Bearded dragons are ectotherms. This means that they need external heat sources to warm their bodies This means that they have the opportunity to thermo-regulate.
What does thermo-regulation mean?
Thermo-regulation means that the lizard can move between areas of differing temperatures so as to regulate their own internal temperature.
What space does a bearded dragon need?
Bearded dragons can be kept on their own or in sexual pairs. They can also be kept in groups that contain a male with two or more females.
If the enclose is quite big, and it contains numerous hiding places and places for them to bask, then two males and multiple females can be put together.
However, fighting make occur between males even when the enclosure is quite large.
What should the enclosure size be?
To house one bearded dragon, the enclosure size should be 180 cm long x 45 cm width x 40 cm in height.
Whenever another bearded dragon is added, the floor area of the enclosure needs to increase by 0.36 square cm for each bearded dragon.
However, the larger the housing, the better it is for them.
More bearded dragons = More facilities needed
The more Bearded dragons that you have, the more requirement there is for multiple basking lights, feeding stations, spectrum lights. If there is not enough of these, then the weaker bearded dragons of the group will suffer because of this.
Getting a vivarium
The best type of enclosure for a bearded dragon is called a vivarium. These can be purchased from a pet store or constructed at home.
A large aquarium will also suffice, but access to the bearded dragons will have to be from the top.
The difference with a vivarium is that the have access doors on the side of the enclosure which is really helpful in accessing the bearded dragons.
Making a vivarium
If you are planning to make a vivarium, then use materials that are non-absorbent and that can be cleaned easily. Melamine-faced wood and glass can be used to make them.
However, they do have a lifespan that is quite limited as they are not as easily cleaned as commercially purchased vivariums.
Purchasing a vivarium
Vivariums that are sold in stores are usually lightweight with rounded corners that can be easily cleaned. They have ventilation grids and places to fit lights and heaters.
Where to put the vivarium in your home
Choosing the best place for a vivarium is something that needs good consideration.
Here are some places to avoid in the home;
- The kitchen. Avoid anywhere where food is prepared as their may by faecal contamination when handling a bearded dragon.
- Where there is direct sunlight. The vivarium will become like a greenhouse and the bearded dragon will suffer inside it because it will trap the sun’s rays.
The best place to put an enclosure for a bearded dragon is the room in your house which is the warmest and most insulated. This is so as to reduce the variability in the ambient temperature.
The lower the ambient temperature that is surrounding the enclosure, the more difficult it is to achieve the correct temperature inside it.
Setting the right temperature for a bearded dragon
During the daytime
The temperature should range from 77 to 86 degrees farenheit.
It should have a basking site temperature of between 86 to 95 degrees farenheit.
During the night
The temperature should be between 68 to 71.6 degrees farenheit.
Monitoring the temperature
After setting up the enclosure, the temperature needs to be monitored closely. In order to do this, use a thermometer to help record the minimum and maximum temperatures.
What heat sources should I use for my bearded dragon?
What you need from a basking light, is that it radiates heat.
This can be an incandescent light bulb or a special heating bulb, such as a ceramic heater.
A basking light should be positioned at one end of the enclosure to help provide a temperature gradient within the enclosure.
Where to position the basking light
The basking lights should be positioned at a high point in the enclosure.
The bearded dragon will respond to a heat source from above and will want to climb up towards it as they will use the heat that is transmitted to optimize their body temperature.
The basking light should be positioned at one end which will be the hot end.
The height of the lamp should be varied to get the required temperature for the basking area which is between 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
As you can imagine, the light can get very hot and so if it is in reach of the bearded dragon, it needs to be surrounded by a guard to prevent it from getting burnt.
Then measure the temperature range from the hot end to the cold end. This range should differ from 86 to 77 degrees farenheit.
What to put in the basking area
Place a dark rock that has a flat area on its top under the basking light. It will warm up quickly and provide an additional ventral heat pad for the bearded dragon.
A large log can also do the same job, if you can’t find a dark rock.
Don’t use hot rocks that are made from clay cement or plastic that is formed around a heating coil, as it will overheat for the bearded dragon and burn them
The bearded dragon will climb up on the rock to optimize its body temperature. They ewill thermo-regulate instinctively when responding to raditated heat from above and so do not have any use for a hot rock.
Using additional heat sources for your bearded dragon
Additional heat sources can also be used to help get the enclosure up to the required temperature range of between 86 to 95 degrees farenheit.
The best way to do this is to use a heat mat which can be placed underneath the enclosure. This needs to be insulated from the ground, or the work surface on which the enclosure is placed so that the heat travels up.
The heat mat can also be placed on the sides of the enclosure if it is pressed up against cold walls.