The Wonderful World of Water Dragons


Water Dragonsby Michael Spears

In the fall of 1995, I was browsing at a local pet store that had a rather large selection of reptiles (for small town in Mississippi, that is). There were iguanas, bearded dragons, various common geckos, savannah monitors and large constrictors, but one lizard seemed to beg for my attention. It literally came to the front of the enclosure as if to say, "Please buy me." It was an interesting lizard, with a roosterlike crest, half inch spines running from the top of the head to almost the end of the stub tail, big eyes and puffy jowls. This was the first time I'd ever seen the magnificent Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus).

The lizard's color was a light olive green with hints of emerald and blue. It was an adult male that was stunted from being raised in too small an enclosure. I did not purchase the dragon at that time, however; I already had a 3 1/2-foot green iguana that was becoming quite the handful.

Water Dragons Chapter: The First Steps

A couple of months later, while opening Christmas presents, I began to shake a box that I was just handed.

"Don't shake that one!" yelped my mother.

And that was I received my first water dragon. Now named Ziggy, he was the exact dragon that I saw at the pet shop. My mother had been secretly keeping him at her apartment for 2 weeks.

Now I was faced with the task of properly feeding and housing my new friend. I quickly acquired every book I could find and read them from cover to cover, more than once.

Physignathus cocincinus hails from the dense forests of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and South China. Commonly called the Asian water dragon, it's also known as the Chinese or green water dragon (aptly so, as the normally imported specimens are very green indeed).

Asian water dragons can reach a length  of 24 inches in one year when raised properly, to a total length of approximately 36 inches (this being mostly tail). They react to stress and cool temperatures by darkening their colors, and they can turn almost black when seriously stressed. They can live 10 to 12 years.

Crickets, mealworms, super worms, wax worms, earth worms, and high-grade canned chicken cat food (make sure there's real chicken in it) are all relished. My adult lizards love chicken cat food; most juveniles will only eat insects. Recently, I have experienced great success with fruit-flavored dry lizard and bird pellets. I recommend supplementing the diet with either of these. Red and white grapes, soft pears, figs (native fruit for them) and bananas make up the noninsect portion of my dragon's food pyramid.

I alternate these food items to achieve a balanced variety. All foods should be pesticide free. Feed your dragons each day, though missing a day won't cause any harm. Dust crickets two or three times weekly with top-quality vitamin and mineral supplements that are high in calcium. Gut-loading crickets or worms by feeding them a commercial gut-loading formula or a mash of assorted vegetables an hour before offering them to your dragons will ensure happy, healthy dragons.

After 60 to 65 days, you should have 6-inch water dragons hatching out. Place them in their own enclosure and offer them small amounts of quarter-inch crickets twice daily. Place some pelleted lizard food (iguana food works fine) in the enclosure so stray crickets have something to eat, but don't put in so many crickets that many go uneaten. Mist young dragons daily, and provide them with vertical and horizontal climbing perches.

I hope this article helps everyone interested in the care and breeding of these fantastic pet dragons! Good luck if you decide to try breeding them yourself - the results are well worth the effort!

Mike Spears is the owner of Sapphire Dragon Ranch and has kept many different types of herps over the past 25 years. He began working with them professionally in 1995.

A glimpse to the Water Dragons world truly captures the heart.

Leopards and Beardies


Long considered your best bet if you're a beginner, leopards and beardies remain favorite pets.

By Joe Hiduke and Bill Brant

Younger readers of reptiles may be surprised to know that few captive-bred lizards have been available in the recent past. While there are far more species and specimens available now than there ever have been, those species, that have been with us the longest are still among the best pet reptiles.

Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) and beardies (Pogona vitticeps) rank among the most popular pet reptiles. Both species are easy to care for, personable, and readily available. Leopard geckos are often the choice for a first pet reptile. Their popularity  as a starter herp is due primarily to their inexpensive nature and because they do not require much in the way of equipment to be properly maintained.

Beardies are more expensive and require larger,  more elaborate enclosures; however, beardies tend to reward their owners with a much higher degree of interaction.


By a large margin, more leopard geckos are captive bred in the United States than any other reptilian species.

In addition, for reasons already given, leopards enjoy mass appeal, in part because they come in a wide variety of color and pattern morphs. Some of these are selectively bred, such as high-yellows, tangerines, and melanistics. Other morphs are genetic mutations, including albinos, patternless, blizzards and jungles. Combinations of all the above are also produced.

All leopard gecko genetic mutations are thought to be single gene traits that breed true, but there are multiple strains of albinos that will produce normals when bred together. This is a relatively new area in gecko production and certainly more surprises are on the horizon. Regardless of appearance, all of these geckos have the same captive-care requirements.

The range of leopard geckos encompasses Pakistan, Afghanistan and western India. Almost all animals available today are captive bred, and imports should be avoided by novices. In their native environment, leopards frequent arid areas and are thought to live in loose colonies with considerable cover.

There are several options available for acquiring geckos, including pet shops, breeders and reptile expos. First-time buyers should search for a gecko locally so they can see what they are buying. When selecting a gecko, choose an animal that is alert, active and with a full tail. The tail should expand past the base; geckos with a thin tail may be in poor health.

Hatchling-sized geckos are less expensive and more commonly available. However, they tend to be high-strung and fragile. Until they put on some size, hatchlings should be rarely handled. Sub-adults are very sturdy and are ideal to start with, but they will be more expensive.

If you maintain multiple reptiles, you should always quarantine new arrivals away from existing collection, service them last and use separate equipment. Three months is a reasonable quarantine time; however, some breeders quarantine for up to a year.

Housing Leopards

Housing for leopard geckos can range from plastic shoeboxes to large, elaborate vivariums. Single animals do well in a 10-gallon tank, while a trio can easily be housed in a standard 20-gallon, "long" aquarium. A secure lid is essential. While leopard geckos don't climb glass, they can climb furnishings quite well, and household pets, (such as cats) would love to eat them. Leopard gecko breeders often house there geckos in plastic sweater boxes in rack systems.

The specifics of the cage are not critical, as long as the animal's needs can be properly met. Multiple geckos can be kept together, but do not keep more than one mature male to a cage. Males will fight and can have been known to kill one another.

The substrate is an important consideration. Newspaper is an excellent choice, albeit aesthetically displeasing. Other options include calcium or silica based sand with a fine consistency, mulch, bark chips or cage carpet. It has been said that sand can cause impactions, but if the geckos' nutritional needs are met they are not likely to ingest sand to cause a problem. Small bark chips can become impacted, but using large-chip substrate eliminates this risk. Cage carpets must not have any loose strands because these tend to wrap around gecko feet or legs and can lead to necrosis.

Thermal Gradients

As for all ectotherms, a proper thermal gradient is essential for leopard geckos. They are nocturnal, hence a basking lamp is completely inappropriate. An under-tank heating pad designed for reptiles is the best option. If placed at one end of the cage, this creates a thermal gradient from one end of the cage to the other.

If you use newspaper as a substrate, use caution when using a heating pad; some brands need a deeper substrate to disperse heat, and thermal burns are likely if the enclosure glass gets too hot. We don't recommend heat rocks because they do not provide a gradient.

Ideal leopard gecko cage temperatures are about 95 degrees Fahrenheit at the warm end and the low 80s at the cooler end.

Hide and Seek

Hide areas are important fixtures for any gecko cage. Rock caves, cork hollows, or plastic shoeboxes are all options. These should be provided at both the warm and cool ends of the enclosure, Hide areas need to be large enough to encompass a heat gradient. Use caution when creating a hide area from rocks, as geckos tend to dig and can collapse rock piles with fatal consequences. If you have a natural vivarium, the structures should be siliconed in place.

