Hatchlings – 8wks old: A mixture of greens is given every morning on a shallow dish (which allows babies easy access), we like to use dandelion, rocket, kale, endive, chicory and watercress. Chop the greens very finely to begin with and then as your babies get older you can adjust the size of the greens in accordance with the size of the dragon. We feed small crickets (approx. 5mm) well dusted with Nutrobal, 3 times daily. They should be allowed as many crickets as they can eat in a 10 minute period. The last feed should be at least two hours before the lights go off. At the end of the day all food is removed, we use a vacuum to suck up left over crickets. Once the lights are off… dragons become completely inactive and the crickets will not only annoy them, but will bite babies while they are asleep.
Never feed a dragon prey that is too large! Food items that are too large for your dragon can cause serious problems and even lead to death. A rule of thumb is never feed anything bigger than the space between the dragons eyes.
We heavily spray (soak) all hatchlings once a day with a commercial pressure can, filled with fresh water. Babies can become dehydrated rapidly, especially since they do not tend to eat as many veggies as older dragons. We sponge up the remaining water after a 30 minute soak .The dragons seem to really enjoy this soak and will quite often have a drink from puddles on the cage floor. Make sure the water is warm. This helps the dragons to rehydrate and makes shedding much easier. Never leave your dragon unattended when any water is present in shallow puddles.
8wks – 14 wks: Same mixture of greens as above chopped slightly coarser. The cricket size is adjusted in relation to the size of the dragon. Water every two days.
14wks – 6mo: Same mixture of greens as above. Adjust the cricket size as your dragon grows (please do not forget to dust your crickets as this is a time where your dragon grows extremely quickly and needs lots of calcium). We now feed only twice per day.
6mo-1yr: Same mixture of greens as above but on some days we add grated carrot, sweet potato, or butternut squash. As an occasional treat you can give fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi or grated apple. The insect feed is given only once a day and should consist of crickets, locusts, mealworms, and occasionally a few waxworms. We supply water every third day.
It is not unusual for a dragon, at some point during this time, to not feed as ferociously as usual. This is quite normal and nothing to worry about, as long as they do not completely stop feeding for extended periods (days).
While bearded dragons are by nature a plump lizard (should not be skinny), overfeeding to the point of fat is unhealthy and can cause liver problems.
In order for crickets to be nutritious for your dragon, it is necessary to gut load them. We feed our crickets a mixture of lettuce, carrot slices, fish food (high in protein) and a high calcium ready-made bug diet (bug-grub) available in most pet shops that deal in reptiles.
Wherever possible we use only organic vegetables and fruit. If you pick your own dandelion greens. make sure that no pesticides or weed killers have been used in the area.
We house juvenile bearded dragons in 90x28x28cm melamine tanks with sliding glass fronts, we find this a good starting size as it is not too large for young dragons to find their prey but large enough to give a good temperature gradient. The tanks are fitted with a 50w halogen bulb at the basking site and a 10.0 HO Zoo med UVB bulb that runs the length of the tank. It is important to light the tank evenly as light stimulates your dragons appetite. The basking area should be at one end of the tank with a temperature of approximately 40C and the cool side of the tank should have a temperature of about 27-28C. This temperature gradient allows your dragon to choose throughout the day where it feels most comfortable. It is as easy for a dragon to overheat, as it is for it to become to cool and not digest food properly, it is up to you to supply it with the means to regulate its body temp.
As your dragon grows it will need a larger enclosure. We use tanks that are 130x60x60cm for a single adult or up to three females. Again we make sure that the UVB bulb runs the length of the tank. The wattage of the basking bulb may have to be changed depending on how warm or cool your house is. Use a thermometer at the basking site and another one at the cooler end of the tank the obtain exact readings.
We do not recommend any form of substrate. We have not observed any adverse effects on dragon development when no substrate is provided. We have found that stomach infections and diarrhoea have become a thing of the past in our collection since changing over to no substrate keeping. We recommend spot cleaning faeces every day or whenever defecation is observed.
Cage furniture should be kept to a minimum for baby dragons, a java wood branch or a rock at the basking site, their veggie bowl, and maybe another rock or branch at the cooler end. Babies find their prey much easier in an uncomplicated setup and it gives the crickets little opportunity to hide. As your dragon becomes older feel free to make a more interesting habitat. We never use heat rocks as they can cause severe burns.
Dragons that cohabit together must be of the same size, never put a baby dragon in with an adult or even a sub adult…they will make no distinction between the baby dragon and prey. If you are keeping two or more babies together it is not unusual for them not to grow at the same pace, if this happens you must separate them to give the smaller dragon a chance. Bullying even if it is psychological, will cause the smaller dragon to stop feeding. You can never keep two adult males in one enclosure, they are very territorial and will fight, which can lead to serious injury.
We keep lights on for about 12-14 hours per day, and use a timer to make sure that times we have set remain consistent. The night-time temperature drop can go as low as 20C, this is important for your dragons health.
We randomly have our vet do faecal examinations for parasites. Although a healthy dragon is able to deal with most parasites, any kind of stress situation can cause a serious parasitic infection. A new home or tank, adding cage mates, incorrect handling, too high temps, too low temps, etc. can all cause stress. Please try to find a vet who is qualified in exotics as an inexperienced vet can do more damage than good.
When a dragon (especially a hatchling) arrives at its new home, it will most likely be stressed and frightened and not feed, especially over the first day or two. This is quite normal and as long as this period is only very temporary and is nothing to worry about, however if it continues for longer than 24-48 hours, please notify us immediately. There are several things you can do to make the adjustment for your dragon easier, please do not over handle (as exciting as your new pet may be) the dragon in the first few days, this will only cause it to become more stressed. Until now your dragon has been in a tank with at least seven other clutch mates in a calm and quite environment and handling has been kept to a minimum, it is a big change for a little dragon. Another indication that you dragon is stressed is its colour, when a coloured dragon looses its vivid colour and becomes quite dark it is usually a sign that it is not happy, dark markings and spots on its belly is a clear indication of this. Within a week or two these should fade and the dragons belly will return to its white colour. Try to keep your dragon in a relatively quiet place to begin with and give it time to feel safe and adjust to its new home.
If for any reason you are worried about your dragon for example: not feeding, extremely dark for prolonged periods of time, laying flat on the ground rather than basking or any other behaviour that seems strange to you, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to rectify the problem. It is easier to correct a problem that is in its infancy rather than one that has been ongoing for some time, do not hesitate to call us.
Having said all this, it is the exception rather than the rule, most baby dragons will be feeding ferociously within a short time and curiously checking out its new environment.