For Breeders and Keepers
Hatchlings can be housed in as small as a 10-gallon enclosure, but a minimum size for an adult is a 50-gallon vivarium. Rubber storage tubs also work well for groups of young dragons. We suggest a minimum 15 gallon tall tub, with the lid turned into a screen top. Cut a large hold in the top, and use a glue gun to glue the screen to the plastic top. Enclosures should typically be longer than they are high. Please don’t house a large number of young dragons together, you will risk having toe and tail nips.
Groups of adult female bearded dragons should be housed in larger enclosures with numerous logs for basking. Glass is a great choice for display of adult bearded dragons, allowing for optimum vision and brightness, but hatchlings often do better in enclosures that limit vision. It is also thought by many keepers that dragons display better color when housed in enclosures that they cannot see out of. Please be wary of housing young females with males. Dragons may mate at young ages and run into complications with egg binding. Also, please do not house adult male dragons together, they will undoubtly fight and sometimes the results are deadly.
We suggest housing young bearded dragons on newspaper, paper towels or repti carpets to prevent problems with impaction. With newspaper, be aware that crickets will hide beneath the paper. We suggest that you replace the old paper with new paper nightly, allowing hidden crickets to be removed or eaten for a late night snack. Left over crickets can harm young dragons, so be careful. If there are extra crickets in the enclosure and are hard to remove, provide them with food, so they do not nibble on your dragon at night, but I do stress that you take them out when you can. I bought a battery powered bug catcher at a children’s learning center that works great for getting the crickets out and putting them back into the cricket container as they don’t hurt the crickets.
Materials to Avoid as Substrates
The following are bad for one main reason – impaction. A lot of stores may try and tell you that they are suitable, they may even be using them themselves, but they are wrong and it’s your own pets risk should you decide to use any of the listed substrates below.
Each of the following has been proven to cause impaction and death to Bearded Dragons (as well as other reptiles) and should be avoided:
- Wood Chips: Hard, large and indigestible for Beardies. Any of the wood shaving like cedar or pine should also be avoided – cedar had dangerous aromatic oils and pine can get impacted if ingested
- Calcisand: The problem with this product is twofold. First, they like the flavour of it and may eat it if they are lacking adequate calcium in their diet. Second, it can clump and form an indigestible bolus in their digestive tract
- Repti Bark: very fibrous and could easily end up causing impaction and has been known to end up lodged in the vent
Substrates such as mulch, shredded tree bark, or corn cob should not be used as they can hold moisture and promote bacterial growth. You should be also be very cautious using bleach on Dragon’s enclosure, the heat from their lights can cause toxic fumes from the bleach.
Substrates to use
There are several good/acceptable substrates. The use of one or another depends of several factors – like the age of the dragon(s)
- Paper towels
- Repti Carpets
- Sand – Should be avoided for hatching and babies
Basking stone/logs should be placed within the enclosure to allow your dragon to thermoregulate and feel secure. Decorative rocks and fake plants may also help to liven up the enclosure. Climbing areas are also good for having an active beardie.
Do not use heat rocks. Bearded Dragons sense heat and light using a detector located on top of their heads. They are not as aware of heat coming from below and can badly burn their bellies without knowing it. For this reason we advise to not use a heat rock or place rocks too close to the basking light…. Always always check your temperatures. If you do have problems with basking stone temps, use wood logs for basking zones instead.
Live plants may also be an option and will give it that sense of natural look. (But live plants must not be toxic, as they will likely be dinner).