The average lifespan of a bearded dragon in captivity is around ten to twelve years, but they certainly can live longer given the right care. They far outlive their counterparts out in the wild. Also, a dragon that has the same owner from his babyhood or youth on throughout his life will also benefit from continuity of care and less stress.
How Can the Lifespan of a Bearded Dragon Be Prolonged?
A proper and varied diet geared to his various life stages is essential, as this changes greatly from babyhood to the adult stage. Of course, keeping him hydrated is also vital. The proper enclosure and needed lighting are just as essential to provide him with the right temperatures and UVB rays for calcium absorption. Even his basking light helps with his digestion.
Regular veterinary checkups starting soon after purchase will also help keep him in top shape. The first visit checks his health and gives the vet a baseline to compare later on to help spot problems. Having a reptile or exotic vet you can ask questions is a great way to ease the uncertainties of the owner as well, especially if this is his first reptile pet.
What Bearded Dragon Lives the Longest?
The longest-lived central bearded dragon was named Sebastian. He was brought home by Lee-Anne Burgess of Middlesex, UK on Christmas Eve, 1997. He lived to the record-setting age of 18 years, 237 days, passing away on January 24, 2016.
What Factors Affect the Lifespan of Bearded Dragons?
There are many factors involved in your dragon’s care that can and do affect his longevity, not to mention the quality of life. Basically, the better you meet your dragon’s needs at each stage of his life, the longer he’ll live and the more he’ll enjoy that life. Below are some of the factors that can impact the average lifespan of a bearded dragon.
Diet – Diet, of course, is extremely important for beardies. This includes the proper ratio of live insects to plant foods at each life stage and the quality of those foods and how nutritious they are. An important factor is the calcium and Vitamin D3 supplements and multi-vitamin supplements he needs. Check out my article Should I Be Giving My Bearded Dragon Vitamins? for everything you need to know about vitamins and supplements for your bearded dragon.
The more diverse the insect and plant foods are that he receives also plays a part. A dragon occasionally offered certain live worms or Dubia roaches will get more diverse nutrients from them than those dragons only fed crickets. Different insects contain different nutrients and minerals, and the variety aids your dragon’s health. It also keeps him more interested in his food, wondering what he’s going to get to chase today.
Likewise, diversity in plant foods keeps him from getting bored from eating the same old thing every meal. Different vegetables and greens contain different nutrients as well. Trying different greens and vegetables also gives you a variety of choices, even if your dragon is a little picky and doesn’t like what most dragon owners swear is their pet’s favorite food. Here’s a complete guide on What to Feed a Bearded Dragon for long health.
Enclosure – The enclosure, of course, is very important. The size must be large enough to provide him exercise and also hold essential additions such as a basking place, a hiding place, and something to climb on. Your typical 20-gallon fish tank just won’t cut it. An adult dragon can grow up to two feet long and requires a 100 to 120-gallon tank or enclosure to really be happy.
The best dragon homes are those that most closely mimic your dragon’s natural Australian environment as far as a certain amount of light, heat and humidity. They also need a UVB light source to help them assimilate Vitamin D3, which helps them absorb the needed calcium.
They need about 12-14 hours of white light per day along with the same amount of UVB. The temperature needs to be 95 to 110 degrees on one side of the enclosure and 65 to 80 percent on the other. A humidity of around 30 to 40 percent is desirable. Of course, it’s important to keep the enclosure clean and free of feces and old food. Here’s more information on Bearded Dragon Enclosure Size.
Disease – A proper diet is the main way to prevent the all-too-common Metabolic Bone Disease. This occurs because of insufficient calcium in a dragon’s diet or his inability to properly assimilate the calcium he is provided. It leads to weakened bones that may bend and crack, limit his walking and standing ability, and eventually leads to death if not treated quickly. Insufficient humidity in his environment can lead to respiratory problems.
Stress is another factor that can affect the health of your beardie. It’s not uncommon for a dragon to get stressed when he’s startled. However, chronic or ongoing stress caused by a less than adequate environment or the stress of changing owners often can cause a loss of appetite and impact the function of his immune system.
Breeding – Breeding can be hard on a female dragon. This may be why they only lay eggs until the age of five or six. Forming the embryos and eggshells takes a lot out of the female, especially in terms of calcium. This is why they need special attention and extra food while they are forming their eggs, and for a month or two after laying to replenish their stores.
Females will lay infertile eggs during breeding season when they don’t have a boyfriend provided. This means that just because you don’t intend to breed yours it doesn’t mean that you won’t have to watch for signs that your female is gravid or holding eggs and start the prenatal care.
Once she reaches breeding age, you’ll need to keep this in mind. Females receiving proper care during and after carrying and laying eggs will naturally be healthier and live longer.
Species – While the central bearded dragon is by far the most common species sold as a pet, different species are available and do have different lifespans. Smaller species, such as Rankin’s dragon, tend to have slightly shorter lifespans.
Bloodlines also play a part. For instance, a careless breeder or one who is trying to make money that has practiced too much inbreeding with his stock will produce offspring that are more prone to health issues. They may well have a lower life expectancy than those produced by a conscientious breeder. Here’s a list of the Different Types of Bearded Dragons and the ones that make the best pets.
