Ramblings of a Writer and Artist

Thar Be Dragons!

A month or so ago we were offered two bearded dragons, complete with vivariums. Their current owner had little time to care for them properly and although we don’t have much spare room in our house, we agreed. They were being kept together inside one vivarium, separated by a mesh wall. This was because not both vivariums had suitable heating and lighting. Apart from having little room to roam around, both are male beardies and were constantly displaying dominance and stressing each other out. Like most lizards, bearded dragons are solitary creatures and only approach others during breeding.

I have had iguanas in the past and a chameleon, so I know a little about caring for lizards. Nevertheless, I had to research ideal living conditions and diets for these beautiful animals.

Bearded dragons are so called due to their ‘beard’ on the underside of their throat. This beard plays a role in both mating and aggression displays – they are able to puff out their beard to assert dominance and to show off to potential mates. It can change colour too, turning to a deep shade of black. Like a lot of other lizards bearded dragons bob their heads to assert dominance, warn off other beardies, or to impress females. Often a submissive beardie, male or female, will concede by waving an arm. A bearded dragon may also gape its mouth open, revealing their tiny sharp teeth, as another dominance or threatening display. They have strong jaws and can secrete a mild venom. Although not harmful to humans, it is best when handling any reptile to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Beardies are from the genus Pogona, originating in Australia. They can be found in various habitats ranging from deserts to sub tropical woodlands. While not fully arboreal, they are great climbers and dominant members will often claim the highest basking spots, be they trees, bushes or rocky outcrops.

Bearded dragons are one of the easiest and hardiest lizards to keep as a pet. They can be tamed and often enjoy human interaction provided you respect their boundaries. No lizard is ever going to want to be petted like a dog or cat, but beardies come close, enjoying a gentle rub along the top of their head or around their mouths. While their spines may look intimidating, they are quite soft to the touch.

As all reptiles do, bearded dragons need a source of heat and light. Their vivariums should be kept at 22c – 72f at the coldest end and 42c – 108f at the warmest. They also need UVB for vitamin D3 synthesis in order to absorb calcium, otherwise they could suffer from metabolic bone disease. UVA is also required for general health. Humidity should also be kept to a minimum.

As I stated earlier, only one vivarium had suitable lighting. The day after delivery we went out and bought a UVB tube and ballast, and the fitting and bulb for heating. We set up the second vivarium and separated the dragons, removing the mesh wall from the first enclosure so that the remaining beardie had more room to roam. The diet of a bearded dragon is primarily insects, but as they get older they will also enjoy vegetables. They were living on a diet consisting of just mealworms, but we have introduced them to crickets and locusts, as well as some vegetables sprinkled with essential vitamins and calcium. They have taken well to their new diets and particularly enjoy hunting for locusts.

Ms Muxx decided to name them Bowie and Ziggy. Although they have not had much by way of human interaction in the past, they now come out of their vivariums daily for a walk around and explore. They have now gotten to the point that if we slide open the glass on their enclosures and offer a hand, they will trot over wanting to come out for a while. It helps that they know when we do get them out, we will hand feed them some delicious locusts, their current favourites. Of course we only get one out at a time, to avoid any chance of one attacking the other. The cat and dog are also shut out of the room.

Bowie enjoys climbing up onto the arm of the sofa and watching the fish.

I’m happy to say that in the weeks since we have had these lizards, they are already looking much healthier. Their diets are more varied, they both have their own space set up for their needs and they look to be much happier separated.

At least from the front, they look like they are smiling.

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