up for your FIRST Bearded Dragon
Ok you have decided you are getting a bearded dragon…so
now what? There are SO many things in the pet stores and online,
how do you know what you REALLY need and don’t need?
Well in this section I will tell you what you need to buy
or find to get started on the right track with your first
bearded dragon. If something is in bold
orange type it will be a link to a store when you can buy
it or see what it looks like.
Here is a list of supplies
you will need, and then below they will be explained with
links to where you can find them, and pictures of many of
2. Heat light
3. UVB light - changed EVERY 6 months!
4. Substrate for bottom of cage
5. Furniture for inside the cage
6. Vitamins – Multivitamin and Calcium
7. Food – Insects, Veggies, Pellets
9. Timer for lights
- The enclosure for your bearded dragon is
usually the biggest purchase you will need besides your dragon.
There are many types of cages out in the market and they all
have pros and cons.
Males and females should be kept together ONLY as
babies! Once they reach Juvenile age they should
be separated. Males should live alone at this point, but females
can usually live together. But watch closely for any dominance
issues, or one of the dragons hiding too much. If one is doing
poorly, then separating them will most likely help. We don't
recommend keeping more then 2 females together.
Glass Tanks: These are probably the most
popular type of enclosure for a dragon. They are not that
expensive and you can usually find one used or free if you
look around. They also look nice on a wood aquarium stand.
A glass tank is a good tank to start a baby off in. We sell
baby at 8 weeks or older. If you are buying a baby we recommend
a 20 gallon LONG reptile tank. A long tank will be wider and
shorter then a 20 gallon fish tank. Reptile tanks usually
cant hold water and they are made of thinner glass then
a fish tank since they don’t need to withstand the pressure
of the water.
A baby can’t live in a 20 gallon tank for long.
They will outgrow it quickly, however its not a good idea
to put a small baby in a large tank to start, as it will be
very hard for the dragon to catch crickets. You could start
in a big tank if you block half off with a board to make a
smaller living area until your dragon grows. After your dragon
gets too big for a 20 gallon (12 inches or so), they can be
moved to a either a 40 gallon reptile tank or larger.
We think that the smallest tank a normal size adult
dragon can live in is 50 gallons. Some dragons don’t
grow as large and may be happy in a 40 gallon, but the more
space you can give your dragon the happier it will be. A 50-75
gallon is good for one male, a 75 could house 2 females. Males
should live alone after about 6-8 months so know that if you
buy a male and female baby they will need to be separated
to prevent dominance and early breeding.
The negatives of glass tanks are they are heavy and hard to
move, they can crack or break, and glass does not hold heat
in very well. We find that although dragons can live in a
glass tank just fine, there color is not the best in one.
Background: If you are going to use a glass
tank, please get a tank background to put on the back AND
SIDES to help your dragon feel more secure like in the tank
cages can be bought online or you can build one yourself.
They are made out of the melamine board your can buy at Home
Depot or Lowe’s. It’s the material that a lot
of shelving is made out of. You can buy it in sheets and get
it cut to build your own cage. You can also order one from
our supplier Sam Craver, on his website INSERT LINK if you
live locally. Melamine cages are more expensive then
glass ones and VERY heavy, however they offer many benefits.
The dragons look awesome in them since the white melamine
reflects the light making a very bright living area. The brighter
the cage the happier the dragon. Also the heat light and UVB
lighting can be mounted and wired inside the cage so you don’t
have to see any heat domes and making it much safer for pets
We like a cage that is 3-4 ft long, 18-24 inches deep and
18-24 inches tall. You can always have a baby in one of these
and just block off half of the cage with a board until your
With a melamine cage you want to get it with a fixture for
a heat light installed on one side of it and the longest florescent
fixture you can fit in it for your UVB light. A double fixture
is even better. You also want to make sure there are plenty
of venting for heat to escape.
These cages are the newer version to the Melamine cage. Same
concept, and a very similar look. The PVC cages are VERY
light and weigh almost nothing. They can easily be moved if
needed. They also can come in a variety of shapes and colors.
They are nicer looking then the melamine cages because the
PVC is very thin and streamlined. They are more expensive
then the melamine however. With a PVC cage you want to get
it with a fixture for a heat light installed on one side of
it and the longest florescent fixture you can fit in it for
your UVB light. A double fixture is even better.
Here at SunshineDragons we like to use CageCrafters.
They make top quality PVC or Melamine cages.
The PVC can be shipped, however the melamine are pick-up only.
