Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Jun. 22, 2023
Bearded dragon

In This Article


Bearded Dragon Overview

Native to central Australia, bearded dragons are one of the most popular pet lizard species.

Bearded dragons are named for one of their natural defense mechanisms. When feeling threatened, bearded dragons can flare out the skin underneath their chin which then darkens in color to resemble a beard. Bearded dragons are affectionately nicknamed “beardies” by reptile enthusiasts. 

Bearded dragons are omnivores that consume a varied diet of insects, vegetables, and fruits. Younger bearded dragons need a protein-rich diet that primarily consists of live insects, while older, full-grown bearded dragons need less protein and should be fed more vegetation. 

All reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, including Salmonella bacteria, which is zoonotic (transmittable to humans). Always wash your hands before and after handling a bearded dragon or its contents.

Bearded Dragon Characteristics 

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan 

8–10 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

Up to 24 inches long, with half of this length being their tail 



Minimum Habitat Size 

20 gallons for juveniles; 40+ gallons for adults 


Bearded Dragon Supply Checklist

To keep a bearded dragon happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriately sized habitat (20 gallons for juveniles; 40+ gallons for adults) 

  • Bearded dragon food  

  • Live reptile food 

  • Treats  

  • Substrate  

  • Moss  

  • Food & water dish  

  • Mealworm dish  

  • Hideaway place 

  • Climbing décor  

  • Plants  

  • Heat light  

  • Heat fixture  

  • Under-tank heater  

  • UVB lighting and fixture  

  • Multivitamin supplement 

  • Calcium supplements with and without vitamin D 

  • Cricket keeper  

  • Cricket food  

  •  Cricket quencher  

  • Thermometers  

  •  Humidity gauge 

  • Mister 

Bearded Dragon Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

Juvenile bearded dragons need a tank that’s 20 gallons or larger. You can increase the size of the tank as they mature and grow. All enclosures should have a screened lid to allow for proper ventilation and prevent escape. 

With proper care and nutrition, bearded dragons enter adulthood within one year. A single adult bearded dragon should be housed in a breeder tank that’s at least 40 gallons so the lizard can run and exercise comfortably. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Recommended Products: 

Tanks for Juvenile Bearded Dragons (20+ gallons):

Tanks for Adult Bearded Dragons (40+ gallons):

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Only one male bearded dragon should be housed in an enclosure; never add more than one male. Doing so can promote aggression and competition between the two reptiles. While more than one female may be housed together, females kept in the same enclosure should be monitored initially to be sure that they are compatible. Be sure they are given adequate space to live together, keeping in mind the 40-gallon tank/adult bearded dragon rule of thumb for space. 

Pet parents should keep in mind that opposite-sex bearded dragons will likely reproduce if kept in the same habitat. Females should not be housed with males until they are at least two years old because younger bearded dragons may have difficulty laying eggs. Never keep different species of animals in the same habitat. 


Bearded dragons need a thermal gradient in their enclosure so they can warm up and cool down as needed. The recommended temperature for the warm end of a bearded dragon’s habitat is 100 F, while the cooler end should be kept at 75 F.  

Check the temperatures  of their habitat daily. Two thermometers—one in the warm area and one in the cool area—should be placed in the enclosure so that both zones can be checked at once. A digital point-and-shoot thermometer can also be used to read habitat temperatures instantly. 

Recommended Products: 

Lighting & Heat Support 

Like all reptiles, bearded dragons are ectotherms that rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. An incandescent light or ceramic heater should be added to one end of a bearded dragon’s tank to create a basking area for the lizard to use during the day. The wattage needed for the bulb depends on the size of the enclosure, the distance of the bulb from the reptile, and the ambient temperature of the room in which the enclosure is kept. Adjust the wattage of the bulb to maintain the recommended temperature gradient within the tank.

Recommended Products:  

Light Fixtures & Hoods:

Heat Emitters:

Aside from heat, bearded dragons need UVB light to help them absorb vitamin D and calcium. Supply a bearded dragon’s habitat with a full-spectrum UV light. Bearded dragons need about 10–12 hours of UV light daily.  

Since UV lights differ in intensity, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on bulb placement relative to your beardie.

Replace lights every six months as their potency wanes over time. 

Recommended Products: 

UV Light Emitters:


Although bearded dragons are native to Australia, they still need humidity in their environment to keep their lungs and skin healthy. The ideal humidity range for a bearded dragon’s habitat is 30% to 50%. A bearded dragon will have difficulty shedding its skin if their environment’s humidity falls below this ideal range. 

You can increase humidity in a bearded dragon’s environment by misting the lizard and its habitat décor regularly or by adding non-toxic live plants to the enclosure. If you need to reduce the habitat’s humidity, ensure that the tank is well-ventilated so that humid air can escape. Use a hygrometer to measure the enclosure’s humidity every day. 

