Making sure your bearded dragon’s enclosure is warm enough for your pet to feel comfortable at all times is essential not only to their happiness but also to their overall health and wellbeing.
There are many ways to keep your dragon’s tank warm, and you’ve probably considered heating pads at some point.
But are there any potential dangers to using them?
As a general rule, it is best to avoid heat pads, as they will sometimes burn your bearded dragon’s sensitive skin on their belly. If you need a heat source while your dragon is out of their enclosure for any reason, layer blankets on top of the heat pad, so your lizard isn’t directly on top of the pad.
Keep reading to learn more about why these external heat sources aren’t ideal when it comes to keeping your pet warm and comfortable.
We’ll also cover some alternatives for heating pads.
Are Heating Pads Safe For Bearded Dragons?
Generally, it is best to avoid using heat pads, as they put out a significant amount of concentrated heat in one area.
These heating devices are usually designed to be laid or sat on directly for warmth, and beardies have very soft, sensitive skin on their bellies which is particularly susceptible to burns.
If your bearded dragon sits directly on top of the heat mat, it will potentially burn this soft, thin, and tender layer of skin, which will result in very painful burns.
When it comes to finding the right heating element to keep your beardie warm, it is best to avoid anything they will lay directly on top of, like a heating mat or heat rock, to prevent these types of burns and damage to their scales.
If you use the right kind of basking bulb or ceramic heat emitter to keep your dragon warm throughout the day and night, you won’t need any other additional heat sources.
We’ll cover some alternatives to using a reptile heating pad soon.
How To Keep Your Bearded Dragon Warm At Night
While your beardie’s basking bulb will ideally provide enough heat for them to stay comfortable during the day, you’ve probably wondered how to keep them similarly warm at night.
During the day, your dragon’s basking area will need to be around 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C), while the rest of the tank should hover around 80 to 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) in a subtle temperature gradient from the basking area to the corners of the tank.
Thankfully, it is acceptable for the temperature inside your dragon’s tank to drop to no lower than 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) or so at night.
For more details on temperature read our post on bearded dragon tank temperature where we’ve broken down the information in greater detail.
Remember, your beardie’s enclosure should mimic their natural habitat, and since they are diurnal animals, they are awake during the day and asleep at night.
In the Australian deserts bearded dragons are native to, temperatures will occasionally drop to be pretty cool at night despite being scorching during the day.
In captivity, these temperatures won’t get quite as cold, but 70 to 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) or so at night in their enclosure is just fine without any extra heating required.
If your home gets a bit chilly at night, however, it is a good idea to opt for ceramic heating elements, we recommend one like this.
A ceramic heat emitter gives off no light, only warmth, so they are ideal for keeping your beardie warm at night if temperatures drop a bit too much.
Are Heat Rocks Safe?
Another heating source popular amongst novice reptile owners is the heat rock.
Heat rocks are very similar to heat pads; they are an external heat source which is usually powered either by a cord you plug into an outlet or batteries.
Unfortunately, these heat rocks are just as bad, if not worse, than heating pads, as they have even less padding or protection from the direct, concentrated heat.
Just like with heat pads, heat rocks should be avoided at all costs, as they will burn your beardie’s skin on their belly and the undersides of their legs.
Burns are challenging to treat, especially in such a tender, hard-to-reach area, and will usually cause severe scarring and are even prone to nasty infections if not cared for and cleaned regularly.
Another factor to keep in mind is treating burns is very painful for your dragon.
There’s always a possibility of burns with heat pads and heat rocks, so it is best to avoid using them entirely.
If you do use one for whatever reason, wrap it in a layer of soft, thick cloth so your lizard’s belly won’t be in direct contact with the rock’s surface.
Keeping your beardie away from such direct, concentrated heat will help prevent the risk of burns.
Generally, you won’t really need any extra heat or an additional tank heater if you use the suitable heat lamp and potentially a ceramic heat emitter if your beardie really needs it at night.
For more insight on heat rocks we have a post on using heat rocks with bearded dragons.
Alternatives to Heat Pads and Heat Rocks
The main alternatives to heat pads and rocks are really just proper basking bulbs and ceramic heat emitters.
As we touched on earlier, your dragon’s body temperature will stay within a healthy range if the lighting in their enclosure is set up correctly and maintained at the correct temperature, so other external heat sources won’t be necessary.
If you’re really worried about the temperature inside your dragon’s enclosure, it is a good idea to set up a thermometer and hygrometer on each opposite end of the tank.
Place one directly underneath your dragon’s basking area and one at the far, cooler end of the tank.
This way, you’ll be able to accurately determine the tank’s temperature at all times and adjust your basking bulb or another heat source accordingly.
If your thermometer also has a built-in hygrometer, you’ll also be able to monitor the humidity level in the enclosure conveniently.
Keep in mind the humidity should stay at a level of around 30 to 40% at most, which is relatively dry, but since beardies are desert dwellers, this is actually ideal for them.
Keeping Your Bearded Dragon Warm Outside of Their Enclosure
One potential issue you will eventually run into is keeping your beardie warm when they aren’t in their enclosure.
If you have to take your lizard to the vet or otherwise transport them somewhere in which they will be away from their basking bulb for an extended amount of time, it will be challenging to keep your beardie warm without some external heat source.
If you’re transporting your dragon somewhere, you should use the heating in your car and direct it at them to offer them a gentle amount of extra warmth during your and your scaly friend’s travels.
Keep your lizard close to your body, so they are able to warm up a bit with your body heat.
Another potential solution is to purchase small portable hand warmers and wrap them in blankets or another soft cloth before sitting your beardie on top of or beside them, so they aren’t directly exposed to the heat source.
Hand warmers tend to give off a mild amount of heat, perfect for keeping your beardie warm when they’re away from their basking bulb.
Wrapping your beardie up in a warm blanket while transporting them will also help preserve the remaining heat from their basking bulb upon removing them from their enclosure.