In reptiles and all cold-blooded animals, their ability to regulate their own body temperature depends largely on the temperature of their surroundings. For bearded dragons, this means that both their basking spot and the overall temperature of their enclosure play critical roles in keeping them healthy and comfortable.
What is Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons are lizards that are native to Australia. They get their name from the “beard” of skin that they can puff out when they feel threatened. Bearded dragons are popular pets because they are relatively low maintenance and have a friendly disposition.
Baby bearded dragons and fully-grown adult bearded dragons have different temperature requirements. It is important to know what these requirements are in order to keep your pet healthy and comfortable.
Why regulated body temperature is important for bearded dragons:
- It is critical for the absorption of nutrients: In order for bearded dragons to properly digest their food, they need to be within a certain temperature range. If they are too cold, their metabolism will slow down and they won’t be able to absorb all the nutrients from their food.
- Impacts behavior: Bearded dragons that are too cold or too hot will often spend most of their time trying to thermoregulate rather than eat, socialize, or explore their enclosure.
- Affects the immune system: If bearded dragons get too cold, their immune system can be suppressed, making them more susceptible to illness. MBD is a disease that is directly linked to improper temperature regulation.
- Affects their metabolism: Bearded dragons rely on basking to help them digest their food properly. If they can’t warm up to their ideal basking temperature, their metabolism will slow down and they may stop eating altogether.
- Affects their ability to shed properly: If bearded dragons can’t shed their skin properly, it can lead to a number of health problems including infections, MBD, and impaction.
Bearded dragons need UVB lighting in order to absorb calcium and produce vitamin D3. Without these two nutrients, bearded dragons can develop a number of health problems including MBD.
There are two types of UVB lighting: linear and compact.
Linear UVB bulbs are longer and emit more UVB than compact bulbs. They should be used if your bearded dragon’s enclosure is longer than 24 inches.
Compact UVB bulbs are shorter and emit less UVB than linear bulbs. They should be used if your bearded dragon’s enclosure is shorter than 24 inches.
Bearded dragons also need a basking spot where they can warm up to their ideal body temperature. This can be provided with a heat lamp, ceramic heater, or undertank heater.
The basking spot should be at one end of the enclosure so your bearded dragon can move to a cooler area if it gets too warm. The basking spot should be between 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit.
The overall temperature of the enclosure should be between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Linear Fluorescent UVB Light:
Linear florescent bulbs emit a higher amount of UVB than compact bulbs and are ideal for bearded dragons that live in enclosures that are longer than 24 inches. These bulbs should be placed no further than 12-18 inches from your bearded dragon.
Compact Fluorescent UVB Light:
Compact florescent bulbs emit a lower amount of UVBBearded dragons also need a basking spot where they can warm up to their ideal body temperature. This can be provided with a heat lamp, ceramic heater, or undertank heater.
UVB Replacement Schedule:
UVB bulbs should be replaced every 6-12 months. Below are some parts the need replacement and their frequency:
- Mercury vapor bulbs: Replace them every 6-12 months.
- T8 fluorescent — every 6 months
- T5 fluorescent — every 12 months
You can use Solarmeter Model to keep track of the UV Index. UV Index is the amount of UVB that is being emitted from the bulb. The optimal UVI gradient ranges from 0 to 4-6 from the lowest (furthest from tank) to highest (closest to basking spot). The target basking range is 4 to 6 with 0 being a graduated scale to shed.
Some pigmented bearded dragons can tolerate a UV Index of 7 in the wild but this is not healthy.
Heat is critical for reptiles as they play a role in digestion and in building up their immune system.
On a typical terrarium/tank with the left to right alignment, you can have the left to have a higher temperature with the right having a lower temperature.
Basking side surface temperature:
The recommended basking side temperature is 108-113°F (42-45°C). This can be achieved with a basking light, ceramic basking bulb, or undertank heater. The basking bulb should be placed on the basking side of the tank and should not be obstructed by anything.
The basking bulb should be turned off at night so your bearded dragon can cool down.
Cool side surface temperature
The recommended basking side temperature for baby and grown bearded dragon is 77-85°F (25-29°C).
Air temperature gradient:
The recommended air temperature gradient is 72-99°F (22-37°C). Air gradient is the difference in temperature from the basking side to the cool side.
The nighttime temperature should be between 55-75°F (12-24°C). This can be achieved by turning off the basking light and using a lower wattage bulb, ceramic heat emitter, or undertank heater.
Bearded dragons need a water dish in their enclosure. The water dish should be shallow enough so your bearded dragon can get in and out of it easily. You should clean and refill the water dish every day.
