Setup a Bearded Dragon Habitat Like a BOSS!
Here’s the deal:
Your bearded dragon should be treated like the king or queen that it is.
And you know this!
So how do you go boss mode and setup a habitat fit for royalty?
You need a cage. You need lighting. You need accessories and you need supplies.
We will cover all of that in this guide. Let’s get started.
Bearded Dragon Cages
The perfect cage is:
- Large enough to account for growth and comfort.
- Can securely shut to keep other pets out.
- Opens from the front.
Here are our top bearded dragon tank choices:
Carolina Customs Cages Terrarium
-Front doors with key-lock security
-Quick assembly (15 minutes) and can be disassembled for easy transport
-Deep base below the door opening for a good amount of substrate (for bioactive setups)
-Doesn't come with the background pictured
-No handles on the sliding glass doors
This tank is all you will ever need as far as enclosures go. Top of the line with the correct specs all around.
They do have a smaller 48L x 18D x 18H and less expensive model that will also work.
Accessories That Go Great With This Tank
Repti Zoo 67 Gallon Bearded Dragon Terrarium
-Front sliding doors with security lock
-Quick and easy installation
-Cable pass grommets
-Has the ability to stack (the stackers are sold separately)
-The background decoration does not come with the purchase
-No handles on the sliding glass doors
You really can’t go wrong with this cage.
It is lower priced than the Carolina Customs and there are very little downsides to it.
Really cool that it has stacking capability (because you can never just have one!)
Bearded Dragon Cage Summary
While we’ve listed our two favorites, there are plenty more out there (especially in smaller sizes).
For a baby bearded dragon, you can start with something as small as 24″ in length.
A smaller enclosure will make it easier for them to hunt their food, but you will eventually need to upgrade.
For adult bearded dragons, the minimum needs to be 36L x 18D x 18H in inches. We (as well as the beardie) much prefer the 4x2x2 ft. footprint.
Some of the bearded dragon cages for sale that you can select from are:
The Branded Terrariums – Great footprint, front opening doors and lighting accessories that fit perfectly.
Glass Aquarium with Screen Top – Much cheaper option by finding an aquarium and purchasing a screen top for it. Look at local pet stores, reptile shows and used markets such as Craigslist and Offer Up.
Bearded Dragon Starter Kits – These are what most first time owners start with (they are what’s available at the reptile store you buy your bearded dragon from). We don’t recommend them as you will end out eventually replacing many pieces of the kit.
Custom Brand Enclosures – Usually made out of Melamine or PVC material. These are custom type enclosures and make great display units. Some companies like Vision Cages and Showcase Cages offer a variety.
DIY Enclosures – There are quite a few owners making great looking setups for their beardies. If you are handy and have the tools, you can save good money going the DIY route.
Bearded Dragon Lighting
A proper lighting setup is crucial for the health of your bearded dragon.
You can set the lighting up for a 12 hour on and 12 hour off cycle. This can be automated with a digital programmable timer.
Your lighting setup will need to have:
- A basking bulb
- A UVB bulb
- Light holder stands and bulb domes (possibly)
Let’s look at three common setups
Carolina Customs 34" T5HO UVB + Double GU10 Basking Light Fixture
-Hooks to the bottom side of the mesh screen
-Perfect fit for the Carolina Customs Terrarium
-Comes with mounting hardware
-Comes in different sizes (34" and 22")
-No need to have bulbs sitting on top of your tank
-No stands or bulb holders
-Bulbs sold separately
Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb
-The bulb is reliable and won't burn out
-6 month warranty and the company honors it
-Can last up to several years for one bulb
-It requires a dome bulb holder
-If you don't want to set it on top of the lid you will need a light stand
The main issue with MVB bulbs are how hot they get.
These bulbs last a long time and provide both the heat and the UVA/UVB needed for a healthy bearded dragon.
The Trio - Reptisun UVB, Light Holder and Halogen
-Halogen bulbs are found at common hardware supply stores
-You can mount the light fixture against the back of the tank
-You will need a bulb dome and light stand
-Since you mount it inside, you will need to create an opening in the screen for the wire
-Halogen bulbs can burn out fairly quickly
This is a common setup due to the light fixture being at a low cost.
You will need a bulb holder and a light stand.
The Reptisun will need to be changed out every 6-12 months as they lose efficiency.
Bearded Dragon Lighting Summary
In conclusion, you have choices 🙂
The Reptisun UVB bulb is tried and true and will come in several different lengths.
The GE fixture only houses the 18″ Reptisun bulb. Look to the Zoo Med Terrarium Hoods to house the longer bulbs.
The Carolina Customs seems to just make life easier. But you will need to get bulbs for it.
All of these will work just fine. Pick one that is in your budget and you will be good to go.
Bearded Dragon Temperature and Humidity
Imagine for a moment – You’re in your home and perfectly comfortable, snuggled in front of the fireplace.
After a while, it gets a bit warm so you move over to your couch to cool off.
You bearded dragon needs that same option.
Bear with me for a moment as I get a little technical.
Bearded dragons are ectothermic creatures that need a dialed in temperature gradient to allow for effective thermoregulation.
An ectotherm is an animal that depends on the external environment to regulate its body temperature.
Thermoregulation is keeping a stable core body temperature.
What does this mean to you and your beardie?
You need a hot and cold side – A sweet temperature gradient.
