Thanks for choosing Andrew’s Reptiles LLC for your new bearded dragon baby! I am very passionate about my reptiles and I would like you to succeed and enjoy this new addition to your reptile family. There are two things I would like to mention that are very important to successfully raising a new dragon 1. Temperature of the basking spot. New baby dragons need a basking temperature of 110 degrees. 2. Please do not handle your dragon for 1-2 weeks to allow it to de-stress from shipping and acclimate to its new enclosure. Once it is eating well, please hold it often to allow it to become tame. These two things will prevent your dragon from getting too stressed out and not eating.
Included with your new dragon are two feeding dishes. I recommend using the small feeding dish for the first 3-4 weeks and then upgrading to the larger dish as your dragon grows. These are the same dishes I use for all my dragons, and your new baby is already accustomed to eating from it. I like feeding dishes for two reasons. 1. It prevents free roaming insects from hiding, and sample eating the dragon’s feces. 2. It allows your dragon to have a constant and steady source of food. I recommend replacing the uneaten insects daily, so your dragon will always have fresh “gutloaded” insects available (see “gutloading” under feeder insects). Here are links to purchase more:
Adult Dragons need a cage that is 2 feet deep by 2 feet tall by 4 feet long. I have seen dragon owners start their babies with 20 gallon aquariums; however, I do not recommend this because it is difficult to create the temperature gradient that is needed.
- Basking spot temperature – This is important! 90% of the problems I see new dragon owners encounter are due to the basking spot being too hot or too cold. The temperature of the basking spot should be 110 degrees F. I cannot stress this enough. Reptiles do not generate heat like mammals. They are dependent on their environment for heat. If they cannot get warm enough, they cannot digest their food. Undigested food makes them sick and they stop eating.
- Cool side of the cage – The cool side of the cage should be around 85 degrees F
- Temperature gradient – The basking bulb should be on one end of the enclosure. This creates a temperature gradient in the cage. One side of the cage is hot and the other side is cool. Then dragon can then move between the hot and cool side of the cage to meet its requirements.
Thermometer – The small circular thermometers that come with the cages you purchase at the pet store are not very helpful. They often times get stuck to the back, top corner of the glass. Your dragon will spend zero time on the back top corner of the glass, and it really isn’t necessary to know the temperature in that location. I recommend purchasing an infrared temperature gun. You can pick one up on amazon for about $24.
Bearded Dragons are desert species and do not do well with constant high humidity. High humidity can cause respiratory infections in Bearded Dragons. Avoid humid enclosures.
Two different types of lights need to be used for bearded dragons. Your dragon will need UVB light to prevent metabolic bone disease, and you also need a heat lamp.
- UVB – I prefer the linear T5 high output UVB bulbs. My favorite ones are the Arcadia, but Zoomed is also a good option. This bulb and fixture will need to run the length of your enclosure. I like these two. In the first link you will get to select which bulb you want, I recommend the Arcadia 12 % T5 HO bulb. The second link is the Zoomed option. DO NOT use the coil UBV bulbs, they do not put out enough UVB light for Bearded Dragons.
- Heat Lamp – This is important! I often get asked, “What wattage of heat lamp do I need for my bearded dragon?” It is impossible to determine this because there are too many factors that can change the temperate of the basking spot. A couple of these factors are, ambient temperature of the room, the amount of ventilation in a cage, brand of bulb, and how close the dragon can get to the surface of the bulb. These factors can change the temperature of the basking spot. The correct answer to this question is, you need to purchase the wattage that gets the hot spot to 110 degrees F, whatever wattage that may be. The temperature of the basking spot will change thought the year as the temperature of your house changes. For this reason I recommend purchasing a bulb that is capable of getting the hot spot hotter than the desired 110 degrees F. and using a dimmer light switch to decrease the temperature of the basking bulb. This dimmer switch allows you to adjust the temperature of your basking spot at regular intervals throughout the year. This one is $12 on amazon. *It is important to note that only the heat lamp should be dimmed and not the UVB bulb.
- Calcium with D3- calcium with D3 should be “dusted” on feeder insects once a day.
- Vitamins – a multivitamin should be “dusted” on insects once per week.
- Rep Cal Calcium with D3 & Herptivite Combo
- Repashy Calcium Plus
- “Gutloading” – “gutloading” is a term that is used in the hobby and just refers to feeding your feeder insects. There are several commercially prepared insect foods that can be used. You can also use fresh fruits and veggies to feed your insects before feeding them to your dragon. I believe the healthier your insects are, the healthier your dragon will be.
- “Dusting” – “dusting” is a term that is used in the hobby to describe coating your feeder insects with calcium or vitamins before feeding them to your dragon. You can do this by placing a small amount of calcium or vitamin in a small bag and then putting your feeders in the bag and shaking the bag to coat the insects.
- My favorite feeder insects are Dubia Roaches because they are high in protein. I also use small superworms (avoid mealworms, they aren’t as nutritious), banded crickets, wax worms, and black solider fly larva. I feed my babies as many insects as they can eat during the first year of life. After that I feed 80% greens and 20% bugs. A general rule of thumb is worms are high in fat and should only be used as a treat. This is more important once your dragon is an adult. Adult dragons that are fed too many worms end up with fatty liver disease, and this reduces their lifespan by several years.
I offer all of my baby dragons a variety of mixed greens. Baby dragons are like kids… they don’t always eat their veggies. Just continue to offer them regularly, and the vast majority of dragons will eventually eat them. Here are a few of my favorite; Collard greens, beet greens, mustard greens, kale, parsley, etc. Once your dragon is a year old its diet should consist of 80% veggies, 20% bugs, and occasional fruit.
I often hear people say, “Bearded dragons live on compacted clay, not sand.” This is false, dragons do live on sand. That being said, sand is my least favorite substrate. Sand is difficult to clean, stinks, and is dusty. If you have sand in your enclosure it is fine, but I recommend changing it to paper towels, tile, or reptile carpet within 2-3 weeks.
Dragons rarely drink standing water from dishes. They are desert species and standing water isn’t encountered often in the wild. They are more likely to poo in water than drink it. Dragons get a lot of the water they need from their veggies. To get your dragon to drink, I recommend putting a small amount of warm water in the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin and then misting the dragon with warm water from a squirt bottle. I allow my baby dragons to soak every other day, and then weekly when they become an adult. During the first 1-2 weeks you own your dragon, this is the only time I recommend handling it.
Don’t do it! One dragon per cage.
During the first 1-2 weeks your own your dragon, do not handle it unless you are getting it out of its cage to soak. This helps reduce stress and prevents your dragon from going on a hunger strike.
Bearded Dragons make great pets and are fun. I have been working with dragons for over 20 years and have never been bitten by an adult. When baby dragons hatch they are 3 grams and about 4 inches long. In the wild it is very likely they will be eaten by a predator in the first couple of weeks of life. For this reason, when cornered they will open their mouth and will sometimes bite. Their bite will surprise you more than it hurts, and they are not capable of breaking the skin. This is a normal defensive mechanism that they will grow out of. This is actually a good response because if your dragon is feisty, then it is healthy. Regular handling will allow your dragon to become tame. Dragons love interaction and like to get out of their cages to roam around.