Bearded Dragon: The Complete Guide To Caring For Bearded Dragon

The Bearded Dragon is a pretty sociable lizard that can be welcomed into any home. Further, their friendly nature and their willingness to adjust to new living situations make for fantastic first-time lizard pets for you if you are new to the world of caring for pet reptiles.

Bearded dragons are called beardies colloquially. These reptiles are usually found in Australia, spending their time either in trees or on the ground. These reptiles belong to the biological genus of Pagona and, as the name suggests, are most commonly identified by their bearded throats.

This article is your place to begin your journey of bringing home a bearded dragon and caring for it effectively. We have included the most common questions and required information first to help you decide whether you want to go ahead with buying a bearded pet dragon, and second, deliver the amount of care and affection that these reptiles need if you choose to accept it as a pet.

Table of Contents

What Is A Bearded Dragon?

Bearded dragons are large lizards that are, as we mentioned earlier, native to the country down under – Australia.

They fall in the category of semi-arboreal reptiles, which means that they spend their time on land and divide most of it between sitting on trees or the ground. Bearded dragons measure about around 15 inches to 20 inches long.

This measurement is inclusive of their tail length. These reptiles are characterized by spike structures along the complete length of their bodies.

Bearded Dragon

As the name rightly suggests, the bearded dragon is also characterized by a beard-like structure under their chins. It is essentially a flap of skin that is used as a defense mechanism if they are attacked or threatened by any predatorial elements.

Apart from the fact that bearded dragons are adaptable to changes in their environment and their sociable nature, they are also gentle reptiles that you will find to be active throughout the day. Further, they are also easily available in the pet market.

Natural Habitat of Bearded Dragons

Brown and Black Bearded Dragon on Brown Dried Leaves

This lizard’s natural habitat is a wooded, semi-desert setting in Australia. These semi-arboreal reptiles like to spend their time on branches or the ground.

They prefer warm, arid environments such as deserts, subtropical forests, savannas, and scrublands.

In fact, wild bearded dragons were forbidden from being exported from Australia in the 1960s; nevertheless, they’ve been artificially bred for the pet trade in the United States for decades. They come in a variety of color “morphs,” not often found in the wild.

Bearded dragons require warmer types of environments to thrive. They’re cold-blooded creatures and, therefore, have to depend on their immediate surroundings for temperature regulation of their body.

They warm themselves by lounging in the sun and can often resort to digging burrows in the ground for protection from intense temperatures and common aerial and land-based predators.

Because of their preferred environment, bearded dragons also run the risk of being subjected to extremely hot temperatures. To protect themselves from this, these reptiles resort to brumation.

Brumation is a sort of hibernation that bearded dragons go through. Brumation is essentially a form of hibernation in which reptiles go months without feeding and only drink water on occasion.

In the warmest temperatures, reptiles go dormant, but this is different from brumation, which occurs in milder temps.

When temperatures are excessive, the reptiles’ bodies have a very narrow temperature range between which they can stay active and when they can no longer survive the intense heat and perish.

Types and Species of Bearded Dragons

brown and black lizard on gray concrete floor

Even though originally, bearded dragons were divided into eight natural species in the wild, due to humankind’s targeted efforts to create morphs by artificial breeding practices, today, you will find many morphed variants of bearded dragons too.

We have created a list of the most popular bearded dragons that you can keep as pets.

Red Bearded Dragon Morphs

You can find red streaks and flashes on several wild species of the bearded dragon reptile.

But, if you find a bearded dragon that is almost entirely or completely red in color, you should remember that it is a Beardies were popular in the reptile industry in the last decade of the twentieth century, especially in the United States of America.

They were the first to be bred to keep as reptile pets. Even in the color red, they are available in a variety of crimson colors. Some are deeper, with brownish-red hues, while others are bright crimson.

One of the more beautiful, exotic, and prized bearded dragon morphs is the ruby red bearded dragon, which is a striking dark red morph of the bearded dragon species. 

Translucent Bearded Dragon

The translucent bearded dragon is so named because of its see-through spikes and skin. One of the distinctive features of the translucent bearded dragon is its set of black eyes.

In fact, fascinatingly enough, these reptiles also show changes in the color of their black eyes to a yellow hue throughout their lives. Further, bearded dragons that are of translucent morphs are known to be lighter in color.

