Bearded Dragon

Pogona vitticeps

Bearded Dragon Care                                                                      

When asked what the best pet lizard is, there is really only one answer – the much loved, much bred, almost domesticated bearded dragon, or ‘beardie’! If you’ve ever seen a cross bearded dragon you’ll understand where the name comes from: they have a special structure in their throat that can be flared out which resembles a human beard. To make the display even more impressive, they can turn their throat skin black. It’s done to intimidate a rival – or impress a lady!

There are actually eight species that come under the general common name of bearded dragon. They are all found in Australia, but the one that we know best as a pet – Pogona vitticeps – can be found distributed through eastern and central Australia, from the eastern half of south Australia to the southeastern Northern Territory. The habitats across this vast area range from outright desert to open scrubland, dry forests and rocky wilderness. They can be partly arboreal, depending on the particular place in which they are found; dragons are apparently fond of basking on fence posts, tree trunks, and even picnic tables! Beardies tend to spend the early morning and evening basking, but retreat to shaded areas or burrows during the hottest part of the day. Generally, they reach between 45 and 60cm (18 to 24”) although you do get the occasional individual on either side of that; the almost mythical ‘German Giant’ type is supposed to be consistently over 60cm

Despite their small size on hatching, bearded dragons require a generous size of vivarium as they will reach their adult length within a single year. Any size under 120cm x 61cm x 61cm (48 x 24” x 24”) is too small, and larger is always better. As babies they are very active, and as they grow they must be able to get their whole length into either the warm or the cool area of their home, and this is simply not possible in a vivarium any smaller than this. See our Bearded Dragon Vivarium Setups

UVB is absolutely vital for them. Bearded Dragons are considered a Fergusson Zone 3 species so require a UVI of 2.9 to 7.4. Provide a suitable UVB lamp to provide this. Our bearded dragon vivarium setups all include an appropriate lamp.  The UV light should be mounted in the centre of the ceiling of the vivarium. The lights should be on for 12-14 hours per day and off at night. 

Use a white/clear basking light to provide a hot spot where the beardie can bask; this must be white to provide the wavelengths that a dragon needs to encourage it to bask, and therefore thermoregulate efficiently. Temperatures should be 35ºC at the warm end, with the temperature directly under the basking bulb able to go as high as 45ºC, and 30ºC at the cool end. As a desert animal, your beardie will appreciate a night time drop in temperature down to 20ºC, although it can go slightly lower than this with no harm to the dragon. If your home stays above 20ºc at night it will not be necessary to provide extra night time heating. If you have a cold house use a ceramic heat emitter or a deep heat projector with a guard and a thermostat.

One of the defining aspects of the bearded dragon is their love for their food. As omnivores they can eat both salad and bugs – in fact, a wild beardie’s diet is often made up of mostly plant matter. As babies up to around 12 months old the diet should be 60% insects and 40% salad, after that it should be at the adult ratio of 15% insects and 85% salad. Useful leafy greens include fresh weeds such as dandelion, sour thistle, lamb’s lettuce, chick weed and lots more. In times these don’t grow as well things like pak choi, rocket, watercress and mixed lettuces (not iceberg lettuce) can be used. Edible flowers are often very popular with beardies, fruit can also be offered as a very rare treat. Petes herbivore salad and flower mixes can be very helpful. As with all pet reptiles, make sure that all their food is dusted with a good quality calcium and multivitamin/multimineral supplement. Offering them salad first thing in the morning, and bugs in the afternoon is a method we find works best. This way when they wake up, warm up and are looking for breakfast, all they have access to is the healthy option!


A water bowl should be offered with fresh water daily, you may not notice them drink as they get most of their moisture intake from their salad and wouldn’t always have access to pools of water living in the desert. Cleaning your new pet out is essential to ensure nasty bacteria doesn’t grow inside the vivarium. We recommend doing a complete clean out every 6-8 weeks providing fresh substrate and giving all of the decor a good scrub down with a reptile safe disinfectant. In the periods between cleanouts regular spot cleans should be carried out to remove any fecal matter.

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Animal Information

Common Name: Bearded dragon/Central bearded dragon

Scientific Name: Pogona vitticeps

Location: Central Australia

Habitat (wild): Arid woodland edge, scrub, rocky desert

Captive environment: Tropical desert vivarium

Preferred temperature range: daytime hot spot of 45ºC under the basking light, background ambient of 35ºC, cool end of 30ºC. Temperature can drop to 20ºC at night.

UVB Lighting: UVI 2.9 to 7.4

Ferguson Zone: Zone 3

Humidity: 30-40%

Substrate: Soil/sand based

Lifespan: 10 to 12 years, up to 15 with good care