Animal Information

Back To The Basics With Bearded Dragons

The bearded dragon is considered one of the all-time best lizard pets. According to Reptile Magazine, they are known for being alert, hardy and tame, and bearded dragon owners love watching their lizards, whether during a feeding frenzy while chasing crickets or simply interacting with each other. Bearded dragons exhibit interesting behaviors, too, such as “arm waving,” in which a female (and occasionally males) may lift a front leg in the air and “wave” it as a submissive gesture. The spiny “beard” from which the lizard gets its common name may also be extended, though it’s uncommon for tame captives to do so; dragons typically do this when alarmed.

Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are considered one of the all-time best lizard pets. These reptiles are known for being alert, hardy and tame.

Native to Australia, this reptile lives in rocky and arid regions of the country and is adept climbers. In the wild, they can be found on branches, basking on rocks, and staying cool in bushes and other shaded areas.

Dragons have large triangular heads and flat bodies with pointed ridges along the sides. Their scales are spiny and appear dangerous but are soft, flexible, and not very sharp.

Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. Generally when bearded dragons are very young, they eat 80% bugs and 20% plants, however, sometimes people have trouble getting their dragons to eat any vegetables at all when they are young. Adult bearded dragons are nearly the exact opposite and their diet will consist of 80% plants and 20% bugs and insects.

What Vegetables Do Bearded Dragons Eat

There are many vegetables that are safe for bearded dragons to eat. Below is a list of the most common staple vegetables that you can feed your bearded dragon every day:

  • Acorn squash
  • Artichoke Heart
  • Asparagus (Raw)
  • Bell Peppers (Raw)
  • Bok choy
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage (Raw)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber (Peeled)
  • Lentils (Cooked)
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra (Raw)
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkins
  • Radicchio
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Turnip greens
  • Yams (Raw)
  • Zucchini (Raw)
  • Yellow squash

What Fruits Do Bearded Dragons Eat

Besides plants and insects, bearded dragons will also eat fruit. The following list of fruit is safe for you to feed your bearded dragon. .

  • Apples
  • Apricot
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Chayote
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Mangos
  • Melons
  • Nectarine
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Safe Plants for Bearded Dragons

You can also feed your bearded dragon a few plants as well. Since they are from the wild the chances are that they didn’t always have the option of vegetables so certain plants became a part of their diet.

  • Basil
  • Carnations
  • Chives
  • Clover
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Daylilies
  • Impatiens
  • Maple Leaves
  • Mint Leaves
  • Oregano
  • Rose Petals
  • Rosemary (Fresh)
  • Sage
  • Thyme (Fresh)

Poisonous Foods & Plants for Bearded Dragons

This list is from veterinarians which recommend avoiding feeding any pets these plants due to their toxicity.

  • Boxwood
  • Buttercup
  • Wild Daffodil
  • Elderberry
  • Holly
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Ivy
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit
  • Juniper
  • Mistletoe
  • Oak
  • Poison Ivy
  • Poison Oak
  • Poison Sumac
  • Poinsettia
  • Rhododendron
  • Tobacco
  • Tulip
  • Water Hemlock

Vitamins & Minerals Your Bearded Dragon Needs

Similar to people, bearded dragons need vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Below is a list of the supplements that bearded dragons need:

Iron

Iron is more important for baby bearded dragons. If you do have a baby bearded dragon and you are giving him/her Iron supplements, be sure to give it to them sporadically because too much Iron can cause bearded dragon health problems. Generally, you can give your bearded dragon enough Iron through vegetables and plants.

Vitamin A

Bearded dragons also need vitamin A, but they will usually get enough of this from the plants and vegetables in their diet. You want to be careful not to give your dragon too much vitamin a because that can cause vitamin A toxicity.

As mentioned previously, we highly recommend a multivitamin for Reptiles, because it will supply your bearded dragon with vitamin A without the risk of overdosing or making your beardie ill.

Vitamin D3 & Calcium

Vitamin D3 and Calcium are two of the most important vitamins and minerals you need to make sure your bearded dragon gets. It helps with the development of their bones and is important for female dragons that are gravid (carrying eggs). You will have to give your bearded dragon Vitamin D3 and Calcium at the same time since bearded dragons cannot absorb calcium without vitamin D3.

In the wild, bearded dragons will get most of the vitamin D3 they need from natural sunlight, so the amount of vitamin D3 you give your bearded dragon depends on how much exposure he/she has to natural sunlight (or full spectrum lighting). If your dragon is frequently outside in the sunlight or if your bearded dragon’s cage has full spectrum lighting, then you can reduce the dosage by half.

  • Baby Dragons– Need a daily dose of Vitamin D3 and Calcium to stay healthy (since they are still developing and need the bone support).
  • Juvenile Dragons– Need a Vitamin D3 and a Calcium supplement with a meal 3-4 times per week.
  • Adult Dragons– Need a Vitamin D3 and a Calcium supplement with a meal once per week.

When choosing a Vitamin D3 and Calcium supplement, make sure the one you purchase has a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 – the higher the better because you don’t want your dragon to have too much phosphorus.

Currently, the highest rated Vitamin D3 and Calcium supplement available is Rep-Cal Reptile Calcium Powder with D3, which is a favorite among reptile breeders and enthusiasts.

Bearded Dragons can be found at just about                                     every pet store and animal expo.

Bearded dragons exhibit interesting behaviors, too, such as “arm waving,” in which a female (and occasionally males) may lift a front leg in the air and “wave” it as a submissive gesture. The spiny “beard” from which the lizard gets its common name may also be extended, though it’s uncommon for tame captives to do so; dragons typically do this when alarmed.

