Reptiles as a whole are becoming more and more popular to have as pets. Bearded dragons in particular are one of the top reptiles to own.
We could speculate on the many reasons for this, from Game of Thrones influences to the lack of fur that they leave all over your house.
The fact is, they are just cool little creatures to have in your home. However, they aren’t the most straightforward pet that you can own and they have a lot of specialist care that they require.
In this article, we will look at the ultimate beginner’s guide to caring for a baby bearded dragon (Check out Bearded Dragon Name Inspiration).
Purchasing A Healthy Baby Bearded Dragon
The first step in caring for a baby bearded dragon (Also check out Caring For A Silkback Bearded Dragon) is to go out and purchase one. This might not sound like part of the care of a dragon but there are a few important things that you should consider when you are looking for a bearded dragon.
Failure to properly vet the breeder or company that you are purchasing your bearded dragon from can result in a sick bearded dragon for you to take care of as well as the perpetuation of poor breeding and selling practices.
There is no guide to the “best” place to source your bearded dragon, your neighbor down the road could be much better than a registered company for example.
Determining whether somewhere is responsible with its breeding practices comes down to a case-by-case basis.
Wherever you end up getting your beardie from, there are certain things that you should be on the lookout for in terms of the dragon’s behavior and appearance.
What To Look For
- Healthy baby dragons will be active and mobile in their enclosure. They should also have enough room to move around their tank when you are viewing them. Their eyes should be clear and bright. Overall, they should be energetic and vibrant.
- The baby beardie should be alert to its surroundings, attentive, and curious. The area around its nose and vents should be clear and clean.
- You should also look out for whether the baby dragon you are viewing has a slightly rounded belly. This will be a sign that the dragon has been well-fed and will be well on its way to growing big, strong, and healthy as they mature. You should also note whether any other baby dragons in the enclosure also have a rounded belly to make sure that all the dragons are being well looked after.
There are a few other things that you should look out for when you are picking out a baby dragon. Although it may be tempting, it often isn’t a good idea to choose the smallest beardie.
Despite the fact that we can be drawn to rescuing the runt of a litter, these dragons are likely to have been picked on and may have problems later in life. This isn’t ideal for a beginner bearded dragon owner.
Reputable breeders should only sell baby dragons that have demonstrated a healthy appetite and shedding schedule. This acts as a good indicator of the future health of the dragon.
Good breeders also won’t entertain selling a baby dragon before they have reached 4 weeks of age.
If you are in contact with a breeder who is selling baby bearded dragons that are a few weeks older than the 4-week mark, this is a good sign. There is no need to worry about the quality of these dragons.
Another positive side of waiting a bit longer to sell a baby dragon is that the animal will be stronger and will have developed a more distinctive coloration.
They will also have started to develop a personality at this stage which can influence your decision. The stronger a baby dragon is when it is sold, the better for a first-time owner.
Setting Up A Habitat For Your Baby Bearded Dragon
Once you have selected your baby bearded dragon, it is time to gather all the things that you need to create a suitable habitat for your new pet.
While this can be one of the most fun parts of getting your new dragon, there are certain things that you need to consider.
Setting up a proper habitat for your baby dragon is essential to ensure that your dragon remains healthy and happy.
The first step in creating the perfect habitat for your new arrival is to purchase an appropriate tank.
Even if you have purchased a baby dragon that is only 4 weeks old and tiny, you need a tank that can hold at least 20 gallons. Although, if you do begin with a tank of this size, you will need to upgrade to a bigger one as your dragon grows.
Many bearded dragon owners start with the biggest tank that they will need so that the beardie can grow into it. This is also a good method if you are concerned about having enough space for a full-sized tank.
Some people prefer to make their own enclosures from scratch. This can be a good idea if you have an awkward space to fit the tank into. If you are making your own enclosure, it will need to be at least 48 inches long.
Again, if you are starting small like this, you will need to upgrade the size by the time your dragon is 6 months old. This can be a lot of work in a short space of time, so starting big is often best.
If you want to dive straight in with an enclosure that will be suitable for your dragon when it is fully grown, you will need to purchase or build a tank that can hold 125 gallons.
As a general rule, these tanks measure 48” x 24” x 24”. For your bearded dragon enclosure, length is much more important than height or width. Purchasing a tall but narrower tank may work best for your home but it will be no fun for your beardie.
For those of you who are new to the world of reptiles, substrate refers to the material that is laid on the bottom of your tank that everything else gets placed on.
The world of substrates can be confusing, therefore, it is a good idea to do some proper research before buying a product that may not be suitable.
Out of all the options that are available, experts in bearded dragons agree that the best and safest options include slate tile or some shredded newspaper.
Another option that you might see a lot of reptile owners champion is reptile carpet. However, some owners claim that these carpets can be dangerous for your beardie as their nails can get stuck in the fibers and end up ripping off.
You can easily find reptile carpets and tank liners online. These products have been designed to replicate the type of dry grassy terrain that a bearded dragon would encounter in the wild.
If you do decide to go with a cage liner or reptile carpet, make sure that you purchase one that has a tight weave.
