If you are interested in owning a bearded dragon one of the things you must consider is the costs of keeping a bearded dragon and maintaining its habitat.
Housing costs will probably be the biggest portion of costs for keeping a bearded dragon. Here are the most common items you will need to house one of these lizards, and about how much each will cost if you went to a pet store today to purchase them.
Enclosure $50 – $300
The enclosure will be the most expensive item you will need. Of course, this will be the bearded dragon’s “house”.
The price will depend on how big of an enclosure you buy, the materials used to construct it, and the quality.
Bearded dragons are roaming creatures so the larger enclosure the better. For an adult, the minimum recommended enclosure is equal to a 125 gallon aquarium (72″L x 18″W x 22″ H). This size aquarium will cost about $200 to $300 or more.
If that’s a bit steep for you a 55 gallon tank runs about $125 to $175. Anything smaller than this will not give your bearded dragon ample space and is not recommended.
If money is an issue you can also build a custom enclosure as long as you have the correct tools and equipment to do so.
Snug-Fitting Screen Top For Enclosure $25 – $40
You will need to cover the top of the enclosure with a lid or top. A snug-fitting metal screen mesh cover is recommended for improved air flow, increased security, and to allow heat and light from the bulbs to emit upon your pet properly.
Substrate Free – $40
Substrate is what you will use to cover the floor of the habitat. The cost of the substrate varies greatly depending on what you use and how big the enclosure is. The larger the enclosure, the more substrate you will need.
Using old newspaper can be a very inexpensive substrate to use that is also easy to maintain. The down side to newspaper is it is not very aesthetically pleasing.
Silica-free sand can also be used as a substrate and can be found at home improvement stores and pet shops. This can cost between $5 to $13 per bag.
Another commonly used substrate for bearded dragons is Calci-Sand. Calci-Sand is a calcium based sand specifically made for reptiles. It can be a bit more pricey compared to regular sand, costing between $8 to $15 per bag.
Small particle substrates, like sand and Calci-Sand are not recommended for use with baby and juvenile bearded dragons due to the risk of impaction. To reduce chances of impaction you can also use Reptile Terrarium Carpet.
Full-Spectrum Lighting & Fixture $42 – $60
Full-spectrum lighting is essential for keeping a bearded dragon indoors. The UVA and UVB rays emitted by full-spectrum lighting helps to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease and promotes appetite with bearded dragons.
The best bulbs to use come in a long, skinny fluorescent tube and can cost between $22 and $30.
You will need a shielded fixture to house the fluorescent tube which can run between $20 to $30.
Heat lamp & fixture – bulb (Mercury Vapor $55 – $70) incandescent – $12 – $18 fixture (Dome) $20 – $25
Another essential item for raising a bearded dragon is providing heat. This is typically accomplished by providing a heat lamp designed specifically for reptiles.
Incandescent heat bulbs will cost between $12 and $18 depending upon the wattage needed for your application.
The incandescent bulb will also need a fixture. The most common used for reptiles is a clamping dome fixture that costs between $20 to $25.
You can also use a Mercury Vapor bulb that provides not only heat, but ultraviolet light. This bulb can take the place of a heat lamp and a full-spectrum fluorescent tube. There is one drawback to Mercury Vapor bulbs – the cost. These bulbs can run anywhere from $50 to $70 dollars.
Ceramic Heat Emitter & Fixture (if needed) $40 – $50
Ceramic heat emitters are another item you can use to provide radiant heat for your bearded dragon. These heaters do not put off any light, but do supply heat. They cost about the same as heat lamps ranging from $20 to $25.
You will also need to house a ceramic heat emitter in a special fixture, typically a clamping dome fixture.
Nighttime heat bulb (if needed) $12 – $18 (dome) $20 – $25
If the temperatures in your home tend to drop below 70 to 75 degrees F at night, you will need to supply some night time heat. One way to do this is to add a nighttime bulb.
These bulbs generally give off a soft dark blue, or red, light that will not disturb the bearded dragon as it sleeps. They come as an incandescent bulb that can run from $12 to $18 depending on the wattage needed.
These bulbs require a dome fixture just like the daytime bulbs.
Undertank Heat Pad (if needed) $15 – $22
THere might be instances where you will need to supplement the heat provided by using the light bulbs and heat emitters. This can be the case during very cold winter months.
The best way to do this is by adding an undertank heat pad. These heat pads have an adhesive side that sticks to the bottom of the tank. It provides a gentle heat that warms the substrate.
Undertank heat pads can cost between $15 and $22 depending on the size needed for your enclosure.
