The day has come. You’re finally going to pick up your new baby bearded dragon you’ve been dying to get your hands on (and for good reason). But the first question many new owners have is: how do I take care of it? The last thing you’d want is for your new friend to develop a plethora of health problems or even worse, pass away shortly after. I’m here to assure you that you’re not alone in this process. Here are some things you should know.
Buying a Baby Bearded Dragon
A baby dragon is generally described as a dragon less than 3 months of age. Among the beardie circle, they’re called “Hatchlings.” When picking out a hatchling, there are a few things you want to look out for, otherwise you may be getting a reptile with health issues at the time of purchase.
Check to see how animated the dragon is. These are generally really active reptiles and will come check you out because of their curious nature. Examine their skin and physical characteristics by looking for any bite marks and sores. Any signs of these may mean there’s some malnutrition and neglecting from the breeders. Hatchlings don’t usually bite each other, unless there is a scarcity in food. You’ll usually be able to tell if the dragon has been fed well from the tail. The tail is the part where excess fat is stored, so check to see if it’s plump and has a nice skin texture.
Finding the Perfect Enclosure
Baby dragons are small, meaning they need less room in their habitat. The most common type of enclosures, and the one I personally use, is aquariums. An aquarium is a very cheap option, and can often times be free if you look hard enough. A 20-gallon tank is all that’s necessary for a hatchling, but keep in mind that they’ll grow to become adult-sized very quickly. Adults need at least a 40-gallon tank, preferably 50 gallons. So, it might be a good idea to start with something of that size so you don’t have to purchase a new tank later on.
Unlike adults, hatchlings get along quite well with each other within an enclosure. Just make sure there’s enough food to go around and you shouldn’t really see any displays of dominance or fighting. This could change once they’ve grown up a little, especially among males. So, make sure you have a big enough tank by then if you have multiple dragons.
As for substrate or bedding, there are many to choose from, including commercialized brands. Although I usually use natural beach sand, I wouldn’t recommend them for hatchlings because they might accidently digest the fine sand.
A Baby Bearded Dragon’s Diet
Hatchlings eat a lot, especially protein matter. A nutritious bearded dragon diet should consist of both plant matter (vegetables and fruits) as well as protein matter (insects and worms). But because hatchlings are in a crucial developmental stage, they need significantly more protein than plant.
|Dragon’s Age||Plant Matter|
|Less than 2 months||5% – 10%|
|2 months to 4 months||20%|
The food ratio should consist of 5% to 10% plant and 90% to 95% protein. This is not a great ratio to be giving your dragon throughout its life. As it grows older, you should be slowly increasing their plant intake and decreasing their protein intake. When a dragon has reached adulthood, there is no need for so much protein because they won’t grow nearly as quickly anymore.
Hatchling are voracious eaters, so make sure to feed them 2 to 3 times a day. Drop insects into their enclosure and watch them chase them down for an entertaining show. And as a rule of thumb, feed them insects no longer in size than the space between the dragon’s eyes. This means baby insects for your baby dragon. Plant matter needs to be chopped up and sometimes minced before feeding to a hatchling.
Lighting & Temperature For Baby Dragons
Lighting and temperatures are both important factors for a healthy dragon lifestyle. But when it comes to bearded dragon care, lighting and heating are two separate things.
When setting up a lighting system, make sure you’re using UVB (ultraviolet) lamps instead of traditional light bulbs with no UVB. They should be located above the tank in a spot that shines bright throughout the tank.
Heating can be provided in many ways, but I usually go with incandescent light bulbs because they’re cheap and work well. In their habitat, there should be a hotter side for basking and a cooler side when not. Baby bearded dragons need a basking temperature of about 109 degrees Fahrenheit and a “cool side” temperature of about 84 degrees Fahrenheit. So, make sure you have a thermometer on each side to regulate temperatures effectively and accurately. And don’t worry, these dragons are indigenous to Australia, so they can handle the heat.
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As you can see, caring for your baby bearded dragon is not a difficult task. It’s the reason why they’re such popular reptile pets among kids. Although this page lays out the basics, I would suggest going through the other resource pages linked in this article for more in-depth information.
If you have any questions on caring for your hatchling, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.