So You/Your Kid Wants a Bearded Dragon for a Pet
Here’s what I have compiled for anyone contemplating acquiring a bearded dragon. These are not inexpensive animals to own or keep and many are impulse purchases. My Drago came to us as a re-home, after another re-home. To the best of my knowledge, I am his 3rd owner, though I don’t really think of “owning” him, rather being his caregiver and advocate. Please do NOT buy your child a pet to teach responsibility or as a “REWARD” or “BRIBE.” If you have kids you need to bribe, get them a therapist and fix that problem when they are young. Animals should not be sold or traded to make a child happy. Children are not mature enough to care for a Bearded Dragon. Parents end up taking over and the animal suffers when families are too busy. Please don’t buy a bearded dragon to impress your friends. Before you walk out of the Pet Store with a 10 gallon tank, a lizard, and a bunch of stinking crickets, read through this! If you proceed with getting your bearded dragon, please adopt from a rescue group.
Supply List/Price List for Caring for Bearded Dragon
Enclosure/tank with screened top and front open doors (minimum size is 55 gallons, but for an adult bearded dragon, you will need a 4x2x2 (120 gallon) enclosure. My advice? Just get the 120 Gallon from the start!
Least expensive I found = Zen Habitats 4x2x2 at $369.99 https://www.zenhabitats.com/products/zen-habitat-w-wood-panels
Oiibo 4x2x2 glass enclosure at $569.99 https://www.amazon.com/Reptile-Terrarium-Sliding-Bearded-Ventilation/dp/B09PT834K2?th=1
Basking Light bulbs (2 100 watt) $25.61 https://www.chewy.com/zoo-med-repti-basking-reptile-spot/dp/126606
Fixture for basking light – I use Fluker’s 8.5” clamp light with dimmer $20.95 https://www.chewy.com/flukers-clamp-lamp-dimmer-85-in/dp/129141
CHE fixture – same as for basking light – Fluker’s 8.5” Clamp lamp with dimmer $20.95 (multiply this x 2 because you need 2 CHE’s for a 120 gallon enclosure) $41.90
CHE Bulb – CHE (Ceramic heat emitter) Do NOT use red lights! 100 Watt $20.99 https://www.chewy.com/flukers-ceramic-reptile-heat-emitter/dp/129150
CHE Bulb #2 (Ceramic Heat emitter) 150 watt $19.80 https://www.chewy.com/flukers-ceramic-reptile-heat-emitter/dp/129151
UVB tube light – MOST IMPORTANT PIECE of equipment. Do not get a bearded dragon if you cannot afford to buy and replace these 4 times per year. Your animal will get metabolic bone disease and suffer greatly as its bones disintegrate.
Arcadia T5 12% UVB fixture and bulb – It will need to be 36” long to cover ¾ the length of the enclosure -$94.95 for initial start-up kit (light and fixture) https://reptilighting.com/collections/arcadia-uv-b-lights/products/arcadia-prot5-uvb-kit-includes-hood?variant=32852715077691
Accurite thermostat/humidity gauge (x 2) One for the basking side and one for the cool side. $11.14 or $22.28 total https://www.amazon.com/AcuRite-Humidity-Thermometer-Hygrometer-Indicator/dp/B0013BKDO8/ref=asc_df_B0013BKDO8/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=216551439599&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12724942685993055575&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033538&hvtargid=pla-350117545360&psc=1
Hot hands handwarmers or lap warmers to keep your animal warm when the power goes out. 1 box of 45 pairs handwarmers – $29.99 https://www.amazon.com/Hand-Warmers-90-Count-Activated/dp/B09P4M8DC2/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?keywords=hot+hands+warmers&qid=1668035558&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1
UV sensor to check the function of your UV light – 4 sensors – $8.99 https://www.amazon.com/Sensor-Reptile-Heating-Photochromic-Indicator/dp/B0951Z1WX1/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?crid=2QM7G1IVMJR18&keywords=uv+sensor+reptile&qid=1668035631&sprefix=uv+sensor%2Caps%2C255&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1
Generator (not a bad idea if the power goes out for an extended period) – you are in trouble if outages last more than a couple of days. Champion 2500 watt duel fuel generator $708. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08L45W2V9/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Accessories $100 (food bowls, hides, feeding tongs, décor, etc.)
Food – ALSO IMPORTANT. Don’t think your bearded dragon will survive its entire life on stinking pellet food, crickets, or mealworms.
Babies and juvenile dragons need 80% of their diet to be high quality feeder bugs. Dubia roaches and Black Soldier Fly larvae are good staples. Your little dragon will be hungry and EAT at least 25 roaches or fly larvae per day. You can buy 25 medium dubia roaches online for about $7.25, then add shipping to that. If you are feeding your pet 25 per day, get a lottery ticket and pray you win. Soldier fly larva are cheaper and you can get about 100 for $3, but again, add shipping. Also pray the weather cooperates and they arrive alive. Your animal is hungry and can starve if you don’t feed it. The secret remedy for all of this is to start your own colony of Dubia roaches. I can write a “how to” for that if you’re interested. My feeder bug price checks come from Dubia.com. I don’t care what Petco or Petland or any other stupid pet store tells you, you should not feed crickets as a staple. They are dirty. Don’t dump them into your reptile enclosure either. They will chew on your pet.
Supplements – Calcium powder – 3 oz $3.99 – https://dubiaroaches.com/products/zoo-med-repti-calcium-with-d3-3oz?_pos=1&_psq=calcium&_ss=e&_v=1.0
Substrate – this is what goes on the floor of your enclosure. If you have a baby dragon, use paper towels (NO FRAGRANCES). They are sensitive to fragrances and the chemicals in things like air fresheners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets are extremely toxic to their respiratory system. Use of paper towels will allow you to see their poo and urate and remind you to CLEAN UP after them so they don’t get a nasty respiratory infection when ammonia from their urate builds up in the tank. It’s gross. You also need to learn how to look at their poo and urate so you can tell if they are healthy or not. As you become more experienced, you can change to something else. If you use repticarpet, plan to change it daily, launder in hot water – NO FRAGRANCE OR DRYER SHEETS – and replace it DAILY.
Cleaners – Use white vinegar and hot water. $5 for a jug at Marketplace. No bleach. No alcohol. No scented cleaners.
Time and attention. Think about how YOU would feel stuck in an enclosure 24 hours a day where you are dependent on someone else to feed you, clean up after you, entertain you at least a bit, etc.). If you are working full time and/or you have children in school all day, this is NOT a good pet. In reality, they shouldn’t be pets at all. Please do not get your child one of these animals as a pet because they HAVE to have one or to teach them responsibility. Teach your child to be responsible about making their bed, folding cloths, sweeping the porch, doing homework. Don’t use an animal to teach responsibility. You will be doing the work and they have a normal lifespan of 15 years in captivity. If they live a shorter life, it may be from owner neglect and that will be on you. If you work from home or have a set up where you can take your dragon with you back and forth to work and home (think of all the expenses times 2), then maybe you can give an animal like this a decent quality of life.
Veterinary care. We do not have any experienced reptile vets in the islands. You will have to travel off island to find an experienced and capable vet. I have names, but again, this is not cheap or easy given our reliance on ferries.
Pet sitting. Going rate is about $60 per day. You will have to train someone to care for your animal. Good luck.
Estimate – not including the animal = Approximately $763.45 start up and plan on at least $196 monthly for food (25 roaches per day for a growing baby or juvenile dragon) – not including shipping charges.
Thank you – Drago