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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11545
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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My name is XXXXX XXXXX I baby bearded dragon (around 4 months old)

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My name is XXXXX XXXXX I baby bearded dragon (around 4 months old) has had hardly any energy for the past 5 days or so. I've had it for probably 4 weeks and now it's been acting strange. I have the orange calcium substrate, which I know can potentially lead to impaction. I have a reptisun 5.0 UVB bulb on one side of the tank shining on his food and water dish. On the other side I have a dome lamp fixture that has both the basking light bulb and red light. I use that light on the side of the tank that has a log for it to bask. I have never seen it eat but it normally poops but i havent seen a poop in the tank for a couple of days. I have been giving it warm baths the last couple of days and he springs up with life but then after im done and put it back in the cage he immediately shuts his eyes and seems to have no energy. What do you think the problem is and how do I treat it if there really is a problem? Thank you so much.
Hello Ian,

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of Spike's problem. Some additional information will be helpful.

What is the temperature in the basking area? How about in the coolest part of the tank?

What do you feed Spike?

Thank you.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The basking temperature is 90-95 degrees F. The temperature reader is a stick-on that you attach to the inside of the tank. And this reader is only on the basking side so im not sure what the temperature is on the cool side.


I feed it "juvenile bearded dragon food" pellets that i moisten and crush up into a pile and mix in some calcium powder. I also tear up tiny pieces of lettuce and carrots in put it in the pellets/ food bowl.

Thank you for getting back to me. I’m working on your answer and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. (I'm not a fast typist). Please don’t respond to this post as that can lock me out of the question. I’ll be back shortly.

Thank you for waiting, Ian. I suspect you got your information on care from a pet store or some inaccurate websites. Most people do. While we should be able to rely on such information, unfortunately, it is often wrong. Pet stores sell people the wrong lighting, advise the wrong foods, and often don't know the correct temperatures for the various reptiles. anybody can set up a website and start passing out advice. When things are not quite right, the animal becomes ill. Almost everything you have been told is wrong, and I suspect that is why Spike is having so much trouble. Even though you have been trying so hard to keep him healthy, when you didn't have correct information to begin with, things are going wrong. I'm going to give you some measures to take.

One of the biggest problems is that Spike is freezing cold. A beardie who is cold will be lethargic, not want to eat a lot, and may even try to hide. The very coldest part of his cage should be 85*F to 90*F. For a youngster his age, the basking spot should be at least 110*F. The latest research on bearded dragons has shown that they can't even begin to digest their food properly until their internal body temperature reaches 98*F. Being cold-blooded, the only way for that to happen is for them to lie in a very hot basking area. You can increase the temperature by using a higher wattage bulb in the basking light fixture, lowering t he fixture itself (but not so low that he can be burned on it), or by adding a second fixture. If you need a second fixture, you don't have to buy something expensive from a pet store.If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a clip-on metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware and home improvement stores sell similar light fixtures as work lights. It may even be colder than you think because the stick-on thermometers are not reliable. They can be off by as much as 20 degrees. Proper temperatures are so important that you need a digital probe thermometer to measure them.

Your UVB light is not strong enough. since you only bought it recently, perhaps you can take it back for an exchange. Beardies need one with a 10% output. I recommend the Reptisun 10.0 in the straight tube style (not the coil type). If you continue to use the bulb with the 5% output, Spike will develop Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) within the next few months. MBD causes a slow and painful death.

You already know the sand is bad. I would get rid of it now. Solid substrates, such as reptile carpet or ceramic/slate tiles are best. You can also use paper towels.

You ahve also been given bad advice about feeding. Those pellets are not very nutritious. Spike needs live prey to stay healthy. Crickets that are no bigger than the space between his eyes are good. So are silkworms. Don't feed meal worms as the high chitin content is another cause of impaction. A young dragon needs 80% prey insects and 20% produce, mostly a variety of leafy greens. Carrots are not good for them. Lettuce is mostly water. Collard greens, dandelion from an unsprayed lawn, green beans, and squash are good choices. I'm going to give you a link to a reputable and easy to understand site for information on feeding because there is too much for me to explain here:

All the foods are color-coded so you'll know how often to feed different types.

It's very important to correct all conditions. If husbandry is wrong, no treatment will work. Now for what to do. Buy some Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants), and prepare a shallow warm bath consisting of 1/2 warm water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Soak Spike for about 20 to 30 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, with him still in the water, gently massage his underside from front to vent for an additional 10 minutes. That may be enough to help him pass some feces. Try to get him to swim while he's in the water, as that can help, too. Be sure to supervise closely - you don't want him to drown. This can be repeated twice per day.

