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A Realistic Look at the Cost of Owning a Bearded Dragon

Pets are a commitment of both your time and your money. You will owe them at least a little bit of your day for the entirety of their lives. You will also have an up front investment and a continuing investment the whole time you have your pet. This is true for all pets including bearded dragons.

A bearded dragon purchased from a pet store or breeder costs between $60 – $100. The cost of the initial setup will range from $200-$400. A yearly vet visit can cost up to $75 and food averages around $35 monthly. The total investment during the first year of ownership will range between $600-$800.

Price of a bearded dragon

The first thing to consider is how much a beardie will cost to acquire. This will depend on a few factors not the least of which is where you buy your bearded dragon.

Pet Stores

The most common place, although by far not the best place, to get a bearded dragon for a pet is your local pet store. Most big box pet stores will have several beardies to pick from. Privately owned stores are no different.

Depending on the store, these beardies may or may not be well cared for. They may not be bred well either and could be prone to illness or other issues. I’ll spare you my rant if the store in question also sells puppies, but let’s just say you are better off spending your money elsewhere!

Baby beardies at the local pet store.

Pet stores will typically charge between $25 and $60 for a baby or juvenile bearded dragon. They also oftentimes have older and larger beardies priced around the $100 mark. Some stores will also carry “fancy” beardies for even more. These are bearded dragons with especially bright colors and beautiful markings.

Breeders

A much better place to look is a local breeder. You can locate these on Google, but in my experience, a much better place to ask is your local herp vet.

A herp vet is one that specializes in reptiles. This type of vet will most likely not only know of breeders in your area but will also be able to speak to the quality of care those breeders give their beardies.

Good breeders will have an ongoing relationship with a good vet and will care a lot about the health and well being of their beardies. They will also raise them properly so they can be easily handled by you and your family.

Your local breeder will typically be 10-20% below your local pet stores in price. We can’t speak for all of them, but this is what is generally found. You will also have a lot more beardies to pick from when going through a breeder.

Reptile shows

If you can’t find a local breeder, look for a reptile show in your area. When I first heard of these I could hardly believe they were even a thing! But I was pleasantly surprised. There are a good number of reptile shows that happen regularly all across the country.

At these shows, you will find lots of beardies for sale. All ages, types, breeds, and sizes will be available to you. Prices will typically be on par with what a local breeder will charge.

We met this little guy at a reptile show.

This is also where you will find rare and beautiful breeds of bearded dragons. There will be all kinds of “morphs”. There will be varying sizes. All this and more will add significantly to the price. While you will be able to find very competitively priced “standard” beardies, you will also be exposed to some who may cost as much as $1000 or even more!

A reptile show is a great place to meet and buy your new beardie. Plus you’ll get to meet people who will be more than happy to help you in the process. Not to mention you’ll get to walk around and see more cool and weird reptiles than you ever even knew existed!

Craig’s List

We don’t really like this idea a lot, but it’s worth a quick mention. Many times beardie owners will want or need to find another home for their animal. Many of these folks will place an ad on Craig’s list.

While it’s admirable that they try to find a home for their pet, it’s the reason why that gives us pause. Many times, an expensive upcoming vet bill, a health problem, or behavioral issues are why people are getting rid of their beardie.

If you go this route, have a vet check the beardie first. Also, handle them to see if they are okay with people. In other words, beardie buyer beware!

As far as cost, Craig’s list will be all over the place. We’ve seen everything from free to over $100. It really just depends on what is posted in your area.

Rescue

Lastly, and our favorite option, is to rescue a bearded dragon. Rescues are typically beardies who have lost their home for any number of reasons.

Sometimes people have to move and can’t keep them. Sometimes an owner simply doesn’t want their dragon anymore. Sometimes they are well cared for and sometimes they have been neglected and abused.

In all cases, they need a good home. This is how we got our little girl, Bacardi. We love knowing that we have given her a home that makes her happy. We made room for another beardie to be rescues where we got her. And she was free!

This isn’t always the case. Some bearded dragon rescues will charge a small adoption fee. This is totally worth paying as the rescues are typically people who simply love bearded dragons and end up paying everything out of pocket.

We found Bacardi in an environmental biology classroom at a local community college. She lived there with a couple of other beardies and a menagerie of other animals. She had a good home, but it wasn’t ideal for her. We love that she is home with us now!