Hide boxes may also be used to provide a high-humidity area. While leopard geckos come from arid areas, they are still thought to inhabit high-humidity microclimates in their burrows. Even in Florida, captive leopard geckos may experience dry sheds if kept without a humid hide box. Damp vermiculite or sphagnum moss works well to raise the humidity inside a hide box.

Beardies and Leopards: Diet and Nutrition

For the reptile enthusiast with snake experience, gecko nutrition is a whole new challenge. They are insectivores and must have a high-quality diet if they are to thrive. Geckos do well on a diet of mealworms, and can also be given crickets, superworms, wax worms, and pinky mice. Offer your pet leopards as much variety as possible.

Feeder insects must also be fed a quality diet before being fed to your geckos. Lizards receive much of the nutrition from the gut content of their prey. There are many quality commercial insect foods available; these should be supplemented with fresh fruits and veggies for added moisture. Additionally, your geckos' prey should be dusted with a vitamin and mineral supplement several times a week for juveniles, less often for adults. The supplement should contain calcium and phosphorous in at least a 2-1 ratio, high levels of vitamin A, high amounts of D3 and a wide range of other vitamins.

Geckos can be given free access to mealworms. Because loose mealworms will dig into the substrate, place them in a bowl they cannot escape from. Any supplements on the worms will fall off after a couple of hours, so the bowl should contain a shallow layer of food (not enough to cover the worms) to keep their digestive tracts full. Not all geckos will readily accept mealworms, so you will have to monitor the condition of the geckos.

Crickets are also a good dietary component. Hatchling geckos can be fed crickets daily, while sub-adults and adults can be fed every other day. Don't feed any geckos more than they will eat overnight -- squads of uneaten crickets have been known to chew holes in leopard geckos. The crickets should be dusted with a supplement at every feeding for hatchlings and once a week for adults.

Many geckos will also accept superworms as a regular part of their diet. Wax worms are another good supplement but very fatty and should be used sparingly. Pinky mice are another good supplement, but again they should be offered in moderation.

Fresh water must always be available. Hatchling geckos may not drink from bowls and are very prone to dehydration, so they must be sprayed down a couple of times a day until they are drinking on their own.

Breeding Leopards

Many hobbyists who keep leopard geckos eventually become interested in breeding them. Geckos can be bred in a 1-1 ratio up to (at least) a 1-20 ratio of males to females. Remember, only one male per cage.

The first step in any successful breeding endeavor is to make sure that your two breeders are indeed a pair. Adult males are easily identified by their hemipenal bulges, immediately caudal to the cloaca, and the V-shaped row of pre-anal pores just cranial to the cloaca. These can be seen in juvenile geckos but are not well developed until maturity is reached.

Maturity is a function of size, not age, in leopard geckos. A safe breeding size 1.4 ounces, but if raised in mixed-sex cages leopards will breed when they're as small as 0.7 ounces. This frequently leads to serious health problems for the females, however, so growing animals should be separated by sex. Most leopard geckos will reach breeding size when they're about 1 year old.

Many breeders put their geckos through a winter cooling period. This is recommended but not required, with a minor cooling period not lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit for one to three months. Food should be made available, and the geckos' consumption will decrease over time. During cool-down, males can be kept in breeding groups or separately.

In the springtime, raise the temperature to initiate breeding activity, and reintroduce the males to the females. Breeding generally occurs shortly after they have warmed up.

Females lay clutches of two eggs in a damp nest box at approximately 30-day intervals for around six months. This is a stressful time for females, and they must be closely monitored to make sure they are keeping adequate body weight. This is a good time to add wax worms or pinkies to their diet.

Eggs should be incubated in plastic boxes with a damp medium and little airflow. Vermiculite or perlite in a 1-1 ratio with water (measure by weight) works well as an incubation medium. Incubation temperatures often determine the sex of the offspring and also may impact adult behavior. Temperatures in the low 80s will yield a mix of sexes in the hatchlings. At these temperatures, the eggs should hatch in about 45 days.

Neonates will shed and be ready to start feeding in a day or two. Potential health problems to be wary of include dry sheds, abscesses, injury from cage-mates, nutritional imbalances and internal parasites.

It is important to work with a knowledgeable reptile veterinarian, as reptile medicine is a new and frequently changing discipline. The Association of Reptile and Veterinarians ( is a good source for locating knowledgeable vets. Due to the low cost of leopard geckos, many people tend to view them as disposable pets and refuse to provide proper veterinary care. If this is your attitude, please do not purchase a leopard gecko.


Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are Australian agamids. They are a relatively recent addition to the United States pet trade and have become well established due to their hardiness, social behaviors and prolific breeding habits.

Beardies come from very hot, arid areas of Australia, living in social groups where there is lots of cover available. They can be found in natural, wild habitats and have also adapted well to living near human habitation. All animals seen in the pet trade are captive born, as Australia has a long history of prohibiting animal exportation.

Beardies are also available in a wide variety of color morphs. A few of these are single-gene mutations, such as the recently hatched albinos and an established leucistic line. High-yellow, orange and red morphs are all available, with many different names (such as Sandfires). In selecting a good color morph, buy from a reputable breeder, and try to see pictures of the adults if possible.

Like leopard geckos. "beardies" can easily be acquired through reputable pet stores, breeders, and expos. Again, it is a good idea for first-time buyers to buy locally. In addition, beardies are relatively fragile during their first month of life and react poorly to shipping. Purchase animals that are at least 1 month old. They should be active, bright-eyed and feed readily. Avoid any dragons with visibly protruding hip bones or eyes that appear to shrunken in.

Big Houses

Housing for beardies must be spacious. While a juvenile can get by in a 20-gallon, long aquarium, a single adult should have at least 4 square feet of floor space. A trio should have at least 6 square feet. As always, a secure lid is a must. Glass aquariums are not your only option, provided alternatives have enough space and plenty of ventilation. With beardies, floor space requirements are of greater importance than height requirements.

As with geckos, substrate is an important consideration. Newspaper, fine calcium or silica-based sand, mulch, bark chips or cage carpet are all acceptable substrates. Bear in mind that the amount of sand required for a large cage tends weigh quite a bit. As a result, any beardies enclosure and stand must be sturdy enough to support this added weight. Because of their voraciousness, beardies may ingest loose cage carpet fibers, so be sure to check synthetic carpets for loose strands and remove any that you discover. Periodically checking for loose fibers won't hurt, either. Upon entering your dragon's system these carpet strands can cause health problems.

Beardies like the hot spot in their enclosures to be very hot. They are diurnal basking lizards, so a heat lamp is the most appropriate way to provide the extreme temperatures preferred by these hardy lizards. Temperatures around 110 degrees Fahrenheit are perfectly acceptable to beardies. However, the cage should not be this warm. Once again, create a thermal gradient by placing a basking spotlight at one end of the cage and provide good ventilation. The cool end of the cage should be in the mid 80s. If you can't provide this kind of gradient, consider a larger cage, If nighttime lows fall below the mid 70s, then an under-tank heater should be used to provide supplemental heat at night.

Furnishings for beardies should include warm and cool hide areas as well as basking spots. If you are keeping multiple dragons together, make sure the basking spots are large enough for all of them. Large rocks or bricks make good basking spots because they hold heat well. Many dragons, especially juveniles, will also use sturdy branches as basking spots. Make sure all fixtures are firmly in place, as dragons will dig a lot and can undermine furnishings, thus creating potential hazards.

Omnivorous Beardies

Beardies are omnivores, and they need as much variety in their diet as possible. Insects, especially crickets, provide a good staple diet. They must be properly gut loaded and supplemented. Dragons also relish mealworms, superworms wax worms roaches, pinky mice and anything else that moves and will fit in their mouths. Small dragons are prone to mealworm impactions, so wait until the lizards are a couple of months old before offering mealworms.

