Bearded_dragon 2006-05-24 16:01:49
This file consists of the long version of the responses one would receive responding to Theldara’s (http://blackninjakitty.com/herps/care/questions.htm) dragon questionaire. This is in no way a solid, static compilation of everything one might need to know or take into consideration about bearded dragon husbandry, rather, it is a compilation of the most commonly requested information, with some explanation. Any questions, comments, or concerns about this or any BDC document should be forwarded to herphelpers (AT) gmail (DOT) com or posted on the group (bearded_dragon_community (AT) yahoogroups (DOT) com) if in reference to a situation you, yourself, or a family/friend may be dealing with. That being said, I hope this information is helpful, but please do get a second opinion if you feel one is in order.
How old is he?
When purchasing a dragon, always consider first the primary caretaker, and second, whether the family is tolerant of LOTS OF INSECTS!!! Older dragons– one year and above, eat CONSIDERABLY less insects, as by this age they should be eating at least 50-60% herbivorous diet (or with also Rep-Cal Adult Beardie Pellets.) Dragons over two years of age should be eating 75-80% herbivorous diet. Also consider that older dragons are typically easier for young children to handle, whereas if the primary handler is old enough, a young dragon is fun to raise as a part of a family. Regardless, no legitimate, reputable bearded dragon breeder/seller should EVER sell a dragon under 6 inches in length or under 6 weeks in age. Eight weeks of age, and 8 inches is far more appropriate to limit the stress on the dragon AND the new owners! That said, you may wish to start your search here http://www.bearded-dragon-network.com, in addition to checking out opinions on the seller, like the BOI at
http://www.faunaclassifieds.com , or groups like this.
Did he come from a breeder or pet store?
Although there are just as many great recommendations of privately owned stores and breeders who work with local stores, we hear just as many problems, if not more, with many petstores. Not my recommendation, but if you find a healthy beardie, or even just one you fall in love with, go with it. Instinct means a lot, preparation and research even more. Be careful, however, of common petstore pitfalls— MOST of the reptile products on the market are tested little, if at all, and many are downright dishonest with their labels, leaving us to unwittingly purchase products that are dangerous and sometimes deadly!
Have you gotten a vet check and fecal done?
Plan on this! For help finding a local REPTILE veterinarian (beware of those claiming to treat reptiles, also, but without any special interest or training), try these links (also on the links page): http://www.herpvetconnection.com and http://www.arav.com
How long is he (snout to tail)?
A healthy baby dragon at birth should be between 3 1/2 and 5 inches typically…. average being about 4 inches. These very young dragons grow at a rate of about 1 inch per week up until about 12 weeks of age, then slow gradually, reaching adult length by two years of age, and adult weight sometimes later, depending on the bloodline. Average adult dragons in this country, considering the problem of inbreeding, poor husbandry, and breeding too young, seems to be 16-18 inches, however a healthy dragon with all proper husbandry and decent genetics should reach closer to 20 or 22 inches. Dragons CAN and DO reach beyond 24 inches, so keep that in mind when planning for the adult cage!
What size cage is he in?
Is he housed alone?
Twenty gallon tanks are great to start off with the youngin’s, but following the growth information above, do you see why the need to plan ahead quickly is in order? =D I recommend planning for a minimum of 4ft length, by 2 ft height and 2 ft depth of any cage for any ONE average to larger sized adult dragon. A smaller adult dragon is likely to be happy in a smaller tank (particularly with lots of exercise and handling daily), but never consider less than a 40 gal tank, preferably a 40 gal BREEDER tank.
Mind that dragons are NOT very keen on roommates. No two male dragons will ever get along in a tank– only a year round outdoor enclosure at least the size of a room would have to be provided, and at least two females per male to accompany. Obviously this is NOT what a typical beardie owner would be capable or willing to provide. Two females will sometimes live together if they make it through the hormonal adolescent stage without injury, but I say, is this really a chance you’d be willing to take? Keep in mind that dragons in the wild are often found alone, males nearly always, but females sometimes gathering during the mating season, with an alpha female calling the shots. Young dragons are food for adult dragons– little guys stay away!!
No two dragons between 6 months and 18 mos of age should be housed together— this period is very very chancy for behaviour, and in addition, if a mistake was made in sexing the dragons, they would be far too young to mate without being tremendously hard on their growing bodies.
What substrate is he on?
Papertowel is highly recommended for use with any dragon under 10-12 inches in length (including tail), or any dragon being treated for impaction issues or parasites. Not only easy clean up, but easy to see any problems, and completely eliminates problems of impaction. After the initial 90 day quarantine period, and after the checkup and fecal exam comes back clean, you may prefer to switch to a quality reptile carpeting (see http://www.reptilerooms.com ), non-stick drawer liner, or etc. Dragons beyond quarantine and 10-12 inches can be safely housed on sifted, clean children’s playsand, rabbit pellets (alfalfa, plain), carefresh (petstore small animal product), or any combination of the above nonparticulate and particulate, by use of a sand box or other creative “digging area”. We always keep papertowels in any non-sand cage as dragons are usually fairly easy to “paper” train!
