Bearded dragons, also known as the genus Pogona, are the animals that give us hope that dragons can exist outside of fantasy novels.
But how big do they really get?
A few things contribute to their size. Major contributing factors include the dragons’ species, sex, their health and diet, and what’s going on in their environment.
Bearded dragons grow to their largest sizes in the wild. That’s because they’re able to better acclimate themselves to the environment, roam and find food when they want.
In captive environments, they don’t get the nutrients they need to grow as large, and the result is that captive dragons grow to about 10 percent smaller than those in the wild.
The largest species of bearded dragon found in the wild is the Pogona Vitticeps, which ranks in at 24 inches, or exactly two feet long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail.
The Pogona Vitticeps is the most common form of bearded dragon available outside of Australia, though it’s indigenous to central Australia (but is no longer exported from there).
In this habitat, it’s able to eat a variety of worms, bugs and plants.
These types of foods are essential for anyone looking to take care of bearded dragons, as is a large enclosure.
The general rule for a terrarium for your bearded dragon is that the bigger it is, the better. There is a system for determining how large your bearded dragon will grow, but to err on the side of caution is your best option.
Assuming you keep your bearded dragon in a large terrarium and feed him or her well, you can determine how large he or she will grow to be in a couple of ways.
One way you can begin to determine his or her age is through his or her sex. The best way to determine the sex is by looking at their underside between their back legs.
Before you do this, you have to make sure your bearded dragon is mature enough that the sex will actually show. If you check a bearded dragon’s sex too early, it will appear female, even if it’s male.
So, if you’re sure your bearded dragon is old enough, look on its underside between its back legs to what’s known as the vent. If your bearded dragon is male, there will be two bumps on his lower stomach just above the vent. If she’s female, she will have a small bump on her tail just below her vent.
Sex itself is not a determining factor of size, however. While male bearded dragons usually grow to be the larger of the sexes, female bearded dragons can, in some cases, grow just as large or larger.
Another way you can begin to determine your bearded dragon’s ultimate size is by determining his or her age. To do this, you only need to look at the genus’ average size at different ages.
Bearded dragons usually grow to their largest in the first few months of their lives, but they can grow a little bit after that. The most dramatic growth, however, occurs in the first 12 months.
There is roughly a 2-inch to 1-month correspondence in the first year of a bearded dragon’s life. That is, your bearded dragon will be about 2 inches when it’s 1 month old, and will grow about two inches every month until it hits its average adult size of 22-24 inches at 12 months.
This is merely a rule of thumb, however. For an accurate idea of what age your bearded dragon is, you should bring him or her to a vet who specializes in the reptile.
Once you find out, though, you can apply this general rule to get an idea of how big it will get.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead, too, since you don’t want to stunt your bearded dragon’s growth by putting him or her in a stiflingly small terrarium.
As I said before, pet bearded dragons have the hardest time growing to their largest size because of the limits of captivity.
If their diets aren’t good and their living space is small, they don’t have a lot of room to wiggle their tails or grow up.
It’s best to give your bearded dragon as much leeway as you can, providing as close to an authentic central-Australian experience as you can by shelling out for desert critters he or she can eat and a large space with a hot sunlamp, as provided by sellers like Exo Terra Glass Terrariums.
One last thing to look at would be the genetics of his or her parents. Just like how you have your mother’s hair, but your father’s eyes, your bearded dragon will likely take on his or her parents’ features, including their size.
If you have information on what size your bearded dragon’s parents were, you have a good reference point as to how large your bearded dragon will become.