Bearded Dragon (pet)

Bearded Dragon (pet)

"This page is about animal keeping and husbandry. For general information about this species, see Pogona vitticeps"

Bearded Dragon is the common name for any agamid lizard in the genus "Pogona". They are native to Australia.

Bearded Dragons are popular exotic pets in many places, notably the species "Pogona vitticeps", the Inland or Central Bearded Dragon. These pets are also affectionately called "Beardies" by those who breed or raise them. They are a popular species among children, because of their friendly and calm nature, along with the relative ease of caring for them.


Bearded Dragons have broad triangular heads and flattened bodies, with adults reaching approximately 18 to 24 inches (45-60 cm) from head to tail. When threatened, they will expand a spiny pouch under their jaw, as well as inhale air and puff up to make them appear larger. The pouch resembles a beard, lending the animal their name. Males have a distinct set of pre-anal pores between the back legs and have hemipenal bulges at the vent area. Females lack both the pores and bulges. The pores are easy to see by simply looking at the underside of the dragon. With the tail vertical it is easier to see the two bulges formed by the hemipenes on the males. Females do not have the two bulges or the indentation between the lumps, rather females have one small broad lump that is closer to the vent. Males and females are of comparable size, although males usually sport a larger head and a thicker tail base than the females. Mature males will turn their throat pouches black during courtship and to signal dominance, [*/] although females have also been known to do the same.

Bearded Dragons have a distinctive series of lateral spines (specialized scales) radiating horizontally from the head to the base of the tail. Their color ranges from light tan to dark brown, depending on their native soil, often with highlights of black, brilliant red, or gold, and can change somewhat depending upon their internal condition, mood or temperature [darkening when cool] . Some captive populations have been selectively bred for more brilliant colorations. As juveniles, they are semi-arboreal. As adults, they are more terrestrial, but will climb to bask and search for prey. Bearded Dragons can occupy a large range of habitats from the desert to dry forests and scrublands cite web |title=Dragons Down Under: The Inland Bearded Dragon |author= Melissa Kaplan |date= 2007-04-19 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=]

All species are from Australia, but they have been exported worldwide and bred successfully in captivity. In the wild, the various species are widely distributed throughout different regions of Australia. Bearded Dragons live about 8–15 years with proper care in captivity, though some can live up to 20 years old [cite web |title=Bearded Dragons |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] .


Many Bearded Dragon habitats are dry and sparsely vegetated, so food may often be difficult to find. As a result, Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, capable of subsisting on a wide variety of food sources, including both insects and vegetable food. A typical diet for captive Bearded Dragons includes leafy greens and vegetables, and regular meals of feeder insects.

Their stomachs are large enough to accommodate large quantities of food. Young Bearded Dragons do not eat as much vegetation as their adult counterparts. As a Bearded Dragon ages it may be persuaded to eat less animal matter and more plants, maybe levelling off at around an 80% plant and 20% animal dietcite web |title=Frequently Asked Questions |author= Robert and Victoria Daichu |date=2007-05-26 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] .

Popular feeder insects include crickets, roaches, locusts, silkworms, hornworms, butterworms, and phoenix worms [cite web |title=Bearded Dragons Care Sheet |author= Jeremiah Jaeger |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . The mealworm has a fairly hard chitin (exoskeleton) and is generally low in the "meat to chitin" ratio, as well as having a poor calcium/phosphorus ratio, making it far less nutritious than other feeder insects [cite web |title=Caring for anAustralian Bearded Dragon |author= K. W. Tosney |year= 2004 |month= 01 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . Chitin is hard enough that large amounts of it can cause impaction in the Bearded Dragon's digestion system, and can lead to death, especially in younger and smaller animals. Waxworms, and superworms can be given as a treat, but sparingly as in most cases as they are extremely fatty, and in some cases very addictive, although they can be useful in building-up an undernourished individual. The rule of thumb on feeder insects is that the food fed to the animal must not be larger than the space between the eyes; feeding something larger could make it hard for the animal to swallow the food and can lead to the aforementioned fatal impaction [cite web |title=Impaction in Bearded Dragons |coauthors= Alex Sleeis and Denise Bushnell |date= 2006-07-07 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] .

