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How Much Does a Bearded Dragon Cost?
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Owning a pet is a responsibility. And this responsibility incurs both monthly and annual costs for the expected and unexpected needs of the pet. Bearded Dragons are not the most expensive nor difficult of reptile pets. But they do require TLC to ensure their health and happiness.
They are a good pet for a beginner. But caring for your bearded dragon will require forethought and a certain amount of resources for the set up. These resources can be costly. But it's a noble expense to ensure the health and happiness of your beloved bearded dragon. Read through our article on how to properly care for a bearded dragon if you need more information.
Here's a basic breakdown for how much a bearded dragon will cost an owner:
Bearded Dragon Tanks
If you are purchasing a very young juvenile and don’t want to fork over a ton of money for an adult sized habitat, then you will be looking at approximately $125 for a 20 gallon horizontal tank. They are easy to come by, fairly light weight, and relatively easy to clean.
But remember, this tank is ideal for a juvenile bearded dragon. When your BD matures he or she is going to need a habitat at least twice that size. Then you will need an entirely new enclosure. And larger bearded dragon habitats can average about $325.
The smaller tank is fine, especially if you think you'll be owning more juvenile reptiles in the future. But if you are going to be a ‘one reptile’ owner, then it's likely you'll be spending money on a juvenile tank that you may never use again.
If you first buy the small enclosure and then replace it with a bigger one after a couple of years, you will have spent at least $450 in cage costs. Over the lifetime of your pet (about 10 years or so) you will have spent $45 per year in containment costs, as opposed to $30 annually if you purchased the larger size to begin with. Some reptiles (like corn snakes) need a small enclosure when young or they become insecure. But beardies like all the room they can get right from the beginning, so that is something to consider.
If you do decide on an adult sized enclosure, there are some really nice ones available from a number of providers who ship if you do not find what you need at a local pet shop. Sometimes a nice 40-60 gallon can be acquired for about $270 and free shipping if you shop carefully. If you do decide to begin with a smaller habitat, Exo Terra has a number of sizes, from a 20 gallon equivalent all the way up to their ‘large wide’ size for later in your pet’s life, with a custom back wall and handy front opening doors with a lock ($350).
Lighting & Heating
- UVB Lighting & clips - $40 - $70
- Annual lamp bulb replacement - $15-$20
- Lighting timer optional - $20
- Undertank heat mat - $30
- Laser thermometer - $20
- Hygrometer - $25
Once you have selected your BDs home size and design, he or she is going to need correct light and heat. Lighting that provides adequate UVB exposure will run about $30 - $50 for bulb and holder. Some holders clip to the side, some are designed to rest right on top of the enclosure’s screen. Those that clip and swivel will cost $15 to $20, with the other kind running around $10 at the most. You will want to add a timer to this arrangement and that will run about $15-$20. This is especially important for busy working pet parents or young reptile keepers who may be a bit forgetful.
An undertank heating pad to keep your friend toasty at night will cost around $30. Reptile rocks are cheaper, but they have a bad reputation these days for a number of reasons and are not used as commonly as they used to be. If you don’t have the ability to adjust the heat throughout the day, you may wish to invest in a second timer that turns the pad off for several hours in the middle of the day when the light is on and turns it back on at about dusk. Between the lamp and the heating pad, you will need an electrical strip with surge protection, which will be about another $15. The lamp bulb will need to be replaced yearly, so count on another $15-$20 annually for that expense.
Temperature and humidity need to be monitored, so add $20 for a digital laser thermometer and $25 for a side of the tank hygrometer. Although I don’t particularly like them, especially for a large enclosure, you can get a combo thermometer/hygrometer that mounts to the inside of the tank for around $17.
You will also need a reptile fogger or mister system if you are away from home a lot. These start at $50 for the cheap ones and go up to $130 for models with better reviews.
