How To Easily Create The Best Habitat For Your Bearded Dragon

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

Proper Habitat Setup for Bearded Dragons

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.

best bearded dragon cage

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.

Enclosure (tanks)

Furnished Bearded Dragon tank

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.

Glass Enclosures

Glass terrariums

Glass terrarium

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.

Plastic Enclosures

PVC Cages

PVC Cages

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.

Vision Cages

Vision Cage

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

ABS Cages

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.

Wood Enclosures

Melamine Cage

Melamine Cage

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.

Plywood cage

Plywood cage

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.

Substrate (flooring)

Bearded Dragon on Sand Substrate

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

Bearded Dragon on Loose Substrate

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)
  • Gravel
  • 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
  • Millet

Non-Particle Substrate:

Bearded Dragon on Non Particle Substrate

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…

  • Newspaper
  • 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.)

Furnished Bearded Dragon tank

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

rescued bearded dragon on branch

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).

Plants

Fat Plants San Diego Live Echeveria Succulent Plant in Pot in a 4 inch Plastic Growers Pot (4 inch, Perle Von Nurnberg)

In addition, you may want to consider adding some safe plants to spruce up their living arrangement.

Hides

Penn-Plax Shale Step Ledge and Cave Hide-Out Medium Aquarium Resin

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.

Hammock

bearded dragon on hammock

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.

Temperature

bearded dragon temperature gradient

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.

Check out the best thermometers for your bearded dragon’s tank HERE

Secondary Heat Source

Wuhostam 50W 2 Pack Ceramic Heat Lamp,Black Infrared Bulb Emitter Lamp Infrared Heat Bulb for Pet Coop Heater Reptile Chicken Lizard Turtle Brooder Bulb Temperature Adjustable No Harm No Light

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)

Why Reptiles Need UVB

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.

Bearded Dragon Getting Sprayed with Water

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.

Zoo Med ReptiSafe Water Conditioner, 64 oz

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.

Decor (background)

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.

Conclusion

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!

23 thoughts on “How To Easily Create The Best Habitat For Your Bearded Dragon”

  1. How do you manage lighting/heating at night? Should lamps be on a timer? Is there a different lamp type you recommend for night time?
    Also, do owners need to adjust the day/night light and heat sources in the fall/winter to ensure the beardie goes into brumation?

    Reply
    • At Night Beardies save up their energy from the day to stay warm so heat is not always needed at night, but if you want to be extra careful then provide a night heat source for them. When you’re Beardie is in Brumation you don’t need a heat lamp or UVB. During Brumation in the wild Bearded Dragon will burrow themselves during cold seasons because less food and warmth will be around.

      Reply
  2. Just got a juvenile beardie, in his enclosure would it be ok to put his hide on the hotter side of tank? It’s currently under its basking hammock so not getting direct heat at the very least.

    Reply
    • You want to make sure your beardie can escape the heat to a cool side of the cage, and a hide over there would be helpful if he’s after hiding on the cool side. Basically you want to give him as many options as possible as though he were free to regulate his own temperature and comfort like in the wild. I keep a hide on both the warm side and the cool side and he uses them both

      Reply
  3. All of these people who get a beardie and have questions is scary. A proper first step in owing a high maintenance reptile is buying the manual FIRST. The Bearded Dragon Manual by Two Smith Sommella is the one to get. It covers the basics so you don’t make vital mistakes. They are not a begginer pet and can be labor intense if you want to keep it healthy.

    Reply
    • Hi Leah!

      I’d recommend table/cupboard but if you don’t have any pets or small children that can mess with the enclosure or stress out the beardie, the floor should be fine.

      Reply
  4. What is the best uvb light panel for a 40 gallon terrarium? What wattage? and what wattage for the basking light?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Kim!

      In terms of the UVB bulb, I’d recommend you opt for the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB T5 HO Lamp. Try to mount it around 12 inches away from the basking spot or a tiny bit closer if you have mesh between the basking spot and the bulb as mesh filters out UVB. You can pair it with this 24″ terrarium hood.

      For the basking light, any halogen or fluorescent bulb between 40 and 100 watts will likely work. I’m partial to halogen bulbs around 75watts for this size cage. Or if you want something specific to reptiles, you can try these bulbs. Just make sure you purchase a ceramic fixture and play around with the height at which the bulb sits so the basking spot/cage temps are just right.

      For more lighting and temperature help, be sure to check out my lighting guide.

      Reply
      • I have a 33x16x16 melamine enclosure. I set the Zoo Med Thermostat to 105 & placed the probe on the basking spot. It keeps reaching 105, and clicking the light off, then back on. (constantly). I have it hooked up to a rheostat dimmer, and the dimmer is as low as it can go. How low do you think I can go with the wattage, and still keep the warm & cool areas warm enough? (I’m currently using a 75w).

        Reply
  5. Hi I’m getting a baby beardie soon Ive been doing a lot of research and taking notes so I really appreciate this site but I have a question regarding night time and keeping them warm. Do heating pad work? Do lights have to be on? This is the most confusing thing for me so far.

    Reply
    • I’m currently raising a baby as well. From what I know, and my past experience is that beardies like to sleep in the dark, and their tank should be a lot cooler at night. For a baby (0-2months), you will still want to make sure the tank’s temperature does not go below 70degrees. If it does, I recommend getting a ceramic heat emitter with a dimmer to control the tank’s temperature. They will keep your baby dragon nice and toasty at night without bugging them with a bright basking light.

      Reply
  6. I have a 33x16x16 melamine enclosure. I set the Zoo Med Thermostat to 84 & placed the probe in the coolest spot. It keeps reaching 85, and clicking the light off, then back on. (at an annoying rate). I have it hooked up to a rheostat dimmer, and the dimmer is set to ‘low’.
    Any suggestions for keeping the hot side hot enough, while keeping the cool side cool enough, and keeping the basking light from constantly flickering on and off?

    Advice would be worth gold for my beardie and me! (She’s 4.5 mo old.)

    Thanks,

    – Adrea

    Reply
  7. hey as someone who is about to get a baby beardie. I was wondering
    is it ok to house a baby in a larger cage so I don’t have to but the replacement? like can I start with the 75 gallons?

    Reply
  8. My bearded dragon has his own bath he likes to sit in when ever he wants to cool off. On the cool side of his enclosure. So I should take it out ? He would drink out of a little bowl and dislikes being sprayed his last owner wasn’t very fond of him or took much care of him other than feeding when needed

    Reply

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