Bearded Dragon Deluxe Buying Guide
Prepared by HappyDragons
A bearded dragon enclosure should be large enough to allow for a proper thermoregulatory gradient and have opaque or covered sides to reduce stress and retain heat. To build a fully enriching landscape that allows your beardie to climb, dig, and bask to their heart's content, we recommend a minimum 6’x2’x2’ PVC enclosure.
Bearded dragon substrate should replicate the soil found in their native regions, usually a combination of soil, clay, crushed rock, and sand, and should be at least 4-6” deep to facilitate digging and burrowing. Josh's Frogs BioBedding Desert is specially formulated to recreate the natural textures, density, heat conduction, and moisture retention of arid and semi-arid soils in the wild. For a 6’x2’x2’ you'll need at least 90 quarts (9 bags) of substrate.
Phillip Lietz of Arids Only also recommends adding small rocks or pebbles to your beardie's substrate to mimic the rocky gravel content of their native Australian soil.
Note: Using BioBedding Desert alone does NOT automatically create a bioactive habitat - more specific steps must be taken to achieve bioactivity. This substrate is great for beardies in its inactive state, but you will still need to spot-clean regularly and replace it as needed.
Heat & Lighting
A bearded dragon enclosure should have overhead basking heat, appropriate UVB, a daylight lamp, and tools to monitor and control these elements. For larger habitats, you should also have supplementary heat sources available.
You'll need a cluster of at least 2 high wattage heat bulbs to create an appropriate basking area. 90 watt halogen flood bulbs are an ideal source of IR-A and IR-B radiation needed for healthy thermoregulation, best paired with a reflective dome fixture to project the heat evenly and naturally.
Larger enclosures should have “backup” heating to maintain ambient temps, especially if your house gets particularly cold at night. We recommend either two 50w deep heat projectors OR two 60w ceramic heat emitters in a reflective double dome fixture.
Bearded dragons need plenty of strong UVB in order to stay healthy. For large enclosures, we recommend a 14% UVB output T5 HO linear bulb with a reflective fixture that spans ½ to ⅔ the length of the enclosure. The lamp can be placed directly on top of the screen or installed inside the enclosure. Be sure to check our basking distance chart to determine the height of your primary basking area, where the UVI should be at its strongest.
Diurnal reptiles like beardies should have a 6400-6500K daylight lamp to stimulate natural behaviors and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. A full spectrum LED bar is the strongest, brightest, and most efficient option. This lamp should span 75-100% of the enclosure length. For a 6’x2’x2’ habitat, you may choose to combine several lamps for full coverage.
Monitoring & Regulation
- 2 Gauges: Place each thermometer/hygrometer on opposite sides of the enclosure to monitor the necessary warm-to-cool temperature gradient.
- Outlet timer: All reptiles should have a healthy circadian schedule: heat and UVB turned on during the day, then everything turned off at night to allow for total darkness and a natural temperature drop (~12hrs/day). A digital timer power strip is most convenient for a consistent light cycle.
- Thermostat: A 2-outlet dimming thermostat is the best way to keep your temperatures within an ideal range - just place the probe on your basking surface and set a max temp. The VE-300X2 has a built-in night drop timer that you can program to match your light cycle. (If using night drop, plug thermostat into a ‘continuous power’ outlet on your digital timer strip)
- Rheostat: plug your supplementary heat sources (CHE or DHP bulbs) into a rheostat (manual dimmer) so you can smoothly reduce or increase the heat output as needed.
Decor & Enrichment
Bearded dragons require a variety of decor items that are vital for basking, security, and health. Get creative with your decor, there's no such thing as too much enrichment!
Your enclosure should have a flat, elevated surface for basking beneath the heat source, ideally made out of stone or wood for optimal thermal performance, and large enough to accommodate most of an adult's body. Beardies also require a warm hide, so these combination platform-caves are a perfect fit!
Sturdy ledges or climbable backgrounds are invaluable to an enriching enclosure. They make use of vertical wall space that may otherwise go to waste, allowing your beardie to climb.
Cork & Branches
An enriching habitat should have 3-4 large branches for your beardie to climb and at least 2 large cork flats to provide more hiding spots, basking areas, and varied textures.
Artificial plants add more shade for heat regulation, coverage for security and enrichment, and they enhance the appearance of a naturalistic habitat. We recommend at least 3-4 plants for your enclosure.
Bearded dragons need at least 1 hide on the warm side, which can often double as the basking platform. However, it's best to provide additional hiding spots throughout enclosure for maximum thermoregulatory options. You can add 1 or more of these beardie-sized caves to complete your deluxe landscape.
Tools & Feeding
For a deluxe bearded dragon setup, Arids Only recommends:
- Large, heavy water dish
- Escape-proof bowl for live feeders
- Shallow feeding dish for salad
- Durable tongs for hand feeding
- Miner-All Indoor calcium supplement
- Fluker's Reptile Vitamin supplement
- Pump mister for substrate and humidity
- Reptile-safe cleaner for non-porous surfaces
- Shovel scooper for spot cleaning substrate
Bearded Dragon Setup Examples
Contributed by Jack Pierce