The drawbacks of owning a bearded dragon

Are you considering getting a bearded dragon as a pet? While these reptiles are undeniably fascinating creatures, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks that come with owning one. From the commitment of providing the right environment and diet, to the risk of zoonotic diseases, and the need for frequent handling and interaction, owning a bearded dragon requires careful consideration. In this article, we will explore these drawbacks in detail, helping you make an informed decision before bringing one of these captivating creatures into your home.

Financial Cost

Initial purchase cost

Owning a bearded dragon can come with a significant financial investment. The cost of purchasing a bearded dragon can range from $50 to $500, depending on the specific breed and where you acquire it. Additionally, there may be additional costs for acquiring the necessary equipment, such as an enclosure, heat lamps, UVB lighting, and substrate for the habitat. These initial expenses can quickly add up, so it’s important to consider the financial commitment before bringing a bearded dragon into your home.

Habitat setup and maintenance

Creating and maintaining a suitable habitat for your bearded dragon requires ongoing financial commitment. The enclosure must be spacious enough to accommodate their needs and provide room for them to move around comfortably. This means investing in a tank or enclosure of appropriate size, heating and lighting equipment, as well as providing a suitable substrate and accessories such as branches, hiding spots, and a water dish. Additionally, you will need to regularly clean and sanitize the enclosure to ensure a healthy environment for your pet.

Feeding and supplementation

Bearded dragons have specific dietary requirements, and providing them with a balanced diet can be costly. Their diet consists of a mix of vegetables, fruits, and live insects, which can add up in terms of ongoing expenses. Fresh vegetables and fruits need to be purchased regularly to provide adequate nutrition. Additionally, bearded dragons require calcium and vitamin supplements to maintain their health, and these supplements can also contribute to the overall cost of caring for your pet.

Time Commitment

Daily care and attention

Owning a bearded dragon requires a significant time commitment. You will need to dedicate time every day to take care of their needs and provide them with proper care and attention. This includes feeding them multiple times a day, preparing their meals, and ensuring they have access to fresh water. Additionally, bearded dragons require regular socialization and handling to help them become accustomed to human interaction.

Cleaning and maintaining the habitat

Maintaining a clean habitat is crucial for the health and well-being of your bearded dragon. This means regularly cleaning their enclosure, removing waste, and sanitizing the habitat to prevent the buildup of bacteria and parasites. Cleaning can be time-consuming and may require you to disassemble and reassemble certain components of the habitat, such as the heating and lighting equipment. You will also need to regularly replace substrate and clean or replace accessories to maintain a hygienic environment for your pet.

Feeding and preparing meals

Bearded dragons have specific dietary needs, and preparing their meals can be time-consuming. Their diet includes a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and live insects, all of which need to be properly sourced, prepared, and portioned. You will need to dedicate time to ensure that their meals are nutritionally balanced and meet their specific dietary requirements. This can involve researching appropriate foods, chopping and preparing vegetables, and keeping a constant supply of live insects.

The drawbacks of owning a bearded dragon

Space Requirement

Need for a spacious enclosure

Bearded dragons require a spacious enclosure to thrive. They need room to move around, climb, and bask under the heat lamps. A small, cramped enclosure can be detrimental to their physical and mental well-being. Therefore, you will need to invest in a suitable enclosure that provides ample space for your bearded dragon to explore and exercise.

Limited mobility in smaller spaces

If you have limited space in your home, owning a bearded dragon may not be practical. These reptiles require room to roam and stretch their legs. In smaller living spaces, it may be challenging to provide them with the necessary space to engage in their natural behaviors. Before bringing a bearded dragon into your home, it’s important to consider whether you have enough space to accommodate their needs.

Long Lifespan

Commitment to care for a pet over many years

Bearded dragons have a long lifespan, often living for 10 to 15 years or more with proper care. This means that owning a bearded dragon is a long-term commitment and you will need to be prepared to provide care for them throughout their entire life. Bearded dragons can become beloved members of your family, but it’s essential to be aware of the long-term responsibility and commitment involved in their care.

Potential health issues and vet expenses

As with any pet, bearded dragons can experience health issues throughout their lives, and veterinary care can be expensive. Common health concerns for bearded dragons include metabolic bone disease, respiratory infections, and parasites. Regular veterinary check-ups, diagnostic tests, and treatments can incur significant costs. It’s important to budget for potential veterinary expenses and have a plan in place for addressing any health issues that may arise.

The drawbacks of owning a bearded dragon

Specific Environmental Needs

Strict temperature and lighting requirements

Bearded dragons are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature. Maintaining proper temperature gradients within their enclosure is crucial for their health and well-being. Bearded dragons require a basking spot with temperatures ranging from 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as cooler areas within the enclosure. Achieving and maintaining these temperature requirements can be challenging and may involve the use of specialized heat lamps and thermometers. Additionally, they require UVB lighting to aid in the synthesis of vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium absorption.

