Published on June 2, 2016
Bearded dragons, aka beardies, have gained in popularity immensely from their first introduction to the United States in the 1990s. They are now one of the most popular and sought after reptiles due to their gentle nature and wide range of color variations. They are also relatively easy to care for compared to other reptile species.
Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) originated in inland Australia. They can be found in arid, rocky, semi-desert regions and the arid open woodlands. They are diurnal (out during the day), but often spend the hottest part of the day in underground burrows and are well adapted to cool desert nights. They are semi-arboreal, meaning they are adept climbers of braches, bushes and fence posts. Beardies are social animals, often very interested in their surroundings, which they use their tongues to explore.
These members of the reptile species are often quite tame and require little in terms of active training. When handling your bearded dragon make sure to gently scoop up your dragon with your hand under its belly. Dragons tend to be very trusting of their handler and will not necessarily hold on, so always take care to support your dragon. They do not like being firmly held. Rather, let them rest in your palm with your fingers gently curled over their back. Although generally quite friendly, if they feel threatened, they have been known to scratch or bite their handlers. Please take caution if your bearded assumes a defensive posture such as puffing out or “displaying his beard” by pressing his body flat and opening his mouth.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, eating both plant foods and animal protein sources. Beardies consume a wide variety of bugs and small mammals in the wild, thus a variety of protein sources should be offered in captivity. Appropriately sized cultured (raised in captivity, and not wild) crickets, cockroaches, mealworms, king worms, and wax worms can all be fed, along with pinkie mice. Offer only the amount of live prey that the dragon can consume in a 10-minute period. Uneaten prey should be removed from the tank to prevent harm to your dragon. A phosphorus-free calcium supplement should also be sprinkled on the feeder insects and vegetables immediately prior to presentation.
Plant matter in the form of collard greens, mustard greens, or dandelion greens should be offered daily. Other vegetables that should be given include green beans, butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes. They are often found eating flowers in the wild. Blossoms from roses, hibiscus and candula plants can be presented as well (just make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides!). Fruit can be offered in small amounts such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, mango, and cantaloupe. The time of feeding is also very important. It is recommended to offer food in the mornings so that digestion occurs during the warmest part of the day.
This little lizard is fascinating and deserves every bit of its rising popularity. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Bearded Dragon Files to learn more about the specific care requirements for this wonderful species.