I think I've been given wrong information

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I think I've been given wrong information

Postby GtG » Sat Nov 23, 2019 8:26 am

First time in a long while that I've posted here. I'm so nervous because this is my second bearded dragon and the first go-around didn't go too well and I don't want to hurt my new guy :(

I bought Oscar from a reptile shop and I think I've been given incorrect information on how to care for him. I'm posting this here because his problem is behavioral but it might be because of me. Simply: he will. not. calm. down.

First off, the specifications!! I *think* he's 4-5 months old. The shop owners only guessed. I have a 20 gallon terrarium that I'm fully planning on upgrading, with a mesh lid. The UV light I have is one of the long ones that stretches most of the length of the cage and is Zilla, 50 UVB. The heating lamp I have is ZooMed, 50w, and is about 6 inches from his basking hammock. The cage is 12 inches tall. I use pellet substrate. His basking spot is usually 108°F, and his cool side is usually 86°F. Humidity hovers between 28-32%.

I give him small gut-loaded (I think is the word?) crickets at night that I buy at pet smart. He eats collard greens and mustard greens in the morning when I get home from work.

Every single time it is a battle to even get him to stop running from me. It takes a good 10 minutes to catch him in this tiny cage, putting up with his lil beard poofing, his gaping (is that right?), and his hissing. I finally catch him and it's like he thinks I'm going to eat him because he just goes limp! I can't feed him from my hand because we'll both just be staring at each other for 30 minutes while my back almost breaks from being hunched over for too long. Or he runs. Or hisses.

Everyone I talk to just tells me to interact with him more, but the thing is: I do! I pet him. I talk to him. I feed him food from the tongs. I've picked him up (forcefully [but not like ROUGH!! I mean just harassing him, trying to pick him up], which breaks my heart every time) and held him, I've given him warm baths, etc.

I was told it would get better but it's going on a month and a half now. Lil Oscar needs to eat! :( our crickets are in the garage so I usually transport him there in a plastic tub (on a towel because he *does not* tolerate me holding him very long) and let him catch the crickets I let loose in the tub (like 3/4 at a time). Lately he's been biting me when I try to scoop him up so I can do nothing but give him greens. I do calcium supplements twice a week, and multivitamins once/twice a week. Never on the same day.

I'm at a loss. I was told all of this was okay — in fact I was advised to to do this. I don't know what I'm doing wrong and I'm nervous to call the reptile shop in fear they'll say there's nothing wrong. He poops once a day/every other day. He eats so much that *I* cut him off because I'm so scared of impaction. Like 20+ in one sitting. Is there *truly* nothing wrong here or am I somehow killing my lizard? He's such an inquisitive little guy, very watchful and cautious, but my god he is a grouch! Hence the name :( I tried picking him up to take him to my garage right now but he snapped at me. At this point I'm considering just tong-feeding him crickets but I really don't want to bring bugs in my house. I want a buddy, not a brat :(

If you read this then I'm sorry for the word-vomit. But any feedback would be HIGHLY appreciated!!! Thank you!!
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Re: I think I've been given wrong information

Postby MrSpectrum » Sat Nov 23, 2019 10:01 am

Yup, that's a lot, but let's see if we can't break it down.

First, I'm going to let others who know better/more than I address any lighting/temp issues. Humidity sounds fine.

20 gal IMO is too small an enclosure by more than half. He could be feeling like he's in a cell/trap rather than a habitat. Shoot for 120gal (4' x 2' x 2') if possible, or as large as you can afford.
I would also ditch the pellet substrate for something non-particulate.
The Best (And Safest) Substrates for Bearded Dragons

I'd recommend reading a lot of care sheets to help you feel more comfortable about your husbandry, etc.
bearded dragon care sheet

While probably having nothing to do with his behavior, I'd look into alternative feeders that you can feed him in his enclosure rather than taking him out to the garage. Dubia roaches, superworms and many others can make good staples.
best feeder insects for bearded dragons

All that said, it sounds like taming is the issue. It takes time & patience, one step at a time. Depending on where his head is at, and how he was kept before you got him, different aspects of taming could (not will) take weeks or even months, but stay positive. There are some excellent vids on YT dealing with taming; there are also some not-so-good ones. Here is one I like.
How I Tame Angry & Scared Bearded Dragons
There are also many articles: taming a bearded dragon

Coupla things if you don't know them already...
1. When going in to pick him up, come from the front & side--avoid coming from the back or top. This may appear to him like a bird of prey coming in to eat him.
2. Once you securely have him, don't let him intimidate you. If he learns that hissing, etc. will make you let him go, that's exactly what he's going to do rather than acquiesce/submit. If he bites, you may have to use gloves for a bit until he tames down enough to learn that won't work either.