UVB and calcium supplementation

UVB lighting is vital for bearded dragons as it helps them metabolize calcium and maintain optimal bone health. However, UVB bulbs degrade over time, and it’s essential to replace them regularly to ensure your pet is receiving adequate UVB exposure. Additionally, bearded dragons require calcium supplementation to prevent metabolic bone disease. This involves dusting their food with calcium powder before feeding. Ensuring that your bearded dragon receives proper UVB and calcium supplementation requires diligence and ongoing expenses.

Complex Diet

Balancing nutrition and dietary needs

Bearded dragons have complex dietary needs that require careful attention. Their diet should consist of a variety of vegetables, such as dark leafy greens, squash, and bell peppers, as well as small amounts of fruit as a treat. Providing a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements can be challenging, as it requires knowledge of their specific dietary needs and a variety of fresh produce. It’s important to continuously educate yourself on proper nutrition and monitor their diet to ensure they are receiving the necessary nutrients for their well-being.

Feeding live insects

In addition to vegetables and fruits, bearded dragons require live insects as a source of protein. These insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches, need to be purchased regularly and provided to your pet. This can be a cost and time-intensive aspect of caring for a bearded dragon, as you will need to ensure a constant supply of appropriate insects. Additionally, it’s important to gut-load these insects with nutritious food to provide optimal nutrition for your bearded dragon.

Handling and Socialization Challenges

Difficulty in handling and taming

Bearded dragons, especially those that have not been adequately socialized, can be challenging to handle and tame. They are naturally prey animals, and they may exhibit skittish or defensive behavior in response to perceived threats. Building trust and slowly acclimating them to human interaction takes time and patience. It’s important to approach handling with care and to give your pet time to adjust to their new environment and become comfortable with your presence.

Limited interaction and bonding

Unlike some other pet species, bearded dragons may not provide the same level of interaction and bonding that owners may desire. While they can certainly recognize their owners and become accustomed to their presence, they are not naturally social animals and may not seek out or initiate interaction in the same way that a dog or cat would. If you’re looking for a pet that thrives on constant physical interaction, a bearded dragon may not be the best choice for you.

Health Risks

Possibility of carrying salmonella bacteria

Reptiles, including bearded dragons, can sometimes carry salmonella bacteria, which can pose a risk to humans. While the risk of salmonella infection can be minimized through proper hygiene and handling practices, it’s important to be aware of the potential health risks, especially for individuals with weaker immune systems, such as young children, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems. Regular handwashing and responsible hygiene practices can help reduce the risk of infection.

Risk of respiratory infections

Bearded dragons are susceptible to respiratory infections, which can be caused by inadequate temperature and humidity levels, poor ventilation, or exposure to drafts or irritants. These infections can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. It’s important to maintain optimal environmental conditions, provide proper heat and humidity levels, and monitor for any signs of respiratory distress, such as wheezing or labored breathing. Prompt veterinary care is crucial if you suspect your bearded dragon may be experiencing a respiratory infection.


Potential allergies to reptile dander or dust

Some individuals may be allergic to reptile dander or dust, which can be a concern when owning a bearded dragon. Allergic reactions can range from mild symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes to more severe respiratory distress. If you or anyone in your household has known allergies to animals or dust, it’s important to consider the potential allergenicity of bearded dragons before bringing one into your home. Consulting with an allergist or doing a trial visit with a bearded dragon can help assess any potential allergic reactions.

Increased cleaning requirements for allergic owners

If you or someone in your household is allergic to reptile dander or dust, owning a bearded dragon may require additional cleaning and maintenance. Regular cleaning of the enclosure, as well as the surrounding area, can help minimize exposure to allergens. It’s important to consider whether you are willing and able to take on the extra cleaning responsibilities required for owning a bearded dragon if allergies are a concern.

Travel Limitations

Difficulty finding proper care while away

Owning a bearded dragon can present challenges when it comes to travel. Unlike cats or dogs, bearded dragons cannot be left alone for extended periods without proper care and attention. Finding a reliable and knowledgeable caretaker, such as a reptile-savvy friend or professional pet sitter, can be challenging. It’s important to plan ahead and ensure that you have a suitable care arrangement in place for your bearded dragon before you travel.

Potential stress on the pet during travels

Transporting a bearded dragon can be stressful for the pet. They are creatures of habit and become accustomed to their familiar environment. Traveling can disrupt their routine and cause anxiety and stress. Handling and transporting a bearded dragon also require caution and appropriate measures to ensure their safety. Before embarking on any travel plans, it’s essential to consider the potential stress and strain it may place on your pet and whether it is in their best interest to travel with you or to remain in a trusted caregiver’s care.