Dr Amanda graduated from the University of Sydney in 2006. She began working in the Illawarra for 4 years before heading off to the UK and Ireland. Amanda worked as a small animal vet throughout the UK and spent a lot of time honing her skills with Exotic pets, as this is her main passion.
After returning home to Australia Amanda joined our team in March 2014. Whether your companion has scales, fur, feathers or floppy ears Amanda has the skills and knowledge to take good care of them.
If you would like to see Amanda please contact us to arrange an appointment.
There are several species of beared dragon found in Australia, however the most common species is the Central Bearded Dragon, scientifically known as Pogona Vitticeps. They make great pets and have fairly straightforward living requirements, provided that you have to correct knowledge on how to care for them.
The bearded dragon are moderately sized lizards 12-24 inches long, that are native to Australia living in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. They are given their name due to the flap of skin below their jaw and the rows of spiked scales. When these are puffed it resembles a beard. The age of a bearded dragon varies, their normal lifespan is 6-10 years, however it has been reported of some dragons living up to 20 years.
Below is a list of all bearded dragons seen here in Australia:
- Pogona Vitticeps (24 Inches)
- Pogona Barbata (24 Inches)
- Pogona Minor Mitchelli (18 Inches)
- Pogona Minor Minor (14 to 18 Inches)
- Pogona Nullabor (14 Inches)
- Pogona Henrylawsoni (12 Inches)
- Pogona Minor Minima (12 Inches)
- Pogona Microlepidota (4 to 6 Inches)
Bearded Dragon Shedding
Just like all reptiles bearded dragons will shed their skin. During the growing phase, baby and juvenile bearded dragons will shed their skin frequently in response to growing. Adult bearded dragons will only shed their skin once or twice a year.
How do you know if your dragon is shedding?
Their colour will begin to change, looking more dull than normal and their eyes will begin to puff out.
Whilst they are shedding you want to make sure your dragon remains healthy, clean and hydrated. The humidity of your dragon’s enclosure is much lower than the humidity that they would experience in the wild. For this reason, it is recommended that you moisten your dragon’s skin with water using a spray bottle and bath him/her in warm water.
Behaviour and Temperament
Becoming familiar with your bearded dragon’s temperament and behaviour is important, especially if owning a dragon is a new experience for you.
Some of the behaviours you should know about bearded dragons include:
The Head Bob
This is a sign of dominance or aggression and is one of the primary behaviours bearded dragons use to define social hierarchy. Head bobbing occurs during mating, males bob their head to show a territorial response and dominance over a female dragon. Generally, the faster the head bob the more threatening that bearded dragon will be. Slow head bobbing can be a sign of submission in females during the breeding season.
The arm waving represents one bearded dragon being aware of the presence of another. The dragon will stand high on three legs and raise their remaining leg, waving it in a circular motion. Arm waving can also show submission when approached by a larger dragon.
Fluffing their beard
It is not unusual for a bearded dragon to stretch out their beards without being provoked, however this is an action mostly seen during the breeding season and they will do this as a defensive behaviour to make themselves appear larger. Female dragons do this when they accept a male for mating.
Raised tails and tail twitching
Bearded dragons will raise their tail when they are on the alert. This often occurs when they are hunting their prey, but it can also present as a defence stance when they are stressed.
Lying on top of each other
Seeing your dragons lying on top of each other might seem like they all get along but it is actually a sign of dominance and survival of the fittest. The dominant dragon will always try to be on top to get as much UV rays as possible.
Similar to panting, bearded dragons occasionally sit with their mouth open. This is a mechanism used to regulate their body temperature. As reptiles do not sweat they have developed other methods for cooling off. This behaviour is commonly seen when they are basking. If you ever notice heavy breathing, gurgling or hissing when they are sitting with their mouth open bring them to your vet immediately.
Yawning is another common behaviour and usually occurs when they wake up from a nap. Dragons yawn by puffing out their beards and opening and closing their mouth.
Brumation is a mild form of reptile hibernation that allows for bearded dragons to conserve energy through winter and reset their biological clocks. Dragons going through brumation will go dormant, sleeping throughout the day and occasionally waking for food. In the wild, bearded dragons will brumate due to cooler temperatures, changes in light and a lack of food and water during winter. This can continue for several months. Although brumation is a natural instinct, the regulated temperatures in captivity may result in some dragons never going through a brumation period.
