How I Care for My Adult Dragons
First, research, research, research! There are many knowledgeable people to contact about how to care for bearded dragons. Each one will have his or her own way to care for bearded dragons. It is your responsibility to have enough of a knowledge base in order to make informed decisions about the way that you will care for your bearded dragons. Be sure, also, to have a vet who specializes in reptiles. You will need his or her advice and expertise at least once through the time that you have your bearded dragon. Stay updated by visiting informational sites such as , dragontank.com bearded-dragons.com and kingsnake.com. Check the links page regularly for more information and resources.
This information page was written specifically for the care of adult bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps).
Dragons should have ample space to explore, climb, and enjoy a variety of atmospheres. An adult bearded dragon's enclosure should be as large as possible, no smaller than 1 dragon length deep, several dragon lengths long, and several dragon lengths tall. My dragons particularly love to climb, so make the enclosure as tall as possible. Falcor's juvenile enclosure consisted of a modified 30-gallon aquarium. My father and I built a plexiglass "loft" that sat on top of the tank. This was a relatively inexpensive way to maximize the amount of space that we could offer to him.
As you can see from the castle picture on this website, Falcor and Buttercup have a huge playspace. My father and I decided that the dragons needed a larger space, since I wanted to keep them separate until we were all ready for the breeding season. As a result, we designed and constructed the enclosure that gives them more than 7 square feet of floor space to explore, as well as a great deal of vertical space and decorations for them to climb on and exercise.
Adult bearded dragons need a basking area, with temperatures between 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature throughout their enclosure can be around 75-80 during the day, and can drop as low as the 60's during the evenings. I have used normal 60 watt light bulbs to create the basking spot, along with an undertank heater to make sure that the temperature doesn't drop too low. In addition to bulbs for heat, bearded dragons need to be exposed to a UVB full-spectrum light, such as a Vita Lite. Since these bulbs degrade through the months, you need to make sure to replace the bulb every 6 months. UVB can also be supplemented with UVB Drops (I use T-Rex Solar Drops), or by taking beardies outside during nice weather to soak up some sun rays.
For substrate, I use washed, silica-free play sand, sold in clear bags at most home improvement stores. I started Falcor on sand when he was 12" long. There is a risk of impaction when using sand, especially with younger bearded dragons. Be sure to sift the sand through a colander before allowing the dragons to inhabit the space. Within their enclosure, Falcor and Buttercup also have exposure to poly-urethaned wood, plants, and tight-looped carpet. Their favorite aspect of their homes has to be the fish nets that are strung throughout their enclosures. The nets optimize the climbing space in the enclosure, and give the dragons even more things to climb on.
Falcor and Buttercup are wonderful reptiles that relate well to children, and steal the hearts of adults. Dragons are very friendly and love to be handled. I do remember when Falcor was a bit younger and had an "attitude", but even while he was trying to intimidate, he was harmless. By handling dragons as much as possible, they become used being held.
I try to find time for both Falcor and Buttercup each and every day. Whether it is just to sit and "cuddle" in front of the television, or to walk around the house with a dragon on my shoulder, developing a relationship with your dragon is great for both you and your pet. Falcor loves to be strapped into his leash (a ferret model made by Hagen) and go for walks, both in my house, and even in parks!
Falcor and Buttercup are bathed weekly, to maintain their hydration and hygiene. While Falcor loves bathtime, and swims around the tub, both above water and underwater, Buttercup dreads bathtime. The bath water must be warm, but not hot. (Baby warm, is what I usually refer to). The bath water can be about beardie-shoulder deep, to stimulate swimming and activity. After bathing the dragons, I disinfect the bathtub.
Children love to interact with Falcor and Buttercup. My cousins, who range in age from 2 years old to 12, enjoy holding, patting, and playing with Falcor and Buttercup. I can't wait until I have my own classroom with which to share my dragons.
My adult bearded dragons are fed a diet consisting mainly of vegetables, greens, and RepCal commercial bearded dragon food. They are treated with live crickets, can o' crickets, and chicken and vegetables baby food about every week. Since adult bearded dragons do not need as much protein as juveniles, many bearded dragon owners recommend cutting back on the amount of raw-protein food that you provide.
Buttercup and Falcor actually have very different preferences in terms of food. Buttercup loves many different types of fruit (pear, apple, orange, grapes, banana), and Falcor prefers vegetables (okra, beans, peas, broccoli -in moderation--). They both enjoy mixed greens (such as the salad mix available at most grocery stores), various squashes (stay away from the more orange ones - lots of vitamin A), and a small amount of fruit.
I supplement their food with calcium powder and vitamin powder on alternating days. Since it is so important for bearded dragons to have an adequate supply of calcium, I sometimes supplement their diet with Calcium Drops. These are great, especially if you are not sure if your dragon has taken in enough calcium over the course of a few days. Adult females should receive extra calcium during times when they are preparing to mate, and when they are gravid, since egg production deprives females of calcium.
Uh, Oh… My Dragon Isn't Quite Right…
If you find yourself saying this… please, go to a reptile vet! Bearded dragons are very hardy reptiles, and they make it fairly clear when they are becoming ill. A qualified vet can easily treat many of the illnesses that beardies can contract. If your dragon is less active than usual, seems sleepy all the time (other than when adults go into brumation), or has poop that is runny and/or smelly, your dragon probably will need to see a vet. If you catch it early, your dragon will suffer very little, and you will not have to suffer the worry about your beloved dragon!
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