My Dragons – Caring for Exotic Pets

I thought it would be nice to come in and do something a bit more fun and light-hearted than my last post. I appreciate the support and the virtual hugs. Thank you so much. It was extremely cathartic getting it out and sometimes you just need to put fingers to the keyboard and go.

I still owe a Miami post AND a wine country post, I know! But today, please allow me a PSA of sorts. As you know, the hubs and I have exotic pets. They are quirky, definitely have personalities and get attention everywhere we go! Of course, many people see these creatures and think it would be fun to own one! They also think it will be easy because they’re reptiles. Well, I’m here to tell you that while they are GREAT pets, they are not low maintenance! I would like to encourage everyone to do thorough research before deciding on any animal as a pet, especially a reptile. While reptile ownership is fun, they are high maintenance animals who require a very specific set-up and daily care! To read how I got involved with reptiles, click here. It really is a great story!

And without further ado, meet Dr. Zhivago Einstein (aka Doc) and Glider:

bearded dragon exotic pets frilled dragon exotic pets

Doc is an Australian Bearded Dragon (left) and Glider is an Indonesian Frilled Dragon (right). Both have beards that flare, though Glider’s is a bit more pronounced when she does it. She (or he) also uses her (or his) hind legs to run. Since Glider hasn’t gone through puberty, we don’t know gender yet. Doc is a bit more lazy and while he likes to cuddle, Glider just wants to run around all over the place!

frilled dragon exotic pets
Putting on a show (you can see Doc’s scale in the corner, she didn’t like that I was holding him and walked past her tank)

Why a PSA today?

I usually order what we refer to as our feeders (read: bugs/worms) online, but it seems there is a silk worm shortage since none of the websites have them in stock. So yesterday, I ventured out to Petco to buy worms. As I was leaving the store, I ran into a set of parents who saw me with Doc. They also had their daughter with them. She appeared to be about seven or eight years old. They were very interested in getting a bearded dragon and told me they are in the research stages because their little girl is allergic to anything with fur.

Their daughter was very well-spoken and also seemed extremely mature for a child her age. She asked intelligent questions and genuinely wanted to know about the care of these creatures. Of course, she still had the twinkle of a child in her eye! She was excited to pet Doc and immediately exclaimed, “Okay, let’s get one of those!”

bearded dragon exotic pets
Doc stocking up for himself and Glider

Owning a bearded dragon (aka beardie)

Luckily, her parents knew it wasn’t the exact time to bring home a dragon. But when it is the right time, what does it entail, you ask? In a phrase: It requires A LOT! Mostly, your commitment followed by a monetary and time investment.

There are two websites to which I immediately refer everyone. One is Beautiful Dragons and the other is Both are a wealth of information! Beautiful Dragons has the Bible of nutrition charts – and any beardie owner should learn it like the back of his or her hand. Many are shocked to find you should NEVER feed lettuce! Beardie’s diets also change as they get older. They start with more insects and less veggies then shift into adulthood. Note: There is also – but I cannot speak to the quality of its information. has a newbie’s guide on what to buy and also great forum posts on how to appropriately set-up your enclosure. For instance, you should NEVER use sand as a substrate- contrary to popular belief! All beginners should start by reading this post on appropriate lighting and UV bulbs. There are vitamins, calcium dusts, digital thermometers you’ll need and the list goes on!

Read up and you’ll be prepared for things like the first time you see your dragon gaping or eye bulging! Perfectly normal, by the way.

Now what about owning a frilled dragon?

Frilled dragons are climbers, so as they get older their tanks should be higher. They require daily misting and unlike bearded dragons, they will drink from water bowls (not that all beardies will not drink from a waterbowl – each dragon is different). Frilleds eat insects and rarely do they eat vegetation. They require higher levels of humidity and they are definitely a bit feistier than bearded dragons! A great resource is


require vet check-ups and fecal tests. They should not just go to any vet. They require an exotics vet or what is known as a herp vet. I drive a ways because our vet is truly the best. He is an expert in these reptiles (as in he is a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners). I do not trust their care to anyone else.

So what does it cost? It all depends on the vet, your geographic area and what you’re having done. I just took Doc and Glider into Dr. B this week. To have them both checked thoroughly along with having both their fecal tests run it was $147.00. Full disclosure: My vet offers a 10% military discount, so it would have been just over $160.00 without the discount.

