Is A Bearded Dragon Right for You? A Guide to Cost, Supplies and Care

In this article we are going to discuss whether or not a bearded dragon would be a right pet for you. We are also going to get into what you need if you want a bearded dragon.

Bearded Dragon Essentials

Below is a list of all the things you will need for your bearded dragon along with its cost and procedures.

Space Needed for Bearded Dragons

First of all, it’s important to know whether a bearded dragon will work with your lifestyle. Bearded dragons can get pretty big, up to two feet to be exact.  You have to make sure you have enough space for a bearded dragon because they do grow pretty big. It is mostly tail but there is quite a big chunk of body to go with that tail when they do grow to their full size. So, make sure you are prepared for that if you want to buy a bearded dragon.

Supplies and Maintenance Cost

Another thing to be prepared for is the maintenance and supplies cost. You will need a number of things for your bearded dragon such as cage, food and many other things.

Below is the list of things you will need if you want a bearded dragon.

Cage for Your Bearded Dragon

There are a variety of cages that are available. For a baby that’s about five to six inches, you can start up them off in about a 20-gallon long tank. You will also need a screen lid to go on top and all your other supplies to go with the cage such as a heat lamp.

Melamine or Custom Wood Cages

These are really nice cages. You can buy one for your bearded dragon when it gets too big for a smaller cage but unfortunately they can be expensive. It cost around $200 even up to $300 dollars depending on who you buy it from and how big it is.

The material also plays into it. Melamine is a type of wood that’s very popular when it comes to building cages because it has a white coating on both sides already and it’s pretty sturdy but again it could be very expensive.

Vision Cages

Then there’s also vision cages which I think are the most expensive of all of them. But they are the lightest, they’re made out of a nice light plastic so, they’re easy to stack easy to move and carry around. But they can be extremely expensive especially when you get into the sizes you’ll need for an adult bearded dragon.

My Personal Choice

Personally I like Exo Terra Allglass Terrarium. It is available in many different sizes ranging from Nano-small to Wide-tall. This cage comes with a lot of features such as dual doors, lock, removable stainless steel cover, water proof base, enlarged ground surface and natural looking rock background. We highly recommend this for bearded dragons.


Taller cages require higher wattage of bulbs in order to maintain a nice basking spot for bearded dragons. The taller the cage you have the more expensive your light bulb is going to end up being because it will be a higher wattage.

Substrate Needed for Bearded Dragons

You are also going to have to consider what substrate to use.

Substrate for Baby Bearded dragons

After doing a lot of research I found that the best substrate for baby beaded dragons is just using paper towels or newspaper. You can pretty much get it for free, you probably already have paper towels or newspaper laying around your house.

All you have to do is just lay it down and when your beardie poops on it you just grab it all up throw it away and put down a new layer. It keeps the babies from getting too much exposure to their own feces which would cause diseases especially in younger dragons. You want to make sure they have a nice and clean habitat.

Using paper towels and newspapers is nice because you can really quickly just clean up and put down a new layer of substrate and it doesn’t cost very much at all. You probably already have the stuff laying around your house.

Substrate for Adult Bearded Dragons

For adult bearded dragons there are many different options available. Some of the best options available include repti carpet and sand. There are pros and cons to both of those. I’ve read a lot that repti carpet even though it is a nice substrate there’s no chance of your bearded dragon eating it and getting sick but it does maintain a smell no matter how much you wash it. That’s kind of a downside especially since bearded dragon’s poop is really bad smelling.

You can also use sand for your adult bearded dragons. Sand is really nice because a lot of beadies like to dig especially females, once they get older they’ll have periods where they are burdened with infertile eggs. So, they’ll tend to get the need to dig around and lay their eggs in a substrate like sand even though they’re not fertile eggs but it does happen.

Sand is a nice substrate except there is a chance that your dragon could eat the sand while this isn’t as much of a problem with adults as it can be with babies. When they eat stuff it gets clogged in the edges of their stomach lining and it just causes all sorts of problems. That’s why for babies I would recommend using something like paper towels or newspaper or repti carpet if you want. That way there’s no chance that they’ll end up eating their substrate because it is just one solid.

You Can Also Use Tiles As a Substrate For Adult Bearded Dragons

With adults you can also use tiles. It’s nice because you can get tiles pretty cheap. You can usually buy a single tile for less than a dollar and then just you lay them down. A lot of tiles come with self-adhesive bottoms or you can cock them into the cage.  Tile helps wear down the beardie’s toenails and it isn’t loose like sand so there’s no risk infection.

Tails also retain some heat from the heat bulb, not so much that it could injure your dragon or burn them but it is nice that it isn’t like super cold all the time and it does just provide a little extra heat. So, I think that tiles are pretty nice of a substrate as well.

Lighting for Bearded Dragons

Lighting is very imperative when it comes to owning bearded dragons and this is where a lot of your money is going to end up going down the drain. Bearded dragons have to have UVB.  It’s a special type of light that you get from the Sun. With the UVB the bearded dragon absorbs the UVB rays and uses that to take the calcium that they ingest and use it in their body.