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Add substrate or reptile carpet to the bottom of their bearded dragon’s habitat. Gravel, wood chips, and walnut shells are not recommended because these types of bedding are indigestible if consumed and can lead to obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. 

If the pet parent chooses to use a loose substrate, such as sand, in their bearded dragon’s enclosure, be sure to feed the lizard in a dish or feeding tank. Loose substrate is not digestible and can obstruct the bearded dragon’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested.  

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Décor & Accessories 

Food dishes: Rather than placing it directly on the habitat’s floor, offer food in a shallow dish or feeding tank to lessen the chance of the bearded dragon accidentally ingesting their  substrate.  

Worm dishes and cricket feeders are designed to keep live prey in one area. 

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Hiding area: Bearded dragons should have access to at least two hiding areas—one on the cool end of their enclosure, and one on the warm end of their enclosure. Aside from offering privacy and security, hideouts allow bearded dragons to have a space away from their enclosure’s direct basking area. 

Monitor your bearded dragon’s behavior to be sure they are not spending all their time in hiding areas, as they won’t have a chance to benefit from UV exposure. 

Recommended Products: 

Climbing branches and basking rocks: Add at least one basking rock or sturdy branch to your bearded dragon’s habitat so they can climb and bask during the day. 

Basking branches must be large and sturdy enough to support the bearded dragon’s body. Otherwise, the branch could topple over and potentially cause injury. 

Recommended Products: 

Moss: Moist sphagnum moss can be added to the inside of a hideout box kept on the warm side of a bearded dragon’s enclosure to create a humidity hide. Moss holds moisture well and can aid in healthy shedding. Moss should be replaced often to prevent mold from forming. 

Recommended Products:  

Plants: Adding non-toxic live plants to a bearded dragon’s enclosure can help increase the habitat’s humidity level and enrich their environment. 

Cleaning & Maintenance for Bearded Dragons

Pet parents should spot-clean their bearded dragon’s habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls need to be washed daily to prevent bacteria from forming. 

A bearded dragon’s habitat must be disinfected and cleaned thoroughly at least once a week (or more often if more than one bearded dragon lives in the same habitat). Always wash your hands before and after handling a bearded dragon or its habitat’s contents; all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases. 

Recommended Products: 

To clean a bearded dragon’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Move the bearded dragon to a secure environment. Remove any old substrate, décor, and accessories from the habitat. 

  1. Scrub the empty tank and any furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution. The bleach solution should stay on the habitat for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the surfaces are disinfected properly. If using a commercial habitat cleaner, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.  

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate and clean accessories into the habitat. 

  1. Return the bearded dragon to the clean habitat. 

Bearded Dragon Diet & Nutrition

Bearded dragons enjoy a range of foods, including insects, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional treat. Juvenile bearded dragons need more insects in their diet, while adults eat more plant matter. Bearded dragons need to be fed daily and should always have access to fresh, clean water. 

A nutritious and well-balanced diet for a juvenile bearded dragon consists of

  • Gut-loaded (recently fed) insects and worms, such as crickets, mealworms, hornworms, waxworms, calciworms, roaches, and superworms. Insects should make up about 70% of a young bearded dragon’s diet. 

  • Never offer more insects than the lizard can consume in one feeding session. Any uneaten insects should be removed from the lizard’s habitat. Otherwise, they may chew and damage the lizard’s skin. 

  • Any insects fed should be no bigger than the space between the bearded dragon’s eyes. 

Recommended Products: 

Vegetables, fruits, and treats can be offered in limited quantities, and should make up the remaining 30% of a young bearded dragon’s diet. Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure they recieve a good balance of nutrients. These may include:

  • Kiwis, mangoes, bananas, papayas, cantaloupes, watermelons, and apples are all beardie-safe fruits.  

  • Deep leafy greens, parsley, cabbage, peppers, broccoli, squash, carrots, green beans, Bok choy, escarole, cilantro, endive, and prickly pear make nutritious vegetable staples in a bearded dragon’s diet. 

  • Fruits and vegetables should be sliced into bite-sized pieces. 

  • Discard any uneaten fruits and vegetables after 10 hours, as they may spoil and cause infection if eaten. 

  • Because fruits are naturally high in carbohydrates, excess fruit in a bearded dragon’s diet can cause unhealthy weight gain. 

Vitamin supplements: before feeding, dust your bearded dragon’s insects with a powdered supplement. Bearded dragons need three vitamin supplements in their diet: a calcium supplement with vitamin D, a calcium supplement without vitamin D, and a multivitamin powder designed for reptiles. 

  • Calcium supplements should be alternated daily. Pet parents should use a powdered calcium supplement with vitamin D on one day and then use a calcium supplement without vitamin D the next.  

  • A multivitamin powder should be used once a week. 

