- Members of the family Agamidae. Chinese Water Dragons and Uromastyx are other lizards in this family that are commonly kept as pets.
- Native to the arid, semi-desert areas and open woodlands of Australia and New Zealand
- Diurnal, spending their days basking on rocks, and under and on trees and bushes; they will use underground burrows to escape the heat
- BDs are ectothermic - they rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature
- BDs will wave their front legs to show submission
- BDs in defensive posture will flatten their bodies, open their mouths, and display their beards
- Solitary, not social, in the wild
- Males will bob their heads to show aggression towards other males and to signal desire to mate to females.
- Adults weigh 350-600 g.
- Males grow to 16-24 inches long, females 12-20 inches.
- Beards turn blacker when they are feeling aggressive and also to absorb heat
- Males have large femoral pores and hemipenal bulges, larger heads, and more prominent, darker beards
- Females reach sexual maturity at 18 to 24 months, perhaps earlier with optimum nutrition
- BDs have an average lifespan of 10 years, with a range of 5 to 15 years
- Males should not be housed together; females can be housed together, or in groups of two or more with one male
- 10 to 20 gallon aquariums for juveniles; adults 40 gallons or larger
- Newspaper, paper towel or paper pellets are suitable substrate; other options include outdoor carpet (keep the loose threads trimmed) and terrycloth towels
- BDs live on sand and dirt in their natural habitat, but they occasionally will eat this in captivity, with the result being a serious intestinal impaction, so we do not recommend sand as a substrate; we also do not recommend corn cob, alfalfa or wood pellets, or kitty litter
- Cage accessories should include climbing branches, cork bark hides, basking rocks, and burrowing areas, such as humid retreats; some bds will not use humid retreats.
- Humidity should be 40% to 50%. Environments that are too dry or too humid can cause health problems. A screened top on the enclosure, and positioning the water container on the opposite side of the enclosure from the heat source is usually all that is needed to maintain appropriate environmental humidity.
- Burrows and hiding areas should be slightly more humid than the rest of the enclosure; using cypress mulch in a hiding area and misting it regularly or using a wooden hiding area and soaking it in water occasionally are two options
- BDs do not drink well from water bowls; encourage drinking by dripping or spraying water on the dragon’s head, spraying the sides of the enclosure, or soaking in shallow warm water several times per week (poor water consumption is a common cause of the common BD problem, constipation)
- Temperature should be 60-70 degrees F at night, 80-85 F during the day; basking area 95-105 F
- Overhead self-ballasted mercury vapor lamps (eg, Powersun by Zoo Med) provide both heat for basking and UV light; replace the light every 6 months, or check with a UV meter, because UV output drops significantly before the light burns out
- BDs should not be allowed to get closer than 12 inches to basking lights
-12 hours light and 12 hours dark per day, except during hibernation
- Wild juvenile BDs eat 50% plant and 50% animal material; adults eat 90% plant and 10% animal
- Suitable vegetables include calcium dusted kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip and beet greens, spinach, dandelions, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli rabe, Romaine, red leaf, green leaf, and Boston (but not iceberg) lettuces, carrots, squash, zucchini, peas, and beans
- Flowers, including roses, nasturtiums, carnations and hibiscus can be fed
- BDs like fruit, but it should not be fed
- Feed your BD a wide variety of insects, including mealworms, crickets, superworms, waxworms, Dubia roaches, black soldier fly larvae, locusts, silkworms, butterworms, grasshoppers, and tomato hornworms
- Insects should be well-fed, and insects that can be gut-loaded should be fed a commercial diet with greater than 6% calcium and nothing else except water
- The size of insect prey is very important; adult BDs can be fed insects up to ⅔ the width of their head, juveniles (up to 4 months old) should be fed insects of a smaller proportional size than this
- Over-eating of insects, especially crickets can result in intestinal impaction from the indigestible insect exoskeleton; the insect portion of the diet must be managed to minimize exoskeleton consumption, for example, by feeding fewer and smaller crickets and freshly-moulted insects
- Crickets can be kept in an enclosure furnished with egg crates and cardboard tubes; they can be fed pieces of fruit and vegetable and baby cereal mixed with tropical fish food flakes, reptile vitamins, and rodent chow. The best insect feeding formula is Mazuri Gut-loading Diet.
- Cubes are nutritionally worthless, other than providing water
- Pelleted (not cubed) BD food can also be fed
- Baby mice can be offered a few times per month
- Juveniles can be fed daily, adults every other day, or every third day if they are obese
- Juveniles need more calcium than adults; calcium is provided in gut-loading insect diets, dusted on insects and vegetables; multivitamins can be given twice a month if fortified foods such as commercial gut-loading diets are not part of the diet (we recommend Rep-Cal Calcium and Rep-Cal Herptivite Multivitamin Supplement. The Repashy products are also very good.)
- BDs are relatively easy to breed and prolific
- Female BDs should not be bred earlier than 18 to 24 months of age
- Breeders will sometimes house two males with three or more females to stimulate male reproductive activity
- Breeding occurs in the Spring and Summer
- A winter cool down from mid-December to mid-February with a 10 hour photoperiod helps synchronize breeding; most dragons are off feed by this time; night-time temperatures should be 60 - 75 F with daytime basking about 80 F; water provided by soaking, sprinkling, spraying it on their head unless they are drinking from a water bowl
- Mid- to late-February light and temperatures can be gradually increased to 12 hours light and 80 F daytime, 70-75 F nighttime, 95-105 F basking
- After a few warmer days appetite will return, and BDs should be fed heavily to prepare for breeding within a month
- As she becomes obviously gravid the females abdomen will become rounder and she will appear more thin over her lower back and hips, her appetite will decrease, and she will become more active and will be digging; she will stop eating a few days before egg laying
- A suitable nest area is an 8 or 10 gallon plastic tub with at least 10 inches of sandy soil
- In the late afternoon or evening the female digs a burrow, lays eggs, and fills the burrow in
- Egg laying occurs 4 to 6 weeks after mating
- Females average 15 to 25 eggs per clutch, and 2 to 7 clutches per year at 4 to 6 week intervals
- Eggs should be incubated at 82-86 F in a mixture of vermiculite and water at a ratio of 1:1 to 1:2
- Fertile eggs chalk up and enlarge, and hatch in an average of 2 months with a range of 50 to 80 days
- Hatchlings are allowed to emerge on their own, within 24 to 36 hours of pipping, and remain in the incubator for up to 2 days, then they are transferred to a cage with damp paper towels and misted twice daily; any remaining yolk is absorbed
- Hatchlings usually start taking crickets and finely chopped greens within several days
- Hatchlings can be housed together until they start to obviously differ in size, and then they must be separated; BDs are cannibalistic and cage mate trauma is common