So, you’ve got your new bearded dragon and you’re already in awe of just how cute and affectionate (hopefully) he or she is! You’ve set up their cage, given them their first round of crickets, and are elated to watch them begin to explore their environment.
Yet, as cute as this scenario is, things can turn deadly fast. How you ask?
Well, if you’re anything like many first time owners chances are your bearded dragon’s lighting set up and subsequent temperatures probably aren’t exactly ideal.
But fear not!
Setting up your bearded dragon’s tank with the right basking and UVB bulb is actually really simple!
All it takes to nail bearded dragon lighting and bearded dragon temperature is just takes doing a little homework… cue this article!
After reading this post you should feel confident about…
- What type of bulbs to use on your bearded dragon lighting setup
- How to set the bulbs up
- What fixtures work best
- When to replace your bulbs
- Proper bearded dragon temperatures (ambient, cool side, basking, night, etc.)
- And so much more!
So, just keep reading if you’d like to learn all that you need to know about the proper bearded dragon lighting setup!
Table of Contents
What Lighting Does a Bearded Dragon Need?
Before we dive deep into product recommendations, setup, and other critical information, let’s first discuss what lighting your bearded dragon will actually need to thrive.
In any tank, you’re going to want to have…
- Heat Lamp AKA basking bulb
- UVB Bulb to provide UVB (duh!)
- Ceramic Heat Emitter or “CHE” if it gets colder than 65 degrees Fahrenheit in your home at night
Now, of course you’ll also need to include the right fixtures for housing the bulbs in as well, which you’ll find specific recommendations for below. You’ll also find a list of UVB bulbs and basking bulbs as well.
As you’ll soon find out, your options
However, when it comes to the UVB bulb, the choices of what to use are way more limited, as you’ll soon discover further down in this article.
What Light Do I Leave on At Night for My Bearded Dragon?
In short? None!
Your bearded dragon does not need any type of nightlight or other lighting at night. In fact, providing them with such will only help to disturb their natural sleep cycle and leave them feeling grumpy and sleep deprived.
Think about it like this… bearded dragons in the wild do not require any type of lighting at night (save for the stars maybe) so why would one in captivity be any different? Any light they see, they will naturally associate with the sun.
So, contrary to what any rep at a pet store tries to tell you, your bearded dragon does not need lighting at night, under any circumstance.
Can I Use a Regular Bulb for a Basking Light?
Absolutely. You can absolutely use a regular bulb as a bearded dragon basking light. This is one of the most budget friendly and accessible pieces to any bearded dragon setup. Just be sure the bulb emits white light only.
I particularly enjoy halogen bulbs as they produce steady heat and last quite a long time. However, those on a budget can always opt for a regular fluorescent household bulb as well.
You’ll most likely want a halogen bulb between 40 and 100 watts depending on tank size. I have had much success with both 60W and 75W halogen bulbs.
On the flip side, opt for slightly more powerful fluorescent bulbs as they won’t emit as much heat.
Bearded Dragon Lighting Schedule
As a new owner, chances are you’ve found yourself wondering, “How many hours of light do bearded dragons need a day?”
When it comes to how long you keep lights on for a bearded dragon, you’ll want to provide them a solid 12-14 hours of UVB and heat a day. This will most closely mimic their natural environment.
Now, if you suspect they are looking to brumate, you can help ease them into it by adjusting your bearded dragon’s light schedule.
Consider turning the lights on for at least 8 hours but no more than 10 through the winter months to mimic their natural environment.
Bearded Dragon Cage Temperatures
Proper cage temperatures are one of the surest ways to keep your bearded dragon healthy.
In fact, new owners who are experiencing problems with their beardies such as lethargy and a lack of appetite, can more times than not attribute this to having cage temperatures that are inadequate.
As demonstrated in the graphic above, you’ll want to establish a gradient temperature within your bearded dragon’s cage. This means, one side of the cage will be hotter than the other.
Why? Well, simply put it’s because beardies need both an area to bask AND an area to cool off.
