The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Bearded Dragons Are Generally Considered Good Pets Even For Beginner Reptile Owners The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Bearded Dragons Are Generally Considered Good Pets Even For Beginner Reptile Owners

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bearded Dragons Are Generally Considered Good Pets Even For Beginner Reptile Owners

While bearded dragons are generally considered good pets even for beginner reptile owners, they do have fairly complex nutritional and environmental requirements so need special equipment and a fair amount of time to care for properly. They are moderately sized lizards native to Australia.

They are social, easy to tame and handle, and show a range of fascinating behaviors that make them interesting to watch.

Although several other species are becoming available to the pet trade, the most commonly available variety is the central or inland bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps.

This species is native to arid, rocky areas of Australia, and is typically tan/brown in coloration (several color morphs are also available).

Their name is derived from the spines that line their throats. These spines usually lie flat but if the dragon feels threatened the throat is expanded causing the spines to stand up, making the dragon look more intimidating (especially combined with their tendency to flatten their bodies to appear wider).

However, bearded dragons are generally docile, and their aggressive displays are rarely seen in captivity. They are noted for an endearing greeting behavior, in which they lift their front leg in an almost circular motion, so it looks like they are waving.Virtually all bearded dragons available in America are captive bred, as Australia has strict laws against exportation of its wildlife.

With an adult size of 18-24 inches (reached by about 2 years of age), a good sized tank/cage will be required. The expected life span of a bearded dragon is probably around 10 years when cared for properly, although longer life spans have been reported.

Tank Size
For a single bearded dragon a bare minimum of a 40 gallon tank will be necessary, but bigger is definitely better (55 gallon or larger is better). A secure screen top cover will also be necessary.

Substrate is a hotly debated area of bearded dragon care. For juveniles, any loose substrate including sand should be avoided, as there is too great a risk of ingestion,
eating or out of curiosity) and subsequent intestinal impaction.

Paper toweling, papers, or indoor outdoor carpeting can all be used (make sure there are no loose threads on carpeting). For adults, washed play sand (available at hardware stores; not fine silica sand) can be used if desired, although paper or indoor-outdoor carpet works fine too. Do not use wood shavings, corn cob, walnut shell, or other substrates that could cause problems if swallowed.If sand is used, feces can be scooped out with a cat litter scoop, and the cage can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected several times a year.

Cage Furnishings
Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and like to perch a little bit off the ground. A selection of sturdy rocks, half logs, and branches can give them something to climb on, especially in the part of the tank used as a basking area. They should also be a hide (or two -- one at each end of the temperature gradient). A couple of simple silk plants also make a nice addition to the tank (if they are too leafy crickets and other prey may have too many hiding spots).

Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation by use of a special light designed for reptiles is extremely important. Special fluroescent bulbs can be found at pet stores, and these will likely run the length of the tank, but be sure they are overlap the basking area. Your bearded dragon should be able to get within 6-8 inches of these lights to benefit from the UV emitted. The amount of UV produced by these bulbs decreases over time so they need to be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer. Mercury vapor bulbs provide both UVA/UVB and heat, and can be used for both UV production and a basking lamp. It is important that UV producing lights be directed through a screen top rather than glass to the UV rays can reach the lizards. Exposure to sunlight (not through a window) can also be beneficial, but if time is provided outdoors, shade and shelter must be available so the dragon can thermoregulate. Do not place outside in a glass sided tank as overheating will quickly occur in the sunlight.

Proper temperatures are also extremely important. As with other reptiles, a temperature gradient should be provided, as well as a basking spot. The gradient should go from 80-85 F (26-30 C) on the cool side, up to a basking temperature of about 95-105 F (35 -40 C). Night time temperatures can fall to approximately 65-70 F (18-21 C).Heat can be provided via an incandescent light or ceramic heater (make sure a ceramic socket is used), or a mercury vapor bulb (again, use a ceramic socket) in a dome reflector hood. You may need to experiment with wattage and distance from the cage to provide appropriate temperatures.

Use thermometers in the cage to monitor the temperatures at the basking spot, as well as either end of the gradient (never rely on estimates!). If necessary, and under tank heater can be used to supplement the heat especially at night if the room temperature is very low. A consistent light-dark cycle (12 - 14 hours light) must be provided (using the lights on a timer is the best way to ensure a consistent cycle).

Water should be provided in a shallow dish. They can also be misted lightly, but not enough to make the environment wet or humid, however.Next: Feeding Bearded Dragons

Omnivorous Diet
In the wild, bearded dragons are omnivores, eating a mixture of invertebrate and vertebrate prey (such as insects and smaller animals) as well as plant material. In captivity, they should be fed a combination of insects (mostly crickets, with a variety of other cultured insect prey) and greens and vegetables.

Bearded dragons are prone to impaction of their digestive system, and the chitinous exoskeletons of insect prey can cause problems. This is especially true of crunchy bugs like mealworms, so it is best to feed these in limited quantities, especially to juveniles. Feeding insects right after a molt will help reduce the chance of an impaction as the exoskeletons are not as tough. Crickets also should not be too large, especially for baby bearded dragons (a rule of thumb: feed nothing bigger than the distance between the bearded dragons eyes).

Once bearded dragons become adults, you can offer a wider range of insects such as waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, red worms, earthworms, and newly molted mealworms and superworms. However, these should be considered "treats" with crickets still making up the bulk of the diet. Pinkie mice can also be offered to adults occasionally.

Juveniles should be fed insects more often than adults. Feed Juveniles at least twice a day, offering as many appropriately-sized insects as they will eat in 10 minutes or so. Don't feed until the tank is heated up in the morning or just before the tank cools down at night, as the heat is necessary for digestion.

Adults can be fed insects once a day (for both juveniles and adults, greens and vegetables can be available all the time).Insects should be gut loaded (fed nutritious food that is then passed on to the lizard) prior to feeding, and lightly dusted with a calcium and Vitamin D (no phosphorus) supplement at each feeding. Dust with a complete multivitamin no more than once a week. It is risky to feed wild caught insects due to the risk of pesticide contamination.

One caution: do not feed fireflies (lightning bugs) or boxelder bugs as these are believed to be toxic to bearded dragons!

Greens and Vegetables
In addition to insects, bearded dragons should be fed a mixture of green leafy vegetables (e.g. dandelion greens, collard greens, chicory greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, escarole, parsley), other vegetables (e.g. squash, carrots, green beans, peas, bell peppers), and some fruits (e.g. berries, apples, grapes, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, blueberries, bananas). The plant portion of the diet should be about 20-30% of the diet. These items can be chopped up and mixed together to make a salad, which can be fed in a shallow bowl. Leafy greens can also be clipped to the side of the cage.

Commercial Diets
Commercial diets are becoming more available, but so far the long term success of these diets is not well known. It is always best to feed as varied a diet as possible, so if these prepared diets are used they should just be a supplement, not the sole source of nutrition.

As mentioned, bearded dragons are generally docile, and can be easily handled with minimal socialization or effort into taming. It is important to scoop them up under the belly and support their belly in the palm of your hand with your fingers gently curled over the body.

Their nails do get sharp, and should be trimmed regularly. They can be trimmed in a similar fashion to iguana claws,


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