Complete this ensemble with some plants ($10), a hammock ($10) a hide ($14) and some dishwasher safe faux branches ($30), a water dish ($5) and you are nearly ready. Last but not least, a beardie safe substrate such as that which Zoo Med produces ($7.00/bag) is needed. One bag will cover a small enclosure, two will be needed for a large one.
The price tag for all of this for an adult enclosure?
Total Cost for Initial Set Up
Approximately $550 before you even purchase your pet! And this doesn't include the cost of the actual bearded dragon.
This is something to think about and plan for, which is what all good animal parents should do anyway. Never, ever, buy a pet spontaneously just because they are so fluffy or appealing or interesting that you simply have to have it that very day. You will be wasting your money on the purchase and condemning your new pet to an early grave. That said, let’s assume that you have crafted a wonderful and sustainable habitat for your new beardie. What is going to be the monthly cost of maintaining your friend?
Bearded Dragon FoodProjected Monthly Costs
Your BD will need to eat, of course, so that means purchasing food as a rule (unless you are raising your own). Buying food items from commercial suppliers is highly recommended. Because even though you spend money buying creatures that you feel you could go out into the yard and catch yourself, the food that you purchase will be clean and free of diseases and most importantly, parasites.
Many owners feed crickets and dubia roaches regularly. An adult BD will eat about 800 medium sized banded or pin-head crickets per month. At a cost of $18 per 500, plan on spending $54 monthly for crickets alone. Dubia roaches cost even more (but many keepers pay the price because of the higher protein content.)
Little dragons eat fewer bugs at once, but they eat more often, so the price is relatively the same for raising a juvenile. It is for this reason that many keepers raise their own food items. Crickets chirp, and if they get loose you may find yourself with a very outdoorsy sound inside your home. That’s why many keepers prefer to raise roaches. Dubia roaches are more expensive initially than crickets (you generally have to buy a colony from a breeder) and take up to 3 months to start producing enough young to keep your dragon happy, but the long term savings can be well worth the extra bother.
No matter the age of the bearded dragon, you'll need to factor in an adequate supply of vegetables. endive, kale, mustard greens, and chicory are just a few of the acceptable greens you can feed your beardie. But it's just as important to know what you cannot feed them, such as spinach, rhubarb, and avacados. Knowing what you cannot feed them can be beneficial to your budget. Because if your bearded dragon is fed the wrong type of food, then you'll have to factor in cost for a trip to the vet.
Commonly Overlooked Monthly Expenses
- Clean Substrate (you do plan on cleaning this habitat, right?!) = $10
- Veterinary Care - these are hard to predict, but start saving $20 per week. This will cover routine check ups or emergencies. (or if you are not disciplined enough then consider pet insurance).
- Electrical – depending on the lamp used, the electricity needed to keep your pet lighted and toasty can run $10-$15 per month.
- Monthly total (including feeding) = approximately $200
This is one of the most unpredictable aspects of owning any pet…professional health care and the expense of providing it. More and more pet owners are choosing to invest in pet insurance. The monthly cost for such insurance for a reputable company should be no more than $10/month. Yes, that’s $120 per year that you may never use, but consider these figures.
- Fecal exam (to determine parasite load) = $30
- Wormer (when parasites are discovered) = $20
- X-ray = $85
- Blood work = $155.
- B1 injection = $10
- Anti-biotic injection = $20
- Sonogram/ultrasound = $300
If you take your BD to the vet annually, your cost could be $100 at a minimum (including office visit charge). If your beardie actually gets sick, you will be spending a great deal more. And then there’s your gas expense for driving back and forth to the vet. This may be a little in an urban area, or a lot in a rural area. Pet insurance will not reimburse this, but wouldn’t it be nice if all of the veterinary expenses were covered!
Consider this… if your beardie is an expensive morph directly from a breeder for around $400, and your set up is about that price as well, then you have plopped down a sizable chunk of change, not to mention the monthly expenses. So protecting your investment with insurance really makes good financial sense in the long run. The peace of mind of knowing your pet can be permitted to receive the best vet care available is also not a bad thing for the conscientious pet owner!