apparent signs of illness or weight loss. This is when you figure someone else might know or have some experience, surely others have had this experience. Time to post a question on and see what the others have to say. Now you have to prove to the world you have the right temps, the correct substrate, the best lighting on the planet, the distance is some algebraic formula of time travel to mars on a rainy day in Pittsburgh, and you feed all the perfect feeders and acceptable greens. So you finally convince the distraught moderator that everything meets to the absolute exact specifications of the acceptable artificial environment standards of the world, but you get no straight answer. Nothing reasonable, no common sense, you feel judged and and have no real answers. So you haul him off to the vet, worried to death that your dragon is riddled with coccidia or something worse, just to find out he has a couple of pinworms and absolutely nothing is wrong. Great, maybe they were right, maybe it is just a phase.

Now what? Well nothing, that's what. Everything is fine, it's normal, it's maturity. Sub adult dragons slow down fairly quick, sometimes it's more drastic, others may be more gradual. It also depends on the time of year and if it begins to cool down, but for the most part, it usually happens just before or around a year of age. Some dragons will eat just a little bit every day, but no where near as much as they did as youngsters. Other dragons will not eat at all for a couple to a few days, then have a decent sized meal, only eating two or three times per week. This is when a lot of people get their second dragon, we feel comfort in feeding them constantly and don't feel like we are taking good care of them if we don't. This is all just psychological human nature, we need to take care of things. It's hard to get used to raising animals that are different than us or dogs and cats. When an animal doesn't need to create body heat, it's metabolism is more efficient, they learn to conserve and expend only as needed. That's another reason why they stop chasing food, they learn quickly that the bugs are mobile and will eventually come to them.
So the sub adult dragon is on its way to being an adult, it needs to slow down or it will end up as big as an alligator if it doesn't. They still never stop growing, they just grow a small fraction of what they did as juvies, and their metabolisms have to regulate the whole deal. So now all they need to do is maintain, and all ectotherms have very conservative metabolisms. Of course they rely on the temperatures of their environment so expect their metabolisms to change with the seasons. Once your dragon is a sub adult, it can brumate at any age or when it starts to cool down in the fall or winter months. At this time, the days are short and a dragon can easily sense even a five degree drop in the ambient temps. Many will follow cue and start taking long naps, basking less, eating less and less, then eventually go into a long slumber over the next couple months. About the time the days start getting longer, some will begin to wake up, their hormones will spike after their long rejuvenating nap and they will wake up as a sexually mature adult. This is when they all, males and females, become restless and behaving like irresponsible teenagers. All they have on their mind is one thing, that three letter word, breeding! The males will black beard, head bob and arm stomp, I've even seen them go as far as, well you know, all by themselves wiggling in their cage. The females are no better! The dominant girls darken their beards too, they mimic the males by head bobbing the same way and they will even mount the other females in an attempt to trick them into cycling infertile eggs. Spring time brings all kinds of craziness to beardies and all we can do is watch and wait. Females eat like mad, preparing for eggs, males won't eat a thing, too worried about finding a female, this can last a few months. Finally summer comes and things start to calm down, the boys begin to eat better and gain some weight back. The girls may slow down and not be so greedy now, the hormones level out and they come back to their senses. Fall can go either way but is usually smooth sailing until the cool days start to come again. The second year is like a roller coaster ride, be glad its over.
Really, the first couple years are the most drastic, or maybe we just get used to them and begin to understand better. At least it's not the same ole thing every day, we get a seasonally moody pet and a break in the winter. This is where multiples come in handy, it really isn't that much more to feed two or three dragons than it is to feed one, plus it's always fun to get another baby. At least if you have more than one, they will most likely be on different brumation schedules so you never have to do without. Just remember, every baby has to grow up one day, and when it does, don't be too worried when it starts to slow down. Adults are truly awesome and we miss them when they are dormant, but it helps them live longer healthy lives and does wonders for their immune system and well being. If you are ever in doubt, the best way to tell if a dragon is sick is by weighing it regularly. A sick dragon will lose weight rapidly while a dormant dragon can go months without food and barely lose a few grams. You know your animal better than anyone, so if you sense something is wrong, you're probably right, just trust your instincts and follow your intuitions.
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