Vegetables are an important component of the beardies diet. They should receive a wide variety of leafy greens, such as mustard, collard and turnip greens, spinach, kale, and romaine and real-leaf lettuce. Again, the more variety you offer then the healthier your dragons will be. In addition to leafy greens, provide other chopped vegetables such as squash, zucchini, peas, carrots, tomatoes, string beans and peppers.

Commercial beardies foods are also available and make good addition to any dragon's diet (but still offer other foods for variety).

A good feeding schedule for young dragons is a salad mixture every morning and insects every afternoon. Young dragons have ravenous appetites and must be fed daily. Adult dragons should be fed salad three or four times a week and offered insects on a similar schedule. For larger dragons, a bowl of mealworms or superworms can also be made available at all times.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplementation is very important. A high-calcium, high-D3 supplement should be used several times a week for juvenile dragons and breeding females, less often for older non-reproductive animals. Vitamin supplements are less important if a good variety of vegetables is offered, but should  still be provided at least once a week.

Like leopard geckos, juvenile beardies don't often drink from bowls and should be sprayed with water several times per day. This is especially important as many hatchling dragons are reluctant vegetable eaters (apparently they have something in common with human children). Larger animals usually will drink from a bowl and eat their vegetables, so misting them is not usually necessary.


Bearded dragons are easily bred in captivity. Using multiple females with one male spreads the male's attention around and prevents any one female from getting too run-down. Multiple males can be used, but subdominant males will have to be removed periodically.

Sexing dragons is not quite as easy as with leopard geckos, but with practice it is not too difficult. Mature males will have hemipenal bulges caudal to their vents. These extend further back than a leopard gecko's and are positioned closer to the sides of the tail. A split down the middle of this bulge is a good indication that the lizard is a male. In addition, males tend to be larger, have broader heads and necks, and as not as heavyset as females. Femoral pores are also more pronounced in males. Examining the hemipenal bulges is a more reliable sexing indicator than are the femoral pores, which hare a good secondary indicator.

Beardies should weigh between 7.9 and 9.6 ounces before breeding. They will breed if they're smaller than this, but are more likely to experience dystocias (difficult birth), so separate your sexes until they are ready to breed. Most dragons will reach adequate breeding size between 9 and 15 months of age.

Virgin females are generally not cycled, although older animals usually go through a cooling period. Breeders use many different cycling techniques, including length of cooling. Dragons can take temperatures in the mid 50s during their brumation, although most breeders prefer temperatures in the 60s or low 70s. If your dragons are going to be cooled below 70 degrees, make sure they have at least a week without food to purge their gut content. Length of brumation can last from one to three months.

Most breeders also manipulate day and night cycles, giving the dragons anywhere from zero to eight hours of light during brumation, and 12/12 cycles during breeding season.

When your dragons warm up, they will be ready to eat immediately. If you introduce the males at this time, you should observe courtship behavior taking place almost instantaneously. The males will bob their heads vigorously. Females will often respond with hand waving. Eventually, when females are receptive, breeding will occur.

Taking Care of Mom

Gravid females can be difficult to identify. watch for digging activity. When the female is digging, add a pile of damp sand or move her to another deep bin with damp sand. She will generally lay her eggs within a few days.

Eggs should be removed and set up for incubation in the same manner described for leopard gecko eggs. Incubation temperatures in the low 80s are appropriate for beardies eggs. The eggs usually will hatch after about 60 days.

Bear in mind that females that are not bred may still cycle and lay infertile eggs. This can lead to a significant dystocia risk, so owners of unbred female bearded dragons may want to explore having them sprayed.

With proper care, health problems are rare. However, dragons are prone to dystocia, nutritional imbalances, impactions, and internal parasites. Be sure to work with a competent reptile veterinarian when dealing with these problems.

There are now many options available when choosing a pet lizard. As mentioned, two of the best captive-bred choices are still leopard geckos and beardies. Evaluate the needs of these lizards and decide which one is the best choice for you. If you give your pet the care it requires, you will have a happy and healthy leopard or beardies for a long time to come.

Care Sheet: Water Dragons



This care sheet is for beginners and covers the basic maintenance of the Eastern Water Dragons (Physignathus leseurii).

You should join your local herpetological society, where you can meet others and obtain more detailed information on keeping these lizards. Water dragons are very hardy animals and one of the best dragons for beginners to keep as long as a few important guidelines are followed. These cover cage size, lighting and diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 1: Size

hatchlings measure around 15cm in total length. They can grow up to 90cm long although more usually they range from 60 to 70 centimeters.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 2: Caging

Juveniles: Hatchling Water dragons can be kept in a large plastic tube, approximately 60cm long, 40cm wide and 40cm high. The lid of the tub should be placed outdoors to give the little dragons access to ultra violet light. It is very important not to put them out in the sun during the middle of the day. Glass fish tanks should not be used for this purpose as the temperature inside the tank will very quickly reach a level that will kill the dragons. Shade and water must be provided at all time and the dragons checked regularly.

Adults: To keep adult Water dragons in captivity a large outdoor enclosure is required with access to sunlight. Outdoor enclosures can take two forms -- converted aviary style enclosures, or the more typical reptile pits with walls made of sheet metal. It is essential that the walls of the pit are at least 1 metre high and preferably 1.2 metres, as Water dragons are excellent jumpers and will take advantage of any rock piles or or branches inside the enclosure that are placed too near the walls. The walls should extend at least 30cm underground to prevent the dragons from digging out. Alternatively, weld mesh can be sunk beneath the ground. If an aviary is used, it is important to use sheet metal to a height of 1 metre from the ground to prevent the dragons from rubbing their snouts on the wire. Both types of enclosures can be decorated with plants, logs, rock slabs, etc. A pond must be included to satisfy their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Some of the enclosure should be sheltered from the weather. To keep an adult pair of Water dragons, the enclosure must be at least 1.2 metres long and preferably more than 2 metres, with a width of 1 metre. the floor can be covered with bark chips or leaf litter. A pond or at least a water dish large enough for the dragons to submerge themselves is essential. There must be at least one hiding place for each dragon in the form of logs, sheets of bark pipes. Faeces and uneaten food must be removed promptly.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 3: Lighting and Heating

Water dragons require basking spots with high temperatures (up to 45 degrees Celsius) to be kept successfully. Your enclosure must get plenty of sunlight and be sheltered. It must also provide shady spots that the dragons can move to. Basking spots can be created by installing 100W - 150W floodlights at one end of the enclosure. These lizards need UV light to survive, which is why they are best kept outdoors in natural sunlight. If they are kept indoors special UV type fluorescent tubes need to be installed. Before attempting such a set up, you should discuss the placement of these lights with n experienced keeper.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 4: Feeding

water dragons are omnivorous, making them quite easy to feed. A suitable diet for adult dragons would include twice weekly feeding of canned pet food and mixed, chopped fruits and vegetables. They should also be fed a variety of insects such as crickets, cockroaches, meal worms and earth worms. Small mice can occasionally be offered but they should not form a major part of the diet. Once a week the food should be dusted with a calcium/vitamin D powder such as Rep-Cal®, and a multi-vitamin powder such as Herptivite®. Young dragons should be fed every day with as great a variety of insects as possible. Calcium and vitamin powders should be used every second feeding. In general, Water dragons will not accept pet food, fruit and vegetables until they have reached a total length of about 20cm. At this stage these foods can be gradually introduced into their diet.

Water Dragons Care Sheet 5: Diseases/Illnesses

These are outside the scope of this basic care sheet. Any unusual behaviour or signs of illnesses should be discussed with an experienced keeper or with a veterinary surgeon. If you suspect something is wrong, act immediately, don't leave it. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Further Reading on Water Dragons (Weigel, J (1988) Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity, Reptile Keepers)

Eastern Bearded Dragons (Pogona Barbata)


Eastern Bearded Dragons Care Sheet prepared by Sue Davis

The most important thing to remember if keeping eastern bearded dragons outdoors, is to provide an escape-proof enclosure with plenty of high perches and basking spots, offer plenty of food and let lizards do the rest.

