How to prepare for a bearded dragon?
Before you buy your bearded dragon you should be well prepared for the new family member. Therefore you should read several books/websites and talk to experienced owners. But be discerning and rethink the information you get. Breeding bearded dragons is very easy, so not everyone who calls himself a breeder is a true expert in keeping bearded dragons.
Bearded dragons are robust animals which sadly leads to the fact that they are often kept under insufficient conditions as too small tanks, no bedding, false temperature, too little light etc.
It is also recommended to study the natural environment of feral bearded dragons. This helps much to understand the dragon’s needs and to know how the terrarium has to look like.
After having collected enough information you can buy/build the terrarium and equip it. Before buying the bearded dragon you should check the temperature and humidity for at least a few days. If they fit, the dragon can move into his new home.
Buying a bearded dragon
Bearded dragons are sold by private or commercial breeders, in pet shops and on reptile expositions. Before buying you should carefully look how the bearded dragons are housed. If there are too many animals in a small tank, if the terrarium is dirty or if the animals look ill, don’t buy there. Look if the terrarium has a UVB lamp installed.
The animal you want to buy should make an attentive and animated impression. Furthermore, pay attention that it has
- no secretion from eyes or nose
- a clean cloaca
- no deformations (especially of the jawbone, spine or tail)
- no dry and black looking body parts (especially toes, tail tip)
- no impaired coordination
- no tremor
- no lesions and wounds
- a good appetite (let you show that the dragon is hunting crickets)
A missing toe or part of the tail is no real problem for the bearded dragon. Even dragons who have lost a whole leg are in most cases still able to climb and hunt. But you should not buy the animal from a bad breeder or seller because you feel pity for it. Remember that your purchase keeps the business of those persons alive!
You should not buy animals which are younger than 4-6 weeks. Ideally the dragon is already 2-3 months old or older. Consider that very young dragons are more vulnerable to diseases than older ones.
Transporting a bearded dragon
If you have decided for a bearded dragon you need to carry him safely at his new home. For the transport, you can use a plastic animal tank which is big enough for the dragon. Please cover the transparent sides of the box so that the bearded dragon isn’t able to see what is going on outside. The visual stimuli can stress the dragon. Place a paper towel on the bottom of the box.
Use hot-water bags or heating packs if it isn’t warm outside. If its really cold or if you have a long-distance to cover, you can additionally put the tank into a styrofoam box. Ensure that the bearded dragon can’t climb out of the box during the transport.
Settling the bearded dragon into his new home
First of all it is very important that you collect the fresh faeces of your new animal and let a sample be tested by a vet (who is familiar with reptiles) as soon as possible. Reptiles often deal with parasites. They often increase rapidly after the relocation. If detected early there are highly treatable. Thus you should not retard the test.
When the bearded dragon moves into his new home keep in mind, that everything is new for him. Most beardies need some time to settle. During this time which may last 1-2 weeks you should disturb him as little as possible. Do only the necessary things (feeding, removing faeces) in his terrarium, not more! Try also not to watch the bearded dragon too closely, he may feel threatened. By the time he will get accustomed to his environment and will learn that he doesn’t have to be afraid of you.
But although most bearded dragons become very trusting you should always keep in mind that they don’t like to cuddle with you as some other pets like dogs. Bearded dragons tolerate much but that doesn’t automatically mean that they also like it. Please don’t turn a reptile into a cuddle toy! By the way, if your lizard is closing his eyes (except from falling into sleep) it is NO sign of feeling well. On the contrary: He clearly shows that he doesn’t like the situation at all.
Sometimes of course it may be necessary to handle him (for example if you have to carry him to a vet). Therefore it is helpful if the bearded dragon doesn’t struggle if you touch him. The bearded dragon will get used to your hand if you hand-feed him from time to time. But don’t do this regularly, the bearded dragon may get lazy because he learns that he doesn’t have to cater for himself. If you have to pick up the bearded dragon approach from one side, place your hand gently under is abdomen and scoop him up cautiously. Support the belly with your hand and try also to stabilize tail and feet.