Interesting Notes:

  • Fresh Hatched Bearded Dragons measure about 4 inches; large adults can be nearly 2 feet in length.
  • Average captive lifespan is between six and 10 years, though there are reports of specimens living twice that long.

Housing A Beardie

While a freshly hatched dragon could live in a 20-gallon aquarium for a short time, it will quickly need a larger enclosure. A 75-gallon aquarium or equal-sized enclosure is OK for one or two adult dragons. Screening should be used for proper ventilation, whether as a top on an aquarium enclosure or in the construction of a custom enclosure.

Having access to the sun outdoors provides healthy UV.  During warm weather, bearded dragons can be kept in outdoor cages. Be sure the outdoor enclosure provides both sunny basking areas and shady retreats, as well as shelter from the rain.

Bearded dragons like it hot. A basking site of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit works well for them. The basking site can be provided by a spotlight (such as a mercury vapor bulb) positioned over a rock, branch, etc. at one end of the enclosure.

Keeping the spotlight at one end of the cage will allow your dragon to thermoregulate (move between a cooler end of the enclosure and the hotter end with the basking area). The cooler end of the enclosure can be kept at about 80 degrees.

In addition to the basking spotlight, provide full-spectrum UVB (ultraviolet) lighting over the rest of the enclosure. This lighting is critically important for dragons that are kept indoors, as it assists them in synthesizing vitamin D3, which aids in calcium absorption.

Heat can also be provided using heat tape, heat emitters and other devices available in pet stores. Keep a thermometer in the enclosure to track the cage temperature. At night, it can go down to about 65 degrees.

Sand is commonly used with bearded dragons, though there is a concern, especially when keeping young lizards, that intestinal impaction could result if they accidentally eat some. It is not recommended that you keep bearded dragons on the sand or any kind of loose substrate. Newspaper, paper toweling or reptile carpet (though watch for loose threads or areas that can snag dragon toenails) would be better choices. If you keep your bearded dragons on the sand, reduce the risk of impaction by offering food on a shallow dish rather than placing it directly on the substrate

6 things NOT to feed your Bearded Dragons

1. Lettuce

Bearded dragons love lettuce, especially Bibb lettuces. Unfortunately, lettuce is a vegetable you should avoid feeding a bearded dragon unless it’s an absolute emergency and it is all you have available. Lettuce does not contain any nutritional value for a bearded dragon and causes some digestive conditions such as diarrhea. It might be tempting to offer your pet a little lettuce, but escarole, watercress, dandelion leaves, and kale is a much better food item.

2. Fireflies

Never, ever feed your bearded dragon fireflies. Fireflies are extremely toxic to bearded dragons and other reptiles. You may think catching a few fireflies to feed your bearded dragon might be an easy, inexpensive treat, but be warned – fireflies can kill your beardie. Avoid feeding a bearded dragon fireflies at all costs. If you let your pet roam around outdoors keep a watchful eye on it, and make sure the dragon doesn’t go after any wild insects, especially fireflies.

3. Avocados

Avocados should never be feed to a bearded dragon. They have a high amount of oxalic acid which can be fatal to a bearded dragon in very high doses. A small amount of avocado could make the bearded dragon ill, while large amounts of time could result in death for the lizard. You should avoid feeding avocados to your bearded dragon and choose leafy greens as a good substitute.

4. Rhubarb

Avoid feeding your bearded dragon rhubarb. Rhubarb is very toxic to bearded dragons and should be always avoided. If you accidentally give your bearded dragon rhubarb, give him water immediately and contact a veterinarian.

5. Beet Tops

Beet tops are very nutritious, containing good levels of magnesium and vitamin A. Unfortunately, beet tops also contain a chemical that inhibits calcium absorption in bearded dragons. The chemical bind calcium in the digestive system which prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This can actually cause a calcium deficiency in your bearded dragon and can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease. Beet tops can still be given to bearded dragons but in moderation. Offering a few beet tops pieces once per month should be just fine. The bearded dragon will get plenty of the nutrients from the beet greens while not causing any long-term health effects.

6. Spinach

You should treat spinach the same as beet tops. Spinach contains the same calcium-binding chemical, which can lead to possible Metabolic Bone Disease. Spinach should be offered in very small amounts in moderation.

Bearded dragons are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plant matter. They are not usually picky and eat with gusto. Insects, such as crickets and mealworms, should be dusted with a vitamin/mineral supplement and calcium. Dusting can be achieved by placing the insects in a plastic bag with some of the powder and shaking the bag to lightly coat the insects prior to offering them to your lizards.

Bearded dragons will also eat pinky mice, and a wide variety of nutritionally balanced manufactured diets are available at pet stores, too. Again, if you keep your dragons on the sand, offer food on a shallow dish rather than placing it directly on the substrate.

Mist bearded dragons using a water spray bottle; they’ll lick water droplets off cage walls, rocks, etc., as well as themselves. Don’t overdo it; you don’t want their enclosure to get too wet and become humid. You can also offer water in a shallow dish (such as a jar lid); be sure to keep this dish and the water in it clean. Bearded dragons are generally quite docile and will tolerate handling better than other lizard species. This is especially true of adults that have spent their entire lives in captivity (of course, there may be exceptions). It’s not unusual to visit a reptile expo and see fat and happy bearded dragons lounging amid merchandise at vendor tables, or perched on their owners’ shoulders.

Bearded Dragons Need Water


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