Bearded Dragon Basics

Sexing

Sexing dragons, especially young dragons, takes a lot of trial and effort. We personally feel it is not possible to 100% guarantee sex on young dragons. However there are differences between male and female dragons. Generally the male has a larger head, wider tail base, larger pores, and most noticeably, hemipenal bulges. Young male dragons have two bulges, with a slight space between them just behind the vent. Lifting the tail and twisting gently may allow for the hemipenal bulges to appear more pronounced. Females generally have one central or no bulges where the hemipenes would be. However its not uncommon for what is thought to be a female, to turn out to be an undeveloped (at the time of sexing) male, and vice-versa.

Behavior

Bearded Dragons are generally not aggressive towards people, but will attack other dragons, and many other species of lizards, frogs, etc. Never put a small dragon with a larger one, as the small dragon may end up dinner. Beardies tend to spend the day running from one heat zone to the next, and often searching for food. A happy healthy dragon is alert, fast, and active. Young dragons can be kept in groups without too many problems associated with stress, but older males should be kept one to a cage. Breeding groups of 1 male and 2-5 females are not uncommon.

Males will aggressively bob their heads at the females, while the females will submissively wave their arms in circles back. Males and some females will also turn their beard jet black. These are part of the breeding rituals and territorial behaviors of bearded dragons.

Adult and young Bearded dragons enjoy basking lazily on their logs. Your dragon may “vent” (open mouth breathing) while basking, this is very normal and not a sign of distress. It is also not uncommon to find a dragon sleeping at night in what appears to be the most painful positions on earth with their arms stretched in the most akward way. As soon as the lights go out you will sometimes hear the dragon scratching and looking for a spot to sleep.

Shedding

A bearded dragon like most reptiles will shed its skin on a regular basis. Shedding allows them to get rid of their top layer of skin and replace it with a new layer. This usually occurs throughout the process of growing.

How often does it happen?
A dragon will shed his skin frequently before he turns a year old. This is due to the fact that he’s growing very rapidly. When the dragon is a few weeks old is the most frequent time. After they turn a year old, a bearded dragon will stop shedding as much. There is no set schedule on when your beardie will shed. It all depends on when his growth spurts occur and their overall growth rate.

Behavior During Shedding Process
Be prepared for your bearded dragon to act differently while shedding. It’s a very stressful for it, so he/she will likely be very irritable. Your dragon probably won’t want you to touch or hold it very much. So, try to give him plenty of space when it’s shedding.

Whatever you do, don’t try to speed the process along by peeling some of the old layer of skin off. It’s very easy for you to damage the new layer of skin or scales that haven’t yet formed. Your dragon will be doing all he can to get the old layer off. You’ll probably see him rubbing up against branches and rocks in an effort to do so. Sometimes this process is quite humours to see, especially when they try to inflate themselves by gaping air.

Moisture Helps Shedding
If you want to help your beardie shed a little easier, you should provide him with plenty of moisture. One option is to soak him in shallow warm water for a little while. You could also mist him more often than you usually do. Be careful if you do because you don’t want to increase humidity.

Feeding Habits During Shedding
Your dragon will probably stop eating as much food while he/she is shedding. They may even stop eating entirely for a few days. This can be bad if it takes a long time for it to shed, from my experience it can even take over a week. Therefore, you should try to speed up the process up a little by misting and bathing him often.

Life span

A well cared for dragon will live from 6-12 years, maybe longer. The early years of a dragons life are often the most important. A young dragon that is not properly cared for is likely to have life long lasting problems. Proper exposure to uvb, vitamins, and minerals along with a well balanced diet in every stage of a dragon’s life will help enable your dragon to have a long and healthy life.

Colors

Many things influence a dragon’s color including stress, genes, and time of day. Many dragons seems to show there best color when sleeping, or soaking in water; others may show their best color when they are basking, excited, or for older dragons, after they have been exposed to natural sunlight. Any dragon can have color, but you are more likely to get a high color animal from breeding animals with high color. Many breeders have worked with line breeding and today you can find a variety of colors of dragons (the most famous being the sandfire line of colored dragons). It is actually a bit harder to find a “common” dragon these days then a colored one. Many dragons will show more color with age, but that is not always the rule. color is generally best on healthy happy dragons.

