So, you’re thinking about getting your very own bearded dragon OR perhaps you’ve recently brought home the newest addition to your family and are in major need of some guidance on giving them their dream habitat?
Regardless, you’ve come to the right place my friend. Here, you’ll find everything you need to create the best habitat for bearded dragons!
This post will give you a broad idea of how to create a beardie’s dream home, you know, the one all their little beardie friends will always want to chill at. You get me.
But in all seriousness, this post will offer you the suggestions you need to create a habitat that not only keeps your little guy or gal super happy, but super healthy!
Read on to discover the gist of what your beardie needs in their crib to thrive!
Also, be sure to take special note of the links that are included in each section which will take you to articles with more thorough product recommendations.
The Best Bearded Dragon Habitat Setup at a Glance
What Your Beardie Needs In Their Habitat
When designing the perfect habitat for a bearded dragon, it is important to remember that they are originally from the deserts of Australia and as such, require plenty of light (full spectrum UVA/UVB), warmth (a basking light), and low humidity.
You should really try to avoid going with the convenient “all in one” enclosures you can buy at the pet store, as they typically are not the best options.
For instance, the UVB light they include is seldom efficient enough and the thermometer they come with does not produce reliable and accurate temperature readings.
There are several different types of optimal cages/enclosures/tanks you can choose for your dragon’s habitat.
These options will range in price, functionality, and the material they are made from.
It is important to note, that regardless of what type of enclosure you choose for your bearded dragon, you need to ensure you have a screen lid, which will allow for proper air flow and keep humidity levels down.
Also, all enclosures must have UVB, UVA, and basking lights, as well as a ceramic heat emitter if necessary for keeping the tank warm at night.
Read on to discover the different types of enclosures you can use for your bearded dragon.
Much like fish tanks, glass terrariums are a great option because they allow for 360 viewing (although you’ll want to put a back in, discussed below) and are pretty affordable.
Glass terrariums are also very durable and easy to find at pretty much any pet store.
Also, glass terrariums make a good habitat for bearded dragons because the screen lid that goes on top allows for ample air flow and as such, helps keep humidity levels low, just how your dragon like it.
As far as downsides to glass terrariums go, they don’t always hold heat as well as other habitat options, which can lead to your dragon not being as bright in color.
Think of it this way, glass doesn’t exactly provide the best insulation.
Made of PVC plastic, these cages are rather light weight and have a nice smooth finish to them.
Often times, you can find sellers selling them in a wide array of colors and even offering to install the lights for you for an additional charge.
These cages are also usually stackable and blend into home décor quite nicely.
However, perhaps most importantly, these cages typically hold heat quite nicely, making your dragon very happy.
As far as the cons to PVC cases, they can be quite expensive, as in hundreds of dollars depending on the size.
Also, keeping humidity low can sometimes be an issue with PVC cages that have an enclosed top that doesn’t allow for proper airflow, so just make sure to habitually check on the humidity level.
Perhaps the most professional option, vision cages are made from a single piece of plastic and typically have built in fixtures for lights.
These cages typically tend to be very easy to clean as well and even come chemical resistant.
Similar to the PVC cages, vision cages are a great choice for beardie owners because they are light weight and usually stackable.
However, because vision cages really go the extra mile in catering to both the owner and bearded dragon’s needs, they can be quite expensive.
ABS cages are very similar to that of both vision and PVC cages.
They are made of ABS plastic and are lightweight in nature, making them easy to move, stack, and clean.
Also, some people believe that ABS plastic doesn’t emit the toxic odor that other plastics can emit.
The downside to ABS cages? They can be quite expensive.
Melamine is a very heavy and sturdy wood that is a great choice for using to build a bearded dragon habitat because it is a great insulator.
Melamine will do a fantastic job of keeping your beardie nice and warm.
Also, because melamine is white, it will reflect more light as well and can help keep your beardie colorful.
However, the drawback with melamine is that it is expensive, heavy, and can be ruined if gotten wet.
A lot of people enjoy making their very own custom bearded dragon cage.
Plywood is a great option for this project because it is easy to find, cheap, and very lightweight.
Naturally, you will want to seal the plywood with a nontoxic sealant and leave the top open for a screen lid (ideally).
Recommended Bearded Dragon Tank Size
Depending on the age of your dragon, you’re going to want to have a certain tank size to give them plenty of room to thrive.
Please consider the following tank size recommendations…
- Baby dragons need about a 20 gallon tank.
- Young adult dragons (10-16 inches) need at least a 40 gallon tank
- Adult dragons (over 16 inches) need at least a 50 gallon tank, and ideally a 75 gallon.
- Large adult dragons (over 20 inches long) need at minimum a 75 gallon tank but ideally a 125 gallon tank.
Your bearded dragon’s habitat is going to need some type of substrate or “flooring” in it to keep them happy and healthy through emulating a lifelike environment.
There are many strong opinions when it comes to what kind of substrate to use, but if you want to be as safe as possible, it is generally recommended you opt for non-particle substrate.
Read on to learn the differences between loose particle and non-particle substrate, as well as the examples of each!
Loose Particle Based Substrates
Loose particle based substrates are those that are, well, loose.
Typically, because this substrate is loose, it will produce debris and dust that your beardie can ingest.
The major threat these pose to your bearded dragon is the risk of impaction from being ingested.
Impaction is essentially when your dragon’s digestive tract becomes clogged and they are unable to pass a bowel movement, this can be extremely serious and deadly if not taken care of!
Another risk that particle based substrates pose is that they can get into the bearded dragons eyes and nose and lead to infection!