Many times, warmer temperatures and long soaks with the massage are enough for a young dragon to perk up. If he does, you can try feeding him. Buy some plain meat baby food and mix in a little calcium powder. Drop a small dollop right on the end of his snout. Many times, they will lick it off. If the first aid measures and proper conditions don't help, Spike will need to see a reptile vet. This link will take you to a directory of them:

Because pet stores give out so much incorrect information, I’m also sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. Joan has many years experience keeping and rescuing beardies.Her care sheet is used on some reputable websites, so you may have even seen it before. I suggest that you use the care sheet as a check list to provide the best possible care for your beardie. If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope Spike will reach a full recovery.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

* Bearded dragons should be housed alone.

* Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines:

1. 0-3 months- baby
2. 3-12 months-juvenile
3. 12-18 months- sub adult
4. 18 months + -adult

* Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for properly.
* Bearded dragons have a very good temperament as long as they are cared for and handled.
* When you bring your baby home, it may be quite stressful to him/her to get use to new home. May not eat well the first 2-3 days. They may not need to be handled the first 2-3 days if skittish and nervous.
* Never use sand or any other type of loose substrate: Loose substrates can cause impaction (not being able to go Poop) in all ages of bearded dragons- they lick their environment to explore .It is difficult to keep germ free and clean. Ceramic tile, newspaper, non adhesive shelf liner and reptile carpet is what is most recommended. Use paper towels for the little one and as they get bigger you can change to something else.
* Be sure you keep your beardies home as clean as you can. Clean up by spot cleaning when needed. Clean & sanitize entire tank every 10-14 days. A good cleaning solution is a 20% bleach solution. If you choose to use wood climbing branches etc, these should be soaked in the bleach solution and rinsed well. Then bake in 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.
* Need a climbing accessory: to bask and to warm up under basking heat light and lower branches or platforms to come down and cool off.
* A hide of some sort like a cave.
* A food dish and water dish.
* Plastic spray bottle
* Can use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.
* Digital thermostat and/or temp gun
* Tank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon long
* Minimal size for older beardie: 4 months of age: 40 gallon breeder is the minimal tank size for older dragon. Can divide a 40 gallon breeder for a smaller dragon. Must have two lights for your beardie.

1. A UVB light source-best is 10.0 Reptisun that runs the length of your tank. Your dragon must have this light to metabolize calcium. If not he will get metabolic bone disease, a serious condition. You can also take your beardie outside to bask in the sun for 15 minutes each day if your temps are 80 degrees or above outside. You can purchase cages or reptariums from your pet store. Never leave a beardie outside unattended.
2. A basking type light that puts out heat and warmth above basking spot. Your beardie must have warmth to digest food & thrive.

* Lights should be on for 12-14 hours each day. Follow the seasons and light timers are a great luxury if you can get them. 6 dollars at Lowe's. No lights or warmth needed at night unless your temperatures get below 62 degrees. If they do, there are ceramic heat emitters that put out no light, only heat. Use these at night if temperatures fall below 62 degrees.

* Temperatures have to be kept at the following ranges during the day:

Babies: Warm basking log: 110-125 degrees F (43.5* to 51.5*C)
Cool side: 85-90 (29.5* to 32*C)
Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-115F (40.5*C to 46*C)

Cool side: 80-85F (27*C to 29*C)

Measure temperatures with a digital probe type thermometer or a temp gun-these are most accurate. Stick on thermometers unreliable.

