Bearded Dragons as Pets

Bearded dragons are quite remarkable lizards and are loved by people all across the country. These unique reptiles are native to Australia and were first introduced into the United States in the mid-1990s. Their popularity began to soar as people began to notice how wonderful these lizards are as pets.

In fact, the number of beardie owners has only been increasing for the last two decades and is now the most popular pet reptile to date. These lizards are affectionate, and though they do not look like dogs, they are great companions just the same. 

Bearded dragons are an ideal pet for the right kind of person who is looking for a lasting scaly friend.

However, no matter how much you are intrigued and want to own one yourself, you should first learn everything there is to know about these extraordinary creatures so you can care for them properly, keeping them happy and healthy.

How Much Do Bearded Dragons Cost?

Sure, desiring a bearded dragon and dreaming about owning one as a pet is great, but you will also have to consider the fact that these creatures cost money. Unless you are rescuing a bearded dragon from someone who does not want theirs anymore and giving it away for free, you will probably have to spend a bit of coin to own one. 

In general, most pet stores will charge about £40 for a baby or juvenile bearded dragon. Older ones are closer to the £65 price tag. You could obtain a bearded dragon from breeders, but if you go with this option, try to stick with local ones who specialise in reptiles specifically. In most cases, local breeders will charge about 20 to 30 per cent lower than a pet store.

Another avenue you could take is attending a reptile show in or around your area. Keep a lookout for any advertisements for such an event coming up so you can plan to go. These reptile shows are ideal places where you could find many bearded dragons for sale of all ages, types, and breeds. The options will seem endless.  Prices will range widely based on the breeder selling as well as the age of the reptile, but most times, it is a competitive market and will stay in an affordable range. However, do not be alarmed if you see some costing as much as £850 or more at these shows.

Keep in mind that this is not the only cost you will need to save up for. Your dragon will need a well thought out habitat and sustaining elements to survive and live a quality life. As much as it would be cool just to buy one and take it home, it is not that simple. 

You will also need to save up for:

  • Your bearded dragon’s first herp veterinarian visit (typically done in the first 48 hours of owning him or her). You can expect to pay somewhere around from £50-£100 for this initial visit.
  • You will need a tank and a lid to put them in when you get home. As a precautionary note, never cover the tank with anything other than a screen lid to ensure proper ventilation. These two items can cost between £50 and £200, depending on the size and style you go with. Just remember that the bigger the tank, the better.
  • Lighting needs to be invested in as well. It is critical to get the perfect light and heat for your bearded dragon to thrive. You may even want to consider spending a bit more to get a basking bulb as well as a UVB one explicitly made for reptile enclosures. A good bulb is about £15 each, and a UVB is somewhere around £20 per bulb.
  • If you have the tank and all the right lights and heat necessities, you still need to occupy it with other required components, so your dragon has a cosy home. Landscaping will make the environment a fun and enjoyable place for your lizard to live. Some ideas you could invest in include a reptile hammock, a basking spot, a couple of places for them to hide, things for them to climb on, and of course, food and water bowls. It is up to you to decide how much you want to spend on this aspect, but with everything, you can expect to get it all for £15 on the low side and £80 on the high side.
  • Maintaining the right temperature is critical, which is why you should get a thermometer as well. Thermometers will help you make sure that the tank temperature is exactly where it needs to be for your new friend.
  • Food! Your bearded dragon will need to eat, so make sure you have a good supply ready for them at all times, such as feeder insects, fruits, greens, and perhaps food supplements. On average, you will spend about £30 to £50 a month on this food supply.

How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live?

One of the big questions that prospected reptile owners ask is how long will their bearded dragon live.  In the best cases, meaning you take care of them exceptionally well, you can expect your exotic pet to live up to 15 years of age. Something to remember though is that this is an average. The lifespan can vary from dragon to dragon, but there are some ways you can optimise their time with you and keep them healthy.

  • Having a proper diet, for anyone, is critical to stay healthy and live a long life. Ensure they have a well-balanced diet to increase their lifespan and reduce health issue risks.
  • Give them the best environment to live in, exhibiting ideal heat, lighting, and substrate. If any of these things are missing or are off where they need to be, then it can drastically decrease your dragon’s lifespan and quality.
  • Though you can breed your dragons if you wish, if you have a female bearded dragon, you can prolong her life significantly if you choose not to breed her.
  • The more space you give your dragon pet to roam, the healthier they will be due to being able to move and exercise. Keep this in mind when picking out their tank they will be living in.

