Should you get a bearded dragon for a pet?

In Beardie Facts by Tim Steward

Last updated on May 10th, 2021 at 01:16 pm

When someone finds out that we have a bearded dragon, the reaction is generally one of interest. One of the more commonly asked questions is, “We’ve been thinking about getting a bearded dragon. Are they good pets?”

That’s also why many people come here to BeardieBungalow.com – To see if a bearded dragon is a good pet for them. 

Bearded dragons are excellent pets for people looking for a low maintenance and rewarding animal to care for. They are relatively inexpensive and require minimal care and interaction. Because of their docile and solitary nature, they are good pets for both families as well as smaller households.

What you need to know before you buy a bearded dragon

While our answer is usually positive (beardies make great pets for most people), we always try to make sure we give people a realistic idea of what is involved. Especially since there are several things people don’t think of prior to bringing a beardie home.

This article will summarize the most common things we tell people when they are considering a bearded dragon. 

How much does a bearded dragon cost?

The average price of a bearded dragon purchased at a pet store is $60.00 for a “standard” bearded dragon and up to $150 for one with brighter colors or a more unusual appearance (called a “morph”). You can often find lower prices and a wider selection by going to a local reptile show or breeder.

We almost always recommend the breeder or reptile show route. You’ll find healthier and more resilient bearded dragons than those found at big box pet stores. You will also have more beardies to pick from.

Breeders and shows will be a better source of care information and a much better place to find support as a new beardie owner.

We also love getting beardies from reptile stores. These pet stores specialize in reptiles and are a great place to go for information, your beardie, and all the supplies you’ll need, including food. Our favorite is Curious Creatures in Chicago, IL.

Regardless of where you go, though, expect to pay between $60 and $150 for most bearded dragons.

Are bearded dragons a lot of work?

Bearded dragons require an average of 15 minutes of care every day. Daily feeding can take 5-10 minutes. Baths are needed several times per week and take 15-30 minutes each. Tank maintenance can take another 5-10 minutes per day. While they are “low maintenance” pets, they do require regular attention.

In addition to this care regimen, for a bearded dragon to be a docile and well-socialized pet, regular handling is also recommended. Taking them out and spending time with them is a rewarding part of owning a beardie, and you will both enjoy it.

Outside of the daily needs of your beardie, you’ll also want to set aside time for regular tank cleaning. 3-4 times per year, you’ll be taking everything out of their home, cleaning and disinfecting, changing out the bulbs and substrate, and setting it all back up again.

We always tell people that “low maintenance” doesn’t mean “no maintenance .” It’s important to realize that to raise a happy and healthy bearded dragon, some time and attention are needed daily.

What is involved in setting up a bearded dragon’s tank?

The basic setup for a bearded dragon consists of a tank, a UV light, a basking light, a substrate to line the tank, and some things inside the tank for your bearded dragon to climb on and hide inside. Their tank should be cleaned regularly and the lights and substrate should be change at least 3-4 times per year.

We’ve written articles guiding you through most of that here on BeardieBungalow.com, but here are some quick tips.

The tank should open from the front and be at least 18″ x 18″ x 36″. We wrote an entire article on tank size that you can see here, and we discuss why an old aquarium is not a good choice here.

Our complete lighting guide is coming soon, but basically, you’ll need a UV light to simulate sunlight and a basking light to facilitate healthy digestion. Bearded dragons will quickly become sick and die without the proper lighting, so this part is critical.

If you’re wondering what all this will cost, we wrote a very detailed breakdown of that here, but on average, you’ll end up spending a few hundred dollars getting your new bearded dragon’s home set up and ready.

What do bearded dragons do?

If you are looking for a pet to play with or that is highly active, a beardie may not be the right choice for you. In the end, they don’t do a whole lot and, honestly, are kind of dumb (this doesn’t make them any less loveable, just a lot less trainable).

