Bearded dragons in captivity can live up to more than a decade. If you want it to stay healthy and satisfied while under your care, you need to provide the right husbandry for it. A dragon may be one of the easiest to maintain pet reptiles, but it does have specific living requirements that need to be met. If not, its health will suffer and you won’t get to enjoy an active pet that will continue to amaze you and others for the years to come.
To ensure that your pet dragon will be properly maintained, consider the following tips so you can start by providing your pet with a proper home.
A bearded dragon needs just enough space where it can roam around without restrictions and have the right amount of heat and light that it needs to regulate its body temperature. This will also allow the dragon to properly digest and synthesize the nutrients that it gets from the foods that you will offer it.
An appropriately sized aquarium made with a tight-fitting lid will just be the right new habitat for your bearded dragon. Hatchlings may be placed in a 10-15 gallon aquarium. Adults, however, will require at least a 55-60 gallon aquarium. Note, also that it is best to enclosure only one male dragon in an enclosure as male dragons are extremely territorial. An enclosure made of glass (like an aquarium) has proven to be the best bearded dragon cage. It is also easier to clean and makes it easy to see how your dragon is doing inside its enclosure. Glass is also a good insulator which can help the dragon to cool down when necessary and will ensure that your dragon won’t overheat while basking.
When creating a new habitat for your dragon, make sure that it will facilitate easy yet thorough cleaning and sanitation. Do not use wire or mesh wire as it can be hazardous to your pet. It will also be easier for your dragon to escape or get out of the enclosure if you use wire or mesh wire for a cage.
The substrate will serve as the lining or flooring for your pet dragon’s cage. Hence, it should be pleasing, easy to clean/sanitized, absorbent, as well as digestible if ever ingested. The best options for a bearded dragon substrate are the following: newspaper, sheets of brown wrapping paper, shredded paper, carpet or linings, as well as the newest trend for a substrate the clay burrowing substrate. It is NOT recommended to use crushed corn cob, kitty litter, cedar shavings, gravel, wood shavings, or anything that had been sprayed on with fertilizers and other hazardous chemicals.
Your bearded dragon will enjoy an assortment of landscapes within its new habitat. You may place plants (either live or artificial), pieces of branches, rocks and logs, and hides to allow your pet to have a better-looking ground where it can climb and bask. Just make sure that whatever you place inside the enclosure are well-secured and free of any sharp edges that may injure or wound, or scrape your dragon.
As your pet dragon is a cold-blooded animal that has lived in the arid woodland and desert environments, it needs supplemental heat for proper digestion, calcium absorption, and for its overall health. You will need to maintain the temperature inside your dragon’s enclosure at 78-88°F during the day and in the 70s during the night.
Improper temperature setting will make it quite difficult for your pet to properly digest any food offered. As a result, it will be quite easy for your dragon to get sick. You will need to provide a temperature gradient within the enclosure. That means there should be a part of the housing that will remain warm and also a part of the cage that will remain cold. Placing a thermometer at each end of the enclosure will help you properly monitor if there are changes in the temperature settings within your pet’s housing.
Primary heat source
A primary heat source is needed to be installed in your pet’s enclosure to keep the temperature in it within the proper range. Regular incandescent lights can be the best heat sources for your pet’s housing. At night, you will need to set these lights to be turned off. A heating pad, a space heater, room thermostat can all be used as primary heat sources. Just make sure that smoke detectors/fire alarms are installed in the rooms where lights or other artificial heat sources are placed.
Secondary heat source
A secondary heat source will provide additional heat in pars of the enclosure, so you will need to install one that could provide hear for the 25%-30% of the enclosure’s surface. For this purpose, a 30-75 watt incandescent bulb in a ceramic base can be securely mounted far enough where your pet cannot touch it. You may also for one of the available “basking lights” on pet stores as well as online. These lights should be set up to shine down on a particular basking area from outside the cage. Maintain the temperature under the basking area at 90-100°F. If you have several hatchlings in smaller aquariums, you will need to install a heat source with lower wattage to ensure that your pet won’t overheat and will receive just the right amount of heat.
In addition to heat and white light to be provided by artificial heat and light sources, your dragon must also be exposed to natural sunlight for good health. Your pet will need it to make Vitamin D.
When the temperature outside is over 70°F you can bring your pet out to enjoy some sun. Be sure to provide some shade where you will place your dragon while basking in the sun. There are also UVB lights that emit light between 290-320 nanometer range. These light sources usually need to be replaced every 6 months.
Water and Humidity
Your bearded dragon will receive most of his water requirements from his food. However, you will still need to provide fresh drinking water at all times. Place a shallow bowl that won’t be easily tipped over. This will also increase the humidity level within the enclosure.
Proper humidity is necessary for proper and easy shedding. If the humidity level is low you will need to mist your pet with Best Reptile Humidifier several times a week.
An unhygienic environment will allow disease-causing micro-organisms to infest your pet as well as its enclosure. You have to make sure then that your dragon’s housing (and everything in it) are clean. Dispose of any uneaten or leftover foods. Replace the water in your pet’s water bowl regularly. Also, make sure to have everything in the cage thoroughly cleaned and sanitized regularly. Take note that the micro-organisms that your pet may have can easily be transferred to humans, so after handling your pet make sure to wash and sanitize your hands thoroughly. You will also need to invest in good quality gloves that you can use while handling your pet.
If you can provide these specific requirements for your bearded dragon, you can be assured that your pet will live long happy and satisfied.