Bearded Dragon Habitats, How to Create Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
Bearded Dragon has unique requirements to stay healthy and happy. The
following tips can help you provide your pet with a proper, hospitable
An appropriately sized aquarium with a tight-fitting lid
will make a wonderful home for your Bearded Dragon. Hatchlings may be
kept in a 10-15 gallon aquarium; adults require at least a 55-60 gallon
aquarium. Wire cages are not ideal enclosures, because they do not
retain heat and also can cause foot and nose trauma. If you must use a
wire cage, make sure the wire is coated with plastic to lessen the
possibility of injury.
Cages should be simple in design to
facilitate easy, thorough cleaning. If you use a cage made of wood,
seal it with polyurethane or a similar waterproofing agent, and caulk
joints to enable cleaning and disinfection. Allow polyurethane or other
sealant to dry several days, and air the cage out thoroughly prior to
putting your pet in it to prevent toxicity.
lining the bottom of your Dragon's cage should be aesthetically
pleasing, easy to clean, absorbent, and digestible if swallowed.
Substrate can be flat newspaper, sheets of brown wrapping paper (the
kind that comes in rolls), AstroTurf, or indoor/outdoor carpet. Do NOT
use cedar shavings, gravel, crushed corn cob, kitty litter, wood
shavings, or potting soil that contains vermiculite, pesticides,
fertilizer, or wetting agents. Landscaping, "Furniture," and Plants
Bearded Dragon will enjoy an assortment of branches for climbing and
basking. Make sure branches are secure, of various sizes, and free of
pitch and sap - oak works very well. The branches should be at least as
wide as your Bearded Dragon to ensure your pet's comfort and safety.
Boards covered with indoor/outdoor carpet also make good climbing posts.
Flat-bottomed, smooth rocks are also a welcome addition to your
dragon's habitat, because they can help wear down toenails, which in
captivity, must be clipped often. Your dragon will also enjoy having a
place to hide. Whether you use an empty cardboard box, cardboard tube,
or flower pot, the hiding place should provide a snug fit and should be
located high in the enclosure. If your Bearded Dragon does not use its
hiding place, try a different one or move it to a different location
within the enclosure.
Plants are a beneficial addition to your
dragon's home. In addition to providing humidity, shade, and a sense of
security, they also beautify the enclosure. Be sure the plants you
choose are nontoxic. Dracaena, Ficus benjamina, and hibiscus are all
good choices. Be sure the plants have not been treated with pesticides
and the potting soil does not contain vermiculite, pesticides,
fertilizer, or wetting agents. Wash real plants with a water spray and
water them thoroughly several times to the point where water runs out
of the bottom of the pot to help remove any toxic chemicals that may be
present. It's also a good idea to keep new live plants in a different
part of your house for a while before putting them in your dragon's
your Bearded Dragon is a cold-blooded animal from arid woodland and
desert environments, he requires supplemental heat for proper
digestion. Keep your dragon's enclosure at 78-88°F during the day and in
the 70s at night. If your Dragon is cold, he cannot properly digest
his food and is increasingly prone to illness. Lizards like a
temperature gradient, so if they are cold, they can move to a warmer
part of the cage and vice versa. Place 2 thermometers in the enclosure, one at the basking level and one closer to the floor of the enclosure. Secondary heat source:
A secondary heat source creates additional heat in specific areas of
the enclosure to provide your Dragon with an essential temperature
gradient. To best supply this gradient, the secondary heat source
should cover only 25-30% of the enclosure's surface. For adult Dragons,
the secondary heat source could be a 30-75 watt incandescent bulb in a
ceramic base, securely mounted where the animal cannot touch it.
