- Preferred body temperature is about 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
- This species can be successfully housed in large glass aquariums (40 gal minimum), neodesha type enclosures or Vision Cages. This species likes to climb so provide multiple opportunities and a hide box is required.
- Supplementary heat and UV lighting must be provided. ReptiSun 5.0 is a good choice for UV. Mount UV light or perching so that the animal can get within 12 inches of the light because the effective distance for UV absorption is great diminished is greatly diminished at more than 12 inches distance. Placing adjacent to the heat source is a good way to provide exposure. Outdoor exercise with sun exposure is a good supplement but pay close attention to outside time during excessive heat or cooler temperatures. Limit outdoor time during these periods.
- Sand is preferred substrate for this species. Be sure to keep the environment dry as this is a desert species. Place the water dish in the coolest part of the tank.
- In the wild, they are opportunistic omnivores because they live in areas where food may be hard to find. About 20% of their diet is plant material, and the rest is made up of insects, spiders, other small invertebrates, and some small vertebrates (rodents or lizards.)
- Under human care, they are fed salad, crickets, mealworms, and pinky mice.
- There is a higher incedence of leukemia in bearded dragons than in other lizard species.
- Beardies can be prone to becoming overweight if not encouraged to exercise.
Notes on Enrichment & Training
Colony or Breeding Management
Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.
Individual Identification –Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies).
Males are typically larger than females, and beardies can have dramatically different coloration, making them easily identifiable from one-another.
- Brandywine Zoo: small lizard travel in a Coleman “Party Stacker” type cooler that has been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). The cooler is lined with newspaper and, during cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle (wrapped in newspaper)
Tips on Presentation
- Some beardies are calm enough to eat in front of an audience. Scattering mealworms on a safe surface will demonstrate stalking behavior
- At Brandywine Zoo: Guests are directed to use a two-finger touch only on the back, not near the head or face, and going in the direction of the scales.
Tips on Handling
- This is a very easy species to handle. Most individuals will sit calmly on an open palm without needing to be restrained.
- You may also use a “seatbelt” old, where the index and middle fingers are placed in front of either shoulder, on either side of the neck.
- If the animal becomes “squirmy,” often elevating the head at a 20-45° angle helps calm them.
- The social behavior of this species is a great focus for presentations. Most people are surprised to find out that lizards are social and “talk” using body language.
- In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet.
- Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots.
- Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems.
- Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters. http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Save-Wildlife/Images/PetWalletBro2012.aspxhttp://pin.primate.wisc.edu/aboutp/pets/index.html
Bearded Dragons are often readily available through animal rescues.
Look for specialty/exotic rescues:
- The Bunny Hutch, an exotic animal rescue run by zoo keepers.
- List of reptile rescues by TheBeardedDragon.org
Comments from the Rating System
- Downtown Aquarium, Denver: Lots of people have seen them in pet stores, so not much of a “wow” factor.
- Henry Vilas Zoo: People love these; teach adaptation and reptilian attributes.
- Seneca Park Zoo: Very easy to handle and has lots of great adaptations to talk about.
Natural History Information
Range and Habitat
Bearded dragons are found in eastern and central Australia. They can be found in a large variety of habitats, from woodlands to savannas to deserts.
Bearded dragons have broad, triangular heads, round bodies, stout legs, and robust tails. The “beard” is an expandable throat pouch with spikey scales. Males have darker beards than females. The beard is used for both mating and aggression displays.
Their color depends on the soil of the region they live in, ranging from dull brown to tan with red or gold highlights. The mouth lining is yellow. There is a pineal gland on the top of their heads that looks like a small, round, opaque scale. The pineal gland allows them to differentiate between light and shadow; it regulates the amount of time spent in the sun by secretion of hormones.
Average adult length is 13 to 24 inches.
Breeding occurs in the Australian spring and summer: September to March. Females lay up to 24 eggs per clutch, and can produce up to 9 clutches each year. Eggs are buried into the ground and take 55 to 75 days to hatch.
Bearded dragons live for 5 to 10 years.
When threatened or displaying superiority, bearded dragons gape and expand the scales on their throat patch into a “beard” which becomes nearly black in color. Another interesting behavior is arm waving. The bearded dragon stands on 3 legs and waves one of its forelimbs in a slow, circular pattern. It looks a lot like the bearded dragon is waving hello, or swimming using only one arm. One function of arm waving seems to be species recognition. Arm waving is also used to show submission. A small bearded dragon will respond with arm waving when confronted with a larger, more dominant bearded dragon. Females will also wave to avoid aggression from males, especially if the male is head bobbing. Head bobbing is when the male quickly bobs his head up and down, often with a darkened beard. He will do this to show dominance to both smaller, insubordinate males and to females he would like to mate with.
Bearded dragons are diurnal and semi-arboreal. They can be found basking on fallen branches, fence posts, and picnic tables. Their strong legs allow them to lift their bodies completely off the ground while they move. This is done to reduce the heat taken in from the ground, as well as to increase the air flow over the belly to cool itself further.
Threats and Conservation Status
Did you know…
- Bearded dragons are very popular in the pet trade. In recent years, they have become a favorite reptile to keep and breed because of their manageable size and pleasant temperament.
Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.
- Choice, Control, and Training in Ectotherms, By Carrie Kish
- Ambassador Animal SAG Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 3: Temperature and Transport: Welfare Implications for Ambassador Ectotherms
- Stress Management in Reptiles and Frogs
- Reptile Lighting Information
Cover photo: By Andrew Tisinger [CC-BY-2.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Contributors and Citations
- The Philadelphia Zoo
- Baton Rouge Zoo
- Brandywine Zoo