Eastern Bearded Dragons belong to the Agamidae family and average snout to vent length in adults is 25 centimeters. They have a well-developed "beard" and a strongly depressed body. The inside of their mouth is usually bright yellow. There are many colour variations from grey, yellowish-brown, brown, to reddish-brown etc. Mature males develop a dark grey to black beard and a pale green to blue tinge on the forehead.

Eastern bearded dragons are found in woodlands and dry sclerophyll forests extending into many urban areas in eastern Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to south eastern South Australia. Their habitat is mostly terrestrial and arboreal, preferring elevated perches such as sumps, fence posts, or rocks. they shelter in hollow logs, shallow depressions beneath vegetation or surface debris.

Eastern bearded dragons (Beardies) regularly display courtship or defense actions such as head bobbing, arm waving, head licking, push ups, pawing of substrate, biting, erection of beard, expanding their body and colour changes. Up to 75 separate display sequences have been observed.

In the wild, beardies forage for insects including ants, spiders, small lizards, flowers (especially low, daisy-like species and pansies or violas), fruits and green shoots.

Mating occurs in the spring and gravid females are found from October to February. Clutches of 8 to 35 (average) eggs are laid in shallow burrows and sometimes 2 clutches are laid per season. Eggs hatch at around 54 - 60 days at 30 degrees Celsius. Bearded dragons usually hibernate in the winter but in captivity it is often wise to maintain hatchlings at around 25 degrees and feed weekly to maintain healthy growth.

In captivity, eastern bearded dragons food should be dusted with calcium and vitamin supplements at least once per week. Good brands are Herptivite® or Rep-Cal®, available at most good pet stores.

Suggested insects to feed captive beardies include crickets, wood roaches, mealworms (only adults), grasshoppers, flies, butterflies, bettles, Garden worms, and pinkie mice are also favourites as well as most soft fruits such as melon, berries, grapes, strawberry, apple, and green vegetables and shredded carrot and sweet corn niblets. Flower favourites include hibiscus, dandelions, carnation, squash, clover, nasturtium and daisy.

Always chop fruit and vegetables into very small (finely diced) pieces.

As hatchlings, beardies will live happily in a 30cm x 30cm x 60cm aquarium with a mesh top but as adults, will require much more room as they like to climb and bask. Newspaper makes the most convenient and hygienic substrate for the floor of the enclosure and should be changed at least per week or more often if necessary.

UVB light is essential for most reptiles. Ordinary fluorescent tubes are useless as they provide light only - not UVB that is required for healthy bone development and assists in th digestion of food. The light will need to be within 30cm of the animals to effective.

Beardies also need to keep warm, especially after eating as they cannot digest their food properly without adequate warmth. Around 25 to 30 degrees through the day and from 20 to 15 degrees overnight.

Bearded dragons are diurnal (active during the day) so if you don't have timers fitted to your lights or thermostat, make sure that you manually switch on the UVB light first thing in the morning and turn it off again at dusk.

Beardies can make excellent pets and are easily "tamed". They respond well to lots of handling (often and short is best). Always support a reptile's belly from below.

Suggested reading:

"Keeping Bearded Dragons" - Warren Green and Ty Larson (Australian)
"The General Care and Maintenance of Bearded Dragons" - Philippe DeVosjoli and Robert Mailloux (American)

Eastern Bearded Dragons like a large, shallow water dish that they can "swim" in.

Eastern Blue Tongue (Tiliqua Scincoides)


Eastern Blue Tongue Care sheet prepared by Sue Davis

Blue tongue lizards are native to Australia and New Guinea and will live happily in your backyard and are helpful by eating snails and other pests in the garden. They will eat canned cat food (not fish varieties), soft fruits, tomatoes, apples, mushrooms, chopped green vegetables, mince meat and thawed frozen pinkie mice. They will also lap water from a shallow dish and like a hollow log or similar hide box to hide in.

Eastern blue tongue lizards can be aggressive if provoked. If you must handle a wild animal, hold it firmly but gently behind the head.

The patterns and colours among eastern blue tongue lizards vary a lot but consist mainly of dark and pale cross-bands. There are 6 or 7 blackish-brown banks on the neck and body and these sometimes branch or end at the midline of the back. The dark bands are usually orange-brown, yellowish or pale grey on the sides. The pale bands are yellowish-brown, greyish-brown or grey and there are 6 or 8 dark bands on the tail. There is an indistinct darker patch on the side of the head.

Ticks are common on the wild animals and can usually be seen around the head and armpits. They can be removed wit tweezers but always remove the tick's head.

Blue tongues can suffer from colds which can develop into pneumonia. Treatment involves keeping the lizard warm (around 25 to 30 degrees C). symptoms are a runny nose, eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and wheezing. Seeking veterinary treatment is wise.

Eastern blue tongue preferred temperature is around 25 to 28 degrees Celsius and most animals will not feed if the temperature drops to below 20 as they cannot digest their food.

Eastern blue tongue species grow to around 60 cm in length. They are ground dwellers so don't need branches to climb on, even though they are quite good climbers and excellent escape artists.

The water bowl should be large enough for the animal/s to bathe in and should be freshed regularly as blue tongues often defecate in their water bowl.

Blue tongues make excellent pets as they tame easily and can be handled by small children. Always wash hands thoroughly both before and after handling.

Tiliqua Scincoides is one of the largest members of the skink family. If kept indoors, the enclosure should have adequate floor space for the lizard to move freely. Enclosures should be at least 1.2 metres (4 foot) long by 35 cm (14 inches) wide and between 12 (30 cm) and 18 (45 cm) inches high. Two to four animals could be kept in an enclosure this size. The enclosure will need a reasonably tight fitting lid to ensure it is escape-proof. Newspaper makes the most convenient substrate as it is easily replaced. Blue tongues tend to be messy. These lizards also require UVB light and a heat source when kept indoors.

If housed outdoors, blue tongues can be kept in a converted aviary or a pit constructed of solid, smooth material with the walls braced on the outside only if it is to have an open top. Galvanised iron makes good walls as blue tongues can climb brick or concrete walls.

It has been claimed by several noted herpetologist over the years that heating a reptile during winter and keeping it active all year round  could be detrimental to its health. If one considers that it is natural for most reptiles to hibernate during winter, then they should be allowed  to do so in captivity. There are however, exceptions to this rule. Reptiles that originate from tropical areas where there is little difference between summer and winter temperatures should be maintained at or near their natural temperatures. If the winter temperature in the area in which the animal is maintained is considerably lower than that which it would find in its natural habitat, then the enclosure should be heated to the normal winter temperature of the reptile.

In nature, eastern blue tongue lizards require large amounts of Vitamin D for their survival. It is especially essential in their growth patterns and for bone development. Most Vitamin D is obtained from direct sunlight (or UVB tubes if housed indoors). Placing the enclosure near a window WILL NOT help the animal. UV light does not penetrate glass. If an additional heat source is used in  an indoor enclosure then it is wise to also install a thermostat to ensure that the temperature does not get too hot. A Vitamin D (Calcium) supplement should also be added to the animal's diet.

Please not that although meal worms make a tasty treat, they should not be offered to juvenile animals as the outer casque is rather hard and can cause internal damage. Mealworms are also not suitable as a staple diet for large lizards as huge quantities would be required to maintain even one animal.

It is important to also remember that in the wild, reptiles are "opportunistic" feeders and will eat all they can find at one feeding session. In captivity they will tend to eat all that is provided to them and could become obese and sluggish which eventually will cause health problems. If an animal seems to be putting on too much weight then food should be withheld for several days to allow it to absorb what it has already eaten.

