Bearded Dragon Care: Diet, Size, Red Flags, and More


Bearded dragons, native to the Australian deserts, are the most popular pet lizards. Their name refers to the extendable flap of skin under their chin, which turns black when they feel stressed, dominant, or territorial. Even-tempered, docile, and easy to tame, bearded dragons bond closely with their caretakers and are generally hardy when cared for properly.

Span Life9-13 years
Average Adult SizeUp to 22 to 24 inches long,
Minimum Habitat Size22-gallon tank for a juvenile; 45-gallon breeder tank for an adult


Bearded dragons are typically tan-colored in the wild, but have been bred in a variety of colors and patterns. They communicate with each other through gestures such as arm waving and head bobbing. Bearded dragons are tolerant of handling and interaction with humans, and will spend their day hiding, basking, and climbing.


Bearded dragons need a spacious and appropriately shaped habitat to accommodate their natural behaviors, such as basking and climbing. The habitat should have a screened top to prevent escape and allow proper ventilation. A 20-gallon tank is a good starting size for a baby bearded dragon. However, as bearded dragons grow quickly, their habitat should be upgraded to at least 40 gallons for an adult. If multiple bearded dragons are housed together, even more space will be required.

Building your Habitat

To build a bearded dragon habitat, you will need to provide a hiding area, branches for climbing and basking, and a substrate. The hiding area should be moist to aid in shedding. Commercial substrates or reptile carpets are recommended, but avoid gravel, wood chips, and walnut shells. If using a particulate matter bedding such as sand, feed your bearded dragon in a dish to reduce the risk of ingestion.

Bearded dragons require a temperature gradient of 100°F at the warm end and 75°F at the cool end, with temperatures not falling below 70°F at night. Use an incandescent light or ceramic heater to create a basking zone during the day, and use a red heat bulb or ceramic heat emitter at night to provide heat without light.

Bearded dragons also require a full-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) bulb with UVB rays for 10-12 hours a day to produce vitamin D and enable them to absorb calcium. The bulb should be placed 1-2 feet away from the lizard and replaced every six months.

Humidity should be maintained at 30-50%. Mist the lizard and décor as needed to maintain humidity in this range. If the humidity falls too low, the lizard may retain shed skin. To increase ventilation and decrease humidity, add live plants to the habitat.

Cleaning Habitat

Clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily. Clean the habitat daily to remove droppings and uneaten foodPlace the bearded dragon in a safe enclosure.

  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution.
  • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water to remove all traces of the cleaner or bleach.
  • Dry the tank and furnishings before returning the bearded dragon to its habitat.

What do bearded dragons eat?

Bearded dragons are omnivores. Their diet should consist of a variety of foods, including insects, vegetables, and fruits.

Insects make up the majority of a bearded dragon’s diet, especially when they are young. Some popular insects to feed bearded dragons include crickets, mealworms, superworms, and hornworms. Insects should be gut-loaded before feeding, meaning they should be fed a nutritious diet for 24 hours before being fed to the bearded dragon.

Vegetables should make up about 25% of a bearded dragon’s diet. Some good vegetables to feed bearded dragons include collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, sweet potato, carrots, and zucchini. Vegetables should be washed and chopped before feeding.

Fruits can be fed to bearded dragons as a treat, but they should make up no more than 10% of their diet. Some good fruits to feed bearded dragons include apples, bananas, berries, and melons. Fruits should be washed and chopped before feeding.

It is important to avoid feeding bearded dragons processed foods, sugary foods, and fatty foods. These foods can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and liver disease.

Here is a sample bearded dragon diet:

  • Breakfast: 10 crickets
  • Lunch: A handful of chopped collard greens and a few pieces of sweet potato
  • Dinner: 5 super worms and a few pieces of banana

Bearded dragons should also be given access to fresh water at all times.


Signs of a healthy bearded dragon:

  • Bright and alert eyes
  • Clear skin without any discoloration or parasites
  • Strong and sturdy bones
  • Healthy appetite and regular bowel movements
  • Plump body with good muscle tone
  • Active and playful behavior

Some other points you should look at:

  • Eyes: A healthy bearded dragon will have bright, clear eyes. If your bearded dragon’s eyes are dull, sunken, or have any discharge, it may be a sign of illness.
  • Skin: A healthy bearded dragon’s skin should be smooth and free of discoloration or parasites. If you see any scabs, bumps, or redness on your bearded dragon’s skin, it may be a sign of a health problem.
  • Bones: A healthy bearded dragon will have strong and sturdy bones. If your bearded dragon’s bones seem weak or brittle, it may be a sign of a nutritional deficiency or other health problem.
  • Appetite and bowel movements: A healthy bearded dragon will have a good appetite and regular bowel movements. If your bearded dragon is not eating or drinking normally, or if its bowel movements are infrequent or loose, it may be a sign of illness.
  • Body condition: A healthy bearded dragon will have a plump body with good muscle tone. If your bearded dragon is underweight or has bony hips, it may be a sign of malnutrition or other health problems.
  • Behavior: A healthy bearded dragon will be active and playful. If your bearded dragon is lethargic or withdrawn, it may be a sign of illness.

If you notice any of the above signs, it is important to take your bearded dragon to a veterinarian for a checkup. Early diagnosis and treatment of health problems can help to ensure that your bearded dragon lives a long and healthy life.

Red flags in Bearded Dragons

If you notice any of the following signs in your bearded dragon, please contact your veterinarian immediately:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or withdrawal
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Discolored skin or scales
  • Swelling or bumps
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Lameness
  • Changes in behavior

These signs can indicate a variety of health problems, some of which can be serious if not treated promptly. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your bearded dragon and perform any necessary tests to diagnose the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Here are some additional red flags to be aware of:

  • Refusing to bask: Bearded dragons need to bask under a heat lamp to maintain their body temperature and produce vitamin D. If your bearded dragon is refusing to bask, it may be a sign of illness or discomfort.
  • Drinking excessively: Bearded dragons typically drink very little water, so if you notice your bearded dragon drinking more than usual, it may be a sign of kidney disease or another health problem.
  • Impaction: Bearded dragons can sometimes become impacted, meaning that they have ingested something that is blocking their digestive system. This can be caused by eating too much substrate, insects with hard exoskeletons, or other objects that are not part of their normal diet. If your bearded dragon is not passing stool or is straining to defecate, it may be a sign of impaction.
  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD): MBD is a serious condition that can develop in bearded dragons that do not receive enough calcium and vitamin D. Signs of MBD include soft bones, swollen joints, and deformed limbs.

If you notice any of these red flags, please contact your veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to ensure that your bearded dragon makes a full recovery.

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The price of a bearded dragon is 60 to 100$ on average.

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