The Bearded Dragon Falkor
Meet Falkor – our second bearded dragon, named after the luckdragon in the 1984 movie The NeverEnding Story. In this picture he is a hatchling, having been only 3 days old and weighing .4 grams. We were very nervous as we brought him home, he was no larger than my pinky and seemed so extremely fragile – which is probably true of any newborn.
Bearded Dragon Behavior
Unlike his fantasy counterpart he isn’t pink and fuzzy, and doesn’t have the amiable disposition that the luckdragon displayed. Instead, he is as cantankerous as Max Golden (played by Walter Matthau) in the 1993 movie Grumpy Old Men and is the typical sandy color of the species.
While our first bearded dragon, Doomagheddon, is extremely docile, Falkor has a completely different personality. He squirms when picked up, and is much harder to handle. However, he is extremely curious and a joy to watch when given the chance to explore the house. He gets agitated when his explorations are interrupted, often showing his angry face (shown below). We cannot let him roam at the same time as Doomagheddon, since he displays much more dominant behavior and will attack.
Bearded dragons are fairly territorial and when another dragon enters their vicinity. The dominant behavior displayed manifests as their head bobbing, and their beards getting very large and black. A submissive bearded dragon will slowly lift their front leg and move it in a circular motion, sort of like saying “Hi there, I don’t want to fight”. Falkor will only display the submissive behavior when looking at himself in the terrarium glass. Otherwise when near another dragon he starts bobbing his head so hard that I wonder if he might hurt himself. Below is a picture of Falkor with his angry face.
Bearded Dragon Environment Setup and Care
I would highly recommend purchasing a bearded dragon for a pet, after all we have two! They have distinct personalities, but are not known to be aggressive with people. Our dragons will respond to people in our house and will willingly climb onto you if you reach towards them. They are easy to care for, and do not need to be fed mammals (like snake would). The cage upkeep consists of regularly removing the feces and changing out the substrate as needed.
To get started with a bearded dragon as a pet, you will need a cage setup. Start with a terrarium – you will need one that your bearded dragon can grow into. Falkor lives in a 50 gallon tank, and Doomagheddon has a 100 gallon fish tank that I converted to a terrarium. You will need a type of substrate – I recommend using rabbit pellets. Sand looks nice, but bearded dragons can ingest it which can cause impaction, which can be deadly. Rabbit pellets are better than reptile carpet, which has to be completely pulled out and washed regularly. You will need a light source – bearded dragons need heat and UVB. I recommend the Zoo Med PowerSun UV Mercury Vapor Lamp . It produces heat and UVB and lasts approximately 6 months. Its helpful to get a thermometer such as the Zoo Med ReptiTemp Digital Infrared Thermometer, it will allow you to take readings of the temperature in various areas of the terrarium, ensuring that you have a range of temperatures for your bearded dragon to utilize. Basking temperatures should be between 95 and 110 degrees, while the cool side of the tank should get no lower than 75 degrees. Don’t use a heat source that your dragon can lay on, they cannot feel heat from their stomachs and could get over heated. All that’s left are some structures to climb on, make sure that what you choose has been treated for parasites and doesn’t contain any pesticides on it. That’s it, now you are ready for your Dragon!
Choosing Your Bearded Dragon
You can find beautiful dragons in most local reptile stores and even online. They come in a variety of colors ranging from red to black and their skin can be smooth (leatherback) or spiny. I prefer the extra spines it makes the dragon look – well, like a dragon. If you have a reptile store nearby, I highly recommend utilizing them as a valuable resource, and you get to help your community by supporting small businesses! I purchased Falkor and Doomagheddon from Reptile Mogul Exotics in Tempe, AZ. They have helped me with numerous questions, and they always have something new to look at when I go in to buy feeders.
Speaking of feeders – dragons will eat just about any insect that moves. Its up to you to make sure you feed them insects that are safe. Never feed them insects you find around the house, they might have parasites or carry insecticides that are harmful. They also eat leafy green vegetables – especially those that are high in calcium. You can get a full list of safe insects and vegetables here. For insects I feed my Dragons crickets, but have started mixing in Dubia Roaches for their nutrition and hardiness.
Falkor is still growing – at 6 months he is now weighs 208 grams. Once fully grown he will weigh somewhere between 300 and 600 grams and be 16 to 24 inches long. He should live 8 to 12 years, which means he will be following my son to college and beyond. Its hard to believe the picture below is the same dragon that we started with, but I look forward to seeing him grow larger as time goes on.