Most reptiles will hide while they digest their food and reappear when they are hungry again, to go in search of more food. Use this as a guide to your feeding regime and observe the amount the animal consumes over several feedings to gauge the correct amount of food to offer. Vary the diet with each meal and experiment with different foods to see what your animal prefers. We find that strawberries, snails, and mushrooms are particular favourites.

Mating behaviours often sees the male bite the top of the female's head and neck prior to actually mating. This biting among eastern blue tongue lizards can result in permanent scarring.

Eastern blue tongue lizards usually have litters of between 5 to 25 live young that are born in summer.

Spencer's Monitor


Varanus spenceri or Spencers Monitor

When well fed, spencers monitor can become quite bulky. But when times are lean, Spencers Monitors can tolerate quite severe emaciation. Adults of this species eat lizards, snakes, large insects, and small mammals. Juveniles will eat smaller insects, such as grasshoppers, and small reptiles like geckoes and skinks. Living in the drought-prone Black Soil Plains of arid Australia, these animals have had to become accustomed to a Feast-or-Famine lifestyle - gorging when food is plentiful during a rainy spell, then surviving on their stored fat supplies when the going gets tough.

Spencers Monitors are named after W. Spencer, a past professor of biology from the University of Melbourne. A female will lay from 11 to 35 eggs in a deep burrow that she's excavated in an elevated soil bank. The eggs take about 110 days to hatch, and after emerging, the young monitors will shelter under rocks and stones, or in the deep soil cracks. These cracks provide a home not only for the youngsters, but also for many small insects, meaning that the growing monitors never have to look very far for a quick snack.

Did you know that Spencers Monitor...

  • When well fed, spencers monitor can become quite bulky. But when times are lean, Spencer's monitors can tolerate quite severe emaciation.
  • A female spencers monitor will lay from 11 to 35 eggs in a deep burrow that she's excavated in an elevated soil bank. The eggs take about 110 days to hatch.
  • Living in the arid Australia, these animals have had to become accustomed to a Feast-or-Famine lifestyle - gorging when food is plentiful when it rains, then surviving on their stored fat supplies when the going gets tough.
  • Spencers monitors are named after W. Spencer, a past professor of biology from the University of Melbourne.

Where to find Spencers Monitor in Australia:

Mertens' Water Monitor


Varanus mertensi or Mertens Water Monitor

Mertens Water Monitor is an aquatic lizard. The word goanna is often used for these and other Australian species of lizard with a forked tongue. The word Goanna originates from South America. These monitors love to bask on rocks, logs, and branches that are overhanging the water. If the animal becomes alarmed, the water is a close and safe haven for the animal to retreat to. Their tail is flat like a paddle, which is used for swimming, and sometimes herding fish into areas that make catching easy. Mertens Water Monitor can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes.

These monitor lizards are found in coastal and inland waterways right across the northern part of Australia, from Cape York to the Kimberleys. Mertens Water Monitor feed on crabs, frogs, fish, insects, and turtle eggs (when available). These are one of the many Australian animals that have suffered through the introduction of the cane toad. Mistaking the toad for a tasty frog has led to the widespread decline of these animals. Mertens Water Monitor breed throughout the year in the wild, but there is a preference for the dry season. 3 to 12 eggs are laid, taking about 270 days to hatch at 30 degrees Celcius.

Did you know...

  • Mertens water monitor is an aquatic lizard which can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes.
  • Their tail is flat like a paddle, which is used for swimming, and sometimes herding fish into areas that make catching easy.
  • Mertens water monitor feed on crabs, frogs, fish, insects, and turtle eggs (when available).
  • These are one of the many Australian animals that have suffered through the introduction of the cane toad. Mistaking the toad for a tasty frog has led to the widespread decline of these animals.

Where Mertens Water Monitor dwell across Australia

Mangrove Monitor


Varanus indicus or Mangrove Monitor

Did you know...

  • The mangrove monitor is one of Australia's most beautiful goanna species.
  • Mangrove monitor live along the coast of northern Australia.
  • Mangrove monitor lizards are also found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific islands.
  • Mangrove monitor eat fish, crabs, insects, birds, mammals and other reptiles. They will also dig up and eat turtle eggs.
  • Female mangrove monitor lizards will lay their eggs in a burrow in soil, or in the rotting centre of a fallen tree.

Where Mangrove Monitors dwell in parts of Australia:

    Mangrove monitor lizards are excellent swimmers, and will take to the watch if they feel threatened.

    Perentie Monitor


    Varanus giganteus or Perentie Monitor

    The Perentie Monitor is Australia's largest, and indeed our largest lizard. Its scientific name, 'Varanus giganteus' literally means 'giant monitor'. As they get to a length of 2.5 metres and a weight of 15 kilograms, it's easy to see why this name is well deserved. At this size, Perentie monitor lizards are able to prey on animals such as rabbits, and even small kangaroos. Their powerful claws make them a formidable predator. Their strong, whip-like tail can also be used as a weapon. As an aggressive display, a Perentie monitor will distend its neck pouch and make a loud hissing noise.

    Female Perentie monitor lizards will lay from 6 to 11 eggs in a long burrow dug under a solid object (such as a rock), and then cover this over. The young are brightly coloured and very nervous. Monitor lizards, otherwise known as Goannas, are named as such because it was thought that they warned of the presence of crocodiles, hence 'monitor'. The scientific name of 'Varanus' comes from the Arabic word 'Waran', which was the name given to lizards from the Arabian Peninsula.

    Did you know...

    • The perentie monitor is Australia's, and indeed our largest lizard.
    • Its scientific name, Varanus giganteus, literally means ''giant monitor'.
    • Young perentie monitor lizards are brightly coloured and very nervous.
    • Perentie monitor lizards can get to a length of 2.5 metres and a weight of 15 kilograms. At large size, perenties are able to prey on animals such as rabbits, and even small kangaroos.

    Where to find Perentie monitor lizards in Australia:

    As an aggressive display, a perentie monitor will distend its neck pouch and make a loud hissing noise.

    Ridge-tailed Monitor


    Varanus acanthurus or Ridge tailed Monitor

    The Ridge tailed monitor is one of Australia's smaller Monitor species, growing to only 78 cm long, most of which is tail. They are found in the desert areas in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. Their diet includes grasshoppers, cockroaches and beetles. The scales on the tail of the Ridge Tailed monitor are raised and pointed, hence its common name. This helps the monitor anchor itself in the rock crevices it calls home. This anchoring makes it impossible for hungry predators to extract and eat the lizards.

    As with all Monitors the females lay eggs. Ridge tailed Monitor usually lay 4 to 8 eggs per clutch. The female lays her eggs in a nest chamber at the end of a tunnel she's dug into sandy soil. Monitors are more active than most other reptiles, and as such they like to have a higher body temperature. You'll often see monitors basking in the sun on the side of roads, which can unfortunately lead to their untimely demise.

    Did you know...

    • The ridge tailed monitor is one of Australia's smaller monitor species, growing to only 78 cm long, most of which is tail.
    • The female ridge tailed monitor lays her eggs in a nest chamber at the end of a tunnel she's dug into sandy soil.
    • The scales on the tail of this goanna are raised and pointed, hence its common name. This helps the ridge tailed monitor anchor itself in the rock crevices it calls home. This anchoring makes it impossible for hungry predators to extract and eat the lizards.

