Care Sheet - Rankins Dragon
The Rankins Dragon is very similar in looks and in care as the bearded dragon, but there are differences; the main being that they only reach a maximum size of 10-12". They are a very sociable species and can be kept in groups. Each of my groups of females are housed with two or more males and I have never had any injuries from fighting. Interaction within the group will be displayed in head bobbing, normally by dominant or courting males, and this will be returned by submissive arm waving. Arm waving has been seen by hatchlings just a few hours old. Other behavioral actions are tails curling upwards in alert animals and mouth gaping in basking animals to release excess heat. On occasion they will also inflate their eyes out of their sockets but this is of no concern and is thought to be to loosen the skin around there eyes before they shed. They will also inflate their whole body and puff out their beard for the same reason. Rankins dragons love to bathe so a water bowl should be available at all times with water an inch or so deep, and large enough for them to move around in. This will need to be changed regularly as they will defecate in this too.
An enclosure measuring 36"x18"x18" will be ideal for a pair of adult Rankins with the spot light at one end. If more are to be kept together then a longer enclosure will be necessary and maybe a second spot light. Decor can include some branches for them to climb, some cork tubes for a hide, and a rock or flat stone under the spot lights. Substrate is a much talked about subject as they all seem to have there pros and cons. I personally use the play sand and have had no problems with this. Whichever substrate you decide to use make the depth of it a couple of inches deep, as at night they like to semi-submerge themselves in it.
Rankins prefer a slightly lower basking temperature than Beardeds. My Rankins are given a hot spot of around the low 90s°F; the middle of the vivarium between 80-85°F, and the cool end around 75°F. To help maintain these temperatures a dimmer thermostat on a low wattage lamp can be used. A low wattage lamp is to allow them to bask for longer periods. If a high wattage lamp was to be used it would soon reach the temperatures set and turn off depriving them of a basking site. The wattage will depend on the vivarium size and ambient room temperature the vivarium is in. Other heat sources may be needed to create these temperatures in the vivarium. Again this will depend on vivarium size and where it is situated, this is why the vivarium should be set up and running before the lizard is purchased so it can be tweaked until all the temperatures are satisfactory. A high/low thermometer will be handy here to register temperatures during the night as well as the day.
Being a diurnal lizard they will also require a source of UVB light. Mine are all given 8.0 or 10.0% UVB fluorescent tubes running the full length of the vivarium. which are suspended near to the floor so they receive the maximum possible from these tubes. The UVB light output from these tubes starts to decrease from the moment they are first used and so need to be changed regularly (see manufacturers recommendation on box). My full spectrum lights are left on the same amount of time as the spot lights are - about 12-14 hours in the summer and reduced to 10-12 hours in the winter.
Being omnivorous, Rankins will eat vegetation as well as insects and so should be given both. They will benefit greatly with a much varied diet. Any live food offered to them should be well gutloaded before feeding (see gutload sheet). Mine are fed mainly on mealworms with a bowlful available at all times and are then given brown crickets, locust, roaches and the occasional waxworm and pinkie mice. There is a lot of hype about feeding mealworms - impaction and being unable to digest the chitin - but if the vivarium temperatures are correct they will digest them fine. I believe they are one of the best foods - they are very easy to gutload as they eat virtually everything, and if offered in a suitable bowl will always be available for the lizard to eat. Vegetables and greens should also be offered. I chop mine up and place some in with the mealworms - the movement of the mealworms tends to get the not-so-keen lizards to eat the greens and it also continues to gutload the mealworms. Its just a case of trying out different veg and greens to see what your particular lizards like.
Supplementation is another important part of feeding your lizards, but dosage rates will all depend on what you are actually feeding your lizards. The gutload I use for my livefood I make myself made up of many different ingredients. It contains all vitamins, minerals and amino acids, so I only need to supplement once or twice a week. Calcium is a very important part of the diet ,especially for growing young and laying females. I always have a bowlful available in the vivarium so it's there when they need it. I use grated cuttlefish bone and they love to crunch on the small pieces when its first put in for them. This greatly improves there growth rate.
