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Table of contents: Where do Bearded Dragon's come from? | The Bearded Dragon species, lifespan and size | When is a Bearded Dragon a hatchling, juvenile, and adult? | How much food should I feed my Bearded Dragon? | Bearded Dragon diet | How to get your Bearded Dragon to eat veggies | Which Dragon gender is more aggressive? | How can you tell the gender of your Dragon?
Where do Bearded Dragon's come from?
The Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona Vitticeps) is found throughout most of Southern Australia. Also, regions of Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales.
With all those locations, of course, the habitat in the terms of environment differs greatly. Shrub-lands occupy large areas of the arid, and semi-arid areas of southern Australia. As well as regions New South Wales.
Also you will find, and surprising to many, our Bearded Dragons dwelling in the forest and woodland areas. Certainly around Alice Springs they're a very common sight.
Bearded Dragon natural environment - substrate
With this varying shrub, bush, and tree growth in their occupied areas, comes a variety of substrates. These range from hard compact clay's, soil and leaf-litter to that familiar red sand we see in many wildlife documentaries set in the 'outback' of Australia. Your beardie's vivarium and set up will need to reflect their natural habitat.
The Bearded Dragon species, lifespan and size
The Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona Vitticeps) is our most common Bearded Dragon found in the worldwide pet-trade. There are also a number of “sub-species”, with the much smaller Rankins Dragon (Henrylawsoni) readily available across the UK.
Central Bearded Dragon's lifespan and average size
- The Central Bearded Dragon has average captivity lifespan of 8-10 years.
- And an average length, nose to tail-tip of between 18 and 22 inches. Obviously this can still vary in both larger and smaller beardies.
Rankins Dragon (Henrylawsoni) lifespan and average size
- The Rankins Dragon (Henrylawsoni) has an average lifespan of around 8-10 years in captivity.
- But with a much smaller average length of 8 to 10 inches.
The other Bearded Dragon subspecies are:
- Pogona barbata, Eastern - or Coastal Bearded Dragon
- Pogona minor minima - Dwarf Bearded Dragon
- Pogona minor - Western Bearded Dragon
- Pogona microlepidota - Drysdale River Bearded Dragon
- Pogona henrylawsoni - Rankins, or Lawson Bearded Dragon
- Pogona nullarbor - Nullarbor Bearded Dragon
- Pogona minor mitchelli - Mitchells Bearded Dragon
You may like to read this: The cost of your Bearded Dragon and his set up
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When is a Bearded Dragon a hatchling, juvenile, and adult?
For me, I have always found it easier to state three stages of growth, determined via age and development
When is a Bearded Dragon a hatchling?
At 0-6 months your Bearded Dragon is a hatchling. This is where the rapid growth takes place. It's important that you provide the correct diet at this stage. My chart below advises the frequency of feeding.
When is a Bearded Dragon a juvenile?
At 6-12 months your Bearded Dragon is a juvenile. Although still a fair bit of growing to be had. It will certainly start to slow down from here on in.
When is a Bearded Dragon an adult?
From 12 months onwards – I have always started the adult diet regime from here.The reason why I use the age of 12 months upwards as the “adult” cut-off point, is simply because 99% of their growing is complete at this stage. So the diet should shift from “proteins for growth” of the baby and juvenile stage. To all round health and conditioning of adult life.
How much food should I feed my Bearded Dragon?
What other factors affect the growth of a Bearded Dragon?
For optimal growth, and health, these four “requirements” must be of the very best options available.
Bearded Dragon diet
A full rich and varied diet will always serve best regarding health, and growth. Feeding any one or two feeders solely, will not provide enough nutritional benefit within the diet. Even with the addition of supplements. “Variety is the spice of life”, as they say. As well as, “you are what you eat”. Both ring true here.
How does heat and UVB help my bearded dragon?
Again, this combo MUST be correct, and of the best option available, for a fully energized and enriched growth rate.
What's the best lighting for a Bearded Dragon?
The best lighting I'd suggest is T5 Arcadia 12%. or 14% if you have a 2ft tall viv.
What's the best temperature for a Bearded Dragon's basking spot?
The best temperature for the basking spot is around 38 - 42c with the cool end around 10c cooler.
A combination of the correct heating and lighting aids the full digestion and utilization of what they eat throughout the body. Affecting everything from bone and muscle development to organ health and bloods. Thus, maximizing growth to that individual dragons full potential.
The above are also directly affected when it comes to the size of your vivarium.
Find out how much heat lamps and UV lighting can cost in our Beardie costs article.
What size should my vivarium be for my bearded dragon?
The minimum recommended for a single captive Bearded Dragon is 4ft x 2ft x 2ft.
This size, or bigger, allows you to easily meet the needed heat and UV gradient needed within the set-up.
Smaller. And you may struggle to maintain the optimal temperatures for example.
Your Bearded Dragon and hydration
If your water bowl is used in your set up, then keep it in there. You should ensure it''s a small bowl, or one that they can't lay in, as this can cause issues such as scale rot.
If you don't use a water bowl, it's always good to offer another source of hydration. But do bear in in mind that a Dragon gets 99% of their hydration needs through the greens they eat. And of course, fully hydrated livefood.
A bath is another hydration method, IF the water is taken in orally. They have evolved over millions of years to be able to utilise the water content of plant matter and live prey. In an environment where often, water is scarce. So a few decades of captive breeding will not change this fact.
It is completely untrue in that they absorb fluids via the Cloaca (vent area). This was long since debunked. Even way back in the 1990's.
Also, their skin is a 100% waterproof keratin based protein. Designed to keep hydration in. So nothing is hydrating via the skin either.