How Big Do Bearded Dragons Get?

If you are interested in buying a young bearded dragon, you must realise that they will not stay the same size as when you purchased them. This is something you will want to highly consider when picking out the perfect, spacious tank for them that will last them through adulthood. By planning and assuming that your four-month-old dragon will probably double its size over time is vital in the decision making.
If you get a tank too small, then it could hinder them from getting to their ideal, mature length. If you are every uncertain, you can always ask the person you are buying it from, such as a pet store what their recommendations are to get more clarity.

With that being said, a bearded dragon’s size can be pretty predictable. By the time they are a month old, they should be about four inches long. By six months old, they will be around eighteen inches. When they hit a year old, they can be close to twenty-two inches or perhaps a bit longer. For more details, here is an average length chart based on age up through the first year. Keep in mind that these are
estimates. Your dragon could be smaller or more abundant at the same age listed

0-1 months:3-4 inches
2 months: 5-9 inches
3 months:8-11 inches
4 months:9-12 inches
5 months:11-16 inches
6 months:11-18 inches
8 months:13-20 inches
12 months:16-22 inches

If you think 22 inches is big, you should check out How Much Space Does A Pet Iguana Need?

Can Bearded Dragons Live Together?

Are you tempted to get two dragons (or more) so they will not be lonely in a tank by themselves? Though you can try to do this, and it could quite possibly work out well, you may want to reconsider. Yes, it could be a great set up, but to be safe, bearded dragons should be kept separately. Dragons living in the same tank could cause them stress, health issues and even diseases such as coccidia. You may also find one or both lizards will lose some of their body parts, such as toes, feet, or eyes due to fighting. That is an overall situation you would want to avoid happening altogether.

If you really have your heart set on keeping more than one dragon in the same tank, you can. There is no rule saying that you cannot do this. There are even some ways you can optimise the environment to try to make it work.

  • Get a large enclosure, so your dragons have enough space to “call their own.” A 125-gallon tank would be a good size for housing two dragons.
  • Never put more than one male dragon in a tank. Also, never put a male and female together until she is about two years old (old enough to breed).

Though these are ways to allow more than one dragon in the same tank, even if you checked all the boxes, they may still not get along. Males tend to be aggressive with females, especially when it is breeding season. If you notice any harm being done or two dragons that would rather be alone, it would be time to invest in a second tank before severe injury or even death occurs.

Bearded Dragons Care

Bearded dragons are exciting to own, but as an owner, you need to be responsible and care for them the best you can if you want to keep them both healthy and happy. Aside from making sure their environment is set up for the perfect living conditions, big enough tank, décor, lights, heat, and substrate, there are certainly other things you will want to consider to ensure you promote proper care. For instance, you will want to know how to pick them up in the safest way possible. For the best precautionary exercises, make sure to do the following:

  • Make sure to wash your hand before touching your dragon. This will strongly reduce the risk of them getting germs that can cause them to catch illnesses. That would be the last thing you would want to happen when you are just trying to bond.
  • Approach them slowly, calmly, and confidently. Also, only pick them up if they are awake and not in the middle of eating. No one likes to be ambushed when trying to slumber or eat.
  • You want your dragon to be comfortable with you. Never reach for them from above, and do not wiggle your fingers at them. If you do this, chances are they will think it is a worm, and you may be in for a shock. Furthermore, never back them into a corner, so they do not feel threatened.
  • Once you get close to them, pet them gently, so they get used to the feeling of your hand. Read their cues as well. If they close their eyes or blinks, they are probably comfortable to be picked up. If your dragon seems stressed, leave them alone for now and try again later.
  • If your dragon is ready to go, then scoop him or her up with the palm of your hand, sliding your hand under their belly gently. Always support their legs and let them rest on your arms, chest, legs, or wherever you want that is comfortable for both of you. You can even take them outside if the weather is warm enough.
  • If your dragon’s belly started to feel cool, then that means it is time to return them to their tank so they can warm back up.
  • Last but not least, make sure to rewash your hands after you finish handling your reptile friend to avoid things like salmonella or other unpleasant germs and bacteria.

Bath Time!