So as you can read, dog and cat ownership is actually a lot less maintenance. Reptiles are true commitment and they just aren’t to be thrown in a tank and given some lettuce and crickets. You can kill them if you do that! Also NEVER feed fireflies, ever. See a reader comment below. This will cause death.

They have moods just like any person and they go through stressful times like shedding. But still, these guys are totally worth it… and they definitely know who you are and will have affection for you.

Here are some fun photos from their visit to my office last week and at the vet’s office:

frilled and bearded dragon exotic pets
Dragons are naturally very curious creatures – mine get into everything! Or they try to at least LOL!
frilled and bearded dragon exotic pets
Natural sunlight is always healthiest. Because it was so bright out, I took them outside. Doc loves the grass and Glider juts hides in it, but once she got to the trees, she took to climbing! Yes, they make lizard leashes and they do walk on the leashes. BUT when they find a nice comfy spot, they settle in. Never walk your dragons around other animals or in heavy foot traffic.
frilled and bearded dragon exotic pets
Doc was saying, “Aaaah get me out of here!!” The scale kids waiting for Dr. B.

The vet did probe Glider, but it is too soon to tell if Glider is he or a she. The guy at the pet store from which Gilder was purchased said girl. We’ll see. My first dragon (a bearded dragon) was a girl and I thought she was a he for four years! Oops!

Both got clean bills of health. We’re all doing something right!

Getting to Know the Scale Kids

1) After my first bearded dragon passed away, I was devastated. I swore I’d never have another. Then I was contacted on Facebook and someone surrendered Doc to me. He was delivered in a black grocery tote. He ran out, climbed up on me and we’ve been together ever since. He was terrified. We had a rough start, but we are golden now.

2) Glider came from a pet store. There were ants in the tank and the habitat just didn’t look healthy. She/he was a Valentine’s Day present from the hubs. He knew my heart couldn’t take leaving her (or him) there.

3) Doc has a pillow and blankie, which is actually an old t-shirt folded up, inside-out, I had to wear when I lost a light-hearted football bet. He sleeps on them of his own accord. Beardies LOVE their blankies. There are even “furniture stores” for bearded dragons. Glider just prefers the floor of her tank or her leaves.

bearded dragon exotic pets

4) My first bearded dragon liked strawberries. Doc does not. Each dragon, just like humans, has foods they like and that they don’t. Doc LOVES spaghetti squash and mustard greens. He also doesn’t care too much for cactus, though it is so healthy for him!

5) Glider will not touch an insect unless it is moving. Her/his hunt drive is strong. Actually, both won’t eat any type of insect that doesn’t move, but while Glider will chase a cricket around the cage, Doc likes his food practically put in his mouth! Glider uses a “food dish” and she checks it everyday, just like a cat or dog would. Doc prefers to eat off of a plate or off of his tile, but he is getting used to his food dish, too. This is a day Glider’s tank was being cleaned out:

6) There is such a thing as beardie and dragon yoga. Dragons will put themselves into the most hilarious positions and just hold them. Mine included. Drunk Doc, Legs Day Glider and I don’t know whaaaa Doc.

bearded dragon exotic pets frilled dragon exotic pets
bearded dragon exotic pets
He slept that way the whole night

7) Doc and Glider don’t exactly get along… Beardies are very solitary creatures and Frilleds are just so feisty. They are in different areas of our place and we keep a close watch on them anytime they’re near each other. Look how little Glider was! This was the first time they met:

frilled and bearded dragon exotic pets
Doc is not amused

8) They have to have soaks! They absorb water through their vents and scales. They never seem to want to get into the water, but then once they’re in, they don’t want out!

bearded dragon exotic pets

So there you have it! If you ever have questions, feel free to reach out to me directly. Owning reptiles is rewarding and gives you plenty of laughs, but it is also a commitment and takes some work. Please put a lot of thought into buying one for yourself or for your kids.

What about you? Do you have any exotic pets? Tell us in the comments!

Oh – we also have hermit crabs and fish. But we’ll save those for another day. /wink

Have a great weekend, and please thank a military member today. It is Armed Forces Day!