If you can, we would encourage you to pursue the option of rescuing a bearded dragon. We feel this is the best way and it really helps an animal in need. Start with Google, but check with your local herp vet to see if there is a rescue in your area.

On average

The cost will vary based on where you buy, what breed you buy, and other variables as noted above. But take all that into consideration, and the average cost of buying a bearded dragon as a pet is between $50 and $100.

This is just the beginning of your initial expense and you should budget between $300 and $700 total to get started as a bearded dragon owner. Let’s take a look at what that initial expense is made up of.

Initial ownership expenses

Initial vet visit

This is one that a lot of people overlook and don’t plan for. It’s recommended that you take your new beardie to a herp vet within 48 hours of bringing them home. That’s right, sometime in the first two days.

I’ll be honest. We didn’t do this with Bacardi, but we should have! Nothing turned out to be wrong with her, but our minds would have been more at ease had we just gotten the initial vet visit taken care of right away.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $75-$150 for this initial visit. For a detailed explanation of what this visit entails, why you should do it, as well as what ongoing veterinary care looks like for a bearded dragon, check out our full article here!

Must haves

While some may argue with a few of our “must” haves and call them “should” haves, we would argue that our job as beardie owners is not to see what’s the least we can get by with.

Our job should be to provide a great home to our new reptilian friend. If that means spending a few extra dollars, then so be it!

Tank and lid

We fully cover what size vivarium you’ll need in a detailed article you can see here. But regardless of the size and type you go with, you absolutely will need an enclosure for your bearded dragon.

You will also need a tight-fitting screen lid. Do not leave the top open and do not cover it with something other than a screen. A vivarium can quickly become an oven if it doesn’t have proper ventilation, so make sure you have a good screen cover!

These two items will cost, on average, between $75 and $300. The reason for the price range is the various designs and styles that are available. As a general rule, the nicer the enclosure, the higher the price.

You can definitely save some money here by buying used, but make sure to carefully inspect what you are buying. Also, make sure to do an amazing job at disinfecting any pre-owned vivarium you decide to use. Even the smallest bacteria or parasite can spell big problems for your new beardie!

Don’t try to save money by buying small and then sizing up down the road. Buy the right size the first time. Your beardie will thank you and so will your wallet!

Make sure and check out our recommended setups page here where we outline our favorite vivariums for different budget levels. After researching a myriad of types of enclosure, we think we’ve found the ideal solutions for you!

To see the enclosure we use for our bearded dragon, check out the listing here on Amazon.

Lighting

Lighting is critical to get right. It’s so critical that we put together a really in-depth guide to proper lighting and heat for your bearded dragon here (guide coming soon). As far as what that means to your initial spending, you’ll need several things.

Basking

First, you’ll need a heat source. We see a lot of people recommend a standard incandescent bulb here. This is not a place to try to save money! Spend the extra dollars and get a dedicated basking bulb made for reptile enclosures.

We use and recommend these basking bulbs by ZooMed. Make sure to check Amazon here for pricing as you can often find deals on two packs!

Maintaining proper basking temps is critical to your beardies well being. We cover temperature guidelines here in full, but we don’t recommend you trust such a vital thing to a $2 bulb. A good basking bulb is not that expensive and you can expect to pay $20.

UVB

You’ll also need a UVB bulb. This is another area not to skimp on. Please don’t use a run of the mill household fluorescent bulb. They simply don’t put out enough UVB or UVA light. This light is critical to your beardie’s health. You can expect to spend $15-$25 on a decent UVB bulb.

UVB is what gives your beardie the vitamin D3 they need to convert dietary calcium to a form their bodies can use. Without proper UVB, your bearded dragon can easily fall victim to metabolic bone disease later in life.

We use the ReptiSun T5. It comes in various sizes, so make sure you get the one that matches your ballast. You can see them right here on Amazon.

Fixtures

In addition to the bulbs, you’ll need the fixtures that hold them. While we went with fixtures from the reptile store (Curious Creatures in Chicago, check them out!), you can definitely choose to save some money here by going to your local hardware store. Just make sure you get a ceramic fixture for the basking bulb.

