CARING FOR BEARDED/WATER DRAGONS
Your dragon must be kept in an environment with a suitable temperature range, humidity and day length. Disease problems in dragons are commonly associated with poor maintenance of these, particularly temperature.
· Dragons have a preferred body temperature (PBT) of 35-39ºC and their enclosure should provide a temperature range of 2-3ºC either side of this PBT.
· These temperatures are best achieved through the use of red globes or ceramic heat lamps in, or over, one end of the enclosure. Provision of logs or rocks placed under the heat source allow your dragon to sit at varying distances from it and a hollow log or upturned flower pot provides a cool retreat. The wattage of the lamp will depend on the enclosure size.
· Thermometers are essential to monitor the temperature in your enclosure. A thermostat is also necessary to control the temperature. A thermostat uses a probe and works like a dimmer switch to make the enclosure hotter or cooler by adjusting the strength of the heat lamp.
· A source of ultraviolet light, either through exposure to unfiltered, natural sunlight, or an artificial UVB light will help prevent Vitamin D deficiency which causes metabolic bone disease (MBD). Remember to replace the light regularly (every 6 months) as it will stop producing UVB spectrum light, even if it is still producing visible light.
· The enclosure (ideally made of wood and Perspex) should be large enough for your dragon to move around freely. A screen top or vents on the sides will ensure that excess heat can escape.
· Heat mats and hot rocks are not recommended for most animals.
· Water should be provided at all times in a shallow dish and many dragons enjoy being gently misted with water daily. Water dragons need a larger dish to be able to submerge completely.
· Substrate should be easy to clean and change. Newspaper, newspaper-based kitty litter, marine carpet or reptile-sand are all appropriate choices. Sand however carries the risk of ingestion and impaction and makes cleaning more difficult.
· Feeding frequency is daily for juveniles and every 2-3 days for adults. Remember — if the enclosure temperature is not right your dragon may refuse to eat, or not be able to digest its food properly.
· All dragons are insect-eaters and should be offered a selection of live crickets, silkworms and mealworms. However, this diet is highly deficient in calcium. To avoid calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease in your dragon, calcium supplementation is required. This can be achieved by either:
a) Feeding crickets with 80% cricket food and 20% calcium carbonate for 2-3 days prior to feeding to your dragon; or
b) Injecting the insects with Calcium Sandoz Syrup or dusting with calcium carbonate powder immediately prior to feeding to your dragon.
· Bearded and water dragons also like a variety of chopped fruit and vegetables such as clover, dandelion, mulberry leaves, milk thistle, watercress, banana, apple, pawpaw, pear, green beans, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, parsley and tomato. Reptile supplements are also available.
· Book a yearly health check to check faeces and detect general health problems
eg parasite infestations and bacterial infections. Worming can be done at this time.
· Annual blood screening and/or bacterial cultures are recommended for certain pet lizards.
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