Question: Are bearded dragons good pets?
Answer: Yes, bearded dragons are very good pets and although the lizard has some complex welfare needs it is still a great option for reptile lovers. The bearded dragon has a docile and gentle temperament that makes it easy for beginners or kids to keep as pets.
The bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps, originates from dry scrublands and woodlands in Australia but they were introduced into the United states as pets during the 1990s and many families have been adopting the exotic animal.
The rise in popularity of the bearded dragon in countries like the United States is a clear indication of its outstanding qualities.
Many people are starting to adopt the reptile as pets and that trend does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Let’s get started.
Bearded Dragons As Pets
Bearded dragons are pet lizards that are native to Australia and as mentioned earlier, the reptile was introduced to the U.S. in the 1990s and many families have been adopting the exotic pet since the introduction.
The popularity of bearded dragons as exotic pets have led to selective breeding that has produced different types of the reptile; these varieties are commonly referred to as morphs.
The reptile comes in different coloring depending on their genetic traits. You can find a red, white, black, blue, orange or even yellow bearded dragon so your family has a lot of varieties to choose from.
With good care and attention from the adopting family, the bearded dragon can live for about 10 to 12 years so you definitely have a lot of time to bond with your pet.
And since the bearded dragon is originally from arid conditions and desert environments, the housing of a captive bearded dragon should mimic the conditions of their natural habitat.
This means that bearded dragons have some very complex welfare needs when they are being kept as pets. These include a suitable environment, healthy diet and other specifics like temperature and humidity.
Here are some of the basics of keeping bearded dragons as pets…
Housing And Habitat
Bearded dragon housing comes in two types. Pet owners can choose from indoor housing or outdoor housing depending on the one that works best for them.
The enclosure must generally be secure to prevent the lizard from escaping and offer protection from hazards that can lead to injury. Good ventilation is also essential in order to reduce the risk of respiratory infections.
Indoor housing is mostly created from a glass aquarium with a fitted screen cover but you should remember that beardies don’t need waterproof cages since they generally inhabit arid or dry habitats.
You can get a ready-made cage for your bearded dragon in various pet stores or you can build your own custom cage.
One of the best tanks for bearded dragons is the Desert Reptile Terrarium Starter Kit created by Zilla. It has a built-in humidity and temperature gauge that makes it easy to maintain the perfect environment for your pet.
The tank also comes with light and heating fixtures to keep your beardie warm during the day and night.
Outdoor housing is also another option for bearded dragons but this can only be possible in warm conditions. These outdoor enclosures should be able to provide shelter, protect the beardie from predators and provide heating during the night.
However, outdoor enclosures can make it difficult to maintain optimum conditions for your beardy so most owners prefer indoor housing instead.
You should also take note that male bearded dragons are usually encouraged to be housed alone since they tend to fight with other males and breed with females.
Heating And Temperature
Bearded dragons are ectothermic animals that use their environment to warm up and cool down so they require a temperature gradient. Temperature gradient is basically a term used to describe the direction and rate of temperature change around a particular location.
This means that bearded dragon require a heat source at one end of their enclosure whilst the other end is cool so they can easily move around and regulate their body temperature.
The temperature gradient is generally encouraged to go from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side, right up to basking (relaxing) temperatures ranging from 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. However, temperatures can fall to an average of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the night.
Ceramic heaters like the Fluker’s Ceramic Reptile Heat Emitter are great for providing heat to your bearded dragon during nighttime. They are slightly more expensive than regular glass bulbs but they are reliable and much more durable.
It is also important for bearded dragon owners to use thermometers to monitor temperatures and never rely on estimates or approximations. Perfect temperatures are crucial for the health and well-being of your beardie.
Bearded dragons need to be exposed to UV lightning in order to stay fit and healthy.
The best way to for your beardie to receive adequate amounts of light is by exposing them to natural day-light for an average of 8 to 10 hours per day. Natural day-light provides UVA and UVB rays which are very crucial for your pet’s growth.
