Hello, fellow reptile enthusiasts! Today, we’ll be diving into the fascinating world of baby bearded dragons and how to provide the best care possible for these adorable little creatures. As a professional reptile expert, I’ve had the pleasure of working with bearded dragons for many years. Through my experiences, I have learned the ins and outs of caring for these unique reptiles, and I’m excited to share this knowledge with you on my personal blog.
Baby bearded dragons require specific care to ensure they grow up healthy and strong. Proper care for your baby beardie not only leads to a longer and healthier life but also allows them to form a strong bond with you.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various aspects of baby bearded dragon care, including setting up the ideal habitat, understanding the importance of temperature and lighting, providing a nutritious and balanced diet, and knowing how to handle and socialize your baby beardie. We’ll also discuss how to determine the sex of your baby dragon, common health concerns, and what to expect as your beardie grows and matures.
Setting Up the Perfect Habitat
Creating a comfortable and safe environment is crucial for the well-being of your baby bearded dragon. The right habitat setup will not only make your beardie feel secure but also allow them to exhibit natural behaviors and thrive. In this section, we’ll discuss how to set up the perfect home for your baby bearded dragon.
Choosing the right enclosure size
While baby bearded dragons may seem small, they grow quickly and will need ample space to move around and explore. For a single baby beardie, a 20-gallon enclosure is the minimum size, but it’s better to start with a 40-gallon tank if possible. (Read more about the optimal bearded dragon tank size here!)
This will give them plenty of room to grow and save you from having to upgrade the enclosure in the near future. Make sure the enclosure has a secure screen lid to prevent escapes and allow for proper ventilation.
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Substrate options and recommendations
Choosing the right substrate for your baby bearded dragon’s habitat is essential for their health and safety. Loose substrates like sand, walnut shells, or calcium-based sands should be avoided, as they can cause impaction if ingested.
Instead, choose a safer alternative like reptile carpet, newspaper, or paper towels as a substrate for your baby bearded dragon. These options are easy to clean, cost-effective, and pose minimal risk to your baby beardie.
Long-term, you will want to have a natural or bioactive substrate, but it’s often easier and safer to use something simple like reptile carpet or tiles.
Hiding spots, climbing branches, and decorations
Providing a variety of hiding spots and climbing opportunities will make your baby bearded dragon feel secure and give them plenty of stimulation. You can use store-bought hides or make your own using PVC pipes, cardboard boxes, or even upside-down plant pots with a hole cut out for entry.
Include climbing branches, driftwood, or cork bark for your beardie to explore and bask on. It’s essential to ensure that all decorations are secure and won’t topple over, potentially injuring your baby beardie.
In addition to hides and climbing structures, you can add some decorations like artificial plants, rocks, or other reptile-safe ornaments to create a more natural and engaging environment. However, be mindful not to overcrowd the enclosure, as your baby bearded dragon will still need ample space to move around freely.
By creating a well-designed habitat with the right enclosure size, substrate, and enrichment opportunities, you’ll be setting your baby bearded dragon up for success. A comfortable and stimulating environment will not only promote healthy growth and development but also allow your beardie to feel secure and exhibit natural behaviors.
Temperature and Lighting Requirements
Maintaining the correct temperature and lighting in your baby bearded dragon’s enclosure is essential for its overall health and well-being. Proper temperature gradients and lighting setup will ensure that your baby beardie can regulate their body temperature, metabolize food efficiently, and grow strong and healthy.
Read our in-depth guide about bearded dragon temperature setups if you want to learn more!
Ideal temperature gradients for baby bearded dragons
Baby bearded dragons require a temperature gradient within their enclosure to help them regulate their body temperature. This means that one side of the tank should be warmer, while the other side should be cooler.
On the warmer side, or the “basking area,” the temperature should range between 100-110°F (38-43°C) during the day. This is slightly higher than the temperature required for adult bearded dragons, as baby beardies need more heat to aid in their rapid growth.