Your bearded dragon will occasional soak in its water dish to help with shedding. Soaking should only be done for 10-20 minutes at a time.
There are a few ways to heat your bearded dragon’s enclosure:
Heat lamps: Heat lamps are the most common way to heat bearded dragon enclosures. They provide both heat and light, which is necessary for proper calcium absorption.
Ceramic heaters: Ceramic heaters are a good option if you don’t want to use a heat lamp. They provide heat, but not light.
Undertank heaters: Undertank heaters are placed underneath the tank and provide heat from below. They can be used in conjunction with a basking spot or on their own.
How to Heat Your Bearded Dragon Enclosure:
Use high-wattage halogen bulb inside of a dome heat lamp for basking.
The basking spot should be on one end of the tank so your bearded dragon can move to the cooler side if it gets too warm.
Place the basking spot 12-18 inches from the top of the tank.
Use a lower wattage bulb, ceramic heat emitter, or undertank heater to provide heat at night.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature in the tank.
Bearded dragons need a UVB light to help them absorb calcium and produce vitamin D3.
UVB radiation aids in the maintenance of a healthy appetite and stimulates your bearded dragon.
UVB radiation allows the bearded dragon to metabolize vitamin D3 and calcium, which it lacks in nature.
There are a few things to consider when heating your bearded dragon’s enclosure:
- The size of the enclosure: The larger the enclosure, the harder it is to maintain proper temperatures. If you have a large enclosure, you may need more than one heat source.
- The type of heat source: Heat lamps, ceramic heaters, and undertank heaters all have their pros and cons. Choose the one that best suits your needs.
- The wattage of the heat source: The higher the wattage, the more heat it produces. Be careful not to overheat the enclosure.
- The placement of the heat source: The heat source should be placed on one side of the enclosure so your bearded dragon can move to the cooler side if it gets too warm.
- Monitor the temperature: Use a thermometer to make sure the temperature in the enclosure is where you want it to be.
Bearded Dragon Humidity:
Bearded dragons come from arid, desert climates and do not need high humidity levels. In fact, too much humidity can be harmful to them. The ideal humidity level for a bearded dragon is 30-60%, a wider range than 40-45%, a range for indoor humidity required by humans.
If the temperature is lower or higher than that, your bearded dragon may be trying to thermoregulate.
When the temperature drops below 55°F (12°C), your bearded dragon will start to brumate, which is a type of hibernation. During this time, they will sleep more and their metabolism will slow down.
An out-of-range temperature may also lead to respiratory issues, scales falling off.
Temperatures for a Baby Bearded Dragon (0 to 5 months)
- Ambient temperature: 80°F (26°C) to 85°F (29°C).
- Basking area temperature: 95°F (35°C) to 110°F (43°C)
- Cold area temperature: 80°F (26°C) to 90°F (32°C)
Temperatures for a Juvenile Bearded Dragon (5 to 18 months)
- Basking area temperature: 95°F (35°C) to 105°F (40°C)
- Cold area temperature: 80°F (26°C) to 90°F (32°C)
Temperatures for Adult Bearded Dragon:
- Basking area temperature: 90°F (32°C) to 93°F (33°C).
- Cold area temperature: 80°F (26°C) to 90°F (32°C)
Light Cycles: Winter and Summer
You want to provide your bearded dragon with at least 14 – 16 hours of sunshine each day during the summer and UV light, as well as 8 – 10 hours of darkness. This may be mimicked using a timer to switch on and off the lights.
The light cycle should be shortened to 10 – 12 hours of daytime light and UV radiation during the winter months, as well as 12 – 14 hours of nighttime illumination.
What temperature will kill a Bearded dragon?
Lizards such as Iguanas and Bearded Dragons can die if the temperature drops too low or if they are exposed to temperatures that are too high for extended periods of time.
The safe temperature range for Bearded Dragons is between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures up to 110 degress F will still not kill your Bearded dragon. If your Bearded Dragon stays in temperatures above 125 degrees F, they will start to experience organ damage.
Bearded dragons are coldblooded animals and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. If the temperature drops too low, they will become lethargic and may stop eating. If the temperature gets too high, they will become stressed and may start panting. If either of these happens, you should take your bearded dragon to the vet.
Pant: If your bearded dragon starts panting, it is a sign that the temperature is too high and they are trying to cool down.
Lethargy: If your bearded dragon becomes lethargic, it is a sign that the temperature is too low and they are trying to conserve energy.
Stop eating: If your bearded dragon stops eating, it is a sign that something is wrong and you should take them to the vet.
Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at email@example.com