Are bearded dragons good pets? We’re biased, of course, but they’re not for everyone.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- 5 reasons bearded dragons are good pets
- 5 reasons they are NOT good pets
- Are they good for kids?
Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?
Yes, bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) make great and fulfilling pets. These gentle, curious, yet magnificent lizards native to Australia are popular as beginner pets for reptile enthusiasts. Though they require specific care as most reptiles do, their husbandry is not as strict and they are generally quite robust creatures.
📚 Read More >> Myths About Bearded Dragons
Why Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?
- They are gentle and calm creatures
Bearded dragons have a balanced, calm yet curious temperament that helps them adjust to being handled despite being solitary reptiles. They grow accustomed to their owners and even enjoy spending some “cuddle” time. Because of this, it’s usually easy to pick up your bearded dragon and handle them more frequently than other reptiles.
- They have a long lifespan
Beardies can live up to 10-12 years in captivity especially when well cared for so they are long-term companions!
- They are unique creatures
No one can contest the unique appearance and magnificent beards that make bearded dragons such popular pets in the reptile world. They can even come in different color morphs making them so appealing to a lot of reptile enthusiasts.
- They are generally easy to care for
Bearded dragons have relatively less strict care requirements as compared with other reptiles like chameleons or turtles. The most tedious requirement would be keeping up the cleanliness of their enclosures. Other than that, they are considered easy to care for pets.
- They are quiet, semi-display pets
If you prefer pets that don’t require as much attention and can remain quiet and content in their enclosures, then a bearded dragon is best for you. Beardies can be left alone in their tanks, requiring minimal interaction except during feeding or bath time.
Why DON’T Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?
- Their habitat requires a lot of space
Bearded dragon enclosures need to be large in order for them to thrive. They should have at least a 55-gallon tank but in general, bigger tanks are better (75-100 gallons). They will therefore take up a bit of space in your homes.
- They have steep upfront costs
Bearded dragons can be expensive. The initial cost of getting a bearded dragon can be quite steep since the tank setup will set you back about $300-$700, plus a bearded dragon itself can go anywhere from $100-$300
- They require some special care
Bearded dragons require some specifics for their proper care in terms of heating, lighting, and humidity in their tanks which translates to special equipment that you’ll need to invest in, research about, and spend some time in maintaining.
- Their diet includes live insects
If you are a bit iffy with handling live insects such as crickets and worms, then you may have to rethink bearded dragon ownership. Live insects are a staple food for bearded dragons, so you must handle them regularly when you own one.
Breeding your live feed will also cut down on costs so if this is something you cannot imagine yourself doing then a bearded dragon may not be the best pet for you.
- They can carry salmonella and their poop stinks
Bearded dragons are prone to the growth of bacteria, most commonly, salmonella infections that can arise when their enclosures are not kept clean. Salmonella can easily transfer to your skin and affect you. Sticking to a strict cleaning regimen will help keep these infections at bay, as well as washing your hands before and after handling your bearded dragon.
Also, bearded dragon poop can stink which is why it’s always recommended that spot cleaning is done when you notice any fecal matter in their tanks.
Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets For Kids?
Maybe. Bearded dragons are not a pet that should be played with or handled frequently. Reptiles can tolerate handling, but they don’t like it. Overhandling or rough handling could cause a bearded dragon to bite. They’re probably not best for young kids unless your kid is taught that it’s best to just observe their bearded dragon in the tank. Handling requires adult supervision and again, should only be done occasionally.
However, tasks such as keeping the enclosure clean and routine feeding can be great ways to teach children responsibility. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Just remember that bearded dragons can live 8-10 years, so it’s definitely a commitment.
Caring for a bearded dragon (and any reptile) should never rest solely on your child. These are not “set it and forget it” pets. They require more care and attention than most people understand. Bearded dragons require adult supervision!
Can Bearded Dragons Be Handled?
Yes, bearded dragons grow to tolerate and even enjoy handling if you train and allow them to get used to your presence at a young age. The key is to start slowly, handling them a few minutes each day until they get used to it.
Usually, they will recognize you as the source of food. Dedicating some time after feeding or during bath time where you handle your bearded dragon will allow it to get used to human presence.
What Do Bearded Dragons Require?
- Tank and Tank Accessories
Bearded dragons need big cages (55-gallon at the minimum but a 75-gallon tank is best) with a basking area, some rocks and/or plants, substrate or reptile carpets, and monitoring equipment.
