If you want to keep a bearded dragon as a pet, you must duplicate their natural environment as much as possible. Although no real comparison to that of the wild, the natural habitat for bearded dragons is fairly easy to recreate.
Pro Tip: The more closely you duplicate their natural habitat, the healthier your bearded dragon will be.
On the other hand, if you fail to provide a suitable environment, your bearded dragon lifespan will dramatically decrease, this happens quite often.
As a bearded dragon owner, it’s your responsibility to provide the proper environment.
Bearded Dragon Habitat
Bearded Dragons are native to Australia, with eight distinct subspecies residing in various regions of the island. Their habitats range from deserts to subtropical woodlands, depending on their location in Australia.
This guide will focus on the Pagona vitticeps as it is the most common specie kept as pets.
|Pogona barbata||Eastern Australia|
|Pogona henrylawsoni||Western and Central Australia|
|Pogona microlepidota||Northern Australia|
|Pogona minor minor||Western and Central Australia|
|Pogona minor minima||Houtman Abrolhos Islands|
|Pogona minor mitchelli||Northwestern Australia|
|Pogona nullarbor||Southern Australia|
|Pogona vitticeps||Central Australia|
The Pogona Vitticeps, a species native to Central Australia, is well-adapted to its hot and arid desert habitat. With over 12 hours of intense sunlight per day, these reptiles have evolved to thrive in the harsh environment.
Despite the lack of lakes and ponds in the region, they are able to survive by utilizing the limited sources of moisture, such as the occasional scrub, small tree, and rocky areas.
As semi-arboreal creatures, they are able to climb to some extent but are not expert climbers, relying on their other adaptations to survive in their desert home.
Due to the harsh and arid conditions in their habitat, Bearded Dragons have evolved several remarkable adaptations.
- One of these adaptations is the presence of a third eye, known as the parietal eye, which enables them to detect and respond to shadows from above, helping them to avoid predators.
- Additionally, the unique design of their head, which is inverted, helps them to conserve moisture by allowing water droplets to slide down their head and directly into their mouth.
- Finally, they are equipped with sharp, spike-shaped scales that serve as a formidable defense mechanism against the many predators that inhabit the desert.
These adaptations, combined with their ability to adapt and survive in challenging conditions, make bearded dragons a remarkable species.
Because of the natural environment, bearded dragons require UVA and UVB rays for their daily metabolic functions.
To stay hydrated in the dry environment, they feed on insects and vegetation instead of drinking water.
To regulate their body temperature, they seek refuge in small rock crevices and climb higher on plants to escape predators.
In captivity you must replicate their intense sun and low humidity, as well as providing climbing and hiding opportunities for mental stimulation.
However, first-time keepers often make mistakes, such as buying inadequate enclosures, using improper UVB lighting, using harmful sand substrates, or forgetting to provide adequate climbing and hiding enrichment.
So, what does an ideal bearded dragon habitat look like?
Best Bearded Dragon Setup
The image below is an overview of what an ideal bearded dragon habitat looks like.
|Tank||120-gallons wooden or plastic tank|
|Temperature||95-100℉ (high) and 75℉ (low)|
|Humidity||Between 30% to 40%|
|Lighting||UVB tube light and 75w UVA basking light|
|Supplies & Decoration||Branches, Hammocks, Half-Logs, Plants, Hides and Bath Dish|
Bearded Dragon Tank Setup: Supplies List
Before you bring your bearded dragon home, you’ll need to have the following supplies for best-bearded dragon setup:
- UVB light
- Basking rock or log
- Water Dish
- Food Dish
- Live feeder insects and tweezers
- Adequate space in your home
Let’s explain all the above step by step.
How to Setup Bearded Dragons Enclosure
Step 1: Choose the Right Enclosure/Cage/Tank
When creating a bearded dragon habitat, keep in mind that bearded dragons come from the deserts of Australia and need plenty of heat and light and a low humid environment to live a healthy life.
The first thing you will need when creating a bearded dragon habitat is a nice enclosure that offers enough room for your beardie to run, climb, and exercise.
A wide range of reptile enclosures is available in the market all made out of different materials. But not all of them are suitable for bearded dragons.
So, how do you choose the right enclosure for your bearded dragon? Well, it’s not very difficult just keep on reading.
The first and most important thing to look for when picking a cage for your bearded dragon is its size. Bearded dragons need a relatively larger enclosure to live a happy and healthy life.
The cage size guide below will give you a clear idea of what size cage works best for beardies.
What Size Tank Should I Get For A Bearded Dragon?
Depending on the age and size of your pogona, you will need a certain size enclosure that offers plenty of room for your beardie to run about and exercise.
The following are the recommended tank sizes for bearded dragons.
|Tank Size (gallons)||Bearded Dragon Age (months)|
For large full-grown adult bearded dragons that are over 20 inches, you will need at least a 75-gallon tank but ideally, a 120 gallon terrarium works best.
