The cleaner you keep your beardie and his home, the happier and healthier your beardie will be! Cleaning is an essential part of taking good care of your bearded dragon and keeping him/her healthy. A messy enclosure is very stressful for reptiles and can cause many serious health problems like parasites, respiratory infections, impaction, etc. Daily cleaning of uneaten food and feces is vital along with periodic thorough disinfecting and cleansing of the enclosure and all accessories. In addition to cleaning your beardie’s home, it is also important to bathe your beardie and keep the feeders’ container clean too.
Bathing Your Beardie:
Bearded dragons typically enjoy a bath from time to time, plus it keeps their body clean. Warm baths are also a great way to keep your beardie hydrated and have the added benefits of making it easier for them to shed, helping them poop if they are constipated, usually makes them feel better and relax, giving them some freedom from their enclosure, helping your beardie bond with you, gives them the opportunity to swim, exercise, and experience new things (most beardies are good swimmers despite being desert lizards), providing entertainment for both you and your pet, ect. Plus, bearded dragons tend to show their best color when they are bathing! Bearded dragons should be bathed at the very least once a month, but preferable at least twice a week. Bathing every day (for normal beardies) is not necessary unless you are trying to treat a problem like parasite or mites and/or it is advised by a vet. (If you have a silky smooth bearded dragon, please refer to the care instructions provided by your breeder). Bearded dragons need to be supervised when they are bathing to avoid accidents and escapes, and the water should not be deep. One half inch deep is enough and a few minutes to 15 minutes is enough time. The tub (or container used for bathing) should be cleaned both before and after bathing your beardie to avoid any contamination. Use vinegar/water solution to wipe down the tub before bathing your beardie to avoid any chance getting harmful chemicals on your pet. REPTILES ARE VERY SENSITIVE TO CHEMICALS, so take extra precautions to avoid exposure! It is a good idea to use a bleach/water solution AFTER you bathe your beardie to clean the tub before you use it. Most reptiles carry salmonella; although, the chance of you catching it is very low, it is best to take safeguards. Always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile to avoid any chance of infection.
Uneaten food and feces need to removed every day. If you use tile, wash soiled tile with a soapy solution and thoroughly rinse it. Use a plastic cup or small shovel to scoop out waste in sand and don’t share the same cup or shovel between different enclosures. If you use newspaper or paper towels, replace it every time it gets soiled. If you’re using reptile carpet, throw it out and get a flooring that’s easier to keep clean like tile or paper towels! If you choose to continue to use reptile carpet, you should have an extra carpet to switch out when the carpet is soiled. Replace the carpet often, because it is difficult to clean thoroughly and can hold parasites if there is an infection plus they can stink! If messes get on the glass, use a 20% white vinegar to water solution to clean it. Remove and clean accessories, climbing décor, and bowls that have been soiled using a soapy bleach & water solution. Scrub them with the soapy solution and then rinse them thoroughly until they no longer smell.
Tip: Keep a roll of paper towels and small spray bottle of a vinegar solution (20% white vinegar to water with a couple drops of dish washing liquid) next to your beardie’s enclosure for daily clean ups. If your beardies enclosure still smells after a basic clean up, it’s time for a thorough cleaning. A stinky beardie enclosure is a clear sign more needs cleaning needs to be done (and your beardie may have a parasite infection)!
The most important time to thoroughly clean your bearded dragon’s enclosure is before your beardie ever sets foot in it, especially if you’re re-using an enclosure that previously held a different pet. Many parasites infections are a result of being exposed to enclosures, accessories, dishes, hides, or climbing decor that has not been cleaned well enough to kill the parasites on it. Never re-use wooden or other very porous accessories. When in doubt, throw it out. It is best to avoid any chance of exposing pets to parasites or other contagious illnesses.
Additionally, bearded dragons should have their enclosure thoroughly cleaned every month or so to avoid chances of a parasite infection and some other health problems. To start cleaning your enclosure, make sure your bearded dragon in a safe location outside and away from the enclosure to avoid being exposed to fumes. Put gloves and a mask on to remove all the accessories, bowls, dishes, hides, and climbing decor. Vacuum out the enclosure to remove all debris, uneaten food, and sand (if you use it). Soak the accessories, bowls, dishes, hides, and climbing decor in a bleach solution for at least 20 minutes. Thoroughly clean and scrub them with a soapy solution like dish soap and scrub. Rinse them until the smell of bleach and soap have disappeared. Clean the enclosure with at least a 5% bleach to water solution with some dish soap. The solution should be about 1 inch deep in the enclosure. Thoroughly scrub the enclosure paying special attention to the corners, up the sides, and bottom. Let the solution sit in the enclosure for at least 20 minutes. After the enclosure has been soaked and scrubbed, rinse it with water several times until the smell of bleach is gone. If you have a very large enclosure that cannot be moved, you will most likely need to use a wet/dry vacuum. Clean the glass with a 15% vinegar to water solution and wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. Replace the substrate, accessories, bowls, dishes, hides, and climbing decor. Make sure everything is dry and warm before putting your bearded dragon back in the enclosure.
Step by Step of Enclosure Thorough Cleaning:
Supplies: Vacuum (preferably a wet/dry vac), gloves, mask, bleach, dish washing soap, cloths and/or sponge, microfiber cloth, vinegar, and a spray bottle.
- Take your bearded dragon(s) out of their enclosure and put them in a safe location.
- Remove all accessories, bowls, climbing decor, hides, and flooring. Soak them for at least 20 minutes in a soapy bleach/water solution. After soaking, scrub each item to remove all debris and thoroughly rinse clean.
- Vacuum out the enclosure.
- Clean the tank with a soapy bleach/water solution. Wipe the entire tank with a clean sponge or cloth paying special attention to the corners and edges. Soak the enclosure for at least 20 minutes. The goal of a thorough cleaning is to disinfect and kill any parasites in the enclosure in addition to making it look and smell clean.
- Use a wet/dry vac to remove the soapy bleach solution. You may also sponge out the solution if you don’t have access to a wet/dry vac.
- Rinse the tank with water until it no longer smells like bleach then wipe dry with a clean cloth.
- Spray the inside and outside of the enclosure with a vinegar solution and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
- Put the flooring, accessories, bowls, climbing decor, and hides back in the enclosure.
- Bathe your beardie(s) in warm shallow water. Bathing your beardies will help clean them, hydrate them, and hopefully provoke a bowel movement, so they don’t immediately mess up your thoroughly cleaned cage.
- When everything is dry and free of all odors, put your bearded dragon(s) back in the enclosure and feed them to help make them feel at home again.
Making Cleaning Fun:
Every time you clean out the beardies enclosure is a great time to take your pet out and have a fun interaction with him/her. I like to give mine a bath in a warm shallow water or on warm sunny days take him/her outside in a safe screened in area (like a mesh dog play pen or screened in patio) while I’m cleaning. Beardies love to get out and experience new things. You can also give your beardie treats like small amounts of different fruits and observe his/her behavior while experiencing new adventure and foods. Also, when you’re cleaning the tank, it’s a great time to reorganize, replace accessories, and decorate the enclosure. You can put in new accessories, flooring (like tile), climbing decor, and wall art.
For more information on how to care for your bearded dragon, please read: http://dragonrancher.com/bearded-dragon-care-guide/