Albion Park & Gerringong

Bearded Dragon

The Inland or Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps), Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata), Downs or Black Soil Bearded Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni), Small-scaled Bearded Dragon (Pogona microlepidota), Dwarf Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor) and the Nullarbor Bearded Dragon (Pogona nullarbor).

The most popular species kept in captivity is the Central Bearded Dragon due to its temperament and fecundity. (Keeping and Breeding Australian Lizards, Ed Mike Swan). The Black Soil Bearded Dragon is the most popular of the smaller species.

What should I feed my dragon?

Adult bearded dragons should be fed 2-3 times per week and do well on a combination of live invertebrates and mixed vegetables. Insects such as crickets, cockroaches (woodies), grasshoppers, moths, silkworms, meal beetles and mealworms (larvae).

Chopped fresh spinach, endive, Cos lettuce, peas, beans, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, asian greens and wild greens such as dandelions are all readily accepted.

Hatchling dragons will be eating mostly invertebrates. Young dragons may also be offered pelleted juvenile dragon food and a veggie mix. Insects should be dusted with an appropriate calcium powder supplement 2-3 times weekly.

Commercial pelleted food should NOT make up more than 50% of the diet. If you are certain your lizard is eating a significant amount of pellets, the addition of calcium and vitamin powders to the diet should be stopped or reduced.

Never feed a COLD reptile. Ensure your dragon is at its preferred optimum temperature zone (POTZ) when you offer it food. (A Guide to Health and Disease in Reptiles and Amphibians, Ed. Carmel and Johnson.)

How should I feed my lizard?

How OFTEN you feed your lizard and WHERE you feed your lizard is important.
Adults should be fed 2-3 times per week. Hatchlings should be fed daily and juveniles, depending on growth rates, should be fed every second day. When your dragon is about one year old it can be fed as an adult depending on general health and growth achieved.

Feed your lizard LIVE food in a separate plastic tub, with a lid. Do not feed live food in your lizard’s enclosure. This is to prevent your lizard swallowing substrate such as sand or bark from its tank with the live prey. You are also able to tell exactly how much live food your pet has eaten and it stops live prey BREEDING in your tank, yuck!

Your lizard will usually pass droppings after eating and so your tank will also be cleaner, decreasing the buildup of parasites, fungi and bacteria that could be harmful to your pet.

Vegetables and greens can be fed in your pet’s enclosure on flat ceramic or moulded plastic dishes. Anything not consumed in a few hours should be removed.

Do my lizards need supplements?

Vitamin D and calcium powders are used to ensure pet dragons are provided with enough calcium for adequate bone growth. Vitamin D powder is not required if you are providing your dragon with sufficient UVB exposure for 10-12 hours per day. Your dragon should also be exposed to unfiltered NATURAL sunlight 3 times a week for at least 20mins.

Dusting frequency should be 2-3 times weekly for dragons under 1 year of age and decreasing to once or twice weekly for mature dragons.

How do I house my dragons?

There is a great variety of commercially produced enclosures now available for pet reptiles. These range from glass terrariums to wooden, melamine or moulded plastic vivariums. The most important aspects of an enclosure to consider are size, insulation, ventilation and ease of cleaning. Orientation (vertical versus horizontal) is also important, as dragons also benefit from having some branches in their enclosure for climbing.

It is important to understand that hatchling lizards will require a much smaller enclosure than an adult. One size does NOT fit all, and enclosures often need to change as your lizard grows. Hatchlings do not do well in large terrariums and benefit from hides and a well-insulated enclosure in order to achieve higher temperatures required for growth.

What lighting do I need?

Lizards use basking behaviour in order to absorb the necessary heat and UVB from the sun to achieve a healthy body temperature required for metabolism and immune function. Many pet dragons such as the Central Bearded dragon are from desert areas of Australia where they are exposed to high temperatures and a lot of natural sunlight. Our pet dragons need the same UVB as their wild counterparts. This can be achieved by placing a UVB strip or spotlight in their enclosure. This needs to be at least 30cm from the basking spot in order to absorb an adequate amount of UVB. Leave the UVB light on for at least 10 hours per day. Dragons required a 10.0 spectrum. You should also have a secure outdoor enclosure to allow direct exposure to natural sunlight for at least 20 minutes 2-3 times per week.

What heating do I need?

Lizards are ectothermic. This means they derive their body heat from the environment. Australian lizards love the sun and have adapted a wide range of behaviours to enable them to absorb its heat. Every reptile has its own preferred optimum temperature zone (POTZ). For dragons this is 35 to 39 degrees Celsius.

It is recommended that a HEAT GRADIENT of 28 to 39 degrees Celsius is provided in your lizard’s enclosure. The heat source should be at one end of the enclosure to allow the reptile to move away from it if necessary. This allows your pet to regulate its body temperature to maintain a healthy metabolism, digestion and immune function.

