Bearded Dragon Habitat Setup

If you want to keep a bearded dragon as a pet, you must duplicate their natural environment as much as possible. Although no real comparison to that of the wild, natural habitat for bearded dragons is fairly easy to recreate.

The more closely you duplicate their natural habitat, the healthier your bearded dragon will be.

On the other hand, if you fail to provide a suitable environment, your bearded dragon lifespan will decrease dramatically, this happens quite often.

Ideal Bearded Dragon Habitat Setup

Bearded-dragon-cage-components
Bearded-dragon-cage-components

Things Needed in Bearded Dragon Habitat.

When creating a bearded dragon habitat, keep in mind that bearded dragons comes from the deserts of Australia and need plenty of heat and light and low humid environment to live a healthy life.

The following are the things you will need for your bearded dragon habitat.

Enclosure/Cage/Tank

bearded-dragon-cage

There are many different types of cages/tanks/enclosure available for bearded dragons. These options will range in functionality, price and the material used.

No matter what type of enclosure you choose, just make sure it keeps humidity level down and offers plenty of fresh air for your bearded dragon. Here is a list of recommended cages for bearded dragons.

Also, the enclosure must have room for installing UVB, UAV, and basking lights, as well as heat emitters, if the temperature drops from the recommended level.

Read on to discover the different types of enclosures available for bearded dragon.

Type of Enclosures You can Use for Bearded Dragon

Aquariums and Vivariums

These are commonly used enclosure for bearded dragons despite their inadequacies.  Some of the biggest drawbacks for using glass enclosures is their small size (four foot is not large) and the lack of airflow, mix that with humidity and heat leaves the potential for respiratory diseases and a number of other illnesses.

bearded-dragon-vivarium

This, in turn, changes husbandry practices (such as not providing the correct humidity) which can result in health issues down the track and certainly will not encourage providing any natural habitat

Melamine Cages or Enclosures

These are constructed out of the melamine board. The drawbacks of melamine cages are that if moisture gets between the outer finish and the wood it will warp the underlying wood. This can be avoided by ensuring all edges are sealed or cannot come in contact with moisture.  

melamine-cages

When sealed properly melamine cages can make ideal enclosures for indoors and provide plenty of room for adequate ventilation. Aquarium grade silicon makes an ideal sealant and assists in providing less knocks and crannies for any unwanted pathogens to harbor and grow over time.

Enclosures purchased specifically for reptiles are typically not very large, however, they are easy to build from panels purchased at hardware stores or buy a kit pantry cupboard and convert it by adding some perspex or similar doors (also purchased at hardware stores).

PVC (or ABS)

These cages are similar in form and function to the melamine wood cages, but are both lighter and generally more costly, due to the plastic that is used to make them.

This makes this type of cage significantly more mobile, letting you move your bearded dragon around to different areas of your home.

pvc-bearded-dragon-cage

ABS plastic doesn’t have that plastic style odor that PVC setups can sometimes be plagued by. PVC is easily cleaned but can restrict ventilation, care should be taken when selecting the right enclosure.

Vision Cages

These are almost always professionally constructed, and are more popular with those who breed bearded dragons as they are modular in nature and ready-made for stacking and storing.

vision-bearded-dragon-cage

Vision cages are expensive and usually small. Outdoor enclosures can be purpose-built or as simple as a modified aviary or even a large kennel.

If you are planning to use an aviary, kennel, or similar type of cage,, make sure the wire is of a gauge that will not cut toes when climbed on and is not a wide enough weave that they can attempt to get through or even get stuck in.

We recommend a simple design that is easy to clean and maintain. Here is our list of recommended cages for bearded dragons.

Recommended Enclosure Sizes for Bearded Dragons

Depending on the age and size of your bearded dragon, you will need a certain size enclosure that offers plenty of room for your beardie to run about and exercise.

The following are the recommended tank sizes for bearded dragons.

  • For a baby dragon, you will need a cage that is about 20-gallon.
  • For young bearded dragons, the ideal cage size is 40-gallon.  
  • For adult bearded dragons that are 16 inches or larger, you will need at least a 50-gallon but they do best in a 75-gallon.
  • For large full grown adult bearded dragons that are over 20 inches, you will need at least a 75-gallon tank but ideally a 125-gallon tank works best.