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The stomach of translucent newborns is a clear blue color. However, as they grow, their blue color usually fades after a few months. Blue and purple bearded dragons are extremely rare and can only occur when this translucent species maintains its color throughout its life.

White Bearded Dragon

Snow bearded dragons are extremely rare white morphs with no pattern or color and can cost as much as $400. The hue of the white-bearded dragon changes depending on the temperature: in colder locations, they are grey.

In hotter climates, they are white. White morphs (seen above) are the outcome of mating a snow-bearded dragon with a witblit beardie (a patternless morph). They have a similar appearance to snow-bearded dragon species but with smaller dark markings.

Black Bearded Dragon Morphs

The fact is that truly black-bearded dragons are extremely rare, and the only species of bearded dragons that resemble these beardies are once that are simply more pigmented than their normal counterparts.

Black-bearded dragons can also appear this dark due to aggressiveness and their natural habitat. Being a reptile, bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals. This means that they need to depend on their immediate environment for their temperature regulation.

The black shade helps them in this aspect since it naturally absorbs more heat. They can also switch the color of their beard to black when faced with threats or anxiety. 

Albino Bearded Dragon

A bearded dragon that lacks melanin and has red eyes is known as an albino-bearded dragon. Albinos can be born in their natural state. However, given that they are albinos, they can’t make use of naturally required UVB sun rays or absorb calcium properly.

While shopping for your bearded dragon pet, you should remember that most breeders who advertise albino morphs for sale are actually selling a leucistic, snow bearded, or white-bearded dragon.

Yellow Bearded Dragon Morphs

an orange Juvenile Bearded dragon lizard posing on a white background

There are four different yellow morphs in addition to the normal yellow color in morphed species of bearded dragons. The proportion of yellow present, as well as the patterns connected with it, varies substantially between species.

Some examples of these are bearded dragons in the colors of citrus, lemon fire, green, gold, and fire. Citrus species have darker orange-red stripes in the middle of their back and along the sides of their body, making them the most popular yellow variant.

They feature horizontal gray-blue patterns between their vertical orange stripes. Citrus variants are olive or green in color as hatchlings. Green bearded dragons are citrus hatchlings that retain their green color into adulthood.

Leatherback Bearded Dragon

You can observe scalation variants best in leatherback bearded dragons. Leatherbacks are bred from heterozygous genes and have smooth scales. They are devoid of spikes on their backs and limbs. They only have spikes on both sides of their bodies.

Silkies are a scalation morph created by crossing homozygous recessive genes. They are unlike any other bearded dragon morph because they lack the spikes and scales that every bearded dragon species has.

Their name comes from their silky smooth, vibrantly colored skin. Because of their lack of scales, breeders claim that this morph is one of the hardest to care for in captivity.

Their unique skin also makes it difficult for them to regulate UV radiation. Because silkies struggle in confinement, there is a push to remove them from the industry.

Paradox Bearded Dragon

The back and tail of a typical bearded dragon have a pattern of banded colors. The Paradox morph of the bearded dragon species, on the other hand, is bred for its unique design. The Tiger Stripe and Witblit have been bred specifically for their distinct patterns as well.

The body patterns of the Paradox bearded dragon are one-of-a-kind, with a succession of uneven color patches. The backs of tigers have dark horizontal orange and grey stripes. Witblits are bred to have no stripes or bands.

Pattern morphs are popular among reptile lovers due to their distinct and interesting appearance.

Choosing the Right Tank or Terrarium for Pet Bearded Dragons

Brown and Orange Bearded Dragon on Green Grass

Considering the fact that your pet bearded dragon is going to spend pretty much all its time in a tank or terrarium, you will have to choose well and consider certain things when it comes to setting up the ideal terrarium for your pet bearded dragon.

Size of the bearded dragon’s terrarium

Your pet bearded dragon’s size is the primary consideration when it comes to setting up a tank or terrarium of the correct size. Although many adults are too huge for this size and may grow stressed, the standard size for bearded dragons is 40 gallons.