The cooler side of the enclosure, known as the “cool zone,” should have temperatures ranging between 75-85°F (24-29°C) during the day.
At night, the overall temperature in the enclosure can drop to 65-75°F (18-24°C), but it should never go below 65°F (18°C). To monitor the temperature, use a digital thermometer with a probe or an infrared temperature gun, as these are the most accurate options.
Heat sources: basking bulbs and ceramic heat emitters
To create the ideal temperature gradient in your baby bearded dragon’s enclosure, you’ll need to provide a heat source. Basking bulbs are the most common choice, as they emit both heat and light, simulating the sun’s rays.
Make sure to place the basking bulb above the basking area but outside the enclosure, as baby beardies can accidentally burn themselves if they come into direct contact with the bulb.
If additional heat is needed at night when the basking bulb is turned off, a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) is a great option. CHEs produce heat without emitting light, ensuring that your baby beardie’s day-night cycle remains undisturbed.
UVB lighting for healthy growth and development
In addition to heat, bearded dragons need exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) light to synthesize vitamin D3, which is crucial for calcium absorption and overall bone health. A lack of proper UVB exposure can lead to metabolic bone disease, a severe health issue in reptiles.
For baby bearded dragons, a 10-12% T5 or T8 linear fluorescent UVB bulb that spans at least two-thirds of the enclosure is recommended. Place the UVB light fixture on the same side as the basking area, and make sure the bulb is positioned 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) from the basking spot. Replace the UVB bulb every 6-12 months, as their effectiveness decreases over time.
By providing the correct temperature and lighting setup for your baby bearded dragon, you’ll ensure their proper growth and development, as well as helping to prevent potential health issues related to improper heating and UVB exposure.
Proper Diet and Nutrition
Feeding your baby bearded dragon a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for its growth, development, and overall health. Baby beardies have different dietary needs compared to adult bearded dragons, so it’s essential to understand what foods are best for them and how often to feed them.
Dietary Needs of baby bearded dragons
While adult bearded dragons have an omnivorous diet, baby beardies require a higher percentage of protein to support their rapid growth. In the early stages, a baby bearded dragon’s diet should consist of approximately 70% insects and 30% greens and vegetables.
Staple food items and safe treats
The primary source of protein for your baby bearded dragon should be live insects. Staple insects include small crickets, dubia roaches, black soldier fly larvae (Phoenix worms), and silkworms. These insects should be appropriately sized, no larger than the space between your beardie’s eyes, to prevent choking or impaction.
As for greens and vegetables, provide a mix of leafy greens, such as collard greens, dandelion greens, and mustard greens, along with vegetables like bell peppers, squash, and carrots. You can also occasionally offer small amounts of fruit, such as berries, apples, or pears, as a treat.
Feeding schedule and portion sizes
Baby bearded dragons need to be fed more frequently than adults due to their high metabolism and rapid growth. Feed your baby beardie live insects 2-3 times per day, offering as many insects as they can eat within a 10-15 minute period. Fresh greens and vegetables should be available in a shallow dish throughout the day for them to graze on.
As your bearded dragon grows, you will gradually reduce the number of insects and increase the greens and vegetables in their diet. By the time they reach adulthood (around 18 months), their diet should consist of roughly 75% greens and vegetables and 25% insects.
Importance of calcium and vitamin supplementation
Calcium and vitamin supplements are crucial for the healthy growth and development of your baby bearded dragon. Dust their insects with a calcium powder without vitamin D3 4-5 times a week and a multivitamin supplement 2-3 times a week. Make sure to use high-quality supplements specifically designed for reptiles.
By providing a balanced and nutritious diet for your baby bearded dragon, you’ll be ensuring their proper growth and development, as well as helping to prevent potential health issues related to poor nutrition.
