Care and Feeding of Bearded Dragons and Uromastyx

bearded-dragons1The bearded dragon and the uromastyx are recognized as wonderful pets due to their calm, easy to handle, domestic nature. Full grown, these lizards may reach one foot in length, making them a moderate and reasonable size. Both the bearded dragon and the uromastyx are colorful, and can be extremely impressive in a uniquely designed vivarium. These easy to care for animals are becoming one of the top selling lizards in today’s reptile trade.

As adults, these reptiles are generally ground or rock dwellers, and dig deep tunnels in the wild. Long hot days and cold nights are spent these tunnels. As young animals, these reptiles like to climb to  bask on  branches, fence posts, and large rocks.

Diet

Bearded dragons plant products and insects. Juvenile Bearded Dragons should be fed crickets, silk worms, mealworms, wax worms and other various insects at least 3-4 times weekly. Most juvenile lizards favor insects over plant matter. Adult diets include 60-75% of leafy greens, such as mustard greens, collard greens, kale, endive, and spinach. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the plant diet consists of frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans, lima beans), grated carrots, squash, or other such vegetables. Adults should be offered fresh plant matter daily and live foods every 7-10 days.

Uromastyx are primarily herbivorous.  They should be fed a diet of cracked legumes (split peas, lentils), other grains and dark leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, dandelion greens, endive, etc.). One advantage of keeping Uromastyx is that they do not need to be fed insect food.

Bearded dragons and uromastyx obtain most of their water intake through the plant products they obtain. It is a good idea to mist them off daily, several times a day for juvenile’s, and soak them weekly. To soak these reptiles, place them in a shallow bowl of lukewarm water for about ten minutes. If you decide to leave a water bowl in the lizard’s cage, be sure to clean it well every few days to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.

Housing

Enclosures come in all shapes and sizes, being as unique as the people who design them. They range from aquariums with screen tops, custom wood cages, cabinets with glass sliding doors, or large box type cages. When selecting a cage it is important to keep the full-grown animal in mind. The length of the enclosure should be four times the length of the reptile, with the width of the enclosure measuring twice the length of the animal. Acceptable substrates include: sand, or pea gravel, artificial grass, outdoor carpet, and linoleum. Juvenile bearded dragons and uromastyx should be kept on a substrate that is large enough, so the animal won’t ingest it. Adult reptiles can be kept on sand, however, it is not recommended to keep juveniles on sand.

Some sort of “hide box” shelter should be provided to decrease stress and provide protection from heat and light. Cork bark, wood or rocks provide an excellent source of shelter. Rocks can be cemented together to provide crawl spaces. Take notice to the positioning of shelters and other objects in the enclosure to prevent them from collapsing on your reptile.

Temperature

The bearded dragon and uromastyx should be provided with a day time air temperature in the upper 80s, and a night time temperature to drop tin the upper 70s. Bearded dragons should have a basking sight where the temperature is allowed to reach 110-115 degrees, uromastyx as high as 125 degrees, which should be available for 12-14 hours of the day, and turned off at night. The best way to achieve these temperatures is with a heat lamp placed outside the cage to prevent burns. It is a good idea to keep the basking area at one end of the enclosure to provide a temperature gradient and allow the lizard to thermoregulate. We have found that the best way to provide these temperatures is to use a heat light with a wattage greater than what is needed to achieve the temperatures desired then dim the light with a lamp dimmer (available at most hardware store) to adjust the brightness of the light and hence the temperature.  Timers work well to adjust the  hours of day and night light, and are also commonly sold at hardware stores. In addition to heat, a source of UV-B must be provided.  New UV fluorescent lights, such as ReptiSun 8.0 and 10.0 manufactured by ZooMed provide abundant light in the UV-B spectrum without producing dangerous amounts of UV-A.  When conditions allow, these species should be exposed to 6-12 hours of natural sunlight a week in a screen enclosure. Under the tank heaters are available and are commonly used to provide increased night time and hide box heat, however, please use caution and monitor temperatures carefully.  Again, dimmers may be used to adjust temperatures. If under tank heaters malfunction, it could cause extreme burns to your animal that could potentially be fatal.

