Bearded dragons are often touted as great starter pets. They’re easy to care for and relatively affordable, especially when compared to something like a dog or cat. Plus, bearded dragons don’t take up nearly as much space as a big dog, and they won’t chew up your shoes or furniture either.
Even though bearded dragons aren’t too expensive compared to other pets (regular bearded dragon costs around $60–$100 at a pet store), they’re still not as cheap as they might appear at face value. When you see the minimal costs of keeping a standard bearded dragon day-to-day, you might assume that’s all you’ll have to spend. However, you’d be forgetting some important items, such as your dragon’s tank, food, lamps, healthcare, and more.
If you’re new to bearded dragons and just trying to get a feel for how much it will cost to own and raise one, then you should have all the information you need by the end of this article. We’re going to break down the cost of bearded dragon ownership, including the one-time purchases and the monthly expenses that you’ll need to keep shelling out.
Buying a Bearded Dragon
- Bearded Dragon Cost: $60–$1,000+
The first major expense and the one that everyone seems to easily remember is the dragon. Of course, this is the part that you’re excited about—the new pet! And dragons do make great pets. They’re entertaining, fun to feed, and easy to care for.
If you’ve just started checking out the dragons, you might have noticed that they seem to be a reasonably affordable pet. For about $50–$100, you can walk out of a pet store with a bearded dragon of your own. But not all bearded dragon prices are the same. Differences in age, sex, breed, and color can all affect the price of a dragon, just as the place you purchased it from can.
Store vs Breeder
If your primary goal is convenience, then go ahead and run to your local pet store to pick up a dragon. Just be aware of a few things. First, pet stores tend to offer second-rate living accommodations for their dragons. It’s not always their fault, though. Many pet store employees just don’t know a lot about caring for reptiles like a bearded dragon. Of course, a specialty reptile pet store might be a different story. But for the most part, dragons from breeders will tend to be in better health.
Breeders know exactly how to care for bearded dragons, and their livelihood depends on doing it well. Also, breeders generally deal exclusively with bearded dragons, no other pets. As such, they’re a wealth of knowledge about the creatures, especially the ones they’ve bred. A breeder will also have many specimens, so they generally sell their dragons for a good 10%–20% cheaper than pet stores.
Another benefit of buying your dragon from a breeder is that they have many cool variations, though we’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Without any special color morphs, a regular bearded dragon costs about $60–$100 at a pet store. From a breeder, you might spend $40–$80 for the same lizard, though the lizard you get from a breeder is likely to be healthier and better kept.
Bearded Dragon: Age, Sex, Type
Of course, where you buy the dragon from won’t be the only factor affecting its price. While standard dragons can go for far less than $100, premium dragons can cost many times more. Today, there are hundreds of bearded dragon morphs in all colors, including yellows, oranges, reds, pure white, and all sorts of combinations. These dragons can cost upwards of $500, depending greatly on each dragon’s specific colorations and patterning.
Another major price factor worth mentioning is sex. Female dragons are necessary for breeding, but many breeders don’t sell the females so they can keep exclusive color morphs that others won’t be able to recreate. As such, female bearded dragons with spectacular coloration can go for upwards of $1,000.
You can also save money by purchasing your dragon as a baby. Baby bearded dragons are easier and cheaper to care for. Plus, they haven’t fully developed, so you don’t know quite how spectacular any particular specimen will be. Adults are already fully mature, so you can tell how good they are for mating, or showing, etc. Likewise, adults are more expensive to keep, with higher costs for food and healthcare, so they tend to cost more to purchase as well.
Setting Up Your Bearded Dragon
- Total Setup Cost: $50–$500
Once you purchase your dragon, you’re only part of the way there. If you purchased a special color morph and spent hundreds of dollars, then you’ve already made the bulk of your purchases. But if you only spent $60 on your dragon, you’ll probably spend more on setting it up in an enclosure than you did to purchase it.
To keep your dragon healthy, safe, and happy, you’re going to need a few supplies. Some of those supplies will be used up regularly and need replacing, but in this section, we’ll look at the supplies you’ll only need to purchase once, such as an enclosure, lamps, furniture, etc.
Naturally, the enclosure is one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll need for your dragon. Without it, you’ve got nowhere to keep your new pet! As such, you won’t want to bring your dragon home until you’ve got its enclosure sorted out.
