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The only sounds bearded dragons make are subtle hissing noises when they are upset. In addition to communicating through color changes, beard puffing and body flattening, they also gesture through leg waving and head bobbing. Bearded dragons are generally solitary in the wild, but when they encounter other dragons, dominant animals often demonstrate their superiority by bobbing their heads and inflating their beards. Other dragons may indicate submission by waving one of their forelegs slowly in a circle. If another dragon wants to challenge a dominant one, it will head-bob rapidly in response, potentially inflate its beard and possibly fight. Females may bob their heads slowly to act submissively to males. Males may bob their heads violently just before mating, while both males and females bob violently when they are stressed. All of these bobs and waves add up to a complicated and interesting system of communication that pet dragons display in captivity when they see other dragons — or their own reflections.
Beardies come in many colors, or “morphs," as they are commonly called, including tan, brown, gray, red, reddish-brown, yellow, white, orange and tiger. As they regulate their body temperatures in response to environmental conditions, they can undergo moderate changes in the depth of their colors. They also come in many color patterns, including combinations of colors of varied intensity. Different morphs may have varying patterns of spikes, or no spikes, as well.
Generally, adult bearded dragons grow to be approximately 2 feet long, including their tails, which are about half their body length. Many pet bearded dragons, however, remain smaller because they are not housed in ideal conditions or fed an optimal diet.
Bearded dragons are omnivores. They eat both plants and insects, with plant matter making up about 20 percent of their diet when they are young. Wild bearded dragons consume a variety of insects, such as crickets or meal worms, and rodents, such as small mice. Insects fed to dragons must be “gut loaded” — that is, fed vitamin- and mineral-enriched food (typically a commercially available cricket chow or a high-protein baby cereal mixed with reptile vitamins, tropical fish flakes or rodent pellet) — and dusted with calcium powder before they are offered to the lizard.
Beardies should be fed daily and offered insects at least three times per week. A multivitamin meant for reptiles should also be given to the lizard two to three times a week. For beardies who are growing or pregnant, consult your veterinarian for specific feeding advice. Dragons also need to be fed plant matter, including a variety of vegetables and fruits such as leafy greens, shredded carrots, squash, sweet potato and berries. Typically, young and growing bearded dragons consume more insects than plant matter, but they eventually eat about equal portions of each once they reach adulthood.
Feeding bearded dragons can be labor intensive, so if you’re considering a dragon as a pet, be sure you have time to chop produce and purchase insects.
Finally, perhaps more than any other type of pet, reptiles require very specific tank setups, including proper light and heat, as well as species-specific diets, to grow and thrive. A veterinarian knowledgeable about these details should examine a newly purchased or adopted bearded dragons to ensure he is in good health. A veterinarian should also review the very unique health care needs with a new owner. Theveterinarianshould check theanimal's stool for gastrointestinal parasites, some of which are potentiallytransmittable to people, and administer appropriate deworming medications. Once the dragon’s environment is set up properly and the pet looks healthy, it should require only an annual checkup.
Though bearded dragons are fairly fun and easy to care for as far as reptiles go, they do have some specific requirements. These fascinating pets have become increasingly popular, but if you’re thinking of adding one of the spiny creatures to your home, make sure you are educated and prepared before you commit.
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