This gives your bearded dragon the option to move to the hot or cold side to regulate its internal body temperature.
Your Relative Humidity (RH) should ideally be kept at 30-40%.
Let’s break down the temperature ranges we are looking for:
|Enclosure Temperature Values|
Lights On - Cool Side
Lights On - Hot Side
Lights Off - Full Enclosure
72-79F Degrees. Under 65F will need supplemental heat.
|Basking Platform Temperatures|
Baby Bearded Dragon
Adult/Sub-Adult Bearded Dragon
How Do You Dial In These Measurements?
It’s easier than you think.
You will need two tools for the job:
The thermo gun will be used to check the basking platform and make any necessary adjustments.
You can also use it to “sweep” the enclosure for a quick check on the temperature gradient.
For the gauges, place one at each side of the bearded dragon habitat.
Using Supplemental Heat
Bearded Dragon Substrate
You might be wondering:
Is sand a good option for my bearded dragon tank?
It’s a controversial subject due to the possibility of impaction.
Impaction occurs when a bearded dragon swallows something that eventually causes a blockage in the digestive track.
Like ingesting sand when snatching up their live feed.
Now, I don’t want to scare you. I’ve successfully used sand, but only with a bioactive setup.
And never with a baby bearded dragon.
So let’s keep it simple – Use reptile carpet.
Reptile carpet is the best substrate for bearded dragons when you’re a beginner.
It comes in many sizes and can be cut to fit your enclosure. It’s easy to clean and pretty darn cheap.
You usually have the option of a brownish color for that desert vibe or green.
Bearded Dragon Habitat Decor
Now comes the really fun part!
Let’s decorate! Party time!
Use your imagination. Get creative. But keep these considerations in mind:
- Something for a basking platform
- Something to hide in
There are many options for basking platforms:
- Grapewood branches
- Cork bark rounds
- Stacked up tile or brick
For the branches and rounds, visit your local reptile shop or get a ticket to a local reptile expo. These are best to look at in person to ensure they will fit your enclosure. And usually your local shops or expos will have a ton to look through.
- A place to rest
- A place to escape the heat
- A place if your beardie is feeling stressed
I mean, this is pretty cute right? A bearded dragon lazy lounging on a hammock. Just chilling out.
There are a bunch of options. Just make sure to get one that is large enough for your beardie. You can have multiple in one enclosure!
Water and Food Dishes
You have a couple of options for a tank background:
- You can paint the outside back and sides with whatever design you want (great for those with artistic abilities)
- You can use a background image – Tons of options
- You can glue some cork bark slabs to the back of the enclosure to give a more realistic looking background.
My advice – do something for the background as it really livens up the habitat.
The only thing I advise against are the foam backgrounds. Some beardies can tear those things up with their nails when climbing it. Makes a mess.
Bearded Dragon Tank Maintenance
Still with me?
At this point, you are ready to start creating an awesome bearded dragon habitat that your beardie will love you for.
But before I let you go, let’s briefly talk about tank maintenance.
Think about it – poop baking under a hot bulb. No good, right?
You should spot clean everyday. This is a great time to also check on your bearded dragon and make sure all is good.
Every 30 days, perform a thorough cleaning.
Take everything out and clean the tank with a vinegar and water solution – No need to use a bunch of vinegar. Just a little bit diluted with water. Allow the cage to air out.
Hose off accessories and allow to dry out. You can soak plastic accessories in a vinegar and water solution.
Be vigilant with the clean up. That will make for one happy bearded dragon!
Well, That Wraps It Up!
We’ve touched on everything you need to setup an excellent bearded dragon cage.
These are wonderful creatures and great for first time reptile owners.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave any comments in the box below.
Example Bearded Dragon Cage Setups
You can pick up 40 gallon breeders and larger tanks fairly cheap at local pet stores. If you do go that route, look below for a checklist to make a great habitat for your bearded dragon
Baby Bearded Dragon Enclosure Setup
- 29 gallon long aquarium with reptile screen top
- Reptisun 10.0 UVB 18″ fluorescent bulb with GE 18″ light fixture. You could also do a fancier, more heavy duty setup with this Zoo Med HO bulb and Zoo Med HO Terrarium fixture
- Sylvania 70 watt halogen flood light with Exo Terra wire cage bulb holder
- Zoo Med reptile lamp stand
- 1 piece of a medium sized grapewood branch (highly recommended to find these in person so you can see if it the shape of the branch will fit the dimensions of your tank).
- Plastic reptile cave that sits on top of a slab of brick.
- Reptile hammock
- Reptile water dish and a small dog food bowl (keeps smaller dubias from climbing out)
- 29 gallon reptile carpet
Adult Bearded Dragon Enclosure Setup
- 40 gallon breeder glass tank with mesh lid
- Mega-ray Mercury Vapor Bulb 100 watt
- Fluker’s Large Deep Dome Light Fixture
- Zoo Med reptile lamp stand
- Zoo Med Mini Combo Deep Dome Light Fixture – Used for boosting ambient temps during the day and a grow light for any live vegetation in the enclosure.
- Slabs of different size brick stacked up to make the basking platform
- Large black hammock
- Food and water dish
- Thermometer Hygrometer combo
- Desert theme background (36×18 inch)
- 40g reptile carpet
- If you do a bioactive setup, you can also plant greens such as mustard greens