Bearded Dragon Hatchlings
Raising healthy baby bearded dragons is easy as long as you take care to meet there needs. With some planning and a little reading, you can make your baby dragons life as healthy and as stress free as possible, and find that you have raised a wonderful pet lizard.
For the first 4 months, Bearded Dragon Hatchlings should be raised in a small (10 to15 gallon) aquarium for optimal growth. This way they do not have far to look for their food, as crickets tend to stay away from bright spots - and that is where your dragon will spend most of its daylight time.
Heat and lighting
For 12-14 hours a day, use a 40 or 60 watt spotlight at one end above a basking rock (Not a heat rock, just a plain rock). The height of the rock or the wattage of the bulb need to be adjusted to get the top basking spot to a 105 - 115 degree range, for the baby dragons need to get very warm to digest their food. Set a temperature gauge on the highest part of the rock for an hour and check the temperature.. (Please do not guess.) Basking under a light is a more natural way for dragons to receive heat. ( Not only does the dragon receive heat from above, but the light also warms the rock, creating heat for their belly, which aids in digestion.) Make sure the other side of the tank stays cooler, around 80-85 degrees. This will provide the baby bearded dragons with a suitable environment to let them regulate their body temperature. Night time temperatures can safely drop to room temperatures (68 to 73 degrees).
A full spectrum light should be suspended over the cage within 6-10 inches of the basking area, so they can absorb UV-B to assist in manufacturing their vitamin D3 for bone formation.
ESU makes a Desert 7% UVB Reptile Daylight Lamp which is what we recommend.
The Reptile Desert 7% UVB Daylight fluorescent lamp is a full-spectrum daylight lamp that produces optimal UV output for proper calcium absorption, which is ideal for desert
species and all reptiles with high UV requirements. The Desert 7% UVB is reflectorized for high intensity output and is of rugged construction for dependable long life. Available in 18", 24", 36" and 48" sizes.
For colder areas during winter season we also recommend a under tank heater to maintain the temperature when the basking light is off.
Substrate and cage furniture
The substrate can be play sand or newspaper. The cage should be simple for the first 4 months or so. There should be no hide spot for they will burrow when needed. There should be limited decorative items in the cage to prevent the crickets from hiding. A shallow water dish for soaking, the water MUST be changed daily and if the dish has been defecated in - it must be cleaned immediately. Bowel movements must be removed daily, cleanliness of the cage is very important for a healthy dragon.
Feeding and watering
Bearded dragons require a dry cage , but need to get a lot of water from sprayings and fresh vegetables. The hatchlings should be sprayed once daily on their heads, keeping the spray directed onto their heads as long as they keep lapping up the water. This simulates the natural way dragons get water by licking up drops of dew they find on plants in the morning. Some do learn to drink from a shallow water pan, but if they get thin or dehydrated it will be necessary to get them to ingest more water by increased spraying, and by misting their fresh vegetables.
The hatchlings should be fed gut loaded crickets at least 2-3 times a day for optimal growth. Feed the babies 1-2 hours after the lights have come on to give the babies a chance to warm up. The last feeding of the day should be a couple of hours before the lights go off to give the dragons time to digest their meal. Start with 5-10 crickets for the first feeding. Excess crickets in the cage, crawling all over the dragon can stress them out. Remove any uneaten crickets before the lights go out at night. A good rule of thumb is the prey item should be no longer then the width of the dragons mouth. As the size of the dragon increases, so should its prey.
Vegetables are an important part of a bearded dragons diet and should be offered daily in bite size pieces in a shallow dish or lid. Arrange the dish or lid filled with vegetables within the dragons view from his basking spot. You should mainly stick with leafy greens, such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, chicory, chard, escarole, and endive - alternating when possible. Remove any hard veins. Do not feed your bearded dragon iceberg lettuce as this can give them the runs and dehydrate them. Just a few of the foods you can supplement with are, fruits, shredded carrots, bell peppers, kale, and peas, small Iguana food. Please remember, bite size pieces.
Supplementation should consist of dusting the crickets once a day with a phosphorous free calcium powder, Rep-Cal with Vitamin D3. A good vitamin supplement such as Herptivite should be used only once a week. Failure to use the calcium regularly and overuse of the vitamins can both cause problems. To dust crickets - put them in a sandwich bag... add rep-cal... shake until the crickets are white... and serve.
To Gut Load your crickets - We use cut up orange and carrots for moisture, Wheat germ, oat mill
It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep your hatchlings environment as stress-free as possible for the first few months. Here are a few tips on reducing the stress for your beardie.
- Keep a regular schedule for feeding and watering.
- Put your lights on a timer to keep daylight hours consistant.
- Supplement daily with rep-cal... and once weekly with herptivite.
- Feed gut loaded crickets as they are more nutritious.
- Avoid excessive handling when they are very young.
- Maintain a temperature gradient of 105-115 (hot) to 80-85 (cool).
- Is the cage a 'basic' setup? Keep it simple for the first few months.. making sure there are no hiding places for the crickets during the day. The 'leftovers' will pester the dragon while it is trying to sleep if not removed.
- Make sure their cage is not placed in overly noisy area. (like next to your 100 watt stereo.)
As a final note, babies kept in the same tank will need to be segregated by size, as the larger ones will dominate and stress out their smaller siblings... even when not feeding.
**After receiving your dragon, it is common for them not to eat immediately. The stress from transporting and inspecting its new environment may put eating on the 'back burner' for a day or so. After 3-4 hours of allowing your dragon to adjust to its new home, offer it a few crickets and some chopped greens on a shallow lid. Avoid trying to hand feeding until the dragon is eating well for a few weeks and are adjusted to their new environment.
If your dragon does not eat the few crickets by the end of the first day, remove the crickets and offer some water. The next day, wait until mid-day to offer it crickets again. Hopefully, by not seeing any food items for a 1/2 day and becoming more comfortable in their new home, this will stimulate their appetite. If your dragon does not eat by the end of the second day, offer it water again and please give us a call.
We are constantly being asked many questions concerning sexing bearded dragons. The physical difference between males and females is really hard to tell in hatchlings and a dragon that is smaller than 6 inches.
But we have a method that works ok for dragons 6+ inches. This still will not guarantee the sex of a immature Beardy.
Hold your dragon in one hand - supporting its belly and front limbs. If its a smaller dragon, rest it on 2-3 fingers with your thumb on its back.
- Take the tail (about half way) in your other hand and arch it straight up at about a 90 degree angle. Carefully! On a smaller dragon, you may need to 'gently twist' the tail by rolling it between your fingers & thumb to expose the 2 hemipenile bulges.
- Look to just above the vent for 2 bulges in a male dragon.
- Look just at the edge of the vent, in the center - for 1 bulge (or sometimes nothing) in a female dragon.
**WARNING - DO NOT bend the tail too far towards the dragons head! This could break the vertebra at the base of their tail!!
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