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A Great Pet - The Bearded Dragon

By Charles Hopkins Published 07/7/2007 | Pets and Animals

A Bearded Dragon, or Beardie as they are commonly called, is a medium sized lizard native to Australia, which has become an enormously popular pet in the Americas and Europe due to their gentle nature and manageable size. Virtually all bearded dragons available in America and Europe are captive bred, as Australia has strict laws against exportation of its wildlife. A bearded dragon ranges in size from 20 to 24 inches when fully grown. It has a beard that expands and turns black when it feels threatened.

Bearded dragons owe their name to a distinctive series of lateral spines (specialized scales) radiating horizontally from the head to the base of the tail (giving then a dragon like appearance). Bearded dragons can puff out the spiny protrusions under their chin when they are angry or upset, giving them the appearance of having a humanlike beard.

Bearded dragon is the common name for any Agamid lizard in the genus Pogona. Bearded dragons have broad triangular heads and flattened bodies. The golden bearded dragon has quite a bit of yellow on the sides of its head and when it is very content, its body becomes a golden cream color. The golden bearded dragon is one of the preferred colors and is usually a little more expensive than other beardies that are darker in color. Bearded dragons are known to be very docile and trusting, yet at the same time, outgoing and curious lizards.

A bearded dragon is by far the best reptile pet for children of all ages. An average life span for a bearded dragon is eight to twelve years. Owning a bearded dragon is a very enjoyable experience because they are not particularly skittish and they become quite affectionate if purchased when they are young and then handled frequently. Bearded dragons make a wonderful pet for both beginners and advanced reptile keepers.

If you decide that a bearded dragon is for you, it is recommended that you do your research before you buy one so that you will be able to give your dragon the best possible care that it deserves. If properly cared for, a bearded dragon is a lizard that you can easily have sit on your lap or shoulder while you are watching TV and not have to worry about it running away (this applies more to an adult beardie). Bearded dragons do not need a partner, so having a single beardie is quite acceptable.

Bearded dragons need appropriate temperatures so that the food they eat will be digested properly. Like many reptiles, bearded dragons require UVA/UVB light as well as an appropriate heat lamp to maintain correct basking and ambient temperatures. A popular sized enclosure for a baby bearded dragon is a twenty gallon tank or terrarium; adults require enclosures of forty gallons or larger, with eight square feet of floor space being preferable. Bearded dragons need a warm area reaching 95 - 100 degrees during the day and cooling to 70 - 75 degrees overnight. Keep in mind that the surface on which a bearded dragon basks, after eating, should be maintained at a temperature between 100 and 115 degrees, in order for them to digest their food properly.

Some bearded dragon owners claim that a heat rock or under tank heat pad should not be used because there is a danger of the surface getting too hot and burning the lizard. Others claim that under tank heaters are fine as long as there is a carpet like material between the glass and the lizard. Similarly, a heat rock is fine provided that it remains cool enough that you can place your hand on it and hold it there for a period of time (five to ten minutes) without getting burned.

Do not feed bearded dragons mice, anoles, or other feeder animals. Crickets should form a large part of a bearded dragon's diet. Crickets should be no bigger than the gap between your bearded dragon's eyes. Some beardies will eat mixed vegetables (lightly cooked and then cooled to lukewarm) and also fruit. If feeding peas or corn, remove the skin before placing the vegetables in the food dish. Also remove the skin from any fruit; just feed your lizard the flesh of the fruit. Some owners also occasionally feed mealworms to their beardie. However, there are unconfirmed rumors of mealworms chewing through a beardie's stomach, so if you feed mealworms as a treat, remove the head before feeding them to your beardie. Any food fed to your beardie should be lightly dusted with a calcium compound twice a week and a vitamin and mineral compound once a week to properly ensure that they are getting proper nutrition.

If a bearded dragon is fed a food item difficult to digest, and he is not provided with the proper temperatures in order for him to digest that food, this can create impaction (this is when a bearded dragon's digestive tract is blocked by a solid or semisolid mass). What is generally suggested is that with the earlier stages of a mild impaction, you may be able to offer your bearded dragon some relief by giving him a warm bath (about two to three inches of water) and gently massaging his abdomen. Massaging gently down toward the vent may assist your bearded dragon in moving an impaction down through his digestive tract, so that he can pass it. Be very gentle when doing this as his internal organs are small and delicate and you do not want to damage anything. Some owners suggest that your bearded dragon should have a bowel movement every day or every second day, however, some healthy beardies confound the experts and only have a bowel movement every week or two. If you have any concerns in this regard contact your veterinarian.

In conclusion, if you would like to have a lizard as a pet, you cannot find a better one than a bearded dragon. They are easy to tame and look after. They can become quite affectionate if handled frequently. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation circulating about these lovable pets, so be sure to do a lot of research to ensure that a beardie is the pet for you.