Bearded dragons are exotic lizards known for their dragon-like appearance and easy going nature. They are active mostly during the day and are quite docile and sociable.
These traits mean the bearded dragon has become one of the most popular pet reptiles in the world. Because of their popularity many novice keepers look to them as beginner pets.
But are bearded dragons good for beginners?
Below we share ten pros and cons so you can decide if a bearded dragon will make a good pet for you.
Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets?
Bearded dragons are amongst the most popular pet lizards for a variety of good reasons.
First of all they are relatively cheap, easy to care for and fun to be around. They are also pretty much perfectly sized for humans, being large enough to handle comfortably, but small enough to fit in a hand or on a shoulder.
To top it all off, their spiky, exotic appearance really makes them look like a dragon!
Bearded dragons are often considered great pets for beginners, but their many interesting traits make them appealing to beginners and experienced keepers alike.
Ultimately, whether or not a bearded dragon is a good pet depends on you. They may be one of the most popular reptiles in the world, but they still require dedication and care. Below is a quick and handy summary of the 10 major pros and cons of bearded dragons as pets.
|Social, active, and easy to tame
|Very specific diet requirements
|Friendly, curious, and docile temperament
|Need special UV lighting and heating
|Relatively cheap and easy to care for
|Require frequent cleaning
|Exotic dragon-like appearance
|Larger males can be difficult to handle
Why Are Bearded Dragons Good Pets?
They Are Quiet & Easygoing
If you want a calm and quiet pet then a bearded dragon is a great choice!
Their natural methods of communication are based in gestures and body language like arm waving, head bobbing and color changes. This means they almost never vocalize – preferring instead to just bask in peace and quiet.
They don’t require a lot of special attention either.
Once their enclosure is set up properly they are fully capable of self-managing. Most individuals will be happy to just lounge around or explore their enclosure. And unlike many reptiles they are diurnal, meaning they are generally active in the daytime and likely to sleep during the night.
Not only does their lifestyle make it easy to interact with and feed them, you also don’t need to worry about your pet making noises throughout the night.
These traits combined are a major reason why bearded dragons make great pets. Many beginners soon learn how manageable these lizards are.
Their Temperament Is Friendly, Curious & Docile
Bearded dragons have become well known for their friendliness around humans. As long as they are handled correctly, they are typically much more sociable and nowhere near as skittish as many other pet lizards.
Many individuals will be pretty comfortable lounging on their owner’s arm or shoulder.
Well-socialized beardies even seem to enjoy physical affection such as chin scratches and ‘cuddling’. They may also actively seek out attention from their owners, a very rare trait in most lizards.
Bearded dragons quickly form bonds and can learn to recognize and respond to their human.
Their docile nature and natural curiosity means they won’t be shy about exploring new environments and interacting with toys you give them. This can lead to many silly and memorable moments with your pet!
They have a friendly personality which is not limited to just pets either. It is not uncommon for humans to handle wild individuals with surprising ease, though this is definitely not recommended.
They Are Cheap To Keep
Typically bearded dragons cost between $25 and $100. However, their price can change significantly based on where and who you are buying from and the age or color of the bearded dragon. Some of the rarer color morphs can reach over $500.
While pet bearded dragons are cheap to buy, setting up their habitat can become a bit pricey.
Most enclosures range between $100 and $300, followed by lighting, heating, substrate, décor and food – all of which can run to $50 each. All in all, most new owners can expect an overall setup cost of between $300 and $600 depending on how premium the setup is.
Once the initial setup is done the actual cost of ownership is low.
Their food is cheap (especially when compared to feeding larger pets like dogs), substrate is cheap, minimal vet visits are required and their UV bulbs usually only need to be replaced every six months.
In the long-term a pet bearded dragon will be very cheap to keep.
Many Live For Over 10 Years
Beardies are native to the harsh environments of the Australian outback. They are surprisingly hardy little lizards and are able to tolerate long periods of food scarcity, drought and climate fluctuations. They are also not particularly picky about what they eat and can live on a wide range of food items.
Bearded dragons are long-lived and resilient reptiles.
While in the wild they would typically be expected to live about five years, the average lifespan of pet bearded dragons ranges from about 8 to 14 years. That’s about as long as the average dog!
They also don’t generally suffer from many diseases or serious health complications.
Visits to the vet are not likely to become routine.
Bearded dragons make good pets and long-term companions whose health will rarely be in danger. You can expect to have them for a long time.
They Look Like A Real-Life Dragon
If you have an interest in reptiles, it is probably not a stretch to assume those interests were influenced by a fascination with dragons and dinosaurs. If you want a pet that looks like a real-life dragon, you can’t get much closer than the bearded dragon.
An animal’s appearance can go a long way to influencing how we view them as a pet. It is surprisingly one of the most important factors.
Most bearded dragons are a sandy brown or tan color with darker stripes running down their backs.
However, decades of selective breeding means that they now come in a variety of colors and patterns called morphs.
There are over 20 bearded dragon morphs to choose from. These beardies are even more unique and include diverse shades of reds, yellows, browns and whites and variations such as smooth-skinned and scaleless.
