The bearded dragon is one of the most popular lizards for the beginning reptile keeper. As lizards go, the bearded dragon is relatively easy to care for. It eats well in captivity, the foods it likes are easy to obtain and its needs are minimal.
That does not mean, however, that the bearded dragon can withstand improper handling, or that owners do not have to do their homework. The bearded dragon may be able to survive in substandard conditions, but it needs the right care to truly thrive. If you want your new pet to live a long and happy life, these bearded dragon care tips can get you off to the best start.
Choosing a Healthy Pet
If your bearded dragon is not healthy at the pet store, it will not be healthy in your home. Check out the cages carefully and avoid any stores that do not maintain their habitats carefully. Also avoid any bearded dragons that appear lethargic or indifferent to handling; they may be sick.
It is best to get a young bearded dragon and watch it grow. Call around to several different pet stores and ask them where they source their reptiles. It is best to choose a pet store that works with several breeders and obtains young specimens raised in healthy conditions. When you go to the pet store, look for a dragon that is energetic and active: one that is basking, eating or moving around.
Bringing Your Dragon Home
You will need a suitable home set up before you buy your bearded dragon. A 10-gallon aquarium is suitable for a young dragon, but a 20-gallon tank is ideal and will give your new pet room to grow. You will also need a reflector lamp or a hood outfitted with a reptile light. All reptiles, including bearded dragons, need the right lighting to stay healthy.
Bearded dragons love to climb, and they will enjoy spending time exploring the branches you provide. Make sure the tank has plenty of foliage and areas for climbing and hiding. The hiding spaces will make the bearded dragon feel more secure, and that security will improve its overall health.
The bearded dragon is perfectly adapted for a desert environment, but that does not mean it does not need a ready source of water. Make sure there is a small water disc in the tank, and that you have some sort of misting system set up.
Your new bearded dragon will probably not feel like eating for the first day or two, so do not worry too much about buying crickets when you buy your dragon. You will, however, need to have a ready source of crickets identified. A healthy bearded dragon can consume up to 12 crickets a day, so you will need to have plenty on hand.
It is best to set up a small tank just for crickets and move them to the bearded dragon tank as needed. You may even want to try your hand at breeding crickets; this will reduce your cost over the long run.
Keeping a bearded dragon can be very rewarding, but like any other pet they need the right care. Learning as much as you can about the bearded dragon and designing its new home accordingly is the best way to keep your pet happy and healthy.