Bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps, care sheet
Bearded dragons are found throughout Australia. The most common subspecies in captivity are the inland (central) bearded dragons and Rankins Dragons. Both live in a similar habitat of arid woodlands and desert type habitats as well as scrub and grasslands.
Bearded dragons are diurnal (active during the day,) in their nature and are commonly found hunting and foraging amongst vegetation and basking on rocks. When the weather gets too warm, bearded dragons will also burrow to cool down.
Substrates can be controversial for the bearded dragon. To keep a natural vivarium and one that your bearded dragon is built for, we recommend sandy, rocky substrates or desert mixes which incorporate sand and soil.
Many see these choices as a detriment to the animal due to an issue called ‘impaction’; this is where the animal eats the substrate and so the gut becomes impacted to the point of being a health risk to the animal, however, the act of eating the substrate comes from an animals attempts to find extra nutrition, usually due to this nutrition being absent from the diet.
Following the correct nutritional needs and supplementation, heat and UV requirements as well as following advice on the best substrate options; for example, ones that can pass easier through the gut will eradicate this risk, which is why we still recommend more natural substrates over less natural alternatives.
To ensure your bearded dragon receives all of the correct nutrition and prevent illness linked to dietary deficiencies you will need to provide all aspects of the diet including a mix of vegetation and insects as well as pinkie mice on occasion.
Supplementation of these food items is also required; Calcium and multivitamin powders need to be dusted onto the food. Calcium is required at every feed but multivitamins are still essential.
Bearded Dragon diets change dependent of their age; juveniles will feed mainly on insects which can be provided daily whilst still providing a small amount of veg, as it gets older it will have 2-3 days in the week off insects and require mainly vegetation. This can sometimes be tricky to get right, especially with a fussy bearded dragon, but persevere.
Being reptiles, Bearded dragons, cannot regulate their own body temperatures and so require both a hot and cooler side in their vivarium. Due to these animals having high heat requirements the use of a bulb, not a heat mat, is essential.
Your basking spot should be around 40-42°C with the cooler areas remaining in mid to high 30’s. A thermostat to control the heat source will mean these temperatures can be maintained safely without overheating.
At night you can allow your vivarium to drop in temperature to room temperature, as this kind of temperature change would be seen in their natural environment. An accurate thermometer should always accompany your thermostat so it can be monitored.
Your bearded dragon also has high UV requirements and will need a good quality UVB/A tube. UVB is essential in the metabolism of many nutrients that your animal needs, for example calcium for healthy bones.
UVA also has its uses to your animal and has even been shown to be significant in eyesight! UV tubes will need to be changed every 6-12 months depending on the brand as after this time, although you won’t see it, the UV will not be effective. UV should be used in a 12-hour cycle, being switched off at night in imitation of the sun.
Within your vivarium, you should have a number of pieces of ‘furniture’ such as logs and branches, plants and rocks as well as hiding areas on either side of your vivarium. Moving these pieces around every now and then and adding new items will keep your animal well stimulated and active.
Another essential piece in your vivarium is a water dish; it is rarely seen that your bearded dragons drinks as they are built to survive on a small amount of water however it is still important to provide it so they always have access and don’t dehydrate.
Tap water can be used for drinking. In addition, especially whilst shedding, it might help your bearded dragon to have a small spray onto their skin, this loosens it and makes shedding easier. Some people may also wish to bathe their bearded dragons however this is something that isn't required very often and shouldn't become too frequent.
Bearded dragon shopping list
- Heat source
- UVB Lighting
- Water bowl
- Door lock/ wedge
- Calcium and Multivitamin
- Cleaning Equipment
Bearded dragon fact file
Name: Bearded dragon
Scientific name: Pogona vitticeps
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Length: up to 2ft
Temperament: Docile, easily tamed
Vivarium size: 4x2x2ft / 5x2x2ft
Temperature gradient: 32 - 40°c
Humidity: 30 - 40%
Lighting: High-level UVB
Feeding: Live insects, vegetation, occasional mice