Signs of brumation include:
- Decreased appetite
- Decrease activity and lethargy
- Sleeping longer and especially throughout the during the day
- Hiding and digging under the substrate
- Avoid their basking light
- Not wanting to be handled
The most common reason to why bearded dragons dig in their enclosure is to create a more comfortable basking spot. Females dig holes to find a place to lay their eggs. Bearded dragons dig when they are trying to escape their enclosure or to get to something they may have seen outside.
Glass surfing or dancing
This is a common behaviour seen in many other species or animals and is often a sign that your dragon is under stress. They will stand on their back legs against the glass and run up and down the enclosure. Other than stress it may be a sign that they are feeling threatened from something outside the enclosure, like a dog or cat.
For a single bearded dragon, a 300-litre tank with a secure screen top and enough ventilation is recommended. For juvenile dragons, a small tank may be used, however dragons will outgrow their tank quickly so it may be worth investing in the larger tank from the beginning. In some cases, using a smaller cage can inhibit their growth and prevent your bearded dragon from growing to their true size.
An absorbent substrate such as fine-grade sand or artificial grass mat is important along with a basking log/rock, artificial plants and clean water and food dishes. Sand makes a great playground for dragons to dig and burrow and it is easy to simply scoop out their faeces similar to a cat’s litter tray. Do not use wood shavings or any flooring that may cause harm if swallowed.
For juvenile dragons, their curiosity as younger dragons may result in them accidently ingesting the fine-grade sand and should be avoided to prevent stomach compaction.
Set up your dragon’s tank with accessories and furniture, you can’t expect your dragon to be a happy chappy in a bare tank!
Hammocks:You can buy specially designed hammocks for reptiles that come with suction cups that make it easy for you to hang anywhere in the tank.
Backgrounds:Stick a desert-like background to the sides of the tank to give them the feeling of the desert and more security.
Hiding ornaments: Include an ornament, like a small cave where your dragon can hide to escape the light and sleep. This cave like ornament can also be their basking platform so have a look around to find the right one.
It is important to maintain cleanliness and hygiene of your dragon’s tank. Regular sifting of the substrate to remove any skin that has been shed, faeces and old uneaten food is important. To clean the tank only use a reptile safe disinfectant and a complete change of the substrate should be done every 2-3 months.
Bearded dragons are sun-loving solitary reptiles that spend most of their day relaxing and basking in their enclosure. They require full spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours of the day, so the lighter the tank the happier your bearded dragon will be.
Full spectrum UVA and UVB lighting that spans the distance of the entire tank is ideal to mimic the natural sunlight that your bearded dragons would experience in the desert. Most UVA and UVB bulbs lose strength over time so it is recommended that the bulbs are changed every 6 months. UVA producing lights should not be directed through glass rather a screen top and dragons should be able to get within 12 inches of the light in order to benefit from the UV rays.
It is extremely important that adequate temperature within the tank are provided within a dragon’s enclosure to ensure their health and wellbeing. They require a hot basking spot on an elevated log or rock ornament that is to be maintained between 35-40 degrees Celsius and at least 30cm from the heating source. This can be achieved by using heat lamps and incandescent light bulbs, regular household bulbs will not provide an adequate heat source. If you purchase lights and heat lamps specifically sold for bearded dragons you will not have a problem in achieving this.
The tank should have a hot side, this is the side where the basking ornament sits and a cool side that mimics the night time hours of the desert. The cool side should be maintained between 24-26 degrees and should never drop below 21-18 degrees. The temperature of the tank should be checked daily, ideally keeping it regulated with a good quality thermostat. Bearded dragons also thrive in low humidity environments to stay healthy so adding a humidity gauge to the tank is recommended.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and have fairly complex nutritional requirements. Foods such as vegetables, insects and non-citrus fruits.
As a rule of thumb when feeding fresh food and live food to your bearded dragon it’s always important not to feed anything larger than the width between their eyes.
Bearded dragons do not drink water out of a bowl they absorb water through their skin. Make sure you provide them with a large bowl of water that they can lay in and spray their entire body with water on a daily basis.
