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How to Raise a Baby Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are becoming very popular pets, and it’s not hard to see why. Babies are extremely cute, and adults are so calm and placid that even people who say they would never have a reptile in their home are often swayed to change their minds when they get a chance to get up close. .
Many are bought as pets as impulse buys – babies are sold very cheaply and readily available these days, and while some people read up and prepare for their new pet, there are still a large number who ‘they accept with little or nothing. advice at all. Unfortunately, many pet store and reptile center employees ignore proper housing and feeding arrangements leading to bearded dragons living unhealthy and often short lives.
If you’re tempted to buy a baby bearded dragon, here are some tips to help you raise a bearded dragon properly.
1. Bearded dragons grow big and fast
Even if you’re looking at a baby that’s only 5 to 6 inches long, by the time he’s twelve months old he’ll be 18 to 22 inches long and weigh up to 700 grams. Adults need a vivarium 4 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet in size, and will probably need this when they are eight to ten months old. So it’s a false economy to buy a smaller nursery with the intention of upgrading it as it gets bigger, and it’s best to buy the larger size first. Too many live in nurseries where they can’t turn properly without hitting their noses on the glass and their tails on the bottom.
Despite the myth, bearded dragon babies don’t feel lost in a large vivarium; after all, in the desert no one gives them a pen for the first few weeks!
To grow at the rate they do means they have a big appetite and need to be fed a lot and often as babies. They are not cheap pets to keep: a bearded dragon can cost as much as a small dog or cat to feed each week.
2. Bearded dragons need the right temperatures
Hailing from the hot and arid desert of Australia, they need to have a temperature range in their vivarium that mimics their natural environment. Setting up a mini desert in your home is part of the fun of keeping them. Being cold-blooded animals, they are thermoregulated, meaning that when they are too hot they should be able to move to a cooler area, and when it is too cold they should be able to move to warm themselves. The vivarium should have a resting point under a heat lamp that reaches a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the other end “the cool end” of the vivarium should not be higher than 85 degrees. At night they should be able to experience a good drop in temperature, so the heat should be turned off as long as the room temperature does not fall below 65 degrees for babies and 60 degrees for adults. Temperatures must be maintained at the correct levels using a thermostat.
Heat must be provided by a heat lamp – bearded dragons do not absorb heat from below and in fact cannot feel it. Hot rocks and heat mats can easily burn them, so they should not be used.
3. Bearded dragons need UVB exposure
In the desert they bask in the strong rays of the sun which provides them with UVB and helps them synthesize vitamin D3. This is vital as it means they can use calcium, which is essential to help their growth. Lack of UVB will result in metabolic bone disease (MBD) which causes limb deformities, which can only be treated if caught early, and is often fatal. Their UVB requirements are the highest of all reptiles kept in captivity. A fluorescent tube running the length of the vivarium ensures they are exposed to UVB the entire time the light is on. The best tubes to use are Reptisun 10% or Arcadia 12%.
If they are exposed to UVB for 12 hours in the vivarium, they get enough UVB, but even that only equates to about 20 minutes in the full Australian sun. For this reason bearded dragons should not be provided with skins, as hiding will reduce their exposure to beneficial UVB rays.
Babies are not exact feeders and tend to grab loose substrate with food scraps. The tea towel is the best substrate for babies as it does not pose any risk. Do not use sand until the baby is six months old and NEVER use wood chips. This is to avoid the impact to the stomach which is usually fatal.
5. Set up the Vivarium before buying a bearded dragon
When you have your nursery, you will find that the temperatures will fluctuate at first and you will need time to play with the position of the probe for the thermostat before you get the right temperature range. The best idea is to set up the vivarium and let it sit for about a week before bringing your baby home.
6. Bring home a baby bearded dragon
Most babies will travel quite comfortably in a small, dark box. There is no need for additional heating unless the weather is very cold. In this case, you can use a hot water bottle to keep the box warm.
When you first bring your baby home, you may find that he eats the first batch of crickets you eagerly put in the nursery and then refuses to eat. Many new homeowners worry about this, but it’s just a reaction to the stress of moving. It takes up to a fortnight for a baby to settle into a normal feeding pattern.
To help it settle in, it’s best to resist that urge to pull it out and handle it. Please allow two weeks for it to settle in before you pick it up. You can start to get used to it by putting your hand in the vivarium when you feed or clean it.
When it’s time to start handling it, grab it by sliding your hand under it and grabbing it. In the wild, their main predators are birds, so anything approaching them scares them.
From time to time, your baby will have lines like tiger marks on his belly. These are stress lines, but don’t worry too much about them. Many things cause momentary stress to a baby, and most are nothing to worry about. It could be a dark coat that they suddenly see out of the corner of their eye.
In the morning, your beard will be cold and still. It takes about an hour for them to warm up and start moving, just like they would in the desert. Just make sure you give them time to wake up properly before offering food.
7. Feed your baby bearded dragon
Babies up to 12 weeks should be fed 3 times a day with small crickets (first or second stage). Each feed should be as many as they can eat in 10 minutes. A daily feed should be sprinkled with calcium to prevent MBD. Finely chopped vegetables or fruits should always be available. By the time he’s an adult, your beardie will be 80% vegetarian, so he needs to get used to eating vegetables early.
The best live food is crickets because of the amount they eat. You can feed the lobsters, but this will be much more expensive, and once they have eaten lobsters, some will not get used to eating crickets, as they are more bitter. Do not feed a basic diet of mealworms, as their skin is high in chitin which bearded dragons cannot digest very well. Mealworms and waxworms may be offered occasionally.
Most bearded dragons won’t eat dry or frozen food, so you’ll need to get used to feeding them live food.
8. Join a forum
Baby bearded dragons seem to enjoy puzzling and worrying their new owners. Join a bearded dragon or reptile forum so you can ask for advice from people who have had the same concerns as you and can give you advice and reassurance.
Raising a reptile that grows so quickly is a great experience, and if you make sure its environment and feeding regime are right, you will have a pet that will live a healthy life for more than 10 years. The first few weeks and months are a critical period when raising a baby bearded dragon – they are not difficult to maintain as long as you take the time to understand what they need to grow and develop properly.
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