If you dont live near NJ, a quick search online should bring
up someone near you that makes cages.
There are many other types of cages on the market that you
can research, the above are the ones we have used and like.
There are also Vision
Reptile Cages from BigAppleHerp, and Reptariums
which some people have used with success,
but that I can’t recommend as I have not tried them.
Now that you have your cage you need to figure out how you
will heat it. The cage you chose will determine what kind
of heating you use.
Glass Tank: Usually
fixture with a basking
light or a normal spot light laying on
top of the screen lid will work find. You will need to measure
with a thermometer and adjust the wattage of your bulb until
the basking site is about 100-105 degrees in the basking spot.
If you have a tall tank 20-24 inches, you could also use a
Vapor bulb. These bulbs are expensive
but provide UVB and heat to your dragons. They need to hang
straight down and you may want to get a lamp stand like the
Stand. That way you don’t have to
pick it up to get in your tank all the time and risk breaking
and expensive bulb.
Melamine and PVC cages:
You will have to measure your temps as there are so many variables
with these cages. Use can try a regular lightbulb if you cage
is low in light, however sometimes it will heat the whole
cage and not
direct enough heat down. Basking lights and normal household
spot lights are normally better. Just make sure your light
isn’t getting your basking area REALLY hot. If your
cages are 24 inches tall you could use a Mercury Vapor light
in them, but any shorter then that, you should use a regular
Dimmer Switch: You could add a inline
dimmer switch to your heat light plug
so you can adjust your temps without changing bulbs all the
time. As the seasons change, so do the temps in your house
and in your cages and usually your wattage will need to be
changed. With the help of a dimmer switch you can just lower
or raise the intensity. You should be able to pick one up
at your local hardware store for under $20.
- The brighter a cage, the happier the dragon.
A dark cage will make for a very unactive dragon. UVB lighting
is very important for your dragon. These bulbs simulate the
sun allowing the dragons to produce Vitamin D3 which helps
them metabolize the calcium they need to maintain health.
Without UVB many reptile get Metabolic Bone Disease. Also
the UVB light will stimulate their appetite and your dragon
will eat better. These lights NEED to be changed every
six months even if they are still working as the
UVB runs out. Buying them online will save you A LOT of money,
as pet stores charge high prices. Buying more then one at
a time will save you in shipping costs.
You can use a UVB light that is a long florescent tube light.
These lights do NOT produce much heat and a heat light will
need to be used also. You can buy shop light or Florescent
light fixtures at Home Depot or Lowe’s for them. In
a glass tank you can lay the light right on top the of the
screen lid. In a melamine or PVC cage you should have a fixture
installed inside the cage when you buy it.
The UVB lights we use are the Reptisun
5.0 or Reptisun
10.0. We get them at BigAppleHerp.com
for much cheaper then in a petstore.
MegaRays and other Mercury Vapor – You can also use
these lights that make UVB and heat, as described above. We
do not use them at SunshineDragons because our cages are too
low, however we know of many people that use them with great
results. The lights we recommend are Mega-Ray
bulbs (EB Series or SB Series) or Power-Sun’s.
Timers - Your
lights should be on a cycle of about 10-14 hours on in the
summer and 8-10 hours on in the winter. We prefer to keep
them as close to what is happening outside. Buy a timer for
both your lights. It will make your life easier, and if you
are not home, your dragon will still stay on its schedule.
- There are many options on
what to use on the bottom of your cage. All baby dragons should
be house on paper towels, shelf liner, or cage carpet until
at least 12 inches. Many types of sand, bark, and ground walnut
shells, sold at petstores. We do not recommend using any of
these as most of them could cause impaction if swallowed.
The calcium sands tend to clump inside the animal causing
problems. A bark chip or other type of substrate could also
get stuck inside them. We recommend the following substrates:
Reptile Carpet: Sold
in pet stores and online, it looks like a green carpet for
the bottom of your tank. Looks really nice if maintained.
Make sure you buy enough to have one extra. Then when you
change the cage you can put the new one in and take your time
washing and drying the one that was just taken out of the
cage. Here is an example of a reptile carpet. This one comes
with 2! Perfect! Reptile
Carpet You can also buy something that
looks similar to reptile carpet, at the home improvement stores.
It is an indoor/outdoor carpeting that you buy by the foot.
Its very thin and comes in a variety of colors. It is not
the plastic indoor/outdoor carpeting.
