For any new Bearded Dragon owner, one of the most important things that you can do is to set up the tank lighting and heating system properly with the correct temperatures to ensure your Bearded Dragon grows both happy and healthy.
So what lighting do you need for a Bearded Dragon? You need 3 lights for your Bearded Dragon:
- UVB Bulb
- Basking Lamp
- Ceramic Heat Emitter
All 3 lights are very important and play different roles in keeping your Bearded Dragon healthy. The UVB bulb will give off vital UV rays and aids calcium absorption, the basking lamp is vital for digestion and the ceramic heat emitter will top up the temperature inside the tank at night if needed.
Read on to find out exactly how to use these lights, what role they play in the health of your Bearded Dragon and lots more.
First, let’s take a closer look at why lighting is so important to Bearded Dragons.
Why Is Lighting So Important to Bearded Dragons?
Bearded Dragons are exothermic which basically means that they need to regulate their body temperature from the external heat sources.
In the wild, they use the sun as this external heat source and it is vital to so many functions that without the heat the sun provides a Bearded Dragon would simply die.
In captivity, it’s possible to replicate the amazing job that the sun does for a Bearded Dragon using 3 lamps/lights. This s backed up by the Spruce Pets blog who also make a point in underlining the very fact.
These lamps/lights are the UVB light, the basking lamp and the ceramic heat emitter.
Your Bearded Dragon needs the UVB and basking lamp to survive in captivity and the use of the ceramic heat emitter will depend on how warm your home is at night.
Without these external heat sources to mimic the sun your Bearded Dragon will not survive.
Now let’s take a closer look at each lighting source individually and see why it’s important, how to set it up and more.
Why Are UVB Bulbs Important?
UVB basically stands for Ultraviolet-B and this is the main source lighting that your Bearded Dragon needs and will be exposed to each day.
This light replicates the rays from the sun and without it, your Bearded Dragon would start suffering from many different kinds of health issues.
The main health issue that is associated with a lack of UVB exposure is metabolic bone disease.
UVB rays feed Bearded Dragons with Vitamin D3 and this helps them to absorb calcium. Without the UVB rays, they don’t get the required amount of Vitamin D3 to absorb calcium and this is when issues such as metabolic bone disease become a reality.
Having a good quality UVB setup from the start is essential for the health of your Bearded Dragon.
What Is The Correct Size & Placement For UVB Lighting?
UVB lights for Bearded Dragons are long fluorescent tube bulbs, this helps to cover the majority of the tank so your Dragon can get exposure easily.
Take a look at the diagram below to get a good understanding of how the UVB lighting placement should look.
Correct Size Of UVB Bulb
The bulb should cover ⅔ or ¾ of the tank so the length of the bulb will totally depend on the length of your tank. The beardeddragon.org also recommend having a light that spans most of the tank to help illuminate it correctly.
There should always be ⅓ or ¼ of the tank left with no UVB bulb exposure, we will talk more about why in a moment.
Correct Placement Of UVB Bulb
We haven’t talked about the basking bulb yet but the ideal placement is for the basking bulb and UVB light to be in the same corner of the tank.
This is important because you need to create a cool spot for your Bearded Dragon on the opposite side of the tank.
This is essential for your Bearded Dragon because as well needing to heat their body to the optimal temperature they also need a ‘cool spot’ where they can cool down and regulate their body temperature if they start to get too hot.
The second advantage of this is that your Bearded Dragon will spend a lot of the day under the basking lamp so it will also be getting exposure from the UVB bulb at the same time.
What Is The Best UVB Lighting For Bearded Dragons?
When it comes to choosing the right UVB bulb for your Bearded Dragon there are a lot of choices and sometimes it can be overwhelming.
One thing is clear, you should never just purchase the cheapest bulb you can find from your local hardware store.
These bulbs generally don’t produce the correct amount of UVB light to keep your Dragon healthy and they will also need replacing in a short period of time.
When choosing a UVB light you should always go with a trusted manufacturer of reptile lighting.
