The Bearded Dragon Lizard, belonging to the genus Pogona, is probably the most popular of all pet lizards. He gets his name from his spiney covered throat which is beard-like when puffed up. Adult bearded dragons will grow to around 20" in length, with males being slightly longer, but females slightly heavier.
In captivity a well cared for bearded dragon can be expected to live about 8 to 12 years - although there have been reports of 'beardies' living up to 15 years.
The Bearded Dragon's Origin
Bearded Dragons have been exported worldwide as pets, but are native to Australia, where they live in rocky, arid, semi-desert areas and open woodland, basking on rocks and exposed branches in the sun. Today, most pet dragons are captive bred, as export from Australia is limited and even illegal for some species.
His New Home
Your dragon's home should reflect his natural habitat, as closely as possible. A 20 gallon terrarium is fine for a juvenile bearded dragon, but as his growth increases 55-60 gallons will be nearer the mark.
A steady temperature between 76F and 86F is vital, rising to 90F to 100F in his basking spot. At night precautions must be taken to ensure the temperature never drops below 70F.
Like other lizards, like iguanas, bearded dragons need to be exposed to Ultra Violet light, on a daily basis. A special bulb can be purchased for this purpose. Although the very best source of UVA and UVB light is the sun, it's not always possible for your beardie to be outdoors and placing him in a spot by the window won't help him much, as glass filters out most UV rays.
Your bearded dragon's home will need to be furnished with natural rocks and branches for basking and climbing. Never use hot-rocks, available at some pet stores, as your dragon's skin can be burned by these. Apart from using rocks for basking, dragons will rub against them when shedding skin.
Another important consideration for your dragon's home is a hide-box, or at least somewhere he can get away and have some privacy.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores, eating a variey of insects and vegetation. Diet is typically made up of 20% prey, and 80% vegetation. Feeding him too much protein may damage his kidneys.
Bearded Dragons can suffer from intestinal blockages or seizures if their food is too large and cannot be digested. As a rule of thumb, a piece of food should be no more than 2/3 of the size of his head.
Variety is the spice of life and variety is key when feeding your dragon, to ensure he ingests all the valuable vitamins and minerals required to keep him healthy. Additionally, sprinkle his feed with a calcium supplement, 3 or 4 times a week.
Bearded dragons eat crickets, cockroaches, a variety of worms and even mice and other small prey in the wild, although in captivity most are fed on crickets and gut-fed worms. He will also enjoy a vast array of vegetables and fruit, including but not limited to; leafy greens, squash and turnip greens, broccoli, peas, grated carrots, figs, melon, peaches, apricots, strawberries, plums and bananas. Care should be taken to give him different fruits and vegetables each day.
Bearded Dragons are perhaps, the most interesting of pet lizards to study. Naturally curious explorers, most beardies take well to being handled and seem to actually enjoy interacting with their human companions.
If your dragon feels threatened, he will bob his head aggresively while flattening his body, so as to appear bigger. 'Arm' waving, on the other hand, is a submissive gesture - a bit like waving a white flag!
On the whole, if your dragon is cared for properly and feels safe and secure, you'll likely not see his aggresive side - unless he's startled.