Lighting guide for a bearded dragon

Bearded dragons like many other reptiles have specific lighting requirements that can be really confusing, especially for new owners that don’t have previous experience.

Because of that reason, having a good understanding when it comes to lighting the space of your bearded dragon is very important.

You should know there are plenty of options when it comes to lighting for bearded dragons and choosing the wrong setup can be harmful to your pet. However, if you carefully read our guide you will get plenty of information about setting up proper lighting for your pet.

Bulb positioning

As we already mentioned, bearded dragon lighting has some specific requirements, and positioning the bulbs in the tank is not that simple job simply because you just cannot mount the bulbs anywhere you want. Wrong bulb positioning is one of the most common mistakes that bearded dragon owners are making.

In continuation of our post, you will be able to get information about the type of lights that you can use but also about the placement and whole tank organization in regards to lighting.

What is Basking Light?

Basking light’s unique design is able to create a bigger basking area where UVB light, and heat getting concentrated. They are mostly used to create tropical and desert habitats.

The Basking Light

The basking light is very important for your bearded dragon living space. With imitation of the natural heat produced by the sun, the reptiles are able to absorb the warmth and control their body temperature properly.

Talking about the basking lamp light, there are plenty of heat bulbs available on the market that is specially designed for reptiles.

In case you have enough knowledge about your reptile requirements you will be able to make a lighting combination for your bearded dragon on your own.

No matter which basking light you choose for your bearded dragon setup, it is very important to make sure that it delivers a sufficient amount of heat. To be sure about the temperature it is recommended to get a cheaper digital thermometer so you can keep track.

Mature bearded dragons require temperatures between 100-105F while baby bearded dragons need warmer temperatures going between 105-110F.

Talking about placement and wattage of these lights in the bearded dragon’s tank it is up to the owner to decide. Some tested methods show that having a 90-100 watt bulb at 20″ is enough to produce a temperature of 105-110F.

You should know this is not a standard setup but an example from owners who already placed their lighting and managed to produce optimal temperature.

Making optimal temperature depends on tank size, bulb type, and insulation which suggests that every tank is different and requires a different approach and setup. You will be able to move your light up and down until you get the right temperature (with help of a thermometer) on the basking surface.

Basking light – Is it as important as UVB light?

For a lot of bearded dragon owners basking light is a must-have in their bearded dragon lighting setup. Many of the owners are making combinations and are using both of them which is recommended.

Basking light is able to provide enough UV rays that are necessary for all reptiles and of course bearded dragons as well. They need basking light to regulate their day/night cycle and warm their bodies.

Apart from that, the basking bulbs help your bearded dragon in digestion, regulate its metabolism, and absorb nutrients.

Bearded dragons normally reach their maximum thermal temperature at 95-110F. Once they reach their maximum thermal temperature they use to open their mouths in a process better known as gaping.

In the gaping process the bearded dragon needs a cooling zone in order to regulate its body temperature and because of that reason, having a cool zone in your tank is very important.

If your dragon is not exposed to warm sufficiently it can suffer from impaction. This condition usually happens when the digestive tract of a bearded dragon is blocked. This means the food is not digesting properly and it’s getting stuck in their digestive system.

Your pet will need about 12-14 hours of basking light per day and that is the right amount of radiation that needs to be absorbed by your bearded dragon in order to reach the maximum body temperature.

Correct Lighting setup

You probably already know that your terrarium needs to be set up in the correct way. The most important thing here is the placement of the bulb but also the correct distance that should be made from the bulb to the tank. Additionally, it is very important to correctly set up the cool zone and warm zone when you are making a bearded dragon lighting setup.

If you are not sure about some details you should know there are a lot of detailed videos on youtube and you can always search for some of them in order to learn more details about the whole setup.

Setting the Basking Lights

Bearded dragons in their natural habitat enjoy spending a lot of time and basking under the sun for longer periods. You will need to make the same conditions for the beardie that you are keeping in your home.