Common Problems

Internal Parasites

Fecal exams should be performed  on newly acquired reptiles and repeated annually. A fresh fecal, preserved in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours, should be submitted to your veterinarian for a microscopic parasite exam. A parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism. Internal parasites are more common and can be difficult to diagnose. Internal parasites produce microscopic eggs which pass through the reptile in their feces. If your veterinarian has a negative finding, test again. A single  negative finding  does not necessarily mean your reptile is free of parasites. If fecal samples come back negative two or more times, it is safe to assume your reptile is parasite free. However, if your reptile does have parasites, which many of them do, they can be treated. A veterinarian exam is necessary for proper treatment of your reptile.

External Parasites

Mites, blood sucking arachnids related to spiders, may appear black, red or orange, or old dried blood in color. They can be found roaming the body, or tucked under edges of scales around the eyes, ears, or tympanic membranes. Mites are a common external parasite, and in most cases are microscopic or at the limit that may be seen without magnification. Mites can be difficult to treat, since they can live in your reptile’s environment for long periods of time. If your reptile has external parasites, you will need to treat both your reptile, and it’s environment. Most “miracle treatments” sold in pet stores are generally ineffective. The best way to treat your reptile is with warm soap and water soaks. The animal’s environment must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. To sterilize the cage, remove and change substrate, bake any wood items in the oven, boil rocks, and bleach enclosure and any food and water bowls. Consult a competent reptile veterinarian before using insecticides on your animals.

Organ Failure

Aged reptiles may eventually suffer from kidney, liver or heart failure. Some signs to look for are lack of appetite, increased thirst, weight loss, lack of producing feces, lethargy, or muscle twitches or loss of strength. If caught early enough, treatments would consist of a better diet, and change of environment. Most cases of kidney failure, by the time they are caught, can be fatal.

article by By Christine Hancock

About Christine Hancock

Comments

  1. Really cool post, highly informative and professionally written. Good job!

  2. I have a question. I have a bearded dragon that is 10 yrs old. I discovered today that his intestines were coming out. Is this normal with his age? I don’t want him to die because my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow and it would horrify her. Is there anything that I can do at home?

    • Misty
      Sorry to hear about your Beardie. If you have not already, you must take him to a veterinarian, preferably one that is experienced with reptiles. A cloacal or intestinal prolapse is a very dangerous problem.
      Best of luck, Dr. J

  3. jl.smallwood says:

    When I run out of crities my beardie will not eat anything. She dose not like worms or rollie polly bugs. Would it hurt to bake a pototoes with no season on it then mash it up in small bits and give to her? She is hungry and I don’t know what to feed her. Ty

    • Ty
      Beardies (Bearded Dragons) are almost entirely insectivorous (eat insects) as young animals and will eat more leafy green vegetables as they get older (9 to 18 months old).
      Read The Care and Feeding instructions above and the questions and answers here.
      I’d recommend small crickets (feed them in a separate container as they will eat holes in your lizard), meal worms (the larger species have better nutritional value), silk worms and roach larva.
      You can feed insects you find in your back yard as well. Try beetle larva, termites, etc.

      Below are my favorite places to buy them on-line.

      Bassett’s Cricket Ranch: http://www.bcrcricket.com for crickets, meal worms, medium meal worms and supper worms, and wax worms.

      Mulberry Farms: http://www.mulberryfarms.com for silkworms, supper worms, bread worms, and roach larva.

      Coastal Silkworms http://www.coastalsilkworms.com for silkworms.

  4. Lareena says:

    Hello, I have a bearded dragon. I recently bought him about 3 months ago. The pet owner said he is about a year or so. The first few weeks to a month he was eating and pooping on a daily bases now all he wants to do is sleep under his hideout. Some days his eyes are open some days he’s fully asleep. He doesn’t look sick or act sick when i take him out but when he is out for a long period of time he looks for a place to hide and sleep. Is this normal? Should I call a vet? he has eaten 3 roaches total in a period of 2 months and hasn’t pooped it out. I feel like he knows when he needs to eat and uses up the resources till the next time …is this wrong? Please help..

    • Lareena
      It is wrong. At a year of age your beardie should be full grown and eating 3 roaches 3 times a week and a good amount of leafy green vegetables.
      As with so many reptiles we see, the most likely problem is that your new charge is too cold. Follow the temperatures in the information above and he should be much more active and eating regularly in no time. If he fails to do so you need to see a veterinarian!

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