Baby Bearded Dragon Care: Guide from Tank Setup to Diet

Baby bearded dragons are adorable faces and have fun personalities. Before you bring them home with you, make sure that you have the right setup for them! In order to properly care for a baby bearded dragon, you’ll need to learn what kind of tank set-up is needed for baby beardies, including the type of light bulb (or other heat sources), substrate or bedding material, and diet.

Baby Bearded Dragon Care Basics

Baby bearded dragon care basics

Some basics you’ll need to care for a bearded dragon pet include an enclosure. This can be any size but is usually around 10-20 gallons in total capacity. You should also get a substrate such as sand or dirt (which should be washed before use) and place the enclosure on top of this material. Then add rocks, plants, branches, etc., as desired!

You will also need something to provide light for your beardie which includes either natural or artificial lighting sources. Most reptiles need UVB light so a good idea would be fluorescent tubes with UV or UVB light.

Below is a complete guide on how to care for a pet bearded dragon baby:

Selecting a Baby Bearded Dragon Pet

Bearded dragons are a great choice for first-time owners. These little creatures are low maintenance and make excellent starter pets for families with children or people who live in apartments.

Here are 5 tips on how to choose a good bearded dragon pet:

  • Choose an active bearded dragon: Look for one that is active and alert. Bearded dragons should be receptive to handling and interaction with their owner.
  • Good dental health: If the pet’s mouth contains an accumulation of food or feces in addition to teeth problems, it could have serious health issues (including respiratory infections) that will need extensive veterinary care. If there are any concerns about this, ask your veterinarian as soon as possible before purchasing the lizard.
  • Choose a healthy-looking bearded dragon: The most important factor when selecting a baby bearded dragon pet is its general appearance including body weight relative to age, skin elasticity, activity level, coloration of scales around the neck/throat area, and eye shape and size. If the dragon looks healthy, it’s a good sign that this is also true internally.
  • Select dragons with bright or unclouded eyes: A baby bearded dragon pet will look around at its environment and have clear, active looking eyes.
  • Pink tongue and mouth: Choose a bearded dragon with a pink tongue and mouth. The dragon should extend its tongue and open its mouth when handled. When healthy, these pets will have a pink-colored tongue with no black spots or other abnormalities of the skin on the surface, throat, or inside the mouth.

Note that baby beardies can be purchased at any time of year, however there might be more color variation during certain seasons such as spring when females start to mate. This should not confuse you when selecting a young bearded dragon to care for.

Here’s a video to guide you further on selecting a healthy and active bearded dragon:

Habitat Requirements

When setting up a home for your bearded dragon, pay attention to the needs of the baby bearded dragon. The size of the tank, accessories, and cozying up the environment with the appropriate light and heat are some of the important things you should consider when setting up your beardie’s new home.

Here’s the habitat set-up guide with the requirements:

Tank size and setup

Baby bearded dragon water tank set up

Set up a 10-gallon aquarium tank for your juvenile bearded dragon, preferably made of transparent glass. As the reptile grows, increase the size of the tank to 20-50 gallons depending on how big the bearded dragon is, and if you’ll be housing tank-mates together with your new pet.

Here’s a good table guide when choosing the tank size:

Reptile sizeTank size
Below 10’’ long20 gallons
10-16’’ long40 gallons
Over 16’’ long (adults)50-75 gallons
Over 20’’ long (large adults)75-125 gallons

When fully grown, bearded dragons can measure up to 2-feet long. Therefore, choose an enclosure that provides ample space for the pet to feel comfortable and move easily.

Bearded dragon tanks should be large and tall, with a minimum of 36 inches by 18 inches or more. A good rule is to consider the tank size in relation to your furniture. For example, if you have a couch that’s just as long but only half the width, then it would make sense for your dragon’ tank to be at least 18″ x 36″. The height can vary based on what type of decor you want.

You can choose to have the cage in an open area or on top of something tall so that it is easier to change the substrate when needed. Bearded dragons also need live plants inside their enclosure, as well as other accessories and decorations such as rocks and logs.

More on the good tank accessories below.

What to put in the tank

Apart from setting up the right size of the tank, you want to make sure you accessorize the vivarium so that your reptile pet will feel comfortable and safe when in there.

Here are 3 important things to put in your bearded dragon’s tank:

  • Basking rocks or dead logs: To give your bearded dragon an extra place to climb and explore, you can either buy a rock or cut down a log. These reptiles love climbing on things!
  • Dishes for water and food: Make sure you have dishes in your tank for water and food. Bearded dragons need to drink a lot of water so make sure they always have some at their disposal!
  • Live plants: These are great for your pet to have in the tank because they like climbing on things and perching themselves up high. Make sure you put safe plants for bearded dragons in case they decide to eat them. Examples of live plants to put in the tank include bromeliads, English ivy and aloe vera plants.

Tank floor substrate

You can put a layer of sand on the floor to make it easier for your dragon to move around. Alternative substrates to sand include paper towels, newspaper, and reptile carpet.

