Baby Bearded Dragon Care & Keeping
So, you’ve fallen in love with baby bearded dragons, and you’ve decided to add one to your family. You’ve learned about their color and morph types, decided which type is best for you, and you’ve put in an order with a reputable breeder or seller. And now your new baby is on the way!
Yay! I am SO happy for you! You’re going to love your little beardie, I just know it! But you’ve got to get things ready for your new cutie, get everything set up so he/she will be able to get settled comfortably. Here is what you need to get your bearded dragon set up, snuggled in, and ready to bond with you.
• 1 Tank/enclosure, with a lid and background
• 1 Insect tank/box, with a lid
• 1 UVA/UVB light fixture and bulb
• 1 Basking (white) light fixture and bulb
• 2 Thermometers (1 each for hot and cool tank zones)
• 3-5 Tank basking/hiding accessories
• 1 Feeding dish
• 1 Water dish
• Supply of substrate/bedding
• Calcium and vitamin supplement powder
• Food stuffs
We’ll go one-by one through the list, offering details and information about tank and cage setup that will be helpful for making your purchasing selections.
The size of tank you need depends upon the age and size of your beardie. If you don’t want to deal with multiple tanks as your baby grows, start with a big one and partition it off for the first several months with a glass or cardboard inset.
Hatchlings (Newborn up to 3-5 months)
• 20 gallon tank
Juvenile (5 – 18 months)
• 40 or more gallon tank
Adult (Over 18 months)
• 16-20”: 50-75 gallon tank
• 20”: 75-120 gallon tank
At all ages and sizes, tanks should have a mesh/screen cover. Your beardie has to breathe, after all! Tanks should also have a background, as the static visual scene will give your bearded dragon a feeling of security.
Your beardie needs to eat gut-loaded live insects to remain healthy. Bugs should have a place to fatten-up for 48 hours while waiting to be put into the food dish. Any sort of container will do, really, but you’d do best with something water-resistant and covered for your insect holding. Unless you won’t mind if the crickets and roaches can escape…
UVA/UVB & Basking Bulbs
Bearded dragons need a lot of light and heat. They depend upon exposure to UVA for good health, and they can only digest their food properly when they’re warmed up.
Unless you live in a roof-less house in an Australian desert, the natural lighting and heat in your home is not going to be enough to keep your beardie healthy. But dragons can get what they need from bulbs placed at the top of their tanks.
You’ll need one UVA/UVB bulb and one heat bulb to cover your beardie’s lighting and heating needs. The lights should be on for 12-14 hours of the day, then turned off at night. Remember, beardies are diurnal and follow the same schedule as you. Switching the lights off at your bedtime and back on again when you wake in the morning should be perfect for keeping your baby in a happy basking state.
Beadies love to soak up sun and light, but just like sunbathing beach vacationers, they need an umbrella to retreat under now and again. Sometimes they need a little shade and cool. The proper accessories can help with that (see next section), but it’s important that you monitor temperatures in both the hot and cool zones of a tank. Ensuring that a tank has areas within the right temperature ranges will keep your bearded cutie content.
High temperature areas, particularly basking spots, should be 95 degrees for adults, 100 degrees for juveniles. Youngster beardies need more heat!
Cool temperature areas should be around 70-75 degrees, and when the lights are off at night, temperatures can drop to about 65 degrees without harm to your dragon. Yet if the overnight temperature threatens to drop lower than that, you should probably get an under-tank heater to make sure that your beardie stays consistently warm enough.
A bearded dragon needs both a basking high spot and a safe and cool hidey-hole in his/her tank. A hollow half-log accessory or a fabric hammock, attached to a corner of the tank with suction cups, will serve for the cool, hiding spot. A basking perch can be a wood branch or piece of sculpture, or anything really, just as long as it’s non-toxic and tipped up towards the heat lamp.
Don’t clutter your bearded dragon’s tank with too much stuff. Remember, their native environment is a desert- they’re most comfortable with open, sparse settings.
The best feeding dish for your beardie is a shallow, wide container, something that can keep the live insects contained and the salad easily accessible. Same for the water dish- it should be large enough for your baby beardie to sit in, if he/she feels inclined to get hydration from soaking, instead of drinking.
Many bearded dragon lovers use the clear plastic thingies that other people buy to put under flowerpots to capture runoff after watering. You can find them in hardware stores, nurseries, and general merchandise big-box stores, usually priced between 50 cents and a buck. What a bargain!
Even though a lot of pet stores will try to sell you sand for the substrate of your beardie tank, don’t fall for it! Sand is a terrible choice for the bedding of your dragon’s home. Beardies can accidentally ingest it while eating, and it can become compacted in their bellies and create major health problems. Just say no to sand, no matter how cool it may look.
A better bet is a lining of thin paper, like newspaper before it’s been printed on, if you can find it. If not, basic paper towels are great- perfect, even. Keep it simple.
Food & Supplements
To properly take care of your bearded dragon, you need to supply your baby with a diet of varied, nutrient-rich foods. Yet even if you provide a diverse diet, your beardie will still need calcium and vitamin supplements almost every day throughout his/her life. For information and tips about including supplements into your baby beardie’s meals, check out this “What to Feed a Baby Bearded Dragon” post. See how my love affair with Baby Beardies started by reading Baby Bearded Dragon | Geocaching Adventure Hunts New Treasure.