bearded dragon handbook

Get our pet owner's guide for bearded dragons and help your special friend live its best life.

Is A Bearded Dragon Right For You?

You’re considering getting a bearded dragon as a pet, and you’re wondering if it’s the right choice for you. 

There are many factors involved in caring for a bearded dragon, and you should be well-informed before bringing one home.

A bearded dragon is an excellent choice for beginner reptile owners, but they are still quite costly and time-consuming to care for. If you are able to afford their housing, food, and other accommodations and aren’t afraid of their unusual appearances, a bearded dragon is a great pet for you. 

Keep reading to learn more about bearded dragons’ care requirements, temperaments, and how much time and money will be required of you to properly care for these scaly yet adorable pets.

is a bearded dragon right for you

Should You Adopt A Bearded Dragon?

Bearded dragons are among the most popular pet reptiles by far, and for many great reasons. 

They have calm and friendly temperaments, are less expensive than other reptiles, and are considered very cute in an unconventional way.

However, there is a lot to be prepared for when adopting a bearded dragon. 

To be sure, beardies are far lower maintenance than most reptiles commonly kept as pets, but they are still a reptile, meaning they require quite specialized and often pricey care. 

Additionally, they take quite a bit of handling and socialization from an early age to live up to their tame and agreeable reputations later in life. 

Many of even the most dedicated of pet lovers are unsettled by the idea of holding and handling a scaly lizard. 

You should be willing to handle your dragon often and regularly if you plan on adopting one, as these are not the type of lizard to simply leave in a tank for the entirety of their lives with little to no handling.

Bearded dragons benefit greatly from owners who are enthusiastic about handling them, and they tend to be happier the more they are socialized.

Beardies are possibly the most people-loving reptiles available, and you should look forward to handling them rather than recoiling at their presence.

As with most reptiles, beardies are expensive to care for. 

They require heat lamps, UV lamps, large and expensive tanks, and fresh vegetables, insects, and fruit to eat regularly. 

You will need to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible.

Also, their veterinary bills usually become very expensive over time. 

You need to have adequate funds to care for these lizards to ensure they live long, happy lives.

Both the initial setup cost and the cost of maintaining them for years to come are quite expensive. 

Be prepared to shell out potentially thousands of dollars throughout your dragon’s life; they often live anywhere from 8 to 12 years or more, so they are a long-term commitment.

Finally, you’ll need adequate space to house your dragon. 

These lizards need tanks of around 40 gallons minimum, and even larger tanks of 55-75 gallons in size are highly recommended to give them ample space to exercise and help them feel immersed and comfortable in their new home.

If you truly love these reptiles and are prepared to house and care for them properly, then congratulations! 

You are a great candidate to become a bearded dragon owner. 

And if you want more information we have a post on adopting bearded dragons that will be helpful for you.

Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?

The answer to this question depends somewhat on your personal preferences. 

Still, beardies are well-known for being among the best pet reptiles because of their small and compact size, calm and friendly personalities, and minimal care requirements compared to most reptiles. 

Still, although they are a bit easier to care for than most reptiles, they require complex care.

Overall, though, most people consider them to be excellent pets, provided you are able to give them everything they need to thrive. 

They are tamer than most reptiles and enjoy being handled more than most reptiles, too. 

They form surprisingly close bonds with their owners and have various cute and quirky mannerisms and behaviors.

This lizard fares best with an owner who is enthusiastic yet careful about handling them respectfully. 

Don’t think you’ll just leave your beardie in their tank 100% of the time; take them out and interact with them often, as they tend to enjoy human interaction.

Are Bearded Dragons Expensive?

Most, if not all, reptiles are expensive when it comes to their care needs. 

In addition to yearly vet checkups, you’ll need to purchase the following items for your dragon’s environment:

  • A 40+ gallon tank
  • A heat lamp, also known as a basking bulb
  • A UVB bulb mounted inside of the tank
  • Thermometers and hygrometers on both ends of the tank to monitor temperature and humidity
  • Substrate for the tank’s flooring, preferably reptile carpet or tile
  • Fresh vegetables, insects, and fruit for a balanced diet
  • Lots of tank decorations for enrichment
  • Storage for your feeder insects
  • A calcium supplement for their food
  • An emergency vet fund of at least around $800 or more to deal with any potential health issues

Expect the initial setup costs for your bearded dragon to be at least $400 or more, and this doesn’t include the cost of the dragon itself. 

Depending on the breeder you purchase your lizard from and the type of morph you choose, your lizard will cost anywhere from $50 to $200 or more.

Bonus Info: Fancy bearded dragons are pricier. The price can even go as high as $900. But with those vivid colors and unique markings, they are worth the dollars.

We have a more complete breakdown of all ownership costs in our post covering the costs involved with bearded dragon ownership.

Where Should You Buy A Bearded Dragon?

Be sure to buy your lizard from a reputable breeder and avoid getting them from pet stores, as they tend to overcrowd baby bearded dragons in small tanks. 

Don’t purchase them from less competent breeders who mostly care about maximizing profits rather than selling healthy reptiles to responsible owners.

Although breeders usually charge more for their animals, the slightly increased cost is well worth knowing your dragon came from a knowledgeable owner who wants the best for them.

Generally, first-time owners should adopt a baby dragon rather than an adult bearded dragon, as babies are easier to handle and socialize as they age. 

