As a proud owner of a bearded dragon, it is important to know everything about them, from diet to care routine. In this juvenile bearded dragon guide, we will offer you deep insights and guidelines regarding how to look after your little pet lizard.
There is no denying the fact that beardies are gaining popularity in the western world nowadays. More and more reptile owners are becoming aware of the unique adaptability of these exotic creatures. Combine that with their calm demeanor and non-aggressive nature and you get the best lizards species as a pet.
The demand for captive-bred baby dragons is also increasing tremendously day by day. Due to their rapid reproductive cycle, breeders are finding it easy to supply the market with the demanded specimens.
As domesticated reptiles go, this lizard species is comparatively easier to care for. Their high appetite for food makes it easier for neophyte reptile owners to keep their pets well-fed. You would also not have to worry about their handling phase, as they are usually very calm and docile.
Just like any other animal, it is always better to purchase a bearded dragon from a young age. During the raising process, you would be able to bond with it in a much deeper way. Also, you would also be more aware of how to take care of its diet and hygiene. Having them from a young age will also make you familiar with their personality and overall temperament.
Once you make up your mind of purchasing a juvenile beardie, you need to look for a reliable local breeder. Before going to the pet store, make sure that you already have set up the terrarium for your dragon.
What are Juvenile Bearded Dragons?
The topic of dividing the age group of beardies has always been a topic of debate among reptile enthusiasts. Some individuals might start considering a 2-months old bearded dragon as a juvenile. While others prefer calling them a baby until they surpass the age of 4 months. Babies are usually labeled between the ages of 0 to 4 months old.
So, now that your beardie has reached the age of 4 months, you can identify it as a juvenile. He would be a part of this temporary age label until he reaches the age of 18 months. So, technically, you can categorize them into the adult category once they are older than 1.5 years of age.
Furthermore, when the juveniles become 12 months old, you will need to make some adjustments in their diet. 5 months old juvenile beardie cannot be treated the same as a 16 months old one. There will be major differences in their body dimension and weight. So, naturally, you will need to devise a different approach to cater to their dietary needs.
Size and age of a Juvenile Bearded Dragon
The average life expectancy of a domesticated bearded dragon is anywhere between 10 to 14 years. In the wild, their lifespan shortens massively because of various factors affecting their survival. The wild cousins of the household beardies usually just manage to reach the age of 5 to 7 years. They are under constant threat because of the scarcity of food sources in their habitat.
You will have better chances of telling the age of a beardie when they are younger than 2 years. Once a beardie becomes fully mature, you will have no chances of accurately predicting their age.
A newborn beardie is about 4 inches long when measured from snout to tail. As long as you ensure they are getting a nutritious diet, they will grow 1 inch in a week. When your beardie’s length becomes longer than 9 inches, then it can finally be considered a juvenile. You would also have to take into consideration the gender of the hatchling to get better estimates. Females tend to grow at a slower pace in the final months compared to their male counterparts.
Choosing a juvenile Bearded Dragon
When searching for a baby or juvenile bearded dragon from the pet store, you would need to look for certain factors. There is no well-established rule to define a highly sought after specimen. Each individual might have their own preferences and standards. Some might want a cuddly companion while others might be looking for an alpha reptile.
It is not common for breeders to swindle their customers into buying an unhealthy lizard. After all, they are running their business to make long-lasting relationships with the local reptile lovers.
You might be visiting a pet shelter or a friend that wants to get rid of their pet reptile. No matter what the case, it always comes in handy to be fully aware of the pet you are buying.
What to look for?
Selecting a responsive and healthy specimen can make a big difference in the overall reptile rearing process. Not only would it be less susceptible to be affected by diseases but it would probably live longer.
- Healthy juveniles tend to be highly active at all times. You would be able to instantly notice their energetic disposition when you pick them up. Once you place them on your palm, you should notice a certain level of resistance. This shows that their adrenaline levels are high, and they are in top-notch physical shape.
- Their eyes should be bright, and equal in size – with no discoloration. There should be no optic discharge, such as mucus, in their below their eyelids. The mouth and vent area should be clear and clean – as that would tell about their overall digestive health. They should have a round-shaped body with no protruding bones.
- When you are making a selection from a large batch, you should look for a dragon that is biggest in size. Juveniles that have bigger body dimensions from an early age usually grow into an alpha male.
PRO TIP: Before finalizing a specimen you should ensure that it has all its limbs and toes. When beardies are grouped together, they might attack each other. These attacks can leave some specimens with open wounds. You should make sure that your final choice is untouched and free from any possible injuries.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon care
It is hard to find someone who would say that baby beardies aren’t adorable. But with these cuties come a bunch of responsibilities. You need to ensure that you take care of various aspects associated with them, such as diet, hygiene, and handling.