Baby dragon diet
Your baby bearded dragon’s diet should consist of more insects than vegetables because they are still growing. Leave fresh vegetables in the cage and three times a day feed them insects. A good indication on how many insects they can eat is to monitor how many they can eat within a 15-minute period. If they are finished within 5 minutes of being fed the insects this may indicate they need more insects to feed on. A baby dragon can eat up to 20 crickets each day.
Adult dragon diet
Adult dragons do not need to consume as many insects as the baby dragon. If fed too much your dragons may become overweight. Only fed your adult dragon insects once a day within a 10-15 minute window. Ensure to remove any remaining insects from the tank after this time.
Foods to feed your bearded dragon
- Crickets – Great all-round diet
- Woodies – High in fat, sometimes food
- Roaches – High in fat, sometimes food
- Mealworms – High in fat, sometimes food
Make sure you take special precautions when your purchase live insects so they do not escape and you don’t find them under your feet!
Collard greens:These include kale, broccoli, spinach, beetroot and cabbage which are packed with vitamin C great for boosting your dragon’s immunity.
Tomatoes: Bearded dragon’s love tomatoes and they add great variety to their diet. They are a good source of vitamin A and lycopene.
Bok Choy: Tear up into little pieces before feeding this vitamin A packed Chinese cabbage to your dragon.
Carrots: Carrots are best fed mashed as this helps your dragon digest them better. They are packed with minerals, antioxidants and beta carotene. Carrots loved by dragons because of their wonderful sweetness.
Endive:Very rich in vitamin A and K and folate endive is very nutritious for your dragon. Tear the leaves into tiny bit before feeding.
Alfalfa sprouts: These can be difficult for your dragon to eat and swallow but are packed with many vitamins and minerals.
Strawberries: Delicious and sweet, strawberries are full of vitamins C and your dragon will not hesitate to eat them. Make sure you cut them up before feeding.
Figs:Another sweet food to feed your dragon packed full of calcium. Cut them up before feeding.
Blueberries: A good source of vitamin K and antioxidants, blueberries are very good for your dragon. Even though they are tiny still cut them in halve to aid in digestion.
Dandelion greens: These are one of the best foods to feed your dragon. They have some much nutritional goodness. Only feed the leaves not the flower. Feeding dandelions from the store will guarantee they do not have pesticides on them. Be mindful of any picked straight from a garden.
Other safe vegetables & plants:
- Mustard greens
- Cucumber (peeled)
- Bell peppers (raw)
- Butternut squash
- Maple leaves
- Rose petals
- Thyme (fresh)
- Mint leaves
Commercial dragon food
It is not recommended to provide solely commercial foods to your dragon, live and fresh food is always the best choice. Commercial foods tend to be dry therefore your dragon will not be consuming adequate amounts of water. This can lead to chronic dehydration and kidney disease. If you do choose to feed a commercial always ensure that your dragon is also consuming adequate amounts of fresh food.
Bearded Dragon Health issues
- Impaction:Monitor their defecation, if they are eating daily and have stopped defecating you should take your dragon to the vet.
- Diarrhoea:Diarrhoea can be a sign of stress or poor dietary intake. It may also be an indication of intestinal worms.
- Dehydration:Signs of dehydration can include, sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, decreased appetite and a lack of energy.
- Droopy eyes: A Droopy eye looks similar to those big dogs that have permanent saggy eyes however in bearded dragons it is not a normal feature. It can be an indication of kidney issues or damage to the eye. If you notice this you should take your bearded dragon to the vet.
- Swollen or puffed eyes: This could indicate an eye infection, parasites, mites, hypervitaminosis (overdose of vitamin A). If you notice puffy eyes we highly recommend a visit to your vet.
- Worms: Make sure you give your bearded dragon worming treatment every three months.
You may also like
Myxomatosis is disease that affects rabbits and was introduced into Australia in the 1950’s to control the large rabbit population. It is commonly transferred through mosquitoes and during the warmer weather the mosquito population is thriving, causing a rapid spread of the disease. Fleas can also spread the disease.
Read about bird health and our top tips for keeping your bird healthy and happy. Remember birds often mask the signs of illness and may only show signs of being unwell when they are very sick so it is important monitor their health closely.
All animals and pets are at risk from poisons, toxins and venoms in and around our homes. Some of these substances may be naturally occurring, and may be non toxic to humans. Find out which plants, foods and other substances put our pets at risk.