In contrast, adults tend to be more difficult to handle for beginners.

Adult dragons often come from abusive or neglectful homes, making them more challenging to socialize and handle. 

Leave them to the more experienced reptile owners if you’re a beginner, and get a baby instead if possible.

Here’s our post on buying bearded dragons online if you want to see a list of our recommended shops.

Do Bearded Dragons Require Specialized Care?

Although they are lower maintenance than most reptiles and are great for beginner reptile owners, beardies still require specialized care. 

Bearded dragons are prone to several health issues brought on by improper care, like metabolic bone disease, which is extremely common in dragons with calcium deficiencies.

Since they are cold-blooded, they need the correct heating and humidity settings in their enclosures to properly digest and gain energy from their food. 

If they become too cold or too hot, they become susceptible to health problems like respiratory infections.

For their basking area, a temperature of around 95 to 100° degrees Fahrenheit (37° C) is ideal, while the rest of the enclosure should be around 85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C). 

Their humidity needs to be kept at a constant 20 to 40%. 

You’ll need to keep them hydrated with a shallow dish of clean, fresh water at all times, and the water dish will need to be refilled at least once per day because the heat lamp will quickly dry it out.

Your dragon will also need a UVB lamp mounted inside of the tank and turned on for around 12 hours a day, as the UV rays help them process and absorb the calcium they need to survive. 

Without proper UV and heat lighting, your lizard won’t be able to thrive in its new environment.

Yearly to bi-yearly vet checkups are essential to prevent any health issues and ensure your dragon gets enough calcium, UV rays, and other important nutrients.

Your dragon’s dietary needs will also be quite specialized, and their diet must consist of the correct ratio of vegetables, insects, and fruit, which we’ll cover in more detail in the next section.

What Do You Feed A Bearded Dragon?

Your dragon will need a varied and complex diet made up of a mixture of vegetables, insects, and a small amount of fruit. 

Babies generally require a diet of around 70% insects and 30% plant material, while adults require the opposite, or 70% plant material and 30% insects.

Certain foods are better than others, while some should be avoided entirely. Generally, your lizard will eat mostly dark, leafy greens, such as:

  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Endive
  • Escarole

The rest of your beardie’s vegetable intake will consist of a staple to semi-staple vegetables, including:

  • Bell peppers
  • Green beans
  • Squash (summer, butternut, acorn, yellow)
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Yams

A very small amount of your dragon’s diet will be made up of safe fruits, such as:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Apples

And, finally, around 30% of your adult dragon’s diet should consist of the following insects:

  • Dubia roaches
  • Crickets
  • Superworms
  • Hornworms
  • Waxworms

You need to provide your lizard with a wide variety of different veggies, fruits, and bugs to supply them with the vitamins and nutrients their bodies need to thrive.

We have a huge post on the bearded dragon food list we highly recommend you check out.

Are Bearded Dragons Friendly?

Bearded dragons have a reputation for being among the most friendly and agreeable pet reptiles. 

They tolerate and even enjoy being handled far more than most other lizards, and they typically have very relaxed and laid-back dispositions.

If you want a reptile you’ll be able to hold, handle, and even play with; a bearded dragon is an excellent choice. 

These lizards are not suitable for being left alone in their tanks at all times, as they genuinely enjoy human companionship and being taken out to explore their surroundings.

However, they are still a reptile, and they shouldn’t be treated like a dog or a cat. 

They don’t appreciate loud noises, sudden movements, or generally chaotic and noisy environments.

Keep their tank in a quiet room away from other animals and only handle them for 30 to 40 minutes at most at a time.

Overstimulation will upset your dragon quickly, so keep an eye out for signs of stress like black bearding, hissing, and snapping. 

This isn’t an animal you’ll be able to carry around with you all day, so be gentle and only handle them for short periods.

If you’d like to learn more we have a post on the bearded dragons temperament you’ll like.

Are Bearded Dragons Good with Other Pets?

Generally, bearded dragons should be housed alone and kept away from other pets like cats, dogs, birds, and other reptiles. 

While they get along very well with humans, they don’t particularly enjoy being around other reptiles, even members of their species, unless for breeding purposes. 

Don’t stress your beardie out by putting them next to your dog or cat for a “cute” picture unless they have been socialized with the animal thoroughly, and even then, it should be avoided for the most part. 

While it might be tempting to take your dragon to play with other animals, they will strongly prefer being alone.

Keep your dragon’s tank in a room by itself if possible, or at least keep them far enough away from other reptile tanks and animals in your home to avoid upsetting them. 

It’s fine if you already own other animals; just keep them away from your beardie.

If you’re a dog owner check out our post on mixing dogs and bearded dragons.

Are Bearded Dragons Good with Children?

Bearded dragons are certainly better with children than most other reptiles, but they still require gentle and careful handling. 

It’s best to avoid letting small children handle your beardie, as they tend to lack the motor skills and restraint necessary for proper handling.

Generally, children aged 12 or older tend to fare best with bearded dragons, with some slightly younger children also being mature and calm enough to handle them properly. 

Don’t let toddlers around your lizard at all, and use your best judgment to determine if your children are old enough to hold and be around them. 

If you notice your dragon’s beard turning black or hissing coming from your lizard, immediately separate them from your child, as this is a clear sign the lizard is stressed out and upset by the interaction.

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