A thermometer and a hygrometer are needed to monitor the temperature and humidity in their tank. Bearded dragons need a basking spot that is 95-100°F and a cooler part of the tank at 75-80°F. They need humidity between 30-40% RH.
- Heating and Lighting
Beardies need special UVA and UVB lighting to help them synthesize vitamin D3 required by their bodies to absorb calcium. This helps keep diseases such as metabolic bone disease at bay and helps with their digestion.
Again, bearded dragons need a basking spot that is 95-100°F creating a temperature gradient to the cooler part of the tank at 75-80°F. The basking spot temperature is achieved using a heat lamp. Special mercury vapor bulbs are also available, double as heat and UV lamps.
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- Food and Nutrition
Bearded dragons are omnivores and require a protein source such as live insects, crickets, or mealworms as well as plant matter such as leafy greens and vegetables (collard greens, kale, carrots) for a well-balanced diet. In addition, they should also get supplements such as vitamin D3, calcium, and multivitamins to aid their nutrition and help avoid diseases.
Is It Expensive To Own A Bearded Dragon?
Yes, since reptiles such as bearded dragons need a lot of equipment such as special lighting and heating for their enclosure, the cost of ownership tends to run high. However, most of these costs are upfront, one-time, purchases (enclosure, the dragon itself, accessories) and the rest are monthly maintenance like food.
The initial cost will set you back anywhere from $400-$1000 depending on the size and type of enclosure you get and the cost of your dragon. Bearded dragons are widely available in pet stores and breeders with costs varying with the breed, age, gender, and color morph.
From there, you can expect to spend about $50-$120 on food depending on the type of feed (live feed, dried insects, or breeding your own crickets). After that, it’s unforeseen reptile veterinarian visits and a yearly health check amounting to $75-$150.
Summary Of Costs
|Initial Vet Visit||$75-150|
|Tanks and Lids (sub-total)||$175-350|
|Heating and Lighting (sub-total)||$100-175|
|Habitat Accessories (sub-total)||$50-200|
|Initial Habitat Set-up (Total)||$300-700|
|Unforeseen Vet Visits||$75-150|
|Annual Vet Visit||$75-150|
For a more detailed breakdown of the cost of owning a bearded dragon, tips on how to save, and a buyer’s guide, check out this article here.
Reptiles as pets in general, are suited for a specific audience and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, bearded dragons can be considered as the Labradors of the reptile world in terms of temperament.
They tend to be calmer and more tolerant of handling and so make great pets, especially for first-time reptile owners.
The only downside to having these beautiful creatures as pets would be the specific care needed in terms of their habitat (enclosure, lighting, heating, and etc.) but with preparation and research (courtesy of our detailed guides) your bearded dragon will become a great pet to have.
Is a bearded dragon high maintenance?
Yes and no, bearded dragons are on the low maintenance, easy-to-care-for end of the pet reptile spectrum. However, they do need a minimum amount of care when it comes to their housing, lighting, heating, and dietary needs. Though it’s nothing as specialized and specific as chameleon care. They are also lower maintenance compared to turtles, which require more work since their tanks need water.
Are bearded dragons friendly?
Yes, bearded dragons have a docile and calmer temperament than some other reptiles. They are often described as friendly because they can be trained to tolerate, even love, handling by humans. Bearded dragon bites are rare and are usually from accidents during feeding time.
Do bearded dragons stink?
No. Well-cared-for bearded dragons should not stink. The smell probably comes from an unkempt enclosure that has fecal matter and uneaten food that hasn’t been cleared. Bearded dragons can be susceptible to bacterial growth on their skin such as salmonella which can be harmful to humans. It is important to keep your dragon and its enclosure as clean as possible. Spot cleaning and clearing uneaten food every day will help maintain the tank’s cleanliness. An occasional bath will also help keep your dragon clean.
Why shouldn’t you own a bearded dragon?
Bearded dragons can take up a lot of space when it comes to their enclosure setup and can be time-consuming in terms of care which may not be well suited for everyone. The upfront cost of getting a beardie can also be quite high. Reptiles as pets also prefer to be left alone and though bearded dragons are generally more friendly than most, they are not exactly cuddly like cats or dogs.
Introduction to bearded dragons:
Bearded dragons: facts and photos
Bearded Dragon – Pogona
Overview on owning a Bearded Dragon:
Bearded Dragons – Owning | VCA Animal Hospital
A quick guide to the essential needs of a bearded dragon:
Bearded Dragon Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare
A shopping list for bearded dragons:
Tosney’s Bearded Dragon Shopping List