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The Bearded Dragon(s)

Advanced Bearded Dragon care

Special care for Bearded Dragons
Include Brumation, Breeding, and Incubation


   A brumation or hibernation period is considered necessary for breeding cycles. Many Bearded Dragons will brumate or slow down eating and activity during winter months even without initiating any change in lighting and heat conditions. You may winter your Bearded Dragons for approximately a two month period. We suggest following the natural light cycle and wintering during December-February. A slow reduction in daylight hours until you reach 8-10 hours of light per day helps to ease Bearded Dragons into a brumation period. A temperature drop should also occur gradually until day temps are between 75-85 degrees F and night temps can drop to around 60 degrees F. Bearded Dragons can safely tolerate temps down to the 50s. Before putting a Bearded Dragon "down", be sure that your dragon is healthy and is free of undigested food. You may choose to provide a space in the enclosure for burrowing (we find aspen works well for this). Often Bearded Dragons will dig and bury themselves for the winter. If you notice your Bearded Dragon up and about, small amounts of food can be offered. A heavy hibernation period may not be necessary for many Bearded Dragons. When the winter period is over, slowly raise temperature levels to suggested highs and increase the photoperiod until it is around 14 hours of day to 10 hours of dark.


   Bearded Dragon females may cycle infertile eggs without breeding.
Breeding often requires a period of hibernation or brumation prior to the breeding season (see above). When Bearded Dragons emerge from hibernation, breeding usually takes place quickly, so it is important to be prepared. We suggest that your Bearded Dragons (specifically females) be at least 18 months-old prior to breeding. Any small, sick, or young females should be separated from all males to prevent cycling, breeding, and potentially a loss of life. Bearded Dragons that are bred too young can wind up with serious health problems including death from egg binding. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have a healthy, mature female. Bearded Dragons bred before maturity will divert energy used for growing and maturity into making eggs, disrupting her growth process and altering her health. Female Bearded Dragons bred too young and/or often will live shorter lives. We also highly suggest steering clear of inbreeding, especially siblings. Breeding behavior often appears violent. Head bobbing and black beards are among the breeding behaviors associated with males (note: these behaviors are also typical of territorial disputes between males). Females often perform arm waving and slow head bobbing. The male usually bites the female around the neck to secure her and attempts to get the female to lift her tail for copulation. Gravid females will get quite large and often appear lumpy. Feed gravid females often and supplement with calcium more frequently. The eggs can often be felt in the female's stomach when she is close to laying. As soon as you see breeding behavior it is a good idea to have a lay area in place and an incubator prepared. A good lay area is imperative to ensure that your Bearded Dragon does not egg bind. Lay areas may consist of a large area filled with one foot of a mixture of moist, somewhat packed sand and soil, peat moss, or bed-a-beast. You may set up this lay area inside the enclosure or prepare a separate lay enclosure to place the female in when you notice digging behavior. Females will tunnel into this area to deposit their eggs. Some dig for several days before they decide to lay. They like to be fully protected by their burrow (cat litter pans with an opening work well for this cave-like structure). Only her head will stick out while she deposit their eggs. After laying, the female will emerge and bury her eggs back up. Females may lay clutches as often as 3 weeks apart and can retain sperm for several clutches.


   Unearth the eggs gently. Fertile eggs should be a nice white color and leathery in texture. If candled, fertile eggs will appear pink and a round embryo should be detectable. If the eggs appear yellow when candled or gelatinous, they are probably infertile (this is somewhat common for a first clutch of eggs). Fertile eggs should be placed in a dish with moist vermiculite (and perlite if you wish) about one inch apart. This dish is then transferred to your pre-calibrated incubator. We suggest a "Hovabator" incubator. (You can find these at some pet stores, feed stores, and online). Make sure that your incubator is set at least 24 hours prior to use to avoid drastic fluctuations in temperature. We recommend incubating at around 84 degrees F. Do not let temperature range out of the 80s. Spray egg containers to maintain moisture level in the vermiculite. Eggs should hatch about 60 days after incubation.