Substrate

The substrate is what lines the bottom of the bearded dragon’s cage. It should be aesthetically pleasing, absorbent, easy to clean, and digestible if swallowed.

The substrate can be a flat newspaper, AstroTurf, indoor/outdoor carpet, or brown wrapping paper.

Avoid using cedar shavings, kitty litter, gravel, wood shavings, crushed corn cob, or potting soil that contains pesticides, vermiculite, fertilizer or wetting agents. 

You should also avoid Calci-sand/ digestible sand products, even though they may be recommended, your beardie can die from impaction due to eating Caci-sand.

We recommend Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner, Brown, 40BR/50G.

If you don’t want to use any specific pet product, you can use a simple paper towel for young bearded dragons. For adults, you can use a 50/50 mixture of play sand and topsoil with some vermiculite added in to retain moisture to facilitate digging.

Landscaping and ‘Furniture

You can’t keep your bearded dragon in a bare tank/cage and expect it to be happy. Get some accessories and be creative with it. Below is a list of stuff bearded dragons love to have in their cages.

  • Cage Furniture
  • Branches for Climbing
  • Plants
  • Tank backgrounds

Cage Furniture

Bearded Dragon Hide

Bearded dragons love a place where they can hide. The hide should be something with an enclosed area where the bearded dragon can easily hide from light such as empty cardboard, flower pot or cardboard box.

A hide is also helpful during the brumation period where bearded dragons sleep heavily for weeks.

We recommend Magnaturals Large Hideaway Earth – Magnetic Deco.

Reptile Hammocks

Bearded dragons also like hammocks. Special hammocks made just for reptiles are available in every pet store. You can easily get the one with suction cups and hooks at the ends so you can easily stick them in your tank.

We like the Penn Plax Lizard Lounger, 100% Natural Seagrass Fibers for Bearded Dragons. It can be used for all kind of other reptiles too.

Branches for Climbing

Bearded dragons enjoy climbing, so try to have at least one branch under the secondary heat source (discussed below) that they can bask and climb on.

If you want to add multiple branches, make sure they are of various sizes and free of pitch and sap – oak works very well.

If you want to get a real branch, make sure it doesn’t have any holes in it where feeder insects can hide. The branches should not be wider or thinner than the width of the bearded dragon to ensure safety.

Beside branches you can also use boards covered with indoor/outdoor carpets, it makes the best climbing posts. Smooth, flat-bottom rocks are also good addition to the bearded dragon habitat that can help wear down the toenails.

If you do want to invest in some sort of branches then we recommend buying Fluker’s Iguana Branch, its one of the best and at the same time cheap.

Plants

Plants are a beneficial addition to bearded dragon’s enclosure. Appropriate plants provide shade, humidity, sense of security, and also beautify the enclosure. Dracaena, hibiscus, and Ficus Benjamina are all good options.

When choosing plants, make sure they are non-toxic, and the potting soil doesn’t contain vermiculite, fertilizer, pesticides, or wetting agents.

To remove chemicals from plants, wash them with water spray and water them thoroughly several times to the point where water runs out of the bottom of the pot.

It’s also a good idea to put the newly purchased plants somewhere in the house for a day or two before putting them into the enclosure.

Tank backgrounds

You will need a background for the back of your tank especially if you have one that is made of glass. Without a background, the cage may still look empty, even with the basking spot, the food bowls, hiding and everything.

An appropriate background will not only make your dragon feel more secure, but it will also add an aesthetic quality to the enclosure.

Here is one we like the most Reptile Habitat, Terrarium Background, Cool Desert Sky.

Temperature

Bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals from a desert-like environment, so their cages need to be heated for proper digestion. If a bearded dragon is not getting enough heat, it cannot properly digest its food that can lead to many diseases.

The tank/cage should have two sides a hot and a cold side so, the dragon can move to a warmer part of the cage and vice versa. The hot side should be 95 F° for adults and 110 F° for juveniles. And the cold side should be around 85 F°.

You will need a separate thermometer for each side to monitor the temperature. (one for cold and one for hot side).

Primary Heat Source

To keep the temperature of the entire cage within the appropriate range, a primary heat source is necessary. During the daytime, a series of incandescent lights over the cage works really well. But these lights will need to be turned off during the night, and another heat source may be needed depending on the cage temperature.

During the night, you can use something like ceramic infrared heat panel or emitters, a heating pad placed under the cage, or a nocturnal reptile incandescent light that produces heat and little visible light.

