The Bearded Dragon Trap

Bearded DragonMy 20-year old son became obsessed with bearded dragons at age 16. Unbeknownst to me, this obsession would have a significant impact on my life.  He had been hounding my wife and I for years about getting a bearded dragon. We resisted for over a year, but at 17, we finally agreed to let him purchase one. BIG MISTAKE!

As a public service to parents everywhere, I am writing this article to give you ammunition to fight back when a child wants a beardy as a pet! Don’t get me wrong; I love Steve, our 4 year-old bearded dragon. I say our, because despite my son’s assertion that he would be responsible for Steve, his care and maintenance has become a family affair. So, why don’t I recommend having a bearded dragon for a pet? These little guys are high maintenance! While fun to look at and handle, they require more care than the traditional dog or cat. Here are a few reasons why.

Initial cost

You can purchase a juvenile bearded dragon from any of the chain pet stores for an average of $65.00. Not bad, you say? The purchase price is just the beginning.

Before you can take your new pet home, you will need a suitable habitat for him. The chain stores will gladly sell you a starter home for your beardy for around $150. These kits consist of a 20-gallon aquarium-type tank with a screen lid. Also in the package, are substrate bedding materials; thermometer; heat lamp and UV light source; and a water dish.

Do yourself a favor, and purchase a 40-gallon tank instead. Bearded dragons reach an average length of 24 inches, and quickly out-grow a 20-gallon tank. The extra size increases your cost to over $200. You will also find yourself buying assorted accessories, so the total habitat cost will easily reach the $250 mark.

R-Zilla SRZ28011 Deluxe X-Large Bearded Dragon Habitat Kit
Amazon Price: $26,020.00 $212.74 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 27, 2015)
Starter kits like this one provide almost everything you need to get started.

Food, Food, and MORE Food

The bearded dragon is an omnivore, and requires a diet of greens and protein. Here’s the fun part of the equation: these guys cost more to feed than the average dog! First, you need to feed him protein, most likely in the form of crickets or mealworms. Depending on the size of the dragon, and the size of the crickets needed, you can easily feed him 100-150 per week! Do NOT buy live crickets from the big box store! Order them online, at an average price of $12 per 100, and save a ton.

Bearded Dragon 2

Bearded dragons need plenty of greens in their diet.  We mix things up a bit, but Steve eats collard greens every day. Add in other types of greens and the occasional fruit, and you are easily spending over $10 per week.

Added together, your beardy’s weekly food costs can easily reach $20 or more. I have a 140-lb Great Pyrenees, and she doesn’t cost me that much! Now for the fun part: your bearded dragon will live from 5-14 years, with the average lifespan reaching 12 years. At 20 dollars per week, for 12 years, the cost of your inexpensive pet is over $12,000! That doesn’t include the recurring cost of replacing their substrate or light bulbs (ceramic bulbs are NOT cheap).

Don't give in!

I’m hopeful the $12,000 price tag is enough to discourage you from giving in. I know it’s tough, because we never want to disappoint our kids. If you need additional firepower to resist buying one of these cute little guys, here’s the kicker. You can never leave. Ever! Forget about long weekends at the beach, the ski vacation, or the trip to the regional soccer tournament. Whatever it is, you will no longer be able to go anywhere without leaving a family member home.

Why, you ask? Well, the little guy needs to eat every day, and you can’t leave extra protein in the tank to cover the duration you will be gone. Same with greens; anything more than what he will eat in a day, will dry-up under the heat of the lamps.

Speaking of heat, you will also need to deal with the lights on a daily basis. He needs UV, and maybe heat, during the day; and heat only at night. You could set things on a timer, but that costs extra, and really isn’t worth it, since you have to be there to feed him. 

MoneyCredit: Open sourceSo, there you go. You can either be broke and confined to your home, or you can just say NO! Remember, your kid may want the beardy for a pet right now, but this will pass. When it does, you will be the one taking care of him. Of course, you can try to find another hapless parent, willing to sentence himself or herself to your 12-year problem. Good luck.