Lizard and his surprised reflection at the mirror

Here’s a good set of rules for selecting a tank size based on the length of your dragon:

  • Twenty gallons for a baby (under 10 inches long).
  • Forty gallons for juveniles (10 to 16 inches long).
  • 50 to 75 gallons for adults (over 16 inches long).
  • 75 to 125 gallons for adults (over 20 inches long).

You may want to simply go for a smaller tank for your baby pet bearded dragon, but you must remember that bearded dragons grow fairly fast when they are young. A better and more sustainable option might be to invest in a larger tank altogether, right from the start.

What items should you place in your pet bearded dragon’s terrarium?

Here are some items to incorporate in your bearded dragon tank setup, regardless of your style or theme:

Bearded dragon sunbathe in the morning for getting UV.
  • Log or rock to bask – Under the heating light, your bearded dragon will require a big surface to bask on. This can be done using a log or a rock.
  • Hidey holes – Your dragon will need a hidey-hole for bedtime, brumation, and to pursue his natural burrowing impulses. There are a lot of alternatives, so you should be able to pick one that matches the style of your tank.
  • Climbing surfaces – Bearded dragons enjoy climbing on objects, whether it be branches, rocks, logs, or any other fixture that complements your design motif. Of course, make sure there’s still enough space on the ground for your dragon.
  • Hammock – Hammocks are great resting places for bearded dragon pets. Your bearded dragon will thank you if you put one in the corner of your tank opposite the heating bulb.
  • Vegetation – Many Dragon Keepers enjoy putting live or faux plants in their terrariums. You have to be careful with the kind of plants you place in their terrariums. The wrong type of plants can drastically affect the optimal humidity levels in your pet bearded dragon’s enclosure. 
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Humidity in your pet bearded dragon’s tank

Because it replicates the humidity levels in their native habitat, bearded dragons thrive in 35 to 40% humidity.

You may generally accomplish this simply by providing proper ventilation (for example, through your glass tank screen lid), positioning the water dish away from the basking place, and not misting your dragon’s tank too frequently.

Heating arrangements for your pet bearded dragon’s tank

Being cold-blooded reptiles, bearded dragons need specific arrangements for temperature in their terrarium.

You will have to consider a ceramic heater setup for your pet bearded dragon’s enclosure along with a substrate and terrarium made of the right materials to prevent excessive heating or cooling.

What Should Your Pet Bearded Dragon Eat in its Diet?

Close Up Shot of Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons are adapted to locations where food is scarce. Thus they eat a wide variety of foods. Bearded dragons are omnivorous, which means they eat both plant and animal matter, including insects.

How often should you feed my bearded dragon?

To start with, as babies, bearded dragons need food in higher quantities than they do as adults. Therefore, you should try and feed your baby pet bearded dragon at least two times a day.

As your bearded dragon grows older, you should gradually reduce its meal frequency down to once a day. This may change slightly depending on the individual preferences of your pet bearded dragon.

What are some types of plant-based foods you should include in your pet bearded dragon’s diet?

Vegetables and flowers should make up the bulk of the plant-based diet(80-90 percent), with fruits accounting for only 10-20 percent. Generally speaking, anything dark green and leafy can make up a significant portion of one’s diet.

Vegetables that are yellow, red, or orange may also be included. Avoid light green vegetables which are highly fibrous but lack vitamins and minerals. A few examples of this are iceberg lettuce and celery.

The fact is that these veggies are mostly fiber and water with little nutritional value. Some vegetables’ inner, light-colored sections are less nutritious than the deeper green, outside leaves.

What animal sources of protein should you feed your pet bearded dragon?

Grasshoppers, gut-loaded (i.e., provided nutritional food that is then passed on to the lizard) or calcium-dusted crickets and mealworms, spiders, wax worms (sometimes, as they have high fat), silkworms (occasionally), tofu, moths, slugs, and earthworms are all good animal-based protein sources.

Crickets and different worms are examples of live prey that can be raised by owners or obtained from pet stores, bait stores, or reptile breeders.

Collecting insects from the outside of the home garden is not suggested because these insects might also be covered in insecticides and fertilizing chemicals, making them hazardous to bearded dragons if fed to them.

Bearded dragons should never be fed fireflies since these insects are poisonous to lizards. Pinkie or young “fuzzy” mice can be fed sparingly to larger bearded dragons.

Do you need to give your pet bearded dragons vitamins and minerals?

