|Keeping Bearded Dragons as Pets|
Bearded dragons can be great pet lizards for beginners and experienced reptile hobbyists, but they do require some specialized care.
Pet bearded dragon lizards are very docile reptiles that breed well in captivity and they do not bite humans. They would be one of the best choices for any pet owner that would like to adopt a reptile.
Bearded dragons are a popular species among children, because of their friendly and calm nature, along with the relative ease of caring for them. Most bearded dragons kept as pets have broad triangular heads and flattened bodies, with adults reaching approximately 16 to 22 inches (410 to 560 mm) from head to tail and weighing 350 to 600 grams (10 to 20 oz). They have an average life span of 10 to 20 years. Bearded dragons range in color from plain gray and brown to mixtures of yellow and orange along with gray and brown.
The Bearded dragon or agamid lizard of the genus Pogona, is found naturally in arid, semi-arid woodlands and rocky deserts in central Australia.
Description of Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are medium to large lizards and can reach total lengths of 30 to 60 cm, while the tail accounts for half to two thirds of the total length. Their characteristics include spiny scales arranged in rows and clusters. These are found on the throat, which can be expanded when threatened. Bearded dragons are mostly gray-brown colored, with a dark gray or black pattern. They also have the chameleon-like ability to change colour.
Some really amazing bearded dragons have been born, like this two headed bearded dragon in the video clip below.
Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded dragons are native to the central Australian desert, where food is often scarce. As a result, they evolved to be omnivorous, capable of subsisting on a wide variety of food sources. Usually when younger they will eat more bugs and similar creatures, when fully grown they will prefer to eat leafy green foods, but the occasional meat is needed such as morio / meal worms, crickets, locusts and some times they like to eat things like young mice e.g. pinkies. A typical captive bearded dragon's diet consists mostly of leafy greens and vegetables, supplemented regularly with insects. Crickets are the most popular feeder choice, but bearded dragons can also be fed other insects such as superworms, waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, phoenix worms, and even certain varieties of roaches. Young dragons require a significantly greater insect-to-plant matter ratio in their diets than do adults.
Not all insects are equally recommended as feeders, however. The mealworm, a popular feeder insect for other kinds of reptiles, has a hard chitin exoskeleton which makes it difficult for dragons to digest. It is also relatively low in nutrients. Waxworms and superworms can be given as occasional treats, but should be fed sparingly as they are extremely fatty. They are best used as food for undernourished or gravid bearded dragons. The size of the insect being fed must also be taken into account. The general rule of thumb is that the food being provided must not be larger than the space between the animal's eyes; feeding anything larger could lead to fatal impaction.
Roaches are becoming a popular feeder for bearded dragons. Dragons enjoy many types of leafy green vegetables, including: collard greens, spring greens, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, parsley, and carrot tops. It is also recommended that this portion of the animal's diet be supplemented with a variety of finely diced fruits and vegetables. Feeding a mixture of these plants ensures a wider variety of nutrients, and variations in texture to aid digestion.
Other greens or vegetables and fruit that an animal may eat include grapes, strawberries, raspberries, papayas, melons, apples, peaches, pears, orange-fleshed squashes, mangoes, pattypan squash, pumpkins, green beans, peas, maize (corn), carrots or their tops, beetroot, nasturtium, alfalfa (lucerne), celery, rosemary, oregano, basil, hibiscus, pansies, carnations and rose petals.
List of Foods for a Bearded Dragon Diet
Poisonous and dangerous foods for Bearded Dragons
Insects captured in the wild are not recommended, due to the increased risk of pesticide exposure and viruses. Fireflies and all other animals with bioluminescent chemicals are fatal to Bearded Dragons. Bananas are also not recommended for regular feeding to bearded dragons as they are very high in phosphorus which can conflict with the dragon's calcium absorption. The following foods can be fatal to Bearded Dragons:
Handling Bearded Dragons
A person handling a bearded dragon must make sure all of its body is being supported. It must not be held by its chest without extreme care, as it may make it difficult for the animal to breathe. The most comfortable position for the animal is lying down in the person's hand or on the person's chest. Miniature bearded dragons are very friendly as long as they have been handled since they were young. Many owners report an almost dog-like affection.
Bearded Dragon Housing
An enclosure of 760 mm long by 300 mm wide is ideal for a baby bearded dragon, but they will outgrow this within 3 to 4 months. When provided with the proper habitat, temperatures, and UVB lighting, young bearded dragons are capable of growing 1 inch (25.4 mm) or more per week. An adult dragon needs a 40 gallon tank, 910 mm long by 460 mm wide by 300 to 410 mm high or larger, as these tanks provide the best floor space available. This is important, as Bearded Dragons are terrestrial lizards, and so tanks with a large floor space allow the Dragon room to turn around, lie down, and run around in.
The Breeder style has much better floor space dimensions than similar volume tanks like the 40-US-gallon (150 l; 33 imp gal) "Long" or standard 55-US-gallon (210 l; 46 imp gal) tanks which, while 12 inches (300 mm) longer than the 30 US gallons (110 l; 25 imp gal), 40 US gallons (150 l; 33 imp gal) or 50 US gallons (190 l; 42 imp gal) Breeder tanks, are much narrower in width at 12 inches (300 mm) and 13 inches (330 mm) respectively. An enclosure with glass only at the front lowers the visibility of the world outside the vivarium, thus preventing over-curious animals from trying to escape, helping them remain satisfied with their enclosure which in turn helps prevent snout rub.
Bearded dragons bask in the sun most of the day, absorbing the heat they need to digest their food. It is important that there are at least one or two good basking spots in the dragon's habitat. Rocks are preferable to logs as they hold heat better, though logs can also provide stimulation for the animal, which will use them for climbing. Electric or battery powered heating devices such as electrically heated rocks can cause stomach burns if they malfunction, so they are not widely recommended. The habitat should also include something the dragon can hide under.
Light and heat
Bearded dragons also need special lighting. A specialized ultraviolet lamp is needed. These lamps have variable ranges of UVB output. Lamps are typically replaced every six months. Heat rocks and pads are not recommended as dragons have few nerves on their underside, and the heat can damage them without them realizing it. A Bearded Dragon needs between 12 and 14 hours of daylight; much less or more causes problems with their circadian rhythms and makes them lethargic and sick.
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