Adult bearded dragons, sometimes affectionately called beardies, are cool little lizards around 18 inches long, so their enclosures should be sized and fitted appropriately. They usually require a heating element, a UVB light, a tile floor and, of course, plenty of food. Animal experts explain that these reptiles do well in aquariums and terrariums, and for adults more than 16 inches long, you will need at least a 50- to 75-gallon tank.
Tile for Bearded Dragon Tanks
Flooring is an essential component for bearded dragon enclosures, and not all of the options out there are safe. Although many owners choose sand, it can be dangerous because they are native to Australia, which is the only kind of sand suitable for them. They can inhale other kinds of sand, which can then cause respiratory issues and gut impaction. Walnut shells are also dangerous for bearded dragons.
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The use of rocks or pebbles is also discouraged, as these can break your bearded dragon's teeth. Wood chips, coconut fiber and other substrates might be OK but consult your veterinarian first. These materials can retain moisture and hide dirt and excrement not to mention they also provide gaps in which the dragon's food, such as insects, worms and crickets, can hide. Many experts and longtime bearded dragon owners recommend using bearded dragon substrate tiles instead of those other choices. These tiles are not expensive, and you don't have to replace them when they get old and dirty.
Bearded Dragon Substrate Tiles
Tiles are also safer for beardies because these guys scoop up some of the ground when capturing prey. Substrates made of sand, wood, or pebbles get ingested, which is a concern you don't have with reptile tile substrate. To install tile for a reptile tank, cut a piece of plywood to fit the enclosure and tile it like you tile any floor but on a much smaller scale. You'll want to buy smaller tiles, and you will need to grout them.
Once you have your bearded dragon tile floor installed, place the enclosure somewhere in your home that is quiet, dark at night and out of direct sunlight. Only have one bearded dragon per tank, as they are solitary creatures. Since they are cold-blooded desert dwellers, they need the right kind of light and heat to survive. You'll need a heat lamp or a UVB (self-ballasted mercury vapor) lamp, which you should replace every six months.
Caring for Bearded Dragons
Keep a few digital thermometers and a hygrometer in the tank to keep tabs on the temperature and humidity. Bearded dragon enclosure temperatures should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and 70 to 75 degrees at night, with 20 to 50 percent humidity. If you can't maintain those temperatures, you may need a small ceramic heater.
As for food, adult bearded dragons do best with diets of 70 percent greens and veggies and 25 percent insects. Feed younger ones 50/50 because they need the extra protein. Their favorite insects include mealworms, waxworms and crickets. As for vegetables, serve your beardie collards, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and peas. Avoid spinach, broccoli, cabbage, chard, kale and parsley. You can even give them apples, pears, tomatoes, pansies and grapes as occasional treats.