This can help prevent your dragon’s claws from snagging on the material, getting stuck, and resulting in a ripped claw as your pet tries to escape.
Tank liners, slate tile, and newspaper are all substrate options that are easy to clean which is a great way to make your tank easier to maintain for your new reptile friend. This also makes things easier for first-time reptile owners.
In addition to there being substrates like the ones above that are recommended for beardies, there are some that should be avoided to protect the health of your pet.
Substrates that are made up of little pieces such as pebbles, sand, or gravel should be avoided at all costs. These substrate materials carry with them a high risk of gut impaction for your bearded buddy.
Ingesting these materials can cause a blockage in your dragon’s digestive system that can be fatal if not immediately treated and remedied.
Because baby bearded dragons are very eager and less careful when they are eating, it is easy for them to accidentally ingest these substrate materials and cause them issues.
There are some bearded dragon owners that claim that products such as calcium-based sand can be a good alternative if you want to have sand as a substrate.
This is healthier for your dragon as it can be metabolized if it is ingested accidentally. There is a chance that the risk of impaction is still there with these products so the choice is yours.
Lighting And Heat
The lighting and heat needs of a bearded dragon are very complex. In this section, we will cover the basics of the lighting and heat needs that you should be aware of when creating a habitat for your beardie.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy bearded dragon enclosure is a source of UV lighting.
Without a UVA or UVB light, your bearded dragon will be unable to process calcium. This can lead to significant health problems and deficiencies.
There are many different types of UV light bulbs that are suitable for bearded dragon enclosures. You will be able to purchase them online or from your local exotic pet store.
It is important to remember to change your UV light bulbs around every six months. This will help you to maintain the correct levels of UVA and UVB rays.
Maintaining these levels is important as it helps your dragon to digest its food, metabolize its nutrients, and maintain a healthy growth rate while it is young.
Like most other reptiles, bearded dragons require a basking spot in the tank. This spot should be kept at around 100 – 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This spot should be kept at one end of the tank to create a proper heat gradient within the tank.
The other side of the tank should be a cool spot or hide spot. This should be kept around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Having these opposite ends of the heat spectrum in their tank allows your beardie to regulate their body temperature as they would in the wild.
One of the most highly recommended products for maintaining the different temperatures in your dragon’s tank is a ceramic heat emitter. These products help to keep one side of the tank significantly warmer than the other.
Keeping track of the temperatures in the tank is important to maintain the health and comfort of your reptile.
To do this, you can simply mount a couple of digital thermometers on the back wall of your tank. One for the hot side and one for the cool side.
Once you have got the tank, the substrate, and the lighting and heat sorted for your tank, you can move on to the more fun stuff like accessories.
There are a few things that you should add to your tank to give your dragon a stimulating and comfortable experience.
Adding some elevated spots in the tank is incredibly beneficial for your young reptile. Not only do high points on the warm side of the tank create a perfect basking spot, but they can also create places for your pet to hide.
This is especially important for a baby dragon that might be apprehensive about its new home at first.
Providing some sort of cave for your dragon to retreat into is also a good idea. You can purchase molded caves from most pet stores, however, you can also make your own if you want.
Just make sure that your homemade creation is sturdy and will not collapse onto your dragon, or collapse if your dragon climbs on it.
Adding a few other objects for your dragon to climb just for fun can be a great way to keep them stimulated. Cork rounds and grapevines are common materials recommended by experienced owners.
Baby Bearded Dragon Diet And Hydration
Now that you have sorted out the environment in which your baby bearded dragon will be living, it is time to look at the diet and hydration that you need to provide for your reptile.
Although the environment for your bearded dragon should be quite dry, you should also provide them with a small amount of water to bathe in.
Giving your bearded dragon a dish of fresh water 3 – 4 times a week provides them with the perfect source to keep them clean and hydrated.
Make sure that the dish you place in the tank isn’t too deep. Your dragon should be able to get in and out of the dish comfortably by itself.
You should also make sure that there isn’t too much water in the dish to minimize the risk of drowning should your dragon get stuck.
You should also consider misting your dragon’s tank a couple of times a week to make sure that your beardie is well-hydrated.
Providing your baby bearded dragon with a proper diet is one of the most important things that you should learn about dragon care. Without a proper diet, your dragon will struggle to grow into a strong and healthy adult.
As with adults, the diet that is required for babies is different from that of an adult beardie. A baby bearded dragon’s diet should be made up of 80% insects and 20% greens.
As your bearded dragon grows, the ratio will flip and an adult dragon’s diet should be 80% greens and 20% vegetables. Although, you don’t need to worry about this just yet.
The sort of greens that you should be feeding your dragon include dandelions, collard greens, mustard, turnip, and many others. However, there are some greens that you should avoid feeding your bearded dragon.
Iceberg lettuce is a vegetable that you should avoid as it doesn’t contain enough nutritional value to keep your bearded dragon healthy.
When you are preparing food for your beardie, it is important to remember to cut the vegetables up small or even grate them to ensure that there are no issues with chewing or digesting the food.
The types of vegetables that you feed your bearded dragon will depend on what it prefers to eat. To begin with, feed your dragon a variety of vegetables and pay attention to the ones it eats the most.
