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Hello to all!
Just a little background, on which I welcome any commentary or suggestions. This is my first post to the forum. I am a new bearded dragon owner. I do have a great deal of experience with animals in general (currently have a dog, two cats, two rabbits, and an African Grey, in addition to new baby...) I also have kept reptiles and amphibians in the past (garter snakes, anoles, African clawed frogs, an ornate box turtle, and a leopard tortoise.)
I have a baby that I estimate to be approximately two months old, who is absolutely adorable. It is enclosed in a 40 gallon tank, with a Zilla Slimline UVB tube. It has an infrared heat lamp.
Substrate is slate tile. Baby has a ceramic water bowl, a ceramic salad bowl, and a ceramic worm bowl. Baby also has an artificial log, which brings it about 6 inches away from the light and heat. Basking temps are a little over 100.
I've had baby for almost three weeks. It is putting on a gram about every two days (12 grams right now). It is eating small crickets and Phoenix worms. If it eats exclusively worms, it eats 50-60 a day, and if I add in calcium dusted crickets it'll eat around 20-25 crickets, and maybe 30 Phoenix worms. It does like cooked Delicata squash, and collard, turnip or mustard greens - a few nibbles a day, but those are not the focus of its hunger for the most part right now (although it definitely likes being hand fed veg.) It is fed insects at least twice (usually three times) a day, and veggies are changed twice a day.
It is shedding all the time, and I give it a warm bath each morning as I prepare its morning food. It poops at least once a day, and usually twice. I also mist it in the late afternoon.
It is extremely active, and very bright eyed and inquisitive. It loves to nestle in my sweatshirt, and becomes brightly colored when it snuggles with me. Very adorable. I noted some concern about the infrared lights, and so have been observing it after "lights out." It seems to sleep very happily on the limbs of its fake log. I have not noted any crankiness or sleep disturbance, but am curious to hear others' opinions on this.
Now to my main question. Since its habitat is relatively sparse (mostly focused on function) at the moment, I'd like to add some elements - particularly plants, as I am also a bit of a plant nut. I am aware of concerns with respect to bearded dragons ingesting things like sand, and also that they like to nibble plants. Further I thought that soil in plants might also present a problem, not just in terms of ingesting the soil itself, but in terms of pesticides and other chemicals.
I am an avid orchid grower, and they grow mostly in a mix of large chunks of bark. I don't imagine that a baby could eat chunks of bark this size, but am still concerned about the possibility. If larger chunks such as those found in orchid mix do not present a problem, I think an orchid might make a nice addition to the environment. They like to be misted everyday, and I think that might be a benefit to the wee one, who could drink off of the leaves.
Another plant I grow is the air plant. These plants require no soil. You can actually pick the whole plant up and carry them around. They're really neat. They just need a misting every day. Again, this would be nice for a little dragon drinking fountain. I think the benefit to using an air plant in a bearded dragon environment might be that if it is soiled, all you have to do is lift it out and wash it, and plop it back in. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about air plants, just to give some context.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tillandsia
I have looked everywhere to see if these plants are safe for dragons, but can't find an answer. Does anyone have any experience? Intuitively, it seems to me that the air plant, in particular would be great for bearded dragon environments due to the ease of cleansing, the misting requirement (and thus additional water source), and because they have pretty strong tough leaves, making them difficult to nibble on.
I would be very grateful for any insight you all might have. Also - incidentally, thank you all for all of the discussions you have had. They have been invaluable in helping me to research the best way to keep this little baby.
Best to you and your dragons!