I Care for My (Little) 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 bearded-dragons.com
Check the links page regularly for more information and resources.
This information page was written
specifically for the care of hatchling/juvenile bearded dragons (Pogona
vitticeps). Click here to
view the caresheet
for adult bearded dragons.
Dragons should have ample space to explore,
climb, and enjoy a variety of atmospheres. Climbing structures must be appropriate for small dragons.
Young dragons must have clear routes for ascent and descent on
every climbing structure, otherwise they will try to take the short route
over the side, possibly falling a few inches.
A young bearded dragon’s enclosure should be fairly large, but
not so large that the dragon has difficulty hunting.
If you decide to feed your dragon in a separate cage, the enclosure
can be quite large. An enclosure of at least 20 gallons would be appropriate for
young dragons. Adult dragons
will need more space, please view the adult dragon caresheet. My young dragons particularly love to climb, so make the
enclosure as tall as possible with inclined and vertical areas for
For my young dragons, I have outfitted a
30-gallon aquarium with a basking log, a rock, a live, non-toxic plant,
several decorative fans against the walls of the enclosure for vertical
climbing, and a reptile hammock and ladder.
At any given time, you can find small dragons using all of these
Hatchling/juvenile bearded dragons need a
basking area, with temperatures between 95-110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ambient temperature throughout their enclosure can be around
80-85 during the day, and can drop as low as the 70’s during the
evenings. I have used normal
60 watt light bulbs to create the basking spot, along with an undertank
heater on cooler nights 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 Reptiglow 5.0. 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 sunrays.
To transport the young bearded dragons outside for basking, I use a
custom screen enclosure that my father designed and built for them.
The little guys love to climb the sides of the screenhouse, splash
around in their “pool” and soak up the sun rays on their outdoor
For substrate, I use butcher paper, tissue
paper, or paper towel. It is
very important that juvenile dragons be housed on a non-ingestible
substrate. Juveniles can
suffer from sand and substrate impactions (sand getting permanently stuck
in the digestion track) and become paralyzed or die.
Therefore, all small dragons must be housed on paper, cage
carpeting, or some other non-ingestible substrate.
Juvenile dragons can be skittish, but seem
to enjoy contact with humans. To
handle a young dragon, simply scoop him/her up from the side, and allow
him/her to explore your hand while you keep the dragon over the enclosure.
Once the dragon is calm, you can pet him/her under the chin, and
down his/her back. Of course,
you must be sure you are gentle! Even children can handle young dragons, so long as
precautions are made to ensure that the dragon will not escape. In fact, my cousins (ages 5 and 9) assumed all responsibility
for caring for and feeding the young dragons for two days.
With patience, a soft, soothing voice, and a gentle hand, any young
dragon can become a calm, loving pet.
I try to find time to handle all of the
babies each and every day. The
more human contact that a bearded dragon receives, the more tame and calm
he/she will be when he/she becomes an adult.
The hatchlings are bathed about every other
day, to maintain their hydration and hygiene. I place a shallow dish (plastic pie plate cover) in their
enclosure. Some dragons seem
to love the water, while others run right out of the “tub” as soon as
you put them in. 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. The warm water
generally stimulates digestion and excretion, so be ready to drain the
water, disinfect the container, and replace the soiled water with fresh
water. Bearded dragons love
to drink from the bathtub, so it is very important that they be removed
from the water if a little one has disposed of his waste.
My juvenile/hatchling dragons are fed a
varied diet consisting of crickets, vegetables, greens, and RepCal
commercial bearded dragon food. When
they were first born, many of them did not eat crickets right away.
Therefore, I hand-fed them chicken and vegetables baby food or
peaches baby food from a syringe without a needle.
A juvenile’s diet should be at least 75% live prey, in order to
provide an adequate amount of protein and fat for their growing bodies.
Crickets must be obtained from a reliable source.
Online suppliers such as Russell’s
Cricket Farm have high-quality crickets.
Once delivered, crickets must be fed on a high-nutrient diet, in
order to load their guts with nutrition for your dragons.
Gut loading products such as Gourmet
Naturals Cricket Food promote cricket, and thereby dragon, well-being.
Crickets, no bigger than the space between the bearded dragon’s
eyes, should be dusted with calcium powder at every feeding, and dusted
with vitamin powder 1-2 times each week.
Juvenile dragons should be fed as many crickets as they can eat in
I feed my dragons in separate enclosures.
This has two important benefits: 1) I do not have to chase the
uneaten crickets out of the dragon’s enclosure. (Dragons
are pestered by leftover crickets. All
leftover crickets must be removed after every feeding).
2) I know exactly how many crickets the dragons have eaten.
This helps me to know each dragon’s eating habits, and to be
aware of any changes in appetite. The dragons always have a dish of fresh greens and RepCal
pellets in their enclosure, in case they choose to eat at times other than
those that I feed them crickets.
My babies prefer “whole” leaves of
greens to chopped ones. In
order to accommodate this preference, I have suction cup clips that hold
the leaves of leaf lettuce, etc. so that the little ones can tear off
pieces of the greens. They
seem to enjoy baby greens, leaf lettuce, and flowers from the garden.
*Please note: Do not feed dragons any item that has been treated
with fertilizers or pesticides* For
their chopped food mixture, I usually food process greens, veggies such as
zucchini, squash, okra, beans or peas, and a small amount of fruit, such
as watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, or
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, 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!
Visit The Life Cycle of a Dragon for more information.
To Contact Us: