We are a nation of animal lovers, and whilst cats and dogs may be the most common choice of animal companion, the prevalence of more “exotic pets”, like reptiles, rodents, and birds is growing each year. These pets may seem like a cool alternative to cats and dogs, but they do require more specialised knowledge and care, not to mention equipment, to live happily alongside their hooman owners.
Over the years we've owned many different types of animals, from pet rats to our most recent pet, a breaded dragon named Shadow. We also have cats and a dog.
Bearded Dragons require specialised care and specific living arrangements to make sure they live a happy and healthy life, and so that they don't suffer.
In their native home of Australia, Beardies live in rocky and arid regions of the country and are efficient climbers. Shadow loves climbing and investigating around the living room, he will often climb the curtains, he can jump quite far too. He likes to sit on my shoulder and loves having his chin and head rubbed. The average lifespan for a pet beardie is between 6 and 10 years, though they are known to live a lot longer.
Keeping a bearded dragon
We bought a starter vivarium set, which included the cage, the spotlight, and UV light. We bought additional items, like a log for him to climb etc. We are currently looking at buying him a bigger vivarium, one that is tall in height, where we can prop up bigger logs to allow him to climb. In addition, at the moment he has a bowl of water, but I'd read that they love to drink from running water, thus, a waterfall - I'm on the hunt for one, as he would love this.
Bearded dragons like it hot. A basking site created with a spotlight, which needs to create temperatures of between 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the spotlight at one end of the cage will allow the beardie to thermoregulate, where he can move from the heat to the cooler end of his cage if he so wishes. The cooler end of the enclosure can be kept at lower heat, but not below 75f.
In addition, you need to provide UVB (ultraviolet) lighting over the rest of the enclosure. This lighting is critically important for pet beardies, as it assists them in synthesizing vitamin D3, which aids in calcium absorption - it is also advisable that you add calcium dusting in their diet.
At night, it can go down to about 65 degrees.
Feeding your beardie
This was the biggest challenge for me - feeding him the live crickets. At first, I was very jumpy, but now, I pick them up and put them in Shadow's vivarium without a second thought.
Shadow has a 50% veggie diet and 50% live food diet. You can feed them different veggies, but our fussy eater Shadow will only eat greens, Kale, or Spinach are his favourite.
Handling a Bearded Dragon
Out of all the reptiles, beardies are the most docile, they are quite easy to handle, and our Shadow loves sitting on your shoulder, or on your lap (he loves all the fuss). His claws can get quite sharp, so we placed slate tiles in the bottom of his cage and we found this effectively and naturally files his claws down.
He is quite a character and is a pleasure to have.