Setting up the perfect habitat for your bearded dragon is extremely important for their health and wellbeing. Bearded dragons are very active reptiles that require ample space to run around and proper lighting and heating to stay healthy. Providing an ideal enclosure from the start will ensure your bearded dragon thrives. Here is a complete guide on how to set up a bearded dragon tank.
One of the most important factors in setting up a bearded dragon habitat is providing an adequately sized tank. Bearded dragons grow rapidly, especially during the first 12-18 months. Babies and juveniles should be housed in a 40-50 gallon tank, while adults require a minimum of a 75-120 gallon tank. The larger the tank, the better. Providing ample room will allow your bearded dragon opportunities to exhibit natural behaviors like running, climbing and exploring. Tanks that are too small can cause stress and health problems.
Aim for the biggest tank possible that can fit in your home. If space is limited, start with at least a 40 gallon tank for babies and plan to upgrade the enclosure as your bearded dragon grows. Tanks that are 48-60 inches long by 24 inches wide by 24 inches tall are ideal for adult bearded dragons.
Choosing the right substrate is crucial for maintaining proper tank conditions and bearded dragon health. Loose substrates like sand, calcium sand, crushed walnut shells, and gravel should never be used, as they can cause impaction when accidentally ingested.
The best options are solid substrates that won’t cause impaction. Good choices include non-adhesive shelf liner, tiles, paper towels, or reptile carpets. Make sure any textured substrates are smooth enough not to catch and damage nails. Substrates should be easy to clean and replace as needed.
Avoid using substrates like bark chips, corn cobbed, or substrates made from recycled paper, as these can harbor bacteria. Stick to simple, solid substrates without loose particles or strong odors.
Lighting & Heating
Proper lighting and controlled heat gradients are absolutely vital for bearded dragon health. Inadequate temperatures and lighting is one of the most common causes of health issues in captive dragons.
A basking light bulb should be provided to create a hot basking area in the tank. The basking area temperature should be 95-110°F. Place the basking light at one end of the tank to establish a temperature gradient. The basking light should be a white incandescent, ceramic heat emitter or reptile-specific basking bulb. Make sure the wattage provides adequate heat.
In addition to basking lights, full spectrum UVB lighting MUST be provided for calcium metabolism and vitamin D3 synthesis. Without UVB exposure, bearded dragons will develop painful metabolic bone disease. Choose a reputable UVB bulb specifically made for desert reptiles, rated at 10.0-12%. Replace bulbs every 6 months, as their UV output drops over time.
Mount the UVB bulb inside the tank if possible. If placed on top of a mesh tank lid, make sure it is no further than 12” from where your bearded dragon basks. Ensure UVB bulbs overlap with the basking zone so your bearded dragon absorbs UVB rays while basking.
The overall ambient temperature of the tank should range from 75-85°F during the day. Provide a temperature gradient with the warm end at 95-110°F and the cool end no lower than 75°F. Nighttime temps can safely drop to 65-75°F. Monitor temperatures with accurate digital thermometers placed at each end of the tank.
Accessories & Decor
Incorporating proper tank accessories and decorations will complete your bearded dragon’s habitat. Here are some important elements to include:
- Basking platform or ramp: Provide an elevated basking area under the heat lamp for proper basking.
- Hide box: Include a hide box on the cool end of the tank to provide security.
- Climbing décor: Add branches, logs or rocks for climbing enrichment.
- Food and water dishes: Provide heavy ceramic food and water dishes that cannot be tipped over easily.
- Thermometers: Install digital thermometers with probes at each end to monitor temps.
- Hygrometers: Use a hygrometer to measure tank humidity, which should be 20-40%.
- Timer: Use a timer for the basking light to keep a consistent 12 hour day/night cycle.
Bearded Dragon Tank Setup Tips
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when setting up your bearded dragon habitat:
- Quarantine new decorations and disinfect everything before adding to the tank to prevent disease.
- Avoid pesticide-treated wood; use natural wood, cork or rocks for climbing.
- Do not use light colored or bright decorations that can attract your bearded dragon’s attention and cause eye issues.
- Install lighting and heating components on the top of the tank, not inside where they take up space.
- Ensure all heating components are guarded against direct contact to prevent burns.
- Maintain proper heating and lighting even at night; bearded dragons require consistent temperatures.
- Keep the tank in a quiet area of your home away from high traffic, loud noises, pets, or drafts.
Setting up the proper enclosure is one of the most vital aspects of bearded dragon care. By following these guidelines on tank size, lighting, heating, substrates and decor, you can create an ideal habitat that meets all of your bearded dragon’s needs. Providing ample space, temperature gradients, UVB exposure and enrichment will give your beardie the very best start. With the right setup, your bearded dragon will thrive for years to come!
FAQs About How to Set Up a Bearded Dragon Tank
What should I include in the tank for creating a comfortable and enriching environment for my bearded dragon?
Include hiding spots, branches, rocks, and climbing opportunities. Add safe plants, basking platforms, and shallow water dishes for enrichment.
How do I set up a basking area and a cooler zone within the tank?
Place a basking lamp over a designated basking spot with a temperature of 100-110°F. Ensure the cooler zone is at 75-85°F to provide temperature gradients.
What are the temperature and humidity requirements for a bearded dragon’s tank, and how do I maintain them?
Maintain a basking spot at 100-110°F and a cooler zone at 75-85°F during the day. Humidity should be around 30-40%. Use thermostats and hygrometers to monitor and adjust as needed.
What is the proper way to clean and maintain a bearded dragon’s tank to ensure their health and well-being?
Regularly clean and disinfect the tank and accessories. Remove waste promptly, change substrate as needed, and provide fresh water daily. Maintain proper temperature and lighting.
Are there any safety considerations or precautions when setting up a tank for a bearded dragon?
Ensure secure tank closures to prevent escapes. Avoid toxic plants, substrate, or decorations. Use only safe cleaning products and maintain proper temperature gradients to prevent burns.
How can I create a natural and aesthetically pleasing habitat for my bearded dragon while meeting their needs?
Use non-toxic, natural decor and safe live or artificial plants. Create a varied landscape with hiding spots, branches, and rocks. Combine aesthetics with functionality for an enriched environment.