How to take care of a Bearded Dragon Hatchling


If you are thinking about purchasing a Bearded Dragon, and haven't done so already, I suggest the first thing you do is to purchase a book called "The Bearded Dragon Manual", by Philippede Vosjoli and Robert Mailloux. Raising healthy baby Bearded Dragons is easy as long as their needs are met. With some planning and a little reading, you can make your baby Bearded Dragons life as healthy and as stress free as possible, and find it a rewarding experience. The care plan below is what we basically follow, with great success. Following the care plan below, I have consistently raised groups of Bearded Dragons to 14 inches and over, within 4-5 months. I have found during the first 4 months, the average grow rate to be approximately inch a week


Bearded Dragon Hatchlings should be raised in a small 15 gallon aquarium for optimal growth. This way they do not have far to look for their food, as crickets tend to stay away from bright spots - and that is where your dragon will spend most of its daylight time. Use a 40 or 60 watt spotlight at one end above a basking rock; not a heat rock, just a plain rock. The height of the rock or the wattage of the bulb need to be adjusted to get the top surface basking spot to a 105 - 115 degree range, for the baby Bearded Dragons need to get very warm to digest their food. Set a temperature gauge on the highest part of the rock for an hour and check the temperature. Please do not guess. Basking under a light is a more natural way for Bearded Dragons to receive heat. Not only does the Bearded Dragon receive heat from above, but the light also warms the rock, creating heat for their belly, which aids in digestion. Make sure the other side of the tank stays cooler, around 80-85 degrees. This will provide the baby Bearded Dragons with a suitable environment to let them regulate their body temperature. Night time temperatures can safely drop into the sixties.


For optimal growth, the lights should be left on for 12-14 hours (set on a timer). Ideally a full spectrum light like Reptisun 5.0 should be suspended over the cage but this is not vital... The UV-B bulb should be within 6-10 inches of the basking area, so they can absorb the UV-B to assist in manufacturing their vitamin D3 for bone formation. If this bulb in too far from the basking area, the UV-B will dissipate before reaching the Bearded Dragon therefore null. Once again, UV-B bulbs are not vital AS LONG AS there is proper calcium/vitaminD3 supplementation in their diet and enough light intensity. If you choose to bypass the UV-B bulbs, a regular fluorescent should be used for brightness. Please see below information on supplementation.


The substrate can be playsand or newspaper. If using playsand, the sand will need to be sifted through a screen to remove any of the larger pebbles. Failure to do so could result in death due to a blockage caused by the ingestion of the pebbles. The cage should be simple for the first 4 months or so. There should be no hide spot for they will burrow when needed. There should be limited decorative items in the cage to prevent the crickets from hiding.

Bearded Dragons require a dry cage, but need to get alot of water from sprayings and fresh vegetables. The hatchlings should be sprayed once daily on their heads, keeping the spray directed onto their heads as long as they keep lapping up the water. If they don't like to be sprayed directly, you can spray the side of the cage or the rock. This simulates the natural way Bearded Dragons get water by licking up drops of dew they find on plants in the morning. Some do learn to drink from a shallow water pan, but if they get thin or dehydrated it will be necessary to get them to ingest more water by increased spraying and by misting their fresh vegetables. If using a water dish, the water MUST be changed daily and immediately if the dish has been deficated in - it must be cleaned immediately. Bearded Dragons vary on their water intake; some drink daily, others may not drink for days if they are aggressive feeders and getting the needed moisture through their diet.


Bowel movements must be removed daily. If keeping more than one Bearded Dragon in a cage, 'Scooping poop' must be more frequent to keep up on the cleanliness of the cage.


