Budgeting for a Bearded Dragon: What Is the Real Cost?

Budgeting for a Bearded Dragon: What Is the Real Cost?

Are bearded dragons expensive? Can you afford a bearded dragon? How much should you be prepared to spend if you’re interested in owning one? 

Some new Dragon Keepers don’t realize that a bearded dragon is a ten-year commitment (or more). This is important to consider as you make a thoughtful decision. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of caring for a bearded dragon—including initial costs, ongoing expenses, vet costs, and more. For each category of costs, we include charts so you can see the estimated amounts for individual expenses as well as the overall costs for each category. 

Note: We will be discussing costs in US dollars.

QUICK LOOK AT INITIAL & ONGOING COSTS FOR A BEARDED DRAGON

BEARDED DRAGON COSTS UPFRONT

INITIAL COST RANGE: $551 to $2056+ 

Here is a quick look at the typical costs associated with obtaining a bearded dragon and putting together the proper habitat.

ITEM

COST

Notes

Bearded Dragon

$40-$1000+

---

Setup 

$235-$513+

This includes the enclosure, decor, substrate/flooring, heating and lighting costs

Feeding Costs

$53-$125

You’ll pay this up front and then on a monthly basis

Insect Care

$39-$95

---

Emergency Care Items

$55-$140

---

Other items

$54-$183

Includes toys, pet carrier, hygiene items, and more (we include a more detailed chart with this category further into the blog post)

Vet/medical costs

$75+

This will vary depending on your unique situation

 

Note: You may also need to factor in electricity costs, which will vary depending on your rates. Also, if you decide to purchase a generator for emergency situations (which we talk about further in the blog post), add an additional $300 to $500 one-time cost to your estimates. 

BEARDED DRAGON MONTHLY COSTS

MONTHLY COST RANGE: $64.5 to $151.34 | with bulb replacements twice a year and vet checkups on an annual basis. 

ANNUAL COST RANGE: $949 to $2031.08

There are some expenses you'll pay each month or on a regular basis in order to provide proper care for your bearded dragon. Here's a breakdown of what you can expect for recurring costs. 

ITEM

COST

Notes

Feeding

$53-$125 per month

Includes vegetables and greens, feeder insects, and calcium/vitamin D3 powder

Feeder insect care

$11.50-$26.34 per month

This includes water crystals, roach chow, and other food for roaches

New mercury vapor bulb 

$50-$70 every 6 months

---

Vet checkup

$75+

---

In summary, the cost of a bearded dragon initially ranges from about $500 to $2000+ upfront with a monthly average of $107.92 US dollars. 

Now that you’ve seen the overview in the charts above, let’s dive a little deeper into these expenses. Here’s the breakdown. 

How Expensive Are Bearded Dragons? (Cost of the Bearded Dragon Itself) 

Bearded dragons themselves cost anywhere from nothing to thousands of dollars. 

Yep, there is a really broad price range when it comes to bearded dragons. 

You can adopt one for free from a shelter or from an owner whose pet needs a new home. You can pay as little as $40 at a pet store. Or you can pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to a breeder depending on the kind of morph you want. 

Bearded dragon against a bright blue backdrop

Initial Setup Costs for a Bearded Dragon

SETUP COST RANGE: $235 to $513+ | includes terrarium costs & heating/lighting costs

There are a few non-negotiables when it comes to setting up the right environment for your bearded dragon. You must provide the proper enclosure, substrate, decor, lighting, and heat to recreate their natural habitat as closely as possible. Here’s a look at how much you’ll spend when setting up your dragon’s new home.

Below, we've broken down the expenses into two categories: the terrarium setup (enclosure, substrate, decor) and the items needed for proper heating and lighting.

Bearded Dragon Terrarium Costs

TERRARIUM COST RANGE: $120-$390

Terrarium costs include the enclosure itself, the substrate or flooring you choose, and necessary decor (such as a basking rock or log). Before we take a look at the chart, here are some important things to keep in mind when looking for an enclosure, decor, and substrate.

Enclosure

Enclosures will typically range from $75 to $300.

