Bearded Dragon Starter Buying Guide
Prepared by HappyDragons
Everything you need for a basic bearded dragon habitat! Our Starter Guides are focused on the baseline necessities to care for your pet, making them more affordable and ideal for first-time keepers. We also offer a Deluxe Guide if you want to go the extra mile. Be sure to check out our Bearded Dragon Care Guide for more information on how to set up your enclosure and keep your lizard happy and healthy!
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. This means the enclosure should be no smaller than 3x the lizard’s total length and 2’ tall. For a starter setup, 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. You can achieve this with a mixture of 60% ReptiSoil + 40% ReptiSand. For a 6’x2’x2’ you'll need at least 70 quarts of soil and around 60 pounds of sand.
Phillip Lietz of Arids Only also recommends adding small rocks or pebbles on the surface of your bearded dragon's substrate to mimic the rocky gravel content of their native Australian soil.
Heat & Lighting
A bearded dragon enclosure should have overhead heat, UVB, a daylight lamp, and tools to monitor and control these elements.
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 the 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.
Bearded dragons need plenty of strong UVB in order to stay healthy. We recommend a 10-14% UVB output T5 HO linear fluorescent lamp with a reflective fixture, spanning 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 high quality full spectrum fluorescent bulb like the Zoo Med UltraSun in a reflective fixture spanning 75-100% the length of the enclosure is perfect for a starter beardie habitat.
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). This can be best achieved using an outlet timer.
- Rheostat: A manual plug-in dimmer for your heat lamp allows you to make small adjustments to find the “sweet spot” on your lizard's basking area, reduces risk of overheating, and prolongs bulb life. (To automatically maintain your temps, you can plug your heat lamp into a dimming thermostat)
Decor & Enrichment
Bearded dragons require a variety of specific decor items that are vital for basking, security, and health.
Basking Platform & Hide
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 need at least 1 hide on the warm side, so a combination hide + basking platform is a simple and effective solution!
Alternatively, you can create your own basking platform with large pieces of cork, driftwood, slate, or rock! We also recommend providing additional hiding spots throughout the enclosure.
Cork & Branches
A starter habitat should have 1-2 large branches for your beardie to climb and at least 1 large cork flat to provide additional hiding opportunities and varied textures for enrichment.
Artificial plants add more shade for heat regulation, coverage for security and enrichment, and they enhance the appearance of a naturalistic habitat. We recommend choosing at least 2-3 plants for your enclosure.
Tools & Feeding
For a complete bearded dragon setup, Arids Only recommends:
- Large, stable water dish
- Shallow feeding dish for salad
- Escape-proof bowl for live feeders
- Durable tongs for hand feeding
- Miner-All Indoor calcium supplement
- Fluker's Reptile Vitamin supplement
- Hand mister for substrate and humidity
- Shovel scooper for spot cleaning substrate
Bearded Dragon Setup Examples
Contributed by Jack Pierce