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Fallen in love with a Bearded Dragon and you're unsure what to do? Look no further...

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

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Infographic on Bearded Dragon care

Pre-purchase Bearded Dragon Checklist

Unless you have experience with a certain animal, buying an animal on a whim is not usually a good idea. Researching the particular animal you want to bring home before doing so will ensure you are aware of lifespan, size, compatibility - with your existing animals and also your lifestyle, requirements - both husbandry and dietary, and detection of problems. A Bearded Dragon is no exception to this. Species dependent, your Bearded Dragon can live over a decade so make sure this is a commitment you are willing to take on. Lifespan isn’t the only contributing factor in this decision, cost is also a factor. A proper Bearded Dragon set up initially isn’t cheap.

There are several things to consider after deciding a Bearded Dragon is for you. Which species has caught your eye? There are 8 species of Dragon in the Bearded Dragon genus. Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata), Blacksoil Plains Bearded Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni), Kimberley Bearded Dragon (Pogona microlepidota), Western Dwarf Bearded Dragon( Pogona minor minor),Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor minima), North-west Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor mitchelli) Nullarbor Bearded Dragon (Pogona nullarbor) and Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps). The most commonly kept species are the Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) and the Blacksoil Plains Bearded Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni) which means they will be a lot easier to source. The Kimberly Bearded Dragon (Pogona microlepidota) and the Nullarbor Bearded Dragon (Pogona nullarbor) are not likely kept in captivity.

After deciding upon the species of Bearded Dragon you will need to check that your state allows you to keep that particular species (E.g. Tasmania will not allow you to import and keep any reptile that is not native to Tasmania). Most states require you to get a reptile licence to allow you to keep any reptile, but some states don’t require you to have a licence if you only want to keep one of a common reptile (E.g. Victoria will allow you to keep one Blue-tongued Lizard without a licence or paperwork for that lizard). It can get extremely confusing, especially as each state differs from the next, so the best advice I can give you is ring the correct government department in your state and ask. If you still have your doubts, get them to email you what they told you over the phone so you have it in writing. Once you know whether or not you are able to go ahead with your desired pet you will most likely need to get yourself a licence. Everything these days is done online - it's a Government website - the best advice I can offer you there is allow plenty of time and maybe if you're an adult, pour a drink or grab your stress ball! Receiving your licence should be instantaneous once you have paid your licencing fee.

I cannot stress to you how important researching your Bearded Dragon is. And I mean proper research, not just throwing a question out to a broad-spectrum group on Facebook. Read a book or two, go to a website that is well respected in the field, join a reputable Australian Bearded Dragon page on Facebook (there is a massive difference between the Australian Facebook pages dedicated to Bearded Dragon lovers and the American ones unfortunately - a quick glance through posts should let you see the differences), etc. Researching how your Bearded Dragon lives in the wild will help you immensely when it comes to enclosure set-up, husbandry needs, dietary requirements, animal traits, temperament, compatibility, natural enrichment and so much more. By researching how your Bearded Dragon lives in the wild can also help you with a few little teething problems. E.g. - you have bought a very young Inland Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) but no matter what you do he will not drink out of a bowl. Researching your lizard in the wild would tell you that they drink the dew off plants, rocks etc. So spraying the enclosure with water from a spray bottle will do the trick until he learns to drink from a bowl.

It is a much smoother process if you have your enclosure set up and tested before bringing home your Bearded Dragon. It’s like cycling a fish tank with bacteria and checking your PH levels - you will need to make sure your enclosure is set up properly and maintains the proper temperature and humidity levels your Bearded Dragon requires to thrive. My advice on your enclosure would be - bigger is better if you can do it. They will utilize the space. They will also get exercise which is very important in keeping your animal in peak condition. It has been proven natural enrichment keeps animals healthier and happier. When buying an enclosure for the first time my advice is not to go straight to the pet shop - unfortunately most will just try to sell you what is most expensive and everything that goes with it. This is where your research comes in handy (I keep going back to this!) - a reputable group on Facebook will be able to tell you what they have found worked for them and what didn't. Eg a fish tank is not going to keep in heat and humidity like a wooden enclosure with a glass or Perspex front (either store bought or custom made) will. You don’t have to buy that $100 piece of driftwood in the pet shop, you will be able to get advice on how to make sure that cool branch in your Bottlebrush tree is safe to put in for climbing/basking and nail trimming. If you can have your enclosure set up for about a week beforehand and measure your temps in your hot end, cool end and basking spots you will be able to see what is working, what isn’t and have time to adjust what you need to before bringing home your new pet. Enclosure aside you will also need substrate (cover for the enclosure floor), hides, climbing apparatus, drink and food bowls, something to bask on and a heat source for basking, UV light and casing, thermometer and of course food (live crickets, mealworms or wood roaches in the beginning until they readily accept vegetable matter as well as they do insects).