Terrariums are typically made of glass, PVP, or glass and wood. Their cost depends on the size and the material. 

On the lower end, you may pay $75 or $100 for a new terrarium. Some larger or better quality enclosures may cost closer to $300. 

You can build your own enclosure if you enjoy a good DIY project. This could potentially save money, but might not be the best option if you’re pressed for time. You may be able to save money by shopping for a used terrarium online, but it’s best to make sure you know what you’re getting. Try to schedule a time to inspect it first. 

Decor Items 

Decor items typically cost $10 or more each. 

Your dragon will need some items in their enclosure for enrichment purposes (such as things to climb on) and health reasons (such as a basking spot). The pricing varies widely for these items. 

Decor items include:  

  • Basking rock or log
  • Logs or other climbing items
  • Hammock 
  • Rock house or hide  

Sometimes, you may find a kit that includes the terrarium and some basic accessories. Other times you’ll need to shop online or at your local pet store to find the various decor items needed. You may also be able to find some of these things cheap or free from previous bearded dragon owners or online. 

Substrate

Substrate costs range from free to $15 unless you want to buy more expensive excavator clay or tiles. 

You’ll need some kind of substrate or flooring to go into the enclosure. 

If you’ve got a baby, just use newspaper or paper towels. Not only is this the cheapest (and potentially free) option, but it just makes things a lot easier for you. Babies go to the bathroom a lot which means you have to clean or change out the flooring a lot.  

Reptile carpet is another option to consider. It will need to be changed and cleaned, but it doesn’t cost much.

Loose substrate (the safe kinds) is not a very pricey option either.  

Excavator clay and tiles are the slightly more expensive options. Excavator clay can be super fun for you and your dragon, and tile can be easier to clean than loose substrate.

Now, here's a quick look:

ITEM

COST

Notes

Enclosure

$75-$300

Price is determined by the type of enclosure—glass, PVP, or glass and wood; new, used, or DIY

Decor

$10 or more per item

---

Substrate

$0-$15+

---

Water and food dish

$5-$10

---

Two thermometers (one for either side of the tank)

$10-$15

---

A hygrometer 

$10-$20

There are some you can connect to your smartphone and those are a lot pricier

Temperature gun

$10-$30

Although not strictly necessary, this makes it easy to check the temperature at any spot in the terrarium

 

Lighting & Heating Costs 

LIGHTING & HEATING COST RANGE: $135-$213Double that if you plan to buy backups

Lighting and heating is extremely important to keep your bearded dragon healthy. They can’t survive without the proper lighting and heating to mimic their natural habitat. 

You’ll need full spectrum lighting and an incandescent heat lamp, OR a mercury vapor bulb (which does the work of both the heat lamp and the full spectrum light). So the pricing will vary a bit depending on your choice. 

As a rule of thumb, your bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months.

ITEM

COST

Notes

Full-spectrum fluorescent bulb (emits UVA and UVB rays)

$22-$30

Needed if you will not be using a mercury vapor bulb

Incandescent heat lamp

$8-$18

Needed if you will not be using a mercury vapor bulb

Dome or other fixture to hold lighting/heating in place

$20-$25

---

Mercury vapor bulb

$50-$70

Can take the place of a heat lamp and full spectrum tube because it emits both heat and light 

Nighttime heater (ceramic heating element)

$20-$40

Needed only if nighttime temperatures surrounding the terrarium will go below 65°F

Timer for lighting 

$15-$30

---

Backup lighting and heating setup in case of a power outage / lightning storm damaging your equipment

Same as what you pay for the initial lighting and heating setup, assuming you buy the same equipment for backups

Not strictly necessary, but a good idea if you live in an area where inclement weather and/or power outages are common

Bunch of collard greens in a garden

BEARDED DRAGON COST: FEEDING & FEEDERS

Bearded Dragon Feeding Expenses

FEEDING EXPENSES RANGE: $53-$125 per month

Bearded dragons need calcium-rich greens, veggies, and live feeder insects such as Dubia roaches as part of their diet. 