To do this, place the primary (read: stronger) basking lamp towards one side of the tank. If the other side of the tank is too cool, you can always incorporate another weaker basking lamp as well, as seen above. This would be your “cool side lamp” and will not always be necessary.
As a result of your gradient, you should essentially create THREE separate temperature zones, which you will need to regularly measure. In order from hottest to coolest, these areas are your 1) Basking spot, 2) Warm side, & 3) Cool side.
To measure the basking spot, you’ll want to measure the surface of exactly where they bask. To measure the warm and cool side, you can take the ambient or air temperature.
Now, when it comes to specifically what temperatures you want to strive for, consider the following:
- Bearded dragons 12 months and older (sub adults and adults): Warm side temperature between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32.22-35 degrees Celsius)
- Bearded Dragons 4-11 months (juveniles): Warm side temperature around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius)
- Bearded dragons under 4 months (babies): Warm side temperature between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (35-37.77 degrees Celsius)
How Hot Should My Bearded Dragon’s Basking Spot Be?
Your bearded dragon’s basking spot is CRUCIAL to their health because it helps stimulate their appetite, helps them absorb calcium, heat their body, and basically perform a ton of other vital functions.
As such, it is important to make sure their basking spot is the right temperature as this will directly affect their health.
Just how hot the basking spot should be will depend on the age of your bearded dragon…
- Bearded dragons 12 months and older (AKA sub adults and adults): Basking spots should be between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (35-37.77 degrees Celsius)
- Bearded Dragons 4-11 months (AKA juveniles): Basking spot should be between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit (37.77-40.55 degrees Celsius)
- Bearded dragons under 4 months (AKA babies/hatchlings): Highest basking temps at around 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (40.55-43.33 degrees Celsius)
Do Bearded Dragons Need a Heat Lamp At Night?
Come nighttime, you’ll want to turn your bearded dragon’s heat lamp off as they will not require any additional heat. As such, you’ll want the overall cage temperature to be between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3-26.66 degrees Celsius)
The only exception to this will be if your home slips below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). In this instance, you will need to provide an alternative heat source.
Your best bet at warming the cage at night, will be to provide a Ceramic Heat Emitter or “CHE”. Contrary to under tank heaters, a CHE provides a safe source of heat that never runs the risk of short circuiting or burning your bearded dragon.
You can essentially think of ceramic heat emitters as a night heat lamp for bearded dragons.
Do You Turn Off UVB At Night?
Bearded dragons do not need a source of UVA or UVB at night. As such, you’ll want to turn both their heat lamp and UVB off at night. Leaving these bulbs on will make your beardie think it’s still daytime and can seriously disrupt their sleeping schedule.
However, word to the wise, just make sure you keep their lights on at least an hour after feeding them at night so they can properly digest their food.
What Happens If a Bearded Dragon Gets Too Cold?
If you fail to keep your bearded dragon warm, quite a few things can happen…
First, your bearded dragon will become lethargic and will experience a decrease or total lack of appetite. This is due to their metabolism slowing down from improper bearded dragon lighting.
As a result of this, they will also have difficulty absorbing calcium which can lead to serious health issues such as metabolic bone disease.
Being cold can essentially become a death sentence over time to a beardie. This is why temperature is so crucial.
Bearded Dragon Thermometers
Your best bet when it comes to thermometers, will be to trust in one that is either of the digital or infrared variety. Unfortunately, dial and stick-on thermometers can be quite inaccurate, sometimes being off by as much as 20 degrees!
Investing in a reliable thermometer is essential for every bearded dragon owner given how crucial it is to maintain the right temperatures within your bearded dragon’s cage. And fortunately, there are plenty of great options at all price points to choose from!
Bearded Dragon Heat Lamp Wattage
If you’re wondering how many watts you need to produce the right temperature in your bearded dragon’s cage, the answer unfortunately isn’t exactly cut and dry…
You see, there will be many things to consider when it comes to finding out the wattage that works best with your setup…
For starters, you’ll need to consider what the cage/tank is actually made of. For example, wooden enclosures will retain heat much better than glass terrariums and as such, won’t require bulbs with as high of wattages.
