*Bearded Dragon

Pogona vitticeps – Inland Bearded Dragon

Introduction

The Inland Bearded Dragon is a species of lizard found over a wide range of arid and semiarid regions throughout Australia. The species can commonly be seen basking in the sun near roads and on trees in regional areas. The Inland Bearded Dragon is a popular pet and is often exhibited in zoos.

Adult Inland Bearded Dragons can reach a length of 60 cm and varies widely in colour from brown, reddish brown through to orange, yellow and white. They can undergo moderate changes in colour to assist with regulating their body temperature. When feeling threatened, a bearded dragon will flatten its body to the ground, open its jaw and puff out its spiny throat or “beard” to make itself appear larger.

Inland Bearded Dragons can be successfully kept in captivity, given they are kept in an appropriate enclosure and environment. They make a popular animal for keeping in schools as they require much less space than larger animals. When kept in schools, it is recommended that Inland Bearded Dragons are kept individually to avoid aggressive behaviour and unplanned breeding.

Environment

Temperature

Inland Bearded Dragons can be kept in indoor or outdoor enclosures. Regardless of whether they are kept indoors or outdoors, these lizards must be provided with an appropriate temperature in their enclosure.

A temperature gradient of between 22 and 40° C should be provided in enclosures with the basking area being the hottest area at 40°C. It is important to make sure that the basking area is large enough that the animals whole body is heated by the light (two basking lamps situated side by side may be needed to create a big enough basking area to heat the animals whole body) and also allowing the possibility to move away from the direct heat source to a temperature of their choosing that is suitable for them. The basking area should be provided at one end of the enclosure to provide a temperature gradient with one end of the enclosure being the “hot” end and the opposite end being the “cool” end. This gives the lizard the opportunity to choose an appropriate temperature at any given time.

A UV heat lamp or UV fluorescent tube should be used to provide adequate Ultra-violet radiation. If using UV tubes, a basking lamp should be provided to create a basking spot. If using a UV lamp, depending on its wattage, it should also provide an adequate amount of heat for the basking area. All lighting should be turned off in the evening to replicate the natural daylight hours, this can be done manually but it is far easier to use a 24 hour plug in timer. It would also be beneficial to have the heat lamp connected to a thermostat to prevent the risk of overheating.

If the enclosure temperature is too cool for a period of time, lizards will be encouraged to hibernate. This is not recommended when Inland Bearded Dragons are kept in classrooms, as it can result in health implications if timing and temperatures are not precise. If lizards begin to hibernate, the enclosure temperature will need to be adjusted accordingly. During hibernation, lizards will eat less if at all and movement will be limited.

Ventilation

Inland Bearded Dragons require very good ventilation. Outdoor enclosures will provide lizards with adequate ventilation. Indoor enclosures should have vents of some description at either ends of the enclosure to provide air flow and ventilation.

Humidity

Inland Bearded Dragons require a dry environment with low humidity therefore substrate within the enclosure should be kept dry.

Lighting

Inland Bearded Dragons require a UV light, the heat lamp and UV light source can be combined or separate. Lights should be turned off at night and on during the day to replicate the natural photo-period. It is recommended to use a 24 hour timer to ensure that lights are turned on and off at the appropriate times.

In outdoor enclosures natural lighting should be adequate for UV requirements as long as the enclosure receives direct sunlight for the majority of the day. It is not recommended to keep the Inland Bearded Dragon in outdoor enclosures over the cooler months of the year.

Enclosure

While they can be kept outdoors it is generally easier to keep Inland Bearded Dragons in indoor enclosures unless housing them within their natural range. The higher humidity and cooler temperatures of coastal NSW especially over the winter months can increase the possibility of health issues.

Spatial Requirements

The minimum spatial requirement for Inland Bearded Dragons are based on the extended length from snout to tail tip of the longest animal to be housed in the enclosure and written as L.

Enclosures must be no less than 4L2 (2L x 2L) with no dimension less than 0.75L. For example, if a lizard is 20cm in length, the enclosure must be a minimum of 40cm x 40cm.

It is always recommended to provide more space for Inland Bearded Dragons if possible so they can move around as they would in their natural habitat. An adult Inland Bearded Dragon should never be kept in an enclosure less than 120cms in length and 60cms wide. While some species of reptiles must have an appropriate sized enclosure for their current size, Inland Bearded Dragons can be kept in a larger enclosure than the minimum requirements state and juvenile animals do not need a smaller enclosure than adult animals.