Now that you know how to master picking up and playing with your dragon, let’s move onto other caring procedures that you will need to partake in. The next critical task is giving your dragon a bath. By using the handling guidance above, take your dragon out and set them into a container of your choosing that has high enough walls so they cannot get out or escape easily. Some great options are mini tubs, children’s swimming pools, or even your own bathtub if you wish. The water in this container should be extremely shallow, no higher than the joints where your dragon’s legs meet their body. The water temperature should be about 85 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and maintained at those levels for the entire time your lizard is in there.

Allow your dragon to soak in the water for at least 10 minutes, but you can let them stay in for a half-hour if they like it a lot. Just make sure the water does not get too cold if you let them stay in for a long duration. As for washing, there is no soap or scrubbing involved. Just use a cup and pour water on your dragon’s back and tail, which will remove old, shedding skin.  Once you are all done, dry them off with a soft towel and allow them to bask in their tank to warm back up.

Tank Care

You may already know that when it comes to owning a reptile in a tank, you will eventually have to clean out that tank. Daily cleaning involves removing any faeces or uneaten food. By doing this regularly each day will drastically improve the environment and keep it cleaner longer. For a weekly endeavour, you should clean all hard surfaces.  The best way to do this is by mixing together white vinegar and four parts water. Use
that solution to wipe down any tank accessories.

Even with the daily and weekly duties, you will still want to do a full deep habitat clean at least once a month. For some guidance on how to do that, here is a list that you can follow for your first tank cleaning spree.

  1. Make sure to take out your dragon and put them in a safe spot. Many times, people put them in the same container they use to give them baths. Or you can invest in a reptile carrier if you wish. Whatever you choose, keep them away from the fumes from cleaning. You may want to have a reptile babysitter while you clean to make sure they are doing okay.
  2. Remove everything from the tank, and soak each accessory in bleach water for at least twenty minutes. Then scrub them thoroughly with a solution such as a dish soap and rinse it entirely until no bleach or soap is remaining. Then let them dry completely.
  3. While the accessories are soaking from the step above, you can also simultaneously vacuum out the enclosure to remove substrate particles and any other morsels from the tank. Vacuum well and do not forget to get the corners good.
  4. Then you will want to scrub the entire tank, bottom, corner, sides, inside and out. Use about five per cent bleach-water mix. Once you clean it, let it sit for at least twenty minutes to really soak in.  Once that timer is up, rinse the entire tank out several times to get rid of all the solution and any bleach aroma.
  5. Once finished, put the accessories back into the tank and add fresh conditioned water. Once everything is completely dry, and the tank is warm again, your dragon can go back home and enjoy the freshness.

What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?

Bearded dragons in the wild are omnivores and tend to eat a mixture of both invertebrate and vertebrate prey, such as insects and other smaller animals and plants. Due to this natural diet, while in captivity, your dragon should be given a combination of insects (mostly crickets) along with a variety of other cultured ones. Once your dragon becomes an adult, you can offer them more insect options, such as waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, red worms, earthworms, and newly moulted mealworms.

In addition to insects, these reptiles should be fed a diverse range of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. Make sure they are chopped up and supplied in a shallow bowl.

Some ideas you can feed them in this category include:

  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Butternut squash
  • Okra
  • Yellow squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mangos
  • Papaya
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Strawberries

Knowing what to feed your dragon is critical, but also make sure you give them clean water. There should always be a fresh, shallow bowl of water in their tank at all times. If you find that your dragon likes to lay in the water, you can get a larger bowl for them to enjoy occasionally.

Now that you know their primary diet, there are some essential tips to take note of. Adult beardies’ diet should consist of 25 to 30 per cent insects and 70 to 75 per cent plants. Baby bearded dragons tend to like to eat more insects than fruits and vegetables because they need more protein to grow. Furthermore, since bearded dragons are prone to digestive system impaction, make sure to limit their crunchy bug feedings quantities, especially for juvenile bearded dragons. Another rule of thumb is to never feed them anything bigger than the distance between their eyes.

Bearded Dragon Habitat Setup

Let’s say by now you have your tank, your accessories and are ready to get it all set up to make the perfect environment for your reptile. If you are wondering how to do this, you will want to start by lining the tank with a reptile carpet until your dragon is at least six inches long. If you do not do this, they could sink into the thick bedding. Juveniles may also ingest the sand on accident or out of curiosity. Once they are large enough, you can replace it with a layer of reptile sand. 

Next, give them plenty of things to climb and hid in. Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal and like being a bit off the ground, so having accessories that allow them to climb is ideal.  Make sure you also have a designated basking area so they can enjoy warming up, especially after a bath.