Handling and Socialization
Building a strong bond with your baby bearded dragon is an essential aspect of pet ownership. Proper handling and socialization techniques will not only help your baby beardie become comfortable around humans but also foster trust and create a lasting connection between you and your scaly companion.
Tips for safely handling your baby beardie
When it comes to handling your baby bearded dragon, it’s crucial to be gentle and patient. Here are some tips for safely handling your new pet:
Approach your beardie from the side, not from above, as they may perceive an overhead approach as a threat.
Use both hands to support your baby beardie, allowing them to rest on your fingers or the palm of your hand. Be careful not to grip them too tightly, as this can cause stress or injury.
Keep handling sessions short and sweet, especially in the beginning. Gradually increase the duration of handling sessions as your baby beardie becomes more comfortable and accustomed to human interaction.
Avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as these can startle your baby beardie and cause stress.
The importance of regular interaction
Regular interaction is vital for the socialization of your baby bearded dragon. Spend time talking to them, gently petting their head and back, and allowing them to explore your hands and arms under supervision. This helps build trust and encourages your baby beardie to associate you with positive experiences.
In addition to handling, you can also engage your baby bearded dragon through various forms of enrichment, such as providing new climbing structures or hiding spots, offering different types of food, or introducing safe toys like small balls or mirrors.
Building trust and bonding with your pet
Building trust with your baby bearded dragon takes time, patience, and consistent effort. By handling your beardie gently and regularly, providing a stimulating environment, and offering positive reinforcement through treats and praise, you’ll be well on your way to forming a strong bond with your scaly companion.
Remember, every bearded dragon is unique and may take more or less time to become comfortable with handling and socialization. By respecting your baby beardie’s individual personality and needs, you’ll be able to foster a loving and rewarding relationship that lasts for years to come.
Sexing Baby Bearded Dragons
Determining the sex of your baby bearded dragon can be helpful for various reasons, including planning for future breeding, choosing a name, or simply satisfying your curiosity. While it can be challenging to sex baby beardies due to their small size and less developed characteristics, it’s still possible with some patience and a keen eye.
Visual cues for determining sex
As bearded dragons mature, their physical differences become more apparent. However, even in baby beardies, there are some subtle visual cues that may help you determine their sex. These include:
Hemipenal bulges: Located at the base of the tail, just above the vent (the opening where they eliminate waste), male bearded dragons typically have two hemipenal bulges, while females have one central bulge or none at all. It’s essential to look for these bulges when your baby beardie is relaxed and not stressed.
Femoral pores: Males usually have more pronounced femoral pores, which are small bumps located on the underside of their hind legs. In contrast, females have smaller and less noticeable pores. However, this characteristic may not be as evident in baby beardies and may only become more apparent as they grow.
Safe handling techniques for sexing
When attempting to determine the sex of your baby bearded dragon, it’s essential to handle them gently and safely. Here are some tips for handling your baby beardie during the sexing process:
Gently lift your baby bearded dragon by supporting their body with one hand while using the other hand to hold their tail at the base, close to the body. Do not pull or twist the tail, as this can cause injury.
Position your baby beardie on a flat, well-lit surface, such as a tabletop or your palm, and gently lift their tail at a 45-degree angle to observe the vent and surrounding area.
Use a flashlight or your phone’s light to illuminate the area around the vent if needed, but be careful not to shine the light directly into their eyes.
When to consult a professional
If you’re unsure about your baby bearded dragon’s sex or uncomfortable attempting to sex them yourself, it’s best to consult a professional, such as a veterinarian or an experienced reptile breeder. They can help you safely and accurately determine your baby beardie’s sex, providing you with peace of mind.
By understanding the visual cues and safe handling techniques for sexing baby bearded dragons, you’ll be better equipped to determine the gender of your scaly companion, allowing you to plan for their future needs and develop a stronger bond with your pet.