Without UVB the calcium just goes to their system and does nothing for them. So, it’s really important to have UVB for your bearded dragon or no matter how much calcium you give them, they’ll end up with a problem like metabolic bone disease because they can’t absorb the calcium into their body and use it for what they need to use it for.

What I recommend is the Repti Sun 10 UVB bulb. You can find it almost anywhere. If you buy it online, you can usually get a better price than in-store, nearly half or even more than half of the price of a commercial pet store. is one of the best websites I found for bearded dragon supplies. they always have better prices than commercial pet stores. A 24 inch repti sun UVB bulb at amazon is only 21 bucks while the same bulb at Petco costs about $57.

Another option for UVB is a coil bulb. However, coil bulbs don’t give off quite as much UVB percentage wise as to fluorescence. So, if I were you I’d probably just stick with the tube fluorescence because it does cover more of the cage while one single coil solution would just cover a single spot and you want to make sure that no matter where your beauty is in the cage they’re getting UVB.

Heat Bulb for Bearded Dragons

Your bearded dragon is a reptile and therefore it doesn’t not produce its own internal heat therefore it has to get it from an external source such as the heat bulb. Baby bearded dragons need to maintain a temperature around 100 to 110 max degrees Fahrenheit. So, you’re going to need a pretty strong of heat bulb.

For a baby bearded dragon you want to make sure you have a basking spot of about 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the warm side should be about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The cage is going to have a warm side and the cool side. That way if your bearded dragon gets too hot it can go over to the cool side and cool off. If he gets too cool he can go over the warm side and warm up. The cool side should be about 85 degrees Fahrenheit or around even down to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

like I said I used to have a basking spot which is a single spot that reaches a maximum of 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and the rest of your warm side should be about 90 degrees Fahrenheit your cool side should be about 85 degrees Fahrenheit or around even down to like 75 degrees Fahrenheit

At night your temperature should not go below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the absolute minimum that’s even a little bit cold. So, if you’re worried about your temps getting that cold, go ahead and get a ceramic heat emitter. It admits heat but no light so it doesn’t disturb your bearded dragon during their sleep.

A lot of people might say to use infrared heating for a night heating light but studies have found that the red light admitted actually does disturb your beard dragon sleep pattern. They do detect the light and it does keep them awake. So, I wouldn’t suggest using an infrared heating light.

I would suggest using a Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp. You can get a two-bulb value pack which is very useful. That way if unexpectedly one of your heat bulbs goes out you have another to replace it.

Maintaining a favorable temperature is very imperative to the health of your bearded dragon. If it’s too cold they can get very sick if it’s too hot that can also be very dangerous. So, it’s important that along with your heat bulb you also buy a thermometer. Not one of the strip ones that you just stick on like a sticker, those tend to be very unreliable and have a huge margin of error.

You want to buy one that comes with a little probe that you can stick on the basking spot and get a reading or one of the ones that uses lasers where you can shine it on the basking spot and get an instant reading from the digital thermometer. So, you want to get one of those to make sure that all your temperatures are where they should be to ensure the health of your bearded dragon.

Housing for Bearded Dragons

Your bearded dragon is also going to appreciate having somewhere to hide especially babies that are considered prey items in the wild. It is their natural instinct to stay hidden most of the time. By hiding they feel secure because in the wild they would just be eaten up by a hawk or snake.

You can have a cave either on the cool side or the hot side for your bearded dragon to hid in. Buying a premade hide can be expensive even a little desert hideaway is 15 dollars. I recommend building your own hide by just taking some stones or some bricks and stacking them on top of each other, this is a lot cheaper.

If you are going to build one by yourself, I suggest siliconing the rocks together. Personally, I was worried that the rocks were a little unstable and I didn’t want them falling and crushing my bearded dragon.

The rocks hides are nice because they’ll take in some heat from the heat lamp but they usually don’t get too hot. So, it’s not a risk of burning your bearded dragon. Unlike some products you can buy such as heated rocks. Those are dangerous because they continue to heat up and admit heat.

Bearded dragons can only detect heat from above because they have a certain eye on top of their heads, obviously it’s not an actual eye but that’s what it’s called. It detects light and so it’s important that any heat source that you use is comes from above and not below like a under tank heater or a heat rock.

Basking for Bearded Dragons

Basking is very important. In order to utilize the heat bulb, you need to have a basking spot. This will help your bearded dragon get closer to the heat source. This will also help you in reducing the wattage of bulb. The Closer your bearded dragon can get to the bulb the warmer it’ll be.

See if you can find a nice tall piece of wood so the dragon can climb up on and get closer to the bulb. Just make sure you check the temperature of the highest spot to make sure it’s not too hot. What I recommend is Mac’s Creatures & Critters Grapevine Jungle Gym.