Also be aware that high color is often achieved by inbreeding to different degrees. In order to achieve some of the flashy high color that fetches high dollar in the market today, many breeders use inbreeding to “fix” genes. It is controversial as to how much damage inbreeding does to the health and hardiness of a dragon, and if there are methods of inbreeding that are more “safe” than others. Problems that have often been associated with inbreeding include general weakness and longevity issues, increased cancer rates, sight and neurological problems, size, and behavior.

As little as 3-5 years ago, average hatchling size was cited at about 4.5 inches. Today, it is not uncommon to see 2-3 inch hatchlings, with just over 3 inches as an average. (Some of these issues may also be attributed to many people breeding females at too young an age. A female should be at least 18 months old prior to breeding.) color “fixing” is handy for dealers in that it ensures that most of the clutches will turn out with similar high color (ie. all bright orange), and often straight out-of-the-egg high color. This can only be consistently achieved throughout an entire clutch by limiting the genetic diversity. If a clutch is genetically diverse, there should be a wide range of colors and patterns apparent in the hatchlings. Because of these issues, many breeders today chose to out cross their color to different color or “normal” dragons in order to “beef up” the gene pool and increase the size and hardiness of the hatchlings.

We highly recommend out crossing as much as possible. And remember, just because you acquired your dragons from different sources, does not mean that they are not related. If you cannot trace the lineage of your dragons, it is always safer to breed different colors together (ie. a dragon showing red coloration to one showing gold, or orange x normal, instead of red x red). We also find it is more exciting when we get a bunch of surprises with each group of hatchlings, instead of a bunch of look-a-likes!

Brumation

A brumation or hibernation period is considered necessary for breeding cycles. Many bearded dragons will brumate or slow down eating and activity during winter months even without initiating any change in lighting and heat conditions. You may winter your dragons for approximately a two month period. We suggest following the natural light cycle and wintering during December-February. A slow reduction in daylight hours until you reach 8-10 hours of light per day helps to ease dragons into a brumation period. A temperature drop should also occur gradually until day temps are between 75-85 degrees F and night temps can drop to around 60 degrees F. Bearded dragons can safely tolerate temps down to the 50s.

Before putting a dragon “down”, be sure that your dragon is healthy and is free of undigested food. You may choose to provide a space in the enclosure for burrowing (we find aspen works well for this). Often dragons will dig and bury themselves for the winter. If you notice your dragon up and about, small amounts of food can be offered. A heavy hibernation period may not be necessary for many bearded dragons. When the winter period is over, slowly raise temperature levels to suggested highs and increase the photoperiod until it is around 14 hours of day to 10 hours of dark.

Bearded dragon Facts

  1. Bearded dragon fact #1 You should avoid holding your bearded dragon around the chest and stomach. If you have to, use a soft grip not to interfere with or preventing the dragon’s breathing.
  2. Bearded dragon fact #2 Male bearded dragons have a set of pre-anal pores between the back legs and have hemipenal bulges at the vent area. Females do not have these pores.
  3. Bearded dragon fact #3 A lot of different color morphs have been developed during the 21st century. These include “Blood Red”, “High Orange”, “Peach”, Tiger-striped”, “Hypomelanistic”, “Lemon Yellow”, “White”,  “Sandfire” , “Fire”,  “Ice” and “Red-gold” to mention just a few. Different color morphs attain different prices in the pet trade.
  4. Bearded dragon fact #4 You should not feed your beardies insects from the wild as this might introduce disease to your terrarium. Another possible problem is that the insects might contain pesticides that are harmful for the lizards.
  5. Bearded dragon fact #5 A number of common fruits and vegetables can be toxic for your bearded dragon. These include avocado and different vegetables that are rich in oxalates such as rhubarb, spinach, kale and cabbage.