Do Bearded Dragons Make Good Pets? Pros & Cons
Choosing the correct pet to fit into your family dynamic can be tough. Before adopting our bearded dragons, we had to factor in things such as scheduling, allergies, maintenance costs, and child-friendliness. Eventually, we found that bearded dragons were good pets for our situation. This post covers some of the pros and cons that we’ve since learned come with getting a pet bearded dragon.
You should get a pet bearded dragon if you are looking for a reptilian pet and are willing to do the necessary preparations for its proper care. Bearded dragons make great pets due to the following pros and minimal cons:
- Calm temperament
- Easy-to-manage behavior
- Requires little care and maintenance compared to other pets
- Relatively long lifespan
- Large variety of morphs and colors
- Great emotional support animals
- Very quiet pets
- High setup costs
- Unpleasant odor (which can be remedied with proper hygienic practices)
- Needs live insects for food
- Requires supplemental nutrition
- Needs access to an exotic vet
Most bearded dragon owners argue that the pros far exceed the cons.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when making the decision to adopt a bearded dragon.
This article will discuss many of the pros and cons of owning a bearded dragon to help you make this big decision.
The Pros of Owning a Bearded Dragons
The bearded dragon is relatively low maintenance other than the initial setup (and then routine maintenance) of its enclosure as well as daily food provision.
With that said, there are still plenty of ways you will engage with your bearded friend. You will teach your bearded dragon how to socialize with people and how to react around other pets.
Behavior & Temperament
One of the reasons why the bearded dragon is recommended to beginners is its behavior.
Bearded Dragons Have Great Temperaments
- They generally behave and respond positively when being handled, even by children.
- They do not easily get angered as is often the case with other reptiles.
- They are calm and sociable but also do fine when left alone.
Bearded Dragons Are Diurnal
Another important aspect of this reptile is that it is diurnal. In other words, it is awake and active during the day and sleeps at night (just like you and me).
If you’re not a person who can wake up in the middle of the night to care for your pet, you should focus on pets that sleep at night like the bearded dragon.
Pet bearded dragons give you the opportunity to play and interact during the day and the peace you need to sleep at night.
Bearded Dragons Don’t Need A Lot Of Attention
Bearded dragons love attention and eating but are also perfectly content as naturally solitary creatures.
This is an important factor to consider when getting one for a pet. If you cannot provide much attention, at least ensure that there is someone around to provide the food and hygienic care for your dragon.
Also, dragons are very smart and will watch your movements and demeanor. They often display very obvious physical signs to alert you to their needs.
When it feels hungry, you will see it move around their enclosure as if indicating that it is time to feed.
Under normal circumstances, the bearded dragon lies flat on its spine and is generally docile. However, if he feels threatened, the spine stands up and the throat bulges out, making it look like a beard.
This temperament is only shown when the dragon feels seriously threatened. Those that are tamed do not show such characteristics since they are made to feel safe most of the time.
You may only see your bearded dragon getting defensive if it feels unsafe (ex., a rambunctious other pet or child is left unattended with your beardie).
Care & Maintenance
The good news is that you will not have to take your dragon on walks or training as you would with other pets. As the bearded dragon lives solitarily in the wild, it will feel perfectly content alone in its cage but will enjoy your company at home when you please.
Further, this reptile is very social with humans but still does not feel lonely, even if it lacks companions.
You will never have to spend money on purchasing a companion for your bearded friend nor worry if you become very busy and cannot engage for hours on end with your pet.
Although we have mentioned that the bearded dragon does not require a lot of attention as is the case with other pets, you still have to pay some attention to your reptilian friend.
That said, the required tasks can often be done on your own schedule.
For example, you need to prepare the cage where your dragon will spend their day. The cage will likely need to be cleaned/maintained on a daily basis, but this should not take much time with the proper tools.
Kid-friendly & Hypo-Allergenic
For many people, the biggest concerns when looking for a pet are whether it can get along with their children and if it is hypo-allergenic.
Pet bearded dragons are great for kids. Bearded dragons tend to be pretty mellow and easy to please.
