If you own a bearded dragon, you know how important it is to provide them with a basking platform where they can seek warmth.
While there are many different types of basking rocks and platforms available on the commercial market, it is cost-efficient to build your custom platform with just a few simple materials.
Plus, when you build a basking platform for your bearded dragon, you are able to customize it according to your pet’s personal needs and the size and shape of its enclosure.
This project has only a few simple components and is easy enough for a beginner to make.
In this how-to article, we will go through the simple steps to create a bearded dragon basking platform using supplies commonly found around the house or your local craft supply store.
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need For A DIY Bearded Dragon Basking Platform
- Liquid nails
- Non-sanded grout (white is the cheapest)
- Cement Color
- Acrylic Paint
- An inexpensive plastic spray bottle
- Non-toxic all-surface sealant (such as Modge Podge)
- Fine-grain sand
How To Make A Bearded Dragon Basking Platform Video
Fake rock structure, for a lizard cage, beginner levelFake rock structure, for a lizard cage, beginner level
Step-by-step Instructions For Making A Bearded Dragon Basking Platform
Step 1) Measure for the size of your bearded dragon basking platform.
Be sure to accurately measure the space inside of the enclosure so your basking platform will fit perfectly.
You do not want to put a lot of work into making a nice basking platform for your bearded dragon, only to be unable to use it because it won’t fit inside the enclosure.
Step 2) After taking measurements, make a rough sketch of your platform on the styrofoam.
Take into account the size of your bearded dragon and its activity habits.
This makes it easy to create an adequately sized platform for your pet.
You may even choose to make the platform shorter to allow for a shallower hiding spot underneath.
When you are satisfied with the size and shape of your platform, cut it out with a knife.
Step 3) Cut out small rectangles for steps.
These rectangles should be roughly 3-4″ inches (10 cm) wide.
For a more natural shape, break off small pieces around the edges of the styrofoam using your fingers.
For a more stable final structure, ensure each step is the same height.
Step 4) Using the liquid nails, glue the stairs together in ascending order.
After drying overnight, glue the stairs to the underside of the main platform piece.
Allow this to dry overnight as well.
Step 5) Mix non-sanded grout with water and apply 4 coats to the entire structure.
Make the last coat slightly thicker than the previous coats.
The initial coats should be thin enough to get into all of the crevices.
Step 6) Add color to the platform to make it seem more realistic.
Color may be added using a colored grout or by mixing in some cement color to the grout.
Inexpensive, non-toxic acrylic paint may also be used and applied with either a brush or a sponge.
Pro Tip: For a quick method of adding color, add a little paint and a little water to an inexpensive spray bottle for a cheap spray gun.
Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.
Step 7) Apply several layers of non-toxic sealant.
This is one of the most important steps because it helps to protect the surface of the bearded dragon basking platform.
Mix the sealant with a bit of water and apply four coats to the basking platform.
You may also use the spray bottle method here.
Once this is dry, apply a coat of undiluted non-toxic sealant to protect the basking platform’s surface further.
This project is explicitly geared towards bearded dragons who live in an arid environment.
If you would like to make a basking platform for a more humid environment, you would need to use a non-toxic 100% acrylic sealer.
This acrylic sealer is more water repellant than the Modge Podge used in this project.
You would need to use an aquarium silicone sealant for a platform you would plan to submerge in water.
Step 8) Sprinkle fine-grain sand on the basking platform.
The sand also adds a more realistic, rocky texture to the basking platform, so it fits in better with the natural surroundings of the enclosure.
Use as little or as much as you like.
For a more natural look, choose sand similar in color to the paint you used on the platform.
Non-toxic sand for crafting is available in a rainbow of colors at most craft supply stores.
Step 9) Anchor the basking platform to the substrate.
Using a loose substrate, such as a soil or coconut mixture, use short wooden skewers stuck into the bottom of each side of the platform to anchor it into the soil.
If you are using a flat substrate such as reptile carpet or tile, use small pieces of velcro on the bottom of the basking platform and attach the other velcro pieces to the substrate.
These velcro pieces will eventually get soiled and need to be replaced, but they prevent the platform from sliding on the smooth surface of tile or reptile carpet.
It is essential to keep the platform stable so it does not easily move around when your bearded dragon uses it.
Styrofoam is light, so it will not likely cause any injury to your bearded dragon, but it may get scared if the basking platform falls on it or if it does not feel stable enough to climb up onto.
Questions Related To A DIY Bearded Dragon Basking Platform
Where do you find the materials to make a DIY bearded dragon basking platform?