Pro Tip: Instead of buying small cages and then upgrading them progressively as your dragon grows, you can get a larger cage from the beginning to save money.
Now that you have decided on what size enclosure you want to get for your bearded dragon, it’s time to choose the right type and material.
Types of Bearded Dragon Enclosures
There are three different materials to choose from for a Bearded Dragon tank:
- Glass (cheapest)
- PVC plastic
- Wooden (best)
Glass enclosures are one of the most popular choices for bearded dragon owners. They are easy to clean and provide a clear view of your pet, making it easy to monitor their health and behavior.
However, there are also some downsides to using glass enclosures. They can be heavy and difficult to move around, and they can also be expensive.
PVC Plastic Enclosures
PVC plastic enclosures are another popular option for bearded dragon owners. They are lightweight and easy to move around, making them a good choice for those who need to frequently change the location of their pet’s enclosure. PVC plastic enclosures are also relatively inexpensive, making them a budget-friendly option.
Wooden enclosures are another option for bearded dragon owners. They are durable and can be customized to fit your specific needs. Wooden enclosures can also hold heat and humidity better than glass and PVC plastic enclosures.
Plastic and wooden vivariums are both excellent choices due to their ability to effectively retain heat. However, many beginners opt for glass tanks because of their affordability and accessibility.
Once you have selected your vivarium, it’s important to choose the right lid.
- Single or Double hinged lids
- Front panel sliding/lifting doors
The best option is a split-top lid where one half can slide off while the other half remains stationary. This allows for a lamp to be placed in the stationary half without the risk of accidentally touching it and burning yourself. Additionally, ensure that the lid doors close properly to prevent any injuries to your lizard.
Step 2: Pick a Good Substrate
The second step in the bearded dragon setup is the substrate. The substrate is what lines the bottom of the bearded dragon’s cage.
It should be aesthetically pleasing, absorbent, easy to clean, and digestible if swallowed. The substrate can be a flat newspaper, AstroTurf, indoor/outdoor carpet, or brown wrapping paper.
Avoid using cedar shavings, kitty litter, gravel, wood shavings, crushed corn cob, or potting soil that contains pesticides, vermiculite, fertilizer, or wetting agents.
We recommend Zilla Reptile Terrarium Bedding Substrate Liner, Brown, 40BR/50G.
- A low maintenance bedding
- Safe because it cannot be digested like other substrates
- Treated to reduce odors
- Easy to clean with cold tap water
- Absorbent, non-abrasive material will not irritate reptiles
If you don’t want to use any specific pet product, you can use a simple paper towel for young bearded dragons. For adults, you can use a 50/50 mixture of play sand and topsoil with some vermiculite added in to retain moisture to facilitate digging.
Step 3: Set up Lighting and Heating Elements
The brighter their cage, the happier bearded dragons will be. Bearded dragons are naturally found in the deserts of Australia, so they require full-spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours each day.
Full-spectrum bulbs are different from household bulbs. It emits light in all UV ranges and needs to be evenly spread throughout the enclosure.
There also needs to be a way that the bearded dragon can come with 6 to 8 inches of light source. You can use a branch, rock, or any other thing that your bearded dragon can climb on and reach the light source.
Their habitat needs to have a range of temperatures to keep them healthy so their tank should have two sides a hot and a cold side so, the dragon can move to a warmer part of the cage and vice versa.
Note: The hot side should be 95 F° for adults and 110 F° for juveniles. And the cold side should be around 85 F°.
You will need to have two types of light in your bearded dragon enclosure/cage.
- A basking bulb/light
- UVA/UVB long fluorescent tube light
The basking light is very important for bearded dragons; it provides heat that helps reptiles digest their food. The light must be bright white because bearded dragons don’t do well with colored lights. Only unfiltered white light is recommended.
The basking bulb should cover only about 25 to 30% surface of the entire cage. The temperature of the basking spot should be between 90 F° – 110 F°.
For hatchlings, if kept in smaller aquariums, lights of lower wattage should be used, or the temperature will rise too quickly and become too hot for them.
Note: NEVER USE HOT ROCKS AS HEAT SOURCES.
In addition to providing heat, Incandescent light also provides visible white light. You can use incandescent and fluorescent light fixtures to provide visible white light to all areas of the cage/enclosure.
For adults, you can use a 30-75-watt incandescent bulb in a ceramic base or a special ‘Basking Lights’ that you can easily find in the pet stores. Make sure the light only shines on a particular basking area from the outside of the cage.