The biggest worry would be having a dragon that runs away from you instead of one that is overly aggressive and bites. You are more likely going to be required to protect your pet from your kids and not the other way around.
The problem of having a fearful bearded dragon can be resolved by having your kid bond with the bearded dragon by hand feeding it treats or taking it outside in a carrier to do some sun bathing.
Our kids will also take them out of their cages before bed time and sit with them in front of a heater while feeding them treats. This doesn’t last too long as the dragons need at least 2 hours under their basking lights after eating.
Small children will need to learn to hold the bearded dragon under its belly with both hands so that all of its feet are supported. Even our three-year-old is able to handle our bigger pet dragon with no problems.
Bearded dragons are hypo-allergenic, so they are very good pets for people who deal with bad allergies.
You will never have to worry about it shedding fine hairs all over your furniture (although they do shed skin).
With the bearded dragon, you are sure to have a social and friendly pet at home.
The Lifespan of the Bearded Dragon
Another important factor that you have to consider when buying pets is their lifespan.
Once you get used to your pet, it typically becomes perceived as a member of the family. Losing one is never easy, especially if you have children.
It is, therefore, important to consider the lifespan of your pet before introducing it to your child.
Captive bearded dragons have a longer lifespan under home care than they have in the wild. This should be good news since most wild animals do not fare as well as the beaded dragon under home care.
Captive bearded dragons can live up to 10 years or more. On average a bearded dragon is expected to live 6 to 8 years in the wild. In most cases, bearded dragons die before even attaining maturity while in their natural habitat. There are many risk factors that shorten the life expectancy of dragons in the wild. However, you can help your captive dragon live longer with proper care.
That said, just like in the wild, there are also risk factors at home. The biggest risk to the life of your dragon is other pets.
Cats are notorious for killing bearded dragons. Most often, however, bearded dragons and cats can get along.
To ensure that your cat does not attack your bearded dragon, teach them that the dragon is part of the family. Most pets can be trained to respect each other.
So, bearded dragons can also get along with dogs with the proper training. If you are unable to offer the right training, make sure the cat/dog and dragon do not meet anywhere on level ground.
Most people buy their bearded dragons when the reptile is just 4-6 weeks old. Once they mature, they should attain a length of up to 2 feet under the right environment.
Large Variety of Morphs & Colors
One important factor that distinguishes bearded dragons from most pets is the wide range of morphs and colors available.
Most people often confuse morphs and colors. Morphs refer to the general description of the dragon including the size, spike and color patterns, etc.
A bearded dragon’s morph can include it having it certain color. For example, a zero is a patternless and colorless morph with a white color.
When most people think about the bearded dragon, they only visualize the sand-like lizard they have seen in movies. In reality, there are many options available.
There are 11 main bearded dragon morphs:
- German Giant
The most basic is the standard morph. This type of dragon is available in most locations and is the one known to most people. Taking after the sandy look of the Australian deserts, it is easy to identify.
Similar to dog breeds, certain morphs are more expensive than others. You will find that intensely colored dragons with unique features are more attractive and as a result more expensive.
The rare and most stunning of all bearded dragons is the Paradox Morph. This dragon takes on a unique pattern and color.
Whether you prefer a brightly-colored pet or one that blends in, you will have plenty of options to choose from.
To avoid regretting which bearded dragon you choose, make sure you find out about the available types of bearded dragons prior to purchasing.
Great Emotional Support Animals
Bearded dragons can be great emotional support animals. They are usually calm and easy to please.
Following a routine to care for their daily feedings and cleanings can have a calming effect on people with anxiety or depression. They can be very calm and will sit with you as a companion while you relax.
I personally deal with both anxiety and depression and find that caring for and hanging out with our dragons centers me. They don’t provide the noise and chaos that a lot of other pets present in a household.
The Cons of Bearded Dragons
As we can see, bearded dragons have plenty of benefits. They are easy-to-handle pets and are naturally sweet to socialize with.
