The upfront costs of Bearded Dragon ownership can be high, but recurring costs are low.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How much does a Bearded Dragon cost?
- What accessories do they require and how much do they cost?
- How much are the monthly expenses for care and food?
- Is Vet care expensive?
Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are among the most popular reptile pets. They’re loved for their unique looks, hardy nature, and calm disposition. They are easy to care for but the initial cost of ownership is high.
As with all pets, beardies are a long-time commitment so expect to spend some time with them each day as well as money for recurring costs like food. Learn how much caring for a bearded dragon adds up to including ways to save up and things you can’t skimp out on below.
What's In This Guide?
Average Bearded Dragon Cost
Expect to spend from $100-300 at local pet stores but you can also adopt from rescues or buy from local breeders. You could spend as low as $50 to as much as $800 depending on breed, age, size, and morph.
- Prices as of Nov 2020:
Average Cost of Supplies & Accessories
Getting started, expect to spend about $100 on the bearded dragon itself and anywhere from $300-700 for its habitat, supplies, and accessories. The initial investment for the habitat may surprise you but once this is set up, the monthly recurring costs are typically low.
Upfront Costs (Must-haves)
Responsible bearded dragon ownership requires upfront purchases that your beardie must have in order for it to live a healthy and happy life (proper sized tank, heating, lighting, and enclosure accessories). Take note of things you should not cut back on as they will be essential to your beardie’s health, thus helping you save on veterinary costs in the long run.
Initial vet visit
Most forget to factor in an initial vet visit when they first get their beardie. This will range from $75-150. It is highly recommended that you see a specialist (exotic animal or herp vet) within 2 days of ownership for a thorough health check. This makes sure any health issues are taken care of at their early stages. Be sure to think of questions in advance of your appointment. Your local herp vet can provide all knowledge you’d need to properly care for your new pet.
Tanks & Lids
Bearded dragons need a big tank or vivarium so expect to spend at least $150-200 on a 55 gallon tank and between $250-350 on bigger ones (75-120 gallons). You will also need a tight fitting screen lid which costs around $25-40. Combined, the tank and lid will set you back about $175-350 and is generally the biggest upfront cost for new bearded dragon owners.
With tanks, bigger is always better since beardies love room to roam. You have the option to get a smaller tank for younger bearded dragons and upgrade later on but this often leads to added costs along the way. It’s best to just get the right tank size (a big one) at the start since this can also affect your beardie’s potential growth.
One way to cut down on cost is to buy second hand tanks but always do a thorough inspection before buying and make sure you clean and disinfect the tank very well before use. Even the smallest parasite or bacteria can give you problems.
With the right tools and equipment, you can also build your own enclosure which allows for customization and can save you money as long as it’s done correctly.
Heating & Lighting
$30-50 on bulbs; $30-40 on fixtures; $30-40 for additional heating with fixtures; $15-30 on thermo-hygrometers; Total: $100-175.
Heating and lighting is crucial to the health of all reptiles and lizards so you should never skimp out on these; they will cost you about $30-50 on bulbs and an additional $30-40 on fixtures. Additional heating will cost $30-40 with fixtures.
Bulbs for basking and full-spectrum (UVA/UVB) light cost about $15-25 each without fixtures. If you live in an area where it gets below 65°F at night then you’ll need an additional heat source such as night bulbs ($12-20), heat pads ($15-22), or ceramic heating elements ($10-15 plus fixture).
Basking bulbs or heat lamps are critical for the hot area of your enclosure and cost about $20. You can also use incandescent heat bulbs that range from $12-18 depending on wattage.
Full-spectrum lighting bulbs or UVA/UVB bulbs are an essential part of a beardie’s tank. Reptiles get their Vitamin D3 from UVB light which is needed by their bodies to efficiently absorb calcium and prevent metabolic bone disease.
UVA/B bulbs cost $15-25 and can come in 6-packs as well. Take note that you will have to replace these every 6 months as their UVB output degrades over time. You may opt to purchase UVB tester cards for $9 a pair to check your lamp as well.
