Bearded dragons are one of the most social, interactive lizards you can have in captivity. Owners are drawn to them because of their curiosity, quirks, and cool looks. These lizards are relatively easy to care for, especially when you know exactly how to maintain their enclosure and provide a nutritious diet.
If you’re a first-time beardie owner, you are probably brushing up on all the facts you can learn. Growth is so important for bearded dragons. Ideal environmental factors alongside a well-balanced diet will ensure your little dragon grows big and strong—just as they should.
Facts About Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are desert lizards that are native to the toasty climate of Australia. The domestication of bearded dragons really caught on in the United States during the 1990s.
However, many reptile lovers have been swept away by the social nature of these incredible desert dwellers.
Here are some fun facts about these rough-skinned cuties:
They can run up to 9 miles per hour. Even though humans can run much faster, it can still be hard to catch your little beardie once they pick up the pace.
They absolutely love to swim. Your bearded dragon will adore bath time. They are skilled swimmers that can use their body structure and movements to paddle through the water with speed and accuracy.
They can change their sex. While this is rare, it can absolutely happen—usually while they’re in the egg.
They wave and bob their heads to communicate. You might have seen adorable videos of beardies . Head bobbing is communication, but it can also be a sign of aggression.
There are different types of bearded dragons. Breeders have worked to creat e different breeds within the species.
They can climb trees. Because of their overall structure and grippy claws, beardies are master tree climbers. So, they can also climb up tons of surfaces in your home.
They are egg layers. Since bearded dragons are cold-blooded creatures, they lay eggs to reproduce.
They prefer solitude. While you might be able to keep females together, most bearded dragons prefer to be alone. Males might even fight to the death if you put them together.
They produce mild venom. This fact isn’t as widely known because the venom beardies produce doesn’t affect humans. However, beardies do have a mild venom to kill their prey.
They cannot regrow their tails. Unlike some other lizards, bearded dragons cannot grow a broken tail back to its natural form.
Bearded dragons reach their full size by 18 months old. As adults, they should measure between 15 to 24 inches, depending on a few factors. They should weigh roughly 11-18 ounces.
Taking your lizard to regular vet checkups is extremely vital during their first year. You need to make sure they are on par and correctly nourished. If you skip a visit, you might miss some important information that could help your beardie thrive.
Ideal Diet for Optimal Growth
Your beardie should have a full selection of calcium-rich, gut-loaded insects as well as fresh fruits and veggies. The recommendation is to offer 75% insects and the other 25% fruits and veggies.
Baby Beardies—feed them a minimum of oncea day. Proper calcium and protein are vital at this stage. Their diet should mostly consist of small insects like crickets to give their body the appropriate nutrients for growth. Crickets have a very high amount of fat and protein content, which helps them develop through maturity. You should feed your baby beardie two to three times per day, as much as they will eat in a singular 15-minute feeding.
Adult Beardies—you should feed your bearded dragon at least once every two days. You still need to maintain healthy calcium levels and provide adequate vitamin D sources. Adult bearded dragons don’t require as much protein as in their juvenile stage.
Beardies don’t really need much plant matter until they’re 12 months or older. They need to have insects, fruits, and veggies. The general rule is that you should offer 75% insects, 20% veggies, and 5% fruits as a whole.
Tip: Don’t ever try to put crickets into a cage with bearded dragons unless it’s feeding time. Even though it might seem convenient, they can rule the roost—and even bite your beardie. Only let them interact with the crickets during mealtime.
When it comes to their overall diet, you should make sure your beardie has a sound variety of food items to eat.
Wild-caught insects (even if you’re running low on food)
What Other Factors Affect Bearded Dragon Growth?
Enclosure size—interestingly enough, the size of your bearded dragon’s enclosure could stunt its growth. Your beardie will only grow to match their environment. So, if you keep them in a cage that is too small, they might not ever get bigger, even if you move them to a bigger cage.
Genetics—how big both parents are can affect the total adult mass and structure.
Gender—females are usually smaller than their male counterparts. So, you might notice a vast difference in size between the two.
Diet—young bearded dragons need to be fed often to keep up with their growing bodies. They need lots of protein and fat to feed their growing muscles, skin, and bones.
Health Issues—certain health issues, like metabolic bone disease, can transpire without the right diet and environment.
Tank Conditions—you need to make sure to keep your enclosure clean, scooped, and continuously debris-free. You should also keep temperature and humidity levels in the normal range.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Growing?
If you haven’t noticed any recent increase in size, it may raise some concerns.
Poor lighting —inadequate lighting causes a lack of vitamin D absorption, which can stunt growth and lead to other bone issues.
Inconsistent or inadequate feeding—if you aren’t keeping your beardie on a feeding schedule, you might not be feeding them enough. It will cause slow development or lack thereof.
Parasitic infection—these infections are usually transmitted by insects. If parasites are stealing nutrients from your growing lizard, it can affect overall development.
Disease—certain bone diseases can stunt growth, so this goes hand-in-hand with proper diet before it ever becomes an issue.
Brumation – this is essentially a hibernation period. It is caused by lower-than-average temperatures and inconsistent lighting. In preparation for winter, they will shut down into sleep mode without eating or drinking, which can severely stunt growth in young beardies. To prevent this, make sure they get 10 to 12 hours of daylight every day.
How Can I Tell if My Bearded Dragon is Overweight or Underweight?
If you keep your bearded dragon on a specific diet for their life stage, you shouldn’t run into an issue of over and underweight. However, if you notice something is amiss with their weight, you may want to take a closer look.
Underweight Bearded Dragons
Your bearded dragon should never look flat or thin.
Beardies that are underweight might display the following traits:
Thin legs and tail
Protruding hips bones
Large head, small body
Sunken fat pads
Protruding rib cage
Overweight Bearded Dragons
That’s right—your beardie can pack on ounces, too.
If your lizard is overweight, you might notice that they have:
Large, round belly
Healthy Bearded Dragons
A healthy bearded dragon will be:
Alert and curious
No discharge from openings
Filled out bodies
Keeping track of your beardie’s growth will only reassure you that all is as it should be. Especially if you’re an inexperienced owner, it can be nerve-wracking to not know you’re doing everything right.
Make sure to keep a feeding schedule, so you know they’re getting the right amount of food appropriate for their life stage. Also, UV light is equally important—they really need their vitamin D.
Featured Image Credit: ZeppsProject, Pixabay
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.
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