ITEM

COST

Notes

Live feeders

$30-$80 per month

Online stores are generally cheaper; some places offer a subscription discount

Veggies and greens

$5-$10 per week (or $20-$40 per month)

You’ll need staple greens especially for juvies and adults, who will eat a salad once or twice a day; you might already be buying some of these as part of your weekly groceries

Calcium powder with Vitamin D3

$8-$15 every few months (or ~$3-$5 per month)

It is very important to dust feeder insects and salad to make sure your dragon has optimal nutrition


Feeder Insect Care Expenses

FEEDER INSECT COST RANGE: $39-$95 upfront | $11.50-$26.34 per month

Something else you’ll need to take into account is caring for your feeder insects. The extent of care depends on the type of feeder insect and how many you plan to keep on hand at once. Some bearded dragon owners prefer to keep a colony of Dubia roaches; others prefer a subscription for their feeders so they don’t have to care for the bugs long-term. It’s not difficult to care for feeders, but a subscription can save you some money, especially since you’ll avoid setup costs.

ITEM

COST

Notes

Food for feeders

$5-$10 every other week (or $10-$20 per month)

Food like oatmeal, bread, potatoes, and carrots may already be part of your usual grocery haul, and you don’t need much for your roaches 

Roach chow 

$2-$10 every few months (or $0.50-$3.34 per month)

Pricing varies depending on the brand, the ingredients, and how many roaches you are feeding

Water crystals for roaches

$3-$9 every few months (or $1-$3 per month)

---

Tweezers 

$1-$3 one time 

Useful for hand-feeding insects to your pet

Rubber gloves

$10-$15 one time

Optional; useful for insect handling

Storage to keep feeders

$8-$12 one time

Depending on your setup and how many roaches you want to keep at a time, you may need a storage bin, egg cartons, a small heater, a hygrometer, and a thermometer

Egg carton for feeders

Price of eggs in your area; or free

Optional; if you don’t buy eggs, you could ask a friend for their discarded carton

Small heater

$10-$20 upfront

Optional

Hygrometer

$5-$20 upfront 

Optional

Thermometer

$5-$25 upfront

Optional


Bearded Dragon Cost: Emergency Supplies & Hygiene 

Emergency Supplies 

EMERGENCY SUPPLIES COST RANGE: $355-$640without the generator: $55-$140

It’s important to have some items on hand in the event of a power outage or other emergency during which your terrarium setup would not be available to your dragon. 

ITEM

COST

Notes

A box of hand warmers or similar air-activated heat packs

$10-$30

---

A self-heating pet mat

$15-$25

---

Blankets or towels

$5-$25

May not cost anything if you already have enough on hand

Jars or pouches of vegetable baby food 

$5-$20

The price will range depending on the brand, retailer, and quantity

Pellet food

$10-$15

This is not ideal for your dragon, but okay to use in an emergency 

Bottles or jugs of water to keep your dragon hydrated

$5-$10

---

Stypic powder

$5-$15

Have this on hand in case of minor injury (for example, a small cut during nail clipping)

Small generator

$300-$500

Optional, but may be a wise investment if you often lose power


Bearded dragon against a black backdrop

Other Expenses: Hygiene, Playtime & More

OTHER ITEM COST RANGE: $54-$183

In addition to all of the items that are strictly necessary for survival, there are a few other things you’ll want to have on hand, such as hygiene items (baby nail clippers, for example) or some toys for your dragon to play with. Here are some of the costs you can expect to pay for those items.

ITEM

COST

Notes

Pet carrier for travel

$20-$40

Even if you don’t travel much or intend to have someone pet-sitting when you’re gone, you need a carrier on hand for vet visits and in the event of a power outage or emergency

Simple playpen if you’d like your dragon to have a designated, safe area to explore inside or outside

$15-$100+

This category has a broad price range because the brand, the store, and the type of playpen you want will have an impact on cost

Misting bottle

$1-$8

Good to have on hand in case you need to adjust the humidity level in the tank

Toys

Cost varies

Toys are up to your discretion...you can buy fun, fancy pet toys at a higher price; or a simple ball and plushie

Baby nail clippers

$5-$10

---

Bin for bath time

$8-$15

---

Paper towels and Q-tips

$5-$10

You probably already have these on hand; these are helpful for messes or sick beardies, or in the event that your vet asks you to brush your dragon’s teeth (which is done with a Q-tip)


Bearded Dragon Vet Costs & Medical Expenses

VET & MEDICAL COST RANGE: $75+ per year 

It’s difficult to pinpoint a range for medical expenses and vet costs because there are a variety of factors that come into play. We recommend doing some research to determine your best options in regards to local vet care and insurance.

