Bearded dragons are the world’s most popular pet reptiles. They’re the perfect balance of exciting features and cuddly personalities that seems to win people’s hearts.
So let’s go over why bearded dragons are good pets and why they aren’t.
Why Bearded Dragons Are Good Pets
Easy To Tame
Bearded dragons typically have relaxed personalities. They don’t scare as easily as other lizards and are generally very chilled out once they get to know you.
Unlike some other popular reptiles, it doesn’t require weeks of patience to bond. If you treat them well and handle them carefully, they should be fine after the first few handling sessions.
Due to their laid-back attitude, you’ll rarely find a bearded dragon that’s aggressive unless you mistreat them. If you treat them with care and respect, they will do the same to you.
They are unique pets with their spiky beards and cute, smiling faces. But what most people don’t realize is that they come in many different shapes and sizes.
The standard bearded dragon with rough, scaly skin in a sandy color is the type that everyone is used to.
However, breeders created many ‘morphs’. This is where they select dominant traits in two individuals and breed them together to strengthen that trait. This means you can get even more unique-looking bearded dragons.
- Silkback – No scales, baby-like smooth skin with the natural color pattern (check out our article about silkbacks).
- Leatherback – Also no scales, but rougher skin.
- Zero – Pale skin with no pattern.
- German giant – 25% larger than standard bearded dragons.
- Paradox – Random blotches of color on a white background.
Easy To Clean
Unlike mammals, bearded dragons don’t need a lot of cleaning to keep them happy and healthy. You’ll only need to do a quick poop scoop each day and a deep clean once a month.
Easy To Handle
If you’re inexperienced with reptile handling, small reptiles like geckos or skinks can be quite daunting. There’s always the fear that you’ll accidentally squeeze or drop them.
Bearded dragons are one of the larger reptiles, which means they’re a lot hardier when it comes to handling.
They’re large enough and tough enough to be handled, less fussy with who is handling them, and never skittish so that they won’t jump out of your hands.
Because of their size, they’re much easier to play with too. You can confidently let them wander about in an empty room, giving them more chances to explore.
Bearded dragons live between 10 and 15 years, so that’s plenty of time to get to know them and develop a connection.
Don’t Make Noise
Bearded dragons don’t make much noise at all. This makes them great pets if you have neighbors. The only time you might hear any noise is when they’re angry or upset – when they might make a hissing sound.
They communicate visually, using color changes in their chin, head bobbing, and arm-waving instead.
In the wild, bearded dragons live alone, only coming together to mate, so they don’t get lonely.
While having two females may occasionally work if they’ve been together since a young age, bearded dragons are very territorial and don’t like to share their homes with anyone.
Even when mating, you should allow the male and female into the same environment briefly to mate, then remove them again. Two male dragons will never work.
Their preference for living alone means that you don’t need to worry about giving them lots of attention. They’re happy to keep themselves to themselves.
Bearded dragons are one of the lowest maintenance pets out there.
- Only need feeding every other day (or every 3 days if necessary).
- Need cleaning once a month (providing you do regular poop scoops).
- Don’t need attention as they prefer to be by themselves.
- They bask for most of the day, and you can purchase lights on a timer to dim slightly at night. (Depending on your dragon’s schedule, you could leave the light on all the time).
Cheap To Keep
Bearded dragons themselves aren’t too expensive. They’re around $50 for a standard or up to $300 for a morph, depending on which one. Then you’ll need to factor in:
- Their terrarium (around $500)
- Good quality substrate ($20 per bag)
- Live food that needs to be purchased weekly (around $3 per box – depending on the type of insect)
- Constant source of electricity to power their UV light (up to $5 per week depending on provider and location)
- Enrichment furniture (plants and rocks)
This means they’re less than 600$ to begin with, then around 40$ a month to keep.
Why Bearded Dragons Are Bad Pets
Need A Lot Of Space
They don’t need a lot of space compared to dogs and cats; however, they do require a large terrarium in comparison to other popular lizards. It’s recommended to get one that’s at least 122x60cm (48x24in or 120 gallons).
Bearded dragons require lots of protein, calcium, and other vitamins to stay healthy. This means that you need to provide a varied diet, with a ratio of 50% live food, 35% vegetables, and 15% fruits.
Despite this, there are still lots of fruits and vegetables that bearded dragons shouldn’t eat at all, so providing a proper diet will require constant effort.
No Emotional Attachment
Bearded dragons don’t have much in the way of emotion, unlike mammals. They feel either scared, angry, or content.
If you develop a relationship with your bearded dragon, you’re likely to stay on their ‘content’ side, especially if you’re providing food.
However, they can’t love you as a dog would, and no matter how hard you try, they won’t develop that emotional connection with you.
Can Carry Salmonella
Bearded dragons, as with lots of other lizard species, carry salmonella. It’s not active in them and won’t affect them at all; however, humans can catch it from them. It’s rare, but it can happen.
You’ll need to wash your hands after handling your dragon. And pregnant women shouldn’t handle them at all.