    Where in Australia Ridge tailed Monitors can be found:

    Monitors, especially the ridge tailed monitor like to have a higher body temperature


    Thick-tailed Gecko


    Underwoodisaurus milii or Thick tailed Gecko

    The thick tailed gecko inhabits many environments including wet and dry sclerophyll forest, open grasslands, scrubland and even desert, particularly those areas associated with rock outcrops. It is found in south-east Queensland, and extends down over much of southern Australia except the far southeast and southwest. It is often found in backyards, sheltering under logs and rocks. Its scientific name (Underwoodisaurus) isn't referring to where this gecko likes to shelter. Rather, it is named after a Mr Underwood, with Underwoodisaurus meaning 'Underwood's lizard'.

    If threatened, the Thick tailed Gecko raises itself up on its skinny legs, waves its tail from side to side and lunges at the threat producing a croaky barking sound at the same time, hence its other common name of barking gecko. As with other geckos, only two eggs are produced at a time, usually in spring or early summer. Several clutches may be produced during good seasons, with about a month's interval between each. The eggs incubate for approximately two and a half months before they hatch.

    Did you know...

    • The thick tailed gecko has a scientific name (Underwoodisaurus) that isn't referring to where this gecko likes to shelter.
    • The thick tailed gecko is named after a Mr Underwood, with Underwoodisaurus meaning 'Underwood's lizard'.
    • Thick tailed gecko raises itself up on its skinny legs when threatened, waves its tail from side to side and lunges at the threat producing a croaky barking sound at the same time, hence its other common name of barking gecko.

    Range of Thick tailed Gecko in Australia:

    The thick tailed gecko is often found in backyards, sheltering under logs and rocks.

    Pebble Dragon


    Tympanocryptis cephalus or Pebble Dragon

    This truly earless pebble dragon has large pale blotches across the top and side of its tail. It feeds on small insects and while normally active during daylight hours, it has been known to be active on warm nights. The males of this species tend to be slightly smaller than the females, but they have longer hind legs.

    Pebble Dragon can be found in tropical to temperate tablelands, slopes and plains with lots of rocks on the ground. The short, fat body of this lizard, combined with its colouration, allow it to blend in with the surrounding rocky ground. The scientific name of this lizard's genus (Tympanocryptis) means 'hidden ear'.

    Did you know...

    • Pebble Dragon has large pale blotches across the top and side of its tail.
    • The short, fat body of the Pebble Dragon, combined with its colouration, allow it to blend in with the surrounding rocky ground.
    • The scientific name of the Pebble Dragon genus (Tympanocryptis) means 'hidden ear'.

    Where to spot the Pebble Dragon of Australia:

    Pebble Dragon feeds on small insects and while normally active during daylight hours, it has been known to be active on warm nights.

    Eastern Blue-tongued Skink


    Tiliqua scincoides or Eastern Blue-tongued Skink

    Eastern Blue-tongued Skink is common throughout Eastern Australia, often found in bushland and suburban areas where conditions are suitable. They are known as blue-tongues because their tongue ranges from bright to dark blue, and they have a habit of displaying it prominently and hissing loudly when disturbed.

    The Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard is a stout and slow lizard that grows up to 30-60 cm in length, with brown to grey scales and a barred pattern across the body and tail. The underside is usually pale. Blue-tongued skink Lizards are popular as pets and can live for up to 30 years in captivity.

    Eastern Blue-tongued Skink give birth to live young, between six to a record twenty per litter. Young Eastern Blue-tongued Skink can consume the egg sac immediately after birth.

    Where Eastern Blue-tongued Skink can be found in Australia:

    Shingleback Lizard


    Tiliqua rugosa or Shingleback Lizard

    A close relative of the more familiar bluetongue, the shingleback lizard is an extremely distinctive member of the lizard family known as skinks. Its two most striking features are the short rounded tail, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the head end to confuse predators and the huge scales covering the body giving it a rough and bumpy appearance. Like its close relative, the Shingleback Lizard has a large tongue, which is fleshy and dark blue in colour and used to warn off any potential threats such as dingoes or foxes. An adult shingleback lizard is robust lizards with a broad, triangular head. A large adult will measure over 35cm in length.

    Shingleback lizard appear to have more common names than any other Australian animal. It seems every region in this animal's distribution has its own preferred name. Apart from shingleback, others names include sleepy lizard, bobtail, pinecone lizard, stumpy-tail, boggi and double-headed lizard. Most of the diet is made up of vegetable matter including foliage, berries and fruits. They have a particular liking for flowers and will seasonally gorge themselves on blossoms, particularly yellow ones, if given the opportunity. The occasional insect, spider or scorpion is also eaten.

    Did you know...

    • A close relative of the more familiar blue tongue, a shingleback lizard is an extremely distinctive member of the lizard family known as skinks.
    • Like its close relative, the tongue of the shingleback lizard is large, fleshy and dark blue in colour and used to warn off any potential threats such as dingoes or foxes.
    • Apart from shingleback, others names include sleepy lizard, bobtail, pinecone lizard, stumpy-tail, boggi and double-headed lizard.
    • Its two most striking features are the short rounded tail, which bears a remarkable resemblance to the head end to confuse predators and the huge scales covering the body giving it a rough and bumpy appearance.

    Distribution of Shingleback Lizard in Australia:

    A large adult Shingleback Lizard will measure over 35cm in length.

    Western Blue-tongued Skink


    Tiliqua occipitalis or Western Blue-tongued Skink

    The Western Blue-tongued skink is one of six species of blue-tongued lizard found in Australia>

    In Australia, Western Blue-tongued Skink can be found in New South Wales, Northern Territory, South Australia, and Victoria. Western Blue-tongued Skink can also be spotted throughout Western Australia.

    Western Blue-tongued Skink can also be found in New Guinea and Indonesia.

    Blotched Blue-tongued Skink


    Tiliqua nigrolutea or Blotched Blue-tongued Skink

    Did you know...

    • It is the most cold-adapted of the blue-tongued skinks, and the only one to occur in Tasmania.
    • Blotched Blue-tongued Skink have a large, robust skink that feeds on slugs, snails, insects fungi and soft plant material.
    • From three to twelve young Blotched Blue-tongued Skink are born. Blotched Blue-tongued Skink can be completely self-sufficient, and need no help from their mother.

    Where to spot the Blotched Blue-tongued Skink on Australia:

    Blotched blue-tongued skink give birth to live young in late summer.

    Centralian Blue-tongued Skink


    Tiliqua multifasciata or the Centralian Blue-tongued Skink

    Did you know...

    • The red colouration of the centralian blue-tongued skink helps it blend into the arid environment in which it lives.
    • During the warmer seasons, these blue-tongued skink can be active at night.
    • Between two and seven young blue-tongued skink are born in the summer months.
    • The sizes of the new born young blue-tongued skink from one litter can vary greatly, with the largest being as much as five times the size of the smallest.

    Where to find the Centralian Blue-tongued Skink across Australia:

    Eating soft plants and insects, centralian blue-tongued skink can also scavenge on dead animals.

    Bearded Dragon: Australia's Goodwill Ambassador


    Bearded Dragon by Peter Weis

    The Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) has become one of the most popular pet lizards, and it's easy to see why. It is a very tame lizard, and can be extremely personable. Bearded dragons also have a complex set of social behaviors - head bobbing, arm waving, posturing and extending their beards - that make them very interesting lizards to keep. The ready availability of captive-bred bearded dragons has made them a staple for the pet trade, and selective breeding creates an ever-increasing number of interesting color morphs.

    Bearded Dragon: Caging and Lighting Requirements

    Keeping bearded dragons successfully is directly dependent on the environment you provide. Because they are basking lizards from dry, hot areas in Australia, their terrarium needs to approximate that environment.

    Young hatchlings can be housed in a 10-gallon aquarium fitted with a screen cover and a 30 to 50-watt spotlight suspended over a basking area at one end of the cage. Under the spotlight, the young dragons should be able to reach a body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit after basking for an hour. This temperature is necessary for them for proper food digestion. Arrange rocks and branches to provide several basking levels, then watch the hatchlings to ensure the lizards like to use the basking areas. Also, one end of the cage should be kept cool so the baby dragons can regulate their body temperature (thermoregulation).