The same rule applies to any fruit that you might want to give to your dragon as an occasional treat. Some suitable fruits include papaya, mango, grapes, and berries. Remember not to give your dragon too much fruit at once.
Best Insects For Your Baby Bearded Dragon
Because your baby dragon will be doing a lot of growing, it is important to make sure that you have a proper meal schedule.
This can help you make sure that you are providing all the nutrients that your dragon needs. You should be feeding your dragon insects 2 – 3 times a day.
For each feeding session, you should only feed your dragon as many insects as it can eat in a 10 – 15 minute sitting. This will prevent insects from crawling around your tank.
The insects that you use to feed your dragon will need to vary in size depending on the size of your dragon. As a general rule, the insects you are using should be no bigger than the space between your dragon’s eyes.
Insects such as mealworms, phoenix worms, crickets, and wax worms are all popular choices for baby bearded dragons.
If you are looking to provide your bearded dragon with the best nutrition possible, experts say that the Dubai roach is the highest-quality staple feeder. They have 5 times the nutritional value of crickets.
Gut Loading And Dusting Insects
To provide your beardie with the most beneficial diet, you should gut-load insects before you feed them to your pet. To do this, simply feed the insects a variety of fruits and vegetables before feeding them to your bearded dragon.
You can also feed the insects fish food pellets and store-bought gut-loading formulas to provide the most amount of nutrients.
You should also maintain a schedule of dusting the insects with vitamin and calcium powders before certain meals. This will help round out the nutrients that your bearded dragon is getting through its food.
There are plenty of different brands of multivitamin powders and calcium powders on the market.
You should dust the insects with calcium daily for your dragon and with a multivitamin a few times a week.
A recommended method is to place the insects for the meal in a baggie and add the supplement. You can then shake the bag to coat the insects thoroughly.
Common Care Questions
Now that we have covered the basics of baby bearded dragon care, there are a few common questions that you might have.
What If My Baby Bearded Dragon Doesn’t Seem To Be Soaking?
You might be adding a bowl of fresh water to your tank regularly but your bearded dragon isn’t using it to soak. This isn’t a huge problem.
If your dragon is reluctant to soak itself you can do it for them by taking them from its tank and soaking them in warm water for 10 – 15 minutes. Make sure that you are using distilled water to ensure it is safe for your beardie.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your dragon. It is easy to pass on germs to our dragons which can be dangerous for them and vice versa.
Can My Bearded Dragon Live With Another Beardie Buddy?
The short answer to this question is, no. Bearded dragons, by nature, are solitary creatures. They would never willingly live with another beardie if they were wild.
In addition to their preference for solitude, they can be very territorial which doesn’t lend itself well to cohabitation.
You shouldn’t house adult or baby bearded dragons together if you want to provide a happy and healthy environment for them to live in.
What Do I Need To Know About Bearded Dragon Shedding?
As with many types of reptiles, bearded dragons go through a shedding process. In the case of beardies, they will shed their skin all at once rather than in patches.
Because baby bearded dragons are still growing, they will shed their skin much more often than an adult beardie does.
Your baby beardie should be fine to shed its skin on its own, however, if it isn’t getting enough moisture, it might struggle to remove all of its skin.
It is important to check your dragon after shedding to make sure it has been able to remove all of its old skin.
If there is still some old skin left, place your dragon in a small plastic container lined with wet paper towels. This can help provide the moisture needed to release the skin.
Never pull at the old skin that is left hanging on the body. This can be painful for your dragon and cause issues.
Keeping the enclosure a little more moist than normal in the early shedding stages can help your dragon remove all of its old skin.
How Should I Go About Cleaning My Dragon’s Tank?
Cleaning your dragon’s tank is one of the most important ways to keep the environment healthy for your pet.
You should routinely check the tank for leftover food and feces that have accumulated. You can easily remove these at the end of each day with a small shovel.
If you are using a tile substrate, you should make sure that you are cleaning any soiled tiles with soap and water and rinsing them thoroughly before returning them to the tank.
If you are using a newspaper or paper towel-based substrate, you should remove and replace any soiled parts.
If you are using a reptile carpet, cleaning is a little more complicated. You should have a spare carpet that you can place into the tank while you are cleaning the main one. You can wash the carpet thoroughly with soap and water.
You can use a solution of vinegar and water to remove any marks from the glass. The solution should be 80% water to 20% vinegar.
If any of the accessories in the tank become soiled, you should remove them and wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
When cleaning the tank fully, make sure to move your dragon to a separate container or tank to protect it from cleaning chemicals. This should be done once a month.
Common Care Mistakes
One of the most common care mistakes that new beardie owners make is forced handling. It is understandable to be excited when you bring your new pet home.
However, you need to give your dragon at least 7 days to settle in with only the necessary care provided to reduce human interaction.
Once your new dragon is settled into its new environment and is eating, drinking, and behaving like a normal beardie, you can begin to build trust and bond with your pet. Remember, it is best to let your dragon come to you in their own time.
Getting a baby bearded dragon is an exciting experience. With this helpful guide, you can make sure that you provide the best possible care for your dragon to give them the best start in life.