Bearded dragons are named for the distinctive flap of skin which lies below their jaw. When threatened, these lizards assume a defensive posture, opening their mouths and pushing their throat skin forward to make this 'beard'. This, combined with the strong spikes which line the lizard's throat and the side of its body serve as a deterrent to would-be predators.
Of the three species, the pygmy dragon's beard is less pronounced. Measuring 10 -15 cm from head to vent (the anus), it is roughly half the size of the central and eastern bearded dragons (each of which can grow up to 30 cm from head to vent). The tail of each of these species is about the same length as their body. Thus the larger lizards may grow as long as 60 cm. Compared to the pygmy bearded dragon, the head of the central and eastern bearded dragon is much broader in relation to its body.
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Bearded dragons are pretty docile and gentle animals, especially the centralian and pygmy. All three species will however be flighty and wary of handling unless they are hand raised and treated with care. Be mindful of open doors, windows or other pets if you choose to let you lizard roam the room.
Hygiene is a critically important factor when keeping bearded dragons. It is very important to ensure that food and water are clean and not soiled by faeces and detritus. Provide clean water daily. If you are away from home for a night or two, elevate the water bowl so that it doesn't become contaminated with faeces. Bearded dragons, like most lizards, will naturally drink from water droplets or dew. To replicate how a lizard may drink water in the wild, use an atomiser to spray the wall of the enclosure, being careful not to saturate the area. You can expect to see a lizard lying in the bowl of water when it is shedding, as the water will help soften the flaking skin.
Bearded dragons can be susceptible to intestinal worms. No commercial wormer is available so consult a specialist reptile vet for worming medication.
One of the most common problems associated with bearded dragons is parasitic mites. The mites resemble very small black dots and if allowed to grow to large numbers, will cause the lizard enough distress and possible blood loss that it may become susceptible to other diseases.
Diet remains the same for all three species. Bearded dragons are omnivores and require a varied diet of meat and vegetable matter. Crickets and cockroaches are the preferred meat supplement, though domestic cockroaches are not advised. Commercially bred, live woodcockroaches called 'woodies' are available at many pet stores catering for reptiles. Live crickets are also commercially available in different sizes. Both cockroaches and crickets cost about $6.50 per container.
Leafy greens, sprouts and even frozen mixed vegetables can be fed and provide a suitable source of vitamins and minerals. Adult bearded dragons should be fed live food about every second day, with vegetables given every third day. A strict pattern of feeding isn't required. In the wild, lizards are scavengers and opportunistic feeders. If feeding were withheld for three days, just ensure to feed for two subsequent days in a row. Added stimuli is provided by releasing live crickets or cockroaches into the enclosure for the lizards to hunt. Meal worms should not be fed as the carpus is too hard to digest and may create a blockage in the digestive tract. Commercially prepared bearded dragon food and vitamin supplements are also available.
All reptiles are protected by law and prohibitions generally exist against the collection of reptiles from the wild. The basic legal requirements vary from state to state and are outlined below. For exact requirements, contact your State or Territory National Parks and Wildlife Service.
New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and A.C.T
All reptiles are protected. It is illegal to collect most reptiles from the wild and licences issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service are required for their keeping. Pet shops are not permitted to deal in reptiles.
Victoria and South Australia
The keeping and commercial sale of reptiles is allowed. Pet shops granted special permits may trade in reptiles. A licence is required for their keeping.
It is currently regarded as a serious offence to keep any reptile for hobbyist purposes. The WA government is considering changes to this law.
Reptiles are not protected in Tasmania. Any non-endangered species may be collected from any area other than within the bounds of National Parks. The importation of native reptiles from other states is not permitted.
Information courtesy of www.burkesbackyard.com.au/factsheets/Others/Bearded-Dragons/364