These temperatures are usually achieved by using a radiant heat lamp (ceramic or infrared) and a heat mat at the ‘cool’ end. A thermostat should be used to control the temperature at the ‘hot’ end. The enclosure should further be regularly monitored by a thermometer at each end to ensure a heat gradient is achieved.

Does my lizard need to go to the vet?

All new pets should be taken to your trusted veterinarian within a week of purchase or arrival. We will perform a thorough physical examination and make recommendations on disease screening your new pet. This may include tests to detect parasites and blood tests to investigate any health problems identified. We will weigh your pet and determine if your adult lizard is male or female. Yearly health checks are recommended. This includes a dental check. Dental disease can be devastating for pet lizards. Periodontal disease can be painful and result in nasty dental abscesses and jaw infections.

Do not put new lizards straight in with existing pet lizards until they have seen a veterinarian. Parasite tests should be performed and a minimum quarantine period of 30 days should be allowed before introductions occur. This gives you a chance to observe your new pet and allow him/her to recover from the stress of relocation.

Do I need to worm my lizard?

All new lizards should be have their droppings screened for parasites at their first health check. This involves bringing a sample of your pet’s droppings for testing at the vets. Your veterinarian will then advise you on controlling internal parasites in your pet. Bearded dragons are commonly infected with a type of coccidian parasite called Isospora amphiboluri. They may also carry Oxyurid worms. Your dragon picks up these infections by contact with infected droppings in its environment. In low numbers they may not cause a problem. Good hygiene will decrease the likelihood of these parasites causing disease in your reptile.

Can I train my lizard?

Providing environmental enrichment and different foraging or ‘hunting’ opportunities are important for the health of your pet lizard. This can be as simple as feeding new and interesting prey items, creating a scent trail or rearranging their enclosure with new branches to climb on or different substrate to dig in. Having a safe, supervised outdoor enclosure is great to allow sunbathing and exposure to different sounds and smells of the outdoors.

Should I have my pet lizard desexed?

Due to a reptile’s anatomy, we do not routinely desex pet lizards. Unfortunately, some pet lizards will have reproductive problems such as cloacal prolapse, egg stasis, ovulatory stasis or tetany secondary to oviposition. It is therefore important to know the gender of your pet lizard to recognise and prevent these conditions in your pet. Our vets can help you determine the gender of your dragon.

You may observe reproductive behaviours in your pet lizards. Dragons may show a variety of territorial and mating behaviours such as head bobbing, arm waving, circling, tail whippings, beard inflation and colour change. These behaviours are a way a dragon communicates to another dragon and also responds to a perceived threat. Female dragons may lay eggs if they have been housed with or without a male. A period of decreased activity may be followed by increased activity with digging and oviposition (egg-laying).

It is not advised to house adult males and females together as aggression can result in serious bite wounds.

Hazards around the home

Small parrots are attracted to shiny objects such as metal staples, nails and rust flakes. Some bird toys may have metal rings or attachments, which can be ingested. Heavy metal toxicity occurs when metals such as zinc or lead are ingested by your bird resulting in lethargy, weakness, loss of balance, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite or no gastrointestinal stasis. If left untreated, seizures and death may ensue. Ensure all metal components on bird toys are stainless steel.

Rope or synthetic fibre ingestion is another common cause of disease in companion parrots. Sources of fibre include rope toys, towels, cage coverings or carpet. Do not use toys or perches made of synthetic fibres.

Bumblefoot is a term used to describe swelling, thickening ulceration of the skin on the soles of the feet. It is caused by the use of smooth wooden dowel or plastic perches. No tree branch is ever the same and thus wild birds do not suffer from this condition. To prevent this condition in your pet bird, use dried eucalypt branches or native foliage as cage perches instead of rope or dowel and replace these regularly. Natural branches have the added bonus of having a bark covering which can entertain parrots for hours as they rip and tear at it.

Smoke from fires, candles, incense or cooking is harmful to birds and exposure should be avoided. Smoke from Teflon frying pans may be toxic. Do not house your bird in the kitchen or let it free fly when you are cooking.

What if my lizard gets sick?

We have a 24 hour/7 day a week veterinary service. By the time you notice your reptile is not acting normally, they may have quite advanced disease. If your lizard is acting differently, is quieter, not eating, eating less or has diarrhea, please DO NOT wait. By the time they are showing you they are sick THEY ARE REALLY SICK and need veterinary treatment. Please do not hesitate to give us a call on 4256 3638 (Albion Park) or 4234 1317 (Gerringong) with any questions regarding the health and care of your lizard.

Cindy Jarratt BVSc(HonsI)MANZCVS (Avian Health)
Albion Park Vet
Albion Park Vet
Albion Park Vet
Albion Park Vet