Yes, Bearded dragons require more calcium than phosphorus in their diet, especially when they are young and their bones are still forming.

Generally, veterinarians recommend that you dust the food offered to bearded dragons with a calcium powder (calcium gluconate, lactate, or carbonate) that does not contain vitamin D3 2-3 times per week and that you use a calcium powder that does have vitamin D3 2-3 times per week.

It would help to sprinkle a delicate dusting of a basic reptile mineral supplement on the food once a week.

How much water does your pet bearded dragon need?

Ideally, your bearded dragon pet should have access to clean and fresh water at all times. You can place a stable water container in its terrarium, and it should suffice your pet bearded dragon’s hydration needs.

Another way to ensure that your pet bearded dragon doesn’t get dehydrated is to feed veggies that are freshly washed and wet.

Bearded Dragon Behavior Problems and Tendencies

Bearded dragons are known to show a wide range of behaviors. To properly understand your beardie, you must first recognize what conduct it is displaying and why it is behaving in this manner.

Knowing what actions are typical and which ones are symptoms of stress or disease is also beneficial. Keep reading to understand the most commonly exhibited behaviors by bearded dragons.

Waving of forelimbs

Both sexes of the bearded dragon species utilize the action of arm waving to demonstrate their submission to either you or any other individual in the wild.

Bearded dragons in their infancy may execute a slow dance to show that they want your recognition of the fact that they are young. This dance usually involves a waving action with just one forelimb.

If your young beardie feels afraid of you, it may do this when it sees you approaching, but it usually does this to older bearded dragons it doesn’t know well.

Puffing their beards

The patch on their throat where a human may wear a beard gives bearded dragons their name. Now, the beard also plays a functional role besides being the source of its name.

When your beardie is irritated, this “beard” may be blown up and darkened to black on-demand. If it feels threatened, isn’t feeling well, or is attempting to assert authority, it may also inflate and darken its beard.

However, you will also notice your bearded dragon doing this action when trying to woo a female it wants to mate with. 

Bobbing of the head

Bearded dragons may bob their heads when they feel they have dominated something or someone. They nod their heads as if to say yes or approve something. This is something that more dominant beardies may pass down to younger bearded dragons.

Changing their colors

Overall, body color and beard color changes may occur gradually as your bearded dragon matures. But, if a rapid or brief color shift is observed, it is likely due to stress, disease, or emotion.

When scared or upset, bearded dragons will often darken or turn black. While displaying the beard puff, they will also brown their beards. When brought to an exotics vet, most bearded dragons will change colors and darken if they aren’t used to traveling or handling.

Digging the ground under it

If a female bearded dragon is trying to lay a clutch of eggs, she may burrow naturally. Wild Bearded dragons often cover their eggs to incubate them and protect them from predators. They do not particularly have to worry about predators in captivity.

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Still, most bearded dragon breeders will extract the eggs once laid and incubate them in incubators at controlled temperatures.

If your beardie is digging, make sure it has the right type of substrate to lay its eggs in, that it gets enough calcium in its diet, and that you keep a close eye on its eating and activity levels.

Many bearded dragons get egg-bound and require assistance or surgery to free themselves of the eggs.

Courtship and Breeding in Bearded Dragons

Between the ages of one and two, wild bearded dragons reach sexual maturity. In their native Australia, mating takes place throughout the warmer months, between September and March.

Many breeders in captivity give their dragons a brumation period before mating, while it isn’t always necessary. Brumation is comparable to hibernation in that the dragon’s body undergoes few modifications.

The brumation period is designed to resemble winter. Territorial males and complicated mating dances between males and females are all part of the mating cycle. Once pregnant, a female will look for a suitable location to lay and bury her eggs.

pogona or very docile bearded dragon in the terrarium

Males and females will execute a dance to convey their acceptance to each other during courting. That is the courtship ritual that is usually followed by bearded dragon species.

In captivity, a female that is hesitant or unready to mate may claw at the sides of its terrarium in an attempt to move away from the male bearded dragon. A willing female, on the other hand, will dance with her potential partner.

The male will bob his head vigorously and show off his beard, which darkens over time. A submissive female will respond with slower head bobs and, in many circumstances, the submissive “arm wave,” a surrender signal employed by both males and females.

