Have you come across red light bulbs and wondered if these are sufficient to keep your bearded dragon warm at night?
The quick answer for you is, no. The amount of heat produced by red light is nowhere near a regular UVA basking light.
In fact, prolonged exposure to red lights can actually be harmful for your bearded dragon in the long-run by messing up its sleep cycles and eventually the immune systems.
If you have 5 minutes to spare and want to find out more on why red lights can be so bad for a beardie, continue with the rest of this post!
Why is red light bad for bearded dragons? (3 reasons!)
Harm 1: Interruption to sleep cycle
It is common for bearded dragon keepers to think that leaving a red light on at night for their bearded dragon is safe.
Unfortunately, since bearded dragons can see the ultraviolet light emitted by red bulbs, leaving a red light on at night could actually disrupt your bearded dragon’s sleep cycle.
Just imagine someone shining a lightbulb at your face while you sleep!
Harm 2: Damage to eyes
Bearded dragons’ eyes are at risk when they endure long-term exposure to the ultraviolet light present in red light.
The ultraviolet light can penetrate your bearded dragons’ eyes and cause permanent eye damage.
Harm 3: Potential to cause stress
Apart from affecting their eyes, bearded dragons experience other long-term health complications such as stress, loss of appetite, and even a compromised immune system if exposed to red lights over a long period.
Misconception #1 – Bearded dragons are color blind
One of the most common misconceptions about red lights and bearded dragons is that bearded dragons cannot see colors.
In reality, bearded dragons are not colorblind and generally have good vision.
Even if bearded dragons cannot specifically see the color red, they most certainly can see the ultraviolet light emitted from red lights.
Unlike humans, who have three color receptors, bearded dragons have four; their fourth receptor allows them to see ultraviolet light, which the human eye cannot see.
This is why bearded dragons are more likely to experience adverse side effects such as long-term eye damage or a compromised immune system.
Misconception #2 – Red light provides warmth at night
Some people also say that red lights can effectively provide warmth for bearded dragons on a very cold night.
Unfortunately, that is another misconception.
Although red lights can produce small amounts of heat, it is not nearly enough to help bearded dragon maintain their body heat throughout the night.
Compared to the white lights you use during the day to provide warmth for your bearded dragon, red lights only offer a small fraction of that warmth.
Despite what your local pet store may tell you, using red lights to provide your bearded dragon with nighttime warmth simply isn’t worth the investment.
Misconception #3 – No visible harm means no harm
Red lights are commonly used at night because it is believed that they are not bright enough to bother bearded dragons while they are trying to rest.
However, as a matter of fact, red lights do bother bearded dragons, even if it is not immediately obvious.
The problem with red lights is that they do not cause any immediate, visible harm to bearded dragons.
Although your bearded dragon may not immediately display signs of discomfort or stress, the damaging effects of exposing your bearded dragon to red lights generally begin to occur slowly over a long time.
It is important to remember that minor stressors are not always the most obvious in bearded dragons.
Over time, exposure to red lights will increase your bearded dragon’s stress level, resulting from poor sleep, eye damage, or a lack of appetite.
Alternatives to red light for providing warmth
One popular way that bearded dragon keepers avoid red lights is by using a ceramic heater, as known as a ceramic heat emitter.
There are a variety of ceramic heaters on the market designed explicitly with bearded dragons in mind.
For various reasons, using a ceramic heater to keep your bearded dragon warm throughout the night is an excellent idea.
For starters, ceramic heaters do not emit any light. That means your bearded dragon can comfortably sleep through the night without interruption.
Also, ceramic heaters provide a substantial amount of heat.
Unlike red lights, a good ceramic heater can provide your bearded dragon with the appropriate amount of heat needed to stay cozy and warm on even the coldest of nights.
Another excellent option for preventing red lights from harming your bearded dragons is to use a heat mat.
Unlike red lights, which are fixed at the top of a bearded dragon’s tank, heat mats are designed to sit underneath a bearded dragon.
When your bearded dragon lays on top of a heat mat, it can take in the warmth needed to maintain its body temperature.
Like heat mats, heat tapes are an excellent way to keep your bearded dragon warm at night without exposing it to ultraviolet light.
Heat cables operate just like heat mats, but they are uniquely designed to be thinner and more flexible.
Due to their flimsy nature, heating cables can be used in various ways throughout your bearded dragon’s tank to regulate the temperature.
Heat tape can be applied to most surfaces in your bearded dragon’s tank, including the corners!
Although heat tape does not provide the same amount of heat that ceramic heaters and heat mats do, they are still a much better alternative when compared to red light bulbs.
Give your bearded dragon a warm bath
If you don’t have immediate access to a ceramic heater or a heat mat, another effective way to keep your bearded dragon warm at night is to give it a warm bath.
Remove it from its tank, heat the tank using a daytime heat lamp, and place your bearded dragon in warm (90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) water.
After your bearded dragon has soaked for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, place it back in its tank near its basking area and allow it to rest.
Preventing direct red lights on the body
There may be instances in which you may need to use a red light as a temporary solution. If that is the case, the most important thing to remember is that the red light should not shine directly on your bearded dragon.
One of the best ways to prevent the red light from shining on your bearded dragon is to provide your bearded dragon with a hideout cave.
Finding a hideout cave that effectively protects your bearded dragon from being directly exposed to the harmful ultraviolet light emitted by red lights should be relatively easy.
Although red light bulbs are commonly marketed and sold as safe products for bearded dragons, long-term exposure to red lights is bad for the pet.
If bearded dragons are exposed to red lights over a long period of time, they are at greater risk of developing long-term eye damage and a compromised immune system.
There are some instances where red lights may be used to provide temporary nighttime warmth for your bearded dragon, but in general, you should avoid using red lights for your dragon as much as possible.
Using safer alternatives, such as a ceramic heater, heat mat, heat tape, or a warm bath, you will be able to protect your bearded dragon’s eyes and keep it happy and healthy on even the coldest of nights.