There are some things you’ll want to look for when purchasing your new bearded dragon. The signs I’m going to talk about should help you out when picking that new pet reptile.
In a perfect world every bearded dragon at a pet store would be healthy and ready to take home. We all know this isn’t a perfect world, so before we lay down our hard earned cash we need to know what a healthy dragon looks like.
When you go to buy your new beardie, make sure you go armed with knowledge. This will help you get the best possible bearded dragon. If you are buying from a breeder, they might even help you pick out that perfect dragon.
If you plan to purchase your bearded dragon over the internet, these things might not pertain to you. When you buy online you are trusting what the person selling the dragon tells you. This might make you a little uneasy, and rightfully so. Though, don’t write this option off so quickly.
There are great breeders who only sell their healthiest dragons, and you usually will see a picture(s) before purchase. I have bought bearded dragons and other reptiles online and found it a great way to go. Though, be careful and stick with breeders you know or have heard good things about.
Make sure there is some sort of guarantee. I know how expensive it is to breed bearded dragons, but most breeders will guarantee live arrival and possibly even for some time after arrival. If there is no live arrival guarantee don’t buy from them. Also, never send cash. If a breeder asks for cash, this should serve as a big red light.
As I said earlier, stick with reputable breeders.
Size of Bearded Dragon
The size of a dragon will be a very important thing to look for, especially for someone who has never owned one before.
Why does size matter so much? The answer is simple. The size of a bearded dragon usually correlates with it’s age. A hatchling dragon is about 4″ in length or shorter. A dragon 6 months of age can be 12+” in length. These are just basic guidelings, and not every dragon will go by them. There are cases when you have trouble telling the age of a bearded dragon by it’s size.
If you are new to bearded dragons, it’s best to buy one that is at least 5″ – 6″ in length. Bearded dragons that are smaller than 5″ – 6″ are more fragile than their older counterparts. Especially when changing homes and environments.
If you start with a dragon that is a little older, you will have a much better chance of success. Even though 5″ – 6″ is a good length to buy a dragon at, they are still quite young at this time (about 2 months of age). They will definitely keep you on your toes.
Good Signs to Look For
Here are some signs that you will want to your prospective pet to exhibit:
- Overall alertness
- Head is up and dragon is perky
- Active or basking
- Perched under basking light with head up and body raised
- Clear, open eyes
- Rounded body contours
- Especially around hip bones and spine
- No bones showing
- Fat tail base
- No missing toes or tail nip (purely cosmetic)
- A tail curled up towards the dragons head is a great sign
These aren’t the only signs, but they are a good start. If your prospective dragon can claim these characteristics, then you might have found your new pet.
Bad Signs to Look For
These are some signs to look for in an unhealthy dragon. Any of these signs should raise a red flag to you.
- Head and body not raised
- Barely any movement
- Eyes half closed or closed
- Any form of excretions around the eyes
- Hip bones showing, spine prominent
- Open wounds, scabbing
- Missing toes, tail nip ( purely cosmetic )
- Fecal smearing around vent
- Depressions in back of head
If the dragon that you are looking at shows any of these signs, do not purchase it. There are good odds that the dragon won’t live to long after you get it home or it will cost you in vet bills to nurse the dragon back to health.
Other Things to Look For
Make sure you check out the place you are buying your dragon from. Don’t let this go overlooked. You want to know that there was a little effort by the store or person in properly care for the animal.
Here are some things that should raise a red flag:
- Dirty store
- Poorly lit store
- Improper lighting for dragons cage
- Improper heating of dragons cage
- Dirty cages
- Feces left in cage, and overall filthy conditions
- Prey items too big for dragons size left in cage
- Too many dragons crowded in small cage
These are just some things to check before buying from a certain place. These poor conditions will usually mean an animal with poor health.
If you visit a store like this, you might feel horrible and want to rescue the dragon. Even though it’s heart breaking, don’t buy the animal. You will save yourself more heart break, time and money. These dragons are usually too far gone to be saved, as sad as it may be.
Why the Cheapest Bearded Dragon may not be the Best
So, you’re thinking about buying a bearded dragon, but don’t really have a lot of money to spend on it. Then you see someone or someplace selling cut rate bearded dragons. It is a very tempting offer, but there are some great reasons why you might ( and should ) pass over it.
Not all bearded dragons are created equal. Well, they may be created equal, but the care ( husbandry ) they receive isn’t. This really needs to be taken into consideration before deciding where and what bearded dragon to buy.
If you are thinking about buying a bearded dragon, you know there is a substantial start-up cost. If you don’t know about how much owning a bearded dragon costs, please take some time and do research before buying. You will be glad you did.
Bearded dragons and reptile pets in general aren’t something that should be bought spur of the moment. It takes some knowledge about their husbandry ( care ) to be a successful reptile owner. Then again, I’m not sure if everyone cares about being a successful, or responsable, reptile owner.
So, what’s this got to do with buying a cheap bearded dragon? If you have spent the time to research and learn about bearded dragons, while spending the money to set up a proper home, why would you want to buy a sub par bearded dragon?
Don’t get me wrong, all of these bearded dragons may not be sub par, but for the most part, you get what you pay for. This applies to just about anything, not just bearded dragons.
So, what kind of bearded dragon do you get for such a cheap price? It will probably be normal color bearded dragon, that recently hatched and may even come with a few surprises. The surprises are parasites that will spell your doom as a bearded dragon owner before you even get started.
Even if the dragon doesn’t contain any parasites and is healthy, a hatchling is not the best to start with for a beginner. It’s better to get a bearded dragon that has be established for little while. Don’t get me wrong, a 5″ – 6″ bearded dragon could give you some problems too, but they will be far fewer.
So, what bearded dragon should I buy? I am a big fan of buying from reputable professional breeders. You can find them online and can at reptile shows. However, everyone that sells bearded dragons at reptile shows and online aren’t professional breeders. You may get a fairly bad bearded dragon from either one of these places.
How can you tell a good breeder from a bad breeder? This will be a topic of a future article and I’ll give you some tips on what to look for. But for the meantime, keep your ear low to the ground and do a little research at the search engines.
I also trust most breeders that advertise in Reptiles Magazine. If you never read one, pick a copy and see who is breeding bearded dragons.
What should I expect to pay for a good bearded dragon? I would say that you can find a normal color bearded dragon for no more than $60 dollars. If you spend a little more, you can find an array of different color morph bearded dragons. Actually, you may be hard pressed to find a normal color bearded dragon from a professional breeder, because they work more with other colors.
I have seen nice, pet quality bearded dragons, that are showing color, starting at $80 from reputable breeders. If cost is an issue, shop around. You don’t have to spend a fortune to own a bearded dragon, but it’s better to spend a little more than the cheapest one you can find.