Avoid picking up a juvenile from their tail, as it can be a highly delicate part of their body. Whenever you feel the urge to pick them, make sure that you hold them from their midsection. As soon as they sense the heat emitting from your hands they would happily stay calm in your palms.
Juveniles tend to be highly sensitive and fragile to changes in their diet and environment. In order to raise a content and healthy dragon, you need to take care of the following measures:
During this rapid growth phase, juveniles would have a high appetite that never seems to end. They would have a speedy metabolism because their body would be going through physiological changes. They should be well-fed so that you can minimize their chances of ending up with damaged nails and fingers.
Their diet should mainly comprise of small bite-sized bugs, such as crickets. This way they would easily be able to gulp it down without any inconvenience. Make sure to remove crickets once they are done eating, as these insects tend to leave open wounds on lizards’ bodies.
Hydration is key
For newly acquired Beardies, it is important to keep them well-hydrated at all times. Despite their origination from dry regions of Australia, they can easily become dehydrated. Make sure to select water bowls that can be easily reached by their small bodies.
The small mass of juvenile makes them inefficient at retaining optimal moisture. For this, they need to be misted frequently to ensure that their skin stays smooth and shiny. At first, your juvenile dragon might appear disturbed but soon he will be looking forward to those daily misting sessions.
You can also spray their meals with mineral water to ensure they are drinking enough water. The drinking container should also be shallow because they are highly susceptible to drowning.
They need privacy
Although we consider bearded dragons as easy-going beings they can be highly territorial around other beardies. If your tank gets crowded by more than three juveniles, then this can cause them to become agitated. As they grow older, they would tend to seek solitude and privacy.
You never know if your juvenile turns out to be an alpha male when he grows up. If it does happen, then he would not tolerate the presence of other males around him during the breeding season. Rather than making the tank mates fight with each other, you should always keep them in separate enclosures.
Bathing Your Juvenile Bearded Dragon
Bathing your beardie on time not only helps you keep their skin clean but it can also aid in their digestion. After submerging their body into water, bearded dragons naturally treat their constipation problems. It helps them defecate with ease once they lie down in for a warm soak for about 20 minutes.
While bathing your juvenile beardie, you should set the temperature of water between 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Scalding water can be highly dangerous for the skin and eyes of your pet lizard.
Before you pour in some bathing soap in the tub, you should change your plans. You should never use any detergents or cleaning solutions while bathing your pet dragon. Tap water of your house will suffice, and make sure it doesn’t contain high amounts of chlorine in it.
You should also thoroughly dry them with a towel when they are done with bathing. Because of their cold-blooded bodies they cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. Their basking spot should be optimally warm after their bath, as they would need to absorb heat.
PRO ADVICE: Even if you think that your bearded dragon will not drown in a shallow tub, you should never let them be on their own while they are soaking up in the water, as they are highly susceptible to absorbing water into their lungs. You should always let them bath under your supervision, and keep an eye on them the whole time.
You should give them the opportunity of splashing around in the water at least once a week. Not only would it help with skin hydration but it would help them get rid of dead skin. If they ever show signs of agitation then you should instantly take them out.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon Diet
Juveniles do a lot of growing that makes them constantly hungry. Just like a puppy, your baby beardie would be constantly asking for more food throughout the day. Their meal should mainly consist of a protein source, such as pin-head crickets. You also need to add a small portion of greens, so that the fiber in the vegetables can aid digestion.
You should also introduce your juvenile dragon to a meal that has gone through “calcium bath”. This dusting process ensures that your picky lizard unwittingly consumes supplement powder while they are catching crickets from the floor. You would not have to force-feed supplements to your juvenile anymore. You can always apply a light coating of calcium powder to the live insects before the feeding time.
During this transitional phase of their life, they would also slowly switch to a plant-based diet. You should gradually increase their vegetable intake by restricting the days you feed them insects. Similarly, you don’t need to give them calcium supplements daily when they become older than 9 months of age.
Chopping and grating your veggies before feeding your bearded dragon is always a good idea. This ensures that they don’t get food stuck down their throats – which can potentially trigger a choking hazard. The food items should never be longer than the distance between their eyes.
General feeding guidelines for juvenile Bearded Dragon
Knowing how to look after the dietary requirements of your exotic pet is highly important. Not only would it help them with their physical growth but it would also make them happier than before. The pet store might be initial them small insects, but you might want to change this routine. Not only small insects provide less nutrition but they are also harder to catch.
Your juvenile’s diet should mainly comprise of 80% insects and 20% plants. This ration would be changed when they get older than 9 months of age. They would have an insatiable hunger for live insects during this phase of life. You have to ensure that you meet their daily protein and iron requirements.
