Basic Information Sheet: Inland Bearded Dragon

Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

bearded dragon
Download the Bearded Dragon Client Handout PDF

Natural history



Native to the central deserts of Australia, the Bearded dragon’s name comes from its practice of extending the flap of skin under the jaw or “beard” in a defensive posture.

Taxonomy



Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Agamidae

bearded dragon, frilled dragon, water dragon

Color and size



The wild type or standard bearded dragon is tan to yellow color on its dorsum with irregular blotches and a pale belly. There are numerous other color variations in captive-bred specimens.

Including the tail, bearded dragons commonly attain a length of up to 2 ft (0.6 m). Juveniles weigh about 2-3 grams and adults weigh at least 250 g. Males tend to grow larger than females and have larger heads.


Diet



Bearded dragons are omnivores, however juveniles require a diet of almost 100% live, appropriately sized prey.

  • Animal protein should make up at least 25% (by volume) of the adult dragon diet. Offer appropriately sized, gut-loaded insects such as crickets, superworms, and waxworms as well as grasshoppers, locusts, and the occasional pinky mouse. Download the client handout: Feeding Insect Eating Reptiles for additional information.
  • Dark, leafy greens such as should make up 50-55% (by volume) of the adult dragon diet. Offer a variety of greens including collard greens, kale, romaine, dandelion, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, spinach, chicory, and escarole.
  • Other chopped or grated vegetables may comprise up to 20% of the diet (squash, zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli, peas, carrot, beans, okra, bean sprouts, tofu).
  • Fruit should make up no more than 5% of the diet and should include nutrient dense items such as papaya, melon, and banana.
  • Occasional treats may consist of non-toxic flower blossoms such as hibiscus.

Dust the non-breeding adult’s diet with a calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement just prior to feeding once or twice weekly, more often if actively breeding. Dust every meal for hatchlings. Calcium supplements should be devoid or low in phosphorus with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. A general vitamin/mineral supplement may be offered once weekly. This supplement should contain vitamin D, and bearded dragons should have exposure to ultraviolet light (specifically UVB rays via specialized bulbs or direct sunlight).

Feed adults every 1-2 days. Hatchlings should be fed twice daily.


Husbandry


Temperature The bearded dragon has a preferred optimal temperature zone of 80-88°F (27-31°C). The basking spot should reach 92-100°F (33-38°C). Bearded dragons heat up quickly but cool down very slowly, putting them at risk for heat stroke. Never place a bearded dragon in direct sunlight when housed in a glass tank.
Humidity/water Although bearded dragons thrive in low humidity, drinking water should always be provided in a shallow bowl or saucer.  Dragons will often soak in their water bowl and may defecate in their water.  Drinking and soaking bowls should be cleaned at least daily.
Lighting Bearded dragons require bright light for adequate food intake and normal behaviors. Ceramic heaters, red bulbs, and low wattage bulbs are inadequate. Provide daily sunlight directly or a fluorescent full-spectrum light source. If a fluorescent full-spectrum bulb is used, also provide a bright spotlight at one end of the habitat.
Cage size As a rule, bearded dragons require housing at least three times as long as their snout-tail length. At minimum, the single adult requires a 75-gallon (283-L) aquarium although larger enclosures are recommended.
Cage furniture Bearded dragons require hiding areas (rock cave, plant pot, cardboard box, etc.) as well as thick branches upon which to climb and bask. Branches must be sturdy enough to support heavy-bodied adults. Provide a full-spectrum light source for normal absorption of dietary calcium.
Social structure Bearded dragons may be housed in small groups of one male and a few females. Breeders may set up groups of two males and three to five females in large habitats.


Lifespan



Bearded dragons typically live 8-10 years.
Bearded dragons reach sexual maturity between 8-18 months, although sexual activity may begin before 12 months of age.

Anatomy/ physiology


Dermatologic: The Bearded dragon has a gular “beard” or flap of skin beneath its chin that is covered with large, conical scales.
Unlike snakes, lizards normally exhibit a patchy shed or “ecdysis”.
Gastrointestinal: The mucous membranes of the oral cavity are normally yellow.
Acrodont dentition:  Teeth are not set in sockets, but instead are weakly attached to the jawbone surface.
Sexual dimorphism: Males tend to grow larger than females and have larger heads. Males also have hemipenal bulges on the ventral side of the tail base and larger, more prominent femoral pores. Femoral pores are the opening through which glands produce a thick, waxy secretion. This secretion plays a role in scent marking and other pheromone-based communication.


Restraint



Bearded dragons tend to be relatively mild-mannered lizards.

Venipuncture



Preventive medicine


  • Regular physical examinations
  • Fecal parasite testing
  • Quarantine


Important medical conditions


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References