If you go with fixtures from the companies that make your bulbs, expect to spend $10-$15 for the basking fixture and $10-$20 for the UVB. At your hardware store, it will be closer to $5 for a ceramic fixture for the basking bulb and $15 for the UVB fixture.

Remember, you will need to replace your bulbs every six months as they will lose a noticeable amount of effectiveness over that time. Using your bulbs longer than 6 months is NOT a smart way to try to save money.

Heat

If the ambient temps in your home don’t go below 65 degrees, you probably don’t need an additional heater. If they do, we recommend one of two possible solutions.

The first is a “nighttime” bulb. This is a colored bulb (usually red or blue) that provides additional heat at night when the basking lamp is off. Some people say that this light disturbs your beardie’s sleep, but no actual proof of this exists. A night bulb for your enclosure will run $5-$15 plus another fixture.

We went with option 2, a ceramic heating element or CHE. These emit no light (we’ll always err on the side of what’s best for our beardie, so we stayed away from the light option above) and get a little warmer than a bulb does. CHE’s will run about $10-$15 plus the cost of a fixture. Check out the one we use here on Amazon.

CHE heating element

Make sure to visit our recommended setups page here for a detailed listing of the lighting we both use and recommend. It can be a confusing topic and hopefully, this page will make this decision much easier for you!

Substrate

Ah, substrate! Wanna start an argument amongst beardie owners? Tell them they’re using the wrong kind of substrate. Then stand back and wait for it!

In the end, there are a lot of viable substrates you can use for a bearded dragon. Each has its pros and cons. We help you navigate this minefield of a decision in our complete guide to bearded dragon substrate here.

In the end, though, you need something. And that something won’t be expensive. Unless you decide to go with some fancy tiles, you’ll end up spending about $10 on a substrate for your bearded dragon.

We use ReptiChips and love them! They were recommended by a local breeder and our vet. Since there are several products that go by this name, be careful. See exactly what to buy by following this link.

Interior elements

Some call this “furniture”, some call this landscaping. We call it giving your beardie a fun and enjoyable place to live. There are some things that every enclosure should have. Everything else is up to you.

Bacardi loves her rock house and lounges on top of it much of the day. Here she is crawling inside for a nap!

By now, you have probably guessed that we went deep on this topic in another article. You can see that guide here (article coming soon). On the whole, you’ll want to consider getting your beardie:

  • A basking spot
  • A hammock
  • Something to climb
  • 1-2 places to hide
  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl

If you get creative, you can spend very little on this aspect. If you get fancy, you can spend a lot. On average, you will probably spend between $20 and $80 on “furniture” for your beardie. Don’t forget to include the water and food bowl!

Be careful if you decide to use elements you find out in nature. Make sure to properly sanitize them as many things you find in your yard or at the park carry dangerous bacteria or parasites. A good way to do this is bleach. A better way to do this is to bake it in your oven at 250 F for 30-60 minutes.

Thermometers

One of our two thermometers

The last must have is two thermometers. One for the basking area and one for the cool side of the vivarium. Maintaining proper temperatures in your beardie’s home is critical.

Thermometers are cheap. We use two that we bought really cheaply on Amazon and they work really well, check their current pricing here. Our vet recommends the digital variety as those use probes that can be placed in the exact area you need a temperature. Those run a little more and you can see the current pricing on our favorite by clicking here.

Nice to haves

Temperature gun

We almost listed this in the must have section. We use ours almost every day and couldn’t imagine trying to manage vivarium and bath temperatures without one.

A temperature gun can save you time and stress. It’s more accurate than thermometers (although you still need those). It’s the first “nice to have” item you should buy.

Because your basking lamp will lose power over time, it’s really important to regularly monitor the temperature of your basking spot. The spot that gets the hottest will be a good bit warmer than a wall mounted thermometer will measure. The only way to be accurate here is with a temperature gun.

You do not need to get fancy! There is no need for lasers and other such silliness (although lasers are invariably cool!) We really like this one by ZooMed. We’ve had this for years and it works reliably every time! Budget anywhere from $10 to $30 for a decent temp gun.

Timers

Light timer
This is our timer set up. It really makes life easy!

This, in our opinion, is another thing that really should be on the “must have” list. The only way to reliably cycle your basking and UVB light on and off is with a timer. Too many people say they’ll remember and then don’t.

