Bearded Dragon

COMMON NAME

SCIENTIFIC NAME

IUCN STATUS

CITES

EU ANNEX

Crested Gecko Correlophus (Rhacodactylus) ciliatus - - -

 

INTRODUCTION

Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps previously Amphiboluris vitticeps) are lizards that belong to the agamid group. They are 13-24 inches long including the tail and are often confused with the smaller Rankin's Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni) or the larger Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata), also found commercially. The care for these is very similar, if not identical, in captivity.

Bearded Dragons are robust, active, inquisitive and quite placid generally and have entered the pet trade in recent years following the Green Iguana trend. These are smaller animals and ground dwellers generally (considered semiarboreal) which make them easier to keep in a vivarium. They may live around 8-12 years but there are reports of longer living lizards - this is closely related to the husbandry.

They have a spikey beard that they can expand and their body colour depends on the type of terrain the come from, ranging from lighter colours to brown. In captivity there are numerous morphs available ie Blood or Leatherback.

Males, like all agamids, have femoral pores that are more marked than those of females which are generally smaller, less robust and with smaller heads. Males have two hemipenes which are visible just caudal to the cloaca. Head bobbing is a behaviour found in agamids and iguanids, often displayed as territorial or mating behaviour.

Their habitat ranges from forests to deserts or scrub lands. They are considered a semi arboreal lizard that are often found basking on branches.
 

HUSBANDRY

TERRARIUM

LA vivarium 60x30x30cm would suit a young animal but soon a larger vivarium would be needed. Ideally as much space as possible should be given but a 1-1.2m long vivarium would suit a larger animal. They can be kept in groups (taking in to account extra space) but males often display intra specific territorial aggressiveness.

Aeration is important as is regular cleaning of the vivarium - these lizards will regularly pass large amounts of stools which ideally should be removed.

Different substrates can be used, although following gastrointestinal foreign body removals we have seen, we would recommend a reptile carpet or newspaper - something they cannot ingest. These have successfully ben kept on a soil/sand mix also.

A hide of some sort should also be provided, as should some branches to enhance semi arboreal behaviour.

LIGHTING

Ultraviolet (UV) lighting is important in this species and UV-A and UV-B should be supplied for calcium metabolism and behavior/reproductive purposes, respectively. A photo period of 12h is recommended and Bearded Dragons will often bask under high intensity bulbs that also emit heat. UV tubes (especially T5s) and UV compact or basking bulbs can be used. This will depend on the size of the setup as basking bulbs can easily overheat the environment.

TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY

A heated vivarium (whether from a mat on the side or under tank, basking lights etc) should have a thermo gradient with a basking spot in the high 30's. A gradual night temperature drop to low-mid 20's will simulate their natural conditions. We must always remember that the reptile immune system depends on thermo regulation and therefore correct temperatures should follow the preferred optimal temperature zone (POTZ).

Relative humidity is usually kept low (40-60%) with no need to spray but may require a water bowl in the vivarium to mildly increase this. A normal small water dish for drinking is usually enough. A close eye should be kept on this as they can be dirty, either defecating in the water or trampling stools and contaminating the water.

DIET AND SUPPLEMENTATION

Bearded Dragons are opportunistic omnivores and tend to be more insectivorous as youngsters. In the wild they often live in habitats where food may be hard to find and therefore their large stomachs are adapted to take large quantities of plant matter, insects or occasional rodent. Approximately 20% of their diet in the wild is plant matter. Younger animals can be fed small amounts and frequent and although many will not take vegetable matter it is strongly advised to start them on these earlier on in life.

Insects readily available from pet stores include crickets, locusts, meal worms, morio worms. In captivity they may be fed insects and salads 3-4 times per week. This routine is followed by many EAZA zoos.

Insects should not be fed "off the shelf" and should be gut loaded - this can be achieved by feeding vegetables or commercially available feed to the insects.

Supplementation with calcium carbonate and multivitamins is very important. Although they will synthesize vitamin D3 with the use of UV-B lighting, supplementing with a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin D3 is strongly recommended. This can be used 1-2 times weekly and calcium carbonate powder can be used with the other feeds. The latter will improve the Calcium/Phosphorous (Ca/P) ratio.

BREEDING

This species is readily bred in captivity and cooling periods are frequently introduced by breeders to enhance and start the breeding season. This is achieved by reducing the photo period to 8-10h progressively and a temperature drop down to around 24-26C is also started. This period may last 2-3 months untill gradual increase to the previous lighting and temperature conditions is reached. The male will show interest in the female by bobbing his head up and down at the female and, after a successful mating, the female will lay 10-25 eggs 1-2 months after a successful mating. The eggs are generally removed and placed in an incubator around 27-29C and will hatch 8-11 weeks after. They young lizards will all hatch within 24h of each other and they are placed in a different setup to the parents. They will start ingesting food after 3 days and will reach sexual maturity after 1-2 years of age.

PREVENTIVE CARE

Parasitology testing is strongly recommended in this species as they frequently carry pinwroms and flagellated protozoa. The numbers will build up gradually over time and will depend on general hygiene.