Enriching Enviroments With Accessories
Branches and Rocks
As semi arboreal creatures, bearded dragons need branches to climb on. Some, especially if young, will spend a lot of time up on branches. Wooden branches should be thick enough that your bearded dragon can comfortably climb and rest on it without threat of breaking. It should not be perfectly smooth if possible since that will not allow for a great deal of grip. In addition, some roughness assists in various health aspects such as providing a rubbing surface for shedding and maintaining femoral pores and contributing to keeping nails trim.
Rocks are another vital accessory for your bearded dragons house. Real rocks provide a good abrasive surface to assist in health aspects as highlighted for branches. In addition rocks are great at reflecting heat making them an ideal basking accessory.
Be careful of replacing rocks for concrete bricks and such like. Anything that consists of concrete could cause some irritation to skin, much like it does to humans. However applying a sealant may be sufficient to reduce issues much as you would for grouted enclosure backgrounds. If you are going to stack rocks then ensure they cannot fall and cause injury.
If you have the means around you to collect your own materials then there are a few ways of making them safe which are covered in Preparing Accessories. Ensure any wood items are non toxic. A list suitable for humans can be found at The Wood Database.
Burrows for your Bearded Dragon
In the wild bearded dragons are known to rest in trees, bushes, leaf litter, etc. In an enclosure burrows provide an alternative to branches when bearded dragons want to rest.
Burrows do not need to be made out of specific items, they can simply be a collection of branches or artificial vegetation clumped together to provide solitude. Alternatively you could provide a dig box with some hay over the top. This will allow them to bury themselves under the hay without them feeling the need to bury themselves all the way into the sand. During brumation this will aid checking them without overly disrupting them.
Not all will seek burrows, regardless it should be provided to ensure that they have their ‘safety’ zone should they feel the need. Make sure the burrow is big enough for it to get in and out of comfortably. Burrows can be as simple as safely stacked rocks to a heavily covered area of artificial or real plants.
Burrows should be placed on the cool end, this prevents your pet from spending time in the warm area under cover where the UVB lighting will be placed. If the bearded dragon remains in the burrow and does not seek time under UVB light then it could be going into brumation, it could simply want some time resting or it could be ill. Removing the burrow when it is being used is not conducive to its emotional well being. Seek veterinary assistance if you believe it could be ill (including with parasites) or just allow it to rest if it is well. It is capable of regulating its own UVB if it is healthy.
Plants can increase humidity. If the humidity is already at its upper tolerance level consistently then real plants are best avoided. Avoid broad leaf plants if humidity levels are high but still within tolerance levels, they will increase the humidity more.
Expect that any plant placed in the enclosure will be climbed on and potentially eaten. If it is likely that your bearded dragon will eat parts of the plant then it needs to not only be safe to be in contact with but also safe to eat. Anapsid has published a list of safe plants.
Sufficient plants will be needed to rotate them in and out of the enclosure. The plants should not be managed with any chemical fertilizers or other chemicals.
Other sources for information on suitable plants include local vet, zoo or herpetologist society.
The alternative to real plants is artificial plants. It does not matter where the plants are purchased from as long as they cannot be pulled apart easily and can be cleaned. Artificial plants should not have lots of small joints which can be easily broken off and digested.