You should never entertain the idea of hunting wild bugs from your backyard for the feeding purpose of your dragon. These insects are exposed to poisonous substances and pesticides that cling to their exoskeleton. Upon ingesting these insecticide-coated insects, your bearded dragon might experience an allergic reaction. You should visit a reliable feeder insects’ supplier in your neighborhood.
PRO TIP: To facilitate feeding, you should place the feeding bowl in front of them. This way they would not have to chase constantly to gobble down on insects in their tank. You can even place the crickets or roaches in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before mealtime. This would restrict their movement and make it easier for your juvenile dragon to catch them.
You should never feed light green vegetables, such as iceberg or lettuce, to your juvenile dragon. These vegetables are very low in nutrition and mainly contain water molecules. They also contain high amounts of fiber, which can interfere with the natural bowel movements of your dragon.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon not eating?
Your beardie should be eating regularly in order to sustain their overall health and wellbeing. If your pet starts refusing food, then this might indicate an underlying disease or sickness. It might leave you in a stressful state when you cannot tell why your adorable dragon won’t eat. There are various reasons why your exotic lizard might stop eating.
From preferable heating zones to specialized UVB areas, the enclosure of your beardie should contain it all. Ultraviolet rays are essential for their digestion process, and they might abandon food if they’re not getting enough of it. You should keep your mercury bulbs switched on for at least 10 hours per day.
While installing UV bulbs, make sure that they don’t come in direct contact with the skin of your beardie. Even when they climb to the highest basking spot, they should not be able to reach it.
During this developmental phase, your juvenile bearded dragon would shed their loose skin frequently. When they are getting rid of the dead skin cells they might not eat during this period.
Make sure to soak them in warm water daily during the shedding period. This would help them easily peel off the scaly skin – which might get stuck sometimes. You should never attempt pulling off the loose end of the skin, as it might be painful for them.
From infection to constipation, there are various health issues that can make your pet to stop eating. Impaction is a common problem among bearded dragons, which results in the blockage of their intestines. It can be caused due to ingesting indigestible objects or hard food items. Your bearded dragon would stop defecating when they are suffering from this problem. You can place them in a bath or feed them laxatives to treat it at home.
Intestinal parasites can also affect the appetite of your bearded dragon. These unwanted guests rob their host’s body of nutrients by sucking in all essential minerals and vitamins. If you notice worms in your beardie’s poop, then you should instantly take them to the vet.
Their hunger will also be suppressed if they are dealing with an injury. Juveniles are highly susceptible to ending up with fractured bones because of their small body frame. You might notice inflammation or swelling in the injured limbs or joints. This can inflict them pain, and you should get it checked by a local herpetologist.
Stress and trauma
Bearded dragons are highly sensitive animals and they can suffer from stress by certain changes in their environment. If you have other specimens in the enclosure, then you should always watch out against bullying behavior. The dominant male would attack and bite other males in his surroundings with lower status. If a bite leaves an open wound, then this would cause your dragon to desist from eating.
When you initially place your juvenile dragon from the pets store in your indoor enclosure, they might suffer from a lack of appetite because of this sudden change in their close habitat. You should not be alarmed if they exhibit these behaviors during the initial few days. It would take some time for them to get accustomed to their new tank.
Setting up a new enclosure for your juvenile bearded dragon
While introducing your juvenile beardie to his or her new home, you need to make the entire process stress-free. They would likely be coming from a confined tank in the pet store. They might have been accompanied by their siblings during their time they were kept by the breeder.
While they are settling in their new enclosure, you should refrain from handling them. They might constantly in a “fight or flight” mode during this introductory phase. The best you can do is leaving them on their own for a few days.
They would instinctively run away as soon as you bring your hand close to them. They would exhibit this instinctive behavior because they are prey animals in their original habitat.
There are various factors that you would need to address while setting up a new home for your juvenile bearded dragon.
Some reptile experts believe that it is better to purchase smaller vivariums for a baby or juvenile beardie. If you instantly place them in an adult-sized tank, then this can cause them to become stressful. Despite this reality, it isn’t budget-friendly to invest in a mini vivarium, as you would eventually be buying a bigger one as your pet dragon becomes fully mature.
So, you can straightaway purchase an adult-sized vivarium with a volume of up to 90 gallons. This way you would not have to upgrade the size of the tank when your beardie becomes an adult.
The base material you choose for the terrarium can also make a big difference for you in the long run. Young beardies end up swallowing unwanted objects when they enter into a feeding frenzy. During this process, they might even gulp down small stones and pebbles. These indigestible objects will trigger impaction, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.
In order to minimize the aforementioned health hazards, you should use paper towels or slate tiles. The impenetrable nature of these substrates makes them a perfect choice for juvenile beardie owners.