Apart from all the details that should be added to your beardie tank, there should be a hot zone and a cool zone as well. The lamp that you are going to buy should perfectly match the size of the tank that you are owning.

For those looking for additional information, the correct basking (hot) zone should be 2/3 or 3/4 of the tank. In opposition, the cool zone should be 1/3 or 1/4 of your tank space.

There is also an option for you to get a standard (regular) bulb and use it as a basking light for your pet. In case you decide to use a standard bulb, it is recommended to use halogen bulbs that are between 40-100 watts.

For tanks up to 40 gallons, 100-watt bulbs are recommended because they can produce optimal heat of 95 to 105F (35-40C).

Remember that UVA, UVB, or basking light should be positioned in the corner of your tank which will leave enough space for the cool zone which will be on the opposite side.

Many people prefer using UVA basking heat lamp during the day because they say it is more efficient and they produce enough UVA radiation for your pet.

Basking light distance

Let’s say there is no ideal bulb placement because the distance varies because of different tank sizes and setups. If you want to avoid making mistakes you should always read the bulb’s recommendation.

Reading the recommendation and bulb’s instructions is very important because some bulb models produce higher gradient heatwaves and they need to be placed far from the tank (over a foot high from your tank).

Other different basking lights are producing lower and weaker radiations and they need to be placed closer to the tank. Also, remember to give your pet unfiltered radiation which means that you shouldn’t place the bulb over the glass or any plastic screen cover, they should absorb the radiation directly.

The cooler side of the tank

Always keep in mind that your bearded dragon tank setup should have a “cooler part”. Having a cooler zone in your reptile tank will help the bearded dragon escape from the heat that is produced by the basking light, cool himself out, and better regulate his body temperature.

Having a proper temperature gradient is key for your bearded dragon enclosure and because of that reason you will need to have a cool zone on the other side of your tank. In case the basking zone is too hot, your pet will be able to move towards the cool zone in order to find the right temperature for him.

Do you need a light on the cooler side of the tank?

In most situations, you don’t need to place a light on the cooler side of your pet’s tank and a lot of bearded dragon owners are not using a light on that side of the tank.

However, there are some situations when you need to place a light on the other side, for example, if your room is too dark it will be a good idea to place lighting, especially because of the bearded dragons like visual light. Visual light will motivate your bearded dragon to increase his activity but also a light on the cooler side can increase the appetite of your pet.

If you consider placing a light on the cooler side of your tank you should know that a simple household bulb will be able to do the job nicely. It will be important to check if the bulb is making a high temperature inside the tank and if you have any problems with it you can always switch to led bulbs because they are producing a lot less heat.

UVB Lighting Placement

UVB (fluorescent lighting) is the most important thing in any setup that is made for bearded dragons and other lizards.

In case your setup is missing a UVB lamp and your pet cannot absorb beneficial UVB rays there is a big chance that your bearded dragon will develop health problems and diseases and the most common one is called Metabolic Bone Disease.

In continuation of this article, we will provide you with all the necessary information about UVB lighting so you can get better knowledge and learn how to properly use UVB lighting.

UVB Light and its importance for your Bearded Dragon

Ultraviolet B light is electromagnetic radiation and UVB lamps are emitting a spectrum of ultraviolet light which has wavelengths ranging from 290-320nm (nanometers).

For humans, this ultraviolet light doesn’t mean much especially because our eyes are not able to see this specific spectrum. On the other hand, for many reptiles, UVB light is a key to survival.

As we already mentioned UV radiation is very important for your bearded dragon and without it, they tend to develop a lot of health conditions. You can provide your bearded dragon with UVB lighting from a UVB fluorescent bulb, UVB tube bulb, mercury vapor bulb, incandescent bulb (low UV light), basking bulb, or fluorescent tube.

UVB light will help your dragon to regulate the Vitamin D3 production within the skin. It is important simply because the Vitamin D3 will allow your bearded dragon to absorb and then use calcium. This means that dragons that are left without proper UVB light will have very low Vitamin D3 levels and low calcium levels as a result.