In my opinion, the best UVB bulb you is the Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0 UVB Bulb.
You really don’t need to look any further than this bulb and you can be confident that it will give your Bearded Dragon the high-quality UVB light that it needs to be healthy.
It comes in 2 different sizes, the T5 and the T8. I would always go for the T5 as it has a high UVB output and can be placed within 12”-18” of your Bearded Dragon so you have a lot of flexibility with the placement and you are still sure your Dragon is getting the exposure they need.
The T8 is still a good option, however, the UVB output is lower so you need to make sure the placement is within 8” of your Bearded Dragon so they are sure to be getting the full UVB exposure they require.
Which bulb you choose will largely depend on your tank, how big it is and how you want to mount it.
You will ultimately have to choose the bulb that is right for you and your Dragon but you can rest assured that you Zoo Med Reptisun has everything they need in a UVB light.
I have created a guide here that shares all the lights and accessories you need for your tank including the Reptisun T5 UVB bulb and the best place to get it from.
What Fixings Should I Use For My UVB Light?
There are lots of ways to fix the UVB light to your Dragons tank. Some people get creative, start drilling holes and fixing the UVB light all over the place.
Honestly, i wouldn’t recommend that unless you have experience and you know what you are doing.
There are specifically designed fixings you can purchase that will make the job a whole lot simpler and you can rest assured the light will be safe as well.
For this job, you can shop around and find a fixing that suits you UVB lighting purchase but my recommended fixing is the NanoTech Sunblaster. You can see the best place to get it in my guide right here
It has a reflector combo which will also give you a higher UVB output as well as obviously taking the headache out of fixing your UVB light to the tank.
How Often Do UVB Bulbs Need Replacing?
Replacing your UVB light is hugely important but it’s also often overlooked.
The problem is that UVB lights will work for a long time in the sense that they switch on but the actual UVB rays are no longer present.
So you think that because the light is switched on that it is providing your Bearded Dragon with the correct light it needs but in actual fact it’s doing nothing.
To avoid this problem you should aim to replace your UVB light every 6 months with a T8 light and every 6-12 months with a T5 light.
This will allow you to have the piece of mind that your Bearded Dragon is getting all the necessary UVB exposure and Vitamin D3 in their diet.
Why Are Basking Lamps Important?
Basking lamps play a different role in the health of your Bearded Dragon, however, they are just as important.
You will often find that your Bearded Dragon will spend hours per day regulating its body temperature under the basking lamp so it can stay healthy in a number of ways.
One of the main ways the basking lamp is used by your Dragon is to digest its food.
Without the basking lamp to aid digestion your Bearded Dragon would struggle to digest any food at all and would become ill very quickly.
They can also suffer from impaction if they don’t get the right amount of heat per day from their basking lamp.
Impaction is where there is undigested food in the gut and then your Bearded Dragon basically becomes constipated.
This can become very painful for your Dragon and lead them to lose their appetite.
Having a high-quality basking lamp is essential for young Bearded Dragons because they are growing so rapidly and they need a lot of food to support that growth.
Having a basking lamp and basking area will give them the opportunity to digest their meal and absorb the nutrients in plenty of time before the next meal.
What Is The Correct Size & Placement For The Basking Lamp?
Placing the basking lamp in the correct area of the tank will help to create both a basking spot and also a cool spot on the other side of the tank.
Take a look at the diagram below, this will help you to understand how the basking area should look
Correct Placement Of The Basking Lamp
You will need to place the basking lamp on the same side of the tank as the UVB light.
You will also need to create a basking area (basically a place to chill) so your Bearded Dragon has got enough space to rest for as long as it needs each day under the lamp each day.
It’s hard to say exactly how far away the lamp should be from your Bearded Dragon because this will depend on how much heat the lamp is giving off.
To get the lamp at the correct height you need to purchase a ‘contactless digital thermometer’.
This will allow you to test different heights of the lamp until the basking area is at the correct temperature.
