Bearded dragons are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to warm their body.
Warmth also aids in a bearded dragon’s digestion and plays an integral part in the shedding process.
Since the bearded dragon requires warmth to stay healthy, several lights and heating devices are available to provide warmth.
However, if you provide your beardie with a basking area, are under-tank heaters necessary?
As a whole, under-tank heaters are a great way to supplement the heat in your bearded dragon’s enclosure. Under-tank heaters keep the substrate warm, encouraging your bearded dragon to be more active during the cold winter months. On its own, this type of heater usually isn’t enough.
Keep reading to learn more about the best temperatures for your bearded dragon, as well as more information about various types of heating methods for your reptile’s enclosure.
Under-Tank Heaters And Bearded Dragons
An under-tank heater works best for bearded dragons when there is a thick substrate layer because it allows the substrate to stay warm without getting too hot for the reptile.
Without the extra warmth in the winter, a bearded dragon will go into brumation if temperatures in the enclosure stay too cold for prolonged periods.
Brumation is very similar to hibernation, except the bearded dragon will still need to stay hydrated, and the animal may also eat during this time.
Brumation is how a bearded dragon survives the cold winter in the wild.
Many owners use them for their tanks, and it’s one I’d recommend to any new beardie parent.
I’ve tried a few, but this Aiicioo under-tank heater on Amazon is solid and affordable.
What Is the Best Temperature for a Bearded Dragon Enclosure?
It is best to provide your beardie with a temperature gradient in its enclosure.
Remember, bearded dragons are ectothermic, and they rely on external temperatures to regulate their body temperature.
Baby and juvenile beardies have slightly higher heat requirements when compared to adults.
The cool end of the enclosure should be between 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) for both baby and juvenile beardies.
For the basking area, the temperature should range from 95-110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for babies and slightly lower at a range of 95-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) for juveniles.
For adult bearded dragons, the cool side of the enclosure should range from 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), and the basking area needs to be between 90-93° degrees Fahrenheit (34° C).
The basking lamp should be turned off at night, and temperatures should be allowed to cool between 70-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) for all ages of bearded dragons.
If the temperature tends to fall lower than this, an under-tank heater should be used to keep the enclosure warm.
You need to invest in a good digital thermometer to consistently monitor your beardie’s enclosure temperature.
This ensures your reptile is getting the warmth it needs to stay healthy.
And we have a dedicated guide on bearded dragon tank temperature to help you get it just right.
How Do You Heat A Bearded Dragon Enclosure?
There are many options for keeping your bearded dragon enclosure warm, which may confuse new reptile keepers.
This section provides a brief overview of the most popular methods for heating your beardie’s enclosure.
Some of these heating methods, such as basking lamps and mercury vapor bulbs, emit light and are meant to be used during the day.
Other methods like under-tank heaters and ceramic heat emitters are meant to be used at night, and they will not interfere with the circadian rhythm of your beardie.
Under Tank Heaters
An under-tank heater provides gentle heat, and it is a great way to provide your bearded dragon with heat at night without interfering in the reptile’s day and night cycle.
And if you’re new to day and night cycles check out our post on the bearded dragons day and night cycle requirements for a detailed guide on the subject.
These heat pads have an adhesive side, and it sticks to the bottom of your beardie’s tank and plugs into a wall outlet.
Under tank, heaters come in sizes to accommodate tank sizes, from a 5-gallon tank to a 50-gallon tank.
If you have a very large enclosure, you may need more than one heating pad.
Under tank, heaters work well with a thick substrate, and they are a great supplemental radiant heat source in the winter season.
The extra warmth these heat mats supply during cold months will keep your beardie more active and less likely to enter into brumation.
A basking lamp works exactly as the name implies.
This type of lamp provides warmth and is meant to be used in your beardie’s basking area.
Basking lamps should be on for 10-12 hours during the day and off at night. Installing a timer on the basking lamp prevents you from forgetting to turn it off at night or on first thing in the morning.
You simply program the timer for how many hours you need the basking lamp to be on, and it does all of the work.
It is important to maintain a consistent day and night light cycle for your beardie, so you do not interfere with its natural circadian rhythm.
Check out our guide to the best basking lamps for bearded dragons if you’re in the market for some.
Nighttime Heat Lamps
Nighttime heat lamps keep enclosure temperatures in the vivarium from dropping below the low mark.
These special lamps provide additional heat while giving off a very subdued lighting level.
The lamp needs to emit a very low light to prevent any disturbance to your beardie’s sleep cycle.
The colors of these nighttime lamps come in dark blue or red colors, and they usually range from 15-75 watts.
The very low amount of light these lamps emit is invisible to bearded dragons.
You should never use a daytime bulb at night because it will interfere with your beardie’s ability to sleep.
Ceramic Heat Emitters
Ceramic heat emitters produce the same type of warmth as a heat lamp but without the light.
The wattages for ceramic heaters range from 60 watts to 150 watts.
Heat emitters are inexpensive, and they are ceramic bulbs with a base very similar to incandescent bulbs, so they screw into a lamp base.
Ceramic heat emitters are excellent to use at night because they keep your lizard warm without providing any light and disturbing its sleep.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
Mercury vapor bulbs produce both warmth and UV rays, and they come with a screw-on base similar to basking lamps.
These light bulbs cost more than traditional heat bulbs, but they tend to last much longer.
There is some debate in the reptile community about whether or not mercury vapor bulbs are too intense for beardies.
It is best to place the bulb at least 12-24″ inches from the top of the enclosure for safety.
You should also provide your dragon with plenty of shady areas in the enclosure, so it has a way of escaping the heat and cooling down.
Heat tape is used to provide warmth to certain parts of your beardie’s enclosure.
It is most commonly used near the basking area to provide some extra heat in the winter months.
Heat tape should not be used anywhere in the enclosure where it may come into contact with your beardie.
Heat tapes usually do not have built-in thermostats to regulate temperature, so they may be too hot to be in direct contact with your reptile.
This puts your beardie at risk for burns and may lead to overheating.
Plugging the heat tape into a thermostat is a way to prevent overheating and regulate usage.
Do Not Use Heat Rocks or Heat Caves
It is worth mentioning heat rocks and heat caves because they are dangerous to bearded dragons and should never be used in their enclosure.
Heat rocks and caves usually do not have thermostats, and they are known for overheating and causing severe burns on the belly of a bearded dragon.
The options listed above are much safer for keeping your bearded dragon warm.
Learn more on why you should not use heat rocks for bearded dragons here.