A member of the reptile family and Pogona genus, the German giant bearded dragon is a special variety of pet lizard known for its immense size and personable nature. An adult male can grow up to 30 inches (76 cm) long. This creature gets its name from an expandable flap below the lizard's throat. Native to the Australian deserts and woodlands, this breed of lizard is one of the best suited for captivity, as it can be tamed, is rarely aggressive, and is easy to care for. Bearded dragons are some of the most popular reptilian exotic pets, thriving in captivity and active during the day.
The lizard's expandable throat flap helps it to defend itself against predators. When threatened, the lizard opens its mouth and its pouch inflates, causing the small spikes to branch out and blacken like bearded stubble. This defensive behavior is rarely seen in captivity unless conditions are extremely poor. A more common behavioral trait is "hand waving," the expression of submission to another lizard. Bearded dragons are mild-mannered creatures and rarely bite, and they are therefore popular small pets for children.
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Australia forbids the exportation of bearded dragons, and therefore the lizards must be purchased through pet centers and breeders. In captivity, the German giant bearded dragon needs an environment very similar to its native Australian climate: sunny and extremely warm. Ultra-violet light is needed for the lizard to metabolize calcium, so an appropriate accessory for the terrarium is a full-spectrum light and white melamine panels that reflect the light onto the animal's rough skin. The lizard breeds well in captivity, producing up to two dozen or more eggs and requiring little intervention from the owners. The eggs usually hatch within 45 to 60 days.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, feeding on small mammals, insects, fruit, greens and flowers. In the wild, the German giant bearded dragon catches small mice and other reptiles and forages for plant matter. Generally, the animal's diet should consist of 25% animal and 75% plant material. The creature requires large amounts of calcium and vitamins during its early years when growth is very rapid. Juveniles may need their food dusted with supplements every other day, while adults need supplements once or twice a week.
Favorite foods of the German giant bearded dragon include kale, dandelion greens, broccoli and mustard and collard greens. They also eat peas, green beans, chopped apples, grated carrots and yams. Unlike other members of the Pogona genus, crickets and mealworms should not be part of this animal's diet. Crickets, consisting of high quantities of phosphorus, interfere with the dragon's high calcium intake; mealworms have chitin exoskeletons that are difficult for the lizard to digest in large quantities.