Bearded dragons can make for some very remarkable and eye-catching lizards. They are a good pet for anyone looking for an impressive reptile to care for.
Another interesting feature is their ability to change color! They become darker to absorb more light from the sun and turn their spiny beard black to signal stress.
Why You Shouldn’t Own A Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are not for everyone.
They can present just as many challenges as benefits to a potential owner, especially those who are new to reptile keeping.
The importance of a diverse diet, special lighting, heating and humidity cannot be ignored, nor the effort needed to create and maintain a heat gradient and clean tank.
They Have Very Specific Diet Requirements
Thinking it is simple to feed a bearded dragon is an easy mistake to make. Their eagerness to snatch up any food they find can make beginners assume that food will not be a problem.
Bearded dragons eat a variety of plants and meats, primarily in the form of live insects. But, they actually have some highly specific diet requirements that must be followed to ensure a happy and healthy pet.
Feeding a properly balanced diet can take a lot of time and requires skill. Fresh salads must be prepared, feeder insects cared for and calcium supplements added to meals.
Generally, baby bearded dragons should be given a diet consisting of roughly 75% insects and 25% vegetation (dark green leaves, vegetables and some non-citrus fruits).
As they get older these ratios should be flipped to about 75% plants and 25% meat.
The least obvious part of their diet is the need for a vitamin and calcium supplement. Failing to provide this can lead to the development of metabolic bone disease, a serious and unfortunately common health problem.
All this work can be a challenge, especially for beginner reptile keepers.
Their Tank Needs Special Lighting
Bearded dragons are cold blooded and cannot regulate their body’s internal temperature.
This means they are dependent on their local environment to function properly. This makes them less adaptable and more susceptible to climate variations. Pet bearded dragons are highly dependent on their tank setup.
Generally a bearded dragon’s enclosure must be kept with a humidity of around 30% and a temperature gradient of about 100°F at the basking spot and 80°F on the cool side of the tank. They will also need a UVA/UVB light fixed above their basking spot which is on for at least 12 hours a day.
Providing adequate levels of heat, humidity and UV radiation are vital.
Many of these processes can be automated with thermostats and timers, but the equipment can get fairly expensive and still must be checked regularly.
You Cannot Keep More Than One
Bearded dragons are primarily solitary reptiles. They do not naturally stay in close proximity to each other in the wild and prefer not to as pets as well. It is very important to keep this in mind if you are thinking about getting more than one pet.
It is very important to keep this in mind if you are thinking about getting more than one pet.
Beardies forced to live in close proximity will often fight for dominance and access to resources such as food and heat. Males may even engage in dangerous behaviors like ‘stacking’ – in which higher ranking individuals will lay on top of the lower ranking one and block their access to UV light.
They Come With Some Health Risks
An unfortunate consequence of keeping pet reptiles is the risk of contracting Salmonella. This infection can be spread through contact with poop and infected surfaces, even if they seem perfectly clean.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends constant caution and adherence to strict cleaning routines whenever handling, feeding, or cleaning bearded dragons.
Pet bearded dragons are often closely linked to Salmonella outbreaks.
Any potential owner must keep this in mind at all times if they decide to get one, both for their own and others safety.
Their Poop Smells
Reptiles are generally quite clean pets, but bearded dragons are not.
Bearded dragons have become a bit notorious for their smell. They tend to poop a lot and their poop tends to be especially smelly.
The only real way to handle this issue is regular removal and cleaning of their waste. This can become a chore when the average Beardie poops once a day, and the younger ones can go as often as three times a day.
Their legs and tails can also end up being dragged through uncleaned piles and frequently become messy. This means owners have to bathe them in warm water fairly often, as they can’t clean themselves.
If you would prefer a less smelly pet, then you may want to look into pet snakes.
Spikes Aren’t For Everyone
The rough, spiny spikes of a bearded dragon can be grating to the touch.
Many people agree that bearded dragons look very cool, but it is important to note that spikes aren’t for everyone.
Their spikes and claws are not just for show. Their sharp curved claws are meant for climbing rocks and trees – not the human body. Those points will dig into your skin and they are not the most comfortable or gentle pet to handle.
Many beginners often ask if bearded dragons are cuddly.
If you want a pet that you can comfortably hold then a bearded dragon may not be for you.
While Beardies are generally much more social than other reptiles, they will never really be as affectionate as more social pets like dogs.
Bearded dragons are among the most popular pets in the world. They are affectionate, docile and easy to tame. They can also keep quietly to themselves and are fun to be around. They are surprisingly hardy little lizards and many form a strong and lasting bond with their keeper.
While they are cheap and easy to find they do require special care that can be demanding for new owners. Maintaining the correct tank conditions and feeding a healthy diet are very important.
A major concern with bearded dragons is the risk of Salmonella when safety precautions are not properly followed.
In the end, whether or not a bearded dragon is a good pet for you depends on you and your abilities. If you love what you’ve learned about them and can handle their husbandry needs, then by all means, get one!
If you think the positives don’t outweigh the negatives then why not taking a look at some pet spiders?
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.