Best wishes, & good luck--this can be done!
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Re: I think I've been given wrong information

Postby KarrieRee » Sat Nov 23, 2019 10:13 am

ok so I have a 5 month old doing the same thing -- he is very fiesty and its going to take time -- so be patient w/ him -- first you will need to upgrade the tank to at least a 40 gallon the bigger the better and w/ front doors -- look on craigslist or fb marketwatch --- just make sure if you get a used tank its sanitized good before use -- the zilla tube light is fine for UVB and he needs to be able to sit approx 6-8 inches from it -- the next thing please get rid of the pellets -- no loose substrate --- for now I would use a couple of pieces of tile if you have them and / or paper towels --- you can switch him over to dubia roaches and get a glass bowl so they cant get out of and feed him in his tank --- but you will haft to be patient w/ him -- mine is really taking his time as well to the hand taming ---
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Re: I think I've been given wrong information

Postby AHBD » Sun Nov 24, 2019 2:02 pm

Hi there, so you have a little grouch in the house ! Well, he should settle down over time but I know you'd like it be sooner than later. I just wanted to chime in about the lights + heat. Since you have a Zilla bulb, check to be sure there's no plastic covering the bulb ,if there is remove it right away. Plastic blocks all the uvb. Second, reduce the heat to no more than 105 in the basking area and about 78-82 at the cool end. That in itself might calm him down a little , right now he might be getting just a little too hot.
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Re: I think I've been given wrong information

Postby Beardiealice » Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:51 pm

I’m pretty sure there is no need for 120 gallon tank, but you should upgrade him to a 40 gallon as soon as possible. Totally go bigger if you, but otherwise it should be fine unless she grows up to be huge.

I’d recommend getting a Zoo Med UVB. That’s the most trusted type of UVB as others can be really harmful. Order it from Chewy because you’ll spend half as much as you would in the store. There’s the t8 and t5, and there’s loads of posts explaining the difference between them (I can’t remember off the top of my head). Also to save you some money, a normal bulb will work for the heat lamp. You just have to make sure it has enough watts to hit the correct temps.

Also please don’t use super worms as staples. They’re good as a treat, but they’re high in fat and phosphorus. Phosphorus binds to calcium which takes it away from your Beardie. I would check out the nutrition website that is linked under Feeding. It’s a bit confusing, but it is worth spending the time to learn because it’ll really help in the long run.

For the behavior, did you give him time to rest when you first got him? If not, I would give him 1-2 weeks to relax without you touching him so that he can get used to his surroundings. To do that, you would have to scoop up some crickets and bring them inside to feed him. When he’s just chilling, is his beard black? Anything swollen or weird looking? Lethargic? If so, he might not be feeling very well, and I’d take him to the vet. They’ll probably do something like a fecal check to see if he has parasites. Other than that, I’m not sure. I hope someone else replies to help you more with that. Worse case scenario, you can always search for it on here.
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Re: I think I've been given wrong information

Postby MrSpectrum » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:22 am

Beardiealice wrote:I’m pretty sure there is no need for 120 gallon tank, but you should upgrade him to a 40 gallon as soon as possible.

Most sources now agree that 40gal is the bare minimum size (some are now saying 55-75), and 120gal (4x2x2) is the "ideal" size. If the OP is upgrading anyway, I can't see making an intermediate move, and having to upgrade more than once.
best enclosure size for bearded dragon

Another source (which I'm trying to locate) explained it (paraphrasing):
    Length should be minimum of twice-3x the length of an adult/full-grown dragon
    Depth should be minimum of the length of an adult/full-grown dragon
    Height should be minimum of the length of an adult/full-grown dragon
I liked that one better, and if we assume an adult length of 24", then again, the enclosure should measure 4' (to 6') x 2' x 2'.
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