- 2 Bulb Value Pack
- 75 Watt Basking Spot Lamp with a unique patented double reflector
- Focuses 35 percent more heat and light into a tight beam
- Ideal for use with diurnal reptiles that thermo regulate by basking, including many tropical and desert species
- Lasts up to 2,000 hours
In addition to heat and white light, bearded dragons also need access to natural sunlight. They get their Vitamin D from a certain spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) light called UVB.
A dragon is likely to develop metabolic bone disease if it is not getting enough UVA/UVB light on a regular basis. There is no artificial light available that is as good as the sun in providing UVB, that is why we recommend taking your beardie outside when the temperature is over 70°F on a sunny day.
If a bearded dragon doesn’t have access to natural sunlight, special lights that mimic natural sunlight need to be installed in the cage/enclosure. The light must be full-spectrum (UVA/UVB) and should emit light in the 290-320 nanometer range. The purpose of these types of bulbs is not to generate heat, but to provide UVA/UVB rays.
Ideally, one UVB bulb is enough to eliminate the entire tank/cage. Make sure you leave enough space for a basking bulb when installing a UVB light if you are planning on getting one.
Lights that produce both UVB and white light are also available. Some of the best brands include Zoomed’s Reptile Lights and Durotest’s Vita-Lite. Remember, you will need to replace these lights because it loses its strength over time.
- Made of high-quality glass.
- With 97% UVA stimulates appetite and 3% UVB to promote vitamin D3 synthesis
- Simple and easy to install
- This heat lamp’s input voltage is AC 110-120V, power is 75-Watts
Ceramic Heat Emitter
To keep the temperature of the entire cage within the appropriate range, a primary heat source is necessary. During the daytime, a series of incandescent lights over the cage works really well. But these lights will need to be turned off during the night, and another heat source may be needed depending on the cage temperature.
During the night, you can use something like a ceramic infrared heat panel or emitters, or a nocturnal reptile incandescent light that produces heat and little visible light.
- Made of solid ceramics element
- Simple and easy to install
- 24 hour heat source with 100% heat efficiency
- Perfect for reptiles and amphibians
For larger bearded dragon cages/enclosures, you can use a separate room thermostat or a space heater to keep the room at the appropriate temperature. You will also need to place a fire alarm in the cage where heat sources are used.
Step 4: Get Thermometer and Hygrometer
You will need a separate thermometer for each side of the cage to monitor the temperature. (one for cold and one for hot side). You can get a nice thermometer from online stores that costs only a few bucks.
- Accurate temperature indication
- Single-button operated
- Remote sensor
- Minimum/Maximum memory
Maintaining the proper humidity levels is very important for bearded dragon health. The humidity level inside the enclosure should be kept between 35 and 40%. To correctly gauge the humidity level you will need to install a hygrometer inside the enclosure. Make sure you place the hygrometer in a central location inside the bearded dragon tank.
- Accurately measure temperature and humidity in vivariums
- Digital display and easy to read
- Easy to install
- One extra battery is included for standby in the package
Step 5: Landscaping and ‘Furniture
A bearded dragon set up is incomplete without furniture. You can’t keep your bearded dragon in a bare tank/cage and expect it to be happy. Get some accessories and be creative with them. Below is a list of stuff bearded dragons love to have in their cages.
- Reptile Hammocks
- Branches for Climbing
- Tank backgrounds
Bearded dragons love a place where they can hide. The hide should be something with an enclosed area where the bearded dragon can easily hide from light such as empty cardboard, flower pot, or cardboard box.
A hide is also helpful during the brumation period where bearded dragons sleep heavily for weeks.
We recommend Magnaturals Large Hideaway Earth – Magnetic Deco.
- Install or relocate in seconds. No glue or velcro
- 100% non-toxic materials. Easy to clean.
- Magnetic force guaranteed for life.
- Maximize terrarium space
Bearded dragons also like hammocks. Special hammocks made just for reptiles are available in every pet store. You can easily get the one with suction cups and hooks at the ends so you can easily stick them in your tank.
We like the Penn Plax Lizard Lounger, 100% Natural Seagrass Fibers for Bearded Dragons. It can be used for all kinds of other reptiles too.
- Comfortable and climbable lounger that all pet reptiles will enjoy.
- Hand woven from durable, 100% natural seagrass fiber.
- Attach to glass and acrylic terrarium walls.
- Great for use with arboreal and terrestrial reptile species
Branches for Climbing
Bearded dragons enjoy climbing, so try to have at least one branch under the secondary heat source (discussed below) that they can bask and climb on.
If you want to add multiple branches, make sure they are of various sizes and free of pitch and sap – oak works very well.
If you want to get a real branch, make sure it doesn’t have any holes in it where feeder insects can hide. The branches should not be wider or thinner than the width of the bearded dragon to ensure safety.
Besides branches you can also use boards covered with indoor/outdoor carpets, it makes the best climbing posts. Smooth, flat-bottom rocks are also a good addition to the bearded dragon cage that can help wear down the toenails.