We mentioned Metabolic Bone Disease before and bearded dragons who have low calcium levels are usually suffering from this illness and young bearded dragons who are missing Vitamin D3 are even more exposed to this disease. Because of this reason, you will need to make sure that your tank lighting is properly set up from the beginning.

Placement of UVB lights

Buying the UVB light in the right size is very important for your bearded dragon’s health and development. Your UVB light should cover 2/3 or 3/4 of your pet’s tank. Setting your light like this will enable your bearded dragon to absorb the UVB rays no matter his placement.

Placing the UVB lamp in your bearded dragon tank should be done on one side and it is best if you can place it on the same side where your basking light is. Leaving a smaller part of the tank without light (cool zone) will help your pet to balance his body temperature to his needs.

In recent times there are plenty of options on the market when it comes to UVB tube light and once you understand what your pet needs, you will have an easy time deciding which light you should buy.

Light fixtures – which one to choose?

Picking the right UVB bulb for your bearded dragon is a complicated process but looking for a bulb fixture should be easy because there are endless choices on the market. There are a lot of bulb fixtures to choose from and you will find something for anybody and any budget.

The mounting process of the bulb fixture is also a simple process, you will need to attach a few command hooks to the back of your tank. It may seem strange or funny that the fixture should be mounted towards the back side of the tank but that is normal procedure.

How often should I replace UVB bulbs?

The standard period to change your UVB light should be every 6-12 months. As these bulbs age their functionality decrease out of optimal range and because of that reason it is really important to change them on time.

Once again we need to mention that UVB light cannot be seen by humans and looking at the old light bulb with the naked eye can make an impression that the bulb is working perfectly but it is most likely ineffective for bearded dragons and their Vitamin D3 synthesis.

Choosing the right Watt Bulb for your pet

Choosing the right watt bulb for your pet should be done by considering your tank size first. As an example, for a 40-gallon tank, a 100 watts bulb will be enough.

Bulbs with higher wattage will be good for tanks that are larger than 40 gallons. For tanks that have a size of over 150 gallons, you will need to place 2 UVB lights.

For those looking for a “standard” wattage bulb, it is good to know that usually, wattage goes between 75-100 watts.

It is very important to remember not to install bulbs in your tank that are over 150 watts because it has a big chance to burn your bearded dragon skin. Another important thing to remember is that not all bulbs that produce enough light are also producing enough warmth.

UVA Light

In comparison with UVB, UVA light has a longer wavelength. If you are wondering about the UVA light role you should know that UVA light helps stimulate your beardie appetite.

You should definitely use UVA light if you don’t want your pet to have stomach and feeding problems.

There are also some things that you should consider before you buy a UVA light. Compatibility is one of those things and fitting the bulb precisely to your tank without any necessity to install additional mounting add-ons should come in the first place.

You will need to look for a UVA light that is able to produce the recommended temperature. In continuation of this article, we will provide information about recommended temperatures for a bearded tank.

Lights that are needed for Bearded Dragons

Always keep in mind that adding the wrong lighting setup will bring a negative effect on your pet’s health. Bearded dragons require specific visible light apart from the natural sunlight they are absorbing and using.

To receive at least 7-10% UVA and UVB radiation is considered sufficient for your bearded dragon. Most beginners and people nowadays consider that UVA light is not necessary for their pets but that is not true.

UVA light is mostly used so you can keep your bearded dragon healthy and also stimulate his appetite.

UVB light is a kind of radiation that helps your pet absorb enough vitamin D3 and calcium in his body.

Basking lights are essential so your pet can thermoregulate efficiently and they also help bearded dragons to maintain the correct temperature level.

Lighting cycle of your Bearded Dragon

Usually, the bearded dragons are active during the day while they are used to sleeping at night (similar to humans).

In their natural habitat, the bearded dragons are basking under the sun during the day and at night they are using their hideouts in order to retreat and sleep during the night. It is suggested to follow the same pattern for the beardie that you are keeping at your home.

