Retiring the Reef; welcoming the Reign of the Reptile

Implementing thrift across the board, even  in the realm of pets

There have been posts on this blog and previous iterations (particularly from Washington, DC) about the saltwater reef aquarium I keep, and how relaxing it is to watch.  That said, it is also a great deal of time to keep up; of money to stock, feed, and power; and headache to keep chemicals balanced properly.  Even more importantly – the lack of central air conditioning in my house means that for ~4 months of the year, it is too hot to safely keep most saltwater critters in my house (and an aquarium chiller is often $500 or more, so way out of my price range).  As such, and with a little help and advice from my good friend Tom M, I recently toyed around with the idea of switching from a reef (while still cherishing the lessons and enjoyment garnered from it) to a reptile habitat of some sort.  Tom owns  and positively loves his bearded dragon, Scirocco, and every time (for more than a year, now) I see Tom while I visit home in Ohio, I have heard more and more about how great the little guy is as a pet.  Being maths-inclined, I put two and two together, while en route last night to go buy sparring gloves for my krav maga training… and the solution, I realized en route, was to stop by the pet store and take a look at the bearded dragon offerings.

My housemate Amber and I went in, near closing time, to the Petco nearest us, and took a look at the offerings.  There were 6 baby bearded dragons in the enclosure.  5 of them were piled on each other and extremely lethargic.  The runt of the litter, though, he was alert and watching us, and moving all over the place.  Besides being ridiculously cute (and I am a person who despises the vacuous, meaningless adjective “cute” so that should tell you something about his looks), the head motions of this particular baby bearded dragon suggested to our eyes an extremely sarcastic disposition.  We would move closer to the enclosure to get a better look, and he would tilt his head as if to say “REALLY?  You’re REALLY going to bother me, AGAIN?!?”  The combination of being adorable and seemingly sarcastic made Amber and I quickly realize – there was no way we could not take him home with us; it just wouldn’t be right, letting him end up somewhere else.  I suppose it is worth noting now: it is not easy to identify the sex of bearded dragons when young, but the lizard has a slightly dark coloration to its beard, which is often one signifier of being male, so for now, it is a he.

Gear, grub, and naming schema

With lizard in box, we worked with the chipper Petco salesman to get the other necessary things – growing bearded dragons need protein, which means crickets, which means I also grabbed a wire enclosure sized to fit the 29 gallon aquarium I have at home.  Had to grab some ceramic light fixtures (so they don’t melt) as well as one ultraviolet light bulb and one heat lamp incandescent bulb.  Also got him a faux marble water dish (only the seemingly best for reptiles at Winchester House), and 10 quarts of shredded brown walnut to serve as a non-dangerous bedding for the enclosure.  While I know I will have to go back (for more crickets, a food dish, a ceramic light fixture with an infared heat bulb to warm the enclosure at night over the winter, and some kind of climbing surfaces for him), I am set for the time being.  The crickets are only part of his diet, as this lizard also loves vegetables and fruits of different kinds.  Tom reports that Scirocco rather delights in frozen strawberries that have thawed for a while, so we shall see what my new bearded dragon enjoys most!

As for naming the little guy, there are debates going on as this is typed, with housemates and other friends.  The outcome of these councils shall be recorded on the blog in a future post, for all to see and revel in!

Photos

Setting up the lizard mansion, and various shots of the lizard in (in)action in his new home.

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