To buy a bearded dragon is likely to cost you somewhere between $40 to $500 odd, or £20 to £350 depending on where you are. The specially bred color morphs will cost the most. But that is not the most significant cost of owning a bearded dragon.
To own a bearded dragon you will need an appropriate enclosure, lighting, heating, humidifier (depending on your environment) and consumables such as food, supplements and substrates at the very least. If you live in Australia you will also need to consider the cost of a licence to keep a bearded dragon. If you decide on having more than one, well then you will also increase a number of other costs, it’s not a two for one deal. If they have come from different locations, then consideration must also be given to quarantine and therefore more than one enclosure and all its equipment.
Like all pets, a budget should also be allowed for vet visits, not just emergency care but biannual check ups.
Generally the costs attributed to housing your bearded dragon are associated with maintaining them in an enclosure that is under shelter whether that be in the home or other structure. However some people will also keep them outside. Keeping your beardie outside will require a different set up to that of indoors and is only appropriate if the climate you live in can safely support the practice. But outside doesn’t necessarily equal less associated costs, merely a different set up.
Many a new enthusiastic owner will go to the local shop and buy their starter kit for their bearded dragon only to realise later that it is inadequate. Before buying anything, ensure you have done your homework on their requirements. Some of the best places to talk to are zoos, local animal protection association (they may refer you to the right resource), herpetological societies, local vet and similar authorities in specific reptile needs.
Small enclosures are of course more attractive to pet owners simply due to the reduced initial purchase cost and room it will take up. Generally in starter kits all you will get is a small tank or other enclosure, perhaps along with some lighting and other bits and pieces. But not all enclosures you may be tempted to purchase are adequate.
Ensure you know how big your bearded dragon will get (each species of the Pogona genus are different). The shortest floor dimension of your enclosure should equal your beardies length. So if it will grow to 24″ (60 cm) then the enclosures width should be at least 24″ (60 cm). The length must obviously be greater and there is certainly a huge range of opinions out there. So rather than get into the size argument (of which I am for the big side), perhaps look at some of the Australian state government departments policies on enclosure sizes. After all, Bearded Dragons are Australian right? The New South Wales government department, Environment and Heritage, is one of the departments that maintains a Code of Practice for the Private Keeping of Reptiles which specifies basic conditions that should be met.
The correct heating is absolutely vital and is a very commonly misunderstood requirement, just ask any reptile vet or even look on the internet to see how bad heating can be when incorrect. Your bearded dragon needs to be maintained at specific temperatures in captivity which must encompass the correct temperature gradient. Even though it may endure greater fluctuation of heat or cold in its natural environment, it is not in its natural environment. Heating is provided through lamps and ceramic heat emitters.
There is no need to purchase heat mats, caves and rocks. In fact, do not buy heated rocks. The thermostats on such equipment are generally not of a great standard and apart from the fact they could (and have been known to) even start a house fire, your beardie can be burnt by them. Invest in a good heating lamp straight up and ensure it is set up correctly including the right height. Reptiles are not like humans or other mammals which will naturally recoil rapidly from excessive heat that could burn.
You will also need UVB lighting. This is not just a start-up cost but also a consumable as the light bulbs need changing. How often UVB lights need changing depends on the manufacturers instructions which need to be followed, probably around every 6 months. This cannot be ignored, it is vital that it receives UVB light.
Timers should be purchased for lighting to ensure that it switches on and off supporting the day/night and even summer/winter cycles.
Other equipment needed include thermometers, hygrometer, a means to transport to the vet where temperature is maintained at correct transportation levels, water bowl that is difficult to knock over and so forth.
Substrates are what you will put on the enclosure floor and are a consumable. You could use anything from newspaper to specific types of sand, many variables and many opinions loose on the internet as to which should be used. But this article is on costs not recommended substrates, so just ask your vet what they recommend. It could save you some big vet bills in treating your bearded dragon for using the wrong substrate.
Food for your bearded dragon may be a whole new world for you. Can you handle a roach? Will you breed crickets (noisy things) or will you be buying live food? Again, research and ask your vet when not sure. Not that roaches and crickets are all they eat, they eat a wide range of insects and as they grow to maturity their need for such foods lessens and vegetation takes over a great deal of the diet so if you are keeping a single bearded dragon it may be simpler to buy live food as needed.
There is also a need for supplements which are readily available although it is wise to be aware that pet supplements are not generally regulated and therefore what you think you have bought and what you have bought may vary. So be aware to buy trusted products. If you are ever unsure, remember your vet is your new best friend.
To summarise you can see that how much your bearded dragon will cost isn’t a simple question. Consider the big picture. Although this article doesn’t cover the full spectrum of what you need, it is a long way into it. For avid beardie lovers, they are worth it!