Nighttime heat bulbs for extra heating can cost you $15-20 plus the fixture. These emit a dark blue or red light that shouldn’t disturb your beardie’s sleep. However, if you want to err on the safe side, you can purchase a ceramic heating element (CHE) instead, which does not give off light. These cost $15-20 plus the fixture. An under-tank heat pad gives off a gentler heat, warming the substrate and can be purchased for $15-30 (depending on the size) for use during winter.
Light fixtures hold your basking, UVB bulb, and heating elements and will cost you an additional $30-40 on top of your bulbs. These are available at reptile stores but you can save money if you buy them at your local hardware store instead. There, you can get a $5 ceramic fixture for the basking bulb and a $15 fixture for the UVB bulb.
If you decide to buy the light fixtures from the manufacturers of the bulbs then you can expect to spend about $10-15 for the basking fixture and $20-25 for the UVB fixture.
If you’re feeling a bit fancy, you can go ahead and buy a Mercury Vapor bulb that provides both heat and ultraviolet light. These bulbs can replace your basking and full-spectrum UVA/B bulbs but are more expensive at $50-70 with fixtures.
Fixtures for your CHE and nighttime heat bulbs will cost an extra $15-20.
You need at least two thermometers for your enclosure, one in the basking area and another on the cool side. You should invest in good quality thermometers which are about $15-30 a pair since maintaining a good temperature range in the tank is essential for your cold-blooded bearded dragon to regulate its body temperature. Some have a built in hygrometer included. Digital thermometers tend to be more accurate and often come with a probe that you can place in the exact spot you need the temperature for.
Most hygrometers are built in with thermometers and range from $7-15. These are essential for areas near the coast that have high humidity. You should make sure that your tank remains at 30-40% humidity.
$30-100 (up to $50-200 with plants)
You want to aim to recreate your beardie’s natural habitat in the deserts of Australia for its optimum health. While your heating should take care of the temperature, you should also provide a basking spot and some places to hide to help your bearded dragon feel right at home.
You can spend as little as $30 for the essentials of a basking spot, 1-2 places to hide, a food bowl, water bowl, and substrate or as much as $80 for extra accessories and “furniture” for the enclosure. You can get creative and save up by repurposing some materials or go wild and create a fully furnished habitat for your beardie. Just remember, while it may look beautiful to fill the tank with plants, branches, or rocks; bearded dragons also love their space to roam, so don’t go too crazy on the furniture!
Find the right balance between a well furnished habitat with complex elements for your beardie to explore and enjoy with enough roaming space so it’s not too cluttered.
A Place To Hide
Beardies are solitary animals and will need a hiding space to cool off or relax in. It can cost nothing if you use an old shoe box or a wooden box while hiding spots from pet stores range from $8-15 and are often shaped like a rock or cave made of plastic.
Branches allow for climbing and can be used as a basking spot. These range from $6-20 or free if you pick one up from around your house. Just make sure to disinfect all items you repurpose or recycle for the habitat.
Rocks are also great for basking and you should have 1-2 in your tank at different levels so your bearded dragon can choose where to bask depending on its mood. Pet stores sell rocks and other perching items for about $6-15.
Plastic or aquarium plants can go for as low as $20 or as much as $100 depending on your preference, imagination, and budget. Some beardies will use plants as hiding spots but most will prefer caves or rocks.
You can also include live plants such as edible herbs in your enclosure. Indoor herb garden starter kits cost about $20. Having live plants in your tank will require extra work since you’ll have to care for them but it will give your beardie a nice, nutritious snack, now and then. Bonus if you’re able to provide greens such as kale that are rich in calcium and good for your beardie’s health.
There are numerous kinds of substrates you can use for your bearded dragon’s vivarium, all with their pros and cons, ranging from $10-50. They can be inexpensive unless you prefer tiles (which can be easier to clean) and will depend on how large your enclosure is. If you’re saving up, old newspapers can be used as a substrate but it won’t be too aesthetically pleasing.
Repti Chips are the most popular choice and are recommended by both local breeders and vets. These are usually $23 for a 24 quart bag. Make sure you are getting the correct one though, as there are many products with the same name.
Calci Sand goes for $15-20 for a 5 quart bag while silica-free sand goes for $5-15 per 5 quart bag. However, sand and other small particle substrates should be used with caution due to the risk of impaction (digestion problem when there’s a build up of matter in the intestines or gut) especially in baby and juvenile bearded dragons.
