Bearded Dragon: Stats & Facts

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Habitat

Enclosure: Cages should be secure with tight-fitting lids. The sides should be smooth to avoid abrasions of the nose. Wire cages do not retain heat and also can result in foot and nose trauma. Having a proper substrate in the cage (see below), making sure the cage is large enough, and using plastic coated wire mesh can lessen the possibility of injury.

Cages should be simple in design to facilitate cleaning. Cages made of wood must be sealed with polyurethane or a similar waterproofing agent and joints caulked to allow cleaning and disinfection. Fresh polyurethane must be allowed to dry several days and the cage thoroughly aired out prior to placing a reptile in it or toxicity may result.

Aquariums can be used to house Bearded Dragons. Hatchlings may be kept in a 10-15 gallon aquarium; adults require a minimum of at least a 55-60 gallon aquarium.

Substrate: The substrate is what lines the bottom of the cage. An ideal substrate is one that is inexpensive, aesthetically pleasing, easily cleaned, absorbent, and digestible if swallowed. Substrate can be flat newspaper, sheets of brown wrapping paper (the kind that comes in rolls), AstroTurf, or indoor/outdoor carpet. Do NOT use cedar shavings, gravel, crushed corn cob, kitty litter, wood shavings, or potting soil that contains vermiculite, pesticides, fertilizer, or wetting agents.

Landscaping and 'furniture': Branches for climbing and basking under the secondary heat source should be secure. These branches should be of various sizes and not ooze pitch or have a sticky sap; oak works very well. The branches should be as wide as the width of the Bearded Dragon. Boards covered with indoor/outdoor carpet also make good climbing posts. Flat-bottomed, smooth rocks are a good addition to the habitat, and can help wear down the toenails, which in captivity, must be clipped often.

Reptiles like a place where they can hide. This could be an empty cardboard box, cardboard tube, or flower pot. The hiding place should provide a snug fit and should be high in the enclosure. If your Bearded Dragon does not use its hiding place, try a different one or move it to a different location.

Appropriate plants in the enclosure can provide humidity, shade, and a sense of security. They also add an aesthetic quality to the enclosure. Be sure they are nontoxic. Dracaena, Ficus benjamina, and hibiscus are good choices. Be sure the plants have not been treated with pesticides and the potting soil does not contain vermiculite, pesticides, fertilizer, or wetting agents. Washing the plant with a water spray and watering it thoroughly several times to the point where water runs out of the bottom of the pot, should help remove toxic chemicals, which may have been used. Keeping purchased plants in a different part of the house for a while before putting them in the enclosure will also be helpful.

Temperature

Bearded Dragons are cold-blooded animals from arid woodland and desert environments, and require supplemental heat for proper digestion. They prefer 78-88°F during the day and temperatures in the 70's at night. If a reptile is cold, it cannot properly digest its food and is more likely to become ill. Lizards like a temperature gradient so if they are cold, they can move to a warmer part of the cage and vice versa. Place a good quality thermometer in the cage at the level the Bearded Dragon spends most of its time so you can monitor the temperature.

Primary heat source

A primary heat source is necessary to keep the temperature of the entire cage within the proper range. A series of incandescent lights over the cage is one of the best heat sources. At night, these lights will need to be turned off and another heat source may be needed depending on the ambient temperature. A heating pad placed under the cage, ceramic infrared heat emitters or panels, or more expensive nocturnal reptile incandescent light bulbs which produce heat, but little visible light, can be used. For larger enclosures, a space heater or separate room thermostat can be used to keep the room at the appropriate temperature. Fire alarms should be placed in rooms where lights or other heat sources are used.

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