It has different levels where your bearded dragon could either bask away at the top or get down a little bit where the temperature is a little bit cooler. This particular piece of wood is nice because your bearded dragon will be able to choose what basking temperature he wants to be at without having to get all the way down on the ground to cool off.

Baby dragons love to climb while adults and sub adults tend to get a little bit lazier. So once your bearded dragon starts getting older you might want to look into getting a heat source so that they don’t have to climb as high to get as warm. Adult bearded dragons also don’t need as high of a basking temperature. That’s also helpful in lowering your wattage here.


Bearded dragons also really love hammocks. It might seem a little bit weird but they tend to be a little bit lazy in nature and so laying in a hammock under a heat lamp is just one of the joys of being a bearded dragon. So, that would be a nice thing to invest in as well. It’s pretty cheap. It costs only about six dollars.

Food for Bearded Dragons

Now we are getting into the all-important category of food. Your habits in feeding them can either make or break your dragon so this is really important.

Food for Baby Dragons

For babies they’re going to eat about 90% animal protein. You want to feed them about two to three times a day. Don’t feed them after 6:00 p.m. and make sure your bearded dragon gets a good 2 hours of just basking time before their light goes out.

You don’t want to feed them too soon too when their light goes out because they need that heat to digest and you don’t want the food sitting undigested in their stomach overnight. I suggest not feeding them 2 hours prior to when the heat lamp is going to go off.

They’re also going to need about 10% plant protein. You want to feed this earlier in the day so they have plenty of time to digest it. It’s also good to feed it in the morning first thing so that they aren’t being spoiled by insects already. They’ll be hungry in the morning and when you give them some plants they’ll probably eat it right up and then you can start feeding them bugs.

It’s really important that babies get plant protein even if they don’t like it as much as bugs because when they become adults their diet completely flip-flops. They’re going to need 10% animal protein and 90% plant protein.

If you don’t feed them plants as babies, they tend to get spoiled and not want to eat their plants even though it’s a health issue if they’re eating more animal protein than they should be.

Eating too much animal protein when they’re adults can cause problems such as liver disease, kidney disease, gout and all sorts of other problems that you don’t want your bearded dragon to have. So, this is a very important step in feeding them that 10% plant protein when they’re babies or you’ll end up with those problems when they’re adults.

Food for Adult Bearded Dragons

Adults bearded dragons need 10% animal protein and 90% plant protein.

Animal Protein for Bearded Dragons

You can feed them crickets, dubia roaches, hornworm, silk worms, Phoenix worms, super worms. There’s a variety of other things you can find. For full list of foods, you can feed your bearded dragon, see our other post.

Majority of people feed their beardies mostly crickets but I think crickets are a terrible source of protein. They’re mostly just shell and they just don’t have very much meat on them at all. I would say mostly dobia roaches because they are excellent source of protein. They are big, fat and juicy with very little shell to all that meat.

So, I’d suggest mostly dubia roaches especially because they’re really easy to keep and breed on your own. And once you get a nice breeder colony going, you tend to not need to buy any more roaches you have enough right there in your own house. This saves you a ton of money.

Plant Protien for Bearded Dragons

You will need to feed your beardie 90% plant protein. Some of the good sources of plants protein are collard greens, kale mustard greens, turnip greens and they also love hibiscus leaves and dandelions. See the full list of greens you can feed your bearded dragon.

You can find a food chart for bearded dragons in one of our other posts that tells you what should be fed as a staple food, what should only be fed occasionally and what things are harmful to your beard dragon’s health. Not only does it tell you that but it gives you all of the dietary information, every single food is listed there.

Supplements for Bearded Dragons

Supplements are very important to your bearded dragon and a lot of other different reptiles. You’re going to make sure you got your calcium supplement and your multivitamin supplement. Rep cal is an excellent brand. I personally use them and I think they’re just really great supplements. My bearded dragon loves them.

When you’re feeding your bearded dragon vegetables, you want to make sure you spray all the vegetables with some water. Just some water in a spray bottle and nothing special just to make sure there’s plenty of water on there to hydrate your bearded dragon. Because a lot of their hydration needs comes from the veggies they eat. So, make sure what you feed them is nice and hydrated because that’s where they going to get most of their daily amount of water.

When you feed them insects, you want to put some calcium and some vitamin D3. For baby bearded dragon you should be giving calcium supplements seven days of the week and about five days of the week you should be getting a multivitamin supplement.

Bearded Dragon Supplies Price Comparison

At the time when I was buying my bearded dragon’s supplies, I was looking at all different websites and all the different pricings from different websites for the food and all other stuff I was going to need. I compiled a table of all the different websites I went to and the final cost for everything. You can see the price comparison table in the image bellow.

Supplies Cost Comparison

There are a number of websites that were missing certain supplies that I wanted which was kind of a bummer. On the left side, you can see my shopping list that I had. It looks like the cheapest one that I found was Amazon.

So, when it comes to buying reptile supplies online I would suggest buying it from amazon which has all sort of basic and more specialized reptile supplies.

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