Bearded dragon care requires knowledge on one of the most essential pieces to keeping them healthy: light. These reptiles call the hot Australian outback their home, where they receive radiation directly from the sun.
As such, if you are beginning your journey as a bearded dragon owner, you need to understand why lighting is important, and how to make sure you purchase the right materials. This is one of the biggest pieces to keeping a bearded dragon; it will help you tremendously if you know all of this before beginning.
You are replacing the natural light of the sun with artificial light, and it needs to be done correctly, so they are kept in premium health.
During the summer, they require 14-16 hours of light exposure throughout the day. They should have 8-10 hours of nighttime light. When it reaches the winter, this number drops a little bit.
They should receive 10-12 hours of daytime light, and 12-14 hours nighttime.
If they do not receive this, it can lead to many health problems, including loss of appetite, mental instability, and metabolic bone disease. Your bearded dragon needs both UVA and UVB radiation, as this is what they would receive naturally from the sun.
Choose a light bulb that emits 5-7% UVA and UVB radiation. UVA will keep your bearded dragon healthy, while UVB provides the animal with the ability to metabolize both calcium and Vitamin 3.
You want to pick a full-spectrum bulb, and many people pick linear fluorescent bulbs to pull UV radiation from. However, when you are picking the correct bulb, you want to make sure it is designed specifically for a bearded dragon.
Don’t pick up any fluorescent bulb from the hardware store. This may be either too strong or too weak for them, and you don’t want to take the chance that something may go wrong.
You also want to choose a bulb that is 80% the length of the enclosure. You will place the bulb in a hood designed for it, so that it is protected.
It’s a good idea to replace them about every 6 months.
We’ve already discussed that a fluorescent bulb is a great way to go when choosing a bulb. Recently, the compact fluorescent bulb has become more popular, as it’s a way to conserve energy and still provide your bearded dragon with the light source they need.
Now, this is a debated issue; some people have found that it has caused some health issues with their bearded dragons, while some have been fine. You may want to look into this more before using these bulbs.
We’ve already mentioned that bearded dragons need both UVA and UVB lights. They both have their place in providing your pet with the nutrients they need.
Bearded dragons need light during the day, and most people use a red light during the night, although red lights are useless.
Ceramic Heat Emitters are one option that give off heat but do not produce light, which makes them good for nighttime use, or any type of supplemental need.
You also can look into heat pads that stick to the bottom of the tank, or heat rocks that act as a source for heat. Halogen bulbs use less power to create heat.
They are an efficient product that conserves energy and still produces quality light and heat. Since the lights in a bearded dragon habitat have to be up and running for 10-14 hours a day, it is good to think about an energy efficient option that does conserve energy, but that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for.
You also can find these different types of products, which will create basking areas with a concentration of heat and UV light. They have use for both desert and tropical habitats.
The UV rays concentrate on one area, which will rise the temperature and create a basking point. These tend to work with the same types of effects as a mercury vapor lamp, but they do not use the same amount of energy.
Light fixtures also provide a nice appearance with sockets for heat and UV lights, and a nighttime light socket. These are perhaps not as popular as other forms of light, but they do bring a unique way of creating basking areas, which your bearded dragon might really like.
Once you have your light bulb in the hood for use, place it within 12 inches of the floor of the tank. You don’t want it to be too far up from the tank, as this won’t heat the tank like it needs to.
If you are using a mercury bulb, you want to place it no higher than 20 inches from the floor.
How Long Can They Survive Without Heat?
Bearded dragons can survive about 24 hours without heat, as long as the temperature does not fall below 65 degrees. It really should not be tested though, because you don’t want to put your pet into distress.
Heat is so important for their well-being, and it’s something that should not be messed with. However, know that they will be okay if they have to go a few hours during the day outside of their enclosure.
It is very important that your bearded dragon be connected to a light cycle that they can become used to. This routine is essential to their health, almost similar to how we thrive on routine and normalcy.
It will adapt to the changing between lights and give them the best chance to replicate what it would be like for them in the wild. While we did talk about the differences between summer and winter months, they should receive in general, a minimum of 10-12 hours a day.
A lot of lights do come with timers, which will help in establishing a balance in routine. This is also great because you could forget to switch the lights yourself, and this way, it will automatically do it for you.
For babies, it is even more important to balance the temperature. You want the basking area to be 95-110 F, and the cool down area 80-90 F.
For juvenile bearded dragons, the basking area should be 96-100 F, while the cooling area should be 80-90 F. Adult bearded dragons will require cooler temperatures.
They will need a basking temperature of around 90-93 F, and a cool down area of 80-90 F. Nighttime temperatures will cause a drop to occur, to around 72-80 F.
Make sure to get a thermometer so that you are able to regulate all of these temperatures. Sometimes, at night, the temperature may drop down below what it should be, so you may need to find a heating device that doesn’t emit any light.
You essentially should have 4 zones that should be available to your bearded dragon at all times. You need a basking spot, a warm side, cool side, and nighttime temperature.
There should be a temperature gradient, which will create a flow of temperature. Bearded dragons are able to regulate temperature themselves, and know when they need to bask, and when they need to cool down.
This is very helpful for them, as we won’t need to always be watching them. They know what to do and are very efficient in regulating what their body temperature should look like.
In short, you need to set up the temperature zones, ensure you have the correct lights set up for your beardie, and then they will follow through with basking where they need to. As long as you are monitoring the temperature of the tank, they can follow through with keeping their body at the correct temperature.
Hopefully, now you understand the immense importance of the lights that function in a bearded dragon’s tank, and why they are necessary. They are one of the fundamental pieces that keep a bearded dragon healthy, and which you can create a schedule from to resemble what their natural habitat would look like in the wild.
It’s important that you do your research on these products so you can determine which tools will help your bearded dragon thrive the most in their environment, and what materials are conservative and friendly to the earth. There are a lot of different light bulbs you can choose from, which will work to create the right temperature in the tank.
Find which one you think will be best and go from there. If you decide you do not like the product, you can always switch to something else along the way.
Keep your bearded dragon’s health in mind, and you’ll be a great bearded dragon caretaker with a happy pet who you can enjoy many years with. Best of luck!