Special "basking lights"
are also ideal. Either type of light should shine down on a particular
basking area from outside the cage. The temperature under the light in
the basking area should be 90-100°F. Hatchlings housed in smaller
aquariums will require lights of lower wattage, or the aquarium
temperature may become too warm very quickly. Primary heat source:
A primary heat source is necessary to keep the temperature of the
entire enclosure within the proper range. A series of incandescent
lights over the cage is one of the best heat sources. At night, these
lights will need to be turned off and another heat source may be needed
depending on the ambient temperature. A heating pad placed under the cage or nocturnal reptile incandescent light bulbs
which produce heat, but little visible light, can be used. For larger
enclosures, a space heater or separate room thermostat can be used to
keep the room at the appropriate temperature. Be sure to place smoke
detectors/fire alarms in rooms with lights or other artificial heat
Your Bearded Dragon requires different types of light to maintain good health. Visible white light: In addition to heat, incandescent bulbs also provide visible white light. A combination of fluorescent and incandescent light fixtures can be used to provide visible light to all areas of the enclosure.
Glass enclosures, even those with a screen top, should
NEVER be used when providing access to natural sunlight. Glass cages
will trap heat and can cause fatally high temperatures.
Ultraviolet light: In addition to heat and
white light, your Bearded Dragon must have access to natural sunlight
for good health - it requires a certain spectrum of ultraviolet (UV)
light called UVB. UVB is necessary for your Bearded Dragon to make
Vitamin D. No artificial light is as good as natural sunlight when it
comes to providing UVB, so when the outside temperature on a sunny day
is over 70°F, place your Bearded Dragon outside in a secure screen or
wire cage with a locking door. Provide some shade and a hiding place
within the enclosure. UV rays do not penetrate window glass so Bearded
Dragons placed in a sunny window will not receive UV light.
If you cannot provide your Bearded Dragon with easy access to bright sunlight, use a special light to provide the necessary UVB light.
Fish/aquarium and plant "grow" lights, either incandescent or
fluorescent, are not sufficient, since they do NOT produce UVB. You will
need a light that emits light in the 290-320 nanometer range. Lights
producing only UVB, and lights that produce a combination of UVB and
white lights are available. Replace UVB light sources every 6 months.
Second to the sun, the best light source is a combination
of visible light from fluorescent or incandescent lights, and UVB
light from special reptile lights or combination lights.
Remember, since UV light cannot penetrate glass, the
top of your dragon's enclosure must be a relatively wide wire mesh (not
so tightly woven that the mesh blocks light) when you use overhead UVB
light sources. Ideally, place the UVB light source no more than 18
inches from the spot where your dragon spends most of his time; 10"-12"
The areas illuminated by the incandescent basking
light and the UV light should overlap. If your Bearded Dragon spends
almost all his time basking under the incandescent light, while the UV
light is at the other end of the cage, the UV light will offer no
benefits. Water and Humidity
Although your Bearded Dragon will receive most of his water from his food, fresh drinking water should be available at all times in a shallow bowl
that cannot be tipped over. Water in your dragon's environment is also
a requirement, since proper humidity is necessary for proper shedding.
When humidity is low (especially during winter months), mist your
Bearded Dragon with water several times a week. Your dragon may also
enjoy soaking in a tub of water; however, be sure the water tub allows
easy entrance and exit. You will need to clean your dragon's tub and
replace the water regularly, since your dragon may urinate or defecate
in the water. In fact, water usually stimulates elimination, so
immersing your dragon in water is a part of the treatment for
constipation. Sanitation Clean
your dragon's cage, food bowl, and water bowl routinely with a
specially formulated sanitation product or a solution of one part
household bleach to 10 parts water. Rinse all items thoroughly after
cleaning and allow them to dry thoroughly before reassembling the cage
and introducing your Bearded Dragon. Since your dragon can harbor the
bacteria Salmonella, wash and sanitize your hands thoroughly
after handling your pet or his cage (this is a good idea even if you
wear rubber gloves during cleaning). Housing More Than One Dragon
are instinctively territorial and may fight when caged together. A
male and female Bearded Dragon can generally be kept together; however,
the male may become extremely aggressive during the breeding season
and require removal. Also be aware that larger Bearded Dragons may keep
smaller cage mates away from food and heat sources, and may even see
them as an appetizer. If you plan to house Bearded Dragons together,
use a larger cage to decrease the possibility of aggression and monitor
your dragons closely.