What Is a Bearded Dragon? [do they make good pets?]
Are you looking into a reptile for your next pet? I have owned a variety of different species and can point you in the right direction!
A Bearded Dragon is a species of reptile that falls within the lizard family. Although there are a handful of species of Bearded Dragons, the most commonly kept today is known as the Pogona viticeps, or Central Bearded Dragon. Bearded Dragons are generally docile, easy to care for, and have unique personalities.
You may have heard of Bearded Dragons. Affectionately known as a “Beardie” by reptile enthusiasts some would say that these guys are the puppy dogs of the lizard world. They make the perfect pet for reptile newbies and experts alike!
Where Do Bearded Dragons Come From?
Bearded Dragons originate from Australia and Tasmania. You can find them in the pet trade all over the world now though due to their willingness to breed in captivity. Beardies appeared around 250 million years ago and reportedly share a common ancestor with other lizards.
Why Are They Called Bearded Dragons?
Bearded Dragons receive their namesake from the spiky scales that adorn their chin and neck. When threatened, Beardies will puff up their throat, giving them a thoroughly “bearded” appearance. Often their beard will darken in color as well.
Types of Bearded Dragons
You might be wondering, how many different types of Bearded Dragons exist, and how do I choose which one is right for me?
There are currently seven known species of Bearded Dragon, all of which originate from different regions of Australia.
- Eastern Bearded Dragon
- Black-Soil Bearded Dragon
- Michell’s Bearded Dragon
- North-Western Bearded Dragon
- Western Bearded Dragon
- Nullarbor Bearded Dragon
- Central Bearded Dragon
Of all of these, the Central Bearded Dragon is the most popular to keep as a pet. The remainder of the information within this article will be directly related to this species in particular.
Where Do Bearded Dragons Live?
In the wild, Beardies live in semi-arid open woodland and shrubland in the landlocked areas of Australia. The Central Bearded Dragon is also called the Inland Bearded Dragon and is known to populate areas where they can hide amongst the shrubs and rocks.
Their typical sandy beige coloration is perfect for the camouflage this habitat provides. As you can imagine, the climate Beardies are used to is quite hot and dry as well.
Bearded Dragon Habitat Setup
It is important when keeping Beardies, that you do your best to simulate their living conditions in the wild by providing beige tiles as flooring. Also, include rocks and branches they can hang out on.
In the wild, Beardies obviously reside amongst sand and rocks. However, it is considered best practice to use solid flooring, also known as substrate, in captive Beardie terrariums.
This is to prevent them from swallowing sand or other loose material that could cause a serious medical condition called “Impaction”.
Heat and Shelter
You will also need to be sure to provide an appropriate heat source. This is commonly a lamp placed above the terrarium so that your Dragon has a way of maintaining their temperature.
Providing the correct temperature is particularly important because Beardies must be exposed to heat in order for them to properly digest their food.
Another thing that you will want to consider is providing some sort of shelter for your Dragon. If they get stressed out or perhaps want some darkness, they will be able to escape to the cave or open log you provide for them.
Make sure the shelter does not contain a heating element.
Heat Lamps Vs. Heat Rocks
Pet stores will often sell heat rocks, which are faux rocks that have a device within them that heats the rock. It is best practice to never use heat rocks within the terrarium.
These devices have no way of regulating the heat output and could lead to severe burns on the underside of your Bearded Dragon.
However, you want to be sure your Beardie has access to a heat lamp, which hangs above the screen top of your terrarium. This heat lamp is generally directed towards a branch, hammock, or log that the Beardie can use to hang out on and soak up some “sun”.
The size of your heat lamp directly correlates with the size of your terrarium, so be sure to consult a professional to ensure your Beardie has access to the correct amount of heat.
The size of your terrarium should grow with the size of your Beardie. The youngest, smallest Dragons being housed in a 20-gallon terrarium, and your larger adults being housed in a 40-55 gallon terrarium.
Bearded Dragons can get pretty big and you want them to have space to turn around, with plenty of room to provide clearance for their chunky tails.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Lonely?
You might pass by a tank full of baby Beardies in the pet store and think, “You know, I should get two so they have a friend.” Think again.
In the wild, Bearded Dragons are solitary in nature, only coming together to mate, and then separate again. Having multiple Beardies in one tank will bring a host of problems.
Those babies may look cute in the pet store, piled up on top of each other but it’s not so cute when you realize they are actually just vying for the prime sunning spot, leaving the less fortunate babies cold and more prone to stress and illness.
So, just get one. They will be perfectly happy having the tank all to themselves.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
Bearded Dragons eat a variety of different types of food, including mainly vegetation, invertebrate insects, and some vertebrates.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat in the Wild?
Wild Beardies will eat various local vegetation, including fruits and leaves, as well as most bugs and any lizards they might be able to catch.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat in Captivity?
There is a large variety of vegetables and insects to choose from to feed your Bearded Dragon.
You will want to make sure that your Beardie gets a salad and their preference of insects every day. You might even find they eat more healthy than you do!
The following is a list of recommended vegetables you can choose to include in your Bearded Dragons daily salad:
- Dandelion Greens
- Grape Leaves
- Mustard Greens
- Turnip Greens
- Green/Red Leaf Lettuce
- Acorn Squash
- Bell Peppers (Any Color)
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potato
A note on fruit: Fruits should be given in moderation and only as occasional treats due to the high sugar content.