If you do want to invest in some sort of branch then we recommend buying Fluker’s Iguana Branch, it’s one of the best and at the same time cheap.
- Sandblasted Grapevine
- These branches of natural California grapevine are sandblasted to produce a beautiful color and texture
- Recommended for all climbing reptiles
- Ideal for bearded dragons, iguanas and geckos
Plants are a beneficial addition to bearded dragon’s enclosure. Appropriate plants provide shade, humidity, sense of security, and also beautify the enclosure. Dracaena, hibiscus, and Ficus Benjamina are all good options.
When choosing plants, make sure they are non-toxic, and the potting soil doesn’t contain vermiculite, fertilizer, pesticides, or wetting agents.
- Extremely realistic replicas of real plants
- Creates natural hiding spots for reptiles and amphibians
- Equipped with weighted base for added stability
- Ideal for use in more sterile set-ups
To remove chemicals from plants, wash them with water spray and water them thoroughly several times to the point where water runs out of the bottom of the pot.
It’s also a good idea to put the newly purchased plants somewhere in the house for a day or two before putting them into the enclosure.
You will need a background for the back of your tank especially if you have one that is made of glass. Without a background, the tank setup may still look empty, even with the basking spot, the food bowls, hiding, and everything.
An appropriate background will not only make your dragon feel more secure, but it will also add an aesthetic quality to the enclosure.
- Creates a natural rock look for tropical or desert terrariums
- Insulates the terrarium, creates an extra dimension
- Made with black, non-toxic polystyrene
- Provides an ideal climbing aspect for reptile
Step 6: Get Water and Food Dish
Although bearded dragons get most of their water requirements from the insects and vegetation they eat, fresh drinking water should be available for them at all times.
For water, a shallow bowl should be used that cannot be tipped over. Some dragons also enjoy soaking in a water tub. Make sure the bearded dragon can get in and out of the container easily when it wants.
- Bowl is made of high-quality and durable ceramic
- Easy to clean design
- Rim prevents insects from escaping quickly
- 2.75 inches in diameter
You will also need to replace the water and clean the container on a regular basis, since the dragon may defecate in the water.
Step 7: Get Disinfectants
The enclosure, water bowl, and food should be cleaned on a regular basis with a 1:10 dilution of household bleach. Make sure to rinse the items well after cleaning. It is also important to wash your hands after cleaning the enclosure or handling the dragon because they can harbor a bacteria called salmonella.
- EPA approved Hospital Grade Disinfectant
- Non-toxic, Non-corrosive & Biodegradable
- Can be used in a wide range of applications – Disinfecting Cages, Water Bowls, Floors, Racks, Shelving, Perches and Toys, Food Preparation Areas, Inside Incubators, Decontaminating hands etc.
- Disinfection against Bacteria, Fungi and most Viruses
Step 8: Location in Your Home
As a first-time Dragon Keeper, it’s crucial to carefully plan the location of your bearded dragon’s new home. This will save you from unnecessary stress and ensure the safety and comfort of your reptile friend. Here are some tips to consider when deciding the perfect spot for your dragon’s terrarium:
Avoid direct sunlight: While sunlight is beneficial for bearded dragons in the wild, it can quickly become harmful in a domestic setting. The heat trapped in a glass terrarium can cause the temperature to rise to life-threatening levels. Instead, use a high-quality UVB lamp to provide heat and light.
Plan for adequate space: Be aware of the size of the tank you’ll need. A 40-gallon tank typically measures 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. Make sure you have a sturdy surface to place the tank on, and measure the area beforehand.
Keep the terrarium secure: If you have other pets or small children, make sure the tank is out of their reach. Dogs and cats can harm your dragon, and small children can accidentally topple the tank and cause injury. At the same time, ensure that you can easily access the tank for cleaning and interacting with your dragon.
Avoid loud noises: Loud noises can be distressing for bearded dragons, so try to place the tank in a quiet area. Avoid placing the tank near a TV, musical instruments, or high-traffic areas.
Maintain a proper lighting schedule: Place the tank in an area that is light during the day and dark at night. Your dragon will need 12 hours of UVB light each day, but they will have trouble sleeping if lights are left on at night. This is especially important during the brumation process.
By following these guidelines, you can create a safe and comfortable home for your bearded dragon and avoid potential issues.
Setting up a bearded dragon habitat requires careful planning and attention to detail. By considering factors such as lighting, space, safety, and environmental factors, you can create a comfortable and healthy environment for your reptile friend. Taking the time to research and prepare ahead of time will help ensure the well-being of your bearded dragon and provide you with peace of mind as a responsible pet owner. Remember, a happy and healthy bearded dragon is a well-cared for one, and with the right setup, you can provide a loving and nurturing home for your new reptile friend.