Common Health Concerns
Just like any pet, baby bearded dragons may face certain health concerns throughout their life. It’s essential to be aware of these potential issues, know how to recognize the signs, and understand when to seek veterinary care. In this section, we’ll discuss some common health concerns in baby bearded dragons and how to address them.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic Bone Disease is a prevalent health issue among bearded dragons, often caused by a lack of proper calcium intake, insufficient UVB exposure, or an imbalanced diet. Signs of MBD include swelling or deformities in limbs, weakness, lethargy, and difficulty walking or climbing. If you suspect your baby bearded dragon has MBD, consult a reptile veterinarian immediately. Early treatment and proper care can help prevent further complications.
Impaction occurs when a bearded dragon’s digestive system becomes blocked, often due to ingesting loose substrate, consuming oversized food items, or dehydration. Signs of impaction include lethargy, loss of appetite, and the inability to defecate. If you suspect impaction, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Preventing impaction involves offering appropriately sized food items, avoiding loose substrates, and ensuring your baby beardie stays hydrated.
Respiratory infections can occur in bearded dragons if their environment is too cold, too damp, or lacks proper ventilation. Signs of a respiratory infection include wheezing, mucus around the nostrils or mouth, and difficulty breathing. If you notice these symptoms in your baby bearded dragon, consult a reptile veterinarian for treatment. Preventing respiratory infections involves maintaining proper temperature and humidity levels and ensuring the enclosure has adequate ventilation.
Both internal and external parasites can affect bearded dragons. Internal parasites, such as worms or protozoa, can cause weight loss, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. External parasites, like mites, can cause itching and discomfort. If you suspect your baby bearded dragon has parasites, seek veterinary care for appropriate treatment. To prevent parasites, maintain a clean environment and source feeder insects from reputable suppliers.
Baby bearded dragons shed their skin frequently as they grow. Sometimes, they may have trouble shedding completely, leading to retained shed, which can cause circulation problems or infections. If your baby beardie has retained shed, you can help by providing a humid hide or gently misting their skin. If the issue persists, consult a veterinarian.
By staying informed about common health concerns and knowing how to recognize the signs, you can help ensure your baby bearded dragon remains happy and healthy throughout their life.
Growth and Development Expectations
Understanding the growth and development expectations of your baby bearded dragon will help you monitor their health and ensure they’re growing at an appropriate rate. In this section, we’ll discuss the expected growth milestones and the factors that can influence your baby beardie’s development.
Baby bearded dragons grow rapidly during their first year of life. You can expect your baby beardie to reach about half of its adult size by the time it is six months old. By the time they reach 12 months, they will be around 75% of their adult size. Full adult size, which can range from 18-24 inches (45-61 cm) in length, is typically achieved around 18-24 months of age.
Factors affecting growth
Several factors can affect the growth and development of your baby bearded dragon, including:
Genetics: Your baby beardie’s genetic makeup will play a significant role in determining its adult size and growth rate.
Nutrition: A well-balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for your baby bearded dragon’s growth and development. Providing the right food items in the proper amounts will help ensure they reach their full growth potential.
Environmental factors: Proper temperature, lighting, and humidity levels within your baby beardie’s enclosure are essential for their overall health and growth.
Health issues: Health problems, such as Metabolic Bone Disease, parasites, or infections, can hinder your baby bearded dragon’s growth and development.
Monitoring your baby beardie’s growth
Regularly monitoring your baby bearded dragon’s growth is important to ensure they’re developing at an appropriate rate. Weighing your baby beardie monthly and measuring their length every couple of months can help you track their growth and detect any potential issues early.
Caring for a baby bearded dragon can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By providing a proper enclosure, maintaining the right temperature and lighting setup, offering a nutritious diet, and practicing safe handling and socialization techniques, you can ensure your baby beardie grows up to be a healthy and happy adult.
Being aware of potential health concerns and monitoring their growth and development will also help you provide the best care possible for your scaly companion. With love, patience, and consistent care, you’ll be able to enjoy a lasting bond with your bearded dragon for years to come.