I’ve added a full temperature chart further on in this post for you that details how hot the basking area should be, the temperature of the cool spot and what the temperature at night should be. The chart also shows the different temperatures you need in these areas for both babies and adults.
What Is The Best Basking Lamp?
Basking lamps are totally different from UVB bulbs. I would always recommend that you purchase a UVB bulb specifically designed for reptiles as these are the only bulbs that can do this job correctly.
With the basking lamp, this rule doesn’t apply at all. The basking lamps that are on the market that are specifically designed for reptiles are basically the same as the halogen bulbs that you can purchase from the hardware store.
The only difference is that they are more expensive than the ones that you can get from the hardware store.
For this reason, i would recommend that you get your purchase a good quality halogen lamp that is around 90 watts depending on your tank size and this should be great.
You still need to purchase something that is good quality and if you feel more comfortable purchasing a lamp that is specifically designed for reptiles then that is fine too but all I’m saying is that you don’t need to go out and purchase these items if you don’t want to.
How Often Do Basking Lamps Need Replacing?
Basking lamps don’t need to be replaced until they either break or stop giving off the required heat that your Bearded Dragon needs.
It’s always a good idea to have a couple of spares ready and waiting on standby.
The worst thing that can happen is for your lamp to stop working and you don’t have a replacement lamp. This can cause some temporary problems for your Dragons until the situation is resolved.
I think if i could give you one piece of advice it would be to always have spare bulbs and lamps because light and heat is vital to your Bearded Dragon so they should never have to go without it even if only for a few hours.
The Cool Spot
The cool spot is an equally important area of your Bearded Dragons tank as the basking area.
They will often need to cool down to regulate their temperature and the easiest way for them to do this is to simply move to a cool area of the tank.
In the wild, they would take refuge under a rock or somewhere that would provide the shade needed to regulate their temperature.
The cool spot will be created naturally when you place the UVB light and the basking lamp on the opposite side of the tank.
It’s a good idea to regular checks on the temperatures in your tank including the cool spot to make sure that there is a gradient from the basking area to the cool spot so your Dragon can pick their spot in the tank that is the right temperature for them at that moment.
The diagram below will help you visualize exactly how the cool spot should look.
Ceramic Heat Emitter
Not every Bearded Dragon owner will need to purchase a ceramic heat emitter.
This will totally depend on the room temperature of your home at night. As a rule of thumb if the temperature in your drops below 65 Degrees F then you should think about getting a ceramic heat emitter.
This will help to top up the heat in the tank just enough so your Bearded Dragon will be warm enough and still able to sleep.
It’s important that you use a ceramic heat emitter rather than a halogen bulb with a low wattage because this will keep your Dragon awake at night because of the light that it gives off.
Ceramic heat emitters only produce heat and don’t give off any light so they are perfect for topping up the temperature of the tank at night if needed.
You might also only need to use this kind of lamp at certain months of the year such as winter and then find it’s not really necessary from spring onwards.
This will totally depend on which part of the world you live in and how you heat your home.
Placement For Ceramic Heat Emitter
There isn’t any specific placement for the ceramic heat emitter. You will need to see what works best for both your and your Dragon.
What I’ve found works best is to place it close to where your Dragon sleeps this will allow the temperature to be optimal whilst not disturbing your Dragon from it’s usual resting post.
Best Ceramic Heat Emitter
There a lot of choices when it comes to these types of heat lamps, unlike the baking lamp i would go with a branded lamp that is specifically made for reptiles.
This will allow you the peace of mind that your Dragon is is warm enough at night with a high-quality lamp.
If you go for a cheaper lamp and it stops working at night your Dragon will have to go all night without the heat it needs because you will be asleep at this point and won’t be aware of the situation.
This might seem quite rare but it can happen and personally, I think using a branded lamp is the best option here.
The lamp I recommend is the Exo Terra Ceramic Heat Emitter 40W. This is a great option from a highly trusted manufacturer. Here I show you why I personally recommend this heat emitter.