When choosing a substrate for the tank’s flooring, think about whether or not the lizard will need extra heat underneath them because some types of substrate have a higher rate of heat absorption than others do.

  • For reptile pets that like to spend all day in one spot resting, it’s best to put them on newspaper or reptile carpet because they’re cool.
  • Pet reptiles in the stage of exploring the tank a lot, sand would be a good choice for substrate because it has great thermal properties and allows bearded dragons to regulate their own body temperature easily.

You can also use a mixture of sand and wood chips. This will give your pet the best of both worlds because they’ll be able to maintain their own temperature and have a comfortable surface under them.

Heat

Baby bearded dragons require the right temperature during different times to grow healthy and happy. The recommended temperatures are as follows:

  • 75-85°F during daytime
  • 88-100°F in the basking spot
  • 70-75°F during the night

Provide a heat lamp in the tank to provide the necessary warmth that’ll care for your baby bearded dragon. These lamps simulate sunlight by providing heat with no visible light and are great at keeping bearded dragons comfortable.

The bearded dragon’s natural habitat is in the desert, so it needs warmth to regulate its body temperature. Place a heating pad or lamp on one side of the tank, but don’t position it too close to your pet because bearded dragons are sensitive to light.

Alternatively install an overhead lamp as long as it doesn’t produce any UV lights that might confuse their circadian rhythm. This method will only work if there is no other source of heat like a heating pad or infrared bulb nearby.

Pro tip: Place a thermometer in the tank to monitor the temperature and heat it up until you reach the desired warmth. The best way to tell if your pet is too cold is by looking at their breathing rate: If it’s less than 15 breaths per minute, then they may need more warmth!

Light requirements

Provide UVB light for the baby bearded dragon. UVB rays are necessary for calcium absorption. If the lamp does not produce UVB light then you should get one that does before putting them inside of their vivarium.

The light inside the bearded dragon tank has two purposes:

  • It provides heat from above via infrared bulbs which helps them feel cozy and warm so they’ll use their natural behaviors like basking longer.
  • Infrared light increases vitamin D production which gives bearded dragons the ability to utilize the calcium and phosphorous in their diet and strengthen their bones.

Note that Bearded dragons do not require light at night. However, you should provide your baby beardie with at least 12 hours of light each day, but it is not necessary to have them on a timer. If the lights are off too long, they will become deficient in calcium and essential nutrients.

Pro tip: During winter, bearded dragons will hibernate a lot and they need a light cycle of 10-12 hours on, 12-14 hours off. When caring for your baby bearded dragon, keep this in mind to promote optimum growth and bone development.

Hiding spots

Hiding in their environment is important because bearded dragons are sensitive animals that can easily be stressed with changes in temperature or light levels. They need time alone every day where they’re not disturbed by humans so they can recoup from disturbances outside of their home environment.

A 20 gallon long aquarium will hold two adult bearded dragons comfortably.

  • Provide enough room at each end of the tank for hiding spots (this means make sure they’re not too close together).
  • Place one hide box on either side of the tank – this should be large enough to fit both animals inside easily; use cork bark, fake plant leaves/branches, or moss as material – misted periodically to maintain humidity levels.
  • Add layers of newspaper around the tank and hide spots to create a substrate for the dragons. This will allow them to bury themselves, use it as a scratching post, or just get out of direct sunlight if they want.

Diet and Feeding a Baby Bearded Dragon

Feeding baby bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal material. They will often graze on plants during the day, but they also enjoy crickets as a treat.

What foods do bearded dragons eat?

Offer baby bearded dragons small sized insects such as mealworms or wax worms for additional protein in their diet at every other feeding to help them grow properly.

Here’s a list of foods to offer your baby bearded dragon for a mixed diet:

  • Crickets: These are great for baby bearded dragon care because they’re less chunky. They’re great when introducing live food into the baby bearded dragon’s diet
  • Waxworms: For variety (and an extra protein boost), consider periodically offering wax worms at every other feeding or even daily if you’re feeling generous!
  • Dubia roaches: These roaches contain about 54% protein, 29% fat, and 17% carbohydrate. Bearded dragons need lots of calcium to grow strong bones. One dubia roach has about 93mg of calcium.
  • Goliath worms: Also called hornworms, these are a great staple insect feeder for baby bearded dragons. They are a little bit bigger than mealworms but are easy to feed to the reptile because they don’t have any legs or wings. Goliath worms are rich in calcium, vitamin B-12 and protein. They are also a high fat content feeder insect which is perfect for baby bearded dragons that need to grow rapidly in order to keep up with their energy demands.
  • Kale leaves: Supplement your baby bearded dragon’s diet with kale leaves. They’re a great way to provide natural fiber and protein while also giving your pet plenty of vitamins. Alternative greens are lettuce, edible cactus, and dandelion greens.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkins are a great source of calcium for baby bearded dragons. Feed them at least 1 small pumpkin piece per day.

There are many other foods you can include in your baby bearded dragon care plan. However, take precaution not to include too much fat content as this can make the baby bearded dragon grow thick fat pads quite easily.