By staying away from mostly commercialized forms of substrate you would have better chances of protecting your young bearded dragon from hazardous situations. You should never install clumping clay, as it instantly forms into a sand bowl when it comes in contact with moisture. Upon swallowing it, your beardie would be at a high risk of suffering from gut impaction.
Heat and lighting
When it comes to heating in a terrarium, you should set a variation of temperature in different zones. Your cold-blooded pet relies on changing their position whenever they want to change the internal temperature of their body. Having a uniform temperature inside the tank can be unhealthy for your juvenile bearded dragon.
On one end of the enclosure, you can install a cool lamp that emits heat of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Similarly, on the other corner, you can fix a lamp that radiates more heat ranging from 100 to 105 degree F. This thermal gradient would be utilized by your pet dragon whenever he feels to lie down in a different basking spot. To regulate the desired indoor temperature in a different zone, you might want to install a thermostat.
For optimal lighting availability, you should install UV lights that emit rays at specific points within the terrarium. Your beardie would mobilize to these spots for better absorption of vitamins from their food.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon brumation
Brumation is an instinctive process that causes a bearded dragon to enter into a state of restricted movement. Unlike hibernation in mammals, during brumation, your lizard would not consecutively sleep for the whole winter. Despite the fact that this is normal behavior among mature dragons, sub-adults should never do it.
If you notice that your juvenile is showing signs of a pseudo-brumation mode, then you should try handling them. By holding them up in your hands, this would cause them to face disruption while attempting to go into brumation.
Young juveniles don’t have abundant body fat that would allow them to survive without food for a whole month. They constantly need to be fed, as they are going through major physiological upgrades. If your juvenile tries to hide away in a mini cave or log, then you should take it at once. Until he reaches the age of 18 months, he would not be able to wake up after a deep-sleep cycle.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon shedding
A juvenile bearded dragon would more frequently shed their skin compared to their adult counterparts. The main reason for this is because young beardie’s body grows rapidly in a short period. A juvenile would typically start its shedding cycle after every 3 to 4 weeks.
The shedding of a bearded dragon is different to that of a snake because it doesn’t take place in a single session. You would notice them getting rid of old skin from different parts of the body at a time. One week they might remove the chin below their chin and stomach, and the other week they might be peeling it off from their tail and limbs.
Your pet lizard would acquire vibrant and sharp color tones once their new layer of skin if fully uncovered. Depending upon the species you own, they would reveal different hues and color tones. From baby pink to sharp orange color, they would come out a shed with a new appearance.
Many beginners get tempted to peel the stuck layer of skin from their hands, but you should always let nature take its own course. You can mist their skin frequently that helps keep their skin moistened and hydrated during the shedding phase. He might also rub off against coarse objects in their enclosure to remove the dried out parts of their skin.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon poop
By observing the feces of your beloved pet, you can tell a lot about their health. It would act as a “computer printout” of their overall digestive system and diet. They are known to produce the stinkiest feces among most reptiles, and it might be difficult for you to keep track of it. You would have to gather enough courage to be a patient observer while taking their poop samples.
Juveniles tend to have more frequent bowel movements than their older counterparts. This is mainly due to their fast metabolism and excessive eating habits. The type of food goes into their body can also increase the number of times they have to go to the toilet.
Furthermore, if your beardie gets optimal exposure to UV lights daily then he or she would defecate routinely. Your juvenile will typically excrete after every other day or so. This frequency would slow down noticeably when they get older than 18 months of age.
Bonding with your Juvenile Bearded Dragon
Your juvenile might appear to be aggressive when you initially get them to your home from the pet shop. They may even attempt to bite you if you bring your hands close to them. It takes them some time to get familiar with your presence, and before you know it they would hopping towards you as soon as you show up in front of their tank.
Gentle handling is highly crucial when you are trying to build up a bond of trust with your new pet. You might even notice them performing the famous “waving trait” that they do in the wild to interact with other dragons. Each dragon might have a distinctive waving style that would help them recognize each other from a distance.
You should get rid of all the stressful stimuli from their surroundings. This would help them to remain docile and calm, without feeling the need to puff up their bread – which can be seen as a threat and warning to potential predators and rivals.
What not to do while holding your Juvenile Bearded Dragon
Avoid bringing your hand towards your bearded dragon from above, as that would put them in a stressful state. In the wild, predatory birds attack them from the above angle to get hold of them in their claws. In order to gain their trust, you need to move your hands slowly towards it for handling purpose.
You can also take your juvenile out of their enclosure sometimes to provide them a large walking space. When they are young, they are highly active and energetic, and would never miss an opportunity of exploring their current terrain and its various elements.