While bearded dragons make for very cool pets, they are quite high-maintenance animals that need very specific conditions to stay healthy and happy.
Because of this, it can be difficult to know where to start with their enclosure. To help you out, we have made this complete guide on everything you need to know about bearded dragon lighting!
How Hot Does The Enclosure Need To Be?
The lighting of the enclosure will impact how hot it is. Bearded dragons like the heat, but the perfect temperature for them will depend on their age.
The perfect temperature for the basking zone for young bearded dragons is between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Adults prefer it to be between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the cooler area, keep temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (regardless of age).
What Type Of Lighting Do You Need?
UVB fluorescent lighting is an essential component of any bearded dragon enclosure. Without this kind of lighting, bearded dragons are more likely to develop metabolic bone disease (along with a few other health problems).
What Is UVB Lighting?
The wavelengths of electromagnetic energy that make up UVB (also known as ultraviolet-B) light range from 280 to 315 nanometers.
Considering that human eyes aren’t designed to detect this spectrum of light, this won’t have a significant impact on humans.
However, UVB light is essential to the survival of bearded dragons and many other reptile species.
Reptiles require UVB light to thrive, and a deficiency in UVB light can cause a variety of health problems.
The synthesis of vitamin D3 beneath the skin of reptiles can be controlled to some extent by exposure to UVB rays. Because it facilitates calcium absorption and use, vitamin D3 is very important for your bearded dragon.
Reptiles that don’t receive enough UVB sun will have insufficient amounts of vitamin D3, and so less calcium.
Bearded dragons that have low calcium levels frequently suffer from a condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease (juveniles are especially susceptible).
Because this is an extremely painful sickness that can create bone troubles as well as abnormalities. You need to make sure that sufficient lighting is provided from the very beginning.
How Much Of The Tank Should Be Lit, And Where Should You Put The Lights?
To keep your bearded dragon healthy, selecting the appropriate size of UVB light is very important.
Your UVB bulb should ideally span between two-thirds and three-quarters of the length of your tank. Your bearded dragon will be able to take in healthy UVB rays regardless of where it chooses to rest.
Mount your UVB light so that it is overlooking one side of the enclosure. It is best if this is put on the same side as the basking light.
By removing the lighting from one-third to one-fourth of the tank, you can make a “cool zone” for your bearded dragon, which is important for maintaining proper body temperature.
What Fixture Should You Use?
You have a wide range of options when it comes to selecting a fixture to house your UVB bulb.
A good option is the SubBlaster T5HO Reflector if you want a really nice fixture. It’s a bit pricier than the fixtures you can buy in a hardware shop, but it comes with a wonderful reflector that will really boost the amount of UVB light that is emitted.
It’s quite easy to mount the UVB fixture on the inside of your tank; all you need to do is purchase some command hooks and stick them to the back of your aquarium.
It can look a little strange at first, but mounting the fixture on the opposite side of the tank from where it should be is very common.
What’s The Best Bulb To Use?
When it comes to selecting a UVB fluorescent bulb, the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB is one of the best ones to buy. Reptile experts love Zoo Med’s products, particularly their UVB bulbs, which have a very good reputation.
Zoo Med ReptiSun sells two types of lamps, the T5, and T8. The T5 has a far stronger UVB output and can be positioned between 12 and 18 inches away from your bearded dragon.
Additionally, T5 fixtures can occasionally be put above the mesh top of your enclosure. Since plastic screens can block between 30 and 50 percent of UVB rays, you will need to use a reflector to get the most UVB radiation out of your setup.
On the other hand, you should position T8 bulbs so that they are no more than 8 inches away from your Bearded Dragon.
Because T8 fixtures produce a significantly smaller amount of UVB radiation, the light bulb needs to be placed inside the tank.
When Should I Replace The Bulbs?
The output of UVB bulbs gradually shifts away from the 280-315 nm region as the bulbs age. Because of this, you need to change your UVB bulbs on a consistent basis, preferably every six to twelve months.
T8 fixtures burn out more quickly, typically within a period of six months. T5 bulbs have a lifespan of up to one year.