How Often Do Ceramic Heat Emitters Need Replacing?
The principle here is exactly the same as the basking lamp. You should replace the ceramic heat emitter when it either stops working or stops producing the heat that is required for your Dragon.
I would always check the heat of your tank at both day and night on a regular basis to make sure they are stable and none of your bulbs and lamps need replacing.
Do You Need a Thermometer?
Having a thermometer can make caring for your Bearded Dragon much easier and help you keep the temperatures in their tank at the optimal levels.
Guessing at temperatures can be a dangerous game and because your Bearded Dragons health is dependant on this i would strongly recommend that you invest in a high-quality thermometer.
The cheaper and old fashioned dial ones really aren’t going to give you anywhere near the amount of accuracy you need to ensure that your Dragon is getting the correct heat in the correct areas of their tank.
Investing in a non-contact digital thermometer will allow you to instantly check the temperature of any part of the tank and see if any changes are needed.
Using a non-contact digital thermometer is fast and accurate and the only way to confidently ensure you have the correct temperatures in your tank. Here In my tank equipment my guide, I list my recommendations for thermometers and the best places to get them
What Temperature Should a Bearded Dragon Tank Be?
It can often be hard to know exactly what temperature your Bearded Dragons tank should be for them to grow happy and healthy.
They actually need different temperatures at different stages of their life and they also need to have a contrast in temperatures at areas of the tank. There should be roughly a 20°F difference in temperature from the basking area to the cool spot.
This chart will help you to easily breakdown the correct temperature you need for your Bearded Dragon:
Please Note: This chart should only be used as a guide, always seek advice from your vet.
Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide
|Bearded Dragon Temperature Guide|
|Basking Area 95°-100°F|
|Cool Spot 75°-80°F|
How Much Light Should Bearded Dragons Get each Day?
Your Bearded Dragon needs around 10-12 hours of UVB exposure each day.
The UVB exposure is the most important thing to consider because if your Dragons doesn’t get enough exposure each day then they can quite quickly start to suffer from health issues.
Some owners like to keep the lights on for a set amount of hours all year round while others like to try and replicate the day/night cycle that a Bearded Dragons would experience in the wild.
Exactly how you work the cycle is up to you but shooting for something around this base amount of hours per day will be fine.
Here’s a visual guide that shows what the winter/summer day night cycle would look like.
Do Bearded Dragons Need Heat at Night?
Bearded Dragons only need heat at night if the temperature of their tank drops below around the 65°F mark. If your temperature in your home is above this then there really is no need to have any heat on at night.
In the wild Bearded Dragons would be used to the temperature dropping into the mid-70-75°F and this helps them get a good nights sleep.
It’s always good to replicate the conditions of their natural habitat in the wild as much as possible.
You also might only need to supply heat at night at certain times of the year. Your home could be the perfect temperature in the summer but then starts to drop in temperature in the winter meaning that your Dragons tank becomes a little cold in the night when the lights and heat go off.
You will simply need to look at your individual situation and act accordingly.
Do Bearded Dragons Need Light at Night?
You shouldn’t have any lights on n the night-time period for your Bearded Dragon.
Having lights on can confuse your Bearded Dragon and they just don’t know if they are supposed to be sleeping or not.
The best thing you can do is to keep things simple and just have a good day-night cycle. If you need any lamp at all through the night it should only be a ceramic heat emitter that only gives off heat and no light so it won’t disturb your Dragon.
I really hope you now understand how to set up your 3 different lights for your Bearded Dragon and the reason why they are all important.
The main things to remember are that you need a high-quality branded UVB bulb that stretches around ¾ of the way across the tank and a basking lamp that can be a halogen lamp from a hardware store if you please.
If your tank Dragons tank goes below the mid 65°F mark on a night then you might want to consider a ceramic heat emitter to top up the heat during the night.
If you follow these principles along with the other advice given in this post and give around 14-16 hours of daylight hours per day then you should be on your way to having a happy and healthy Bearded Dragon.
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