That being said, in general, vet and medical expenses don’t tend to be very high (or frequent) for bearded dragons unless they have serious health issues that require multiple treatments or procedures.

Vet Checkups

Your bearded dragon will need a vet checkup each year. According to PetKeen, a typical visit can cost $75 or more. Find a good reptile vet in your area, and check with them ahead of time so you know what they charge.

Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

You have the option to purchase pet insurance for your bearded dragon, which could be worth it depending on your pet and your vet’s non-insurance prices. At this time (2023) it appears that Nationwide is the only company to offer exotic pet coverage in the US; you can take a look at their plans and pricing information to see what is available for you.   

You can also talk to your vet about alternative options. Insurance might not be necessary if there is a membership-based wellness program, such as Pet Assure, available in your area. 

Takeaway: Are bearded dragons expensive? It depends on your individual budget. A bearded dragon itself can cost anywhere from $40 to $1000 or more depending on the type of morph you want. The initial setup costs range from $245 to $500+. With vet visits, feeder insects, and other ongoing costs, you can expect to spend about $108 a month, or over $1000 a year on bearded dragon expenses.


Sources & Further Reading: 

https://mypetreptiles.com/how-to-choose-an-enclosure-for-a-bearded-dragon/

https://www.beardeddragoncare101.com/cost-keeping-bearded-dragon/

https://reptileknowhow.com/lizards/bearded-dragons/how-much-do-they-cost/

https://beardiebungalow.com/bearded-dragon-ownership-cost/

Back to blog
Dubia roach vs cricket on a navy blue background

Dubia Roaches vs Crickets: Which Is the Better ...

When it comes to choosing a staple feeder insect, Dubia roaches and crickets tend to go head-to-head as the most popular options. Both offer essential nutrients for commonly kept reptiles,...

Dubia Roaches vs Crickets: Which Is the Better ...

When it comes to choosing a staple feeder insect, Dubia roaches and crickets tend to go head-to-head as the most popular options. Both offer essential nutrients for commonly kept reptiles,...

Read More
Bearded dragon hungry for wax worms

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Wax Worms?

Bearded dragons eat insects as part of their diet, and that includes worms. But not all worms are created nutritionally equal. Can bearded dragons eat wax worms? Are they good...

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Wax Worms?

Bearded dragons eat insects as part of their diet, and that includes worms. But not all worms are created nutritionally equal. Can bearded dragons eat wax worms? Are they good...

Read More
Jelly Pots for Reptiles and Feeder Insects

Jelly Pots for Reptiles and Feeder Insects

What Are Jelly Pots for Reptiles? Jelly pots are, as the name suggests, a gelatin-like substance created to nourish and hydrate feeder insects such as Dubia roaches, crickets, and mealworms....

Jelly Pots for Reptiles and Feeder Insects

What Are Jelly Pots for Reptiles? Jelly pots are, as the name suggests, a gelatin-like substance created to nourish and hydrate feeder insects such as Dubia roaches, crickets, and mealworms....

Read More
Bearded dragon, possibly with gut impaction

Bearded Dragon Impaction: Everything You Need t...

If you’ve got a bearded dragon, you’ve probably heard of gut impaction. Gut impaction is a common but serious issue that can cause death in severe cases. Here’s everything you...

Bearded Dragon Impaction: Everything You Need t...

If you’ve got a bearded dragon, you’ve probably heard of gut impaction. Gut impaction is a common but serious issue that can cause death in severe cases. Here’s everything you...

Read More
1 of 4