The stability of his environment can also play a part. For instance, a dragon that changes owners a few times during his life is bound to be stressed from living in new quarters in a new room getting used to a new owner and a new routine. Even if his original enclosure is kept, he still has to get used to a new owner and all that entails. Dragons are affected by stress; it can affect their appetite, mood and temperament.
Various sources list the average lifespan of a bearded dragon in captivity with some variance. Some say the average lifespan is between five and eight years, while others say ten years or eight to twelve years.
Some list the maximum at 12 years, others state that the record is 18 years. In short, it varies, but they certainly aren’t like short-lived goldfish. Of course, a lot depends on the appropriateness of his environment, whether his environmental needs are met, and the proper diet in proper amounts. Other factors which can have an effect on the lifespan of any particular dragon are species, sex, size and breeding.
How Long Does a Bearded Dragon Live in the Wild?
In the wild, the average lifespan is five to eight years. Wild dragons are subject to predators, mostly birds such as hawks and vultures. Wolves and big cats will also eat them. Like almost any animal in the wild, babies and juveniles are especially vulnerable. In addition, wild dragons are subjected to all the other hazards that occur in nature, such as drought and resulting lack of water, food shortages, and others.
Are Bearded Dragons Happy in Captivity?
Bearded dragons that are sold as pets are hatched into captivity. They don’t know anything else. They aren’t going to pine for the good old days back in Australia. That being said, how content they are in captivity is dependent on their owners and how well their needs are met. A dragon that has one owner during his lifetime, outside of his breeder, will naturally be more content than one that keeps changing owners as well.
How to Lengthen My Pet Bearded Dragons Life
Get the right sized enclosure – This will mean getting two eventually as your beardie grows if you get him as a juvenile. For babies or smaller juveniles, he’ll need a 20-gallon size enclosure. Once he gets to the length of 10-16 inches, he’ll need to graduate to an enclosure of at least 40 gallons. If he gets larger than 20 inches, you may need one that’s even bigger, up to 120 gallons. Dragons need quite a lot of exercise and don’t enjoy being cooped up in a space that feels cramped.
Proper lighting – The proper basking/heat lamp and proper UVB lights are vital to your dragon’s well-being. A warm and cool zone should be provided, ranging from about 90 degrees F on the warm side to 80 degrees on the cooler side. The temperature can go down to as low as 70 degrees at night when the lights are off.
A good thermometer is necessary to track both sides of the enclosure. You’ll also need one that will indicate spot temperatures, such as the temperature of the basking spot. A handheld infrared or probe thermometer will do this nicely.
Buy safe and quality products – For your dragon’s enclosure, as well as the enclosure itself. Be careful when choosing the proper flooring for your beardie. Try to avoid things that he may eat accidentally that may cause impaction or other digestive problems. Do a little research on things such as your heating and UVB lamps; don’t just buy the first thing a pet store tries to sell. You’d be surprised at the products touted as being for bearded dragons that are practically useless or at least aren’t as good as advertised.
Sufficient water – This is a no-brainer, but you may have to watch that your water dish doesn’t dry up or get contaminated with fecal matter during the day. Keeping it in a corner of the enclosure may help keep out unwanted substances. Misting a dragon allows him to lick water drops off his head.
Give your dragon the proper diet – His diet needs to be a mixture of live insects and plant matter. Depending on his age, the ratio of insects to plant matter will change from 75-80 percent insects to 20-25 percent plants to just the opposite ratio when he’s an adult. Beardies love variety, and fortunately, there are plenty of greens and vegetables he can eat. A little fruit now and then is a treat as well.
Do educate yourself on what plants he shouldn’t eat and which are most nutritious for him, especially in terms of calcium content. He’ll need either a calcium supplement or insects that are gut-loaded by feeding them calcium-rich foods the day before they are offered for dinner.
Bath time – Most beardies actually enjoy baths once they get used to them. The water should be 85-100 degrees F. About ten minutes or so every month or two is enough. Scrub yours gently to get rid of dead skin, then dry him off. For more information read my article What is The Average Lifespan of a Bearded Dragon?
Is it Cruel to Keep a Bearded Dragon as a Pet?
It is certainly not cruel to keep bearded dragons as pets. As mentioned before, any dragon you can possibly buy has been bred and hatched in captivity. He knows nothing else. In fact, given the dangers of possible food and water shortages and the dangers of predators in the wild, he’s much better off as a pet and will usually live much longer and more happily.
As long as he gets the proper care, he’s not longing to escape, even though a dragon will get away from you at times if he’s not used to you or to being handled or he’s a new pet and has not had time to acclimate to his surroundings. That doesn’t mean he’s trying to get outside and go live there. Actually, he likely wouldn’t survive long in the wild.
Do Bearded Dragons Like Being in Their Tank?
This depends on the individual dragon. Some like excursions out of their enclosure, some don’t seem to care for this and get stressed at being suddenly in a large unfamiliar space. Some enjoy being taken out of the enclosure and being handled while others aren’t quite as friendly. Sometimes this has to do with how much they were handled when young. A good breeder will get his babies used to being handled to better prepare him for his eventual owner.
A lot has to do with how well they are being cared for in their enclosure and whether it is large enough to give him the room he needs to be comfortable. Dragons do need quite a bit of exercise. Most enjoy being allowed to run freely around a room for an hour or so, although this will make them nervous at first. Once they get used to the room, most will love being able to run around and explore.
Of course, you should limit him to one room or you’ll have a problem catching him. Don’t leave him alone, either. Make sure the room is not too cool and that there’s nothing he can reach that can hurt him. Of course, don’t let any other pets in while he’s having his fun time. He’ll benefit from the exercise and the added stimulation to his brain. It’ll also keep him from getting bored.
How to Tell if Your Bearded Dragon is Happy?
Basically, your bearded dragon is happy if he is doing all the normal things he should do. This means eating, defecating, basking and sleeping normally.
A similar question often asked is whether a dragon likes his owner. There are several ways to tell. If he doesn’t run away from you, that’s a good sign that he’s comfortable and happy with you. Of course, he’ll need some time to get used to you and figure out if you’re a good human or a not-so-good one.
If your enclosure opens from the top, this may take a little longer. It will probably naturally startle him to see a big hand reaching down from on high. This is because he is hardwired and alarmed by things swooping down from above, such as predatory birds. It’s a natural protective reaction. He will get used to it in time.
If he wasn’t introduced to being handled at a young age, it may also take longer than it normally would to get him used to it. In this case, don’t be discouraged, just realize that it may take more time than usual to get him used to you and to your handling.
Once your dragon gets used to you and being handled, you’ll find he actually likes it. If you put your fingers under his chest, he’ll likely climb up into your hand. Then you’ll know you’ve made it. He’ll also enjoy riding or sitting on your shoulder. You’ll be able to sit and watch television with him on your lap. If he’s sitting on you and falls asleep when you stroke his head, it’s a great sign.
That being said, don’t get your feelings hurt if your beardie just doesn’t want to play nice one day. They have their moods and may just not want to be picked up just then. If he’s close to shedding, for instance, he’ll likely not want any handling. It’s just one of those things.
Basically, keeping a bearded dragon content is much like caring for any other kind of pet. You need to educate yourself on what he needs as far as an enclosure, environment and proper food and water.
Caring for his mental stimulation and emotional needs is important as well, and this is where bonding and handling come in. This is what makes beardies such popular reptiles, as well as the ease of obtaining food for him. Provide for his needs and you’ll have a happy, long-lived dragon.