Here are some examples of popular loose particle substrates, none of which I outright recommend…
- Play sand
- Wood chips/shavings (wood is toxic to bearded dragons, best to avoid)
- Walnut shells (Probably the MOST dangerous option. Avoid at all costs)
- Calcium sand (the brand Calci-Sand is NOT digestible, don’t believe the pet stores)
- Alfalfa pellets
Non-particle substrates are an all-around safer option for your bearded dragon because they don’t run the risk of causing them to become impacted nor do they get stirred up easily and end up irritating your beardie’s nose or eyes.
Check out the most common forms of non-particle substrate below…
- Reptile carpet
- Paper towels
- Non-adhesive linoleum
- Ceramic tile (My TOP recommendation!)
Some of these options do have minor cons to them, however.
For instance, your dragon’s claws may become stuck in the threads of the reptile carpet and some dragon owners have reported their dragons do not like how slippery tile can feel.
In these instances, make sure your bearded has plenty to climb on to keep nails trimmed and consider laying down some non-toxic adhesive and topsoil and sand to the tile to give it more traction.
Landscaping and ‘furniture’ needs (branches, rocks, etc.)
Nobody wants to live in a home void of furniture, not even a bearded dragon! Make sure your beardie has plenty to keep him or her occupied in their new home.
A Large Rock, Branch, or some type of platform
You’ll want to provide them with a large rock, branch, or some type of platform that allows for them to come within about 10 inches of their basking light so they can stay healthy (heat helps with digestion).
In addition, you may want to consider adding some safe plants to spruce up their living arrangement.
Also, many bearded dragons love having little reptile hides they can sneak into and sleep inside.
You can typically find these from online retailers or in virtually any pet store.
These hides are essential for brumation, the period in which your dragon essentially hibernates in fall or winter.
Another piece of “furniture” you should consider adding to your bearded dragon’s habitat is a special hammock made just for them.
Surprisingly enough, bearded dragons LOVE lounging on hammocks and you can find ones that will hang nicely in your beardie’s habitat at most pet stores or online.
The ideal temperature of your bearded dragon’s tank should vary, depending on what side of the tank they are on.
Bearded dragons need a hot side and a warm side in their tank, with the hot side being between 95 and 110 degrees, and the warm side being between 75 and 80 degrees during the day, and definitely no warmer than 85.
At night, the temperature can fall to 65 degrees before you need to consider a secondary heat source (see below).
When it comes to basking temperatures, adults and juveniles’ needs for temperature will vary slightly.
Adults do best with a basking temperature of around 100 degrees, while juveniles thrive with a warmer temperature of 110 degrees.
To ensure the temperatures are ideal on both sides of the tank and during the day and night, I recommend purchasing 2 separate thermometers to be absolutely certain.
Secondary Heat Source
Should you not be able to keep your tank’s temperature within this range, you should really buy a ceramic heat emitter, as under tank heaters run the risk of shorting out and burning your beardie!
Light (different kinds of light)
Because bearded dragons are from the desert in Australia, it is imperative that you include plenty of light for them to mimic their natural habitat.
Their entire tank should be lit up with full spectrum lighting, in the form of both a UVA/UVB fluorescent light.
When purchasing a bulb, it is important that the bulb emits UVB because these are the rays emitted by the sun and you’re your bearded dragon needs for proper digestion.
UVA light on the other hand, simply refers to the light we see, so basically just to keep your beardie happy.
Also, make sure you have a good basking light for them to actually warm themselves under.
If you don’t include UVB and UVA lighting, as well as a basking light, your dragon will likely become very sick.
Also, to ensure your beardie’s tank is a healthy environment for them, make sure you provide them with some sort of platform (a large rock or branch works great) that will bring them within about 10-12 inches of their basking light so they can properly warm themselves.
The basking light should provide a wide berth of light that allows for the bearded dragon to evenly warm her entire body.
Water and humidity
As desert dwellers, bearded dragons are used to not having a reliable and consistent source of water every day and as such, don’t necessarily need a water dish in their cage every day.
Unlike other pets, your bearded dragon should be getting a large majority of their water from their diet.
Dark leafy greens and fruit should keep your dragon decently hydrated however, spraying them down in moderation with some water in a spray bottle will also help.
If you can however get your bearded dragon to drink from a water dish, make sure the dish is shallow (so that they don’t potentially drown).
Also, consistent water sources have contributed to upper respiratory infections in dragons by increasing the humidity in the enclosure, so I recommend you only place a water dish in for maybe a couple hours every other day or so.
Naturally, water should be kept sparkling clean and the bowl should be cleaned after every use.
Use a water conditioner to remove chlorine and other unwanted chemicals from your water source to ensure your bearded dragon stays healthy.
To encourage your bearded dragon to drink more water, you can always add a tiny bit of strawberry or other fruit juice to the water to enhance the taste.
To hydrate your bearded dragon, I also recommend letting them take a bath at least once a week so that they can absorb some water through their skin and have the option to drink more as well.
When giving your beardie a bath, it is super important that you monitor them closely, especially if they have not had many baths before.
When it comes to humidity, these desert dwellers like it nice and dry, go figure.
As long as your tank has a lid that allows for air to easily flow in and out, the tank should remain at a good humidity level.
If you house your bearded dragon in a glass terrarium, I highly encourage you to purchase a background.
This background will help your beardie feel more at ease in their surroundings by mimicking the look of their natural environment meanwhile also help to minimize glass surfing.
So, there you have it! These are all the things to consider when setting up a habitat for your bearded dragon.
The habitat for a bearded dragon, is unlike other pets, extremely important because even the seemingly smallest of errors can have dire consequences.
Above all else, do your best to make sure your beardie’s tank is the right temperature, has the right lighting setup, and doesn’t pose any threats to their overall health, such as being too small of having loose particle substrate.
If you can accomplish these things, then that’s truly half the battle!
If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below!