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Boris makes an amazing recovery

As a leopard gecko keeper I never imagined that I would progress my collection to any other species. It was not until I saw on a facebook group that a bearded dragon was being sold and I could instantly see that the dragon was not in the best of health.
When I got the bearded dragon home who I named Boris I had my suspicions about his set up confirmed and was actually surprised at the lack of knowledge his previous keepers had in what his basic requirements were.

I firstly weighed Boris and was shocked by the weight of 417g’s that he weighed in at.

The tank he was being kept in was a 2.5ft glass fish tank with all the sides left blank and open, This obviously was one of the first things that had to be changed and so a 4ft*2ft*2ft vivarium was to be his next home.

With further investigation I found that his heating was a standard light and so was not directing to a specific basking spot and was also heating up the entire vivarium. The temperatures could not have been accurately measured as he only was provided with one analogue disc thermometer.

At this point the lamp was changed over a 40W reflector type spot lamp and provided with digital thermometers with dual probes so I could accurately get readings on his basking spot, hot end ambient and cool end ambient temperatures. I decided to use the spare probe to measure my ambient room temperature so I could accurately adjust all temperatures so he had the perfect set up.

The biggest shock of all that came to me was the fact that when I looked over his lighting, He was provided with a tube light but it had no UV properties at all, I found to my horror that it was a standard office fluorescent tube. In urgency I had a shop local and I rushed out to get what I could but all they had in stock was a 6% UV tube.

As a member of reptile forums UK I fortunately had access to John from Arcadia reptile who I had previously asked for advice on providing UV for leopard geckos. I contacted John as I knew from other people that Arcadia are considered the leading experts in providing UV lighting and I had seen the results previously in other peoples pictures of their reptiles using their systems.

Though John I was able to purchase the HOT5 system which was the slimline luminare fitting with a 39W 12% UV and got the best advice on how to fit this. John also gave invaluable information on UV gradients using the vivarium decoration so I could provide Boris with everything he needed to make a recovery.

Boris himself looked in very poor health and in some places was covered in two layers of stuck shed although this was not the end to the issues he had.

Boris was not given the best care to start with as he had been fed on locusts which I had doubts if they had been gut loaded properly, His green food was non existent as far as I could get the information from the previous owners and was only fed strawberries with the a dried food diet.

The signs of Metabolic bone disease were apparent from the start and I knew I had a long road ahead if I was to get him back to health.

One of my other major concerns with Boris was that the previous owners had been advised to keep him on calcium sand. With the obvious signs of metabolic bone disease and the history of poor diet and supplementation I decided this was not the best option for him. I did have reptile carpet fortunately in the house which although was not ideal it sufficed until I could source out some slate effect ceramic floor tiles.

My first real problem was to start getting him eating his veg which I have to say Boris took to quite quickly with a bit of encouragement and I soon discovered his favourite being rocket but many others that he enjoyed. I think I started with giving around 20 different salad items a week and one fruit item a week.

I changed up his live food and provided him with a whole range of live food items including supplementing his main food of locusts,dubia roaches, crickets and occasionally meal worms with calcium worms to boost his calcium levels.

It took a lot of patience to get him to eat live food from a bowl as he just did not get the idea at first but with perseverance I manage to get him to understand that the bowl was associated with food, The next job was to stop him kicking it over!

Over the following weeks I had to give luke warm baths and slowly work with him to have the stuck shed soak and come off. It was not an easy job as Boris decided he did not like baths and soon worked out how to pull the plug chain and that made the water go away.

I had heard about the HOT5 system improving activity and that was certainly happening but what I had no expected was the vibrancy of his colours using this system and the rapid weight gain that I can only contribute to the UV light helping with. He had gone from a black and grey colour to a vibrant orange which I had not seen before on a normal wild type.

The change was absolutely astounding and due to the UV light helping with the vitamin and calcium absorption his appetite came on in leaps and bounds and soon soared to a healthier looking weight of 580g’s

Boris became a shadow of his former self and even relished in the UV light as if he knew that it was better for him. Boris became more active in running around his vivarium and actively hunting down his food rather than waiting for it to walk in front of his nose. He used to spend a lot of his time sitting just in one corner looking as if he was sleeping during the day this however changed and he utilises every bit of space and various locations to regulate his UV exposure, This was something he had never done before.


All in all I would never use another UV product as the improvements I have seen with the HOT5 system confirm popular opinion that it is the best system currently on the market. Anything else just is not good enough for my dragons.

I have since taken on another rescue bearded dragon and again he was not kept in the best conditions. I had no hesitation in what system for UV lighting I was going to provide for him in place of the UV coil lamp the previous owners had given him.
This bearded dragon has been named Mac and was found with mites and nematodes and to be only 400g’s at 2 years old! Mac was constantly black from the day he came to my care and it was not until I had him under the HOT5 system that it became apparent that he was a hypo citrus bearded dragon. He still has a long way to go in his recovery with on going tests and vet treatment but as he is slowly gaining and now weighs 458g’s I hope to repeat the same success with him as Boris with the same lighting system and set up.


Marc Carlyon

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