How many times to feed a baby bearded dragon

The frequency of feedings depends on age. Feed younger babies up to four times per day to help them grow faster. Older beardies may only need one to two meals per week.

Adult bearded dragons require an average amount of food which is generally measured by weight rather than volume, because different sizes of foods such as crickets have variable caloric content.

Younger bearded dragons are fed more frequently due to their rapid growth phase when compared with adults that typically stay around one size throughout their life duration.

Water

Bearded dragons need to drink water almost constantly. They get most of their moisture from the food they eat, but still drink a lot and it is important for them to stay hydrated.

  • Mist their cage every day with fresh water (tap water works just fine). Be sure not to overdo this as you don’t want your dragon breathing in too much water that will make him sick.
  • Change the water daily or more often depending on how many bearded dragons live together.
  • If you have just one baby bearded dragon living alone, change the water at least once per week.
  • Tap/well water needs no additional treatment before given to the lizard; distilled or bottled springwater may require adding calcium minerals – 50% strength reptile multivitamin can help.

Change the water every day if you’re using a dish pan or other container with no drainage holes in it, so that your pet can’t drink dirty water and become sick.

Supplements

Insects are a poor source of calcium and vitamin D3. If you feed your bearded dragon with high calcium insects like roaches or grasshoppers but still see signs of deficiency, you might want to consider artificial supplements for your baby bearded dragon.

Here are some supplements you can buy for your beardie:

  • Calcium powder
  • vitamin D (Dietary supplement)
  • multivitamin.

Some mineral powders contain calcium, vitamin D and other vitamins that can help your dragon grow healthy.

Gut loading insects is another way to deal with nutrient deficiency. It is the process of feeding insects to your pet bearded dragon in order for them to absorb more nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Insects are a good gut load because they contain lots of protein which will help your beardie grow big and strong. Gut loading also helps replace missing calcium in their diet as well as iron or other trace minerals that may be absent from commercially available food pellets.

If you still see signs of deficiency, you may need to take your bearded dragon to the vet instead for further examination.

Common Problems

Bearded dragons have their own unique set of needs when compared with other reptiles like snakes that don’t require much heat or light. It’s essential that your bearded dragon gets 12-14 hours of UVB wavelength light per day in order for its body to produce vitamin D which helps them absorb calcium and form strong bones and teeth (it also aids in blood clotting).

Common diseases and problems include the following:

Parasites

Parasites such as the bearded dragon mite (Brachyteles spp.), the bearded dragon beetle, and others can be a problem for these lizards. They feed on the skin or body fluids of their host

An adult female dragon’s eggs are often eaten by beetles that lay in them to hatch their own young.

There is no practical way to control most parasites without resorting to pesticides which should not be used inside any enclosure with other animals unless absolutely necessary.

Impaction

Impaction occurs when they ingest too many small items and these objects block their intestines or stomach from functioning properly. Signs your baby bearded dragon is impacted include:

  • Difficulty walking due to abdominal pain
  • Labored breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Loss of appetite

In some cases, an impacted lizard may not show any signs at all but still be in serious danger internally. If you suspect your pet has ingested anything harmful such as plastic bags or wire hangers contact your veterinarian immediately for advice on what else to do before taking them in for examination. Early treatment can save lives!

Yellow Fungus

Bearded dragons often have a fungus called yellow beard disease. This is not dangerous, but it can cause your dragon to stop eating and become lethargic. Warning signs include:

  • Lack of appetite when they should be hungry
  • Bright colors in their poop.

The best course of action is to keep an eye on the problem for a few days before taking any action.

If the problem persists, or if the dragon is lethargic and not eating for more than a day, see your veterinarian.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Bearded dragon metabolic bone disease is characterized by the gradual breakdown of the bones due to a lack of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus in the diet or from illnesses such as parasites or other diseases.

In advanced cases, it can also be caused by malnutrition where your beardie doesn’t get enough nutrients. The process can start with just a few bones, but as time passes more will become affected and the parts of the body that are attached to these muscles may also be lost.

This is an incurable disease, so once you notice it in your beardie, consult your vet about treatment options including supplements or surgery for bone removal.

Beardies can be expensive to maintain. They need a big enclosure, and you’ll need to buy them live insects or dried insects as food. Live bugs may not always be available at pet stores near you so if this is the case, then it’s best for you to order dried crickets from Amazon because these will last a while without any refrigeration.

What is the right temperature for baby bearded dragon tank?

The ideal temperature for a baby bearded dragon’s enclosure should be 75°-85° F during daytime hours. It can drop down to 70°F at night with an ambient basking spot around 95° – 110 °F. To adjust tank temperatures, use additional heating sources such as infrared lamps or ceramic heat emitters.

Keep the light cycle lasting 12 hours on followed by 13 hours off unless needed otherwise due to seasonality changes outside.

Conclusion

There are many different types of Bearded Dragons found across Australia that vary from region to region. They’ve all been bred by humans so they’re not classified as endangered but it is illegal to import them into other countries without certification papers (paperwork identifying their breed).

References

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25773132/


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