BEARDED DRAGON CARE
Here at Ruby Reptiles LLC we house all of our juveniles to adults in custom made melamine 48x18x18 enclosures. Air vents are cut into the back to provide proper air exchange. Alternatives to set ups such as this are Glass Tanks (common fish tanks), or front opening glass enclosures made by companies like Zoomed, Exoterra, etc. These can be found at your local pet store. We prefer melamine enclosures because 3 of the enclosure sides are blocked and reduce the stresses that a glass tank can sometimes cause in smaller bearded dragons. For housing an adult bearded dragon we recommend a minimum enclosure size of 40 gallons, commonly referred to as 40 gallon breeders. Anytime smaller than this and it will be difficult to provide the animal the proper temperature gradients that they must receive for optimal health, digestion, and metabolism.
LIGHTING & HEATING
There are two main forms of lighting that are necessary for a healthy bearded dragon: UVB & BASKING.
UVB: for UVB lighting we strongly recommend using either T5 or T8 long UVB tubes for your enclosures. These provide much more UVB compared to coil style bulbs. We have some enclosures that utilize T8's, however the majority of ours use T5's as the UVB output is higher. UVB is essential for Vitamin D3 production and prevent metabolic bone disease. The brands we prefer are Reptisun 10.0 and Arcadia 12%, these are considered the highest quality full spectrum UVB available. If you are using a glass tank, where the lights rest on top of the mesh screen, it is highly recommended you use a T5HO bulb as the screen tend to block out up to 50% of the UVB.
BASKING: for Basking Bulbs here we use 50W Spot Bulbs from Home Depot. We have tested these in every enclosure we have, and for our setups they provide the perfect temperatures we are looking for. Every set up is unique, and your may require a higher wattage bulb (if further from basking spot) or lower wattage bulb (if closer to the basking spot). Our bulb is about 12" away from the basking platform. Bearded Dragons require a temperature gradient in their enclosure so they can regulate their own heating needs. The cool end needs to be around 80 Degrees, and the basking platform needs to be 95-105 for adults, and 105-115 for hatchlings/juveniles. A digital temperature probe or thermal temp gun should be used to ensure the perfect basking temperatures. Night time temperatures should not dip below 60 Degrees, if they do a Ceramic Heat Emitter may be necessary, but please do your research before using one. Never use under tank heaters, bearded dragons cannot sense heat very well from their stomachs and it can easily burn them if too hot.
SUBSTRATE & CLEANING
Substrate: What you use for substrate can be a very controversial topic, especially for beginner keepers. Here at Ruby Reptiles LLC we have used a variety of different substrates for our animals. Our goal is to ensure the enclosures remain as clean as possible, while making clean up times efficient. Our primary substrate is paper towels, its absorbent, easy to spot clean, and doesn't pose a potential for impaction issues. Other alternatives include but are not limited to: Newspaper, Craft Paper, Sand, Alfalfa Pellets, and Reptile Carpet. Be aware, if using loose substrate and your animal ingests it, there can be potential for impaction. Please do your research, and use what works best for you.
Cleaning: We recommend spot cleaning your enclosure daily to ensure your dragons don't accidentally ingest their own feces. We deep clean our enclosures every other week with F10SC. Other alternatives include Chlorhexadine and a Bleach/Water solution mixed 1:10.
Bearded Dragons need a variety of both insects and leafy greens in their diet, in addition they also need Calcium w/ Vit D3 supplemented and a good multivitamin. For hatchling/juvenile/sub-adult dragons we recommend a Greens:Insects ratio of 80:20, for adults we recommend a Green:Insects ratio of 20:80. Adults need more leafy greens, and the babies need more protein to support their rapidly growing bodies. Always remove uneaten insects from the enclosure after every meal to avoid bugs biting your dragons.
For insects we always encourage a variety, as it is very much so possible to have "too much of a good thing". We feed a rotation of Superworms, Dubia Roaches, Crickets, and Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL). It is recommended to feed your juveniles/sub adults a diet that consists of 20% Greens / 80% Insects, and many smaller feedings a day rather than 1 or 2 large feedings. We never encourage letting your animal eat endless amounts of insects as there are a multitude of health issues that can be a result long term, Gout, Fatty Liver Disease, Obesity, etc. Never offer food that is larger than the space between your dragons eyes as a general rule of thumb. For all hatchling/juvenile/sub-adult dragons we dust food 1x per day, 5 days per week with Calcium w/ Vit D3, and 1-2x per week with a multivitamin/mineral supplement.
It is recommended to feed your adults a diet that consists of 80% Greens / 20% Insects, and reduce insect feedings to 2-3x per week. We never encourage letting your animal eat endless amounts of insects as there are a multitude of health issues that can be a result long term, Gout, Fatty Liver Disease, Obesity, etc. Never offer food that is larger than the space between your dragons eyes as a general rule of thumb. For all adult dragons we dust food 1x per day, 3 days per week with Calcium w/ Vit D3, and 1-2x per week with a multivitamin/mineral supplement.
BATHS & HYDRATION
Baths are highly recommended for juveniles 3-4x per week. Use luke warm water, no deeper than their elbows. This is a good time to mist/spritz the juveniles with water to encourage drinking. Contrary to popular belief, Bearded Dragons cannot absorb water through their vent. This was demonstrated in a science experiment with colored dye. So drinking is very important, especially so because juveniles typically don't ingest a lot of greens which is where adults receive a lot of hydration. For adults recommend bathing them at least 1-2x per week for additional hydration in addition to the fact that it stimulates their bowel movement! Bathing is a good opportunity to witness your scale baby defecating without soiling their newly cleaned enclosure.