My Daughters First Pet A Bearded Dragon
My daughter joined the Herp Club and the she asked for a snake. We eventually agreed to have a lizard.
A few years ago my daughter excitedly came home from 3rd grade and asked if she could join the school Herpetology Club. Membership required that she do a research project, submit to an interview with the teacher and one of the older students, and maintain acceptable grades and behavior at school. I said yes and a family journey into the world of reptiles followed.
Over school breaks the sponsoring teacher asked students to house the animals. Not a snake fan I requested an animal with legs. "Big Boy" came to board with us over Winter Break. Although I was apprehensive at first, I quickly grew to like him.
"Big Boy" is a male bearded dragon. He watches us with intelligent eyes and bobs in greeting every morning when we come into the kitchen area where his terrarium is. He requires a misting in the morning from a water bottle of treated water. Chlorinated water is not good for him. We use the water treatments from the pet store used for fish tank water. He prefers interaction daily to stay in good spirits. He likes to be held and stroked and we even let him "explore" under supervision. He perks up noticeably if outside although we only hold him on the screened in porch in case he makes a break for it.
Beardies are omnivores and eat a variety of foods. Readily available at the pet store are crickets and super worms. "Big Boy" eats between 6 and 10 insects daily. He also eats leafy green veggies and the occasional yellow veggie. Once in a while it is okay for him to have a small amount of fruit.
After housing "Big Boy" I tell my daughter that while I still do not wish to own a snake, a lizard is not such a bad thing. She stops asking the entire world for a snake for Christmas and starts asking for a bearded dragon instead. Her grandparents gave her a 6 week old baby. Such a young animal is not generally advised and we had to research a little as to its care. Luckily we had the teacher who sponsors the Herpetology Club available for questions and advice.
Beardies are originally desert animals and they require heat lamps, and a heat pad on one side of the tank. Pet stores also sell gauges to allow you to measure humidity and heat in the terrarium, both are useful. A log or other basking area is suggested and they are good climbers.
There are many options for substrate. We did try sand at one point but it kept sticking in the lizard's eyes and so we use paper. The school uses millet.
Water and food containers should be cleaned daily. The terrarium should be monitored for animal waste and that scooped up or your lizard is likely to run through it. Full tank cleanings can be spread out.
My daughter is now in 6th grade. She has taken good care of the baby she was given and now it is a nice sized healthy male. He pays attention to the goings on in the house and likes it when we stop to talk to him or take him out of his terrarium.
As a parent I can say it has been a pleasant experience. Beardies are relatively clean. Unlike rodents and birds they do not push their substrate or food out of their habitat (the terrarium is basically a glass fish tank.) They are quiet. And they require basic care that can be attended to by a responsible child.
Most cost is associated with setting up the terrarium. Once the habitat is set up the only on going costs are food and occasional vet care. If you wish to purchase crickets to feed over several days you'll need a cage for the crickets and food for them. Our lizard eats lettuce and spinach, kale, carrots, squash and whatever baby greens might be in our refrigerator.