Popularity: Make good house pets: Many owners report an almost dog-like affection.
Native habitat: Arid, rocky, semi-desert regions and dry open woodlands
Size: 18-24 inches
Lifespan: 4-10 years, sometimes more
Appearance: The tail accounts for over half of body length of a Bearded Dragon. Females are smaller than males. Both are found in a variety of colors including brown, green, orange, gray, red, reddish-brown, white, and yellow. They have scales along both sides of the head, neck and throat that form narrow spines which run down the side of the body to the tail. Bearded Dragons are named for the pouch-like projection on the underside of the neck and chin that resembles a human beard. It turns darker than the rest of the body and has spiny projections. Males have darker beards than females. They have strong legs able to lift the body completely off the ground while moving. This reduces heat taken in from the ground increases air-flow over the belly to cool it.
Diet: Small lizards, insects, small mice, flowers, fruit and other plants
Activities: Adept climbers that like spending time perching on tree limbs and in bushes; will sun themselves morning and evening, and then hide in underground burrows during heat of midday
Defense Mechanisms: The Dragon flattens its body against the ground, puffs out its spiny throat, and opens its jaws to make itself appear larger when threatened, and will also make hissing sound directed at enemy. Tails can break off, and they don’t grow back. Females will often refuse the advances of a male by chasing him and lying on his back.
Misc characteristics: Bearded Dragons are capable of undergoing slight color changes to regulate body temperature. During mating season and courtship, the male’s beard will darken to almost black. Dragons communicate with one another through color displays, posture, and physical gestures like arm waving and head bobbing. A dominant dragon demonstrates superiority by bobbing its head and inflating its beard. The challenger may signal submission by waving a forearm in a slow circle. If not, they may have a standoff.
There are several different kinds of head bob gestures. These are:
Slow bowing motion: Used by adult females to signal submission to a male — usually accompanied by an arm wave
Fast bob: used by males to signal dominance (often accompanied by an inflated and/or blackened beard)
Violent bob: Used by males just before mating. This bob is much more vigorous, and usually sets the animal’s whole body in motion.
Housing and Furnishings
A single adult housing should be a 60-gallon tank or larger. If two or three Beardies are housed together, the tank should be 100 gallons or more. There should be no more than one male in a group.
Dragons like to climb, so it is important to have plenty of height in the tank so they can climb and bask on limbs, and to provide a sufficient temperature gradient. The limbs should be in different areas and at different levels in the tank, and they should be thick to support the weight of the lizard. Artificial plants are best; otherwise, the reptile will eat them. They also need hide boxes or other safe places where they can retreat.
Substrate can be paper, alfalfa, timothy pellets, or indoor/outdoor carpeting. Sand should be avoided because they may eat it during feeding. Also avoid kitty litter, corncob, potting soil, and wood shavings due to potential mold.
The tank should have a thermal gradient that ranges from the upper 70s to upper 80s Fahrenheit during the day to a low in the 72-76 degree range at night. Use lamps to provide the heat, and thermometers to gauge the heat in each area.
There should also be a 95-100 degree basking area. The basking area should cover no more than 25-percent of the enclosure. A specialized basking light or a 75-150 watt bulb in a ceramic base should be used, and it should be screened off or positioned outside the enclosure to remove the risk of burning the Dragon’s skin through contact.
The basking area should also be lit by a UVB light source to ensure that the Bearded Dragon receives the necessary UVB rays for optimal health and well-being. They need definite day/night cycles: Most pet owners houses naturally provide this. If not, supply a light with a timer to cause the effect.
Bearded Dragons eat both meat and vegetables. About 50-70% of an adult’s diet should consist of plant matter, 20% for juveniles. Dark, leafy vegetables like collard and mustard greens, kale and red tip leaf lettuce are good choices, as are alfalfa pellets, clover, parsley, and broccoli, green beans, peas, squash, grated carrots and sweet potatoes — but never feed them spinach or iceberg lettuce. Once in a while, fruits such as figs, kiwi, apples and melons are good for them. For protein, feed them gut-loaded crickets and mealworms that have been dusted with a supplement — but never wild caught insects; they may carry disease. You can also feed them on of the commercially prepared diets made especially for Bearded Dragons.