Is he active, alert, eyes bright?
They should be– at all times, minus sleeping, of course. Dragons, like all reptiles, are not domesticated animals, and as much as they may love you, they are still unwilling to let go of the instinct to hide illness and injury. So, by the time we see these animals showing symptoms such as this, they are in rough shape, and need to be evaluated immediately. Never purchase, adopt, or expose your other pets to any animal who shows these signs– instead, recommend a veterinarian, or a reptile rescue locally. We do not wish for anyone to take home any animal and unknowingly expose their pets to what could be a deadly illness, leave this to professionals and those under professional guidance with access to medical facilities.
Is he pooping?
Oh, how we love to talk about dragon poo! But… it IS for good reason. One of the best indications of an animals’ overall health condition is the appearance, consistency, contents, and SMELL of the feces! We have a photo shared from a friend for use in the Photos section of this group that demonstrates what the average dragons’ healthy feces looks like.
What is his basking temperature?
Younger dragons sometimes prefer a bit warmer– 105-110 is acceptable provided that the dragon has a cool end of the tank to go to, but most dragons prefer 100-105F. Not only must they have NO light at night, but typically they will also need no additional heat (provided the temp doesn’t get below 55F). Also, during the day they must also have a cool end of the tank, or cave, etc in order to escape the hot spot. An appropriate cool end temperature measures approximately 70-80F. The AMBIENT temp of the warm end of the tank usually runs about 85-90F, it’s the hot spot that we are asking for when we say “basking temperature, and this is a surface temperature reading.
What is it being measured with (digital, stick-on, etc)?
There is simply no substitute for a good, accurate, thermometer. There are several companies that now make a digital thermometer with a probe that takes TWO readings. The first, from the probe (sometimes called the “outdoor” reading), is what you will tape to the hot spot of the tank, but care not to cover the actual probe. The base can be strung across the top over the cool end for a “indoor” cool end reading. Leave the thermometer in place for at least 24 hours continuous before bringing the dragon home to allow for adjustments of height, surface, and wattage if needed to acheive the proper temperatures. We are caring for creatures who depend on us to provide their environment fully!
Are you using any form of electronic heating device other than
I cannot stress enough the dangers of heat rocks, caves, and logs. These are completely inappropriate for daytime basking reptiles as the item the animals basks on in the wild does not continue to heat while they are sitting on it, and because of this fact of nature, these types of animals are likely to receive nasty burns— they sense heat with a parietal eye on the tops of their heads, easily seen on close up photos of beardies and green iguanas most commonly. Heat pads have their place with snakes, geckos, and skinks, or in rare cases of beardies with handicap or illness, but WITH CARE! All are a fire risk if you do not allow for ventilation. Human heat pads, reusable, like the gel hot/cold type, are a great way to provide a bit of extra warmth on the belly when needed.
What brand, model, and size is his UVB light?
Beware!! This is one of those petstore traps I mentioned!! This group is highly recommended to learn about UVB requirements of our reptiles– http://groups.yahoo.com/group/uvb_meter_owners/ . Many typical petstore products test very very poorly and have poor stability– so much so that they are considered worthless for a majority of our reptile keeping needs. An excellent choice for UVB is the Repti-Sun 5.0, or the Exo-Terra Repti-Glo 8.0 for flourescent bulbs, and there are several excellent options, altho more sensitive and more expensive, but WELL WORTHWHILE, in the Mercury Vapor bulb products for reptiles, like the MegaRay. You can purchase these bulbs cheaply online at http://www.reptilesupply.com and other places. Keep in mind– percentage on the label means nothing– we want a meter reading!
How old is the UVB light?
The bulbs recommended above still should be replaced every 6 mos, unless you have access to a meter for testing. Many of the other bulbs have horrible readings the week you buy it, and deteriorate quickly. Mercury Vapor bulbs are not included in this– if you are interested in Mercury Vapor UVB bulbs, the UVB_METER_OWNERS group is a must.
How close to him is the UVB light?
All the flourescent bulbs on the market currently require the animal to be able to get at least within 8 inches of the bulb, but I recommend the animal to have options to get up to 2 inches from the bulb, with absolutely no plastic or glass of ANY kind between them and the bulb. Give the animal the choice to be where they receive the proper amount of UVB, and know that they will NOT “overdose” on any such thing. Even so, if they don’t need it, they should be able to bask elsewhere in the tank farther away from the UVB. Again, Mercury Vapors are an exception— this is in regards to flourescent UVB bulbs.
How long are the lights on daily (day/night cycle)?
12 hours cycles are great for young beardies, and for spring through fall. Some beardies like to go up to 13-14 hours during the summer, and many prefer a shorter day 8-10 hours (particularly adults) during the winter season.
Are the lights on a timer?
