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Red bearded dragon babies like these may look the same as normal's for the first few months
Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
Baby Beardies make a great first lizard but they require specialized care, they are also great for anyone who likes reptiles and would like something that gets a bit bigger than a standard gecko but not as large as say a monitor or iguana. Beardies come in all shades of color and textures, some of which make them very valuable. No matter what type you have beardie care is pretty much the same across the board. Your dragon will give you many years of enjoyment as long as you provide him/her with the basic needs to stay healthy.
DO NOT BUY ANY DRAGON SMALLER THAN 5" Unless you know what you are doing. Hatchlings can be difficult eaters and it takes a great deal of attention and care at this size.
DO NOT BUY ANY DRAGON UNLESS YOU CAN PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING:
You will need a small tank at first for your new beardie, he will be much easier to feed in a small tank and it will be far less stressful for him hunting food. A 10 gallon will be ideal for the first half year or so then you will want to upgrade to a larger tank at least 48" long. Beardies like to bask under their heat light so provide an adequate basking light for them to reach temperature. As babies you will want a hot zone of about 100-115 degrees and a cool zone (opposite side of tank) of about 80 degrees or so. It is important to create these zones so your beardie can adjust his temperature accordingly. You may add an optional heat pad if your dragon is in a particularly cold room. Provide him hide, and a bit of drift wood angled up toward his basking light. USE NO SUBSTRATE, cover your tanks floor with reptile carpet or paper towels.
On top of the basking light (UVA)you will also need to provide a UVB light. These lights are a bit more expensive than a typical basking bulb but they are necessary for your animals survival. Run your lights on about an 11 hour cycle and feed your dragon no later than 2 hours before lights are turned off. He will require the heat to help digest, he will also require the UVB to process vitamin D which he needs for proper bone generation. Vitamin/mineral supplements which contain vitamin D-3 should also be used to dust crickets and/or greens to ensure proper calcium absorption for bone development in growing dragons
Feed your baby dragon crickets and finely chopped vegetables daily you may dust crickets and veggies. A good starter veggie is mustard greens, cut them into small sections and remove any stems. A general rule is to feed crickets and veggies that are no larger than the space between your dragons eyes, gut load and dust your crickets to insure your dragon is getting proper calcium and vitamins. Dragons can die of impactation easily if they eat something too large. Meal worms can be offered after several months of growth, it is not recommended to feed these to very your dragons.
As your dragon grows he will grow a voracious appetite for crickets and meal worms. It is not uncommon for a 6-8 month old dragon to consume 5 dozen medium sized crickets a day. Luckily this should only last a month or so as your dragon will begin to slowly transition to eating more and more veggies and less crickets. When fully grown your beardie will be about 18"-24" long and if handled regularly will be a great companion for years to come.
Some Common Questions:
1. How many crickets should I feed my dragon ?
It depends on size , if it's a baby he should easily eat upwards of a dozen crickets in under 10 minutes. Use the 10 minute rule as your guide. Offer about a dozen appropriate size crickets and wait 10 minutes, if there are crickets still in the enclosure do not offer more. If your dragon is quickly hunting them down then offer more until he seems uninterested, this will give you a good idea of how many to feed your dragon. Remember as he grows he will want more so you will need to adjust accordingly.
2. My dragon seems sick and is acting odd, what's wrong ?
It could be any number of things, often times though it comes down to one basic rule which has been broken at some point in the animals life. NEVER feed too big of an item to your dragon. Just because a baby dragon can eat a medium sized cricket it should NEVER be offered as it has a great potential to cause serious health issues and eventual death. The leading cause of neuromotor problems in young dragons seems to center around this issue alone. Some breeders try to beef up there animals and get them big fast so they can sell them as fast as they can by feeding babies larger prey items. If you are purchasing a baby dragon watch for any signs of "spasms, shaking, uncontrolled neck movements." etc these could be signs that the animal is impacted. You may also consult a veterinarian, keep in mind however a vet that specializes in herps is hard to find in most towns and as such it can be easy to misdiagnose something as simple as vitamin deficiency or impactation, so call around before you go.
