Minimum Requirements for an Adult Bearded Dragon
All heating should be positioned at same end of the tank, creating a hot basking end for your tank. The opposite end should have no heating, creating a cool end for your tank. Place your thermometer and / or thermostat sensor in the middle of you tank just off the floor, at this point in your tank the thermometer should read 84°F / 29.5°C give or take a couple of degrees Fahrenheit and the best way to achieve an accurate temperature is with a thermostat. Bearded dragons do not require a night time drop in temperature; doing so can cause failure to digest large meals, causing illness. Never place your vivarium near radiators, direct sunlight, drafts, busy areas or appliances that create a lot of noise.
UV lighting is essential for 12-14 hours a day. The UV tube should start against the wall at the hot end and span 2/3 the length of the enclosure thus creating a UV gradient much like your heating. It is best to position your UV tube 6-9 inches from the ceiling of a 2ft high vivarium. However a word of warning. Reptiles have adapted to living with strong UV radiation from above. Placing the UV tube level or within 45 degrees of the eye could damage it severely (photokeratoconjunctivitis or cataracts) symptoms include swelling of the eye and area around it or cloudy eye/s. This is thankfully not too common but it is better to be safe and not allow your animal to sit alongside or within a few inches of your tube.
Always remember to replace your UV tube every 6 months unless the manufacturer suggests otherwise. The tube’s UV producing capability will degrade though the tube will show no obvious sign. As far as we can tell only the Arcadia D3+ and T5 range last 12 months and give a virtually guaranteed 12% UV for the duration of that time. Failure to give your new Bearded dragon the proper levels and quality of UV could result in irreversible Metabolic Bone Disorder.
Substrate choice is a difficult one, a good quality orchid bark is recommended, and it is certainly the safest. Sand and beech chip have been used with some success though sand has been seen to cause compaction in Bearded dragons when they have been allowed to eat directly off of sand. Accidents can happen with any of the above substrates at any age, it’s only a case of limiting these risks.
Spot clean your tank regularly, if done properly a full tank clean should only be necessary once a month. Only use disinfectants specifically designed for reptiles. Soaps, detergents and other disinfectants can be toxic.
Always provide your Bearded dragon with clean fresh drinking water, tap water is fine, although there are water treatments available if in doubt.
Always get all your tank furniture from a recognised dealer, and remember Bearded dragons eat plant matter, so don’t use live plants and make sure you don’t allow your Bearded dragon to eat any plastic or silk plants that you may use.
Many different feeding routines and diets have been used with varying levels of success the best suited to this set-up will be explained below.
Bearded dragons from ten weeks old to one year should be given 3-4 meals a week, broken into 1-2 meals of vegetable matter. The rest of the meals should be insects. The vegetable part of the diet is made up of 90% dark leafy greens and 10% fruits and vegetables.
FOOD TO AVOID
It is worth remembering that if you take foods from outside to check no pesticides or fertilizers have been used nearby. Also never give your animal anything from the side of the road due to exhaust fumes.
The best way to judge what quantity of vegetable matter constitutes as a meal, is to put a sizeable amount of food in, in the morning and remove in the evening. You can always top up as the day goes on.
The best way to judge what quantity of jumping insects constitutes as a meal is to drop a limited amount, say half a dozen crickets or locusts. If your animal is hungry it will eat immediately, if it does, continue to put a couple of insect in every time it finishes, until your Bearded dragon appears full (waiting for food to come to them). Remember never leave excess crickets in the vivarium, as they can cause injury to your animal! Bearded dragons will also eat so much that they fill their stomachs with food, then continue to feed, packing food end to end down their esophagus, try to avoid this happening. With mealworms and waxworms, treat them like veg and place in a bowl for a day.
The quantities in the meals will increase as your animal gets older, but the frequency of the meals will become less. 2-3 meals a week will be enough for adults, consisting of equal amounts of insects and greens.
Bearded dragons can be very picky with their food. Quite often when presented with an abundance of food they will just eat what they fancy and wait for the next time it becomes available. Be strict!
A good quality vitamin and mineral is essential to the well-being of your animal, always read the packaging carefully. We recommend Nutrobal on 2 of 3 meals. Failure to maintain a good supply of vitamins and minerals will result in irreversible illness, such as Metabolic Bone Disorder.
Do not handle your Bearded dragon immediately after a move, leave at least four weeks to allow your animal to settle. If you don’t, one of two things will happen.
1. Your animal may become defensive and aggressive
2. Your animal may become reclusive and fail to feed properly
After the initial four weeks handling may begin slowly. Bearded dragons are naturally friendly, you do not need to restrain or excessively handle them to make them good pets. Always handle your animal near to a surface, accidents can happen and Bearded dragons don’t fly! Always use common sense when handling animals.
When it comes to your animal’s health, if you are ever in doubt ask a respected dealer, and if still in doubt go to a specialist veterinarian. There are a few simple things to look out for.
It is also worth noting that exposure to high humidity on a regular basis or prolonged exposure can be hazardous to your Dragons health. They come from a very dry part of the world and are adapted to dealing with it very well. Do not spray them or leave them sitting in baths of water (unless sick, then consult a vet). These things can lead to lung and skin infections.
Avoid putting your Bearded dragon in with any other animals, they are very territorial, but will live with each other in most circumstances if the correct sex ratios are followed. If purchasing a second Bearded dragon, make sure they are of compatible size and get equal amounts of food to ensure the same rate of growth. Often it is worth leaving an abundance of food (i.e. veg and mealworms, not crickets and locust. These can be fed in moderation, daily) in the enclosure for the first month or so is a good idea before moving to the diet we describe above. Make sure you acquire a bigger enclosure and if possible provide two basking spots at the same end to avoid competition over space and heat. Ask a respected dealer for more information.