This section includes information on how to properly care for juvenile and hatchling bearded dragons.  These opinions are the result of my experience with raising 11 hatchling and 2 adult bearded dragons.

How I Care for My (Little) Dragons

(Click Here for Printable Version)

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 and kingsnake.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.

Enclosure

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 climbing.

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 furnishings.

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 basking log.

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.

Handling

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.

Diet

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 15 minutes.

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 grapes.

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:

Dragons@cevenfamily.com