We are presented with a number of questions from those investigating the purchase of a bearded dragon to those that have a new young bearded dragon and are having some problems. This FAQ section focuses on caring for the very young bearded dragon.
Please understand that the information contained here is our opinions. We derived this information from our experience and research. Unfortunately caring for any bearded dragon is an inexact science. You will go through much trial and error to find what works best for your pet.
- Cage Size: for one or two dragons that are 9 inches or smaller, a cage size of 10 – 20 gallons is good. Wait to move to a larger tank after the dragon(s) reach around 11 – 12 inches (approx 4 months of age).
- Cage Substrate: We suggest you use screened play sand, paper towels or shelf liner on the bottom of the cage. We raise our dragons on screened play sand that you can find at any hardware store. Please never use CalciSand or Crushed Walnut shells.
- Cage Material: When the dragon is very young, we recommend only providing a smooth rock that is placed under the basking light. We like a rock because it holds the heat from the basking light that also helps with the dragon’s digestion. You want your dragon to bask under the heat, eat plenty of food and grow. Avoid any type of hiding cave or wooden branch; if the dragon is hiding, he won’t get the light that he needs and the branch will become a breeding ground for bacteria if any waste material is deposited there. Keep it simple and your dragon will be happy.
- Heat Source: this is critical; you will need a basking spot for the dragon. The temperature under the basking spot needs to be 105 degrees. We recommend using a common spot bulb that is used in track lighting around the house. In the corner of the cage the temperature can be in the 80s. Do not use heat rocks.
- UVA/UVB Light: If your light is within 10 inches of the dragon, then use the Reptisun 5.0. If your light is within 20 inches from the dragon, then use the ReptiSun 10.0. You should replace any UVA/UVB light after using it for 9 months.
- Feeding: We recommend that you feed your new dragon(s) ¼ – 3/8-inch crickets and vegetables (see Feeding section). To start out we suggest that you dust your crickets with either its vitamins or flour. We have found light colored objects that are moving will attract the dragon’s interest. Only place a few crickets at a time in the cage. If the dragon eats them, then place a couple more. Leaving uneaten crickets in the cage will stress the young dragon. Never leave crickets in the cage over night.
- Hydration: We recommend that you mist the dragon down with water late in the afternoon or early evening. They will also get water from their vegetables. We do not recommend leaving a water dish in the cage since this becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Vitamin supplements: every other day dust the crickets by placing them in a plastic bag along with some of the Calcium Supplement (RepCal Calcium with D3 phosphorus free) and shake the crickets to cover with the supplement and use a Vitamin (RepCal Herptivite) every third day for young dragons.
“My new dragon is dark and appears to be scared, not moving around very much, why is this and what can I do about it?
If you see many vein-like lines on the underbelly of the dragon, he is likely cold and or stressing. So here are some things to check to try to help your new little dragon get adjusted:
- Basking temperature is to low: First make sure the basking temp is at least 105 degrees. Do not guess; get an accurate thermometer and check it! If a dragon is not warm enough, he cannot digest his food; they get impacted and get sick. When we help people with dragon problems this one ranks at the top.
- New Home Environment: as I tried to state earlier, young dragons normally do not like change. It usually takes a week to get a new dragon adjusted to their new home. To help your new dragon through this adjustment period try placing newspaper or towels around the outside of the cage. This will help your dragon feel cozier in his/her new home and feel less threaten by the change.
- Handling: wait a week before you handle your new dragon. Once again allow your new dragon some time to get use to his new home. Also try not to keep looking over the cage to see how the dragon is doing. Just think what it would be like for you if you had this big giant looking down on you every 5 minutes. Also if your dragon is less than 7 inches, try to avoid any handling till it grows a little more. Do not worry–they grow fast enough so it will not be that painful of a wait.
- Leaving uneaten crickets in the cage: too often we hear where new owners will leave a large number of crickets in the cage early in the day thinking the dragon will have food throughout the day. What happens as a result is that the dragon is overwhelmed with these little bugs running around. As a result, they get stressed and develop a fear of crickets. We have had dragons that refuse to go near a cricket for months. Also remember that crickets are looking to eat as well and they have this nasty habit of biting dragons.
- Leaving live food in the cage after lights go out: think of little critters running around your bed at night. They will bite you all over your body, mouth, eyes…. This goes for crickets, mealworms or anything alive that you feed your dragon. This will not only stress your dragon when he awakens but he now has to fight off sores that can cause permanent health problems.
- Cage Mates: we also hear of people looking to have more than one bearded dragon in a cage. Overall I think having young dragons in pairs is better for their overall well being. But having dragons in the same cage that are grossly different in size is not good. The size rule we look to follow when pairing up beardies is within 1-½ inches. Anything larger can be stressful on the smaller dragon. Also pairing young males together is normally not ever a good thing to do.
- More than likely your bearded dragon is going through a shed period. This also can be a stressful period for a young dragon. Think how you feel when you wear clothes that are two sizes to small.
- When dragons are small, they can shed every month till the time they become a juvenile. For this reason you should appreciate how your dragon looks right after a shed period.
When my bearded dragon sheds his skin, it’s not the entire body that sheds but a section of the body. Is this normal?
- Yes, dragons normally shed the tail region one time, the back another and the head and shoulders another.
- For dragons 9 inches and under we recommend offering crickets after they are awake for about 2 hours. Also place a small amount of mixed greens in the cage. Then provide another feeding of crickets after about 9 hours after they are awake. This would be the last feeding for the day. Remember to place a few crickets at a time in the cage. If the dragon eats everything you put in, then add a couple more crickets. When you see the dragon slow down, stop the feeding. Remember dragons will have days when they are hungry and days when they are not. Many factors influence such as development stage, the weather and even the time of the year. We see a noticeable rate of development between babies that hatch during the spring vs. babies that hatch in late fall. The fall hatchlings normally develop at a slower rate than the spring hatchlings.
- Silkworms are very good for bearded dragons. If you decide to raise silkworms you then have the best staple food available for a bearded dragon. Small mealworms can be offered as a treat a couple times a week. Mealworms will not eat through the stomachs of young bearded dragons as some people think. The worms’ exoskeleton acts like roughage to help to clean out their intestines. You just have to make sure you do not overdue the feeding of mealworms. We are believers that young dragons need to have good sources of fats and proteins when they are very young. When you realize the rate of change they go through, you can see why we emphasize the need for fats and proteins. The dragon’s health foundation is formed in their first 6 months of age.
- Some young dragons will take to pellets and these can be used as a supplement. As your dragon matures, using pellets can become more a staple in their diet. We have had some success with RepCal Bearded Dragon pellets.
- On average somewhere around 13- 14 hours per day. Just make sure that you are consistent with the time the lights go on and off. Look into getting a light timer.
- If the temperature in your home stays above 60 –65 degrees then we would say it is not needed. Remember bearded dragons come from a desert environment where the nighttime temperatures drop well below 60 degrees.
- First thing to remember is to offer the bearded dragon water. Hydration is more important than food. If your dragon looks really washed out, think of offering some Pedialite or Gatorade. If your dragon goes a couple of days without eating, think of making a mixture of chopped greens and chicken broth. Feed the mix using a dropper and place a couple drops on the dragon’s snout. If you get your dragon to drink the mix, they normally will eat afterward for you.
- Try giving your bearded dragon a warm bath. Let him soak in the bath. Normally this helps to hydrate the dragon and facilitate the passing of a bowel movement.
- Next it is important to keep your dragon hydrated.
- Alert attitude
- Willingness to eat and bask
- Clean vent
- Upright posture
- Absence of swellings in toes or tail
- Well filled out belly