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If you’ve done any research on these lizards, you’ll know that bearded dragons as pets are one of the most commonly available pet lizards being sold. And there are good reasons for this: they are hardy, calm, and fairly easy to care for. But while they may be good pets in principle, they can still have many drawbacks. Before you decide to bring one home with you, it might not hurt to read up on what bearded dragons as pets require!
Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information
Before we jump into if a bearded dragon is a good pet, let’s first discuss this reptile and it’s care requirements.
Bearded Dragon is the common name for Pogona vitticeps, a popular pet reptile. There are actually many different species of the bearded dragon but Pogona vitticeps is the most popular pet in the States.
Their natural habitat is arid to semi-arid lands in Australia and New Guinea. They enjoy the heat and can adapt to many different environments.
They are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the daytime. They can also be nocturnal if given enough light for them to be active.
Appearance & Size
Most people are somewhat surprised when they first see a bearded dragon up close. The adult size for the Pogona vitticeps species is typically 16 to 24 inches but can range anywhere from 12 to 30 inches. It’s not uncommon for them to take up to 3 years, or more, to reach their full adult size.
Their appearance is how their name came to be. With heads looking like a beard, they are commonly called “bearded dragons”. They have claws on their feet and can be somewhat difficult to clean if they start to shed.
Habitat & Temperature Requirements
It’s important that you provide your bearded dragon with a stable temperature environment ranging between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side for them to thrive. They also need a basking area temperature of around 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. As with other reptiles, a basking spot for your beardie is important.
They will also require a UV light for them to be able to metabolize their food which is very important for bearded dragons and all reptiles.
Water container for them to drink from and a humidity/water bowl can be added but can also be provided on the terrarium. You’ll need to provide fresh water at least once a day.
For complete details on the bearded dragon habitat, please see our Bearded Dragon Habitat Guide. A few things to note, please do not use red lights in their habitat and be careful when picking the substrate of their home.
Food and Water
Baby bearded dragons will be on a mostly insect diet consisting of crickets. As they age into juvenile bearded dragons and adults, they will gradually move over to eating leafy greens and vegetables and less protein.
Crickets that are fed to a bearded dragon should not be very large, especially for baby bearded dragons. Never feed any items bigger than the distance between the bearded dragon’s eyes.
For a complete guide, see our What Do Bearded Dragons Eat guide.
Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets?
To answer the question of Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets, we will take a look at the pros and cons of this reptile to help you make an informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Bearded Dragon as a Pet
There are many factors to consider before purchasing a beaded dragon. Below we visit both the positives and negatives of owning a bearded dragon as a pet.
Bearded Dragon Pros
Beardies are known to have a peaceful and calm temperament making them an excellent companion. Their natural tendency is to be passive and as they age, they typically become more docile. In addition, beardies tend to enjoy interactions with their people, which is not common in a lot of other pet reptiles.
The bearded dragon life expectancy is 8 – 12 years. You can expect to be able to enjoy your pet bearded dragon for a long, long time.
Color & Patterning
Bearded dragons come in many different colors, patterns, and even the ability to have a large pattern of dark and light spots on their tails. Due to the different variations of beards, they are often used as pets due to their unique appearance alone.
Easy to Take Care of
They are relatively easy to keep as long as their needs are met. Care for your bearded dragon is simple and low-maintenance once you’ve set it up with the proper temperature and lighting (like a nice UVB lamp). Bearded dragons are not picky eaters and require minimal grooming.
Their diet is also extremely easy to make and maintain. In addition, their homes can be fun to decorate with hides and other fun additions.They can thrive on a diet of live food completely supplemented with a calcium supplement as babies. Growing up beardies are fed more fruit and vegetables, which makes them a great starter pet for those who want to transition into feeding more vegetarian-based diets.
Intelligence and Can Show Affection
As far as reptiles go, the bearded dragon is pretty intelligent. They have the capacity to recognize their owner and although they do not feel “love”, they do associate their owners with positive feelings over time and can be affectionate.
As mentioned above, feeding is straight forward and not as complicated as some other reptiles. The key is to understand their diet and how it changes as they age from baby to adult.
A bearded dragon’s diet should consist of a variety of live insects and good quality leafy greens. They will also benefit from having a calcium supplement added to the mix to help with bone development, which is especially important for juveniles that are growing fast during their first few years.
