Bearded dragon care sheet
Housing: a wooden vivarium of at least 46" in length
Heating: basking temperature of 100oF - 110oF, cool end of 80oF
UVB Lighting: desert strength 10%-12% UVB fluorescent tube during the day
Diet: omnivorous mix of vegetation and protein from live insects
Decoration: dry substrates and decor so not to raise humidity levels
A bearded dragon is best kept in a large wooden vivarium. This is because wood is an excellent insulator of heat and so a wooden vivarium will make it easier to control the crucial temperatures required inside the habitat. Other enclosures such as glass terrariums are far too efficient at releasing heat making it difficult to get up to temperature and keep this temperature consistent throughout the year. The wooden vivarium should have good ventilation to help remove humidity and replenish the air in the enclosure.
The bearded dragon's vivarium should be at least 1150mm (46") in length. There are 2 main reasons for this; firstly bearded dragons are not small lizards and can easily grow to 500mm in length so will require a proportionate amount of space to live happily. Secondly, the vivarium needs to have a sufficient length to allow for the creation of a temperature gradient. The enclosure needs to be intensely hot at one end but have enough distance for the temperature to drop at the cool end.
During the day, bearded dragons require a very hot basking temperature. This is achieved by using clear spot bulbs at one end of the vivarium. To accomplish the required basking temperature of 100oF- 110oF we use 2x basking bulbs (50w in a large Vivexotic vivarium). A narrower basking area can be achieved by using one higher wattage bulb instead. Basking bulbs should be on for 10- 12 hours per day.
At night bearded dragons require a drop in temperature and the basking lights should be switched off to make the enclosure darker. A night time temperature of 80oF is created by using a ceramic night bulb. These radiate heat but produce no light. This bulb should be protected with a ceramic bulb guard and controlled by a good quality thermostat. The thermostat will automatically turn on the ceramic heat bulb at night when the temperature in the vivarium drops. Temperatures should be monitored daily using a thermometer.
Bearded Dragons are desert reptiles. Animals that actively bask in hot climates naturally receive a high dose of UVB from the sun. Their UVB tube should reflect that. A fluorescent UVB tube should be used inside the vivarium with a reflector so no UVB is wasted. The tube should be at least 10-12% UVB for desert species. There are 2 different types of fluorescent tube, T8 and T5. T5 tubes are the new technology providing double the range (24'') and lasting twice as long (12 months) so if possible we would recommend the upgrade.
Bearded dragons require UVB in order to synthesise vitamin D3 inside their skin. Vitamin D3 helps the bearded dragon to absorb calcium which crucial for bone structure and growth. Without proper Uv lighting the dragon may not be able to use the calcium in it's diet.
It is recommended that T8 bulbs are replaced every 6 months and T5 bulbs every 12 months.
Bearded dragons should always be kept on a dry substrate so not to increase the humidity inside the vivarium. Whilst any loose substrate has the potential to be accidentally swallowed, we have found this to not be a problem with coarse beech woodchips and that is what we keep our bearded dragons on. It is also very affordable and easy to clean.
Whilst bearded dragons are not an arboreal lizard, they do like to climb on top of things to survey their surroundings. The vivarium should be decorated with various pieces of wood or rock to enable them to do this.
The bearded dragon vivarium can be decorated with artificial plants for a more natural look. Desert plants look very effective and also provide further perches for the bearded dragon. Trailing plants are very good at disguising electrical wires and equipment, as well as providing cover for young lizards.
Juveniles: a baby bearded dragon's diet should consist of 80% livefood. We have found that brown crickets are the most readily accepted, but you can also try black crickets, dubia cockroaches or locusts (hoppers). On occasion, for variation you can offer other bugs such as mealworms, waxworms or calciworms.
Adults: an adult bearded dragon's diet is 80% vegetation. Good foods include dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette and bell peppers. The bulk of the vegetation should be leafy greens.
The vivarium should be misted with water every morning to provide hydration. A small water bowl may be used providing it does not raise the vivarium humidity too much. Bearded dragons can also be bathed weekly in shallow luke warm water for 10 minutes.
To provide bearded dragons with optimal nutrition and to keep them in the best of health, they will require diet supplementaion in the form of calcium, vitamins and minerals. These are most commonly available as powders
Calcium should be provided daily and dusted directly onto the dragon's food. Vitamins may be added daily for young bearded dragons, but adults will only require them every other day.
Any livefood for the bearded dragon should also be 'gut-loaded' with an insect food. This involves feeding the livefood a nutrient rich diet before they are fed to the bearded dragon. Our livefood is delivered to you already gut-loaded but this should be continued at home.
If you keep a male and female together, they may breed. You do not need to do anything to encourage this, providing they are healthy and the conditions are good, it will happen naturally. You need to consider whether you want this to happen. What will you do with the babies if you incubate the eggs?
A gravid female should have access to a nesting box to lay her eggs. The box should be large enough that she can fully turn-around inside it. We use a soil mix in there that is wet enough to clump but no more. We have found that Spider Life substrate is ideal.
The eggs should be incubated in an incubator at 84oF. We incubate our eggs in sealed boxes on a moisture rich substrate (such as Hatchrite) to trap the humidity around the eggs. After approximately 60 days the eggs will start to hatch, the first babies to emerge will encourage the rest of the eggs to hatch.
This is our 'How to Set Up a Bearded Dragon Vivarium' video. We uploaded it to Youtube in 2008 and so far it has over 300,000 views!
It is a complete guide that will show you how we keep our bearded dragons at Northampton Reptile Centre. It is based on our bearded dragon experiences accumulated over our 20 year history. This is the setup that makes the beardie vivarium foolproof.
The technology has moved on since we made this video, for example we now have T5 UVBs. But this is still a relevant guide that will show you how best to use your equipment to create a great bearded dragon vivarium.