There are a wide variety of reptile pets available at most pet stores. It’s very common to see turtles, snakes, and a number of different lizards. Snakes tend not to be everyone’s cup of tea and require feeding dead rodents, which have to be kept in the freezer. Turtles are cute, but setting up a small pond in your house isn’t always possible. Lizards, on the whole, are generally easier. There are lots to choose from, but some, like chameleons, are easily stressed and not well suited to being held. Iguanas are cool, but they’re also big and have expensive enclosure requirements.
Bearded dragons, on the other hand, are very easy to care for and have minimal needs. Like chinchillas, they do have a couple of special requirements, but once you know what they are, it’s easy to keep them as pets. Beardies are also very docile and can be easily handled. They often love nothing more than sitting on your shoulder.
Bearded dragons are desert lizards, which means that unlike with tropical lizards, you don’t have to maintain a specific humidity level to keep them happy. They do well in relatively small tanks and spend much of their time basking under warming lights. Hearty animals, they live up to ten years and can grow up to 24 inches, dependent on the size of their enclosure. They’re also entertaining hunters who enjoy tracking down crickets as a treat.
The supplies listed below will work for just about any desert lizard, including leopard geckos, red ackies, collared lizards, and more.
Here’s our guide to the ten most essential bearded dragon items, including terrariums, food, and accessories to give your spiky friend the best possible life.
1. Reptile Tank or Terrarium
Unlike iguanas who can require enclosures that take up half your room, bearded dragons are comfortable in traditional glass aquariums as long as they are 40 gallons or larger. The terrariums meant for lizards tend to be a bit wider than ones meant for fish, measuring 36 inches long by 18 inches tall by 18 inches wide at the very smallest for adults.
2. Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded dragons are omnivorous. They love fresh fruit and veggies, including apples, carrots, greens, and citrus. Each day, they should be offered a freshly cut salad, in addition to 2-3 live hornworms or silkworms. You can also feed as many Phoenix worms per day as they can eat in ten minutes. This could be up to 100 per day, depending on the size and appetite of your beardie.
Other insects can be offered, as well, but should be limited to treats once or twice a week. These include crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, and superworms. These insects have a higher ratio of cartilage to meat, which can cause impaction, in addition to not being as nutritious. Stick to soft worms with a lot of meat and moisture.
The moisture is important. Although you can feed dried food blends, many bearded dragon owners don’t recommend it. Bearded dragons don’t drink very much being desert creatures, so they rely on the water content of their food for adequate hydration. Other desert lizards like the leopard gecko are entirely insectivorous, so you can skip the salad and focus on the bugs above for those species.
In addition to the proper foods, bearded dragons and other lizards require supplements to ensure their health in captivity. Because they’re restricted to only what you can find to feed them, they may not get everything they need from their diet. The most important of these is a multivitamin, which can be sprinkled on their salads.
Pet lizards also require additional calcium. Between these two easy-to-use powder supplements, your beardie will get all the nutrition they need.
Bearded dragons and other desert lizards have two specific needs when it comes to their habitats. The first is that they have an area of the cage around 95 degrees during the day. This is achieved with a heat bulb, usually 100 watts or higher.
The second requirement is 12 hours of UVB light. Some bulbs have this combined with the heat lamp, but it’s a good idea to provide a separate UVB bulb and set up a cool side of the tank. UVB light makes calcium metabolism possible for your lizard and is absolutely required.
While you can buy combo lamps, I think it’s better to have two separate light domes so the zones of the tank are distinct. Having a basking side and a cooler side allows your bearded dragon to regulate their temperature by moving to the most comfortable spot at different times. Remember to turn the lights off at night and leave them off for 12 hours. It’s okay for the tank to get cool at night, down to no lower than 65 degrees F, since they’re sleeping. The desert gets pretty cold at night, too.
5. Terrarium Backgrounds
As funny as it might sound, terrarium backgrounds are important for happy reptiles. Since they can see a broad spectrum of colors, having a front and a back to their tank, as delineated by the background, actually calms them. They’re able to discern where the action in the room is happening, and how the other decorations in their space mix with the figures in the picture.
Price: $9.99 (50 percent off MSRP)
6. Basking Rock and Hideaway
Bearded dragons and other desert lizards need to bask in the heat of their lamp. You should provide them with at least one rock-like platform that is large enough for them to comfortably spread out. In the case of bearded dragons, they squish out like scaly pancakes over whatever surface you give them.
This rock formation should also provide a tunnel or other dark hiding place so your reptile has a place to hide and cool down. They tend to be wary of anything happening above them, so giving them a dark, safe space will enhance their sense of confidence in their home.
For those planning a new tank or just looking to redesign their current aquarium, here's our list of the best aquarium decorations.Click here to read more
7. Water Dish
Dry climate lizards aren’t much for drinking still water. They get most of the water they need from the food the eat. The rest comes from soaking in shallow water baths, where they absorb water and store it just under their skin. It’s an unusual way of drinking, but it works for them.
Provide your bearded dragon with a rock-like pool filled halfway with water. This will keep them hydrated, but also give them a place to do their business. Be sure to replace with fresh water everyday. You can get one designed to fit in a corner, too.
8. Food Dish
In addition to a large water bowl, lizards need a small feeding dish. You may even want two; one for salads, one for worms and insects. Even though beardies are pretty quick hunters and will soon track down and gobble up even a bouncy cricket, it’s a good idea to contain their food so you can keep an eye on how much they eat. If a live cricket or worm should get away, it might get stuck somewhere and die. Additionally, crickets have been known to harm sleeping lizards, so be sure that your beardie has actually eaten any live creature you feed them.
This neat little rock one is designed to fit with any desert motif, and is made of nonporous, food-grade resin. As with the water dish, you can get a corner version for food, as well.
Price: $6.99 (50 percent off MSRP)
9. Bedding Substrate
Compared to a lot of animals that live in cages or terrariums, one of the easiest parts of bearded dragon and desert lizard ownership is the bedding that goes on the bottom of the tank. There are a number of roll-out liners out there that will suit your reptile pal perfectly. The Zilla one pictured above features a biodegradable enzyme that reduces odors and can be hand washed in the sink. Beardies are relatively clean, so a simple mat will do the job with no issue.
10. Thermometer and Hygrometer
With any animal that requires a slightly different climate than your house, you need to keep a close eye on the conditions inside their enclosure. As I said before, bearded dragons like it above 95 degrees, up to about 110. For them, unlike tropical lizards or amphibians, humidity should be on the low side, but doesn’t need to be tightly regulated. If that area of your house is particularly wet for some reason, you might have to move them somewhere else.
If you opt for the two-lamp system I described above, you might want two separate thermostats so you can monitor the basking side and the cool side. The cool side should still remain around 80 or higher during the day.
Price: $9.83 (24 percent off MSRP)