For larger bearded dragon cages/enclosures, you can use a separate room thermostat or a space heater to keep the room at the appropriate temperature. You will also need to place a fire alarm in the cage where heat sources are used.

Secondary Heat Source

A secondary heat source is used to create more heat in the specific area of the enclosure (hotter side) to provide a temperature gradient. The secondary heat source should cover only about 25 to 30% surface of the entire cage.

For adults, you can use a 30-75-watt incandescent bulb in a ceramic base or a special ‘Basking Lights’ that you can easily find in the pet stores. Make sure the light only shines on a particular basking area from the outside of the cage.

The temperature of basking spot should be between 95 F° – 110 F°. For hatchlings, if kept in smaller aquariums, lights of lower wattage should be used, or the temperature will rise too quickly and become too hot for them. NEVER USE HOT ROCKS AS HEAT SOURCES.

Bearded Dragon Light

The brighter their cage, the happier bearded dragons will be. Bearded dragons are naturally found in the deserts of Australia, so they require full spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours each day.

Full-spectrum lights are different from household lights. It emits light in all UV ranges and needs to be evenly spread throughout the enclosure.

There also needs to be a way that the bearded dragon can come with 6 to 8 inches of the light source. You can use a branch, rock or any other thing that your bearded dragon can climb on and reach the light source.

You will need to have two types of light in your bearded dragon enclosure/cage.

  • A basking bulb/light
  • UVA/UVB long fluorescent tube light

Bearded Dragon Basking Light

In addition to providing heat, Incandescent light also provides visible white light. You can use incandescent and fluorescent light fixtures to provide visible white light to all areas of the cage/enclosure.

The basking light is very important for bearded dragons; it provides heat that helps reptiles digest their food. The light must be bright white because bearded dragons don’t do well with colored lights. Only unfiltered white light is recommended.

We recommend Zoo Med Reptile Basking Spot Lamp.

UVA/UVB Light

In addition to heat and white light, bearded dragons also need access to natural sunlight. They get their Vitamin D from a certain spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) light called UVB.

A dragon is likely to develop metabolic bone disease if it is not getting enough UVA/UVB light on a regular basis. There is no artificial light available that is as good as a sun in providing UVB, that is why we recommend taking your beardie outside when the temperature is over 70°F on a sunny day.

If a bearded dragon doesn’t have access to natural sunlight, special lights that mimic natural sunlight needs to be installed in the cage/enclosure. The light must be full spectrum (UVA/UVB) and should emit light in the 290-320 nanometer range. The purpose of these type of bulbs is not to generate heat, but to provide UVA/UVB rays.

Ideally, one UVB bulb is enough to eliminate the entire tank/cage. Make sure you leave enough space for a basking bulb when installing a UVB light if you are planning on getting one.

Lights that produce both UVB and white light are also available. Some of the best brands include Zoomed’s Reptile Lights and Durotest’s Vita-Lite. Remember, you will need to replace these lights because it loses its strength over time.

The OMAYKEY 75W UVA + UVB Full Spectrum Sun Lamp Sunbathe Heat Lamp works great for our bearded dragons.

Water and Humidity

Although bearded dragons get most of their water requirements from the insects and vegetation they eat, fresh drinking water should be available for them at all times.

For water, a shallow bowl should be used that cannot be tipped over. You will also need to maintain an appropriate level of humidity, especially during the winter months when the humidity is low.

Proper humidity is necessary for proper bearded dragon shedding. You will need to mist your bearded dragon with water at least three times a week.

Some dragons also enjoy soaking in a water tub. Make sure the bearded dragon can get in and out of the container easily when it wants.

You will also need to replace the water and clean the container on a regular basis, since the dragon may defecate in the water.

Hygiene

The cage, water bowl, and food should be cleaned on a regular basis with a 1:10 dilution of household bleach. Make sure to rinse the items well after cleaning. It is also important to wash your hands after cleaning the cage or handling the dragon because they can harbor a bacteria called salmonella.

If You Have More Than One

Bearded dragons are territorial and may fight when housed together. A male and female can be caged together. However, the male may become too aggressive during the breeding season and must be removed.

Larger dragons, when kept with smaller ones, may try to keep the smaller ones away from food and heat source. If you are planning to house bearded dragons together, make sure the cage is large enough to decrease the possibility of aggression.

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