The Herps & Habitats Bearded Dragon FAQs Page

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Do bearded dragons need water?

Yes! Even though the Australian bearded dragon comes mainly from a desert area, the beardie does need water. In captivity the bearded dragon relies on you to provide for all of its needs. And there are so many ways to provide for your little beardie that that it can be quickly and easily taken care of, even with a busy schedule. A quick misting and dropping in a small handful of shredded greens can be a quick fix when you are rushed or a great scheduled maintenance task that is sure to make your dragon happy! A small bowl for water can also be offered, but be aware that it can also be easily soiled. A bath should be offered every other day, not only for a drink, but for your lizard's personal cleanliness as well. I bathe my lizards every other day, which the majority really enjoy. I start the routine when they are very young so they are used to it and expect it. Keep in mind that hot summer weather or extremely dry winter weather can also be good reasons to offer water a little more often than usual.

What is a good temperature for my bearded dragon's cage?

Optimal beardie temperature will vary. Daytime environmental temperatures should range from 80-85°F, with one or more basking areas reaching 90-100°F. Night temperatures should drop to 75°F and supplemental night heating sources are usually not necessary.

Can mealworms kill my dragon?

Just about every forum will have a horror story posted on it about mealworms killing bearded dragons. It seems to primarily involve babies and juveniles, but often weakened or sick dragons are mentioned. I do not necessarily believe this story as other factors were involved to bring the dragon to that state of debilitation to allow prey insects to kill the reptile. I feed mealworms, but sparingly. I also take extra time to pick out the just shed, white worms to feed first. The dark exoskeleton is hard and crunchy and can be impossible for young bearded dragons to digest. This combined with the large size of some worms can lead to impaction, whose readily spotted symptoms can include paralysis of the back legs and tail. I do not feed giant mealworms at all for this reason, even to my large, full-grown males. It is a personal choice, but one both the beardies and I can live by!

I have heard about something called oxalic acid. What is it and how can it harm my bearded dragon?

Oxalic acid is present in certain dark greens, like spinach. It binds the calcium the greens offer and actually reduces the amount of total calcium available from the food source. An ideal Ca:P ratio of 2:1 is recommended. Improper amounts of calcium in the diet can lead to a variety of illnesses and side-effects. Poor bone growth, brittleness or extreme softness can result. Deformities of limbs and jaws are often apparent at this stage and can inhibit further feeding abilities. Rickets, metabolic bone disease (MBD), poor nervous system function and poor eggshell production are all related to diets weak in calcium, which is necessary to insure healthy skin, bones, muscles and blood. A varied diet is essential as are supplements like Repto-Cal, Rep-Cal, Nekton MSA and a variety of new supplements you'll find on the shelves of your local pet store.

What kind of light should I use in my beardies' cage?

Full spectrum fluorescent lighting with high UV-B output is recommended. Look for Reptisun 5.0 by ZooMed, Vitalight or ESU brand lights at your local pet shop. UV-B is essential for helping diurnal reptiles to synthesis Vitamin D3, which is required for calcium absorption. UV-B may also stimulate activity, feeding and reproduction cycles as well. During winter months the light cycle should be 8-10 hours on, during summer 12 hours.

The crickets at my local pet shop look awfully big for my new baby dragon. How big of crickets should I be feeding him? So far he hasn't eaten anything and now it has been a couple of days.

A healthy, happy bearded dragon is an active, foraging reptile. They can be "bottomless" pits at times, inhaling insects and vegetable goodies without hesitation. When feeding crickets to babies, the rule of thumb is to feed crickets that are no larger in length than the space between the eyes on the lizards head. With some babies that can mean ordering just larger than pin-head size crickets from a distributor to ensure that the proper food is offered. Most local pet stores do not carry a variety of cricket sizes, although some may carry several sizes. Feedings can vary drastically within a clutch, some beardies will eat more often than others, especially as the growing spurts begin. As a rule of thumb, I feed my hatchlings 4-6 times a day, juveniles 3-5. Smaller feedings, more often, work best so that the intended food source does not become the hunter! Avoid leaving an excess of crickets in with your bearded dragon, especially with hatchlings. A few crickets can quickly debilitate a small, tired or lethargic reptile. Gear the feeding to reflect this philosophy. If by accident there are crickets left over, make sure those few have adequate food to distract them from picking on your bearded dragon. Juveniles grow quickly and need to begin eating a variety of foods. See the question below for more on this and also check the Feeding section of the Herps & Habitats Info Page for more ideas on what to give your bearded dragon for dinner!

Can I feed my bearded dragon cat food like I do my iguana?

Yikes! I'm not quite sure where to start. FIRST of all, your iguana shouldn't be eating just cat food. I doubt that your bearded dragon would eat cat food more than once in a while (if that), but starvation is a highly motivating factor. Please visit Kaplan's page on the proper care of iguanas. Yes, I said iguanas. You can use the info you will find there to better feed your bearded dragon. You will find these links on the Herps & Habitats Resource page.

Second, read about your bearded dragon. I suggest all of the following to all of my readers:

Third, visit the rest of the links I have provided on the Resource page and find out even more! Find out as much as you can about your Australian bearded dragon so that you can provide your reptile/pet/companion with a happy, healthy and long life. A varied diet is the key to a happy pet, regardless of the species. All things in moderation, just like with humans! Check out our Feeding page for more suggestions on what to feed your bearded dragon!

My lizard puffs up at me and sometimes bites. What should I do?

Constant, careful handling will prevent that behavior in juveniles. Bearded dragons are basically a mild-mannered companion reptile that can recognize its owner and enjoys being held and having "outings". Often with adults, it is an indication of improper handling or abuse by a previous owner that makes the dragon puff up and look menacing. When that behavior doesn't work, biting is the next defense. Adult bearded dragons may be a lost cause in some cases, but persistence on your part and time may be enough to change your dragons point of view.

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