How much you spend on an enclosure will vary greatly depending on factors like where you purchased it and how large it is. For instance, you could purchase a used aquarium at a yard sale for $10 that will perfectly fulfill your dragon’s needs. On the other hand, you could purchase a really decked-out custom terrarium with art on the walls and everything, such as this terrarium from Carolina Custom Cages. Of course, at more than $300, there’s a pretty huge price difference between these options.
Lights and Heat Lamps
Your dragon is going to need lights. These lights imitate the sun and provide your dragon with essential nutrients while also allowing it to regulate its body temperature. You’ll need both light-emitting lamps and heat lamps. Essentially, you’ll need two lamps; one with a heat bulb that produces no light, and another with a heat bulb that does produce light. For a dragon’s enclosure, only half the tank should be heated. The other half must be cooler so your dragon can move there to regulate its temperature as needed.
A single lamp with a bulb is about $20, such as this one that includes a heat bulb and hooded lamp with a clamp. Remember, you’ll need two, and the other needs a light-producing bulb to replicate sunlight. Your other option is a dual light that can provide both, such as this REPTI ZOO dual light fixture.
Either way, you’re looking at shelling out about $40–$60 just for the lamps. Luckily, you’ll only have to buy them once, though the bulbs will need regular replacing, so we’ll discuss the cost of bulbs in the next section.
You don’t want to just set your bearded dragon in a completely empty cage and call it a day. Your dragon will lose its mind! Instead, you need to make the cage into an environment similar to where your dragon would be living in nature. This means that you’ll need to provide some rocks, a few plants, a water dish, and some places for your dragon to bask.
Heated rocks are a great accessory for dragons, but you don’t need a heated rock to keep it happy. Just don’t run outside and grab a rock from the ground. You’ll need sterile furniture for your dragon to avoid potential parasites and other problems.
With your dragon’s furniture, you can go as mild or wild as you’d like, so we’ll estimate that it will cost you $20–$100 to fill the enclosure.
Caring for Your Dragon
- Total Annual Cost: $400–$1,500+
Once your dragon is fully equipped with a nice enclosure set up to its liking, your expenses are mostly covered. However, there are a few things you’ll have to budget for in the coming weeks and months. Some of these will be regular purchases you’ll have to make, such as replacing your dragon’s substrate. Others will be occasional costs that are harder to prepare for, like possible vet visits for emergency care.
Substrate is the stuff you’ll use to cover the glass bottom of your dragon’s aquarium. It’s what your dragon will walk and lay on, as well as where it will create waste. You can use substrate as simple and cheap as newspaper if you’d like, or you can go for a standard reptile substrate like sand or bark. Newspaper is about $1 to cover your pet’s enclosure several times. Reptile bark is closer to $20 to cover it a couple of times. Sand can be replaced many times with a $5 bag.
Bearded dragons eat a lot of insects and a lot of fruits and veggies. Depending on what age your dragon is, it could be eating more insects or more plant matter. Plant matter tends to be quite cheap to feed, though insects can be more expensive. You’ll also spend more depending on what you’re feeding.
For example, 40 feeder crickets are about $4, which works out to around $0.10 per cricket. But Dubia roaches at 0.5 inches in length run about $6 for just 25. You’ll be purchasing a lot of insects to feed your dragon, so this could cost a lot each month. Eating about 10 per day, your bearded dragon will eat around $1 per day of crickets, or $2.40 per day of Dubia Roaches.
Light and Heat Bulbs
Heat and light bulbs don’t last as long as you might think. They’re running for about 12 hours per day, so you should expect to replace them every couple of months.
Healthcare is the hardest expense to predict. Your dragon might never need healthcare, aside from an initial vet visit when you first purchase it. On the other hand, your dragon could be plagued with health problems that require veterinary assistance, which would get very costly very quickly. So, we’ll estimate that healthcare can range from $0–$1,000 annually.
Overall Cost of Owning a Bearded Dragon
On the surface, bearded dragon ownership seems low-cost and simple. These pets are far less pricey than many popular alternatives, but there are some costs associated with keeping dragons that you might not realize until you’re neck-deep in costs that you didn’t account for. From food and healthcare to the cost of setup, there’s a lot that goes into caring for a bearded dragon. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before purchasing a bearded dragon. That way, the costs won’t be unexpected and you can be prepared ahead of time, knowing roughly what you’ll spend in each area.
Featured Image Credit: ekamelev, Pixabay