How to Care for your Dragon (and Other Reptiles)

Reptiles are amazing creatures! In this blog, Lydia - one of our Animal Husbandry Coordinators - will tell you a bit about the best reptiles to keep as a pet and how to look after them.

First up, is the bearded dragon!

Bearded dragons are awesome pets! They are lovely lizards with great personalities - they are very friendly and docile, making for a great family pet.

Why are they called bearded dragons?

Although they are called dragons, they do not breathe fire or fly (however, it would be pretty cool). They get their name from their beard-like necks which can puff up and turn black to scare off other animals. The spines on their throat and sides make them look super scary to predators too (but super cute to us!).

Where do they stay in the wild?

These lizards are native to the arid, rocky areas of Australia. Their colour - a lovely brown/yellow which sometimes has bits of orange - is perfect for camouflaging in the sand to hide from predators. A favourite pastime of these sun worshipers is basking on rocks to soak up those all important rays.

How to look after your dragon!

An at home habitat?

To give your dragon the best life possible, their tank must be a good length as beardies are generally a ground lizard. My bearded dragon, Pancake (keep reading: i’ll explain the name) has a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft tank which is the perfect size for this lazy lizard.

As we mentioned earlier, bearded dragons love to bask. An at home habitat should have an enclosure that allows them to climb towards heat when required - they like using branches as platform to get nearer to their UVB tube.

Other enclosure essentials include: rocks which keep their nails short and hiding places, where they can feel safe or shade away from heat if they are too warm.

On the ground of their tank use newspaper, reptile carpet or similar. Do not use wood shaving, soil or sand - these can cause compaction if eaten.

What should we feed it?

Bearded dragons are omnivorous - they will eat plants, fruit, insects, small mammals and even other lizards! Their diet should consist of approx. 20% vegetation (mainly leafy greens) and 80% meat - e.g crickets, locusts, morioworms and pinky mice. Their food must be sprinkled with calcium powder 3 or 4 times per week.

What about lighting and heat?

Bearded dragons live in very hot climates where the sun gives them UVB naturally - this helps them process vitamin D. Therefore, it is a MUST to have a desert UVB fluorescent tube in their tank which must be changed every 6 months.

Without this they could develop something called metabolic bone disease (MDB), which is why my rescue bearded dragon is deformed and has a kink in her back and tail - leaving her very flat, just like a pancake.

They like a temperature of 30-36°C under their heat light to bask and a cooler temperature of 24-28°C elsewhere in their tank . At night they don’t need any extra heat, as in the wild the temperature would drop naturally.