Congratulations on your new pet! Bearded dragons (Pogona Vitticeps) are one of the most popular reptile pets around the world, and with their friendly nature, it's not hard to see why. That said, the early stages of a bearded dragon's life are pivotal and require detailed care.
The Hatchling Stage (0-3 months)
One key element of a bearded dragon's health is a varied diet, especially during the early life stages. A staple part of their diet should be protein-packed dubia roaches. These are an excellent food choice as they have an optimal protein-to-fat ratio and are high in nutrition. Bear in mind that the size of the roaches should be no larger than the space between your dragon's eyes to avoid choking.
Feed your dragon multiple times a day, allowing them to eat as many roaches as they can in a 5–10-minute period. However, it's also vital to introduce other feeder insects such as extra small superworms, small black soldier fly larvae (phoenix worms), and hornworms as treats to provide a varied diet.
Along with this, start introducing leafy greens like collard and dandelion greens into their diet to acquaint them with vegetables from an early age.
Your hatchling will be most comfortable in a 20-gallon tank at this stage. It should have a basking area temperature of 105-110°F and a cooler area temperature of 80-85°F. A UVB light is essential for your dragon to process calcium and should be on for about 12-14 hours a day. Consider covering up 3 sides of the enclosure to help the baby feel secure. Don't place the enclosure in a busy part of the home during these first few months.
At this early stage, it's best to limit handling to necessary moments, such as tank cleanings. Always handle them gently and be sure to support their body and legs.
Baby Stage (4-5 months)
As your bearded dragon grows, continue to provide a diet rich in Dubia roaches, and gradually increase the proportion of vegetables. By the end of the fifth month, you should be aiming for a 90-10 split between insects and greens.
Remember to dust the insects with a calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. This is critical in preventing metabolic bone disease, a common issue in pet reptiles. Along with the staple dubia roaches, continue to offer a variety of other feeder insects as treats.
Your growing dragon will need more space, so it's time to upgrade to a 40-gallon tank. Continue to maintain the correct temperature gradients, with a heat lamp for the basking area, and ensure that UVB lighting is consistently available.
Your dragon is getting used to its new surroundings. You can begin to handle them more, but always do so carefully. Help them get familiar with your scent by placing a piece of fabric that smells like you in the tank.
The first few months of a bearded dragon's life are crucial in setting them up for a healthy and vibrant future. A varied diet with dubia roaches as a staple, a comfortable and size-appropriate habitat, and gentle handling are the foundations of a great bond with your new scaly friend.
Be patient! It may take time for your bearded dragon to adjust to its new home. However, with consistent and attentive care, your pet will grow into a sociable and lively companion.