That said, having bearded dragons as pets also has a few downsides to consider. Most bearded dragon owners claim that these are merely inconveniences and can easily be overcome for the reward of bearded dragon ownership.
High Setup Costs
You wouldn’t think that housing such a small animal would cost a lot. But, although the maintenance costs for a bearded dragon are not too expensive, there can be a very hefty initial setup price.
For instance, you will need roughly $200 just to buy the basic cage and bedding for your pet.
This does not include the cost of basking rocks, lights, and other additions that will turn the enclosure into a natural environment.
The health of this animal also requires particular lighting. Basking and UVB lights can range from $15 – $60 each. You will also need to purchase light fixtures.
Safety is also a factor in cost. Unlike other house pets, this animal is very fragile.
It will need to be protected from rough dogs and cats.
This means that the initial set up cost includes security features such as cage protection; to ensure that intruders do not come into contact with or mess up the natural environment for your dragon pet.
Food and feeding equipment also come with their own costs. You may breed your own insects or purchase them live along with fruits, vegetables, and nutritional supplements. All of these food items cost money.
I’ve found that you can offset the cost of insects by using cost-friendly feeder insect breeders from Facebook groups such as Dubia Roachbin.
In the initial set up, you also have to think about the cost of the dragon itself. Commercial bearded dragon babies (from stores) usually cost between $50- $100.
Bearded dragon babies from reputable breeders can cost anywhere from $125 – 500+ depending on the color and morph.
Sometimes, it’s less expensive to purchase an older dragon from a breeder. These usually work better with children as they are already more socialized and a bit less energetic than baby or juvenile dragons.
In general, the total initial cost of buying and setting up the home for your dragon begins at about $300 – $700.
You can often reduce these prices by purchasing the enclosure equipment from online community sales sites such as Craigslist and Facebook.
You can sometimes also find discounted enclosures and lighting at local reptile conventions.
Smell of Fecal Matter
Another big disadvantage of the bearded dragon is the smelly fecal matter. Combined with their urate, which is their solid urine, you will have to deal with and constantly address the heavy stench.
With that said, you can easily handle the problem by regular cleaning of their cages and by purchasing substrates which make this an easy task for you.
To ensure that the cage does not stink, clean the cage daily by removing the solid urate and poop.
The good news is that their urine comes out as a solid, so you can easily separate the poop and pee from the rest of the bedding by scooping it out.
Check the substrate to see that all unsanitary matter is consistently removed. Most importantly, remove any wet substrate to avoid bacterial growth.
The environment for a bearded dragon should, in all ways, replicate the natural environment. In other words, the cage should have rocks and branches.
Make sure that you wipe all the rocks and spray them with a disinfectant to remove all the bacteria at least once every week. This is a small price to pay for having your lovely bearded dragon at home.
Another way to ensure that the dragon does not produce a foul smell in your home is to clean him regularly.
You might clean the cage, but if the dragon has already gotten food or fecal matter on it, then this will not do much for solving your issue. In this case, make sure to clean your dragon at least once each week.
Finally, be sure to provide a well-rounded diet appropriate for your pet to ensure that its health is not a source of discomfort and foul-smelling fecal matter.
Live Insects Handling & Costs
Bearded dragons are omnivores and feed on all types of foods. For captive bearded dragons, the primary diet includes vegetables and live insects.
The most expensive aspect of dragons can come from the feed. You need to constantly buy live insects and feed them to your bearded dragons.
75% of a baby bearded dragon’s diet is live insects. Their main food sources include crickets, cockroaches and worms.
In captivity, try to balance the diet as much as possible. Adult bearded dragons, those over two years of age, can thrive on just 20-30% of live insects.
The rest of the required nutrients can be acquired through vegetables and supplements.
You can either choose to buy your insects or breed them at home. Breeding insects is never easy but it helps lower the cost of caring for your bearded dragon.
Insects, such as dubia roaches and crickets, are easy to breed because they naturally feed on leftover vegetables.
You also have to worry about housing, heating, feeding, and handling live insects.