Washed Screened Play Sand: If you want a
sand product we recommend washed screened play sand. You can
buy this at a home improvement store for a couple of dollars
for a 50 pound bag. You can make the sand as deep as you want
in the cage. Use a cup or a Sand sifter to get the poop out
of the cage. How often you change the sand depends on the
size of the cage and how many dragons are in it. Some people
report impaction with play sand also, although we have never
had that problem. Don’t put any dragons under 12 inches
on sand, and if you notice your dragon is eating a lot of
sand when catching his crickets, feed him on a plate or in
a separate Rubbermaid tub or tank.
Shelf Liner: You can also use a non-slip
non-adhesive shelf liner like
Duck's Smooth Top Easy Liner in your cage. This is a kind
of liner that you can use to line your drawers. It is not
the kind that sticks down. Its easy to wipe poo off of it
and to clean it. Once it gets dirty you can switch it with
a new piece and then clean the old piece in a sink.
Paper Towel / Paper: You
can also use paper towels or newspaper or what we use indented
kraft paper that comes on rolls. We buy it at uline.com.
One roll will last a long time. These are not the prettiest
substrates but are on of the best to prevent diseases. Its
easy to change it often, and the cleaner a cage is, the healthier
your dragon will be.
Furniture - Be creative
with decorating your cage, that’s the fun part! If you
have a tall cage make sure you use the space high up with
shelves or branches or hammocks. Dragons LOVE TO CLIMB UP!
So don’t waste all that space up in the air.
Backgrounds: A background on a glass tank
a good idea. It creates a more closed environment and causes
less stress on the dragon. Covering the back and sides is
Hammocks: If you have a glass tank a repti-hammock
is an awesome thing! My lizards love them! Although there
is plenty of room, all of mine like to sleep in the hammock
together. If you ever decide to use a Melamine cage instead
you can screw some eye hooks in to a corner, take off the
suctions cups, and hang the hammock there. Also these Reptile
Rock Ledges offer a similar idea.
Branches: A nice branch is always good to
have. Try to get one without a lot of little holes (like Choya
wood) for the crickets to hide in. A branch that goes up high
is always good to get your dragon close to the UVB light.
He has to have somewhere to hang out which is within 12 inches
or less of it. The UVB is strongest there.
Hides: its good to give your dragon some
place to hind from you, the light, dogs, anything that is
bothering him. It will also help when your dragon wants to
brumate (a form of hibernation). Half logs, caves, or even
some bricks with a board laid across can make good hides.
We like these Basking
Platforms as hides alot! Also these Hiding
Huts are great because they make them
now with resin instead of wood and they are much easier to
clean and to keep parasite free! Get the biggest size you
can as your dragon will outgrow a small one FAST! There are
many different types of hides to chose from!
Rocks - not hot rocks: Rocks from outside
or paving blocks from your home improvement store can be great
to use under a basking light, or to build with. Just make
sure if you use sand, that you sink the rocks all the way
to the bottom and not just sitting on top of the sand. If
your dragon digs under the rock, it could get crushed under
Dishes: A nice low dish for veggies is nice
to have. There are also special dishes for worms to go in.
Paper plates could be used if you want to. Whatever works
- Vitamins are VERY important for your dragon.
They need a lot of calcium because they grow SO FAST when
they are young. We shake up the crickets or other insects
in a container with the vitamins.
Calcium: We use Rep-Cal
Calcium powder with almost every feeding.
Its cheaper to buy the vitamins online.
Multivitamin: We use a multivitamin called
a couple of times a week dusted on the live food.
Probiotic: We use a probiotic called AcidophiLiz+
after we give any medicine or for any dragon that isn’t
growing well. Probiotics have live active cultures like yogurt
does and creates good gut bacteria in your dragon that medicines
may kill off.
Please read our general caresheet
to find out more on feeding your dragons, but here are the
types of things you need.
Rep-Cal: We feed our dragons pellet food
a couple of times a week. These are hard dry foods and they
must be soaked in water until soft or the
dragon will not eat it. You my wish to feed it separately
or with the greens. We use Rep-Cal
Bearded Dragon Pellets.
Veggies: There is a list of veggies on the
caresheet and they can be purchased at your local supermarket.
Crickets, superworms, and silkworms: When
you have a baby dragon you will go through A LOT of crickets.
Its best to order them online from a dealer such as Premium
Crickets. When they are older you may
want to get some at a pet store, but when young, they eat
way too many. You can also order superworms and silkworms
online which they love.