Bearded Dragon Care Guide

Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

Difficulty: Moderate

Published: July 2, 2015

 Last Updated: September 28, 2023

bearded dragon natural distribution map australia

Bearded dragons (also known as the inland bearded dragon, central bearded dragon, or yellow-headed bearded dragon) are agamid lizards native to eastern and central Australia. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including semiarid desert, scrublands, and dry forests. They earned their name from their spiky, expandable throat pouch that can look very much like a beard, especially when it darkens to black.

These lizards are diurnal, meaning that they are most active during the day. They love to bask, and are commonly found sunbathing on everything from rocks and fallen branches to fenceposts and picnic tables. Although they are technically terrestrial, bearded dragons are both excellent climbers and skilled burrowers, and naturally dig burrows for shelter from predators and the elements. Since they are diurnal, they also do their hunting during the day. Bearded dragons are omnivorous, so aside from munching a variety of vegetation, they mostly prey upon insects, with the occasional small rodent or lizard.

Bearded dragons tend to be 18″-24″ (45-61 cm) long from snout to tail and have an average lifespan of 10-15 years, although they are capable of living for 20 years or longer. They are usually sexually mature and fully grown at 1-2 years old. They also possess a variety of adaptations that make them perfectly suited to their natural environment:

  • Sticky tongue for grabbing insect prey, like a chameleon
  • Third (parietal) eye on top of their head for detecting predators
  • Spiky scales—usually soft—can be tightened into a sharp spines for self-defense
  • Can darken their color to absorb heat more efficiently
  • Can inflate abdomen to facilitate floating in deep water

Their natural coloration is dull brown or tan with red or gold highlights, depending on local soil color, but modern breeding practices have produced a variety of color morphs from white to lemon yellow to dark red. Some breeders specialize in dragons with bright blue “tiger bars.” Modern breeding has also produced different scale textures: Dunners (multidirectional scales), Leatherbacks (small, smooth scales), and Silkbacks (no scales).

Bearded dragons are exceptionally popular as pets, with a calm, curious temperament and array of social behaviors that makes them a safe, entertaining first reptile. They have full-color vision and a keen sense of smell that helps them recognize their keepers, and some people claim that their dragons respond to their names. All bearded dragons available for sale outside of Australia are captive bred.

If you are planning on a bearded dragon as a pet, PLEASE strongly consider adopting one from a rescue or your local classifieds before purchasing from a pet store.  There are many adorable, wonderful bearded dragons that have been rejected by their owners and need a forever home.

The market is already flooded with bearded dragons. By adopting, you discourage the breeding and sale of more unwanted dragons. Plus, you can often adopt a beardie for cheaper than you would buy one in the store. It’s a win-win!

Bearded Dragon Care Manual — Table of Contents


  1. The CUC should be fine for a while without the lamps. As for “seeding” your bio with powder orange isopods, you will need at least 40, preferably more. Also be aware that you may need to top up the isopod population from time to time, especially in the beginning as it works toward equilibrium, so I always recommend keeping an isopod colony on hand.

  2. Hello, I am wondering what amount of powder orange isopods should I put it my 6x2x2 bio active enclosure to ensure that a stable ecosystem will form. Also, since my dragon is switching enclosures I plan to move the heat lamp and uv light in with my beardie after the isopods establish in the enclosure, do you know how long the clean up crew will be fine without the lamps?

  3. Thank you! I love Dr. Howard’s work as well — it has been extremely influential on my own care manual. And to answer your question, yes, sand alone is perfectly safe. For optimum results, use a layer at least 4″ deep and thoroughly wet it down to encourage it to pack and form a crust on top. Play sand will work, but I prefer fine dune sand like JurassicSands, Zoo Med ReptiSand (NOT VitaSand), or Exo Terra Desert/Riverbed Sand.

  4. Love your work and all you do!

    Question on sand: I’ve been listening/reading Dr. John Howard’s work(aka BeardieVet, for anyone else reading). I trust his expertise on the sand debacle. I understand that the sand/soil mix is best for digging enrichment but would this mean that in theory, a safe sand alone would be an acceptable substrate in a sufficient amount? Thanks!