What Lights Do Bearded Dragons Need?

The lights you choose for your dragon’s environment matters substantially. For reference, you will want to provide your dragon 12 hours of “sunlight” every day with a UVA/UVB bulb. These rays are extremely important to bearded dragons because they can actually help them produce calcium. You can find these bulbs in a pet store or online that manufacture these special and invisible rays. Your dragon should be able to get within 12 inches of these lights as well to get the full benefits, depending on the bulb you choose.

For example, mercury vapour bulbs provide both UVA/UVB and heat, meaning your dragon can use it for UV rays as well as a basking lamp. Whatever reptile friendly bulb you choose, make sure the light is directed through the screen at the top and not through the glass since glass filters out the rays they need. Also, keep in mind that sunlight exposure is good as well. If you bring them outside during warm days, they will enjoy it, but also keep an eye on if they are getting overheated or not.

Bearded Dragon Temperature Gradient

Having the right thermal gradient is yet another critical element. To allow your beardie to regulate their own body temperature, using a heat lamp at the one end, the gradient should go from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cooler side, and basking temperature should be about 95 to 110 degrees. At night, it can fall to 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. To help with cooler environments, you can also use a ceramic heater if needed. In addition, to keep track of this, you will want that thermometer mentioned earlier.

Bearded Dragon Habitat Décor

One of the most fun parts, aside from getting to be a reptile owner, is getting to pick out all the fun and cool habitat
décor. There are tons of things you can choose from, but you will want to stick to the same basic principles. Get something for them to bask on, something for them to climb on, and something they can hide in.

Some ideas include:

  • Wood Branches – You can put sturdy sandblasted pieces of driftwood in there to make an excellent climbing perch for your dragon. It is also a great place for them to bask. 
  • Rocks – Rocks are a given. They make excellent perching areas and can be found in pet, garden, and home improvement stores. If you want to use outdoor rocks, you will need to bake them first to get rid of any bacteria, mould, or unwanted insects that could be on them. You do this by wrapping them up in foil and baking at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. As a precautionary measure with this one, since rocks can crack tank bottoms, make sure to be careful when placing them in there.
  • Plants – You can add real plants, but artificial ones are much easier to clean and maintain. Most pet stores carry tons of options that you can choose from.
  • Hiding Box – Bearded dragons like to hide away sometimes, especially when they feel threatened. Getting them a hiding box or two will make them very happy and feel safe. As a tip, place the box in a secluded area, because the goal is to make your dragon feel comfortable.

Bearded Dragon Personalities

Every dragon will have their own unique personality, just like humans and every other animal does.  But as a general rule of thumb, they contain calm and passive behaviour. They may even actively try to seek your attention, which you should take a remarkable compliment that they love you so much. Being able to discover your own dragon’s unique traits is both a fun and rewarding experience.

Arm Waving

One thing you may notice  your dragon arm-waving. Arm waving is when your dragon will stand on three legs and then raise the fourth leg in the air and wave it in a circular rotation. It is quite amazing to watch, and it can mean a couple of different things.  For instance, if there is another dragon in the tank with them, they could be waving at them to let them know they are aware of their presence.

Head Bobbing

Another trait is head bobbing. When your dragon bobs their head repeatedly, it may be them trying to establish dominance or perhaps as a sign of territorial aggression. On the other hand, if the bobbing is slower, it may be a sign of submission. Whatever the case may be, this will be more prominent in male dragons than their female counterparts.

Beard Fluffing

Something that both male and female dragons do is expand their beards from time to time. They tend to do this as defence behaviour because it makes themselves look bigger and more threatening. In general, you will not see them do this unless provoked. Their beard will also usually turn black.


Digging is when you see your dragon digging a hole in their tank. They could be doing this to create their own basking area that is more comfortable, digging to go into brumation, or trying to regulate their temperature better. If your dragon is a female, it could be an inherent trait to make a hole to lay her eggs. Other times, they may be doing this for no particular reason at all other than just being silly and curious.

Laying on Each Other

If you did end up going with the decision to put more than one dragon in the same tank, you might see that they will lay on each other once in a while. Though you may see this as they like each other and found companionship, it is actually a sign of dominance. Since dragons need UV rays to stay healthy, they will try to get the most rays as possible. This can lead to them blocking their dragon roommate from getting any by laying on top of them. In nature, it is survival of the fittest out there, and that natural trait still remains ingrained into them while in captivity.