Light & Heat Power Strip & Timer $25 – $50
With all the lights and electric devices you will have hooked up it is a smart idea to invest in a power strip to handle all the plugins. This provides a convenient and safe method of plugging up all the lights and heaters for your bearded dragon.
The best power strips to use are those that come with a built-in timer. This makes cutting off and cutting on all your lights much more simple. Just set the timer for the appropriate lights and you are set. You never have to worry about whether you cut the right light on or not.
A high quality power strip with built-in timer can usually cost between $25 to $50.
Thermometers (Pair) $15 – $40
Once you have all your lights and heat sources plugged in you will need to monitor the temperatures. To do this you will need a thermometer in the basking zone and one in the cooler zone.
There are many thermometers on the market that are either analog or come with a digital readout, and are designed specifically for reptiles.
Humidity Gauge (if needed)
If you live in a coastal region that has high humidity levels, you may need a humidity gauge. This is important so that the humidity inside the enclosure does not get over 30 to 40 percent.
High humidity levels can harm a bearded dragons long term health and well-being. Many times you can find thermometers that come with a humidity gauge included.
Hide Box Free – $15
Bearded dragons need a retreat to be able to cool off when too hot, or to escape into when they feel threatened. A hide box is what can be used to provide them a place to hide away.
Almost anything can be used as a hide box – an old shoe box, a box made of wood, or you can purchase one from a pet store.
Many of the hide boxes found at pet stores are made of plastic and shaped like a rock or cave, or cavern.
The store-bought hide boxes can cost between $8 to $15, but ones that you provide yourself are free.
Small Water and Food Bowls Free – $10
A small bowl filled with clean water should be offered to your bearded dragon daily. You can use any shallow bowl that you like as long as the bearded dragon can’t fall in and possibly drown.
Most pet stores offer a variety of small water bowls for reptiles that are made to resemble rocks, if you want something that has a more desert look. These small water and food bowls range in price from $7 to $10.
Rock or Driftwood Perch Free – $15
Bearded dragons love to perch upon something when basking. In an ideal habitat you should supply at least one, if not two, perches. These perches can be rocks, pieces of driftwood, or whatever items you find suitable. Pet stores stock a wide variety of items that can be used as a perch.
These perch items can cost between $6 and $15 at the pet store.
Plants & Decor $10 – $100 (depends on preferences)
How much you are willing to spend on artificial plants and other decor items depends entirely on your imagination and your budget. This is not a required item but will make the habitat look more hospitable.
You can go wild and spend over $100 on decor items, or keep it simple by spending $20 or so on artificial plants.
One thing to keep in mid is don’t go too crazy with decor items. You want to leave enough space in the habitat so your bearded dragon can roam around.
Food (Insects & Vegetables) $5 – $15 per week
Of course, food is one of the most important things that you need to supply your bearded dragon with. Insect feeders are not very expensive, but you will need supply a steady stream of them to keep your lizard pet well-fed and happy.
Usually a trip to the pet store for feeders and to the grocery store for fresh vegetables is enough food for a week.
This can cost between $5 to $15 a week depending on the age of your bearded dragon and how much it eats.
Cricket Corral for Storing Crickets $8 – $15
Once you purchase three or four dozen crickets for your bearded dragon you will need something to store them in. You can find small Cricket Corrals at most pet stores for housing the crickets.
Many Cricket Corrals come with a handy tube for easily removing crickets from the corral. They will cost between $8 to $15 depending on the size you buy.
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements $10 every three months
Your bearded dragon will need calcium, plus vitamin and mineral supplements during different stages of it’s life. These usually come in a powder form that is sprinkled on top of their food. These will last at least several months.
Small containers of supplements cost between $8 to $10.
Going on the information provided above it can cost anywhere from $400 to $600 to get a bearded dragon habitat started from scratch (that’s assuming you bought everything on the list).
Your bearded dragon should undergo a complete exam at least once a year by a veterinarian that specializes in reptiles. You should seek a veterinarian any time your bearded dragon stops eating for an extended period or shows signs of illness.
Vet bills can be anywhere from $100 to several hundred depending on what care is needed and given.
As you can see, keeping a bearded dragon can costs quite a bit of money. The most expenses are when you are buying the initial items needed to get started. Once you have those items the costs aren’t so bad. The largest expense after that is veterinarian fees.
You can control many costs by building the enclosure yourself, by raising your own crickets, or by using items you have around your home as hide boxes or food and water bowls as long as they are suitable.
You should never skimp on heating and full-spectrum lighting. These are crucial for a bearded dragons well-being in captivity.
Keep an eye out in your local newspaper classifieds for items as well.