What Do You Need For A Bearded Dragon Habitat?

Are you looking at getting a bearded dragon?

Do you want to know what you need for a bearded dragon before you buy it?

Getting a new pet can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re unsure about what the beardy needs.

One of the most important things for this reptile is a proper tank setup.

So you may wonder:

What do you need for a bearded dragon habitat?

Bearded dragon habitats are one of the most important things to do to keep your reptile happy and healthy. You need the correct tank, heating units, lighting, water, furniture, thermometer, and substrate.

Read on for more details and product recommendations.

what do you need for a bearded dragon habitat

7 Essential Items For A Bearded Dragon Habitat

In this section, we’ll look at the seven essential items you need for an excellent bearded dragon habitat.

To help you get an idea of what you’ll need, we’ll also offer some recommendations for what you could use.

Tank

Bearded dragon tanks are glass or other material.

Either is fine, as long as it’s the right size.

There is some debate as to the exact size of tank your beardy may need at minimum, but everyone agrees bigger is better.

Here are some general guidelines for tank sizes:

Many new owners give the bearded dragon a tank, which is too small.

These animals need room to move around.

One of the main reasons for moving around is to help regulate their body temperature.

As a cold-blooded creature, they can’t change their temp naturally.

Having a large tank gives them hot, medium, and cool parts of the tank to move to in case they need to cool or warm up.

Or you could make your own!

Check out how to make a custom bearded dragon cage.

This Carolina Custom Cage comes in different sizes to meet your needs.

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You do have to assemble it yourself, but it isn’t hard to do. 

Some of the larger sizes come with sliding doors for easy access and door locks to help prevent escaping bearded dragons.

Heating

Native to the Australian deserts, bearded dragons need a lot more heat than you might expect.

This higher temperature is necessary for a long and healthy life.

Their bodies are just made this way.

There are a few temperature requirements and products you should be aware of.

First, the general temperature requirements go as follows:

  • The basking temperature should be 100° degrees Fahrenheit – 105° degrees Fahrenheit (38° – 41° C).
  • Baby basking temperature should be 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C).
  • Overall tank daytime temp should be 90° degrees Fahrenheit – 95° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
  • The cool side of the tank temperature should be 70° degrees Fahrenheit – 85° degrees Fahrenheit (21° – 29° C).
  • Night time temperature should get to 65° degrees Fahrenheit – 70° degrees Fahrenheit (18° – 21° C).

The basking and cool side temperatures are usually achieved by using a good heating lamp over the basking spot and then leaving the cool side on the other side of the tank.

This ends up with an acceptable overall temp, as well.

At night, just turn off the light and the heater and let the temperature drop.

This is similar to how the desert loses a lot of heat at night.

As long as you turn the heat back on in the morning and the temperature doesn’t drop below 65° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C), your beardie will be just fine.

It functions better on a consistent although artificial day-night cycle.

Read more on what temperature should a bearded dragon tank be.

To keep things in the right range, you need to use one of three items (or a combination):

  • Heat lamps
  • Under tank heaters
  • Fluorescent light heaters

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps are lights which insert into a light fixture just above the basking spot.

These provide a lot of heat in one place.

The basking spot does need to be hotter, but if your tank is short, be careful not to burn your pet.

Heat lamps are the most common way of heating a tank.

Medium-sized tanks may only need a basking lamp to get the temperature right, while large tanks may need a heat lamp and another choice.

One of the heat lamps we recommend is the Exo Terra Halogen Basking Spot Lamp.

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This 4-pack of 75-watt bulbs gives off plenty of heat and lasts a long time.

Under Tank Heaters

The under-the-tank heating pads are an excellent way to provide just a little extra heat when the heat lamp over the basking spot doesn’t quite do it.

Often, these pads are affordable and only require simple plugging in to use.

There are two main things to note with these.

Watch out for cracking!

There are cases where heating pads will cause the glass sides of a tank to crack.

So if this is what you’re using, you may want to avoid it.

It’s not enough by itself.

Some people assume a good heating pad will be enough to heat the tank.

It’s not.

You need the variety in temperature to go across the tank by having a basking spot and a cool/hide spot.

Even if you’re heating pad got up to the right temp, you wouldn’t be allowing your pet places to go to control their body temperature.

For heating pads, we recommend this Zoo Med Heating Pad.

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It’s affordable, easy-to-use, and made especially for reptile tanks.

Fluorescent Light Heaters

While most fluorescent lights at the top of your tank aren’t “heaters,” they do often give off some extra heat.

This may be just enough to settle your beardy’s temperature correctly.

There are other reasons for using these lights (see UVB lighting), but heating is an important one too.

With fluorescent lights, you get to heat and light the entire tank easier.

