Eastern Bearded Dragon: Pogona Barbata
Pygmy Bearded Dragon: Pogona Henrylawsoni
Central Bearded Dragon: Pogona vitticeps
Did You Know?
There are three types of bearded dragons native to Australia. The Eastern Bearded Dragon located along the length of the Great Dividing Range, the Pygmy Bearded Dragon located in the black soil plains of Central Queensland and the most common, the Central Bearded Dragon located in the arid central area of the country.
Life span and health information
Beardies generally live for 10-15 years if kept well. To keep a healthy lizard hygiene is important. They are generally quite tidy themselves but will need you to empty out any faeces and give them clean food and water regularly. Beardies are also susceptible to worms and mites, there are commercial products to assist with these issues.
One of the most common causes of death in bearded dragons is ‘impaction.’ This is where the lizard eats things that are too big to be digested or pass through the anus. If not treated the beardie becomes very ill and often dies. The most common signs are bloating, stopping eating or drinking and then as it becomes more severe, the loss of use of lower limbs and limited movement. This is treatable, maybe another blog post for another day but there are a huge amount of sites on how to self treat and you may need veterinary assistance. The best treatment is prevention, beardies are messy eaters and will eat their substrate so it needs to be either unable to be eaten or easily digestible. Additionally, food given to a beardie should never be any bigger than the space between it’s eyes.
Size and appearance
Bearded dragons are named for their distinctive flap of skin under their jaw. Generally it is tucked under and just appears to have some spikes on the sides. When threatened, they take a defensive posture, opening their mouths and pushing their throat skin forward to make what appears to be a ‘beard’. There are spikes on the sides of the lizards body that act as a deterrent to predators but are actually not ‘spiky’ to touch. Bearded dragons are generally varying shades of grey in colour but do come in variants of red, orange and patterns of those colours.
The central bearded dragon generally grows to be 50-60cms in length from the head to the ‘vent’ above their tail.
Bearded dragons are a terrestrial, sun-loving species and it is not uncommon to see them basking on the road side, on fence posts or logs.
Bearded dragons are generally very docile, gentle and cleaver. All can be flighty and wary of handling if not handled commonly as hatchlings but if regularly handled can enjoy the time with their human companions, and have been known to sit on their humans arm, chest or head for extended periods just chilling watching the TV together and such.
Diet is one of the challenges of keeping bearded dragons as they eat a mixture of insects (best fed to them alive), salads/vegetable matter and commercially available food. I will post another blog post about foods that are and are not suitable for bearded dragons as that it what I struggled with at first with my little one. One good sign is generally that in my experience, they will generally not eat those foods which are bad for them, but just in case you get one who scoffs everything it is important to be well versed in the foods to keep your little one happy and healthy.
Bearded dragons naturally drink from water droplets or dew and can, if not trained, not see a water bowl in their enclosure and if a very young beardie, can even drown in their own water. To replicate how a lizard may drink water in the wild, you can use an atomizer to spray the wall of the enclosure or spray them with a spray bottle every day. You can expect to see a lizard lying in the bowl of water when it is shedding, as the water will help soften their skin.
The enclosure temperature should range from a high of 30°C during the day to 20°C at night. Lighting should also replicate day length; around 14 hours of light and 10 hours of dark. Ultra violet light is very important for calcium absorption so provide suitable UV fluorescent lighting. A basking spot with a warm light and preferably a rock that will heat so the dragon can sit on a nice warm rock in the wild is the best option.
Depending on the amount of bearded dragons you are keeping the size of the enclosure is adjustable. As hatchlings a small 20 gallon tank is ideal as you don’t want it to be too large or they will struggle to catch their food. Once your dragon is 10-12 inches it needs to move up to a bigger tank, around 40 gallons is ideal. A pair should be kept in a minimum 75 gallon tank. The larger space you can give your bearded dragons the happier they will be.
The substrate you use is very personal, some people use none (then cleaning is a challenge), some use reptile carpet, but beardies toes can get caught, some use sand or wood chips but impaction can be an issue. It really is up to you and knowing your own beardie and their habits well.
There should be some items in the cage the keep your beardie happy, a hide is essential for them to feel secure, a basking rock/spot, something to climb on such as a treated branch or home-made hammock are great options. Just make sure your little one can’t dig under any items and have them fall on them and injure them!
**Please note. Only ever buy your reptiles from a breeder or ethical pet shop that sources only reptiles that have been bred in captivity. Capturing animals such as Bearded Dragons from the wild is not only cruel, you may lose your pet as the stress would be too much for them!**
Some useful sites I used to gather my information (along with our own personal experience)