    Basking under a light is a more natural way for bearded dragons to receive heat, but some people use hot rocks or heating pads with their lizards. Use only the highest quality products and check them to make sure they have no hot spots that could burn small bearded dragons.

    Suspend full-spectrum fluorescent lamps that emit both ultraviolet A and B wavelengths in the 5 to 10 percent range over the cage (look for them in your local pet stores; several are marketed specifically for reptiles). Arrange perches so the lizards can bask within 12 inches of the bulb and absorb the UVA and UVB light. This enables the lizards to manufacture vitamin D3, which assists in bone formation.

    Washed children's play sand, aquarium sand or newspaper all are accepted substrates. Bearded dragons will readily eat substrate, so avoid any gravel or loose strands of carpet; they can cause blockage if ingested. Bearded dragons will attempt to eat anything you put in the cage, such as twigs, artificial plants and ornaments, so evaluate the safety of all cage furnishings.

    It is important that the placement of cage fixtures allows the bearded dragons to get around the cage. Provide a very shallow, wide feeding dish for hatchlings so they can easily see their food. The lid of a deli cup works well. Arrange perches around the feeding dish to attract the baby dragons to the feeding area. You can use shallow plastic food-storage containers for larger animals. Select feeding containers just tall enough to contain the insects you feed to your bearded dragons, and it will be easy for them to get their food.

    Bearded Dragon: Water and Food

    Spray young hatchlings with water daily. Spray the cage sides, furnishings and the dragon's heads. They often lap up water as it is sprayed on them. Keep a fine mist of water directed on their heads as long as they keep lapping up the water. This stimulates the natural way bearded dragons get water in the wild, where they lick dewdrops from plant leaves. They also obtain water from daily spraying or from fresh vegetables in their diet. Don't expect bearded dragons to drink from a water dish.

    Young hatchlings should be fed insects such as small crickets, mealworms, beetle, larvae, baby upperworms and wax worms. Feed them every day to encourage optimal growth. Select feeder insects that are about the size of the lizard's heads so the  hatchlings can easily devour them.

    Vegetation is an important diet part of a bearded dragon. Thin leaves of red-tip lettuce, kale and other greens can be finely shredded and fed to the hatchlings, or pieces of leaf can be propped up so the lizards can easily take bites out of them. Potted plants, such as pursulane, pothos, hibiscus and garden greens,can also be placed in the cage and the lizards will benefit from the water content of the fresh leaves.

    Pelleted diets formulated especially for bearded dragon can be available for both juveniles and adults. These diets can be used as part of a varied diet and  are especially useful during times when live insects are not available. Moisten these foods with water of fruit juice before serving them to your pets. Place the food near basking sites or other open areas where the dragons can easily see it. It sometimes helps to move the pellets around in front of them with a wire or slender stick, so they learn to recognize the pellets as food. Some lizards won't eat commercial diets, so monitor your animals.

    As hatchlings grow, move the larger ones to a different cage, or they will bully (or even attempt to eat) their smaller siblings. As they grow, offer larger food items and more vegetable matter. Large superworms (Zoophobas) can be a staple part of an adult dragon's diet, along with adult crickets, mealworms and fuzzy mice (baby mice that are just sprouting hair). Greens are very for them, including a cooked or raw chopped vegetable mix of green beans, carrots, corn, peas and broccoli.

    Each dragon will have its favorite foods. They love to devour edible potted plants placed in their cages. Purslane and hibiscus are very good for them, and these plants can tolerate the high temperatures of a bearded dragon habitat. The sprouts of beans and sunflowers are very good for them, too (these items are often their favorite foods), and with a little planning, you should be able to provide a continuous supply.

    Under optimum conditions, bearded dragons grow fast and can reach adult size within 12 months.

    Bearded Dragon: The Importance of Supplementation

    Most bearded dragons require calcium and vitamin/mineral supplementation if they grow well under captive conditions. Powdered calcium supplements containing vitamin D3 should be lightly sprinkled on their food every other day to promote healthy bone growth. If a dragon's lips start to separate or it has difficulty chewing its food, or its hind legs spasm or are held out stiffy, you need to supply more calcium and D3 in the animal's diet. Be aware that some individuals may require more supplementation than others. Liquid vitamin D3 products especially formulated for lizards can be used in combination with calcium supplementation to enhance the recovery of animals with severe calcium deficiencies.

    Full-spectrum lighting cannot duplicate the intensity of the ultraviolet radiation bearded dragons receive from direct sunlight, so bearded dragons kept indoors need additional calcium and D3 in their diets. Exercise caution when using multi-vitamin supplements, as bearded dragons are very susceptible to vitamin A toxicity, characterized by throat swelling, body bloating and lethargy.

    Specialty vitamin supplements contain beta carotene, which bearded dragons convert to vitamin A as they require it. Bearded dragons obtain most of the vitamins they need from their varied diet, so vitamin supplementation should be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, calcium supplementation is usually necessary for good bone growth. We (at Weis reptiles) have found that a mixture of four parts calcium to one part multivitamin supplement sprinkled on their food three times a week works well.

    Sexing The Bearded Dragon

    Juvenile bearded dragons become more sexually dimorphic every month as they grow. When they are 5 to 6 months old and 11 to 12 inches long, you can accurately sex bearded dragons by looking for hemipenile bulges on the males. To see them, gently arch the tail over the animal's back and gently twist and move it from side to side. The hemipenes can then be seen as firm lumps on either side of the underside of the tail base. Comparing several animals of known sex is a good is a good way to see the differences between the sexes. Experienced herpers can manually evert the hemipenes; have an expert show you how.

    Secondary sexual characteristics include the males' wider, larger heads; larger femoral pores; and head bobbing, beard blackening and other obvious courting behavior.

    Females have smaller heads, wider abdomens and a slower bowing head movement they make in response to the males' agitated head bobbing. Stereotyped arm waving is performed by both sexes when excited, especially if a dragon is confronted by a more dominant animal.

    Bearded Dragon: Dominance

    Bearded dragons engage in a variety of interactions when forming a group hierarchy. Aggressive head bobbing displays and the appeasement displays of bowing and arm waving are a normal part of the social interaction in a group. Even small juveniles will start establishing a hierarchy. Dominant males tend to take the highest perch, so provide separate basking sites for sub-dominant animals.

    Females establish hierarchies of their own, with dominant females "bulldozing" lesser animals off choice basking sites. It is normal behavior for males to chase females around the cage and nip them on their heads and necks in attempts to mount them. Both sexes may challenge each other with head-to-tail aggressive encounters that may result in bitten tail or toes. Larger lizards may stress out smaller ones just by their presence. Be alert for individuals that become intimidated or fight aggressively, or do not feed or bask as often as the others. Re-arrange cage furnishings, or move intimidated animals to a different cage to permit regular access to food, water and basking sites.

    Bearded Dragon: The Dormancy Period

    The onset of the bearded dragon dormant period can be quite bewildering for their owners if it is not expected, but it is a natural part of their life cycle. When bearded dragons become finicky eaters, hide a lot, dig in underground and, in general, become more subdued, they may be ready to start their dormancy period. Health problems may also cause this behaviour, so have a vet check the animals if you think a health problem may be involved. If animals have a good body weight and firm stools, yet suddenly become finicky eaters or dig and hide, it is probably a dormant behavior. Any bearded dragon can become dormant when triggered by its environment.

    Late summer to early winter is a typical dormancy period. Reduced day length, cooler temperature and barometric changes are the usual triggers. Stress, such as a change in location or lighting, intimidation by other animals or inadequate nutrition can also trigger it.