They will spend a good deal of their time lying under their basking light. When you take them out, they will explore, but many times will simply find somewhere to lay down and chill.

Don’t get us wrong. We have spent countless hours being amused by our beardie, Bacardi. She’s silly and uncoordinated and fun to look in on now and again. She’s fun to take out and relax with. And it’s entertaining to feed her and watch her hunt live insects!

On the flip side, your bearded dragon is likely to brumate for 1-3 months per year. That means that they will crawl under a rock or inside a hide, curl up, and sleep. Other than giving them weekly baths, they’ll basically do nothing (not even eat!) for this period of time.

In the end, they are certainly more fun than fish but not nearly as interactive as cats or dogs. This is ideal for many, but not what some are looking for in a pet.

What do bearded dragons eat?

Bearded dragons eat a mix of live insects and fresh greens. The insects should be “gut-loaded” (fed greens and veggies), and the greens should be offered daily. Prepackaged food is not recommended for bearded dragons as it does not provide good nutritional value to keep them healthy.

We’ve written extensively on what you should and should not feed your beardie. For starters, always refer to our complete bearded dragon food list if you are wondering if something is a good food choice or not. We also have a complete feeding guide you can read here.

We always stress with prospective bearded dragon owners the need to keep and handle live insects. This seems to be the deal-breaker for many. People always ask us if they have to feed live insects. Surely there must be another option?

Bearded dragons need live insects in their diet. Prepackaged alternatives are not healthy or sustainable options. There are several excellent live choices available (crickets, dubia roaches, silkworms, black soldier fly larva), and one or more of those should be the core of a bearded dragon’s diet.

We feed our beardie Dubia roaches like this one.

Basically, if you are keeping a bearded dragon as a pet in your home, you will also need to keep a bin of live insects to feed them. That is a nonnegotiable aspect of owning and properly caring for a beardie.

We wrote a comparison of the two most popular and readily available options here. We also wrote a comprehensive guide to another common type of insect food here.

Honestly, if you stay away from crickets (vile, awful, terrible little creatures), the insect thing is no big deal. They don’t smell, and the “icky” factor goes away fast. In fact, feeding insects to the family beardie is often the kids’ favorite part of owning one!

What do you do with a bearded dragon when you go on vacation?

Unlike a dog, you can leave a bearded dragon home alone for up to about three days. After that, you’ll want to arrange something so that they are cared for in your absence. As you can probably guess by now, we have a pretty thorough resource already posted here on the site regarding this.

The short version is that trips less than three days don’t require any additional care or attention other than making sure they are well fed before the trip.

For more prolonged absences, there are many options. You can have someone come to your home to feed them every couple of days. You can often board them at a local vet, breeder, or reptile shop. You can even sometimes board them at big box pet stores.

Boarding is typically not expensive (we pay $10 per day at a local reptile shop) and is an excellent option if you travel.

Are bearded dragons safe for kids?

This question can mean one of a few things. It could mean, “Are they poisonous?“. It could mean, “Do they bite?“. It could mean, “Can my children handle the beardie?“.

Some of these questions have universal answers. ALL pets can bite. ALWAYS wash your hands after handling ANY pet. Small children need supervision with ANY pet. Bearded dragons are no different.

Overall, bearded dragons are excellent pets for homes with children. They are easy to care for, generally docile, and safe to interact with. They are a low-maintenance pet that takes up very little time while still teaching children the responsibility that comes with pet ownership. 

So should you get a bearded dragon for a pet?

If you are looking for a lower-maintenance pet that’s fun to watch and occasionally handle, bearded dragons are a great choice. Be aware that they do require regular care, and you will be handling live insects several times a week.

We never thought we’d like owning a bearded dragon as much as we do. It fits our lifestyle very well (we like to travel) and fulfills our want for a pet without taxing us with too much responsibility. For people who go into it with their eyes open and aware of the basic requirements, we think adding a bearded dragon to your family will be something you love and enjoy as much as we do!

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