You’ll also need to consider the size of the tank itself. From personal experience, a 60-watt incandescent bulb works great in a small 20-gallon tank for a baby.
But when it comes to larger tanks, such as a 40-gallon breeder, I’ve had success using 60-70 watt halogen bulbs. Halogen floodlight bulbs are MUCH stronger than typical house bulbs and as such, you shouldn’t need as high of wattage.
Had I used an incandescent bulb in my 40-gallon breeder, I might have needed a wattage of 100 to 150, as opposed to the 60-75 watt Halogen.
When it comes to discerning what wattage to use, you’ll also want to consider how far away the bulb will be from the dragon as well.
I typically prefer stronger bulbs that sit back at least a whole foot from the enclosure as these provide a wider berth of heat and light. You don’t want a bulb that sits so close only a small area of the tank receives the heat and light.
How to Mount UVB Light in Tank
If you’re confused about how to mount your UVB bulb inside your bearded dragon’s tank, fear not! It’s most likely easier than you think…
You’ll need to mount your UVB bulb INSIDE the tank, unless you’re using a mercury vapor bulb which is much too strong to be so close to your bearded dragon.
When mounted outside of the tank, UVB becomes weak as mesh lids can prevent your beardie from proper absorption. Also, mount your UVB all the way to one side on the tank, ideally the side with your basking bulb.
You should also use a UVB fixture that spans about 2/3 the total length of your tank. So, if your tank is 51 inches long, aim for a fixture and bulb that are around 34 inches in length.
The remaining 1/3 section of the tank without UVB will naturally be the cool section. This section should also be on the opposite end of the basking bulb.
Best Heat Bulbs for Bearded Dragons
A basking light (or heat lamp), is going to help your bearded dragon both regulate their day and night cycles and also aid in their digestion and keep their appetite up.
Without heat, your dragon will become sickly and can even suffer from impaction, as food will be stuck in their system undigested.
You’ll essentially have your choice between a regular household incandescent light bulb or a halogen flood light bulb. Both of these can be bought online or at virtually any hardware or home store.
Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp 75 Watt (2 Pack)
If you’re looking to really amplify heat and light, look no further than this lamp by Zoo Med!
Utilizing a patented reflector, this lamp increases heat and light by roughly 35%, making it great for larger enclosures and cooler homes.
Philips Halogen Light Bulbs
This specific brand of halogen flood light is great to use as your go-to heat bulb for a bearded dragon because they provide super bright white light and up to 2,000 hours of use!
Exo Terra Sun-Glo Basking Infrared Spot Lamp (4 PACK)
This 4 pack of infrared spot lamp bulbs by Exo Terra is a great choice for those looking for bright white incandescent light bulbs.
At 100 watts each, one light bulb should be sufficient for heating any bearded dragon tank, unless extremely large in which case you would need 2 bulbs.
If you need more than 100 watts for either a larger tank or a tank in a cold room, check out this Zacro Reptile Heat Lamp that comes in at 150 watts. This bulb even comes with a digital thermometer as well!
Best Fixture for Basking Bulbs
Obviously, you’re going to need the right lamp to secure your basking bulb. Consider the options below great choices for multiple tank sizes!
REPTI ZOO 8.5 Inch Reptile Lamp Fixture
Suitable for most tank sizes, this lamp fixture is typically best suited for 50-100 gallon tanks. And with a safety-first design, it even features ventilation holes to prevent overheating and is able to support up to 150 watt bulbs.
Fluker’s Repta-Clamp Lamp with Switch
A great budget friendly lamp, this one by Flukers comes in a variety of sizes to accommodate a variety of bulbs and tank sizes! You’ll even be able to enjoy it with any ceramic heat emitter, should you need one.
Best UVB Bulbs for Bearded Dragons
In addition to a heat lamp, your beardie will absolutely need a UVB bulb in their bearded dragon lighting setup as well.
The UVB rays emitted from this bulb will help your dragon synthesize Vitamin D3, which is the vitamin necessary for proper calcium absorption.