Total Cost for Initial Set Up
An initial habitat set-up with all the essentials can go from $300-700 but will usually be a one-time, upfront purchase except for your UVB bulbs which need to be replaced every 6 months.
You may want to get a temperature gun ($10-30) for a more accurate reading especially for monitoring the temperature of your basking spot. The thermometer beside it may not be getting the exact reading and basking lamps will also lose their power over time.
Aside from this, a power strip with a surge protector and a timer ($25-50) is a very useful thing to invest in for all the electronic devices you’ll need to plug in and to automate your tank’s 12 hour dark/light cycle. Remember, forgetting to put the light out at night can stress bearded dragons out.
Other things that may not be in your list but you might eventually need include: bins to store your live food and for baths, a mister, a toothbrush, disinfectant for the habitat, and even a poster you can put on one side of your vivarium so that your beardie doesn’t accidentally see its reflection which can stress it out. These miscellaneous things can cost about $20-30.
Expect to spend around $50-120 a month on food depending on the age of your beardie and the variety of food you give it. You can also consider breeding your feeder insects such as Dubia roaches or crickets to really save up on running costs. Dubia roaches are simple and easy to breed.
Feeder insects such as Dubia roaches go for $15 for 50 small pieces so you’ll spend about $30-80 on these per month depending on the source; online sources tend to be cheaper. Live crickets can be bought at about $25 for 550 pieces. Mealworms ($10-15) can be fed as a treat from time to time but are generally avoided as they are high in fat.
Greens, Vegetables, and Fruits
Greens, vegetables, and fruits are a good way to introduce variety and nutrition into your beardie’s diet and cost about $8-20 per month. Gut loading or feeding your Dubia roaches or crickets before giving them to your beardie with calcium rich greens such as kale will help with nutrition and won’t cost extra especially if you throw them in greens that you’d normally throw out.
Prepared food specially formulated for bearded dragons can be highly nutritious and are a good addition to their diet. They come in $10 containers that can last for almost a month. These are usually pellets and dehydrated insects. However, it’s important that they get lots of fresh food as well. Most bearded dragons do not enjoy dehydrated or prepared food, anyway.
Bearded dragons need supplements in their diet especially in captivity. These range from $20-30 every 6 months for calcium, Vitamin D, and multivitamins ($3-5 monthly). These can be sprinkled on food or gut-loaded into insects a day before feeding.
Commonly Overlooked Monthly Expenses
Make sure you have some extra budget monthly for any unforeseen medical expenses. A vet trip usually costs about $75-150 depending on what care is needed and is normally done at least once a year. However, if you observe your bearded dragon exhibiting any of these symptoms: loss of appetite, prolonged hiding (more than 2 days), and cloudy eyes, then it may be good to bring it to the vet. These unexpected costs can be kept at bay by investing on quality care for your bearded dragon at the beginning (heating, lighting, proper diet).
Depending on your area, you may also want to prepare for added electrical cost monthly from all the devices you have plugged in. You can calculate this by checking the wattage of your device and your expected usage.
Adding it all up/Summary:
Aside from the cost of the bearded dragon itself, the initial habitat set up will cost $300-700. After that, monthly expenses for food and supplements amount to $50-120 plus the cost of bulbs when you replace them every 6 months. Annually, expect vet visits to cost $75-150 depending on what care is needed. The cost of bearded dragon ownership is summarized in the table below.
|Initial Vet Visit||$75-150|
|Tanks and Lid||$175-350|
|Heating and Lighting||$100-175|
|Initial Habitat Setup (Total)||$300-700|
|Unexpected Vet Visits||$75-150|
|Total Annual Costs After Initial Setup||$600-1,400|
Don’t fret as there are several ways to save money, especially if you get creative and go DIY or repurpose some materials you have at home. Just make sure you do these things properly and disinfect anything you intend to use in the habitat. For food, you can consider breeding Dubia roaches on your own – the startup cost is small and they breed relatively fast.
We also cannot emphasize enough on investing in quality heating and lighting as these are essential to your beardie’s health and will save you a ton on unexpected veterinary costs down the line.