UVB rays help the skin to synthesize vitamin D3 which is required for bone growth and formation whilst UVA rays are believed to help pet bearded dragons to eat better and maintain good activity levels.
If natural sunlight is not available, it is encouraged to use an artificial full-spectrum light bulb for your bearded dragon.
A good option of an artificial full-spectrum light bulb for your beardie is the Zoo Med T8 ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Fluorescent Lamp which is a high quality German bulb that provides both UVA ad UVB wavelengths.
Substrate And Bedding
Bearded dragons also require substrate or bedding in their indoor housing cages. A substrate can be simply described as the floor covering in your lizard’s enclosure.
The substrate for bearded dragon enclosured can be something as simple as white, unprinted paper towels or unprinted newspaper or a layer of rabbit pellets, which is safe if accidentally swallowed.
Calci-Sand is mostly used by many bearded dragon owners but it can be very dangerous with an incorrect environment. When the conditions are too cold for digestive function, calci-sand can clog the digestive tract and cause blockage.
Other commercially produced substrates like the Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Reptile Substrate are made of clay without chemicals or dyes and help to bring your bearded dragon’s natural habitat to their terrarium.
Plants also help to provide an environmental stimulus for your bearded dragon.
Experts generally recommend using silk or plastic plants since they do not pose much risk to your beardie that are quick to eat every plant they encounter.
Artificial plants also don’t need be removed and washed so that can save you some time as you take care of your bearded dragon.
The preferred humidity level for bearded dragons ranges from 35% to 40% since it is very similar to arid conditions of their natural habitat. You can easily monitor the humidity level of your beardie’s terrarium by using a hydrometer.
However, there is really no need to sweat over humidity levels since most bearded dragon types do better in arid conditions. Good ventilation of the cage and minimal water can actually help you to maintain optimum humidity levels.
Bearded dragons require a high degree of maintenance in order to keep them healthy.
The basics of taking care of a beardie are removing fecal material and uneaten vegetables from their cage everyday. Owners should generally try to keep the cage clean and free from any dirt.
It is also required to monitor your heating system and check temperatures throughout the cage and also maintain optimum humidity levels for the pet lizard.
Bearded dragons generally grow better on a balanced and varied diet. Fruits and vegetables should be the core of a bearded dragon’s diet whilst animal based foods should be fed in moderation so as to meet the protein requirements of the pet lizard.
It is also encouraged to offer commercially produced supplements for extra calcium that bearded dragons requires for maintaining stronger teeth and bones.
Average Costs Of Owning Bearded Dragons As Pets
The average costs for owning a bearded dragon as a pet can range from $750 to significant thousands during the first year of ownership. The costs will vary depending on your choices around the bearded dragon morph, habitat, food, supplements and veterinary visits.
Here is a quick breakdown of the costs that you will encounter during your fist year of owning a bearded dragon as a pet:
|Live juvenile bearded dragon||$60 to $900|
|Bearded dragon enclosure and setup||$75 to $300|
|Food and supplements||$40 to $150 per month|
|Veterinary visits||$75 to $150 per visit|
Interesting Pet Bearded Dragon Statistics
According to the College Of Veterinary Medicine, the most recent statistics for pet ownership in the United States indicate that 4.7 million households kept 9.4 million reptiles as pets in 2016.
These numbers are a clear indication that many families are now open to the idea of keeping reptiles like bearded dragons as pets.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has not yet declared that bearded dragons are at risk of extinction although their population in the wild is declining.
This can be explained by the significant domestication of bearded dragons and the rise in their demand of pets.
Multiple breeders and pet stores are selling live bearded dragons and their significant profits are proof that the lizard is now a favorite pet for many families.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Petted?
Bearded dragons are generally not very sociable animals but a majority of them seem to enjoy being petted especially when you gently stroke them by the head.
The pet lizard basically show affection in many ways but the four main ones are…
- Closing their eyes when they are being held.