A healthy beardie requires regular intervals of light and dark. Don’t stress your bearded dragon out by trying to manage their lights manually! Invest a few bucks in a timer.

The low priced way to go is to go to the hardware store and pick up a couple of vacation timers. These will work just fine and will cost about $10 each.

We went with this one from ZooMed. It’s got 4 timed outlets and 4 always on. It’s absolutely perfect for our beardie’s home! Her heater and webcam (see below) are always on while her basking lamp and UVB light cycle on and off every 12 hours. We don’t have to lift a finger!

MVB bulb

MVB stands for mercury vapor bulb. For a full description, see our lighting article (article coming soon), but in short, it’s a single bulb that emits both heat and UVB.

People debate on the effectiveness of this bulb, but most people who argue against them cite cost as one of the big reasons not to use one. In our opinion, it’s a superior way to heat and light a bearded dragon enclosure.

While we haven’t made the switch yet, we will be soon. This is one area to study up on before buying. Make sure to get the proper size and place it the proper distance from your basking spot. Failure to do so can harm your beardie’s eyesight!

Proper placement better simulates life under actual sunlight. Owners report significant changes in their beardie’s coloring and health after switching to an MVB. Outside of a fixture, a quality mercury vapor bulb, made specifically for reptiles, will run $30-$50.

Keep in mind that an MVB, like all other lighting, should be changed every 6 months.

After a ton of research, there is only ONE brand of MVB bulb to use and that’s MegaRay. You can see all their choices here. Make sure you thoroughly research the correct bulb size and placement for your specific setup. Both are critical when using an MVB option.

Web Cam

Not a day goes by that we don’t check in on our beardie, Bacardi, at least a couple of times. Those check-ins usually prompt a quick set of texts back forth that read something like this:

  • “Look at Bacardi, she’s half hanging off her hammock again!”
  • “I know, she’s so weird sometimes.”
  • “You mean most times?”

It might sound weird, but a $30 web camera has not only brought us closer to our beardie, but it’s brought us closer to each other. If one of us isn’t home, we can watch from afar as the other feeds or bathes her. We can talk to each other through the camera too, which is cool.

We get a ton of enjoyment from having Bacardi. She’s a great little pet. Having a webcam set up so we can see her when we are away has raised that enjoyment level tremendously.

It’s not a must have, but once you have one set up, you’ll use it more than you might think. You don’t need anything fancy at all. We use this basic one by EZViz and as you can see by the image, it works just great for a budget camera (check its current price here on Amazon)!

Miscellaneous stuff

Getting a pet is like moving into a new place. You don’t realize just how many things you need until you take a trip to your local Target.

We ended up buying several miscellaneous bins (one for roaches, one for baths, and one for feeding), a mister, a small toothbrush (for bathtime scrubs!), and several other small things.

We also printed a couple of large images to tape to the sides of her enclosure. They add to the look of the vivarium and also serve a functional purpose. They keep Bacardi from seeing her reflection in the glass. That reduces stress and we like that!

In all, I think we spent $20-$30, but it was worth it. All these little odds and ends make taking care of Bacardi that much easier and more pleasant.

Food and supplements

Obviously, you’ll need to feed your new friend. While beardies are not expensive to feed (especially compared to dogs or cats), they aren’t free either.

To see all the foods you can and can’t feed a bearded dragon, make sure and check out our complete bearded dragon food list with 237 different foods listed. We’ll show you what’s safe, what’s not, and what the healthiest food choices are for your beardie!!!

Feeder insects

dubia roaches
Dubia Roaches, our preferred feeder insect

Depending on the age of your beardie, the mix of things you feed them will vary. Make sure to check out our complete nutrition guide for a full explanation and listing of all the things you both should and shouldn’t feed your bearded dragon.

Their food will fall into two categories. Insects and greens. We like Dubia roaches as our feeder insect and feel very strongly that they are the best choice. Crickets can be less expensive but are not the best overall choice for you or your beardie. See our reasoning here.

Feeder insects will run you between $30-$80 per month depending on where you source them. Online stores are definitively cheaper!

As odd as it sounds, you’ll also need to feed your feeder insects. Luckily, they can eat leftover greens from the salads you’ll prepare daily for your beardie. We chose to use a high-quality roach chow instead.