Safe fruits for your Bearded Dragon include:
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Insects?
Your Bearded Dragon cannot survive on vegetables alone!
They must have a daily portion of insects as well. Mealworms and crickets are popular bugs that Dragon keepers choose to feed them, however my personal favorite, and I daresay my Beardie’s personal favorite as well, are roaches.
If you are squirming a little bit right now don’t worry, you will get used to it.
Whichever insect you choose, you will want to make sure that you are feeding them (yes, the bugs!) quality food as well. You can feed them your own leftovers and your Beardie’s salad leftovers, but there are also commercial bug foods available that are called “gut-loads”.
These commercial foods will pack your feeder bugs with all of the nutrients your Beardie needs to live a long, happy life.
Bearded Dragon Supplements
Beardies require supplementation of calcium in order to keep their bones healthy. Without calcium supplementation, your Beardie could develop Metabolic Bone Disease.
You can purchase calcium dust to sprinkle over your feeder bugs before releasing them for your Dragon to snack on.
How Big do Bearded Dragons Get?
Beardies start off pretty small, topping out at maybe 3-4 inches when born. When they are this small they are particularly fragile so you want to be sure to keep your handling of them to a minimum until they are older.
When is a Bearded Dragon Fully Grown?
Beardies reach physical maturity at around a year old. They typically measure up to 24 inches long and around 500 grams or a little over one pound.
Males can be expected to grow larger than females, in both length and weight.
What Is the Largest Bearded Dragon?
There is a specific bloodline of Bearded Dragon called the German Giant that has been known to grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh around 680 grams or about 1.5 pounds.
What Color are Bearded Dragons?
Bearded Dragons come in both plain and fancy colors, although you can expect to pay more for the more attractively colored varieties.
Bearded Dragon Colors In the Wild
Wild Bearded Dragons are almost all the same color, consisting of a sandy brown or beige and a darker gray pattern on their scales.
This rarely deviates, as the color of their scales affords them valuable camouflage in the wild.
Bearded Dragon Colors In Captivity
Bearded Dragons have been bred since the mid-1900s to take on a variety of mutations, not only to their colors but to their scale patterns as well. These scale pattern mutations are known as “morphs”.
Bearded Dragon Morphs
- Standard Morph
- Witblits Morph
- Leatherback Morph
- Silkback Morph
- Paradox Morph
- Hypomelanistic Morph
- Translucent Morph
- German Giant Morph
- Dunner Morph
- Zero Morph
- Wero Morph
Bearded Dragon Colors
Beardies come in many different shades of several different colors as well.
- Ruby Red
- Sandfire Red
- Citrus Tiger
Having a Bearded Dragon as a Pet
Bearded Dragons make a perfect pet for the amateur reptile enthusiast! They are often said to be less temperamental and have less habitat requirements than, say, an Iguana, but have more personality than a Leopard Gecko.
If you are looking for a docile, generally friendly, interactive, and very interesting lizard to take on as a pet, a Bearded Dragon is an excellent choice.
Is a Bearded Dragon a Good Pet?
Beardies are known to be quite tame, so long as they’ve been handled when young. You can take them out of their tank and have them hang out with you for periods of time.
Some can be quite mischievous, while others are happy to just lounge around. You will even find your Dragon prefers being in your company. Although they are solitary creatures, they tend to be very interactive with their human companions.
Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets for Kids?
The fact that they are generally easy to handle and their care requirements are simple and straightforward make them a very popular pet choice when it comes to reptiles, especially for kids.
Do keep in mind you need to supervise all interactions your kids may have when handling your Dragon to keep everyone safe.
If you are considering getting a Bearded Dragon, make sure to purchase from a reputable breeder. In my opinion that is a better route than buying from a pet store.
Are Bearded Dragons Aggressive?
Bearded Dragons aren’t typically known to be inherently aggressive, although if facing another Dragon, they will most likely be aggressive towards each other.
You don’t have to worry about your Dragon being aggressive towards you, though. They are very much the puppy-dog of the lizard world.
Will My Bearded Dragon Bite Me?
Generally speaking, your Bearded Dragon should not show aggression towards you. However if you are on the receiving end of a bite, be sure to wash it out with soap and warm water immediately and keep an eye on the area.
Beardies, as is with all reptiles, do risk carrying salmonella and can transmit that to you through a bite, albeit this is very rare.
Do Bearded Dragons Bite Hurt?
Sure, a Bearded Dragon bite could hurt but how much is purely subjective.
To avoid accidental bites, be sure your hands are not present during feeding time. This means no hand feeding your Beardie their bugs or veggies.
Do not startle them when you are handling and make sure that they are aware of you when you try to pick them up.
Bearded Dragon Facts
- Bearded Dragons are diurnal, which means they are awake during the day and sleep at night
- The oldest Bearded Dragon lived to be 18 years old, although the typical bearded dragon will live between 10-15 years
- Male Bearded Dragons tend to be more boldly colored than females
- Beardies store fat in their tail; the fatter the tail, the healthier the Dragon
Hope you learned a lot about Bearded Dragons! Please check out our Complete Guide to Bearded Dragons here. Good luck with your new pet!