- Climbing on to your hand to be held.
- Licking the owner’s hand to get their smell.
- Relaxing and laying flat.
Bearded dragons might present a complicated personality by they actually enjoy being petted. Owners should just remember not to force their beardies to do anything.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is a bit stressed you should just let them relax and enjoy their own company.
Do Pet Bearded Dragons Recognize Their Owners?
Yes, bearded dragons recognize and respond to their owners. Key response triggers are mostly the owner’s voice and touch but there is little evidence to conclude that the lizard is able to distinguish between sounds and touch.
Bearded dragons are actually a great option for people who like reptiles that like to be held and played with.
Why Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets?
Here are some of the reasons why bearded dragons are good pets for your family…
Bearded Dragons Are Easy To Feed
Bearded dragons are one of the few reptiles that are easy to feed. The pet lizards require fruits and vegetables to be the core of their diet and you can also feed them commercially produced pellets that formulated with the right amount of vitamins and minerals to encourage growth and maintain a healthy body.
Bearded Dragons Are Easy To Handle
The majority of bearded dragons don’t seem to scratch, fight or bite when handled gently. This makes them a good family pet that is great for kids.
Bearded Dragons Don’t Grow Very Large
Bearded dragons generally grow to about two feet in size and they are very comfortable in 30 to 55 gallon tanks.
Bearded Dragons Are Very Attractive
There is no doubt that bearded dragons are attractive lizards that come in a variety of colors that are all mesmerizing to the eye.
Bearded Dragons Are Daylight Lizards
Bearded dragons are are daylight lizards that are mostly active in the daytime. This makes them a great pet because owners can feed and take care of their beardies during the day and get good rest at night.
It Is Easy To Provide Heat To A Bearded Dragon
You can easily provide heat for a bearded dragon through an ordinary
incandescent light bulb turned on during the day and off at night.
Bearded Dragons Are Safe
Studies have suggested that 90% of reptiles carry salmonella, a type of bacteria that can be passed to humans but no bearded dragon has been implicated in human cases of the disease.
Bearded Dragons Live Longer
Bearded dragons have an average lifespan of around 10 to 12 years when under good care and guardianship. The longer life expectancy means that you will actually have a lot of time to bond with your pet and enjoy their company.
How To Choose A Pet Bearded Dragon
Here are some tips for choosing the perfect pet bearded dragon…
Look For A Fat Baby Bearded Dragon
Many people tend to overlook this but it is actually an important step for choosing the perfect pet bearded dragon. Healthy baby bearded dragons are generally fat and active when spooked or prodded.
Eyes Should Be Wide Open
It is important to look for a bearded dragon whose eyes are wide open. This is a great sign of health and great activity.
Lookout For Obvious Eye, Mouth Or Jaw Problems
This is a straight forward tip. Bearded dragon prospectors should always lookout for obvious eye, mouth or jaw problems if they desire a healthy and fit beardie that will live longer.
Choose The Dominant Beardie
It is an excellent idea to always choose the dominant bearded dragon when you identify one. However, these type of beardies should be housed alone in order to avoid them harming others.
Check For Healthy Signs
It is very important to choose a healthy bearded dragon with a great chance for living longer. Here are some signs that you should consider for choosing a healthy bearded dragon:
- Good appetite for both insects and plant matter.
- Eyes wide open and clear.
- Normal coloration.
- Appropriate skin texture, no abnormal bumps.
- Clean anal region.
- Healthy mouth.
- Full tail.
- Has all five toes, with claws, on all four feet.
Bearded dragons are definitely good pets with a lot of good traits and attributes for reptile lovers.
The pet lizard is very easy to take care of and their daytime activity makes it much easier for owners to feed them during the day and rest at night.
Bearded dragons have a very simple diet which mostly depend on fruits and vegetables but they should also be fed animal based foods in moderation in order to get the optimal protein for their bodies.
There are so many qualities of the bearded dragon that makes it a great reptile pet for your family and kids.