Often referred to affectionately as ďBeardies,Ē they get their name for their chin which can be distended in a display to frighten away possible predators or for various reasons during the breeding season. These are medium sized lizards and generally hardy in a well-maintained environment. Keeping multiple animals together can be accomplished with a sexual pair but is only recommended if you plan to have a lot of baby beardies in a short amount of time and have the time and resources to care for them properly.
Bearded Dragons were practically unknown to reptile keepers until about 20 years ago. Bearded dragons currently available in the pet trade today can probably attribute its existence to the careful study done by Elke Zimmermann, the German herpetologist who first recorded their reproduction. Then came Ron Tremper, the US herpetologist and others who undertook further captive breeding studies and made it possible for the average keeper to successfully reproduce beardies in captivity.
Selective breeding in Germany produced a line of bearded dragons, which is noticeably larger than the average beardie. These became known as German Giants.
The average lifespan of a bearded dragon is 7 to 10 years though a solitary and well cared for beardie may well exceed this age. Breeding females tend to have slightly shorter lifespan due to the stress placed on them with reproduction. This is one reason that so many breeders strive to hold back some animals each year and retire their breeders after 3 or 4 seasons. These retired breeder females will continue to make excellent pets for the remainder of their lives if cared for properly but probably should not be bred again in order to avoid, literally, breeding them to death.
Semi-arid terrariums are desired with the bearded dragon to best imitate their natural environment. Most keepers keep their bearded dragons on play sand, calci-sand, repti-bark or some other commercial bedding mix. Babies are often kept on paper towels. The key is to use a substrate that can be cleaned easily and regularly, that is absorbent and does not hold odors or too much moisture. NEVER USE CEDAR BEDDING WITH YOUR REPTILE! This can kill them. Many keepers avoid pine shavings for fear of the same thing and there is conflicting lines of thought on this. We would suggest avoiding it until all of the results are in and you can know for certain.
Humidity can fluctuate between 30% and 70% with 50% humidity being a good middle range. A range of temperatures should be available so that your dragon can thermoregulate (reptiles move around to different areas to keep their body temperature at a range they desire.) Basking areas can be heated into the 90s while cooler areas in the lower to mid 80s is ideal for providing a nice, cooler area in the cage.
Since beardies like to climb (often found on fence posts in the wild), pieces of wood in their enclosure are beneficial to them. Donít concentrate these all in one place, but rather spread them out so that your beardie can climb up in all areas of the cage. Often, when you keep multiple dragons in one enclosure, you will find them piled on top of each other trying to soak up sunshine and heat together.
At night, bearded dragons will instinctively try to hide, so a hollow log will feel natural to them. Also, if your climbing areas are carefully chosen, they can crawl beneath them to feel secure. They will continue to hide until their lights come on indicating daytime for them.
Beardies are very forgiving for cool temperatures and can survive and remain healthy at temperatures in the home that can endanger most snakes. So, surprise cold spells, like unnatural nights that drop into the mid-30ís do not harm these hardy creatures provided they can bask and warm up the next day. If this happens for enough days in a row, you may very well induce a breeding season, especially if accompanied by daily misting.
Bearded dragons love to be misted and will drink readily from the sides of their enclosure and furnishings where water can accumulate. Standing water is often disputed and should at least be offered once or twice per week. Bearded dragons, like so many other lizards will absorb moisture through their skin and will benefit from occasional soaking. Females that have just finished laying eggs are often dehydrated and will often seek out water to lay in for a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Natural sunlight is very important to bearded dragon health and an enclosed cage, possibly made of wire (never glass) with a shaded area should be used outside in weather that is within their basking range. During times when this is not possible, usually due to seasonal changes, commercial UV lighting is available. UVA light is not really important, but UVB is critical. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide the best artificial sunlight to your dragon.
Add a vitamin supplement to their food at least a couple of times each week to keep them healthy. Reproducing females need vitamin supplements, especially calcium more often to aid in egg production. This also helps assure healthier babies.
Females can produce between 30 and 100 eggs in a single breeding season depending upon their size and health. Eggs are laid in a hole in the cage substrate excavated by the female. These should be removed once she has covered and left them and placed in an incubator on moist vermiculite, perlite or sterile potting and incubated at 78 to 84 degrees. Babies hatch in approximately 55 to 70 days and are ready to eat within the first 2 to 3 days. Have plenty of food ready for them before they are ready to eat and you are caught off-guard. House offspring in small groups to avoid fighting and continue to separate them according to size to avoid feeding domination, which can lead, to smaller animals dying for lack of nutrition.