If you’ve had a leftover fish tank lying around, this may be a question you’ve wondered about. Can you reuse it for a different animal?
The answer is yes! There are certain measures you’ll need to go through in order to follow safety precautions. But put simply, there is nothing wrong with using an old fish tank for a bearded dragon enclosure.
You’ll find that it will probably be around the right size, and hopefully the right material too. This is an easy way to save some money and use materials that you already have.
Choosing a Suitable Fish Tank
A big factor of how long can a bearded dragon live is whether you have chosen the right house for your beardie.
Fish tanks are usually made out of glass or acrylic, although sometimes they can branch out and be made of different materials. You want a glass cage for a bearded dragon, which allows the temperature to work correctly and creates the right circulation. Make sure your fish tank is glass, or you probably won’t want to use it for your bearded dragon.
Durability- How strong is it?
Making sure the cage is durable is a must for your pet, and you don’t want the cage to break while your animal is in it. Luckily, fish tanks are built with durability in mind and to hold gallons of water. This is something that should already come prepared, but just make sure it looks sturdy enough for your pet.
Size of Tank
Fish tanks vary in size, starting at just a few gallons to up to hundreds of gallons. You definitely don’t want a tank that is too big for your beardie. You’ll probably want something around 30 gallons, as you want it big enough for your pet to be able to grow into. Bearded dragons can get pretty big, and you do want them to have plenty of space.
That being said, putting them in a 100-gallon fish tank is not a good idea. Especially if your bearded dragon is a baby, that will give them way too much room, and they would probably have trouble catching their food. If your fish tank is around the 30-gallon mark, that’s probably a good size to use for a bearded dragon enclosure. But if it’s a lot smaller or larger, you’ll probably not want to use it.
You also will want to get a lid for the tank, which will probably have to be different than what the fish tank had. Fish tanks typically have a light on top, which won’t work with your bearded dragon. You’ll need a UV light, and this will need to fit on a lid. You don’t want something entirely glass or plastic, as it will limit the airflow into the tank.
The fish tank may come with a thermometer, but that’s not what you’ll want for your beardie because the thermometer was meant for water. What you need is a temperature gauge built for a reptile tank. You can easily find these at your local pet store. You may want to get two so that you can place one near the basking light and the other at the cool end of the tank.
This way, you ensure that the light is doing its job correctly. At the hot end of the tank, the temperature should be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and on the cool end, it should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the nighttime, you want to ensure that the temperature doesn’t fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also buy a humidity gauge to put in the tank, which will show if it’s getting too humid in the enclosure. You want to ensure this is not the case, as it can be dangerous to your bearded dragon.
Prepping the Tank
Next, if you’ve found that you have the suitable material and the right size, you’ll want to start prepping your tank for their arrival.
The first thing you’ll want to do is clean it out. Remove everything inside it, and use a sponge to scrub the insides of the cage. Don’t use soap because this could be harmful to any future animal you put in the cage. Just do a thorough job scrubbing the tank so any residue or algae is gone.
Dry the Tank
Then you’ll want to dry the tank; you can air dry or use towels. It’s essential to make sure the tank is fully dry before moving forward with decorations.
Decorate the Enclosure
Once the tank is all clean and dry, you can get it ready for your bearded dragon. This is the fun part! You can add all of the decorations you have, such as rocks, a bridge, or plants. Add the water bowl and perhaps a little food bowl. Get creative with this! You can put many different things in it to make it a fun home for your beardie.
You want some form of basking platform so that your beardie can get close to the light. This is pretty easy; you can just find something like a bridge or rock that’s a decent size.
It’s a good idea to have a refuge for your beardie to go to. It can be a little house or hut, and you can place it under the basking lamp, so it gets warm inside their home. It’s important so that if your bearded dragon needs somewhere to go and have some shelter, they have a little area. Sometimes they may just want some private space, and this will provide them with that.
The substrate you’ll add depends on the age of your bearded dragon, and it’s crucial to find the correct one, as this impacts their life in the enclosure. There are many different options of things you can use as a substrate, so we’ll let you know the ones we recommend and the ones we don’t.
If you have a baby, you may want to install a reptile carpet. Now, this is good for bearded dragons of any age but is best for babies because it ensures they won’t ingest any sand or other choice of substrate.
Another choice of substrate that’s pretty popular is tile. This is non-toxic, and you can get it from your local hardware store, and it makes suitable flooring for your enclosure.
Newspaper/ Paper Towels
The next thing you can use is a newspaper or paper towels. These are a bit trickier because you will have to clean them out every day. It’s cheap to use but will involve more work because as soon as they get dirty, you’ll need to take them out of the tank. We’d suggest staying away from the loose substrate, such as sand and gravel, just because it gets everywhere and is a lot messier. It will get in the water dish, and just overall require a lot more cleanup than you would think.
Get a UV Light
This is one of the most critical steps, as UV light is crucial for a bearded dragon’s enclosure. It’s essential for their digestion; the light acts like the sun would work for them in the wild.
It also causes the temperature to be correct in their tank, which is also very important. You can find these at your local pet store, PetSmart, or on amazon.
Make sure you find the right one before you add your bearded dragon to the tank. Most people have two settings on their light: a day and a night setting. The night setting is typically a red color, which helps mimic what it’s like out in the wild.
You must find a light that lets you do both, and that’s strong enough to cause the tank to reach the correct temperature. You also need to ensure that you change your lights regularly, as they become less effective over time.
Introducing The Cage for The First Time
Now that you’ve got your tank cleaned and added decorations, substrate, and a UV light, you should be all set to introduce your bearded dragon to their new home. When you put them in, let them get used to it for about an hour, and then feed them.
This should help acclimate them to their new environment and even get excited about their home. Be sure to watch their behavior over the next few hours so you know that they aren’t stressed.
Do check out our helpful post about how often should you take your bearded dragon out of its cage.
Hopefully, you know the signs of stress your beardie exhibits typically. It could include dark coloration, scratching at the glass, or loss of appetite.
It may just take them a little while to get used to their new home, so don’t panic right away. Bearded dragons don’t always love change, so you may just need to give them some time to adapt. We hope you and your bearded dragon love their new home. Good luck!