Scheduled activity and rhythm will be very important for your beardie’s health. Daytime heat should be used for 12 hours at least and then you should turn it off for the next 12 hours of the day (usually at night).

Heating solutions for your tank – Ceramic Heat Emitters

Ceramic Heat Emitters are actually ceramic fixtures that are heating up your bearded dragon’s enclosure by using invisible infrared light.

Most people consider buying these ceramic heat emitters when they figure out that the temperature in the tank starts dropping from mid to low 60’s and this is usually happening at night.

You should know that these lights are not expensive and they will help you make the optimal temperature conditions (70’s range) during the night time.

Another important thing is that ceramic heat emitters don’t require specific light placement as was the situation with lighting. Some of the people are placing them on one of the sides in order to get a good temperature gradient, while others are placing them more towards the middle in order to make some tests and figure out which placement will be the best for their beardie.

Thermal gradient environment and how to set it up

The thermal gradient setup is the temperature difference between the cool zone – the warm zone – the hot zone. In order to have good results, the gradient should go horizontally.

Ideal lighting conditions and thermal temperatures during brumation

During the cold season, a lot of bearded dragons brumate. The period when your beardie is preserving its energy and slowing down its metabolism is called Brumation.

As we already mentioned, beardies brumate during the cold season (3 months) and during that time you will be able to see some unusual behavior in your pet. You will notice that your pet shows signs of lethargy and loss of appetite. There are some other usual signs like extended sleep time and avoiding direct light.

This is because the beardies are receiving a reduced amount of light during the winter and it is best for you to replicate the same conditions for the beardie that you are keeping at your home.

We mentioned that brumation is usually lasting for 3 months and during this period you should reduce the temperature by reducing the basking light hours and additionally you should reduce your beardie food amount.

It is suggested to reduce the watts also and to adjust the temperature to about 7-10 hours in a day. Remember to constantly check the temperature inside the tank to be sure that your pet is having optimal conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of light is suitable for my Bearded dragon?

Bearded dragons require full-spectrum UV lights since they are receiving ultraviolet light and heat directly from the sun in their natural habitat.

Those UV lights that bearded dragons need can be obtained from the halogen bulb, mercury vapor bulbs (fluorescent bulbs), ceramic bulbs, and incandescent electric lighting bulbs.

Difference between UVA & UVB bulbs?

It is important to know that UVA light can be emitted from many different standard bulbs and in comparison standard/normal bulbs cannot produce UVB rays.

UVA light is essential for your beardie to stimulate his appetite, but it will not help when it comes to the production of calcium. Keep in mind that UVA light isn’t a good substitute for UVB light in your tank setup.

UVB light should be mounted outside or inside the tank?

If you are looking for the ideal place, then you should place your UVB bulb inside the tank. The main reason here is that the glass or any other material that is on the top of your tank will filter a big amount of the rays that should come to your pet (25-50%).

How many hours the lights should run?

Most professionals recommend using the lights from 12-14 hours a day. There are some situations when you will need to adjust/reduce the lighting period (winter times).

Always remember that bearded dragons are very sensitive when it comes to changing their lighting schedule and the best way is to get a timer and try to automate everything.

Is lighting and heating your tank at night recommended?

You shouldn’t consider additional heating in case the temperature in your home doesn’t fall under 70F. However, in case you notice that the temperatures are falling into the 60’s during the night, then you should definitely consider buying a ceramic heat emitter especially if you don’t want your beardie to go into brumation.

Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) is most useful in these situations because they are able to warm up your tank without using visible light which is not going to ruin your pet’s sleeping schedule.

As you already understood, activating the bearded dragon’s lighting or any bright lights at night is not recommended.

What is the terrarium’s ideal temperature?

There are two temperature optimal ranges that should be used for your pet depending on their age. Baby dragons need a warmer place and the optimal temperature for them is 105-110F.

On the other side, adults require a little lower temperatures which should be going from 100-105F. In regards to the cool zone, you should know that the optimal temperature should be from 80-90F and this temperature doesn’t depend on your beardie age because they are all using a similar temperature in the cool zone.

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