So, you’re thinking about bringing a new bearded dragon home, but you don’t know what need to buy? If this sounds like you, than this article is for you. I receive quite a few questions asking what the essentials are to keep a bearded dragon. Instead of answering this question a bunch of times, I thought I would answer it once for everyone to read. It seems like a fairly simple concept, but I’m a litle slow and it’s taken me awhile to figure things out.
What do I consider to be the essential items you need to own a bearded dragon? I consider them to be items that are vital to caring and being successful with bearded dragons. There are some things that you can improvise and cut costs on, but there are some things you shouldn’t cut costs on because the are very important to the health and well-being of your bearded dragon.
Also, consider the cost of all the caging and equipment needed to care properly for a bearded dragon before you decide to own one. The cost to properly set up a bearded dragon home will probably cost you more than the bearded dragon itself.
Before I move on I want to say that it’s very important to have your new bearded dragons cage set up before you bring him / her home. It’s also a good idea to make sure you are getting correct temperatures before your dragon is added. This will ensure a quick settling in time for your new pet. This will be a lot less stressfull on the bearded dragon and make your life easier.
Quick List Rundown
Here is a quick list of what you’ll need to be a successful bearded dragon owner:
- Home ( cage / aquarium / Reptarium / do-it-yourself cage )
- Heating ( reptile basking light bulb, basking light fixture, possible secondary heat source )
- Lighting ( UVB emitting light bulb. The higher the UVB output the better )
- Substrate ( Bedding for your bearded dragon. Newspaper, cage carpet, playsand, reptile sand )
- Theremometers ( Digital or analog are good. Temperature guns are also a nice addition )
- Cage Decor ( Climbing material such as rocks, branches and hide box )
- Food Dish
- Calcium and Multi-Vitamin Supplements
Your Bearded Dragons Home
The first thing you are going to need is some sort of cage, tank or vivarium. It really doesn’t matter which you choose, just as long as it is a proper size for your new bearded dragon.
Quite a few people use aquariums to house their bearded dragons. These make good choices and are fairly easy to heat and clean. The cost for an aquarium that is big enough to house an adult bearded dragon is fairly high, but then again any cage that is big enough for an adult bearded dragon is fairly pricey.
There are also companies out there that make cages for reptiles. These are an excellent home for your bearded dragon, but probably the priciest of all. They are very nice looking cages though.
Reptariums can also be used for bearded dragons. These are fairly inexpensive, but may not be the best looking. They are made from a black screen mesh and may possibly be hard to see into. If you use a Reptarium, you need to buy the soft tray to line the bottom. The reptarium in the picture below is standing upright and should lay flat to provide more floor space for a bearded dragon. The liner pictured is the size that will work in the “flat” position.
Some people even decide to build their own bearded dragon cages, and I am one of these people. This is a great option if you are comfortable with building things and using tools. If this sounds like you, you can make a great cage at a lower price.
Heating is Essential
The best way to heat a bearded dragon cage is by using a reptile basking light bulbs. These are lightbulbs designed to create a tight and hot beam of light that creates a high heat basking spot that bearded dragons need. These lights also warm the ambient air temperature. The clear light bulbs are the best to use.
Buying a UVB light bulb is another thing that I think is important. The benefits of UVB producing light bulbs are still up for debate, but I believe for someone just starting it is a good idea to include one in their bearded dragons cage. There are some dragon keepers that don’t use these lights at all and their dragons do fine, but they are also more experienced in caring for their pets.
I highly recommend anyone who is just getting started to include some sort of UVB producing light bulb. The ones made for desert reptiles are the best to use. I like Zoomed’s Rept-Sun 10.0 and Exo-Terra’s Repti-Glow 8.0 bulbs.
You can also use mercury-vapor lights. These lights provide both heat and high UVB levels. Just make sure you have a large enough cage with plenty of ventilation. These bulbs give off a lot of heat.
You will also need a fixture for these as well. For the most part, these are florescent tubes, but there are some that can be used in a regular light socket. I like to use the tubes because I can run them the length of the cage. If you decide to use the kind that use a regular light socket, place it close to your bearded dragons basking spot. This will ensure that your dragon gets the beneficial UVB rays it needs.
Substrate is the bedding used on the bottom of your bearded dragons cage. I’m not going to go too deep into this subject. There are very strong opinions on this particular subject and I think it has been argued to death.
There are different options at your disposal and only you can decide what’s best for you. You can use newspaper, reptile cage carpet, ceramic tiles, shelf liner, play sand and reptile sand ( non-calcium type ). There are also new things being used all the time, so if you don’t like any of these options, there may be a better one for you in the near future.
Thermometers and Heat Control
Thermometers are definitely essential for your bearded dragons cage. They help you know exactly what the temperatures are. There are many good thermometers on the market today and any one will work fine. I really like the digital ones w/ probe that can save a min / max temp on it.
I don’t recommend using the stick on thermometer strips. They just aren’t accurate enough to help get good temperatures.
Another great product to have is a temp gun. What’s a temp gun? It’s a handheld device that lets you see the exact temperature of whatever you point and click it on. This tool is almost essential in determining basking spots and cage temperatures. Though, you can live without it, it is a great little piece of husbandry equipment.
This may sound like its not that important, but cage decor is both decorative and functional. Bearded dragons like to have things to climb and bask on. You can find many things at your local pet store such as grapevines, rocks and driftwood.
Also, providing a hide box will help make your bearded dragon feel more secure. Instead of a hide box you can stack rocks and wood in a way that creates a hiding place for your bearded dragon to retreat to. It really depends on you, but I think a secure hiding place is essential for bearded dragons.
I’m going to add food dish to this section as well. This can be bought from a pet store and it can also be any dish that you have at home. If you use a dish from your home, don’t use it again for people.
Vitamin and calcium supplements are as vital as proper heating. You need to have these for your bearded dragon, because the food we give them just doesn’t have the nutrients that dragons need. I highly recommend, and use, Rep-Cal calcium and Herptivite multi-vitamin.
Other Things You’ll Need
This isn’t the end of the things you’ll need for your bearded dragon. You’ll also need to buy food such as live crickets / feeder insects, bearded dragon food, greens, vegetables and fruits. You’ll also need something to house the live crickets in and also a food and moisture source for them. These things aren’t too expensive, but they do add up over time.
I hope this helps you when getting ready to bring home your new bearded dragon. There may be some things that I have missed, but for the most part I covered the essential things that you’ll need. As with most things, there are hidden costs and you won’t find these out until after you get started.
So now, let’s go shopping and get the things you need to be a successful new bearded dragon owner.