Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are 18-24” terrestrial lizards native to central Australia. They typically prefer a shrubland habitat.
These lizards have large triangular heads, rough scales, and spines along their sides, giving them a somewhat intimidating appearance. They also have a pouch under their jaw which can be inflated and darkened, thus the “bearded” moniker. In the wild they range from light tan to orange in color, but captive breeding has produced more saturated coloring and a wider variety of patterns.
Bearded dragons are one of the most popular pet lizards in the US, due to their personable dispositions and tolerance for human interaction. They typically live 10-15 years in captivity, although longer is possible.
Minimum terrarium size for bearded dragons:
The minimum size recommended by leading experts for housing one bearded dragon is 48”L x 24”W x 24”H, or 120 gallons of space. Bearded dragons are primarily terrestrial, so plenty of floor space is the main concern. However, they are enthusiastic climbers, so vertical space is appreciated. Of course, if you can provide larger, do it! Your dragon will use every inch.
Multiple bearded dragons should not be housed in one enclosure. They are a territorial species and may fight and injure each other.
Do bearded dragons need UVB?
Bearded dragons will get sick and eventually die without UVB as part of their environment. The best UVB bulbs for bearded dragons in a 48” long enclosure are:
The basking area should be 16-18” below the lamp to give your bearded dragon the right amount of UVB. However, if there is mesh between the lamp and your dragon, then the basking area should only be 12-14” below the lamp, because mesh blocks up to 40% of UVB rays.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so you can’t give your beardie UVB by placing its terrarium in front of an open window.
Best temperature for bearded dragons:
Bearded dragons need a basking temperature of 108-113°F, as measured by an infrared thermometer or digital probe thermometer, with the probe placed on the basking surface. For best results, use a large, flat stone as the basking surface.
Provide heat for your beardie with two high-wattage halogen heat lamps placed close together over the basking surface. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, blue bulbs, or heat mats, as these are not very effective for bearded dragons.
Turn off the heat lamp at night. Temperatures can drop as low as 60°F without ill effect, but shouldn’t be warmer than 78°F. Cooler temperatures help them sleep better!
Best humidity levels for bearded dragons:
Humidity isn’t terribly important for bearded dragons, since they’re an arid species, but an average humidity between 30-60% is a safe range.
Best substrate for bearded dragons:
Substrate is a controversial topic when it comes to bearded dragons, because there’s a popular myth that loose substrate will cause impaction and potentially kill the dragon. The truth is that only unhealthy dragons with poor husbandry are in danger of substrate impaction. If you’re worried, you can certainly use a solid substrate like slate tile or paper towels, but it’s more natural to use something closer to their natural habitat.
The best substrates for bearded dragons include:
Layer the substrate at least 4” thick to give your beardie room for burrowing. Avoid wood mulch/bark substrates, paper-based substrates, or substrates with dyes.
To keep the substrate clean and your dragon healthy, remove old food and waste every day, along with contaminated substrate. You will need to completely remove and replace your substrate every 3-4 months.
How to decorate a bearded dragon terrarium:
A barren terrarium is boring to look at and boring for your bearded dragon to live in. At bare minimum, there should be a “cave” for your beardie to hide in, a sturdy climbing branch, and a piece of flagstone or slate for the basking surface, but it’s best to go well beyond that:
What to feed to a bearded dragon:
Bearded dragons are omnivorous, which means that they need to eat both plant- and animal-based foods to get the nutrition they need. The foods that they need are mostly insects and leafy greens.
Here’s a basic feeding schedule:
- Hatchlings (0-6 months old): Insects 2x/day, vegetables daily (60-80% protein)
- Juveniles (6-12 months): Insects 1x/day, vegetables daily (50-60% protein)
- Subadults and Adults (12+ months old): Insects 1-2x/week, vegetables daily (20-30% protein)
Variety is the key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your beardie. The more variety you can provide, the better!
Vegetable options for bearded dragons: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, endive, kale, spring mix, dandelion greens, alfalfa, cactus pads, squash, carrots
Fruits can be offered as well, but only as rare treats since they contain lots of sugar.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your dragon healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your bearded dragon:
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. That being said, bearded dragons tend to tolerate human interaction well. Here are some tips for success:
- Don’t grab the dragon from above. Instead, scoop from below.
- Support as much of its body as possible, especially the feet.
- Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
- Put the dragon back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet! Here are some more sources we recommend checking out: