Bearded Dragon Answers and Information
The Inland Bearded Dragon or Pogona vitticeps adapts easily to a wide range of habitats and environments making it an ideal choice as a pet and is a common choice amongst reptile owners.
Although theyare called ‘dragons’ the are safe for children, they do not grow too large and are easily tamed.
The secret to a long and healthy life for the dragon is for the reptile owner to understand their life in the wild. The conditions must simulate the wild as much as possible. Where it cannot then the reptile owner must understand the adaptions the dragon will have to make. Will it be able to do so?
All captive reptiles need a separate heating and lighting system and the bearded dragon is not exception. But why the separate systems?
All reptiles are ‘cold blooded’, that is they are unable to regulate their body temperature, unlike mammals who have various mechanisms to ensure a stable core body temperature. The reptiles, rely on the environment. So when it is cold they are cold, when it is hot then they are hot.
Their metabolism increases with the increase in the temperature of the environment. Wild bearded dragons and other reptiles bask in the warm sun to increase their body temperature and thus their metabolism. This is difficult for them to do in captivity.
Because the artificial light source does not generate sufficient heat or is difficult to regulate both the brightness and temperature at the same time, it is easier and more effective to have two separate systems to create the optimal environment for the dragon.
The two systems have different goals. The heating system has to provide a regular temperature through out the dragons environment and to give day and night temperature cycles. Vitamin D is important for the health of your dragon, as it is for us. The bearded dragon and ourselves make our own Vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight and the ultraviolet radiation in particular. So the lighting system must provide the ultraviolet light for the bearded dragon to manufacture its own Vitamin D.
If you wish you can supplement your bearded dragons diet with Vitamin D. But I wouldn’t recommend this as Vitamin D is stored in the body and is toxic in too high levels. It is not possible to give your dragon the correct and safe dose. Vitamin D production via UV light is a natural process and the dragon has feedback mechanisms that will prevent the excessive manufacture of the Vitamin D.
The UV light will provide warmth but this should be supplemented with ceramic heating elements throughout the enclosure to ensure correct temperature in the entire enclosure. This is particularly important if you live in the colder climates. Remember your bearded dragon comes from the deserts of Australia.
The bearded dragons diet is a big concern for their keepers and they wonder if the dragon must be fed plants or insects. The bearded dragon is an omnivore, i.e. they will eat anything, so it is important that they get both animal and plant food.
In the wild the bearded dragon spends most of his day foraging for food, eating edible plant material from a wide variety of plant species. So you will have to provide worms, insects (eg crickets and locusts) as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables.
For a long and healthy life in captivity for your dragon you have to provide it with a balanced diet. It is not possible to mimic the dragons natural environment in an enclosure so you will have to supplement certain things.
Vitamin D may have to be supplemented to prevent metabolic bone disease where the dragons body cannibalizes its own bones for calcium and a type of osteoporousus develops, common in post-menopausal women. But if possible the UV light source should provide this. Make sure that you have a high quality UV light source designed for reptile habitats.
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