* Feeding a Beardie: Beardies eat live prey consisting of crickets, roaches and/or silkworms. Never feed any size of mice to your beardie. Never feed mealworms. They also must be given greens/veggies everyday. The younger they are the more live prey they should have. As they grow older the live prey decreases and the veggies/greens should be the major part of diet. Never feed anything bigger, than the space between your beardie's eyes. This includes both live prey and pieces of veggies/greens,
* A chopper or food processor is a huge help when your beardie is small. Always offer greens and veggies: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, red cabbage, fresh green beans, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, cactus pad. Apricots, strawberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe- fruits are treats only.
* What is live prey? The easiest and less expensive live prey is crickets when you have a young or first beardie. The other live preys you can feed are silkworms, and special types of roaches. You can learn to raise your own live prey. Treats can be waxworms, super worms, and tomato/goliath worms. You may find that ordering live prey from the internet is the way to go..... Never leave live prey or greens/veggies in tank overnight. . Crickets can bite your beardie when sleeping.
* Babies should get 80% live prey, and 20 % greens/veggies. But since the greens/veggies are a must when they are older, get them eating their greens/veggies very early. Give greens/veggies in small pieces everyday. You should eventually start decreasing your older dragon's protein intake when they are about a year to 15 months old. Their protein intake decreases to 20 % live prey and 80% veggies/greens.
* A baby can eat 50-75 crix a day. Never feed crix or veggies bigger than the space between your beardie's eyes. Use this guide when buying crix or chopping your greens/veggies.
* You must provide calcium dust without D3 and multivitamin dust for your beardie. You should dust the live prey with calcium one time a day, and vitamins 3 times a week. Just collect your live prey into baggie and add enough calcium and vitamin to dust them. Then pour a few at a time into your tank. Some people feed their beardie in a separate tank so that no crickets can hide. Or some take out "furniture" from tank and feed this way. As they get older, 4-5 months or so dust live prey with calcium 3 times a week.
* Feed the veggies/ greens 1st thing in morning after lights on for one hour at least. Then after 2-3 hours offer crix. Then freshen green/veggies. Then give more crix. Make sure after last crix feeding there is at least 1-2 hours of lights so that they can digest their food before night time.

*Beardies over the age of one year old during the winter months will go into a Brumation like most Reptiles and Herps. It is a form of hibernation that is governed by the weather and time of year. The lights should be on a shorter period at this time. Fresh greens should be available during this period. Do not feed live prey during Brumation.

Water: Mist your little one with the spray bottle 3-4 times a day. You can also offer a small dish of water in your enclosure but be sure your dragon is not too small to drown in it. It is recommended that when your beardie is 2 months old you can bathe your baby in a small plastic container with warm water- not hot. It will help them to stay hydrated. As they get older you can move up to the bathroom sink and then to the bathtub. Very important for bath enclosure to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to bath time. Clean between dragons too if bathing more than one.

Anna and other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Thank you so much for your very detailed procedure to helping Spike!


Today I went shopping for some of the things you mentioned worth buying. I wasn't able to get everything because I'm a college student with limited funds though. But I'll tell you what I did buy:


I bought eco-carpet in place of the sand substrate. I replaced the 5.0 UVB light with the 10.0 UVB light. I bought a 60 watt incandescent bulb and replaced it with the red light so I now have a 100 watt incandescent bulb and the 60 watt incandescent bulb in the dual light fixture I have. The fixture is currently shining on a new tree-like stump that I bought today that is very very close to the screen/ light fixture but far enough way that it won't burn Spike. I bought a digital temperature but it's the one that is like a radar gun where you point at a certain spot and it reads the temperature. The temperature at the top of the stump ranges from around 105-130 F. I also bought pedialyte and have given Spike a warm bath with the 1/2 and 1/2 mixture for 20 minutes.


Spike seemed pretty active afterward. After the bath, I put Spike on the high part of the stump that was around 105-130 F. He stayed put for a bit but then moved down to a lower part of the stump that was around 95-100 F when I took a temperature reading. He seems to be content with where he is basking and he actually seems to be more alert and lively than before. Before, he wouldn't even budge if i tapped on the glass of the tank or poked him to make sure he wasn't dead or anything. I've definitely seen him move more today than any of the days this past week.


I wasn't able to get any veggies or baby mix meal that you mentioned from a store cause I ran out of money on my debit card. I did buy some freeze-dried crickets though and sprinkled calcium powder in the container and placed some in his food bowl. I of course crushed up the crickets fine enough so that no piece is bigger than the space between his eyes (or at least i think so). I put the food pellets in the food bowl as well.


So, where exactly do we go from here? I'll of course continue to do the baths with pedialyte and try to go out sometime soon to get some veggies for him. Let me know what you think. Thanks!



Hi again Ian,

You have done all the most important things so far. The warmth was very critical. The way you arranged the basking area makes it possible for Spike to choose where he is most comfortable at different times.

From here, I would continue the twice daily Pedialyte soaks. The freeze dried crickets are not a very good food, so the next time you have some money available, I would first try the meat baby food (since he isn't eating now), and then some live small crickets. Sometimes a beardie's prey drive will kick in when it sees live prey. That can stimulate his appetite. Live insects are always more nutritious than pellets. One thing to be careful is to never leave uneaten crickets in the tank with him. Put them in and give him 5 to 10 minutes. Remove any that are not eaten by then, and keep them in some kind of separate container. They bite, and while we can't see their tiny bite marks, they are very prone to infection and can even kill a lizard.

All in all, you are doing very well, and it makes me happy to hear that Spike is doing better. I hope he'll continue to improve each day. Let me know if you need anything else.