  5. The recommendation that bearded dragons of different ages should have different basking temperatures is no longer best practice. Stick with the recommended basking temperature and make sure that your dragon has access to the recommended gradient so it can thermoregulate as needed. Lethargy and lack of appetite is often caused by not receiving enough “energy” via heating, UVB, and visible light, but at this time of year it can also simply be a sign that your dragon is feeling the need to hibernate. If you email me at, I will be happy to troubleshoot with you.

  6. The instructions are not species-specific, so there is a little room for confusion there. I recommend using this supplement just with the bugs, and then a plain calcium powder with the greens (or even Repashy Superveggie) to boost the Ca:P ratio.

  7. Hello, thank you for your work on this web site. There’s so much conflicting information out there making everything very confusing. I am struggling with temps, I don’t know if it’s too cold or not hot enough. Here you suggest temps for basking between 42 to 45 celsius, but Kiki is 8 years old and saw somewhere that for older bearded dragons, basking temp should be between 35 to 40 celsius. Can you please sort this out for me? Kiki is not eating and I’m wondering if it’s temp related.

  8. When using Repashy Calcium Plus LoD- since its a multivitamin and a calcium powder, should it be used on every meal (salad and insects) or just on salads, or just on insects? The directions on the bottle say just on insects but I don’t want to under or overdose anything. Thank you!

  9. Do you have a specific enclosure you can recommend? My bearded dragon is an adult and he needs a bigger home.

  10. Improving the dragon’s husbandry per the parameters and equipment recommended in this guide should fix the problem in a shed cycle or two. If you’re not noticing any improvements, get in touch with me at and we can look into the issue further.

  11. A beardie I work with has a history of poor husbandry before we got him. His femoral pores get impacted and not sure if you had some ideas. We do daily soaks and massage briefly with a tooth brush. I also have given him more rocks, different substrate to see if he can help myself.

  12. Yes! I’m familiar with and deeply appreciate Dr. Howard’s research, so some of it wasn’t a surprise, but I also learned a few new things! I’ll be making some edits to this guide as a result.

  13. Yes, it’s very normal for humidity to rise at night. Most references for bearded dragon humidity only address daytime humidity levels, which are naturally lower due to higher temperatures.

  14. So humidity can be up to 60%? At night I have a problem when it gets high past 50 sometimes. During the day all is good 40-42 .for a juvenile.

  15. Absolutely! As long as the enclosure has sufficient opportunities for your juvenile to hide and feel secure, a 4x2x2 or even larger should not be a problem for a healthy individual. However, if they’re accustomed to a smaller enclosure, they may take some time to adjust to the new space.

  16. Hello. Can I put a baby bearded dragon in a 4x2x2 and not bother with upgrading tank sizes as it grows?

  17. So happy to have learned of this website. We have had our Beardy for 5 years. Her name is Jeff. We did not know she was a female until she started laying eggs several years ago. We hope to learn a lot more to help her live a long and healthy life.

  18. Bearded Dragons are friendly pets and are easy to care for once you get the hang of it. Love this! Thank you for sharing!

  19. Nationwide does offers exotic pet insurance. It is validated with many employers. Providing a discount and if you pay in full save on monthly installment fees. I should note it’s effective 2 weeks after you sign up and technically you have to be in possession of the animal before activating. Does not cover any annual appointments and you do have a deductible of a few hundred dollars before they start to pay. Medical expenses covered after deductible are X-rays, medicine, etc usually at 70% of the cost. You do have to up front pay but they will reimburse.

  20. Personally I haven’t found a pet insurance provider that covers reptiles which I’m particularly partial to. Given that vets are priced according to out-of-pocket costs rather than inflated by insurance like the American healthcare system, I find it’s more effective to simply set aside money for reptile health costs in a savings account and to keep a CareCredit card for emergencies.

  21. Under the lighting and heating section, you mentioned for a Zoo Med T5 HO ReptiSun 10.0, the distance should be …..

    Over mesh: 10-12″
    Under mesh: 14-16″

    Is that from basking area to uvb bulb? If that is true, isn’t that distance to long? The direction on the uvb fixture box says that the bearded dragon should be at least 6 inches away. Can you clarify this for me? For example, how tall is your basking spot from the ground if the bearded dragon needs to stand on top to absorb UVB for a 24 inch tall tank?