Bearded Dragons aren’t picky eaters, which makes it very easy to make sure they’re getting everything they need. However, they do have preferences and can get upset if their diet changes.
They Can Be Good Pets For Kids
As with any animal, consider the child’s personality and the animal’s characteristics. They do enjoy interacting with people and typically enjoy being held by their owners, which makes them great pets for kids who can handle them.
Perfect Size for Indoors
The size of beardies work great for many households. They are large enough to not easily be lost and they are relatively sturdy. They will also typically not cause destruction to your home or furniture.
Can A Beaded Dragon Be a Perfect Starter Reptile for New Pet Owners
Unlike some other lizards, bearded dragons typically make excellent starter reptiles due to their easy care requirements, their docile nature and thier ability to bond with people. This is not to say there are not some negatives to having beaded dragons as pets. We will take a look at some below.
Cons of Owning a Bearded Dragon as a Pet
It doesn’t matter how fantastic bearded dragons are, or how fascinating and thrilling their behavior is, they aren’t the ideal pet for everyone. Below we list some potential drawbacks to adding a beardie to your househild.
Cons of bearded Dragons as Pets
Bearded dragons are very active animals and they require a large enclosure to be able to move around freely, as well as room to climb and bask in the UV light. Which is why most enclosures you find at a pet shop are way too small. Be sure you have enough space for for the 50+ gallon enclosure that adult beardies will need.
Lighting Setup Can Be A Challenge
To keep your beardie happy and healthy, it needs not just the right temperature, but also needs a UVB light. Bearded dragons need this light to help with the development of their bones and to help them synthesize vitamin D3 (useful in processing calcium). If you don’t have the correct type of UVB bulb or exposure can lead to life-threatening metabolic bone disease.
They Love to Eat
Just as we seen they are not picky eaters as a pro, their is also a downside to this, they can eat a lot. Especially when they are babies you will be going through a good amount of hoppers (crickets) on a daily basis which can get expensive if purchasing from a pet store. You can breed crickets easily but many owners do not want to deal with this.
They Require Regular Cleaning
For a lizard, they do make a fair amount of mess and need daily attention to keep their habitat clean and healthy. You will have to clean up their feces daily, along with any left over food that they don’t eat. This can get pretty messy, especially if they decide they want to play in the corner of their enclosure.
They Have Some Common Health Issues
Just like any other pet, they are prone to a few health issues like metabolic bone disease and respiratory infections. You will need to take some time to learn about common issues so you know how to spot them and seek a vet when necessary.
Potential for Parasites
Beardies can be parasite carriers. The most common are pinworms, which are common intestinal parasites. They’re most likely parasitic organisms (in which the parasite benefits from living in the lizard while the lizard is neither harmed nor benefits from the parasite). The skin of bearded dragons may be infested with mites and ticks.
Wrapping Up Bearded Dragons as Pets
In conclusion, the bearded dragon is a great reptile to have as a pet. They bond with their owners, they do not require large amounts of space, they are easy to care for, and once you’ve taken the time to learn about them, you’ll find that they are pretty docile and laid back.
Bearded dragons are perfect for beginner reptile owners who want an all around friendly lizard that’s low maintenance. But, even for those who have much more experience with reptiles, bearded dragons make a great choice.
Below are some additional common questions relating to owning a bearded dragon as a pet.
Can I get Salmonella from a Bearded Dragon?
Yes, beardies can carry Salmonella just like many other reptiles. Salmonella germs can get you sick if you ingest them after coming into contact with your bearded dragon or anything else in its environment. The place where your bearded dragon resides and roams should never be touched without first washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water and always wash your hands after handing your beardie.
Do Bearded Dragons Fart?
It may seem like a silly inquiry, but it’s actually a legitimate one. Farts are common in almost all mammals and reptiles.
Certainly there will be a fart from a bearded dragon at some point. Often, it occurs right after or during a bowel movement. Furthermore, there is no need to be alarmed. For lizards, farting is a common occurrence.
When compared to other animals, bearded dragons fart less regularly. Farting is a natural bodily function that occurs in all mammals. The bacteria in the intestine produce this gas, which is why farts smell so bad.
Do Bearded Dragons Smell?
Because they lack sweat glands, beardies have no scent. The whitish substance you may notice in their excrement is their pee, which is in the form of solid urates. This can cause your tank to smell if you don’t clean it thoroughly enough. Your beardie will then smell like pee as a result of an unclean environment.