Although not a requirement, you’ll love it as well as the dragons! No worries about sleeping in or coming home late this way, and they are incredibly inexpensive. Dragons seem to thrive on a schedule.
What greens are you offering?
Start by offering at least three staple items, particularly for young dragons just learning to eat that salad. As the dragon ages, include other staples, as well as mixing in occasional items and treats. I love the diet list at http://www.greenigsociety.org/foodchart.htm and http://www.beautifuldragons.com for ease of use and nutritional information.
What veggies are you offering?
More veggies to choose from are also available at the links above. By adult age, dragons should be comfortable eating a mixed salad containing 2-3 staple greens, plus 1-2 occasions for variety, with 2-3 veggies. This is standard for most herbivorous reptiles, which is why we use the iguana diet (sans whole grains and dry beans), as it’s far more researched.
Are you misting? How often?
Babies and juveniles should be misted 2-3 times daily, enough to wet them, but not too wet where they do not dry within a 1/2 hour. Dragons should be dry at least an hour before bedtime. Adults may only need to be misted once a day, but if they enjoy it, it’s quite beneficial. Research shows that Inland Beardies (p. vitticeps, ie, the dragons we are referring to), live in a climate with 50-60% humidity, sometimes reaching even higher. http://www.reptilerooms.com/Sections+index-req-viewarticle-artid-93.html
Is the dragon getting baths? How often?
Another great way to get hydration (they love to drink while bathing), exercise, and help out any troubling poos. Some prefer baths more than others… see this FAQ about how to introduce baths to your dragon. (Thanks again to Cheri of ReptileRooms.com for compiling all of these excellent articles) http://www.reptilerooms.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=19&page=1
What insects are the dragons eating?
Crickets can be a great staple, but also consider silkworms, and butterworms for your youngin. Older beardies can be slowly introduced to superworms (not mealworms, there is a difference), roaches, and beetles.
Size of the insect should fit in between the eyes of the dragon… or half the width of the head.
How often and how many?
Young dragons, from birth to about 3 mos of age can be fed 2-3 times daily in small sessions, whatever they eat in about 15 minutes, allowing for at least 2 hours before lights out for digestion. Beyond 3 mos of age, one feeding daily, lasting 20 minutes or until full, is plenty in addition to a healthy salad. By 12 mos of age, a healthy salad should be first, and insects a few daily, or even just a few days a week in whatever they want to eat, is plenty. Adults, beyone two years of age, should never eat more than 25% of their diet in insects, preferably only 15-20% protein.
What are the insects being fed?
Gutload is absolutely critical! We are what we eat, and the nutrition derived from the insect is only as good as what has been fed to the insect. Not only using the term gutload to describe a full tummy, we are gutloading the ENTIRE insect with nutrition, daily, and at least for 24hrs prior to feeding. Beware products in the petstores—problems reported include high cricket dieoff and impaction (if gel is used, it dries to the crickets then restores using the dragons bodily water supply), and they are very poor in nutrition. Little time to fanagle with insect foods? Try http://www.cricketfood.com — NONE COMPARES! If you prefer to do the homemade approach, try a dry mix that includes quality fishflake, babyfood cereal (whole grain), oatmeal, etc. Provide water by offering slices of veggies like squash and yams, greens and stalks, or even orange slices.
What calcium supplement is being used? How often?
What vitamin supplement is being used? How often?
Supplements are nearly as important as the rest of the husbandry details— too much and we cause detrimental and deadly health problems, too little and we do the same. Beware supplements that are mixed minerals and vitamins— beardies have very specifically higher mineral needs than vitamins (they eat a varied diet, and get most of their vits from that), so a mix often is not proportionate for our needs. Also beware those that use vitamin A instead of beta carotene, as Vitamin A is one that is very easy to overdose on, and beta carotene allows the animal to use only what they need to manufacture their own vitamin A. Also beware products that contain high phosphorus!! Phosphorus, when in proportion to the calcium, renders that supplement’s calcium content USELESS! A good product will be phosphorus FREE. RepCal and Miner-All are two that I recommend highly for minerals, and RepCal’s Herptivite is the only vitamin supplement I trust. There are MANY out there, and many d
ebates occur, but for the purposes of going the safest, most effective, and most recommend route by serious beardie keepers, I cannot recommend any other products.
Young beardies, of good health, typically do best on a schedule where calcium is dusted on one insect feeding per day, 4-5 days per week. Older beardies, particularly males, should receive gradually less as they reach adult size, dropping down to only 2 days a week for males, and 3 days a week for females (upping for breeding females is recommended).
Young beardies, who eat far less in salad, seem to do the best with a vitamin regimen of only one dusting of crickets, 2-3 days a week. Once the dragon is eating a proper salad daily, and/or reaches about 1 year of age, this can be dropped to only 1-2 times per week, and eventually down to only once every 10-14 days by 2 years of age, if at all. A good salad is no competition to supplements!