Although actual copulation can take less than one minute, the dance may be the longest portion of the bearded dragons’ courtship. After the mates have accepted each other, the male will mount the female’s back and bite her in the fleshy region of her neck.

Copulation occurs when the two interlock their tails. The female is free to live with the man until she has to lay her eggs. After successful copulation, females usually lay their eggs three to five weeks later.

How Long do Bearded Dragons Live on Average?

Bearded Dragons can live for up to twelve years as pets. Predation, food scarcity, and droughts contribute to wild species having a shortened lifespan of five to eight years. The longer a person lives, the bigger they are.

Serbia, 25-29 Years, 30-34 Years, Adult, Adults Only

Any bearded dragon who lives longer than 12 years is considered exceptional. A bearded dragon’s lifespan is affected by diet, confinement, sex, genetics, size, species, and breeding.

When it comes to caring for a bearded dragon, it’s critical to avoid typical husbandry blunders. This will keep them healthy and happy, as well as potentially extend their lives.

Common Health Issues in Pet Bearded Dragons

Female vet checking health of bearded dragon in her office.

Bearded dragons are quite hardy animals if they are well cared for, with a correct diet and environment.

Diseases like secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism, infectious stomatitis are common health problems in pet bearded dragons. These issues have been discussed further for your comprehensive understanding.

Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism

Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism is a complicated condition that affects the majority of pet bearded dragons. It’s especially common in young bearded dragons that are younger than two years of age.

This is most commonly caused by a diet that is high in phosphorus and deficient in calcium or Vitamin D3. This is generally caused by a diet that lacks these nutrients or a lifestyle that lacks exposure to the right kind of light.

Enlargement of the lower jaw, softening of the jaw and facial bones, and swelling of the hind limbs are also common symptoms.

Mouth rot or infectious stomatitis

Infectious stomatitis, also known as mouth rot, in bearded dragons is less common than in other lizards like iguanas.

It’s a bacterial infection of the gums and jaw bone that causes tiny hemorrhages, gum swelling, and an abundance of thick mucus in the mouth that’s often the consistency of cottage cheese.

When infectious stomatitis infects the jawbones, it can cause swelling of the jaw.

Respiratory infections

Bearded dragons who are stressed, incorrectly fed, or kept in poor, cold, or dirty circumstances can get respiratory illnesses (particularly pneumonia). Bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses can all cause respiratory tract infections.

Sneezing, drainage from the eyes or nose, bubbles from the mouth or nose, excessively quick or shallow breathing, open-mouthed breathing, decreased appetite, and fatigue are symptoms of the disease.

Parasites

In the intestinal system of pet bearded dragons, parasites, particularly pinworms, are widespread. Parasites will be found on a yearly fecal examination, even if the pet shows no clinical indications.

Parasites can induce diarrhea or weight loss in some people. Pinworms are parasites that dwell in the gastrointestinal systems of bearded dragons. They’re likely commensal creatures.

That means that the parasites derive utility from living off the bearded dragon’s body without having to harm it. Ticks and mites can be discovered on the skin of bearded dragons. These parasites are passed down from bearded dragons to bearded dragons.

Conclusion

As long as you ensure that you can provide the ideal living conditions for your pet bearded dragon, keeping it healthy will be a cakewalk.

In addition, you can make sure that your pet bearded dragon lives a happy life while enjoying the affection and company of a reptile that does excellently as a pet.

FAQs About Bearded Dragons

Is it dangerous to lay a bearded dragon on its back?

Yes, it is dangerous for a bearded dragon to be laid on its back since the species doesn’t have a diaphragm to support its lungs. Therefore, laying a bearded dragon on its back can cause death due to the collapse of its lungs.

What does it mean when a bearded dragon is running around their cage a lot?

If your pet bearded dragon runs around its cage a lot, it most likely means that it is stressed.

What is a bearded dragon’s average lifespan?

As pets, bearded dragons can live up to 10 to 15 years of age. This number can reduce drastically in the wild due to the high mortality due to environmental factors.

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Gulshan
Hi, I am Gulshan, a pet blogger, and author. I've been working with the local pet groups for the past five years. I have been fascinated by our pets and am here to share that wonder with you.