Bringing a Baby Bearded Dragon Home: The First Days
Baby bearded dragons need specialised care when you first bring them into your home. They will also react differently to new surroundings and activities going on around them than an adult bearded dragon would.
It is important to know what to expect when bringing home a new "beardie" and to pay attention to how your baby acts, so that if there are any health problems you can take care of them immediately.
Set up an appropriate enclosure. Use a 15- or 20-gallon tank to start with and set it up with minimal decorations so that live food, such as crickets, do not have too many places to hide. Use paper towels or commercially available reptile carpeting as the initial substrate. Baby dragons may accidentally ingest sand or other substrates made up of small granules, and this can cause blockages and even death. Provide full-spectrum lighting, and set up a basking area at one end of the enclosure, where the temperature reaches between 40.6 and 46.1 degrees Celsius, and a nonbasking area between 80 and 85 degrees. The temperature across the entire enclosure should drop to the 60s at night.
Feed and water several times a day. Offer baby dragons small crickets two to three times a day. You can also give them vegetables such as leafy greens and small mealworms. When a baby bearded dragon first moves into a new enclosure it may be too stressed out to eat right away, so give it several hours after bringing it home before you offer it food. In the wild, baby bearded dragons will drink drops of dew or rain off of plants, so to simulate this you need to mist them from a water bottle once or twice a day. You can spray them directly on the head, or, if they won't drink the water from their face, spray the sides or floor of their enclosure.
Keep handling to a minimum. Baby bearded dragons are much more nervous and delicate than adults and should be handled with that in mind. As they will be stressed out when you first bring them home, you should give them several days to feel secure again before you try to pick them up the first time. When you do, scoop them up from the side, not the top, and be sure to support their entire body. While baby dragons may seem to "stick" to your hands, arms, or even the front of your shirt, and sit for long periods of time, they can also suddenly move very quickly and if you aren't paying attention they could fall and be injured. Once they are older and larger, you can start handling on a regular basis.
- Although an adult dragon will need an enclosure that is 50 gallons or bigger, a baby should be kept in a much smaller space so it will not have to search for live food that tries to escape from it. Many baby lizards become nervous when they are in too large of a space because they feel like they are too exposed to predators. Keep the tank small in the beginning and as the bearded dragon grows, move it to a bigger tank.
- Baby bearded dragons can be housed together for the first few months, but make sure if you have multiples living in the same enclosure you plan accordingly. Do not leave larger ones in with smaller ones, as the larger ones will act domineering to the smaller ones and take all of the food if they can. Also be sure to feed them on a regular basis, as baby dragons will start nipping each other's toes and tails if they are hungry. Once they are a few months old, the dragons must be separated. Males have to live alone, though females can stay together.
- Make sure all food is offered in small, bite-size pieces. This means that crickets, mealworms, and vegetables shouldn't be any longer than the dragon's mouth is wide. If you feed them something too large, it can cause vomiting, blockages, seizures, and even death. As your bearded dragon grows, you can start offering larger sizes of food. Mealworms are more fattening than crickets, so offer them sparingly, unless you have an underweight baby, in which case you can use them to bulk up its weight a little. But keep a close eye on them and make sure they don't gain weight too quickly, as this can be unhealthy for them.
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