Keep in mind that UVB light is invisible to human eyes. Therefore, while a bulb that is two years old appears to be in perfect condition, it is most likely utterly worthless for the synthesis of vitamin D3 in bearded dragons.
Mounting the light fixture on the top of your tank in any location you like is far simpler than working out where to put the bulbs in your lighting system.
As this takes a bit of guesswork and trial and error, one of the most common mistakes made by first-time bearded dragon owners is the incorrect positioning of the bulb.
Your dragon’s enclosure should be divided into three temperature zones, with a nice gradient from one to the other.
The Types Of Lights And Lighting Zones
The basking light is an extremely crucial component of any enclosure. Reptiles have a natural need to absorb heat to maintain a stable internal temperature, and basking lights provide this need by simulating the heat generated by the sun.
There are many different kinds of basking lights designed for reptiles available on the market today.
A straightforward flood light equipped with a halogen bulb and a Flukers Clamp Lamp perform flawlessly together and is far more cost-effective.
When it comes to basking lights, ensuring that they produce an adequate amount of heat is the most important thing to consider.
For an affordable and accurate way to monitor temperatures, you should invest in a digital laser thermometer.
Bearded dragon hatchlings do best in slightly higher temperatures, ranging from 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bearded adults want it to be a few degrees cooler, typically between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it comes to the amount of wattage and where it should be placed, you have to go by feel. A 90- to 100-watt lamp placed at a distance of 20 inches typically gives a basking temperature of 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the right placement of your lamp will vary depending on the type of insulation and light bulb used. You may adjust the height of your light to either raise or lower the temperature of the basking surface.
Ceramic Heat Emitters
Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHE) heat up your bearded dragon’s habitat by emitting infrared light that is invisible to the human eye.
A CHE isn’t strictly necessary as long as the temperature in your tank doesn’t fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the night.
If the temperature in your tank falls into the mid to low the 60s during the night, you should probably think about purchasing a CHE.
These heaters are reasonably priced and will help bring the temperature into the ideal range of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ceramic heat emitters don’t have the same location requirements as lights do, so you can put them anywhere.
Most choose to position their CHE closer to the tank’s center, but some people put it on the side of the tank (so that they can achieve a decent temperature gradient).
The Cool Zone
A suitable habitat for a bearded dragon needs to include some kind of “cool side.”
Your bearded dragon will benefit from having a spot to go where it can get away from the heat of the basking lamp. This is very important in helping them maintain a healthy body temperature.
Temperatures in the basking zone typically range from 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, while those in the cool zone should be in the 80 to 90-degree range.
In any enclosure for a bearded dragon, it is essential to provide an appropriate temperature gradient. Because of this, you should position the basking lamp on one side of the tank and the cool zone lamp on the other side of the tank.
If the area directly beneath the basking lamp is too hot for your bearded dragon, it can slowly move toward the cooler area until it reaches the ideal temperature for its body.
You don’t need to put any sort of lamp on the cool side of your dragon’s tank. Still, there are some advantages to having a light on this end of your tank. For one, bearded dragons enjoy visible light.
A little bit of visual light that is on the cool side will keep your bearded dragon active, and happy, and can even help to increase its appetite.
For the cool side lamp, a standard home bulb should work just fine; just make sure that it does not cause the temperature to rise to an unsafe level.
In that case, you might want to consider using an LED bulb instead, as they generate significantly less heat.
What Is The Right Temperature Gradient?
When heat zones overlap, you create the perfect temperature gradient in your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Having a perfect temperature gradient is one of the best ways to keep your bearded dragon happy.
Having this gives your bearded dragon the ability to choose a temperature at which it is most comfortable by walking up and down the tank until it finds its perfect heat spot.
What If My Lights Aren’t Right?
So, what should you do if you buy all of your lights and set them up, only to discover that the temperature is all wrong after you’ve already invested a lot of money in them?
Adjusting the height of the lights in your tank is by far the most common method for fine-tuning the temperature of the dragon’s enclosure.
If the temperature in the tank is too high, you should move your lights up (and hold them up with a clip or something similar).
If your dragon’s enclosure is running too cold, this can be a harder problem to solve, and one that will cost you more money. The main cause will probably be the basking lamp, which may not be providing as much heat as it once did.