Many people decide to breed their feeder insects. Breeding Dubia roaches is simple and easy. Once you have a colony going, your feeding costs will drop significantly. You need to be okay with hundreds of bugs living in a bin in your home, but if you are, this is a really great way to go!

Greens

Bacardi eating her daily serving of greens

Greens aren’t that expensive at all. We spend about $2 per week on these. Depending on the size of your beardie, you may end up spending upwards of $5 per week, but if you don’t get fancy, greens won’t be the expensive part of feeding your bearded dragon.

If you throw in some random veggies, our beardie loves carrots and bell peppers, for the occasional treat, you may get up to $7-$10 per week.

All in between bugs and veggies, expect to spend about $40-$120 per month feeding your bearded dragon. We are at the $40 level almost every month, it’s easy to keep costs down here!

Supplements

bearded dragon supplements

There are 3 basic supplements you’ll need to give your bearded dragon. Calcium, vitamin D, and a good multivitamin. We won’t bore you with the details here (we do that very well in another article we wrote you can see here), but this is something you can’t skip or go cheap on.

The supplements aren’t super expensive, but you will end up spending $20-$30 every 6-12 months or so on these. Make sure you leave room in your budget.

To take the guesswork out of what you need, just follow these links to the exact supplements we recommend for all bearded dragon owners:

Adding it all up

If you’ve been tallying as you read along, you beat us to the totals. If you haven’t, here’s where we end up.

For your initial expenditures, to get everything you need, plan to spend $300 – $500.

Monthly, for food and supplements, plan to spend $10-$20.
Every six months you’ll need new lights, so plan on $20-$60.
Yearly, plan on $60-$100 for your yearly vet visit.

And there you have it. A real world picture of what to expect to spend on a bearded dragon. When we first sat down and created this list, we were a little surprised. We knew we were getting Bacardi for free and somehow that turned into almost $700 in the first month we owned her.

But it’s been worth every penny and we’d happily do it again. Giving her a great home, food she loves, and making sure she is healthy justifies every penny spent!

Ways to save money

Even though we spent around $700, that doesn’t mean you have to. Our enclosure alone was almost $300 of that. Looking back, if we had thought ahead, there are a lot of ways we could have saved a bunch of money and easily lowered our initial expenses.

We wanted to share these here so that hopefully more people can find it in their hearts to give a bearded dragon a great home!

Buy used

Patience and time spent on Craig’s list will net you almost everything you need for your bearded dragon at a fraction of the cost of buying new. Sure you’ll have to spend some time cleaning and disinfecting, but the cost savings could be substantial.

Rescue

We got Bacardi for free. All we had to do was give her a good home! Unfortunately, the world is full of unwanted pets. Keep your eye out and ask around. Look for a bearded dragon rescue organization. You’ll be doing a great thing and saving money at the same time!

Build your enclosure

Lots of people build their own enclosure. A quick YouTube search will net you a bunch of how-to videos. This is a really great way to save money!

Breed your feeder insects

For a small startup cost, you can start breeding Dubia roaches. They breed fast and before you know it, you won’t have to pay for a feeder insect again! Once more, YouTube is your friend here. You might be surprised at how many people out there do this and share how in full detail.

Buy your lighting fixtures from a hardware store

UVB ballast, ceramic basking fixture, power strip, and timers are all way less expensive at the hardware store versus buying these at a pet store. It’s almost criminal how much more these things cost when rebranded as “reptile” appropriate!

Remember, don’t go cheap on the bulbs, but go nuts saving money on the fixtures!

Related questions

Can my bearded dragon share an enclosure with another reptile I already have?

This is a really bad idea. Bearded dragons are solitary animals and really should live alone. They shouldn’t be kept with other bearded dragons or any other animal.

What size enclosure should I buy?

Funny you should ask as we have an entire article devoted to this question that you can check out here. The short answer is at least 36” x 18” x 18”. Ideally it’s 48” x 24” x 24”

Can I use an aquarium for my bearded dragon’s home?

While you can do this, you shouldn’t. It will be less expensive and probably easier to find an old aquarium to use, but there are quite a few drawbacks. We outline all the pros and cons of using an aquarium in this article. Make sure to check it out before selecting your tank.

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