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The Bearded Dragon(s)

Basic Care for Bearded Dragons

This is where i will discibe how to take care of Bearded Dragons

Introduction
 
   Bearded Dragon are gentle beasts they come form australia but are avalible to the us because of there willingness to breed in captivity. These are great pets for anyone who will dedicate there time. They are recently quite popular due  to small size and docile nature. They can get to the size of 12-20 inches. Bearded Dragond are perfect for familes with small children due to there amount of attention they will give.
 
Choosing your Bearded Dragon
 
   When you decide to buy a Bearded Dragon whether from a breeder or a pet store, look over it carfully. One of the first few things you should notice is the how alert and active the Bearded Dragon is, you dont want a Bearded Dragon that cant lift its head or look lethargic. When you walk up to the enclosure the Bearded Dragons should be watching you with interest and should have bright and alert looking eyes. You will also want to check them for sores, burns, external parasites or any deformities. Do make sure there is no pus or other gunk built up in the eyes, nose or mouth area also. Lots of Bearded Dragons will be missing toes or pats of there tail, this will not cause them any pain as long as the wound looks healed and shows no sign of infection. One of the most important thing to me that look for is the size of the Bearded Dragon. I would not get a Bearded Dragon that is under 6 inches in total length. Baby Bearded Dragons are very fagile and more prone to become ill or over stressed. I think it would be much easier to care for a more developed Bearded Dragon.
 
Housing
 
   For a Bearded Dragon under 10 inches in length i suggest a 20 gallon or a 30 gallon aquarium. This will last a few months because they grow quickly. A single adult Bearded Dragon should be housed in nothing smaller than a 40 gallon breeder tank. I would suggest the 55 gallon aquarium because of the extra room for the Bearded Dragon to run, as well as there are easily found in pet stores.  You should you nothing other than a screen lid in the approprate size. 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 allow air flow as well as it will allow your lighting and heat sources to work correctly and allow humity to escape.
 
Lighting
 
   Bearded Dragons require full spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours a day. I would suggest the Reptisun 5.0 or 8.0 fluorescent bulbs. There are of course other brands available like Reptiglo or lumichrome bulbs. These fluorescent bulbs should stretch the length of your Bearded Dragons enclosure, and you Bearded Dragon should be able to come within 6-8 inches of the light. The UV light should be placed over the cage and not direacted throughthe glass, because glass deflects the UV rays. Follow the intruction on the bulbs box for how ofen to replace bulb.
 
Heating and Temperature
 
   To produce heat and a basking spot in your enclosure you can use either a ceramic heat emitter, a reptile basking light(red, blue or white) or just a plain old household lightbulb. The best fixture for any of these choices is a porcelain dome light fixture. This type of fixture is a must with a ceramic heat emitter due to the amount of heat they produce. The temperature for this basking spot you created should be around 110f for juveniles and can be around 95f for adults. Allthough I don't recommend any temps above 110f, within a few degrees of these basking temps will be sufficent. The cool side of the enclosure should be around 85f during the day. Once again within a few degrees of this temperature is just fine.  Night time temperatures can fall as low as 70f. It is fairly easy to keep your night temperatures above this even in the winter. If you can't keep your temperatures above this I suggest that you consider buying an under tank heater for night time use.  Using this just during the evening hours will help create a warm spot for your Dragon to sleep. Do not use heat rock for these can cause serious burns on your Bearded Dragons underside. A thermometer in the "hot side" and one in the "cool side" will make sure that your temperatures are in the range they should be in.
 
Substrate
 
   For baby to juvenile Bearded Dragons I suggest either newspaper, paper towels, butcher paper or reptile carpet. These choices are cheap, easy to clean and hold no health risks to your animal. If using reptile carpet the stuff that looks and feels like grass is the best. The felt kind has little loops of fabric that may catch the nails of your Bearded Dragon and cause injury. Do not use sand, shavings or any other loose substrate for baby to juvenile Bearded Dragons. They can be very clumsy eaters and they are also very curious and like to taste everything. Any kind of loose substrate holds serious health risks to your Bearded Dragon. If they eat a loose substrate they can become impacted, which is a blocking of the intestines, and die. For adult Dragons I sugest the grass repti carpet or Vita-Sand from ZooMed. Which only cost about 4.99 for a 5 pound bag.
 
Feeding and Diet

 

   Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both animals and plants. Any and all food items that your Bearded Dragon eats should be no bigger than the space between their eyes. If the food items are bigger than the space between their eyes it can cause impaction and/or hind leg paralysis. Either way your Bearded Dragon will suffer horribly. Baby and juvenile Bearded Dragons should be offered the appropriately sized crickets two-three times a day. Offer as many as your Bearded Dragon will eat in a 5-10 minute time frame. When your Bearded Dragon stops eating, stop offering and remove any uneaten crickets. Young Bearded Dragons can eat anywhere from 20-60 small crickets a day. Your Bearded Dragon should also be given fresh greens daily. By spraying the greens with water it will help them last longer and will also help keep your Bearded Dragon hydrated. Sub-adult to adult Bearded Dragons only need to eat prey items once a day along with fresh greens. Once they are this age you can also offer them Locusts, Cockroaches, Mealworms, Waxworms, Zophobas worms, Silkworms, Butterworms, Red worms, Earthworms and just about any other worm available. All these should be used as treats though with crickets and greens being the stable part of your Bearded Dragons diet. Do not feed your Bearded Dragon insects that you have caught in your backyard. These bugs could have parasites that could be passed on to your Bearded Dragon or they could have been exposed to poisons that could kill your Bearded Dragon. Lightning bugs can also kill your Bearded Dragon so it is much safer to stay away from wild caught insects. Prey items should be dusted once a day with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement such as Rep-cal makes. All prey items should be dusted once a week with a multivitamin supplement such as Herptivite, also made by Rep-cal.

 

   There is a wide variety of greens that are available that are good for your Bearded Dragon. Dandelion greens, Collard greens, Mustard greens, Bok choy, Kale, Turnip greens, Escarole and Chicory are among the easiest to find and the best to use. If the greens you are wondering about say Lettuce anywhere in the name avoid them. Most types of lettuce are composed mostly of water and hold little or no nutritional value. With the wide variety of other greens out there it is better and easier to just avoid any type of lettuce. Spinach should also be avoided as calcium binds to it and will not be digested by your animal. There is a wide variety of vegetables can also be offered to your Bearded Dragon. Butternut squash, Yellow squash, Spaghetti squash, Acorn squash, all other varieties of squash, Green beans, Parsnips, Sweet potato, Snow peas and Carrots. Carrots should only be used as a treat though due to the high amounts of vitamin A. Any food with high amounts of vitamin A should be avoided as reptiles do not absorb alot of vitamin A. Feeding your Bearded Dragon alot foods such as Carrots will end up in a condition called Vitamin A toxicity wich is deadly. Squashes will either have to be cooked or microwaved before feeding them to your Bearded Dragon. This will soften them up and they can then be minced and eaten easier. Fruits can also be used, just avoid any citrus fruit such as oranges and grape fruit.

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 Water

 
   Fresh water should be offered daily in a shallow bowl. This water bowl should be disinfected once a week to avoid any bacterial build up. Many Bearded Dragons may not drink from a water bowl so you may have to drip the water slowly onto your Bearded Dragons snout. You can try wiggling your finger in the water to get their attention. Bearded Dragons like things that move, so creating ripples in the water may get their attention.
 
Bathing
 
   Bathing your Bearded Dragon once a week will help keep them hydrated and will also aid in shedding. Bath water should be warm on your wrist and not hot, much like bath water for a small child. Make the water only as deep as your Bearded Dragons chest or half way up their front arms. I usually just fill the tub until the water reaches the second knuckle on my index finger for my adults and the first knuckle for the juveniles. Never leave your Bearded Dragon unattended in the bath tub, accidents only take a second to happen. It's also a god idea to disinfect your tub when the bath is over because Bearded Dragons will often defecate in the water. Or spay them with a squirt bottle for they may not like baths.

 

Disinfecting

 

   I suggest you use a 1/4 cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water. This is done easiest in an old, clean, milk container. After mixing the bleach and water I then fill a spray bottle with the mixture. This makes it easy to cover the entire surface of what you are cleaning and leaves a container full for when your spray bottle is empty. All surfaces that get feces on them should be disinfected, including water bowls, food bowls and cages. This is how I suggest you disinfect your my cage, cage accessories and the tub after bathing. Spray the entire surface of what you are cleaning until it is soaked. Then let it sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes scrub the surface with a rag making sure that any old food or feces is removed. Rinse all surfaces repetedly until you can no longer smell bleach. If you still smell bleach rinse again, because bleech is harmful to Bearded Dragons.

 

Hygiene

 

   Hand washing is very important when owning any reptile. Washing your hands before and after handeling your Bearded Dragon will help keep you and your new pet healthy. If you wash your hands before handeling you reduce the risk of passing anything on to your Bearded Dragon. Washing your hands after handling greatly reduce the risk of you contracting salmonella. The risks of getting this are very slim to begin with but hand washing will even further reduce the risks. Your chances of contracting salmonella from the food you eat are greater than your chances of getting it from your Bearded Dragon so don't fret.

 

Miscellious

 

   Before deciding on buying a Bearded dragon you should consider a few things. One, do you have a qualified Herp Vet in your area that will be able to care for your new pet if it get's sick? Newly aquired Bearded Dragons should always have a fecal sample tested for parasites and a general health checkup. It is also a good idea to have them retested for parasites once a year. Two, are you going to be able to afford to feed, house and care for this pet during it's life? Bearded Dragons will eat like ravenous beasts when young and will cost you alot of money. The UV light they require also need to be replaced around every six months wich is also going to cost a bit of money. Let's not forget trips to the Vet, these may also add up over the years of your Bearded Dragons life span. You are responsible for the life of your pets. If they are sick get them to a good Vet. If they are hungry feed them. Animal abuse is a felony in many states and you should take note of that.

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