The liquid nails, grout, cement color, and styrofoam are all easily found at any hardware store.
The non-toxic sand, paint, Modge Podge, and spray bottle are available at most craft supply stores.
Is the bearded dragon basking platform waterproof using these techniques?
The basking platform will only be waterproof if a silicone aquarium sealant is used to seal it.
An acrylic sealant will allow the basking platform to repel some water but will not make it waterproof.
The original Modge Podge non-toxic sealant used in the original instructions is water-based.
Since bearded dragons live in an arid environment, the Modge Podge is a good choice for this specific project.
Do you have to finish the platform with sealant? It gives it a shiny finish, and I don’t like it.
Sealant is vital to this basking platform project.
Without the sealant, the grout would wear down to the styrofoam base of the project, and the platform would eventually fall apart.
The sealant also makes it easier for you to clean the basking platform.
Adding non-toxic sand to the last coat of sealant not only aids in traction for your bearded dragon but diminishes some of the shiny finish of the sealant.
How do you clean this finished basking platform?
With a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, use a toothbrush to scrub the surface of the basking platform gently.
Be careful not to scrub too hard if you are using a water-based sealant, or you will scrub some of the sealants away.
Lightly rinse the basking platform with water and fully air dry before placing it back into the bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Do liquid nails have to be used to glue the pieces of the platform together, or could another glue be used?
The grout used in the project is really what holds it all together, and the liquid nails are simply used to hold the pieces of the platform together until the grout sets.
Products such as liquid nails allow you to build the project more quickly because they offer faster drying time, but any adhesive you have in your home would work.
You may even use toothpicks to hold the pieces together as long as they do not poke through the styrofoam where they could harm your beardie.
Could you make a water dish using these same techniques?
Unfortunately, the styrofoam and other materials used in this project would not hold up well to constantly holding water.
Ceramic would be a better material for making a water dish, and it would need to be fired, glazed, and fired again to make the dish sterile and non-toxic.
Water dishes are also readily available at any pet supply store.
Could this technique be used to cover the back wall of a vivarium for a fake rock wall?
This technique could be used to cover the wall of a regular vivarium, but it is not recommended to cover the wall of a tall vivarium.
Bearded dragons have limited climbing abilities, so a fake rock wall made with these techniques would suit them well.
For a more avid climber such as the crested gecko, this technique may not be successful in creating a fake rock wall due to the height of the vivarium and the high activity of the gecko.
The fake wall would have to be completely secured to the wall of the vivarium to prevent a falling hazard.
Is this basking platform project safe underneath a basking lamp with high temperatures?
Temperatures would have to be much higher than 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for the styrofoam to melt.
The grout adds a layer of protection to the styrofoam as well.
If you are concerned about the longevity of larger projects under basking lamps, use pieces of tile on the top of the platform before adding the grout over the top.
Do you need to sand the grout layers to remove any sharp edges?
If your grout has dried with sharp edges on the surface of your platform, it would be very uncomfortable for the bearded dragon to use it.
Sand these sharp edges down before you seal the platform to ensure a smooth and comfortable surface for your bearded dragon to bask.
How long should you wait between layers of grout?
Wait three to four hours between layers of grout to ensure each layer is dry.
Thicker layers will take longer to dry and harden.
The best method is to wait 24 hours between layers of grout to let the grout fully dry between coats.
It is a good idea to let your project dry for at least one week before applying the sealant and let it dry for another week after using the sealant.
How do you keep the sealant from drying cloudy?
For a sealant such as the water-based Modge Podge, be sure to thin it out with water when applying the first few layers.
Also, be sure to apply the layers very thinly so they will dry in between coats.
If the Modge Podge is applied too thickly or pools up in any areas, it will dry with white spots.
What should the consistency of the grout be when adding the layers?
The first coating of grout should have the thin consistency of watery pancake batter.
The second coat of grout should be slightly thicker, with the consistency of normal pancake batter.
The third and fourth layers should be even thicker, with more of a pudding-like texture.
The fifth and subsequent layers should be very thick, with the texture of peanut butter or frosting.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to make your own DIY bearded dragon basking platform.
Taking your time with each step will ensure a good outcome for your finished project.
It is vital to follow each step carefully and adhere to the drying times to ensure your bearded dragon platform is structurally sound.
Be sure to thin the grout to the proper consistency, especially for the first couple of layers, and gradually thicken the grout on each subsequent layer by adding less water.
It is also essential to take your time when applying the final sealant to avoid any cloudiness.
If you enjoyed this DIY project come to check out our other one on doing a DIY custom bearded dragon cage.