From Exotic To Domestic: The Bearded Dragon As A Pet

Are you looking for a new pet? Well, the bearded dragon might just be the perfect addition to your family! These amazing creatures have made the transition from being exotic to becoming popular as domestic pets. With their unique appearance, calm temperament, and low maintenance needs, bearded dragons are a fantastic choice for any pet owner. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of these reptiles and discover why they have become such beloved pets. So, get ready to learn all about the fascinating bearded dragon!

History of the Bearded Dragon as a Pet

Origins of the Bearded Dragon

The bearded dragon, scientifically known as Pogona, is a lizard species native to Australia. These incredible creatures have been roaming the Australian deserts for millions of years. However, it was only in the late 20th century that they started gaining popularity as pets. Bearded dragons were first brought to the United States in the 1990s, and since then, they have captivated the hearts of reptile enthusiasts all around the world.

Popularity as a Pet

The bearded dragon’s gentle demeanor and unique appearance quickly caught the attention of pet owners, making them one of the most popular pet reptiles today. Their calm temperament and ability to adapt to different environments make them suitable for families, individuals, and even classrooms. As more people began to recognize the joy of having a bearded dragon as a pet, their popularity skyrocketed, leading to an increased demand for captive-bred individuals.

Characteristics and Behavior

Physical Attributes

Bearded dragons are known for their distinctive appearance. They have rough, scaly skin with a sand-like texture and are named “bearded” due to the spiky protrusions under their chin, which can puff up to resemble a beard. These reptiles come in a wide range of colors, including shades of brown, red, yellow, and even white. They have a robust body with a length ranging from 16 to 24 inches, including their tail.

Social Behavior

Bearded dragons are generally sociable reptiles and can develop a strong bond with their human caregivers. They are curious by nature and enjoy exploring their surroundings. Unlike many other reptiles, bearded dragons often display gentle and relaxed behavior. They are docile creatures and rarely show aggression unless they feel threatened. With proper handling and socialization, bearded dragons can become affectionate companions.

Habitat Requirements

Creating a suitable habitat for your bearded dragon is crucial for their health and happiness. They require a spacious enclosure with proper heating and lighting. The enclosure should have a temperature gradient, with a basking spot reaching around 100-110°F and a cooler area around 75-85°F. Bearded dragons also need access to a full-spectrum UVB light source to aid in their calcium metabolism. Their habitat should include different surfaces for climbing, hiding spots, and a shallow water dish for hydration.

Choosing a Bearded Dragon

Age and Size

When selecting a bearded dragon, it is essential to consider its age and size. Younger bearded dragons, known as hatchlings or juveniles, are generally more delicate and require extra care and attention. It is recommended to choose a bearded dragon that is at least eight weeks old when they are more robust and better able to handle environmental changes. The size of the enclosure will also depend on the adult size of the bearded dragon.

Health and Condition

It is essential to choose a bearded dragon that is healthy and free from any signs of disease or infection. Look for a bearded dragon that has clear eyes, smooth skin, and a strong appetite. Avoid individuals that appear lethargic, have visible wounds, or show signs of respiratory distress. Additionally, it is advisable to consult with a reptile veterinarian or an experienced breeder to ensure the bearded dragon you choose is in good overall health.


Even within the same species, bearded dragons can have different temperaments. Some individuals may be naturally more relaxed and easygoing, while others may be more skittish or prone to stress. If you have the opportunity, spend time observing the bearded dragons you are interested in before making a decision. Look for a bearded dragon that displays calm behavior and does not show signs of excessive aggression or fear.

Preparing for a Bearded Dragon

Enclosure Setup

Before bringing your bearded dragon home, it is crucial to set up their enclosure properly. Start by selecting a suitable tank or vivarium that can provide enough space for your bearded dragon to grow and move around comfortably. Line the bottom with a substrate such as reptile carpet or paper towels, as loose substrates can pose a risk of impaction if ingested. Add branches, rocks, and other decorations to create a stimulating environment for your bearded dragon to explore.

Temperature and Lighting

Maintaining the proper temperature and lighting is vital for the health and well-being of your bearded dragon. Use a combination of heat lamps and ceramic heat emitters to provide the necessary heat gradient within the enclosure. Place a digital thermometer at both ends of the tank to monitor the temperature accurately. Additionally, ensure your bearded dragon has access to a UVB light source for at least 10-12 hours a day to enable vitamin D synthesis.

Feeding and Diet

Proper nutrition is essential for the overall health and longevity of your bearded dragon. Their diet primarily consists of insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and Dubia roaches, as well as fresh greens and vegetables. Feed your bearded dragon a variety of insects to provide the necessary protein and calcium. Offer a sufficient amount of leafy greens like collard greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens daily to ensure a balanced diet. It is also important to dust the insects and greens with a reptile calcium supplement.

Handling and Bonding

Proper Handling Techniques

When handling a bearded dragon, it is crucial to ensure their safety and well-being. Begin by allowing your bearded dragon to get used to their new environment for a few days before attempting to handle it. When picking them up, use gentle and supportive hands, supporting their body and tail to prevent any undue stress or injury. Avoid quick movements or grabbing them by their tail, as this can cause them to feel threatened.

Building Trust and Bonding

Building trust and bonding with your bearded dragon is a gradual process. Spend quality time near their enclosure, talking softly, and offering treats. Slowly introduce your hand into their territory, allowing them to approach you at their own pace. Once they become comfortable with your presence, they may willingly climb onto your hand or arm. Regular, gentle handling sessions will help foster a stronger bond between you and your bearded dragon.

Common Health Issues

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is a common health issue among bearded dragons. It occurs when the reptile’s calcium and phosphorus levels are imbalanced, leading to weak bones and skeletal deformities. MBD can be prevented by providing a calcium-rich diet, including calcium supplements, along with proper UVB lighting to support calcium absorption. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor your bearded dragon’s bone health.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can occur in bearded dragons due to poor husbandry, inadequate temperature, and humidity levels, or stress. Symptoms may include wheezing, open-mouth breathing, and nasal discharge. If you notice any respiratory issues, consult a reptile veterinarian immediately. Proper temperature and humidity regulation within the enclosure, along with prompt medical attention, can prevent respiratory infections.

Parasites and Infestations

Bearded dragons can be susceptible to parasites, including mites, ticks, and internal parasites. Regular fecal examinations by a reptile veterinarian help detect and treat any parasitic infestations. Keeping the enclosure clean, providing a balanced diet, and maintaining proper hygiene practices will minimize the risk of parasites.

Veterinary Care for Bearded Dragons

Annual Check-ups

Just like any other pet, bearded dragons require regular veterinary check-ups to ensure their overall health and well-being. An annual visit to a reptile veterinarian will include a thorough physical examination, fecal testing for parasites, and blood work if necessary. The veterinarian will also guide husbandry practices and answer any questions you may have regarding your bearded dragon’s care.

Signs of Illness

Being familiar with the signs of illness in bearded dragons is crucial for early detection and prompt treatment. Symptoms of potential health issues include changes in appetite, weight loss, abnormal stool, lethargy, difficulty breathing, or visible skin lesions. If you notice any of these signs, consult with a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.

Choosing a Reptile Veterinarian

When selecting a reptile veterinarian for your bearded dragon, it is important to find a professional with experience in handling reptiles. Ask for recommendations from other reptile owners or local pet stores. Ensure that the veterinarian has expertise in reptile medicine and is knowledgeable about the specific needs of bearded dragons. A good reptile veterinarian will provide proper care and guidance for your pet.

Feeding and Nutrition

Feeding Schedule

Bearded dragons are omnivorous reptiles and need a balanced diet consisting of both insects and greens. Offer juvenile bearded dragons insects twice a day, while adult dragons can be fed once a day. Greens and vegetables should be provided daily, ensuring a variety of options to meet their nutritional needs. Bearded dragons should not be overfed, as obesity can lead to health problems. Always remove uneaten food to maintain the cleanliness of their enclosure.

Appropriate Food Items

Insects make up an essential part of a bearded dragon’s diet. Suitable insect options for bearded dragons include crickets, mealworms, Dubia roaches, and silkworms. In addition to insects, offers a wide variety of leafy greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and dandelion greens. Vegetables like squash, bell peppers, and carrots can also be offered in smaller quantities. Avoid feeding bearded dragons toxic plants, such as rhubarb or avocado.

Supplements and Calcium

To prevent calcium deficiencies and promote healthy bone growth, it is essential to provide bearded dragons with appropriate calcium supplements. Dust insects with a calcium powder before feeding them to your bearded dragon. A reptile multivitamin supplement can also be offered once or twice a week. Ensure that the supplements you use are specifically formulated for reptiles, as they have the correct balance of nutrients necessary for their well-being.

From Exotic To Domestic: The Bearded Dragon As A Pet

Reproduction and Breeding

Mating and Courtship

Bearded dragons reach sexual maturity around 12 to 24 months of age, depending on their growth rate and overall health. Breeding season occurs during spring and early summer when the daylight lengthens. Male bearded dragons display dominance and will bob their head, puff their beard, and darken their coloration to attract females. If you are considering breeding bearded dragons, it is essential to have proper knowledge and experience to ensure the well-being of the parents and hatchlings.

Egg Incubation

Female bearded dragons lay eggs approximately four to six weeks after mating. To provide a suitable incubation environment, set up a separate container with a mixture of vermiculite and water. The eggs should be buried partially in the damp substrate with enough air space available. Maintain a consistent temperature of around 82-86°F during incubation. After an average of 60-90 days, the hatchlings will start emerging from their eggs.

Caring for Hatchlings

Hatchling bearded dragons are delicate and require specific care to ensure their survival. They need a smaller enclosure with suitable heating and lighting, similar to that of adult bearded dragons. Hatchlings should be fed a diet primarily consisting of small insects, such as pinhead crickets, small Dubia roaches, or fruit flies. Fresh greens and vegetables should also be introduced gradually. As they grow, the enclosure size can be increased, and their diet can be adjusted accordingly.

The Bearded Dragon Community

Bearded Dragon Societies and Clubs

Bearded dragon enthusiasts often come together to share their knowledge and experiences through various societies and clubs. These organizations aim to educate people about the proper care and conservation of bearded dragons. They offer resources, promote responsible ownership, and provide a platform for individuals to connect with others who share a passion for these amazing reptiles.

Online Forums and Communities

The internet has become a valuable resource for bearded dragon enthusiasts. Online forums, social media groups, and websites dedicated to bearded dragons allow pet owners to connect, seek advice, and share their experiences. These communities provide a platform for exchanging information, discussing best practices, and supporting each other in the care of their beloved bearded dragons.

In conclusion, the bearded dragon has come a long way, transitioning from an exotic creature to a popular domestic pet. With their unique appearance, gentle temperament, and fascinating behavior, bearded dragons have captured the hearts of people around the world. By providing the appropriate care and attention they require, these incredible reptiles can bring joy, companionship, and a sense of wonder to individuals and families alike.