Large glass aquariums/tanks can make suitable indoor enclosures for Inland Bearded Dragons but custom made enclosure or specially designed lizard enclosures that are available commercially may be better. The top of the tank must be securely enclosed to prevent escapes and objects that could be harmful to animals falling into the tank. A metal framework attached to the top of the tank with mesh secured over the frame is recommended. The enclosure must be inside a room that can be secured and locked to prevent escape, theft and attack by predators.

If housed in outdoor enclosures, Inland Bearded Dragons can be content in a fairly large enclosure that replicates their natural habitat. Outdoor enclosures must be extremely secure as lizards can climb and jump. Outdoor enclosures must have a solid base e.g. concrete and be completely enclosed on the sides and roof and be fitted with a lockable gate to prevent escape, theft and attack by predators.

Floor

Suitable substrates that can be used on the floor of enclosures include sandy soil, rocks and leaf litter. Indoor enclosures can also be lined with paper however a more natural substrate is recommended if possible. The substrate should be kept dry to reduce humidity in the enclosure.

Furniture

Small branches, hollow logs and rocks should be provided in the enclosure to replicate the natural environment and provide perching. Due to their habit of climbing and digging, it is essential that all furniture within the enclosure is secure, stable and will not shift. Rocks and logs should be placed on the base of the enclosure rather than on top of the substrate. This will prevent lizards digging under furniture and causing collapses and injury to themselves.

It is also essential to provide a basking area under the heat lamp. Flat rocks or branches can be used to create the basking area and allow the lizard to get close to the basking lamp. The basking area should be large enough for the lizard to stretch out on and large enough so that the lizard can move to the edge of the basking area, away from the direct heat to find an appropriate temperature. The heat lamp should be placed to one end of the enclosure to assist with this.

Nutrition and Water

Water

Clean water must be provided at all times. A water dish that lizards can easily climb out of if they were to get in should be provided. Water must be checked twice daily and should be replaced once per day. Water dishes must be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Juvenile lizards should be provided with a very small, shallow water dish to prevent the possibility of drowning.

Nutrition

Inland Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plant products. Lizards should be fed a variety of food items to achieve a high level of health and nutrition as not one single food item provides complete nutrition. Suitable food items that can be included in the diet include:

    • Insects
    • Boiled Egg whites
    • Alfalfa
    • Salad mix
    • Greens + vegetables

Crickets and wood roaches are the most commercially available insect that can be purchased for reptiles and are available at some pet stores (before sourcing a Bearded Dragon it is probably a good idea to ensure that you will be able to have regular access to these food sources). The diet should also be supplemented with calcium and multivitamins to ensure good health. Suitable multivitamin and calcium powders can also be purchased from pet and reptile stores. Follow the product directions for how to use these supplements. Calcium and multivitamins can be incorporated into the diet by dusting the insects prior to feeding or mixing the powder into the salad mix.

Juvenile lizards should be fed every day and adult lizards with good body condition should be fed 3 times per week.

An example of an amount and type of food to feed an adult Inland Bearded Dragon weekly is:

    • 50 grams of ‘Salad mix’ three times per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    • 20 insects (adult crickets or wood roaches) dusted with multivitamin and calcium powder 3 times per week. It is recommended to use forceps to feed most of the crickets to lizards and to release some into the enclosure for the animals to feed on naturally.

This diet is an example only. Individual animals may require more or less depending on their body condition, size and age.

Any uneaten food or insects should be removed from the enclosure daily.

Food dishes that are used for salad mix and vegetables should be cleaned with detergent and rinsed after every use and any food left in dishes should be removed daily.

Salad mix recipe
The mix should include the following:

    • Chopped into bite-sized pieces:
      • Chicory
      • Kale
      • Parsley
      • Endive
      • Bok choy
      • Cos lettuce
    • Diced or grated into very fine pieces:
      • Carrots
      • Sweet potatoes
      • Squash
      • Zucchini
      • Tomatoes.

Add alfalfa sprouts, mung beans and chopped hard-boiled egg and dust with calcium and multivitamin powder as per the product directions.

Hygiene

Indoor enclosures including tanks and aquariums must be spot cleaned daily to remove faeces and any uneaten food. Water dishes and food dishes must be cleaned daily. Full tank cleans including complete substrate changes should be carried out every term (10 weeks) or 1 – 3 months as required. A full enclosure clean should include a complete substrate change, cleaning furniture if required, cleaning and disinfecting glass and the walls of the enclosure.

Outdoor enclosures must be spot cleaned regularly to remove faeces and uneaten food. While larger enclosures may not appear to need cleaning as frequently, it is good practice to still clean enclosures regularly to reduce buildup of waste. Substrate changes should be carried out if required.

More

Handling the Bearded Dragon