While breeding your insects will reduce the cost of buying them, you have to contend with having thousands of insects living in a bin in your home. If you do not love the sight of insects, the bearded dragon may not be the right pet for you.
Having insects as part of your pet’s diet is one thing; presenting them in the right manner is another. The way you handle and feed your dragon also affects its behavior.
Most people make the mistake of filling the cage with live crickets at the same time as the vegetables and supplements.
When there are live crickets in a cage, the dragon will strive to see that they are all eaten up. You should never provide your dragon with live insects when it is full.
This only puts stress on the dragon and may lead to irritation.
It is recommended that you first provide veggies and fruits, and then introduce insects a few at a time.
There are many types of insects that can act as food for your dragons. Some of the common foods for your bearded dragons include crickets, worms, locusts, crickets, cockroaches, etc.
Locusts should only be fed to mature bearded dragons. Most locusts have a harder outer shell that might be complex for baby bearded dragons.
Superworms are also very hard and can be tough for baby bearded dragons.
The easiest foods for most dragons including the baby dragons are earthworms and crickets.
Besides live insects, bearded dragons can also feed on vegetables and fruits.
Some of the common vegetables and fruits for a bearded dragons diet include:
- Collard Greens
You should expect to spend between $30 and $80 per month on feeding your bearded dragon live insects.
This may seem like a high cost, considering that it only accounts for part of the feeding.
It is recommended that you try to balance the diet for your dragon, so add in fruits and vegetables which are a necessary part of their diets and also help to defray costs.
To Help, Consider the Low Cost of Greens
The best part about feeding bearded adult dragons is that up to 80% of their diet can be made up of greens, which should cost much less than purchasing live insects.
If you are looking to maintain a healthy bearded dragon, look to spend about $80- $100 per month on feeding alone.
Dragons need Calcium and Vitamin D supplements to thrive in their natural or home environment.
In the wild, they are able to find these nutrients in crawling insects and sand. Unfortunately, the number of insects they feed on in our homes may not be enough to provide the needed nutrients and minerals.
Supplements can help provide nutrients and minerals that might not be available in the bearded dragon’s diet.
You may be required to spend about $20 on supplements every six months. Compared to the cost of feeding, this is an insignificant cost and may not affect your wallet as much.
Need Available Exotic Reptile Vets
Since dragons are exotic animals, you may not find help from local veterinary doctors.
In this case, you will need access to an exotic reptile vet. This is not always an easy feat, and most people never succeed in finding the needed help.
In the case of mild infections, a local vet may provide the needed antibiotics and help prevent further complications.
However, if the case is severe, it may require the intervention of a professional exotic reptile vet, and you may be forced to travel long distances.
In the case of sickness, the initial consultation for seeing a vet is between $25 and $100. Some vets may charge more, depending on your locality.
Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons of Bearded Dragon Ownership?
Looking at the pros and cons of the bearded dragon, I would highly recommend one for any person thinking about owning a reptile as a pet.
Most people often think that reptiles are too complex for a modern family, but bearded dragons can be a great option for people with kids, busy schedules, and/or allergies.
Unlike many other pets, the bearded dragon does not require walking or training.
The dragon is also friendly with children.
Most importantly, the ongoing maintenance, monetary, time-based and physical costs are not as high as they are for some other popular pets.
So, when doing a comparison of the pros and cons, the cons seem pretty insignificant if you are motivated to care for this pet.
You can keep your dragon happy, even if you are not an experienced pet owner.
Although you will be required to give your dragon some attention, you are sure to enjoy playing with them. They are also friendly to other family members.
If your pet gets the right food and stays in a clean environment, they will provide you with much enjoyment.
The bearded dragon is a great choice of pet for people of all demographics!
Thanks For Reading
Getting a bearded dragon was one of the best choices that I made for my family.
Our dragons make great low maintenance companions for both the children and the adults of the household.
They have such amusing personalities and have taught our kids a lot about responsibility.
So why are you thinking about getting a bearded dragon?
What was your favorite reason presented for getting a bearded dragon?
Feel free to leave your answers, questions or tips below.