Bearded Dragon Terrarium
When setting up your bearded dragon terrarium there are a few specific set up rules you must follow to make a comfortable habitat for your beardie.
Cage Set Up Plans and Size
Baby dragons will obviously have enough room in a small enclosure but as they grow into juveniles and then adults, they will need a progressively bigger cage to have plenty of room to move around.
A 10-20 gallon tank is a good size for a baby dragon. It’s just the right size to allow them to find their food and basking area. If you go much larger than that for babies they can get discouraged & intimidated if they cannot find or snag their crickets which could lead to them not eating as much as they could. Here is a nice post on best bearded dragon enclosures that will help you get started with choosing the right enclosure for your beardie.
As for the adult beardies, it is recommended that they have an aquarium in the 55 to 60-gallon range.
Bearded Dragon Terrarium Substrate
There are quite a few different substrate materials that beardie owners like to use the main ones include newspaper, paper towels, non-adhesive shelf liner and play sand. I don’t recommend play sand for babies under 9 inches because they can eat the sand and it can cause serious problems.
Newspaper and paper towels are really easy to clean up but the only thing is they do not look as nice as play sand. If you use sand be sure to check it and remove any pebbles.
I like to use a combination of newspaper/shelf liner with a tub of sand for digging and playing in. I’ve found cat litter pans to be good for this and it gives your dragon a place to dig without kicking sand into their food.
Just remember that whatever substrate you choose to use you must keep it clean and free of waste.
You should provide your dragon with a rock or sturdy stick to bask on but make sure it isn’t to close to the light! Beardies are good jumpers and can burn themselves on the light if their basking spot is too close.
Any decorations you use should be able to support the weight of the dragon and should be securely anchored. And remember to sterilize the decorations, I bake all driftwood and rocks in the oven at 300°F for 30-45 minutes to kill off any germs.
Avoid heat rocks at all costs. These are harmful to your lizard and can cause bad burns.
It is very important to have proper terrarium lighting. They NEED to have a source of heat and exposure to UVB.
Beardies synthesize vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB, and D3 is necessary for calcium metabolization. In the wild, Beardies expose themselves to the natural UVB in the sun’s rays, but in captivity, especially in colder climates, they just don’t get as much sunlight as they need to produce enough D3. Beardies who are deprived of UVB develop MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) where the Beardie uses calcium out of it’s own bone sources to fuel bodily processes. If the MBD isn’t treated early, skeletal deformities, broken bones, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur.
A good source of UVB is fluorescent bulbs like the reptisun 10.0. or Repti-Glow 8.0. One thing to note if you choose to use these bulbs if they do not give off heat. As a result, you also have to have a basking light too. For that, you can just use a regular household bulb for heat. There is no need to buy a fancy “reptile basking bulb” which is essentially just a regular bulb marketed differently!
Fluorescent bulbs should be replaced every 5-6 months to be effective. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you change the bulb when the light burns out, the UVB runs out before the light does so it’s not a good indication.
The fluorescent bulbs should be placed within 6-10 inches of the basking area so that your dragon can absorb the UVB rays whilst basking in the heat.
If you’d rather just get one set of bulbs that provide both the UVB and heat then I’d recommend Mercury Vapor Bulbs (MVB). These bulbs are more expensive but they usually last longer.
Bearded dragons need to be very warm to digest their food properly. The basking site needs to be between 105°F-115°F degrees for a baby dragon and around 95°F-105°F for adult dragons. The other end of the tank should remain cooler at around 80°F-85°F degrees during the day.
Although you may be tempted, never guess the temperature in your dragon’s tank! You should always use a thermometer. I highly recommend a digital thermometer with a probe or heat gun as stick-on or analog thermometers can be off by as much as 20°!
It’s best to put a thermometer in both ends of the tank so you can keep an eye on the temperature of the warmer and the cooler end. Remember that your home temperature can affect the terrarium temperature so you have to keep an eye when the seasons change.
Your dragon should have between 12 and 14 hours of intense light per day. You should make use of timers to ensure that the heat adjusts when you are sleeping.
These bearded dragon facts should now help you set up and maintain and safe and comfortable bearded dragon terrarium.