A significant portion of the Bearded Dragon's diet may consist of leafy greens. Dragons enjoy many types of readily available greens, including: collard greens, Kale(recommended only given on occasion), cabbage, spring greens, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, parsley, and carrot topscite web |title=Nutrition Content |author= Beautiful Dragons |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . It is also recommended that this portion of the dragon's diet be supplemented with a variety of finely diced fruits and vegetables. Feeding a mixture of these plants ensures a wider variety of nutrients, and variations in texture to aid digestion.

Poisonous/Dangerous Foods

Insects caught in the wild are not recommended, due to the increased risk of pesticide exposure and parasites. Fireflies and all other animals with bioluminescence chemicals [cite web |title=Two Cases of Firefly Toxicosis in Lizards |coauthors= Michael Knight, Richard Glor, Scott R. Smedley, Andres Gonzalez, Kraig Adler, and Thomas Eisner |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] are fatal to Bearded Dragons.

Avocado and Rhubarb are lethal to Dragons as well as birds. All lettuce should be avoided because they are mostly water and can lead to diarrhea or malnutrition [cite web |title=Feeding Beardies |author= |accessdate= 2008-25-07 |url=] . Spinach contains high oxalates which bind to calcium and in large amounts can lead to metabolic bone disease. Kale and cabbage also contain oxalates, but the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods, such as kale and cabbage, to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If a bearded dragon's digestive tract is healthy, and it receives adequate UV light and temperatures, it will get significant benefits - including absorption of calcium - from calcium-rich food plants that also contain oxalic acid.


A 20 gallon enclosure is the bare minimum for a baby Bearded Dragon, however they will outgrow this within 3-5 months. When provided with the proper habitat, temperatures, and UVB lighting, Bearded Dragons are hardy lizards. They are also pets who do their best to hide health problems when becoming ill (as do most reptiles). This is probably an instinctual behavior, since a sick Dragon in the wild would probably not live long. The most common diseases include Agamid adenovirus, mites, terminal ingestion, thermal burns, calcium deficiency or in severe cases even bone disease, impaction, hypovitaminosis A, respiratory infections, dehydration, stomatitis, internal parasites, coccidia and other parasites, dystocia (egg binding), and Metabolic Bone Disease.

For an adult the minimum is a 50-60 gallon (200-225 liter) enclosure, though many breeders recommend a 4 ft. by 2 ft. by 2 ft.(1.2m by 0.6m by 0.6m) enclosure instead [cite web |title=Bearded Dragon Stats and Facts |coauthors= Drs. Foster & Smith |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . This allows the Dragon ample space to turn around, lie down, and run to and fro as it chooses. Also an enclosure with glass at the front only lowers the visibility of the outside of the vivarium, thus preventing over-curious 'beardies' from trying to escape, helping them remain satisfied with their enclosure which in turn helps prevent snout rub.

Bearded Dragons bask most of the day, absorbing the heat they need to digest their food. It is important that there are at least one or two good basking spots in the Dragon's habitat. Rocks are preferable to logs as they hold heat better, though logs can also provide stimulation for the animal as they will climb up and down it. Any item taken from the outside must first be boiled or baked, however, to remove contaminants. Electric or battery powered heating devices such as [ HotRocks] can cause stomach burns if they malfunction, so they are not widely recommended [cite web |title=Hot Rocks and Reptiles |author= Melissa Kaplan |date= 2007-04-19 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . A habitat should also include something the Dragon can hide under. Wherever possible, Bearded Dragons should live in small colonies, roughly about 3-5 in a group otherwise a solitary lifestyle may cause stress. Having a group of these animals is meeting the animals' needs, and in some serious cases not having a group of these lizards can be counted as neglect.

Substrate is another very important factor in keeping a healthy Dragon. Babies and juveniles are particularly at risk of impaction and are often kept on paper towels or newspaper, as they are easy to dispose of and clean up after, and there is no risk of the baby ingesting substrate. Tile is another popular choice, as is reptile carpet and also nonadhesive shelf liner. As the Dragon gets older it can be put on finely sifted play sand. Calcium sand is often used, but is also reported to be a cause of impaction due to 'clumping' in the gut if ingested, while play sand will pass straight through a well fed individual. Rabbit food pellets, made of alfalfa, are the recommended choice by most breeders as they are ingestable and also easy to clean. Walnut Shells should never be used, though they are natural they cannot be digested and are highly likely to cause impaction. Wood chips, and anything else of that sort are never to be used. They are large, with sharp edges, and can be swallowed. They are not digestible, however, and will swell and clog the gut, causing a very painful and potentially fatal impaction. Also places for shade might be useful.

