Thursday, June 2, 2011
Species of the Day: Bearded Dragon
Scientific Name: Pogona vitticeps
Adult Size: Up to two feet in length
Range: Central and inland areas of Australia
Habitat: Interior deserts to coastal woodlands
Having owned one myself, there is not enough to be said about the bearded dragon's potential for becoming a cherished family pet. They are known as one of the all-time best pet lizards. They come in three distinct personalities to fit the needs of any owner. Twangs, as I call them, are alert and active almost to the point of being hyper, perfect for the reptile owner wanting a rambunctious pet to watch all of their antics. Then there are the boring bearded dragons, who love nothing more than laying around like a pet rock, for the owner wanting a sedate pet to sit in their lap and watch television with them. Last but not least, are the cuddlers, a great mix of the two former personalities, that are best for families with children. Cuddlers are alert, confident and happy dragons with a twinkle in their eye. They are always interested in whats going on around them and seem to genuinely enjoy being around their owners. Bearded dragons certainly are a joy to watch, whether it be them chasing down and eating crickets in a frenzy or their interesting social behaviors, such as arm-waving, head-bobbing or push-ups.
Captive-bred bearded dragons are very common in pet stores and through private hobby breeders, and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Their manageable size, relative ease of care and their moderate life-spans (6 to 10 years), make them great starter reptile for people just coming in to the hobby. However, their spacial requirements are quite large, a 55 gallon aquarium being the minimum size for a pair of adults. Bearded dragons love to climb, so some sturdy branches should be provided for enrichment, along with rocky piles and crevices to hide in. Sand mixed with untreated potting soil is a common substrate for adult bearded dragons, with news paper or paper towels being safer for babies, who may accidentally ingest the sand and get impacted. Bearded dragons are desert dwellers and enjoy high temperature gradients between 80 and 90 degrees F, with a basking spot of 100 degrees F. UVB and UVA lighting is a must for these lizards, assisting them in synthesizing in Vitamin D3 and aiding in calcium absorption for proper bone growth. Bearded dragons are omnivorous, enjoying both plant matter and animal protein in varying degrees depending on their age. Young bearded dragons will require more protein while adults will eat a 50/50 mix of insects and greens. Bearded dragons have voracious appetites and will readily accept any appropriately sized insects and the occasional pinky mouse of feeder anole.