Should I Buy A Bearded Dragon From A Pet Shop?
This issue is perhaps as contentious as the topic of Which Substrate Is Best For Bearded Dragons – although at least this is a bit of a yes or no answer. But is it safe to buy a bearded dragon from a pet shop? Is pet shop advice safe and correct or not?
In our opinion the generalised answer to this is no, you shouldn’t buy a Bearded Dragon from a pet shop. Especially a chain. Most of the big chain pet shops that sell bearded dragons are often staffed by people with horribly wrong information about the needs of bearded dragons.
We’re passionate about bearded dragons,and frequently frustrated with the amount of misinformation people are given on how to care for bearded dragons. Often the information given is not substantiated. This website has been dedicated to give you the correct information. We keep up to date with all the latest research to ensure you can find all the current up to date information and advice.
What misinformation is given for bearded dragons?
In fact, the reason I’m writing this article is because I overheard a conversation with a new bearded dragon owner who’d bought from a pet shop. She was so proud of her new purchase (as she should be). The young lady was going to do everything right by her dragon. She was going to give it the best home she possibly could. She was so much in love with her dragon already.
With this in mind, she’d followed the pet shop employee’s advice and purchased her UVB lamp (good). She’d also bought a heat lamp (not sure what type, but hopefully good). And because bearded dragons are obviously reptiles, she’d purchased a red light for him. NOOOOOOO!! The pet shop employee needs re-educating. Red lights are not for bearded dragons.
It got worse. She then went on to explain to her friend how she’d been recommended this great red coloured sand. It was just like the red colour of the Australian desert. The bag also had a bearded dragon on the front . It must be right mustn’t it? After all, the pet shop advised it and they’d know what they’re talking about wouldn’t they?
It was at that point I apologised for listening to their conversation and informed that much of the advise she had been given was wrong……..
What’s Wrong With Pet Shop Advice?
It sounds to me like the pet shop has recommended Vita-sand. This substance should be illegal. It’s sharp edges can cause internal bleeding. Vita-sand clumps together inside your pet and bungs up their intestines. The colour will potentially stain your dragon’s belly.
Vita-sand is also quite dusty. Imagine being low to the ground, walking around on a dusty surface. Can you imagine what you’ll be breathing in?
Vita-sand causes impaction even if you have good husbandry. We explain impaction in another article here. For this article just know that impaction can be a death sentence. Vita-sand causes respiratory issues because of the dust. And Vita-sand is advertised as being good for dragons because it has minerals and vitamins in it! Dragons are not meant to eat dirt!
The pet shop had advised this lady to feed her dragon a diet of crickets and raspberries…. They have given very bad advice. This poor lady knows no different. She cannot be blamed for this – the pet shop is entirely to blame. If you’d like to know what to feed your bearded dragon, check our Bearded Dragon Diet section. Don’t rely on a pet shop for your advise.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with feeding raspberries to a bearded dragon occasionally. They love them. But they’re not a good staple diet food for a number of reasons. Check our article about suitable fruits and vegetables for bearded dragons for more information.
Where Should I Buy A Bearded Dragon?
The best advice I can give is don’t buy a bearded dragon until you’ve done plenty of research. This research can be by buying a reputable book. You can also research by searching Google. Do be aware though that some of the advise on the internet is also wrong, or not up to date with current research. Another place to get help researching your choices for looking after your bearded dragon is a good Facebook Group. Not surprisingly perhaps, we have one of those too and we’d love to see you.
We’ve given some advice about what to look for when actually buying a bearded dragon in another article.
Once you’ve researched, you’ll be better equipped to work out whether the pet shop you’re visiting knows what they’re talking about. If they don’t then we recommend walking away. If they can’t give you good advice, they can’t look after the animals themselves either. You’ll likely be buying an ill dragon before you even start.
Specialist reptile stores are often a better bet than the big chains. A lot of the time the owners of these specialist reptile stores know more about what they’re doing. But still be cautious. The care of a corn snake or a tortoise is quite different to that of a bearded dragon. If the owner is a snake specialist they may not be a bearded dragon specialist. Even if you choose to go to a reptile shop its still advisable to have done your own research first.
The best choice though is to buy your bearded dragon through a recognised breeder.
Where Can I Find a Reputable Breeder?
Not all breeders are reputable. You may have heard of puppy farms? These places look like reputable breeders but keep their dogs in horrible conditions. The same can happen with bearded dragon breeders.
It can be hard to know – and searching Google isn’t going to help you much. Any business can look legitimate on a web page.
For more help finding a reputable breeder in your area we recommend joining a Facebook group and asking for other people’s recommendations. Word of mouth is very powerful.
If you’ve found a breeder in your local area, it’s worth visiting to check it out. Visit a few times. Expect to be asked a lot of questions about your home and what you know about keeping dragons. They may even want to visit to check you have the vivarium correctly set up before they will allow you to take your bearded dragon home. Good breeders will want to know that their “babies” are going to good homes. A good breeder will insist on you returning your dragon to them if you ever need to re-home it.
What’s The Benefits of Getting The Right Advice?
Obviously the biggest benefit is that your dragon will hopefully live a long and healthy life. If you’ve got the right advice in advance then you’ll avoid a lot of the health issues that can befall captive dragons.
A healthy, active, properly fed and looked after dragon will save you money in the long run. Firstly you won’t buy stuff you don’t need for your dragon. Secondly you’ll save on Veterinary consultation bills when things go wrong.
If you don’t get the right advice, things will go wrong. Bearded dragons aren’t difficult reptiles to look after but they do have specific needs.
What Can I Do To Get The Best Advice?
It’s difficult to know which questions to ask if you’ve no experience with bearded dragons. If you’ve never driven a car before you won’t know which questions to ask the car salesperson before buying.
With that in mind, if you’re looking to make a first purchase of a bearded dragon we’d recommend buying yourself a book on the subject.
Buying a book will give you all the important information in one place. Unlike a website where you generally need to know what it is you’re looking for, a book will spoon-feed you the information you need, without you needing to search for the answers.
The internet is a great source of information but there’s so much information out there that the only way to find much of it is to search for it. If you don’t know what to search for how can you find it?
Of course, you can also read all the articles on our website. We’ve tried to organise the site into easy to find articles without needing to search. Click a category at the top of the page and you’ll see all the different articles in that section. In this way you can be sure you’re covering everything.
Are There Any Good Books On Keeping Bearded Dragons?
Well, it’s funny you should ask that. We’ve written one ourselves. It’s available in eBook PDF download format so you can get it immediately on your phone or tablet or even your computer. The eBook format comes with free lifetime updates so if we release a new edition you get it for free. We’re probably working on a new edition while you’re reading this.
Our book is also available in paperback format over at Amazon and will only take a couple of days to be delivered to you. It’s a little bit more expensive in the paperback format because of the cost of printing and you won’t get free lifetime updates. But if you like to be able to actually hold a physical book to read then it’s a great option. I know I prefer real paper books to read on the train or in bed.
Finally it’s also available on Google Books, also as an immediately downloadable eBook. This version doesn’t come with free lifetime upgrades though as Google don’t support that. But it is a way you can buy it with any money you might have made doing Google Survey’s or other ways through the Play Store.
There’s a whole selection of books available on Amazon. Whether you buy ours or someone else’s, if you’re new to bearded dragons, a book is our best advice for making sure you get all the relevant knowledge to give your new pet the best start and the best health and happiness for life.
If you’ve any further questions please leave a comment below and we’ll try to help. We’d also love to hear from you if you’ve bought the book and have any feedback or comments. Thanks for reading!