Dragons in the Lounge

Bearded dragons are probably the most common reptiles in captivity worldwide. Nearly all animals in captive care belong to the two species Pogona vitticeps and Pogona henrylawsoni. Unfortunately only very few specimens of the other, very interesting species have made it out of Australia. The genus Pogona was separated from the genus Amphibolurus only back in 1982 by the Australian herpetologist Glenn Milton Storr. The name was chosen from the ancient Greek word Pogon (πώγων) = beard. In combination with the often Latin species names this leads to sometimes strange mixes, e.g. the translation for Pogona barbata means "bearded bearded dragon". Currently seven species are recognized within the genus:

Pogona barbata CUVIER 1829, Eastern Bearded Dragon (East Coast of Australia)
Pogona henrylawsoni WELLS & WELLINGTON 1985, Dwarf Bearded Dragon, Black-soil Bearded Dragon (Queensland)
Pogona microlepidota GLAUERT 1952, Kimberley Bearded Dragon (Western Australia)
Pogona minima LOVERIDGE 1933, Western Bearded Dragon (Western Australia, Abrolhos Islands)
Pogona minor STERNFELD 1919, Western Bearded Dragon (Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia)
Pogona nullarbor BADHAM 1976, Nullarbor Bearded Dragon (South Australia, Western Australia)
Pogona vitticeps AHL 1926, Central Bearded Dragon (Central Australia)

Especially Pogona vitticeps is bred in large numbers and many colour morphs. Experts speak of several million hatchlings every year meaning that this species is counted as domesticated. The animals are such popular figures that they are even employed in commercials, e.g. by a large German energy supplier. A large number of internet forums and bearded dragon homepages reflect their popularity.

Bearded dragons are recommended as animals for beginners. However the majority of babies die soon because the few basic needs of the species are not transferred into husbandry practice. One reason is the low price of babies and their reputation as easy to handle. Another is the preference of adult animals for vegetarian food, a fact several keepers prefer against the carnivorous needs of other species. But all of these factors lead to the incredibly high body counts – most of the "produced" babies are "consumed" within a year.

When animals that were purchased on impulse on reptile shows or in the usually unqualified pet store have to stay in a shoe box for weeks before an adequate terrarium is set up the high death rate isn't surprising. And when expenses for food and supplementary food exceed the cost price after a month or two the excitement is over quite fast. Rickets or gastro-intestinal diseases will then not be the exception but nearly the norm.

In short: As with every other terrarium pet the rule for bearded dragons is "information first, then the terrarium set-up, then the purchase". Get advice from a specialist, for example at the Breeders' Expo where you will find several responsible breeders. Plus keep in mind that the cute little hatchling will become a substantial beast within only half a year – tame maybe, but large. With the animal measuring up to over 50 cm total length and having a massive body the original cage gets too small often within months. You will get a good start studying the books (preferrably by German authors, some good translations into English available). Spend some thorough thoughts on feeding and necessary space, light and heat before you buy your bearded dragon. Our partner Herpetal supports successful husbandry offering supplementary food, minerals and vitamins developed by experts and recommended by renown breeders.

Here's a short profile on husbandry and breeding of
Pogona vitticeps as service of the Breeders’ Expo Europe.

Some other links for more information:

(Reptile Database)