3. How do I know my dragon is healthy ?
Purchasing from reputable dealers and businesses that deal with such breeders is the best way to insure you get a healthy animal. Of course things can go wrong even with a perfectly healthy specimen but you can minimize such risk by knowing what to look for and what questions to ask the seller. Ask what they are feeding the animal, and if possible if they will feed it for you. Ask when it last ate, more important IMO is to look for droppings or since cages are cleaned regularly any signs that the animal is using the bathroom normally, this will rule out a chance of you picking an impacted animal.
Look at the animals eyes, a healthy beardie will look alert, he will be as interested in you as you are him and his eyes should look bright and clear. The body should look clean as well, remember scrapes and nicks are common for babies as breeders keep them together for a while however any severe damages should be avoided. Avoid purchasing any dragon that is either in shed or looks like it may be getting ready to shed, this is a stressful time for some small dragons. If you have to have that particular one, wait a day or two and check it out then by doing this you can also see the animals true color (as of that time).
4. How do you know it's a red dragon, it looks normal to me ?
Thanks to breeders there are a lot of great color morphs out there but unless you know what to look for it is easy for someone to sell you a common dragon as a rare morph. Breeders keep detailed records of what animals they are crossing to produce a desired color morph, this information should be passed along to sellers and eventually you. Baby dragons do look pretty much the same, it is not until much later that they begin to show there true color, however there are some that come out of the egg already blazing with what might turn out to be even more amazing as they age, these dragons sell for a lot and are extremely rare. If you have purchased a red dragon which looks a bit like a normal it means that there is a gene in your dragon that will eventually make it more red or orange than a common dragon. There is no guarantee as to the degree of color that will eventually show through, generally though if the parents are high in color the offspring tend to be as well. The same goes with any and all color morphs we use red here as an example.
4. What vegetables should I feed my dragon ?
Dragons are omnivorous , they eat both meat and vegetables as babies it is important to chop their veggies for them and discard any stems. Personally I feed my dragons, mustard and collard as the basic "greens", I supplement or add in treats here and there as well. Some fruits can be offered but only sparingly, grapes, papaya, strawberry etc. I do not feed spinach, kale, lettuce or bananas. There are those who do who say they have observed no problems but in my opinion there is enough research that has concluded at least for me that that these last mentioned staples may be problematic to the health and long term development of bearded dragons.
4. What about humidity in the enclosure?
Dragons are a desert animal and as such are used to low humidity levels, it is adequate to simply spray the cage a few times a day, under no circumstance is it recommended to use any type of misting device for tropical species this can lead to respiratory infections which can be fatal. When your dragon is in shed you may also take him/her out and give him a warm bath. De chlorinate a container and fill it no more than half the height of your dragon with warm water - 85/90 degrees and place your animal in. Some dragon love water others can not stand it, either way doing this a few times a week during the first signs of shed will ensure a proper shed on your beardie. DO NOT PULL SKIN, it may still be attached , soak it and loosen with a wet cloth if necessary but do not pull, this can be very painful.
Silk Back or Silkie Bearded Dragon
(controversial but beautiful)
A unique special morph of beardie is the Silk back or "Silkie", these guys have some serious special care requirements and may not be suited to just anyone. These guys are the result of breeding two leather backs together to create the "super" form the result is a dragon with no scales or tubercles on it's body. An amazing creature but with specialized care requirements.
Basic care requirements for silk backs:
UVB 5% UVB, anything over that can cause burns or skin cancer, these animals are not found in the wild and lack any protection from the elements. Make sure they have no hard or sharp edges in their enclosure. The need to be soaked roughly 20 min a day in warm water or at least 2-3 times a week and lightly misted twice a day to insure good skin health. Nearly all silkie keepers lotion their dragon as well, using non-scented, no additives or vitamins natural cream lotion, curel, etc. The use of a shedding agent is also advisable to help maintain proper moisture on your animal. There are several products available such as "shedease" which are good to help with stubborn sheds and condition your animals skin well. Under no circumstances should you you help these animals shed by pulling dead skin away. You can massage the skin with lotion but do not pull away skin. The rest of the care is essentially the same as for any other bearded dragon. It should be even more stressed, DO NOT leave any insects in the enclosure with these guys they have no protection at all against external elements.
Soaking this little guy for about 15 -20 minutes a day will help to keep his skin moist and make shedding a lot easier on him.