Bearded dragons are a fantastic beginner reptile if you are willing to put a little extra time and money into your pet. These animals tend to grow into a very laid-back temperament, but may be a bit standoffish as babies and skittish as young adults. Proper handling will help with this, though.
Bearded dragons, or “beardies” as some call them, will need at least a 40-gallon breeder tank to live in, which will fit them as adults for their lifetime in most cases. However, because these are somewhat active animals, bigger can be better for adults. These animals will use the space when given, often running around and checking out their surroundings.
Beardies need a heat lamp as well as a good UVB reptile lamp. This is ESSENTIAL. If you only have one type of lamp, the dragon will likely have stunted growth and may develop Metabolic Bone Disease. You can keep these lights on a timer so that they have a day/night cycle of about 12 hours each.
Fruit and veggies are also a must with bearded dragons, as well as a variety of insects. There are lists available of dragon-safe foods, and you should definitely check them out before buying produce for your dragon. Sprinkle veggies with some calcium powder every few feedings, and your dragon will be good to go.
One of the biggest misconceptions about beardies is that they need to be on calcium sand. This is absolutely not true, as calcium sand can bind together when ingested and kill your reptile. Dragons can do well on a variety of different subtrates. Play sand can work, but it easily collects bacteria which can lead to infections. We recommend choosing a good reptile-friendly bark subtrate.