  • To dust insects quickly and efficiently, place insects in a bag or disposable plastic container along with a powdered supplement. Then, shake the bag lightly until the insects are coated evenly in powder. 

Recommended Products: 

Calcium Supplements with Vitamin D:

Calcium Supplements without Vitamin D:

Reptile Multivitamins:

Fresh, clean water: water should always be available and replaced daily. Since reptiles absorb water through their skin to stay hydrated, water dishes should be large and shallow enough for the lizard to soak in if needed. 

Once they enter adulthood, bearded dragons need less fat and protein. An adult bearded dragon’s diet should consist of 70-80% fruits/vegetables and 20-30% live insects. Pelleted food like Mazuri Bearded Dragon Food can be used to supplement a bearded dragon’s diet. 

Do not allow bearded dragons to consume fireflies, onions, or mushrooms, as they are all toxic and can cause death or serious illness. High-oxalate foods like avocados, beet greens, spinach, and rhubarb should also be avoided as these foods bind up calcium, and don’t absorb into the lizard’s body.

Bearded Dragon Feeding Guidelines 

Before being fed to a bearded dragon, live insects must be ‘gut-loaded’ with a nutrient-dense insect supplement to improve their nutritional value. Gut-loading diets are fortified with vitamins and minerals to help provide optimal nutrition to the reptiles that feed on them.  

Recommended Products: 

Gut-loading Supplements:

Insect Housing:

Insect Diets:

Bearded Dragon Grooming & Care

Shedding: Bearded dragons shed their skin regularly, so it’s important to keep their habitats’ humidity levels between 30% to 50% to encourage healthy shed cycles. 

As reptiles stay hydrated by absorbing water through their skin, you can soak your bearded dragon in a large, shallow container of warm water to help them shed their skin more easily. The water container should be wide enough to allow the lizard to submerge its entire body while keeping its head above water.  

Nail care: Most bearded dragons will not need to have their nails trimmed. However, if a bearded dragon is handled often, they may not have a chance to wear their nails down on their habitat and need an occasional trim. Consult a veterinarian if a bearded dragon’s nails seem too long or if you find a broken/damaged nail. 

Bearded Dragon Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Bearded dragons should be seen by a veterinarian once annually. They can be transported using a cat carrier or a travel cage. It is helpful to take pictures of your beardie’s enclosure, diet, heaters, and lights in case you or the veterinarian have any questions. Always be sure to bring a fecal sample to your dragon’s annual exam unless your vet prefers to collect a fresh sample themselves.

Signs of a Healthy Bearded Dragon

  • Clean, clear eyes

  • Intact skin with no ulcerations or stuck shed

  • Good appetite

  • Bright, alert personality

  • Clean vent

  • No swellings or bumps

  • Ability to achieve an upright posture easily

  • Appropriate basking behavior

  • Good body condition score/weight

When to Call a Vet

  • Eyes are swollen, sunken, stuck shut, or have discharge

  • Pink ulcerations or other lesions are seen on the skin

  • Refusing food (do keep in mind seasonal variances in appetite)

  • Failing to bask

  • Lethargy

  • Discharge around vent

  • Lumps or bumps

  • Cannot ambulate or posture appropriately

  • Belly appears sunken

  • Shed is stuck, especially around the toes, and extra especially if any are swollen

Common Illnesses in Bearded Dragons

  • Intestinal parasites

  • GI impactions

  • Metabolic bone disease

  • Dystocia (stuck eggs)

  • Eye infections and ulcerations

  • Respiratory illnesses

  • Skin Infections

  • Trauma

Bearded Dragon FAQs

Do bearded dragons cuddle with humans?

They sure do! Bearded dragons make great pets, especially for kids, because they often love being held and handled. Petting them looks a little different from a dog but they typically love the cuddles all the same.

Is a bearded dragon a good pet?

Bearded dragons make fantastic pets. They have goofy, inquisitive personalities, require minimal daily upkeep or space, love interacting with their humans and are great with kids. They rarely bite, scratch, or become stressed while being handled.

Are bearded dragons easy to keep alive?

Bearded dragons do great in captivity and usually live long, healthy lives. Once their enclosure has been designed correctly and an appropriate diet plan has been created, their care becomes very simple.

How many bearded dragons should be kept together?

Only one male bearded dragon should be kept per enclosure but several females can be kept together if you have the space. It is also not recommended to mix males and females unless you are specifically breeding them.

Does a bearded dragon bite hurt?

Bearded dragons rarely bite and if they do it’s unlikely to hurt much—it’s more startling than anything. Only adult bearded dragons have the bite force to hurt at all but it’s still unlikely to break skin or be painful once they release or you pull free.

Do bearded dragons like to be held?

With regular practice, most bearded dragons like to be held and have been known to happily let children carry them.

Featured Image: Images

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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