Please note that this information is in NO WAY intended to be an in-depth care guide,
or all that you need to know! This is meant to be a quick, general overview to answer basic questions, and help you make a shopping list of what you need before you bring your new dragon home.
Please make sure to thoroughly research your dragon’s care requirements!
The size should be an absolute minimum of a 40 gallon breeder or a 36in Exo Terra (the taller option.)
A front opening 4x2 enclosure is ideal. The bigger the better! You can look a Zen enclosures or the PVC style offered by several online companies. You can even make your own (there are some good tutorials on YouTube). Appropriate enclosure size is something that is often a debated among dragon keepers. I will say that a lot can depend on the activity level and age of your individual dragon, and how much enrichment your dragon is receiving. Pay attention to your dragon and it’s unique needs/preferences.
You will need a T5 fixture and bulb, either Reptisun or Arcadia brand. You want your UVB light to cover roughly 1/2 of your dragon’s enclosure, and it should be placed on the same side of the enclosure as your basking light.
Your basking fixture should go on one end of the enclosure (same side as your UVB light.) The type of fixture and wattage of bulb you need depends on the size and style of your enclosure. You want a hot side of the enclosure, and a cool side, so your dragon can decide what and when is comfortable to them. Ideal basking/hot side temp should be 102-108 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cool end should be in the mid 80s. *Note about night time temps. Turn all lights off at night. As long as your house stays in the 60s, your dragon is fine overnight without a heat source. If you need heat at night, try a ceramic heat admitter bulb. Do NOT use a heat pad, hot rock (ever), a red light bulb, or any other light at night.
Baby dragons need bugs every day. That can be a lot of trips to the pet store! I highly recommend saving time and money by ordering your bugs online in bulk. Bugs are easy to house and care for. Remember when feeding your bugs: what your bugs eat, your dragons eat! Don’t feed them things like potatoes that lack nutrients. Give them veggies & fruits, scraps, and leftover stems from your greens.
You can feed your dragon appropriately sized (the length of bug should be roughly the length between your dragon’s eyes) crickets, Dubia roaches, black solider fly larva, meal worms, super worms, etc. Variety is important! A baby dragon’s diet consists of 80% bugs and 20% greens. As adults this reverses to a diet of 80% greens. So don’t worry, your little dragon won’t always eat this many bugs! Young dragons need the extra protein while they are growing. Adult dragons that eat too many bugs can quickly become obese, which causes health issues and greatly shortens their life span.
Because your dragon’s diet should consist largely of greens and veggies for the majority of its life, it’s very important that they start eating greens as babies, and don’t get spoiled on live bugs!
We offer our dragons greens from their very first meal on, and they are always eating greens well when they leave here to go to their new homes. We always offer our babies greens first in the morning when they are most hungry, a few hours BEFORE we offer them any bugs!
Mustard greens, Turnip greens, Collard, Cilantro, Spring Mix, Arugula, Dandelion etc. are all good greens for your dragon. Again, variety is important! You can even grow your own greens at home! Stay away from Iceberg lettuce, as it lacks in nutritional value.
You can also offer some veggies (shredded squash, zucchini, etc.) Stay away from tomatoes, citrus, and most other fruits, (other than maybe berries for an occasional treat.) Remember to save your produce scraps to toss in the bug bin!
Stay away from any type of commercial pellet, canned or prepared food. They aren’t great for dragons, and your dragon is unlikely to eat it anyway. I DO recommend Repashy brand Grub Pie or Beardie Buffet. This is a powder that you prepare yourself by adding water (it makes something similar to jello in consistency) and store in the fridge. Some dragons love it, and some aren’t always impressed. We typically offer this a few times a month. It’s nice to ad in to their diet for variety, and is helpful to have on hand as a protein source for when a bug shipment is delayed, etc.
Calcium is very important for bearded dragons! Make sure your calcium has vitamin D3 in it. You should also have a multivitamin. If your multivitamin contains D3, then get calcium without D3, because your dragon can have too much D3. Bee pollen and probiotics are also good to give. "Mineral" is a good supplement, as well as the ones by Arcadia. Beardeddragon.co is a great source for a wide variety of supplements and meds.
Your Bearded Dragon should be getting a minimum of calcium every day to every other day. You can sprinkle the powder on your dragon's salad or “dust” your bugs with (by shaking some of the calcium with your bugs in a bag or tall container.) I recommend putting it on the bugs, because salad doesn’t always get finished, but bugs are more likely to be eaten.
Substrate is a big and often controversial topic among dragon keepers, and there are lots of options! I’m not going to address substrate in depth here, but for new keepers, I recommend shelf liner that you can buy in a roll at Walmart, Lowes, etc. I do NOT unpeel and use the adhesive backing. I simply unroll, measure, cut to size and lay flat in the enclosure. It is inexpensive, comes in all kinds of fun patterns and colors, and is easy to wipe, sanitize and spot clean. Throw away and replace when needed.
You can fill your dragon’s home with rocks, bricks, tile, wood, branches, fake plants, caves/hides, hammocks, climbs… Anything that encourages your dragon to be active, and not just just sit around a boring, empty enclosure like a potato! Use different textures, surfaces and heights to create a stimulating environment for your dragon to climb and explore! I cannot stress enough the importance of providing enrichment!
Do not use the stick on strip thermometers for aquariums, as they are not accurate. A hand held temperature gun is recommended to check temps of the hot and cool sides of the enclosure. You also need a humidity gauge inside the enclosure. Humidity should be less that 40%.
You will probably want a bowl that your worms and roaches can’t climb out of and hide in the enclosure. (But still shallow enough for your dragon to easily access.)
Bearded dragons are desert animals. Keeping a water bowl in the dragon’s enclosure is not necessary. They will likely just get it dirty, and it can make the humidity levels in the enclosure too high. We recommend misting your dragon’s salad as a source of hydration. Some dragons like to drink more than others. You can offer them water with a dropper, or give them a (lukewarm, shallow, always supervised) soak to allow them to drink if they want to.
Short times outside on warm days are great source of enrichment, and for getting some natural UVB rays! (Please note that some dragons really enjoy this, and others are very stressed by the outdoors.) A safe, appropriately fitting harness is the safest way to take your dragon outside.
For deep cleaning your dragon’s enclosure, you will want to use something like (diluted) F10 cleaner for Veterinary use, or Chlorhexidine, to thoroughly disinfectant and kill any harmful parasites, etc. You will also want to keep hand sanitizer nearby to use after handling your dragon, as they (like all reptiles) can carry salmonella.