Pet lizard dragon
Research bearded dragons before buying one. Bearded dragons have specific needs that must be met, so owning one requires some advance knowledge. At this time, you decide whether a beardie is the right pet for you, and make sure that you have everything you need before bringing your dragon home.
- Be aware that bearded dragons, while they make delightful pets, are not ideal for children. They require close attention to detail, such as correct temperatures and regular replacement of UVB bulbs.
- Note, however, that many dragons may be missing toes or bits of their tail, but this will not cause them any discomfort as long as the wound looks healed and shows no sign of infection.
- It may help to bring a stool sample on your first visit. Inquire about this when you call to make the appointment.
- There are no vaccines recommended for bearded dragons.
Part 2Providing the Right Habitat for Your Bearded Dragon
- Note that most beardies are housed alone. Larger beardies may be aggressive towards smaller ones, and males tend to be territorial. This is further complicated by the fact that it can be difficult to sex bearded dragons when they're young, so you may not know whether you have a male or female beardie at first.
- Purchase a vivarium instead of a terrarium or aquarium. As opposed to a terrarium or aquarium, which have four glass sides, a vivarium has solid walls on three sides with a glass frontage. A terrarium is difficult to keep adequately hot, so your beardie will either be chilled or your heating bills sky high. Note that the vivarium has to be at least 3'x1'x1.5'.
- If a vivarium is not available, opt for a glass aquarium with a screen top.
- If you're building an enclosure yourself, keep in mind that it must be well ventilated, easy to disinfect, and able to maintain high temperatures (see below).
- Cages with wooden sides must be sealed with polyurethane or a similar waterproofing agent, and the joints must be caulked for proper cleaning and disinfection. Ensure that fresh polyurethane be allowed to dry several days and air the cage out thoroughly before placing your beardie in it, otherwise toxicity may result.
- Make sure the habitat is an adequate size. Beardies can grow up to 2 feet (61 cm), move fast, and like to climb, so they need plenty of space in their home. For young dragons, a 10 gallon (39 L) tank is adequate, but this will last them only for a few months, as they grow quickly. An adult dragon requires much more room: a minimum of 55 to 60 gallons (208 to 227 L) is required, but 75 to 120 gallons (284 to 454 L) is preferable.
- If you're building an enclosure, make sure it is at least 48 in (122 cm) long, 24 in (61 cm) wide, and 18 in (48 cm) high.
- To save money, you can purchase a large adult habitat immediately. Consider using adjustable partitions to increase the living space as your beardie grows.
- Use screen lids for the top of the enclosure. Do not use glass, plexiglass or wood to cover your cages. This will not allow enough air circulation and will also trap humidity in the cage. Screen tops ensure there's adequate air flow, allow your lighting and heat sources to work correctly, and also let humidity escape.
- Ensure that the lid fits tightly.
- Provide flooring. The bottom of the enclosure should be lined with a substrate that is safe for your dragon and easy to clean. It is very important to choose a material that does not put your dragon at risk: beardies often eat bedding made of small particles, which can result in impaction (blockage of the intestines) and death. Use flat newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper, or reptile carpet. These choices are cheap, easy to clean, and pose no health risks to your animal.
- If using reptile carpet, the type that looks and feels like grass (Astroturf) is the best. The felt kind has little loops of fabric that may catch the nails of your dragon and cause injury.
- Never use sand, shavings, corncob, fiber pellets, kitty litter, potting soil with vermiculite, pesticides, fertilizer, or wetting agents, or any other loose substrate for bearded dragons.
- Include some "furniture" in the housing. Create an environment where your beardie can climb, hide, and bask – all behaviors that it needs for well-being.
- Add some branches for climbing and basking. They should be securely located under the secondary heat source (see Part 3). Make sure they are as wide as your bearded dragon. Oak is a good choice, as are boards covered in carpets. Avoid wood with sticky sap or pitch.
- Provide some smooth rocks for basking and wearing down nails.
- Give your beardie a place to seclude itself. You can add an empty cardboard box, cardboard tube, or flower pot. The hiding place should give a snug fit and be placed high in the enclosure. If your dragon doesn't use the hiding space, try moving it to a new location or using a different object.
- Put in a few plants to provide shade, humidity, and a sense of security. Make sure the plants you choose are nontoxic to bearded dragons (such as Dracaena, Ficus benjamina, and hibiscus). It is important that the plants and their soil have not been treated with pesticides, vermiculite, fertilizer, or wetting agents. Before putting the plant in the cage, wash the plant with a water spray and pour water enough water on the soil so that it drains out the bottom: this helps remove any toxic chemicals. You may also want to keep newly purchased plants in a separate part of the house for a while before introducing them to the bearded dragon's enclosure.
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How to Decide if a Bearded Dragon is the Right Pet for You