Live A Long Time
Yes, the lifespan was on the ‘good’ list too. It’s great that you can get to know your bearded dragon for 15 years.
However, you need to recognize that their lifespan is a considerable commitment, especially if you’re purchasing them as a pet for a child who may grow up and move out while your dragon is still with you.
Make sure you’re able to provide care for the whole of their life.
7 Commonly Asked Beginner Questions
Do Bearded Dragons Bite?
Bearded dragons can bite, but it’s very rare. Most people go through the whole lives of their bearded dragon without ever being bitten. Because they’re not aggressive by nature, they’ll only bite when they feel threatened.
So you’ll notice just before a bite that your dragon’s tail might start to wag slowly, and they’ll stand up so that their legs are stretched out fully. This is to make themselves look bigger to the perceived danger (predator).
If you see this behavior, or if your dragon starts aggressively running towards you, back away and give them some space.
Bearded dragon bites can be nasty if they mean it. Although their teeth aren’t sharp, they can grab on and twist the skin. It’s likely to cause minor bleeding and some bruising.
Are Bearded Dragons Good Starter Pets?
Bearded dragons are great starter pets for children. They’re easy to take care of and like routine. This will boost your child’s time management skills and give them some responsibility.
They’re also easy to handle and aren’t particularly delicate, so they will happily and safely sit on your child’s knee. Because of their docile nature, you can also trust your bearded dragon around your child.
However, you may need to police young children to wash their hands afterward, and you’ll need to help with the feeding. Live food can be tricky.
Do Bearded Dragons Like To Be Held? Are They Cuddly?
They are cuddly and will sit with you or perch on your shoulder. However, this is generally because they want to be near your body heat rather than because they love you.
They’ll be used to your smell and be content with your presence, and the fact that you’re keeping them warm will be a bonus.
Do Bearded Dragons Stink?
Bearded dragons don’t smell at all. They don’t have sweat glands (to regulate their temperature, they open their mouths, using a method called ‘gaping’)
If you do notice a smell coming from your bearded dragon’s terrarium, it’s more likely that it’s the terrarium rather than the dragon itself. These are the most common reasons:
You’ll need to ensure you regularly clean the terrarium as a build-up of feces can cause the environment to smell. Do a regular poop-scoop daily and a deep clean every month.
Some cheaper substrates don’t go through a rigorous cleaning process, so they can start to smell a little, particularly if the environment is hot and humid. You might need to invest in a high-quality substrate or do a deep clean more often.
While you don’t need to watch your dragon eating their meal, you should check on them a few hours after the feed to see how they’re doing. Bearded dragons eat live food, vegetables, and the occasional piece of fruit. Leaving unwanted food in the terrarium can rot and smell.
Fruit and vegetables will start to rot quickly in the heat if they aren’t removed regularly, and the live food also leaves feces around the terrarium, which can build up if you’re not regularly cleaning.
Leave any food for around 3 hours maximum, then go in to remove any leftovers. Because bearded dragons don’t graze, it’s not healthy for them to have constant access to food anyway as it could cause weight gain.
If you’ve checked the environment and it is spotless, but you’re still noticing a smell, it could be because your bearded dragon has picked up a fungal infection. This might happen if the humidity level is set too high. It should be between 20% and 40%.
How Long Can Bearded Dragons Be Left Alone?
Reptiles are excellent pets for households with a busy lifestyle. They don’t need feeding every day once they’re fully grown. Bearded dragons will need feeding every 2 or 3 days depending on their age, so if you have an overnight stay, that’s fine.
You shouldn’t leave your bearded dragon for more than two days at a time, though. Yes, they would probably be okay without food, but they won’t be happy.
You’ll also have to consider that there will be a build-up of feces after a few days, and you don’t want your dragon to have to live in a dirty environment.
Are Bearded Dragons Aggressive?
Bearded dragons aren’t aggressive if you treat them well. You’ll only see signs of aggression if they feel stressed or during the mating season.
You’ll know that it might not be the best time to approach your dragon if their beard turns a different color (black for males and orange for females). This means that they’re ready for mating.
If that’s not the case, check for what’s potentially making them stressed.:
- Are there loud noises that they aren’t used to?
- Has their schedule changed?
- Are there any other pets in the household that might be causing an issue?
- Is there a new smell that might cause them to worry?
- Is there something new in their terrarium that they aren’t happy with?
- Do they have a hideaway to go to if they’re feeling insecure?
Is It Cruel To Keep A Bearded Dragon?
It’s not cruel to keep a bearded dragon if they have enough space to move around and are cared for properly. Bearded dragons born in captivity will also enjoy the lazy life they have as a pet, as that’s what they’re used to.
These bearded dragons couldn’t survive in the wild as they aren’t used to the harsh environment or to catching their own food, so, rest assured, they’re much better off in your home.
The bottom line is bearded dragons make excellent pets for any type of household. They’re versatile and easy to care for, hardy, and naturally laid back.