As aforementioned, there aren’t very many reliable and safe options on the market for UVB bulbs. Why?
Well, for starters many manufactures produce UVB bulbs in the form of coil or compact bulbs which produce UVB that is too strong for your beardie and can burn them.
On top of this, other brands don’t exactly possess the best track records, with many bearded dragon owners claiming the bulbs either shorted out or didn’t put out enough UVB to begin with, leading to serious health issues.
Now, when it comes to types of UVB bulbs, you’re better off choosing either fluorescent or mercury vapor bulbs.
Fluorescent bulbs are more affordable and should be replaced every 6 months.
On the flip side, mercury vapor bulbs are more expensive, stronger, and tend to last longer.
If you’re looking for an “all-in-one” kind of lighting situation, you’ll want to go with mercury vapor bulbs as they supply UVB, UVA, and heat to your bearded dragon.
Naturally, mercury vapor bulbs are much stronger so you’ll want to be extra diligent about measuring temps in your beardie’s cage and also making sure the lighting isn’t placed too close where it could burn your bearded dragon.
Now, onto the recommendations!
Evergreen Pet Supplies 100 Watt UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Bulb
The best mercury vapor bulb is definitely going to be this one by Evergreen Pet Supplies. This UVB not only has a great track record but also lasts a really long time.
However, for this bulb, you’ll need a special fixture that will allow you to mount it OUTSIDE of the tank, as inside would be very dangerous for your dragon.
Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB T5 HO Lamp
This UVB bulb is definitely the most trusted and popular choice amongst bearded dragon owners. It produces adequate amounts of UVB, isn’t prone to problems, and is a sound investment in your beardie’s health.
When mounting the UVB bulb, aim for a distance of around 12 inches away from the basking spot.
Best UVB Bulb Fixture
When it comes to mounting your UVB bulb, you’ll have plenty of choices in fixtures at a variety of price points. Basically, any T5 fixture should work fine on a bearded dragon lighting setup.
As such, you should be pleased to see that the suggestions below will suit any budget. Happy mounting!
Sunblaster NanoTech T5 High Output Fixture
With a built-in reflector that helps increase UVB for maximum output, this fixture is a favorite amongst beardie owners! Extremely lightweight, you should anticipate having no problems mounting this bad boy. Even industrial velcro should be strong enough!
These fixtures are cream of the crop and don’t feature the annoying buzzing or weight you’ll typically find with cheaper fixtures. Because of this, you can expect them to be a little more expensive.
Unfortunately, these fixtures and reflector combos are not sold without the bulb, so you’ll have to just discard that or use it some other way in your home.
Zoo Med 26053 Reptisun T5-Ho Terrarium Hood, 24″
A natural choice for any ReptiSun 10.0 HO Tube, this fixture provides a sleek silhouette and a high output of UVB. Consider it your best option for the ReptiSun bulb.
Best Ceramic Heat Emitter for Bearded Dragons
When your home slips below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.33 degrees Celsius), you can count on a CHE to keep your beardie warm and comfy WITHOUT disrupting their sleeping schedule!
Checkout our top recommendations below, both of which will pair beautifully with the Fluker’s Clamp Lamps.
Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter for Reptiles
With 60W, 100W, and 150W options, these Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter for Reptiles feature a bulb that is well suited for virtually any tank size!
OMAYKEY 75W 2 Pack Ceramic Heat Lamp
A popular choice amongst reptile owners, these ceramic heat lamp bulbs offer 75W of heat and can last a whopping 9,000-15,000 hours each!
Wrapping Up Bearded Dragon Lighting Guide
Hopefully by now, you’ve come to understand how simple it really can be to absolutely nail your bearded dragon’s lighting and temperatures.
In fact, having the right UVB bulb and a bright white basking bulb that puts out enough heat (but not too much) is essentially 90% of the battle.
Once you have the right bulbs, it simply comes down to trial and error in terms of placement to get the right temps and UVB positioning on your bearded dragon lighting setup.