So, you’ve just gotten a bearded dragon. Congratulations!
Bearded dragon care is fairly easy, but unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there about the best way to keep a bearded dragon happy and healthy.
In this bearded dragon care guide, we’re talking about the very basics of bearded dragon care. Let’s go!
Bearded Dragon Care Supplies
The first thing you’ll need is an enclosure. Bearded dragons need a lot of space. The smallest enclosure size for babies is 40 gallons. Once they reach 6 months or so, they need an even bigger space – 120 gallons or larger! We recommend skipping the smaller enclosure and buying a 120+ gallon tank right away. This will save you money and you won’t have to spend the time setting up an enclosure twice.
The next important item you’ll need are lights! Lights provide heat and UVB rays to your dragon. UVB is vital for bearded dragon care. That’s because without it, bearded dragons can’t make vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for preventing metabolic bone disease, the most common health issue in pet beardies.
The best UVB lights are T5. These look like long tubes and should cover ½ of your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Make sure it covers their basking area so they can get vitamin D while they bask!
Speaking of basking, you’ll also want to get a 100W or 150W basking bulb to provide additional heat. Basking bulbs should be mounted over their basking area using an 8.5” dome reptile lamp.
Other heating and lighting supplies include a dimmer or thermostat to control the temperature of the basking bulb, a temperature gun or thermometer to check the temperature within the enclosure, and a light timer to turn the lights on and off each day.
If your bearded dragon’s tank falls below 65° F at night, you can provide additional heat with a ceramic heat emitter or deep heat projector.
Environmental Needs for Bearded Dragons
Now that you’ve got your lights set up, it’s time to get your beardie cozy!
First up, substrate. For beginners we recommend a non-loose substrate. This could be paper towels, ceramic tile (unglazed!), non-adhesive shelf liner, or even a silicone baking mat.
We recommend avoiding reptile carpet. It’s hard to clean and can easily harbor bacteria. And NEVER use crushed walnut hulls as substrate! Bearded dragons can get very sick from the natural chemicals found in walnut hulls.
Now you’ll need toys and décor! Places for your bearded dragon to hide are vital. We suggest having two hides, one on the warm (basking) side, and one on the cooler side of your beardie’s enclosure. You’ll also need a basking area. This can be the top of a hide, or a log, brick, or flat stone.
It’s also great to have things for your bearded dragon to climb. Logs are a favorite, but you can also provide other climbing toys.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to add a background to your terrarium to cut down on reflections on the glass and help your beardie feel safe. Cork tile is a great affordable option for this, but there are lots of backgrounds you could use.
Whatever kind of background you choose, don’t use glue to attach it to your terrarium. Many glues give off toxic fumes that aren’t safe for bearded dragons to breathe.
Food and Supplements
Now that your bearded dragon’s tank is all set up, it’s time to talk about food and supplements. We’ve written another blog on proper diet for bearded dragons which you can read for more information.
A bearded dragon’s diet consists mainly of veggies and insects. In addition to the food itself, you’ll need a salad dish. For live bugs like dubia roaches, an escape proof feeder dish can also be helpful. By containing the insects, you can easily keep track of how many your beardie eats and remove the ones it doesn’t.
Supplements are another important part of your beardie’s diet. Calcium is the most important supplement, but you will also need to provide vitamin D if they aren’t getting UVB light.
Lastly, feeder tongs are helpful for picking up insects without having to touch them. And for picky salad eaters, bee pollen powder can make greens more appetizing.
Daily Bearded Dragon Care Tasks
Now that you’ve got everything you need for proper bearded dragon care, what do you need to do?
The list of daily care tasks for bearded dragons is simple:
- Spot clean your bearded dragon’s tank once a day. Deeper cleaning should be done once a week.
- Check the temperatures of the tank. It should be between 75° and 85°, with the basking spot between 88° and 105°. Humidity should be kept between 20 and 40%.
- Feed your bearded dragon every day. Adults should be fed once per day, but younger dragons will need to be fed more often.
And that’s it! Easy, right?
More About Bearded Dragon Care
Once your enclosure is set up properly, bearded dragons are easy to care for!
But remember, these are just the basics of bearded dragon care. To read more about this important topic, check out all our articles on caring for your bearded dragon here.