Light and Heat

Bearded Dragons also need proper lighting. A UVB light is needed, with two options being available, Fluorescent strip bulbs or mercury vapor bulbs. These bulbs have variable ranges of UVB output; owners must ensure proper distance from bulb to the basking spot so the lizard can properly absorb the rays. Bulbs are typically replaced every 6 monthscite web |title=Lighting and Heating for Reptiles |author= Melissa Kaplan |date= 2007-04-19 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . Without adequate UVB the Dragon will develop Metabolic Bone Disease and not eat as much. A Dragon needs between 12 and 14 hours of daylight; much less or more causes problems with their circadian rhythms and makes them lethargic and sick. [cite web |title=Caring for an Australian Bearded Dragon |author= K. W. Tosney |year= 2004 |month= 01 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=]

For heating, Bearded Dragons need bright white light during the day. Some owners use a red light at night for heating; this provides heat and you will be able to see it. It is unknown if this red light is visible to bearded dragons. Another option for maintaining temperatures at night is a ceramic heat emitter.

Temperature is one of the most important health factors. A bearded dragon needs the correct temperature to digest, so a good thermometer is essential. Analog, Round, stick-on, and other non-digital thermometers do not measure basking temperature properly as they do not measure the actual basking spot, just the temperature of the air or glass. A digital thermometer with a probe or an Infrared thermometer are two recommended types of thermometers [cite web | Caresheet |date=2006-05-05 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=,3164.0.html] . Temps need to be 40C-43C (105F-110F) [basking spot] during day and 15C-26C (60F-80F) at night (the higher end of this range for babies, the lower portion of the range for adult Dragons). If the dragons do not receive the proper heat they will become lethargic, and they will eat less. Eventually the lack of proper heating will become fatal.


When being lifted, a Bearded Dragon should be offered full support under its belly. In no way should the dragon be squeezed, nor should it be lifted by is tail as its skeletal structure is not designed to support its weight in this manner. Though Bearded Dragons are capable of climbing, being only semi-arboreal, they do not have the grip possessed by some lizard species; therefore, owners should be prepared to offer support to prevent falling while dragons may be hanging onto the owner.

While Bearded Dragons rarely attack humans, a handler should be aware of the ways a Bearded Dragon may communicate aggression or fear. Bearded Dragons may exhibit fear when approached from above, especially dragons who are unaccustomed to handling. If provoked a dragon will flatten out and 'beard', if it continues to feel threatened it may open its mouth to display its teeth, and finally may hiss prior to biting. It is widely encouraged that owners begin handling at an early age (after observing an appropriate settling in period for lizards that may be experiencing relocation stress after being moved), and continuing regular handling to establish and maintain the lizard's trust.

Owners may create an open and controlled space in which the Dragon may move about freely. As Bearded Dragons may jump from the person handling it, the handler should be alert and not allow this to happen to prevent internal injuries. While outside of the cage, bearded dragons should be supervised to prevent undesirable incidents, such as accidental ingestion of undesirable objects. If there are other animals in the home, the owner should be wary of interaction between these animals and the dragon; especially in the presence of pets with predatory instincts, such as dogs and cats. The quick movements and slight size of the dragon may encourage these animals to display hunting behaviors.


Bearded Dragons are known, according to many owners, to be very docile and trusting, yet at the same time, outgoing and curious lizards. If you scare them [typically by approaching from above] they may make a slight hissing sound, usually opening their mouth in a threatening gape display. Their behaviour includes body language such as head bobbing [as a signal of dominance or defiance, usually but not exclusively in the male] and front leg waving [a submissive acknowledgment] . It is not recommended to try and arouse this behavior, however, as it is territorial in nature.

