Living with a Dragon
Bearded Dragons are one of the most popular reptile pets, for good reason. They combine a size, hardiness and ease of keeping that makes them a great choice as a pet for a first time reptile keeper, or the most advanced herpetologist.
Hailing from the outback of Australia, Bearded Dragons are from arid woodlands through to desert environs. This means that they do not need a humid habitat in your house like many reptile pets would. We recommend a sandy bottom, but the type of sand is very important. Most sands can cause impaction problems for Dragons should they accidentally ingest some while chasing crickets. Reptilite sand has spherical grains made up of bioavailable calcium, making impaction almost impossible and giving the animal a calcium boost if they ingest it.
As a basking animal, they need UVB exposure for maximum health. Vit D supplements help, but nothing beats basking in sunlight. That option isn’t available year round here (as much as we get lots of sunlight, glass windows filter out 100% of UVB, which is why we get truckers tan in the summer, but not in winter). So we need a UVB source year round for them, and there are many light bulbs that can do that, the best in my opinion are Mercury Vapour lamps. A little more expensive than CFL’s and Spot Bulbs, they produce more and better UV for a longer time, so they can be cheaper in the long run.
Beardies are cute when babies, but they are voracious eaters, and until they reach a subadult size primarily consume crickets. 10 or more a day, you need to budget for this when purchasing a baby beardie. As they mature, they start eating more and more vegetable matter, until they eventually are consuming over 80% vegetable matter. Dark green leafy vegetables, frozen peas and carrots, some fruits and prepared diets like Bearded Dragon Bites make up the bulk of an adult dragons diet. Occasional crickets or mealworms provide the protein they need.
Very skittish as babies, they move quickly as a natural instinct to avoid predators. But once they settle in, they are quite docile and content to sit in one position for long periods of time, if the light and heat are right. It is not unusual on a hot summer day to see one basking on someone’s shoulder as you wander around downtown or at the Forks. At full size they are very manageable, big enough to be able to be handled without being lost or escaping, but small enough that they are easily carried on your shoulder or in a coat.
I had one customer say that since he got his beardie, he has gotten healthier. He needs to have fresh veggies in the fridge for the reptile, so he eats them too! So, yes, having a reptile pet can be good for your health.
Take the time to do the research, make sure the equipment you buy will be appropriate for the life of the animal, no use in buying a small cage just to have to replace it with a larger one in a few months. 36”x18”x18” is a minimum we’d recommend. Properly outfitted, you should be able to get a great setup for around $500. After the initial outlay, your expenses should be about $20-$30/mth. Pretty reasonable for such an interactive and interesting pet.
Jeff McFarlane is the owner of Aardvark Pets in St. Vital. You can contact him with questions, comments or topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.aardvarkpets.com.