    During the dormant period, cage lights and heating pads can be turned off. Don't offer your dragons food at this time. They will only occasionally, if ever, drink water during the dormant period. The cage temperature can be lowered to 60 to 70 degrees. Provide hiding areas.

    Monitor your animals every week or so. They should be awake, but subdued and groggy, and should feel cool and have reduced movement. Their eyes should be clear and free of mucous. My dragons' dormant period lasts four to eight weeks, but not longer than three months. If animals start losing excessive body weight, they should be taken out of dormancy to undergo an appropriate treatment program. Healthy animals should lose five to 15 percent of their body weight during this time.

    Bearded dragons may pull out of dormancy on their own. Be alert for animals that resume activity. If they stay active for longer than two days, they have ended their dormant period. Otherwise, at the end of the dormant period, turn on the lights, raise the temperature and get the dragons eating and drinking again. Soak them in warm shallow water the first week and watch to see that they have resumed drinking. It may take one to two weeks for your dragons to resume  normal levels of activity. Be alert for head bobbing and increased activity that signals the start of the breeding season two to six weeks after the dragons emerge from dormancy.

    Bearded Dragon: Potential Diseases

    Bearded dragons are very hardy, but they can still get sick. The five most common problems are calcium imbalance, pinworms, pathogenic protozoans, respiratory disorders and coccidia. It is important to recognize the early stages of these problems so corrective action can be taken in a timely manner. See a qualified reptile veterinarian for advice and treatment.

    Calcium deficiencies have a number of symptoms. As mentioned, if your dragons' lips start separate, they have difficulty chewing their food, their hind legs go into spasm or are help out stiffy, or if the backbone has a ridged appearance, you need to supply more calcium and D3. Be aware that dragons may require more supplementation than others.

    Pinworms, protozoans and coccidia can be transmitted by live prey times, or through cross contamination from other animals. Stress can cause these organisms to proliferate and cause a problem. Be alert for any changes in the appearance of your lizards' stools (runny, smelly, slimy). A veterinarian can examine a fresh fecal sample to detect the problem organism and initiate appropriate treatment.

    Respiratory problems are indicated by open-mouth breathing, clogged nostrils, excessive mucous in the mouth and general apathy. Most respiratory ailments are caused by too-cool or moist conditions combined with suboptimal basking areas, or chronic stress. They can be hard to treat and usually require antibiotics.

    Bearded Dragon: Color Morphs

    We have bred bearded dragons for a number of generations and have found many variations both individually and along genetic lines. An understanding of the genetic inheritance  patterns of bearded dragons is beginning to emerge as more selective breeding is done to enhance the coloration and other characteristics of this variable species.

    In a shipment of bearded dragons we received from overseas, there were some un-usually large and colorful adults. Some of their offspring were more colorful than the parents, and were more colorful than the parents, and were very hardy with a fast growth rate. The grown females proved to be prolific breeders. These superior characteristics formed the basis of our "Red Flame" lineage. These lizards tend to have orange or yellow heads with a gold over-cast to their tan bodies. They are large and active. We are currently breeding these dragons with other red-phase dragons to add their vitality to other lineage.

    We also received some bearded dragons from Germany, which grew to unusually large sizes, in excess of 2 feet. Adult males were particularly impressive because they had the larget heads of any of our bearded dragons. The females had unusually large clutches, too, often with more than 30 eggs per clutch. These combinations of characters formed the basis of our "German Giant" dragons. As we investigates the origin of these animals, we found that they were the descendants of a wild-caught female and one of the first bearded dragons that had ever been bred in captivity. Their superior disease resistance is probably the result of the many generations they have been captive bred, resulting in a partial resistance to the particular afflictions of lizards in captivity. The German Giants have proven to be very hardy and prolific.

    The first color phase we developed occurred entirely by accident. We received reports from customers that some of the baby bearded dragons we had sent them were developing an orange coloration. We were able to trace the offspring back to an ordinary light tan female. We held back some of her subsequent offspring, and some developed the orange coloration. These animals formed the basis of our Orange Phase dragons. They are bred to have vivid orange eyelids with yellow highlights on the face, an orange beard and light buff-brown bodies. As youngsters, they tend to have orange spots down the back. They are very tame, too.

    We eventually bred these dragons to the much darker Giant German dragons. The subsequent offspring were selectively bred to develop two new morphs: the Orange X Giant German and the Orange Tiger pattern. The Orange X Giant German has the tameness and color from the Orange phase combined with the size, disease resistance and productivity of the Giant German. They are very popular and tend to have touches of orange on the head and light spots down the back.

    The Orange Tigers were developed by crossing Orange Phase dragons with dark phase Giant Germans, which resulted in the dark brown tiger sidebars on these lizards. They retain the orange coloration on the head and down the back and are vividly patterned, which makes them popular.

    First produced in 1998, the Orange glow dragon is a combination of Red Flame X Sandfire back-crossed to Orange Phase dragons. These lizards have the most intense coloration. Some are darker with orange and red coloration; some are a lighter yellow and orange. Their large size, productivity and disease resistance are inherited from the German Giant present in the Red Flame animals; the intense color comes from the Sandfires; and their tameness and color are reminiscent of the Orange Phase.

    Leucistic dragons derive from a genetic mutation for color in a single bearded dragon. The Europeans were the first to develop a leucistic dragon, as advertised by T-Rex as the snow dragon (not to be confused with the American line of snow dragons, which are unrelated). Pure leucistics are the whitest of all bearded dragons, and patternless. Some retain orange or yellow highlights on the head. Because the mutation involves the absence of dark pigments, leucistic bearded dragons tend to have pale shoulder epaulets and clear nails, which distinguish them from other light-colored bearded dragons. They also seem to have the lowest disease resistance of all bearded dragons, due to their inbred nature.

    Bearded Dragon: In Closing

    Because large numbers of bearded dragons are now being bred, their husbandry requirements are the best understood of any agamid lizard. There are variety of specialty products available for their care. Bearded dragon hardiness and variability has enabled selective breeding programs to develop new color morphs on almost a yearly basis. Their productivity has enables to fulfill the demands of the pet trade. Bearded dragon vary in color and pattern, size and temperament and their many interesting behaviors do, indeed, rank bearded dragons among the most popular of pet lizards.

    Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko


    Saltuarius cornutus or Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko

    The Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko lives in rainforests in Queensland's wet topics around Cooktown. During the day the Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko shelter under peeling bark and in crevices. This is one of Australia's largest geckoes, growing up to 22 cm long.

    The patterning of the Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko allows them to blend in perfectly with the lichen- and moss-covered tree trunks they inhabit. The female will dig a nest in the soil, lay two eggs, and then cover the eggs over with dirt and leaves. Females will sometimes lay multiple clutches of eggs per season, and many females have been found laying their eggs in a communal nest.

    The body of this gecko is very prickly, but their tail is very soft, almost like velvet. As will all geckoes, Leaf-tails are able to drop their tail if they feel feel threatened, for example, by a potential predator. They can then regrow their tail, though the regenerated appendage is generally smaller and of a different texture and pattern. If the predator manages to eat the tail, they will be rewarded with a meal that is very high in fat.

    Did you know...

    • The northern leaf-tail gecko lives in rainforests in Queensland's wet tropics around Cairns and Cooktown.
    • Their patterning allows them to blend in perfectly with the lichen- and moss-covered tree trunks they inhabit.
    • The body of this gecko is very prickly, but their tail is very soft, almost like velvet.
    • As with all geckoes, leaf-tails are able to drop their tail if they feel feel threatened. They can then regrow their tail, athough the regenerated appendage is generally smaller and of a different texture and pattern.

    Where Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko dwell in Australia:

    The Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko is one of Australia's largest geckoes, growing up to 22 cm long.