  22. According to data on sunrise and sunset times in bearded dragons’ natural habitat in Australia, a cycle of 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter (with gradual adjustments in-between) is appropriate. Alternatively, syncing your dragon’s lights to your local sunrise/sunset times via a smart plug/power strip should also work well.

  23. Gotcha. What would you say is the proper day/night cycle in terms of how long lights be on for and at what times?

  24. I would not recommend giving your dragon a day/night cycle that differ from local rhythms so significantly. You should be fine to just offer salad first thing in the morning before you go to work. Bugs can also be offered in a dish first thing in the morning, or via a slow feeder like the Exo Terra “Termite Mound” cricket feeder. However, if you have to offer the bugs after you get home from work, that’s pretty late, but not the end of the world.

  25. Thank you for your response. Would I be able to put the bearded dragon on a sleep schedule that works well with my job? I hear that lights should be 12 hours on and 12 hours off. You mentioned feeding before noon. I was wondering if it was possible to change his “noon” time? I was thinking lights on 12 pm – 12 am. Maybe his noon would be later in day like 4 or 5? Thought it might be easiest to feed when I get home from work but I understand if it doesn’t work like this.

  26. I’m generally pretty generous with salads – provide as much as your dragon is capable of cleaning up in a day. For best results, offer food earlier in the day rather than later (before noon), regardless of what is being offered.

  27. Hi I really liked this care guide. I liked how you quoted
    many sources. One thing I have been trying to find out is how much salad are you supposed to give a bearded dragon a day? You mentioned 2 times a week for insects and a salad every day for an adult. You also said rule of thumb is 5 mins of insects when feeding insects. Is there a rule of thumb with salad too? Follow up question would be for adults is there a time of day your supposed to feed? And on days when the bearded dragon gets insects, I assume they are also getting salad. Is that at the same time or different times of the day?

  28. Hi! I’m looking into getting a bearded dragon and and am unsure of what to feed him on a daily basis. Do you have a recommended diet plan for daily feeding?

  29. Sorry for the confusion! When in doubt, go with the recommendations in the online version of the guide, as sometimes I forget to update the Google docs. Repashy meal replacements are fully balanced, so additional calcium shouldn’t be necessary, depending on your dragon’s bloodwork results, but defer to your vet’s recommendations on that front.

    As for mealworms, they’re fine as part of a varied diet.

  30. Hello! Our family is so appreciative of your articles pertaining to bearded dragons. We just recently acquired a 10-month-old, male, hypo leatherback rescue. He seems in decent health, albeit living in subpar conditions mostly due to a small enclosure and unbalanced lighting. We are trying to upgrade, well everything… It has become quite involved, more than we thought possible; however, we are in this for the long-haul and want to do the best we can for the new addition to our family.

    That being said, we are somewhat confused about the supplementation. As part of your “What Bearded Dragon Supplies Will You Need?” in your Google Doc download of the Bearded Dragon Shopping List, you mentioned Repashy Supercal NoD as an option. Yet, in the article “What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?,” you suggest Repashy Calcium Plus LoD. To make matters more difficult, many bearded dragon owners recommend Repashy’s regular Calcium Plus. Which one should we be using?

    We are unable to take him to a vet as yet because the closest exotic one is almost three hours round trip. Since he is still acclimating, we feel that such a rigorous excursion would be quite detrimental as we are trying to settle him into his new enclosure conditions. To put you in the picture, we do use a moderate amount of Repashy Grub Pie or Beardie Buffet daily along with a hearty salad in the morning and then about two dozen medium to large feeder insects later in the afternoon. This is a schedule that he seems to depend upon right now. Since we are using Repashy meal replacements, as well as proper UVB T5 tube lighting, is a full calcium supplement needed. If so, — which one — how much — & how often?

    A side note: What is your position on mealworms as a feeder for beardies? Either I missed it somehow, or you don’t seem to mention this option on either the good or the bad list. Thank you for any wisdom you can share with us regarding these details. =)

  31. Thank you! Its wonderful to find someone who loves their beardies and really understands them. Hector is shedding right now, and he ain’t happy, the spoiled brat!!