Tail Twitching

Tail twitching is very similar to what you would see a cat do with their tail. To be clear, not every dragon will do this, but if you do see this behaviour, it could be an indicator that your dragon is trying to hunt, is stressed, or they are breeding.  If you are trying to pick them up and their tail starts to twitch, let them be and try again later when they are in a calmer mood.


Biting is a tall tale sign that your bearded dragon is aggravated. If they try to bite you when you handle them, you can either try again later, or you can put on some gloves and handle them anyways to try to calm them down.  Some reptile enthusiasts say that the persistence can lead to a stronger bond between you are your dragon.  However, use your best judgment because only you will know your dragon the best.

Bearded Dragon Common Health Problems

When you have a happy and healthy bearded dragon, they will be alert, active, and most certainly free from any swelling or puss. They will be able to hold their head up and not have any unusual fluid around their eyes or mouth. Unfortunately, bearded dragons are not immune to having health problems and the symptoms that go along with it. In fact, there are quite a few common things that could occur that you will
want to watch out for.

  • Impaction – Your dragon should be defecating on a regular schedule, and if it has been several days since the last one, he may be suffering from impaction. You can help him or her by rubbing their belly and giving them a warm bath.  If 24 hours goes by since you did this and still no luck, then it would be time to call the vet. 
  • Paralysis – This can happen if the food you give them is too large. The size ends up putting pressure on your dragon’s spinal cord during their digestion process. It can sadly lead to permanent paralysis or even death.
  • Metabolic Bone Disease – Bearded dragons can develop metabolic bone disease when they lack vitamin D, calcium, or phosphorous, which is the leading cause of their bones weakening. You will know this is the culprit if your dragon has jerky movements, spasms, a swollen jaw, and/or bumps that you can physically feel on their legs, back, and tail.
  • Mouth Rot – If you see a yellowish or whitish substance coming out of your dragon’s mouth, that is a clear sign that they have mouth rot. Other symptoms include decreased appetite and a swollen mouth.
  • Respiratory infection – If your dragon is suffering from a respiratory infection, they will have visibly breathing difficulty. They may be gasping and have mucus around their nostrils and mouth.
  • Dehydration – With dehydration, you will be able to tell if your dragon has sunken eyes and perks up rapidly after drinking. Wrinkled skin and low energy levels are all signs that your dragon needs to drink more water. You can encourage drinking by misting with water or by using diluted Pedialyte. In severe cases, you can use an eyedropper or a liquid syringe to inject water into their mouth. If the issue persists, call your vet.
  • Diarrhoea – Any changes in their faeces that are temporary are not too much of a red flag. However, if it remains consistent, it could mean something else is going on, such as worms or parasites.
  • Parasites – Some parasites, especially pinworms, are common amongst bearded dragons and are typically located in their intestinal tract. Many times, the parasite is transmitted to your dragon through mites, ticks, and perhaps from other infected dragons they come in contact with. Though persistent diarrhoea is a sign, sometimes there could be no apparent symptoms. Even if your reptile shoes no clinical signs, the parasite could be detected by your vet during their annual faecal examination. The type of parasite your dragon has will determine the drug to be used to remediate the issue, either topically or with oral or injectable anti-parasitic medications.
  • Adenovirus – The last common health concern that is extremely common in young bearded dragons is the Adenovirus. In many cases, it can cause fatal hepatitis and gastrointestinal infections. Signs to look for include weakness, not eating and becoming paralysed, ultimately leading to death.

These health issues are indeed alarming, and it could make you nervous and over analyse your dragon. If you are wondering if there is anything you can do to help prevent these diseases from occurring, there are. You can provide them with healthy supplements, such as a reptile multivitamin, so they are getting all the essential nutrients they need. Another helpful tip is to sprinkle their salads with calcium powder to ensure they get enough to keep their bones strong. If you do end up seeing any unusual signs that could indicate something serious is going on, make sure to call your vet as soon as possible to avoid any further complications.

Time to Become A Bearded Dragon Owner!

Bearded dragons are fascinating creatures and can be found in nearly all pet stores across the country. These reptiles can be a great companion for you, exhibiting incredible and distinctive personality traits that you will surely fall in love with. Watching them in their envelopment and getting to know them is something truly remarkable to experience. If you are a reptile enthusiast, then you should undoubtedly consider bringing one home to call your own. Just make sure you know how to care for them adequately and give them the best life possible so you and they can enjoy a long, happy life together.