This isn’t good enough by itself for heating, but if used in combination with a heating lamp over the basking spot, it can work well.

This Zilla UVB fluorescent bulb will do the trick nicely.

It has a long life and gives off UVB as well as some heat.

UVB Lighting

Most lizards have a higher need for UVB light, but this is especially true of bearded dragons.

Bearded dragons can’t survive more than two days without UVB.

This is due, again, to their natural desert environment.

They’ve evolved to need the sunlight to help them have a healthy body.

UVB gives the bearded dragon Vitamin D.

Not only does this help with energy, but vitamin D is vital in the process of absorbing essential nutrients, especially calcium.

Because beardies have a hard time getting vitamin D in captivity, they have a hard time getting calcium.

This results in many common bearded dragon diseases which stem from calcium deficiency.

The most common of these is the metabolic bone disease.

This can cause permanent skeletal damage or even death.

This is why having UVB lighting is essential.

Use a basking lamp which has a UVB bulb.

Some heating lamps have both UVB and heating characteristics.

Other owners have two lamps at the basking spot:

One for UVB and one for heating.

The most common way to take care of the UVB issue is by using a UVB fluorescent light like the Zilla bulb we mentioned above.

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As with heating, this should be left on all day and then turned off at night.

Water

Though bearded dragons are desert reptiles, they still need water.

They can get water in two ways:

  • Drinking water
  • From their food

The bearded dragon is able to get water easily through any of these three methods.

Making sure to have a balanced diet of 75% greens to 25% protein is an excellent place to start.

But for tank setup, a shallow water dish is critical.

With a water dish, the bearded dragon can drink from it any time it needs to.

However, just as often, you’ll probably find it resting in the water as well.

This helps the bearded dragon cool down.

Make sure the water is clean, and the dish is shallow.

The dish needs to be shallow because beardies aren’t big swimmers.

It’s quite dangerous for them.

When full, the water in this dish needs to come up no higher than their shoulders.

It should stay away from their mouths and eyes.

The dish also needs to be climbable enough so the pet can easily get in and out as it wants to.

There’s not a particular type of water dish out there, just find a plastic one to fit the bill with the size of your reptile.

Furniture

Bearded dragons love to have things to play with.

They also love having these to hide in and climb on.

So providing these things in your bearded dragon’s habitat is an integral part of their health.

Beardies tend to get stressed by things, but having bits of furniture around can help them distress and stay happier.

Here are some standard furniture pieces you may see in a bearded dragon tank:

Hide Box

Hide boxes are a staple in the reptile, and they are what they sound like.

It’s a box for hiding in.

Buy them pre-made from stores or just make one yourself.

Just be sure to have one big enough with a large enough opening for the lizard to get easily in and out of.

Logs

Logs are a more natural form of the hide box.

Some owners will use small logs or pieces of wood from nature, or you may find artificial ones to buy in stores and online.

Logs are able to be climbed, and beardies love to climb.

They are considered semi-arboreal, which means they spend a large chunk of their time climbing on trees and rocks.

Rocks

Speaking of rocks, your beardy’s habitat should have at least one of these.

Different sized rocks are fun to climb on, but they also are great for basking.

Real rocks will retain the heat from your heating lamp when placed in the basking spot.

This gives the reptile a cozy place to nap and absorb heat and UVB.

Hammocks

Hammocks are for lounging, just like what we humans do.

There are cute ones to buy from stores or make your own.

The hammock meets the lounging and climbing needs of the beardy.

Even if raised in captivity, the reptile’s instincts will tell it to get higher and rest there at times.

Hammocks make the perfect place to do this.

Thermometer

Thermometers are another essential part of a habitat set up.

With some strict temperature needs, you’ll want some quality thermometers to help you keep track of the temp.

At the least, you’ll need two thermometers:

One near the basking spot and one to check the overall temp.

You may also consider having more at the cool/hide spot.

Some thermometers are as simple as sticking to the wall of the tank while others sense through infrared and send alerts to your phone.

It’s up to you and your budget.

But check out our list of the best thermometers for bearded dragons for more help picking one.

Substrate

The substrate or bedding isn’t an absolute necessity, but it is helpful in the following ways:

  • Simulates a desert look
  • Allows for beardies to burrow
  • Makes cleaning up droppings easier
  • Helps eliminate odor
  • Some help with digestion
  • Retain heat

There are many types of substrates out there.

Stick with ones made for reptiles (or just plain old newspaper!).

Sand is an interesting choice, but you have to make sure you pick from one of the best sandals for bearded dragons.


Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed learning about what you need for a bearded dragon habitat.

Getting these seven things in order helps you avoid many of the common health problems a beardy may run into in captivity.

Though it seems like a lot, once it’s set up, just let it go without problems.

Now go get yourself set up for this adorably fearsome pet.

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