The hatchlings should be fed gut loaded crickets at least 2-3 times a day for optimal growth. Feed the babies 1-2 hours after the lights have come on to give the babies a chance to warm up. The last feeding of the day should be a couple of hours before the lights go off to give the dragons time to digest their meal. Start with 2-5 crickets 9per Bearded Dragon) for the first feeding. Excess crickets in the cage, crawling all over the Bearded Dragon can stress them out. Remove any uneaten crickets before the lights go out at night. Babies should be fed #2 crickets, 1/4-3/8 inch long up to approximately 2 months of age, as too big of a prey item can kill a baby Bearded Dragon. A good rule of thumb is the prey item should be no longer then the width of the Bearded Dragons mouth. Babies can be fed small 1/4 inch mealworms a few times a week. They will have to be mail ordered as pet shops do not usually carry mealworms this small. As the size of the Bearded Dragon increases, so should its prey.


Vegetables are an important part of a Bearded Dragons diet and should be offered daily in bite size pieces in a shallow dish or lid. Arrange the dish or lid filled with vegetables within the Bearded Dragons view from his basking spot. You should mainly stick with leafy greens, such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, chicory, chard, escarole, and endive - alternating when possible. Remove any hard veins. Do not feed your Bearded Dragon iceberg lettuce as this can give them the runs and dehydrate them. Just a few of the foods you can supplement with as your Bearded Dragon grows are, radish tops, broccoli flowers, parsely, shredded carrots, bell peppers, kale, peas, and red cabbage. Please check the USDA Data Base for exact nutrient content of any given fruit/veggie in question. And please remember, bite size pieces.


Supplementation should consist of dusting the crickets every 3-4 feeding with a phosphorous free calcium powder, like Rep-Cal with Vitamin D3. A good vitamin supplement such as Herptivite should be used only once a week. Failure to use the calcium regularly and overuse of the vitamins can both cause problems. If not using a UV-B bulb, you must be faithful in giving the proper calcium/D3 supplements to prevent possible health problems; namely MBD.
To dust crickets - put them in a sandwich bag... add repcal... shake until the crickets are white... and serve.


To GutLoad your crickets - We use 2 parts GutLoad (which can be found at your local pet store. 2 part fortified baby cereal. We also offer a cut up orange and carrots for moisture.


It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep your hatchlings environment as stress-free as possible for the first few months. Here are a few tips on reducing the stress for your Bearded Dragon. Keep a regular schedule for feeding and watering. Put your lights on a timer to keep daylight hours consistent. Supplement appropriately with repcal and once weekly with herptivite. Feed only gutloaded crickets as they are more nutritious. Avoid excessive handling when they are very young. Maintain a temperature gradiant of 105-115 (hot) to 80-85 (cool). Is the cage a basic setup? Keeps it simple for the first few months making sure there are no hiding places for the crickets during the day.  The 'leftovers' will pester the Bearded Dragon while it is trying to sleep if not removed. Make sure their cage is not placed in overly noisy area. Like next to your 100 watt stereo. As a final note, babies kept in the same tank will need to be segregated by size, as the larger ones will dominate and stress out their smaller siblings... even when not feeding.


After receiving your Bearded Dragon, it is common for them not to eat immediately. The stress from transporting and inspecting its new environment may put eating on the back burner for a day or so. After 3-4 hours of allowing your dragon to adjust to its new home, offer it a few crickets and some chopped greens on a shallow lid. Avoid trying to hand feed until the Bearded Dragon is eating well for a few weeks and has adjusted to its new environment. If your Bearded Dragon does not eat the few crickets by the end of the first day, remove the crickets and offer some water. Try covering the sides of the Bearded Dragons enclosure partially with paper to eliminate environmental stress. The next day, wait until mid-day to offer it crickets again. Hopefully, by not seeing any food items for a 1/2 day and becoming more comfortable in their new home, this will stimulate their appetite. If your Bearded Dragon does not eat by the end of the second day, offer it water again and please give a vet a call.

Things that could hurt or possibly kill your Bearded Dragon


Lightening Bugs - There have been many reports of Bearded Dragons dieing after being fed lightening bugs. These should be avoided. Pebbles - If using sand, you must sift it through a screen to remove any of the larger pebbles. Too large of a prey item. Appropriate sized mealworms and crickets are a must for hatchlings. Crickets should be no longer than the width of their mouth. And if using mealworms, mini or small should be used. Approx. 1/4 inch long.