"Pogona vitticeps" is one of the more docile and friendly lizard species in the lizard pet trade. Unlike many large Monitor lizards and smaller lizards like Anoles, some people who have encountered Bearded Dragons argue the reptiles actually enjoy human contact and to be handled by humans. However, it is widely accepted they are at best simply indifferent to human contact. Although they may assume a defensive position, they very rarely bite, scratch, or otherwise attack a human. As a result of their personality, the are a very likable breed. Some owners have been known to take their beardies for walks, providing it isn't too cold. Bearded Dragons are a suitable reptile for a house with children, provided hands are washed after contact.

Bearded Dragons are territorial and may fight a tank mate if an argument arises. Pairs of any gender combination have been known to fight, resulting in some cases in death of one or both of the pair. Keeping two bearded dragons together is controversial among pet owners, as it has been reported to result in death or disfigurement. [cite web | topic |accessdate= 2008-03-23 |url=] [cite web | topic |accessdate= 2008-07-22 |url =] [cite web | topic |accessdate= 2008-07-22 |url =]

Dragons may brumate, a period similar to a mammal's hibernation [cite web |title=Brumation (hiberation) in the Australian Bearded Dragon |author= K. W. Tosney |year= 2004 |month= 10 |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . The animal will become lethargic and not come out that often, eating less, if anything, for a period of two to three months. It's often a concern to those unfamiliar with it, as lethargy and lessened appetite usually mean illness. When brumation starts to happen, it's suggested to go to a veterinarian with a fresh fecal sample for inspection for illness and parasites. In captivity brumation is often induced [with fewer hours of light and lower temps] to promote breeding activity in the following spring.


Due to selective breeding, Dragons have begun to exhibit rather distinctive colorations. These "designer" Dragons display brilliant hues of yellow, pastel oranges, violets, and reds [cite web |title=Bearded Dragon Gallery |author= Robert and Victoria Daichu |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . The most popular morphs thus far include the "Sand Fire" Dragons, which exhibits a bright red-orange color with black stripes. Also very popular is the "Citrus" morph, a brilliant yellow [cite web |title=CITRUS COLOR MORPH:Standard of Excellence |author=Terri Sommella and Adam Seltzer |accessdate= 2008-09-14 |url=] . A more unusual sub-breed is the leatherback, and another of that is the silk-back. These Dragons have reduced scales, creating a smoother appearance [cite web |title=Upcoming Projects for 2007 |author= Robert and Victoria Daichu |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] . Much like designer dogs, the price tags of these customized pets are many times the price of Dragons without a specific morph.

To sex a Dragon, one must hold the tail up and look above the cloaca, also known as the vent. Males have two hemipenal bulges just above it on either side, on the base of the tail, creating an hourglass shaped indent. Females have only a single bulge in the centre. Males are also known to have large femoral pores along the inner thigh [cite web |title=Sexing Your Bearded Dragon |accessdate= 2008-02-06 |url=] , although this is not as reliable an indicator. Dragons usually lay between 7 and 42 eggs at a time, but usually lay between 20 and 30 eggs. [cite book |title=The Bearded Dragon Manual |author= Philippe de Vosjoli, Robert Mailloux, Sousan Donoghue] . The female will attempt to dig a hole in preferably damp substrate to lay and subsequently bury the eggs. Females have been known to eat the eggs that were not fertilized. Eggs are usually incubated at 82-85F for 50–75 days, although much longer incubation periods have been known at lower temperatures. Higher temperatures are likely to kill the eggs.

Hatchlings may take up to 24 hours to emerge from the egg, and will be consuming egg nutrients for two to three days before eating food. They will then need very small live food [e.g. pinhead crickets] and may eat finely chopped greens. Food should be dusted with 'calcium powder', and water should be sprayed or provided in a very shallow dish.The weight varies by how you feed it.


When provided with the proper habitat, temperatures, and UVB lighting, Bearded Dragons are hardy lizards. They are also pets who do their best to hide health problems when becoming ill (as do most reptiles). This is probably an instinctual behavior, since a sick Dragon in the wild would probably not live long. The most common diseases include Agamid adenovirus, mites, terminal ingestion, thermal burns, calcium deficiency or in severe cases even bone disease, impaction, hypovitaminosis A, respiratory infections, dehydration, stomatitis, internal parasites, coccidia and other parasites, dystocia (egg binding), and metabolic bone disease.



ZooReptiles [ Bearded Dragon photos] 14-8-2008

External links

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