Luckily the cost of a halogen bulb is pretty low, so while you will have to spend a little money, you probably won’t have to buy a new one for at least a year.
Should I Leave The Lights On At Night?
Bearded dragons, much like humans, do not enjoy being awakened by bright lights when trying to get some shut-eye. Complete darkness is optimal for their quality of sleep.
You may have seen some special night lights for your bearded dragon being sold in pet stores or online. These typically use blue or red lights.
While people think their dragons might light at least a bit of light, these night lights may disrupt the natural sleep cycle of your bearded dragon.
These kinds of lights not only keep your dragon awake but also provide very little heat, so your pet could be in for a very uncomfortable night.
Another reason why individuals usually turn on the enclosure lights at night is to maintain a higher temperature.
If the temperature in your tank drops to the 60s at night, you should consider purchasing a Ceramic Heat Emitter rather than leaving the lights on continuously.
The best thing to do for your bearded dragon is to leave the tank completely dark at night.
Because CHEs generate heat without the need for visible light, they are an excellent choice for heating your tank without disrupting the natural sleep cycle of your dragon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have some more questions about bearded dragons and their enclosures? See if we have answered it below!
Do I Mount The Light on The Outside Or Inside Of The tank?
The best location for the UVB tube bulb is inside the tank itself. This is because the glass or mesh tops block out a significant proportion of the UVB rays (often between 30 and 50 percent).
The only exception to this rule is if you are utilizing a T5 bulb with a reflector, which is something that we highly recommend. When using a T8 bulb, the light fixture has to be positioned within the tank in order for it to function properly.
What’s The Difference Between UVA And UVB Rays?
While there are very few differences between these two forms of ultraviolet light, there are a few reasons why UVB is better for bearded dragons.
UVA light, but not UVB light, is emitted by virtually every type of light bulb on the market today, and as it’s UVB that dragons need, these won’t be useful to them.
The creation of calcium is not helped by UVA light, which helps stimulate appetite and keep their bones strong and healthy.
Because of this, UVA lightbulbs are not a good enough replacement for UVB light in enclosures housing reptiles.
What Is The Proper Way To Hang The Fixture Inside The Tank?
When constructing your first habitat for a bearded dragon, you might have a lot of trouble wrapping your head around the concept of placing a fixture inside the tank.
Once you know how though, this is a very simple job. All you need to do is purchase a few 3M command hooks, adhere them to the interior of your tank (on the rear wall), and then attach the lamp from those.
Should I Keep My Tank Heated Throughout The Night?
It is unlikely that you will need to worry about heating your tank throughout the night if the temperature in your home does not drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, if the temps begin to plummet into the 60s, you should seriously consider purchasing a ceramic heat emitter, otherwise, your bearded dragon may enter into brumation.
The heat generated by CHEs is not visible to the naked eye, so it will not disrupt the natural sleeping pattern of your bearded dragon.
How Many Hours Should The Lights Be Left On Each Day?
It is recommended that you leave the lights on for 12 to 14 hours per day. Bearded dragons are known to be sensitive to changes in their lighting schedule, so it is highly recommended that you purchase a timer in order to fully automate their care.
What Is The Perfect Temperature?
The age of your breaded dragon will have a significant impact on the temperature at which it should be kept.
The optimal temperature for the basking zone for young bearded dragons is between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Adults, on the other hand, have a preference for it being between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it comes to the comfortable zone, temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit should do the trick (regardless of age).
Hopefully, you now understand the importance of light in your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
A UVB tube lamp is an absolute necessity, and the ReptiSun T5 10.0 UVB is the one that we recommend. You may attach it to the interior of your rig using 3M command hooks.
A basking light is also quite necessary, and although you might spend your money on “reptile lights,” a regular halogen lamp should work just fine. Mount it as far to the left or right as your tank configuration will allow.
Invest in a ceramic heater for your home if the temperature drops into the 60s when you get home from work at night. Only operate this in the evening as it is not warm enough for your dragon during the day
It is not necessary to have a nice side lamp, but doing so can make your tank more pleasant to the eye.