Are Red Lights Bad for Bearded Dragons?

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You may be wondering how you’re supposed to keep your bearded dragon warm on a very cold night. Have you come across red lights and wondered if using a red light bulb to keep your bearded dragon warm at night is a good idea?

When it comes to bearded dragons, red lights are harmful and can lead to long-term health complications, such as eye damage, interrupted sleep cycles, and compromised immune systems. 

As a bearded dragon keeper, it is crucial to understand why red lights are bad for your bearded dragon and how to prevent red lights from harming it. Read on to learn more.

Why red light is bad for bearded dragons?

Why Red Lights Are Bad for Bearded Dragons?

Interruption to sleep cycle 

It is not uncommon 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. 

Damage to eyes 

Bearded dragons’ eyes are put 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. 

Potential to cause stress

Similar to 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. 

Common misconceptions 

Common Misconceptions About Red Lights and Bearded Dragons 

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. 

When it comes to red lights, bearded dragons perceive the light emitted differently than humans do. 

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. 

Even if bearded dragons cannot specifically see the color red, they most certainly can see the ultraviolet light emitted from red lights. 

Some species, such as humans, dogs, and horses, cannot see ultraviolet light and therefore are not put at risk if they are exposed to red lights. 

Bearded dragons, however, experience quite the opposite. Since bearded dragons can see the ultraviolet light present in red lights, they 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

Another common misconception about red lights and bearded dragons is that red lights can effectively provide warmth for bearded dragons on a very cold night. 

Although red lights can produce small amounts of heat, the amount of heat it produces is not nearly enough to help bearded dragon maintain their body heat throughout the night.

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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. 

At the end of the day, red lights cannot provide your bearded dragon with the warmth they need to sleep comfortably throughout the night.

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, 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. Instead, the damaging effects of exposing your bearded dragon to red lights generally begin to occur slowly and over a long period of time.

Although your bearded dragon may not immediately display signs of discomfort or stress, that does not mean that the red lights you are using are safe. 

It is important to keep in mind 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

Alternatives to Red Lights for Providing Warmth

Ceramic heater 

One popular way that bearded dragon keepers avoid using 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. 

Using a ceramic heater to keep your bearded dragon warm throughout the night is an excellent idea for various reasons. 

For starters, ceramic heaters do not emit any light. That means that 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.

Heat mat 

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. 

One thing to remember about heat mats is that size and wattage matter. If you decide to buy a heat mat for your bearded dragon, be sure to consider the specific needs of your beardie. 

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Whether your bearded dragon is a tiny juvenile or a full-grown adult, there is sure to be a heat mat out there that is perfect for their needs.

Heating tape

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

Prevent Red Lights from Shining Directly 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. 

There are many types of hideout caves, such as those made from wood, plastic, and stone. 

Hideouts also come in various shapes and sizes, meaning it should be relatively easy to find a hideout cave that effectively protects your bearded dragon from being directly exposed to the harmful ultraviolet light emitted by red lights. 

Final thoughts

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. 

By using safer alternatives, such as a ceramic heater, heat mat, heat tape, or a warm bath, you will not only protect your bearded dragon’s eyes but also keep it happy and healthy on even the coldest of nights.