You may like to read this: What set up do I need for my Bearded Dragon
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Bearded Dragon and veggies
You should give greens, veg, herbs, flowers and plants from that very first day, and continually afterwards. This helps your Beardie see these as parts of their diet.
From new born until around 6 months old, a dragons main goal, is growth and internal strength for muscles and organs. So live-food and proteins take centre stage here. But giving greens, veg, herb, flowers and plants from that very 1st day, and continually afterwards, even before any live-foods if needed, helps the Dragon see these as important part of eating. And not just a secondary food source.
Of course. You may already have an adult Dragon, whom is already a 'salad dodger', as they say.
How to get your Bearded Dragon to eat veggies
The first method: Hold off live food
I only suggest this IF the dragon has been checked by a herp Vet. And is deemed of a healthy weight to allow this process
- You don't feed any live foods. Only the veggies, daily. The idea being, hunger prevails, and they will eventually eat the veggies. And it definitely does works. I've done it over the years successfully, without any issue at all.
The second method: Rotate the food process
For example, you feed veggies at 9am in the morning. And of course, they don't get eaten. So you then feed live in the afternoon. They get eaten without issue....
So, don't feed the veggies at 9am and instead feed them at the time you'd feed the live-food normally in replace of the live-food (so no live-food is fed).
As our dragons are reptiles of habit and routines in captivity, swapping food source here may confuse them at first. But as they “expect” a good meal in the afternoon. They often end up tucking into the veggies instead.
This method, again, has been very successful for myself, and those I've recommended it to via my Facebook groups, or at meetings.
Like the first method. You may have to persevere a week or so.
Method three: Pre & pro-biotic stimulant
Again, under vet guidance. This has also proven very successful for me. It involves offering veggies in the morning as normal. But instead of live-food in the afternoon provide a pre/pro-biotic drink. Ideally, both together. But either or will work. I use Vetark Avi-Pro Plus, and Reptoboost.
What ideally will happen is, these 'biotic' bacteria naturally stimulate the stomach and digestive system. Blasting it with goodness. In turn, stimulating hunger. And that, often gets that fussy dragon eating what's in front of it.
Which Dragon gender is more aggressive?
Having been a Dragon keeper for 30+ years now. I can honestly say, I've not seen anything to swing it for either gender here.
I've had aggressive males, and females. Often ones I've taken on or rescued.
If you provide that dragon, be it male, or female, with the absolute best equipment available to make its life as close to the conditions to which they have evolved over millions of years to need. And provide it within that vivaria set-up. The dragon should be a happy as a dragon can be.
With optimal temps within, mental, visual, and physical enrichment inside, a varied and full diet. All should work out just fine. Regardless of gender.
How can you tell the gender of your Dragon?
The best way is to stand your Bearded Dragon on a flat surface and shine a bright torch through the top of the tail at the tail base. If you see two prominent, separate 'bulbs', then you have a male. If its a more longer, 'one' bulb. Then you have a female.
This can be done from birth. Although it IS more reliable to wait a couple of month to be 100% certain.
Why does a Dragon bob its head?
Many say head bobbing is a strictly male dragon thing. This is incorrect.
Granted, males are far more likely to be doing this behaviour. And primarily, it's linked to dominance. But there is a 'submissive' bob of the head also.
The faster, more aggressive head bob happens when two Dragons see each other.
This could result in both bobbing their heads, fast, and frantically, usually until one submits. Either by a slow wave of the arm. Or, a much more slower, graceful head-bob.
The slower head-bob is also something that females will do, if accepting the dominance of a male for mating.
If you witness your solitary Dragon doing this, just ignore it.
Many Dragons will do this at times, as if to rekindle the fact that, their vivarium is just that. Theirs. So they will let all whom are willing to witness their head-bob know about it.
Its nothing to worry about at all.
When a Bearded Dragon turns black
A Bearded Dragon turns back to attract more heat and UVB, to warm up and energise much quickly. Or should I say, far more efficiently.
You will notice, first thing in the morning, either before, or just after the heat and UVB have turned on within your vivaria, that your Bearded Dragon is a far darker, almost black like colour along its back.
We all know that you wear darker colours to gain more external heat benefit (sun). And you'll wear white to be cooler. To reflect the heat and UV rays.
Well, it's the same with our Dragons.
So to counter this. When fully heated up. And UVB energised. They will become a far brighter colour along their backs. Again, this is to reflect heat and UV.
Think of this as part of their own heating and cooling system. Their way to aid thermoregulation.
Now, when it comes the the front of the dragon, meaning the beard and belly, this is a different matter altogether.
Why does a Bearded Dragon’s neck turn black?
Any darkening of the beard is primarily linked to their communication.
It can mean that they're not happy about something.
Or it can be shown along with some head-bobbing in regards to a dominance display to another.
If your dragons beard is dark for extended periods of time in its viv I would do this:
- 1. Go over your set-up parameters first. Check the UVB and heat and that the UVB tube is in date. Also check they're at the manufactures recommended distance.
- 2. Check the heating: Make sure that heat bulb is giving the optimal heat for that basking spot. I always aim for 38 - 42c with the cool end around 10c cooler.
- 3. A vet visit: If the darker beard continues, and you've conducted the above checks, then I'd recommend a vet visit. A prolonged display could be a sign of illness.
This article was written by Pete Hawkins for ExoticDirect
Winner of The Reptile Reports, Readers Choice, Lizard Personality of the Year 2016.
You can find Pete via his Facebook groups: Bearded Dragons Network; Chameleon Network; Snake Network; Amphibian Network; Lizard Network, and in multiple publications worldwide.