Though the cost of bearded dragon ownership seems steep, it’s mostly upfront, one time purchases for the enclosure. The rest are monthly maintenance costs. When you really get into it, especially seeing how amazing these creatures are, you may not even think twice on spending that extra dollar on another perching spot, or that nice cave for its tank.
Bearded Dragons Buyer’s Guide
What To Know Before Buying
The guide above should give you an idea of the cost of owning a bearded dragon to help you prepare for what to expect before actually buying one. Other things to consider should be space for the enclosure and monthly recurring costs. Once you have that down and you’re ready to purchase a beardie, here are a few other things you should know before buying:
A general reminder is to avoid buying beardies that are too young, getting one that is at least 2 months old will give you a better chance of raising it well. A hatchling is typically hard to take care of and should be left to more advanced reptile owners.
You should also take note of the general health of the bearded dragon you’re purchasing. Good signs to watch out for include:
- Perky and active beardies with their heads up
- Clear, bright, eyes
- Beardies that like to bask and have a raised body while perched
- Rounded contours around the hip bones and spine; no bones protruding from the skin
- A fat and round tail base with no nips (where part of the tail may have been bitten off)
- Curled tails pointing towards the head
- Complete toes free from nips
Watch out for signs that the bearded dragon may not be in good health:
- Less active, tired, and lethargic
- Droopy looking, clouded eyes which may have secretions
- Protruding bones, prominent spine, or hip bones
- Tail and/or toe nips or any wounds
- Fecal smearing around their vent
Unhealthy beardies will cost you more in veterinary fees in the long run which is why it’s always important to get your reptiles from responsible breeders and pet stores as well.
If you opt to buy online, always check pictures and ask a lot of questions to clarify any concerns. If you can, get a guarantee of a live arrival.
How To Find A Breeder
A good place to ask for a breeder would be your local exotic animal or herp vet. They tend to have recommendations on where or who to buy your bearded dragons from. Responsible breeders will maintain a good relationship with a herp vet and will make their beardie’s health a top priority. They will also raise bearded dragons properly so they can adapt well to new homes and will be easier to handle. Local breeders sell about 10-20% lower than most pet stores and may have more types to choose from.
Pet stores are the most common place to get a bearded dragon but you should pay close attention to how these stores care for their pets. A good rule of thumb is to check on the general cleanliness of the area and the reptile enclosures. Make sure they have proper cage lighting and heating and that there is no overcrowding. By now, you’ll be an expert in knowing about what affects a beardie’s health such as light and heat. If there is a sign that the beardies or reptiles in the store are not well taken care of then they can be prone to illness and you’ll be better off making a purchase elsewhere.
Bearded dragons from most pet stores will cost $25-60 for juveniles with older and larger ones going for $100. Some stores will have fancy bearded dragons that have bright colors and beautiful markings.
Adopting a bearded dragon is a really good, highly encouraged, and responsible option. It can be quite rewarding knowing that you’ve given a beardie a second chance at a good home and will give you an even stronger bond with your pet. Most rescues are from owners that have lost their home or moved and can’t keep their pet. Sometimes, owners simply do not want their dragon anymore. Some are well cared for but unfortunately, there are times that they are neglected or abused.
These are typically free or with a small adoption fee, usually to make sure adopters are serious. Ask your local herp vet for any news on rescues or make a quick google search.
Classified Ads/Facebook Groups
These days, you have far more options on where to purchase a bearded dragon other than local breeders or pet stores. You can check classified ads or different reptile Facebook groups for any announcements. Facebook groups are often good places to ask other reptile lovers for any tips as well.
Another thing to look out for are reptile shows where you may even spot rare morphs that can go for as much as $1000! Standard bearded dragons from these events are usually sold at the same rates as local breeders. You’ll also get to see all kinds of different and interesting looking reptiles at these shows. They will even have exhibits on enclosures, habitats, and all the accessories your beardie may need so get your shopping list ready!
A shopping list for bearded dragons:
Tosney’s Bearded Dragon Shopping List
New Owner Shopping List – Bearded Dragon Breeders Canada
Quick guide to the essential needs of a bearded dragon:
Bearded Dragon Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare