This guide is meant for anyone new to bearded dragons who is looking for a quick guide to get them a list of all the items they need and all of the basic care required to keep your bearded dragon healthy and happy. Bearded dragons make rewarding and entertaining pets for people in nearly every age group and across genders. They are known as beginner level reptiles, and although their care is simple compared to other reptiles, they still require much more knowledge and specific care than other more common household pets (cats and dogs).
Bearded dragons need space. Like any pet, the more the better. The quick start guide recommendation for a tank that can last a dragon’s entire life is the Exo Terra 36x18x18 tank. This glass terrarium has front opening doors and can house an adult bearded dragon of an average size. If you put your dragon in a smaller tank as a baby (20 gallon long at the smallest), it should only stay in there until it’s around 10-12 inches and then you need to move it into a larger tank.
Quick Start Recommendation:
Exo-Terra All Glass 36x18x18
Your bearded dragon needs a basking spot (very bright and hot) that is around 95 degrees as an adult and around 105 degrees Fahrenheit as a baby. They need to bask at their basking spot around 80% of the time. They lay there to digest their food and keep their body temperature up. As cold blooded animals, their body does not produce heat, and they will die if their enclosure is too cold. A temperature gradient should scale from one side of the tank to the other. The basking spot should take up one corner, and the temperature should gradually go down to about 75-80 on the other side of the tank. This ensures that your dragon has somewhere to go if they get too hot and need a bit to cool down. Get yourself a digital temperature gun to accurately measure temperature. The thermometers that stick on the wall only take the temperature of the glass/wood and not the basking spot itself.
Quick Start Recommendation:
Temperature Control - Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat & Habitat Lighting Temp. Controller, 500W
Temp Gun - Zoo Med ReptiTemp Digital Infrared Thermometer
Lighting in reptiles is essential and your dragon should have it’s lights on for around 12 hours every day. For bearded dragons, stay away from colored lights. Your basking spot light can be any household bulb, as long as it keeps the temperatures where they’re supposed to be. You’ll need to get a light fixture for this bulb. You also need a fluorescent tube UVB bulb that is at minimum 2/3 the length of the tank. If you go with the suggested Exo-Terra 36x18x18 tank, you can get a 36 inch fluorescent bulb tank hood and a 34 inch T5 HO 10.0 bulb. The T5 enables the UVB to penetrate the mesh, and the 10.0 maximizes the UVB they get. UVB light is what we get when the sun shines on our skin and it is absolutely necessary for them to be healthy. If you live in a cold area, make sure you have a black ceramic heat emitter for night time in the winter months, just to make sure your temps get up to around 70. If your house temps are heated to that level then you don’t need night heat or lights. Do not light the tank at night, they can see it and it will be irritating for them to get to sleep.
Quick Start Recommendation:
Power Strip - Westek TE08WHB Indoor 8-Outlet Weekly Digital Power Strip Timer
Basking Bulb Fixture - Zoo Med Deluxe Porcelain Clamp Lamp
Basking Bulb - ZooMed Zoo Med ReptiSun T5 HO High Output 10.0 UVB Lamp 34 Inches (buy an extra in case of burn out, replace every 6 months)
Inside the tank you’ll need (at minimum) a salad bowl, bug bowls, a hide, and somewhere to bask. They like to climb so a platform or log or something taller to raise them to their basking spot light is perfect. Sometimes they want privacy just like we do, so a hide is great, especially for
a new edition or a dragon that is going through brumation or shedding. Other excellent things to put in your tank that is highly recommended is some sort of bed, like a hammock or beardie bed. You can also add colorful décor (they like colors), and ledges or them to explore. You’ll also want a substrate. Don’t use loose substrate like sand or wood chips. It’s a health hazard, plain and simple, regardless of whether you know someone who has had their dragon on loose substrate for 10 years and he’s fine, it’s a health hazard. That being said, there are plenty of other options. Popular and cheap options are tile, paper towels and reptile carpet. While it is nice to have a lot of things in the tank, make sure it’s not over crowded and that your beardie still has room to roam freely.
Quick Start Recommendation:
Salad Dish - Zoo Med Reptile Rock Food Dish
Worm Dish – Lee's Mealworm Dish, good for most worms except the larger superworms.
Hide – National Geographic™ Rainforest Cave Reptile Hideaway is a good choice that lasts into adulthood.
Hammock – Zoo Med Mesh Reptile Hammock, 17.5-Inch is the cheapest but there are many available that are much nicer for similar pricing. Check Etsy.
Basking – MagNaturals Rock Ledge and Mopani Wood for Terrariums is a great combination.
Décor example – Exo Terra Terrarium Plant
Substrate - Zilla Terrarium Liner, 50 gallon
Beardies are omnivores and as such eat both vegetable matter and meat. Salads should be 20% of their diet as babies and juveniles and 80% of their diet as adults. Their salads should be fresh and offered every morning when their lights come on and remain available to them. A basic list of greens are: turnip, dandelion, mustard, collard, endive, and kale. That should be the primary element in their salad. You can include other items like yellow or butternut squash on a daily basis. Occasionally you can feed fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and apple. Always make sure to cut the skins off and make sure the pieces are small enough for your beardie. Better to cut it smaller than fatter and risk hurting your dragon. Something to enhance the salad experience for your dragon is special beardie salad dressing. Optional, of course.
Quick Start Recommendation
Salad Dressing - Nature Zone Salad Dressing for Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons need to eat live food. As babies it is around 80% of their diet and as adults it is around 20%. Do not feed your bearded dragon mealworms. The shell can cause impaction which will can kill your bearded dragon. The best staple foods that you can feed your bearded dragons are black fly soldier larvae (BSFL) and Dubia roaches. Crickets are also great for your bearded dragons, but nutritionally BSFL and dubia are a notch above. Dust your dragon’s insects in supplements at every meal for babies and several times per week for adults. You should have a calcium w/d3 supplement (w/o d3 if and when housed out-doors primarily). You should also have a multivitamin that you dust their food with once a week in place of the calcium. Other supplements are healthy for your dragon including certain vitamins, probiotics and bee pollen. Make sure your insects are gut loaded (have full stomachs) so that it gives the most amount of nutrition possible to your bearded dragon. Your insects require care, too, so you have to feed them and house them. There are special guides that you can search for that will tell you how to properly care for each type of feeder insect.
Quick Start Recommendations
Multivitamins - HERPTIVITE Multivitamin for reptiles
Calcium Powder - Rep-Cal Reptile Calcium Powder with Vitamin D3
Food/water combo insect gut loader - Nature Zone SNZ54512 Cricket Total Bites Soft Moist Food
Feeding Tongs - Zoo Med Stainless Steel Feeding Tongs
Great portable heater for feeders - Honeywell HCE100R Heat Bud Ceramic Heater
Bearded dragons need baths. You can buy a reptile safe water conditioner if you want to soak them in the tub or sink. Sometimes bearded dragons like to drink water with a dropper. It’s necessary to keep them hydrated, so this is a good option to try for stubborn dragons. It’s always good to keep track of your dragon’s weight to make sure they are staying healthie and not losing weight. A small kitchen gram scale is a good option. Buy a book about bearded dragons to get all of the extra information not covered here.
Water conditioner - Zoo Med ReptiSafe Water Conditioner
Scale - Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale
Book - The Bearded Dragon Manual (Advanced Vivarium Systems)
Cleaner – Chlorhexidrine preferably, but you can find Zoo Med Wipe Out Terrarium Cleaner most places.
Bee Pollen – Granules or powder is available in multiple brands, lots of health food places.
Of course, please find a reptile vet near you and take your pet in there with a fecal sample when you first get them, and then check in yearly or when you notice anything that might need attention. This is just a quick start guide for anyone looking to put together a basic setup quickly and easily. The more research you do, you’ll be able to come up with your own tank designs and approach to bearded dragon care! I hope this was helpful.