What Are The Bearded Dragon Temperature Requirements?
In the wild, bearded dragons are familiar with the hot arid conditions of Australia, with this in mind it’s important to ensure that in captivity we provide the correct bearded dragon temperature requirements which will enable our pets to thrive.
In this article, we will investigate the different methods of heating a bearded dragon enclosure such as bulbs and ceramic heaters as well as the commonly recommended temperatures. We will also take a brief look into some methods of heating that you should avoid along with the reasons why.
What are the bearded dragon temperature requirements? The age of our bearded dragon will determine how much heat our bearded dragon will need, a baby and juvenile bearded dragon will need a slightly warmer basking area than an adult, however, the ambient temperature of the enclosure is very similar regardless of age.
Let’s take a look at the following table which displays that each bearded dragon during the course of its life will need slightly different basking temperatures, however, the ambient temperatures at the cooler end will remain the same.
|Bearded Dragon Age||Cool Side Temperature||Basking Spot Temperature|
|0 to 6 Months (Baby)||80F – 90F||95F – 110F|
|6 to 18 Months (Juvenile)||80F – 90F||95F – 100F|
|18 Months+ (Adult)||80F – 90F||90F – 95F|
As you can see from this table, the cool side of the vivarium should always be around 80F to 90F, with the heat gradually increasing as we move towards the warm side of the enclosure where it will peak directly under the basking lamp at around 95F to 110F depending on the age of our bearded dragon.
Creating a Heat Gradient
Our ultimate goal is to create a gradient of heat within the bearded dragons enclosure, on one end of the enclosure we should have a basking bulb which provides the maximum amount of heat we need for our bearded dragon, and then at the opposite end the temperature is much cooler, having this available heat gradient for our bearded dragon is absolutely essential.
Bearded Dragons need to thermoregulate their own body temperature manually, meaning that to survive and thrive they need to move around their environment to take advantage of the various temperatures, in the wild this is relatively simple since they have many options to move around, however in captivity we need to make sure we provide this heat difference in the relatively smaller confines of our enclosures.
Unlike humans, bearded dragons are unable to sweat as a means to dissipate heat, so if our bearded dragons get too hot they are unable to cool down by sweating like us humans would typically do.
In the wild, a bearded dragon would simply move to a cooler environment where they can escape the heat, and this is why it is crucial that we provide a heat gradient for our bearded dragons.
How Should we Maintain these Temperatures?
To create this heat gradient we need to use a variety of bulbs, lamps and various other devices which are specifically designed for reptiles which we can talk about further in this article.
Also, take note that standard bulbs or fluorescent lights which we can buy from hardware stores are not sufficient, mainly because they will not provide the correct UV light nor the correct amount of heat that we require.
When using heat sources inside our enclosure it’s important to have one side nominated as the warm side and the opposite end nominated as the cooler side to create the aforementioned heat gradient.
On the warm side we start off with a basking light, this will provide a focused patch of heat within the enclosure for our bearded dragon to bask, this is where our bearded dragon will get toasty and warm and where our temperatures will peak.
Bearded Dragons need to bask regularly to enable them to digest food correctly, when they bask they are essentially raising their body temperature to enable this process of digestion.
We can always see when a bearded dragon is basking and up to a nice temperature as they will tend to open their mouths to try and dissipate some of the extra body heat.
If we find we are struggling to maintain some of the temperatures at any point in the gradient, either on the warm or cool end, then we can use ceramic heaters or mercury vapour bulbs in addition to add further supplementary heat.
What are some of the options to create heat?
The first source of heat we need to create is the basking spot, this is created using a specific basking lamp which is an incandescent bulb designed to radiate enough heat for reptiles.
These bulbs provide a source of visible light and heat, and usually range from around 10W to 150W, we will need to pick the specific bulb for the size of our enclosure, this is mostly common sense, the higher the wattage the more heat will be created.
One other trick to note is that if we want to create more heat in our basking spot, then we can raise the area by using a rock or a large branch, this will effectively enable our bearded dragon to bask closer to the lamp and leverage more heat.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a device such as a heat gun, this enables us to accurately measure the exact temperature of a basking spot before introducing our bearded dragon, this is particularly useful if we have raised the basking spot and we want to check it’s not too hot under the basking bulb.