Are There Any Foods That Will Increase a Bearded Dragons Lifespan?
Take care to investigate various foods. A careful selection is needed to increase the average lifespan of a bearded dragon. Greens and vegetables are an important part of a beardie’s diet, especially for adults. However, some contain too much phosphorus in proportion to calcium. Phosphorus can interfere with your dragon absorbing calcium.
Dark greens are great for beardies, but a few have too much phosphorus. That being said, a varied diet, varied in both plant and insect offerings will enhance your dragon’s chances for a healthier and longer life. They will also keep him interested in his food.
Using safe products is important as well. Don’t just feed your dragon a new food just because another owner recommended it. Likewise, don’t feed your dragon a lot of one food just because he likes it if you don’t know just what it contains. Do a little research first. For instance, many dragons love mustard greens.
Unfortunately, they contain a substance that interferes with a dragon’s ability to assimilate the calcium he consumes. They can be fed to him, but only occasionally. Fruit is another food that dragons love, but that too should be fed only occasionally, as it may lead to tooth problems and obesity.
One of the foods you’ll hear most about is mealworms. Many owners feed these to their dragons. However, these have a hard shell that can cause an intestinal blockage which will require a veterinarian to unblock. Babies and young dragons especially should not be fed mealworms, and they should be fed sparingly to adults under supervision. If you are feeding your bearded dragon crickets check out my article How to Breed Crickets for Bearded Dragons.
How To Care for an Older Bearded Dragon?
His food intake will gradually lessen, so don’t panic about this. However, he may not want to chase insects as much and you may have to offer them with tongs. High-fat worms should be written off his diet. Low-fat worms are fine. You can drop a little water on his nose or mist him a few times a day to make sure he is hydrated enough. A little juicy fruit and juicy vegetables will help as well.
Make sure his basking rock is easy for him to access, adjusting the setup if needed. He may need the temperature of the cool side of the enclosure and the nighttime temperature raised a bit as well, going no lower than 75 degrees.
Keep stress out of his life, now more than ever. Don’t let your other pets in the room that houses his enclosure. Keep human traffic down as well. While he doesn’t need to be startled by loud noises or strange little kids trying to grab him incorrectly at any life stage, he really doesn’t need them now.
Is a Bearded Dragon Lifespan Longer in Captivity vs in the Wild?
Captive dragons definitely live longer than dragons in the wild. Bearded dragons in the wild have to scrounge for food and avoid the many predators that want to make a meal out of them. In addition, they are at the mercy of weather conditions, including droughts and floods. Wild bearded dragons tend to live just three to eight years, with the average life expectancy being five or six years.
In contrast, captive dragons have everything they could want handed to them, as long as the owner is knowledgeable enough to provide what they need. They don’t have to hunt for food or water, nothing is coming after them to eat them, and they have much less stress.
The only occasional problem may be a stranger wanting to pick them up or a cat or dog looking at them through the cage glass. The females get their eggs taken care of and get prenatal and postnatal care. They are provided with toys and exercise and really don’t have to do anything but be their cute selves. This easy life increases the average lifespan of a bearded dragon.
The Bearded Dragon Life Cycle
Embryo – This is the stage dragons spend inside the egg. Good nutrition provided for the mother while the eggs are developing inside her and lack of stress will affect how a dragon develops inside the egg. It’s an important starting point.
Hatchling or Baby – Most beardies start out at about three inches in length, with a lot of that length being tail. They grow quickly, reaching seven or eight inches in length in just two months. They grow one to three inches each month. This is when they need frequent meals, as their stomachs don’t hold much as one time, but this rapid growth rate is one reason babies need a mostly protein-rich, insect diet.
Juvenile – Dragons at this age start out at about seven to eight inches long. The growth rate slows down at this stage to about an inch a month. Their diet can be adjusted at this time to 75 percent insects, with the rest being plant food. The ratio of insect to plant foods is adjusted gradually to a 50-50 ratio by the time they are a year old.
Young Adult – Although dragons aren’t fully mature until the age of two years, at one year old they are considered to be an adult. By the age of two, their diet should change to the opposite of that of a hatchling, consisting of 75 to 80 percent plant material and the rest insects.
The age at which they reach sexual maturity and can breed is usually between the age of one and two years. However, the size of an individual dragon is more important in determining the capability of breeding rather than the age.
Some females reach sexual maturity before reaching the one-year mark if they reach the right size. This doesn’t usually happen in the wild but may happen in captivity with all the available food.
Mature Adult – This stage runs between four and seven years of age.
Senior Adult – Old age actually starts at around seven years of age. If this designation seems rushed, remember that by seven years of age your dragon has already outlived most of his wild contemporaries. In this stage, the beardie will start to become less active and may eat less.
The more well cared for he has been during his life, the longer it will take for him to slow down. While many pet dragons only live to the age of eight to ten years, one could last up to 15 years with the right care.
Starting out with a young dragon you plan to keep throughout his life will not only be good for him but will give you a friend to amuse yourself with for a lot longer than some pets.
These intelligent, friendly creatures should be treated as such, and not purchased because of a passing fancy. Like any pet, the better his care, the healthier and happier he will be throughout his life and the longer he will live.