On occasions I also add in the vivarium wild insect sweepings from the garden. This creates a lot of interest with the lizards especially flying insects. This is another subject with some controversy because of the use of pesticides, but my view is that if they are running around in your garden then they are probably not poisoned by pesticides. After all, otherwise we would have no insect eating wildlife left. The choice is yours.
If given a good diet, breeding size can be attained in 6 months of age, when both males and females are mature. Activity levels in the viv will increase with the onset of mating, which when seen for the first time can seem quite rough, but usually just results in the skin on the back of the females neck darkening from where the male bites down on her to mate. A few weeks after mating the female will be getting noticeably larger with the developing eggs. Now is the time to check everything is set up for the incubator and that a suitable egg laying box is in the viv. The egg laying box will need to be big enough for the female to comfortably move around in and for her to be able to dig down around 6/8". This material can be a mix of slightly dampened sand/peat, compacted down to hold a tunnel dug into it. When she is near to laying, the eggs will show as small bulges on her underside and can be felt if you lightly stroke her underside. As she fills with eggs her feeding will decrease until she stops feeding a couple of days before laying, although she may still continue consuming the calcium if it is there for her (which it should be). When she is ready she will dig a tunnel in the dampened substrate, turn round and deposit her eggs, normally numbering around 12-18 eggs. Then she will fill in the tunnel behind her. You will notice she has laid the eggs because her skin will be loose around the sides. Now the eggs have been laid its time to concentrate on getting the females weight back up. If she will take them, pinkie mice are great for bulking them back up, as in 3-4 weeks she will be ready to lay another clutch. The usual number of clutches is around 4-6 a year.
The eggs now need to be carefully dug up and placed into the prepared incubator. Normal practice is to half bury them spaced 1" apart into dampened vermiculite or perlite. If the eggs are good they will be firm to the touch and white. Infertile eggs are normally yellowish and flaccid but if you are unsure just incubate them all - the bad eggs will soon shrivel and mould. These bad eggs will not harm the good eggs, as in the wild they will all be laid in one cluster. Over time the good eggs will swell in size as the embryo inside grows. At an incubation temperature of 84°F the eggs will take around 45 to 50 days to hatch, so before this time is up make sure you have set up somewhere to rear the hatchlings in. Just before the eggs are due to hatch, beads of sweat will form on the eggs and soon you will see small slits at one end of the egg. This is from the hatchling's egg tooth cutting its way out of the egg, but it can still be up to a day before the hatchling emerges. For now it is consuming the last of its yolk sac. The entire clutch may hatch at different times over a period of 2 to 3 days. When they hatch out carefully transfer them to the already prepared rearing unit.
The hatchlings when born will be around 3" in total length and weighing a mere 2 grams each. Best results for rearing these will be in a simple setup: paper towel as substrate, which should be lightly misted daily for the first couple of weeks, a very shallow water bowl like a jam jar lid, calcium dish, a smooth stone or something to perch on under the basking spot, and a toilet roll tube as a hide. With these items in with them there will be few places for the live food to hide, so monitoring their food intake will be easier and more will be consumed. Food should not be offered until their third day as they will be living off the nutrients from the yolk sac, and this uneaten food will just irritate them. Depending on how many young hatch they should only be reared in small numbers, say 6 to each unit, as the weaker ones will just hide away if too many are present and you will have problems with tail nipping etc. Mine are raised in trays measuring approx 24"x14" with UVs and spot lights suspended from above. For optimal growth livefood should be offered in small amounts 3 to 4 times a day, and to get them started on greens I snip the tips off of the tubs of cress over their trays. This falling down onto them seems to promote an immediate feeding response. Once they are used to this you can just chop up their veg/greens into small pieces in a bowl. After two weeks or so it may be necessary to sort out the hatchlings by size into different units as some will have grown more than others. When they reach around 4-5 weeks of age they can be placed into a viv with the same set up as the adults.