In terms of fixtures for basking lamps, there are usually two options.
The first is a dome style fixture, this will house the basking lamp which can then be placed on top of the enclosure on a mesh type surface, these are great for glass enclosures as most of these will have a mesh lid.
The second option is to use some kind of mount which can be placed higher up inside the enclosure, these are usually screwed into the enclosure with a screw fitting, but obviously, this will only apply to wooden enclosures.
Mercury Vapour Bulbs
Mercury Vapour Bulbs provide a source of UV light as well as some heat, these are great for adding supplementary heat as well as a little boost to the UV requirements.
However, one thing to note here is that a mercury vapour bulb should never be used as the only source of UV light, we want our UV light to extend the full length of the enclosure and a mercury vapour bulb will not be sufficient to do this.
Mercury vapour bulbs are perfect for a little extra heat as well as some supplementary UV light as well.
Ceramic Heaters do not provide any visible light, however, they are very good at providing additional heat and warming up the air within the enclosure.
Again, these should never be used as a primary source of heat, but rather a supplementary form of heating.
Ceramic heaters are usually mounted on a ceramic light fixture fitting or can be placed on top of an enclosure that has a mesh lid.
Much in the same way that basking bulbs do, ceramic heaters come in various wattages, usually from 60W to 100W, and picking the correct one is usually based on the size of the area you are looking to heat, again some common sense needs to be applied here.
Heat Rocks are worth a mention, but not to recommend them, but as advice to keep away from them. These devices are just thermal heaters that are shaped as rocks to provide decoration and heat.
These awful devices have been known to malfunction quite a lot in the bearded dragon community and can result in burning the underbelly of your pet, just steer clear of these things, there are much more effective ways of heating our enclosure and these devices are just not worth the risk.
How to Maintain Heat at Night
During the night we still want to maintain an ambient temperature inside the enclosure of around 75F.
If we are struggling with temperatures falling too much overnight, then we can use a ceramic heater to supplement the heat provided in the enclosure and bring it back above 75F.
At night we want to switch all the lights off in a bearded dragon enclosure, this is so that we maintain the day and night cycle that bearded dragons need in a similar way that humans do.
For this reason we don’t want to be blasting visible light into the enclosure overnight to provide heat, instead, we can use a ceramic heater which will provide the heat but provide no visible light.
We also need to ensure that we are monitoring the temperatures within our enclosures at various points, since different temperatures are required at various different points throughout the enclosure it’s important to monitor at least two temperatures.
I actually monitor three points, the first is the temperature directly under the basking light, I always want to make sure this is correct in terms of being not too hot and not too cold.
I also monitor the ambient temperature at the cooler end to make sure that our bearded dragon can cool down and thermoregulate should he need to.
And the third point I monitor is just somewhere in the middle of the enclosure to figure out roughly what the general ambient temperature is.
You could use multiple thermometers for each of these areas, or you could use a heat gun to check them, another option is to buy a reptile thermometer which has multiple probes on it which can be placed strategically in various places within the enclosure.
With all this heat in the enclosure, what should I maintain humidity levels at?
Although it’s not exactly related to the heating aspect of bearded dragons, it’s also worth mentioning the importance of monitoring the humidity within our enclosure.
Invest in a Hygrometer which can be placed inside the enclosure to give you an idea of the humidity, ideally, we need to make sure the humidity is around 35% – 40%
To learn more about the humidity aspect of a bearded dragon enclosure, check out the following article where we discuss this in much more depth.
Can I use a Mercury Vapour Bulb as a single source of light or heat?
Mercury Vapour bulbs should only ever be used as a supplementary source of UV light since they are smaller and not as long as fluorescent tubes they will not provide full UV coverage for a bearded dragon enclosure.
How Often should I replace each type of bulb?
UVB Lights are usually replaced between six months and one year, over the course of their lifespan they will lose their effectiveness, so even if they are seemingly working correctly you will need to replace these as stated by the particular manufacturer.
Basking Bulbs don’t usually need replacing until they stop functioning, however, it’s always a good idea to have another bulb on stand by in case of emergencies ready to replace a blown bulb.
Ceramic Heaters generally don’t need replacing until they stop functioning.
Hopefully, this article coupled with our guide on lighting will be enough information to make sure you set up your enclosure correctly and enable your pet bearded dragon to thrive.