Bearded dragons are one of the most popular lizard species among keepers and hobbyists. They are quite straightforward to care for, but the lighting and warmth must be carefully monitored if the lizard is to have a long life in captivity. You'll want to make sure a beardie's cage contains UVA and UVB rays (simulating the sun's beneficial rays), as well as heating and temperature gauges to keep track of the temperature.
Bearded Dragon's Natural Habitat
The lighting for a should be as near to what the reptile would see in the wild as feasible. The desert is a natural habitat for a bearded dragon. On a regular basis, beardies in the wild are exposed to UV radiation and heat from the sun. High ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) output light bulbs must be utilized to effectively replicate ultraviolet light in an indoor enclosure. The two most frequent sources in the pet world are fluorescent bulbs and mercury vapor lights.
In addition to ensuring that your beardie receives the proper light rays, you must also ensure that this cold-blooded reptile receives the necessary heat. The heat of the sun is used by reptiles to control their usual bodily functions. As a result, if you're building an interior enclosure, you'll need to consider how to appropriately heat it. Ceramic heat bulbs or mercury vapor bulbs are your best choices for heat. There are, however, different ways to generate heat.
Before you buy the bulbs, consider the light fittings and where you'll put them. Within 12 inches of a bearded dragon, bulbs should be planted. It's crucial to put it up in the right place. Make sure it's suspended from the top of the cage or on a wire mesh surface, with nothing between the fixture and the reptile.
Most fixtures are curved or have reflective material on the sides to assist funnel light and heat into the tank. Other lights have an open design with a wire cage around the bulb, which allows the bulb to heat the entire fixture.
There are a few possible sources that emit invisible UV radiation, aside from direct sunshine (not filtered by a window). UVA and UVB rays are emitted at different levels by special fluorescent bulbs that fit into fluorescent fixtures. These full-spectrum bulbs run out of UV rays before the lights burn out, therefore they must be replaced as recommended by the manufacturer, which is normally every six months.
Bearded dragons require an output of UVB rays of 8 to 10%, which should be clearly stated on the bulb package. These bulbs should be positioned above your beardie's head, no more than 12 inches from where he or she may sit or climb to take up the rays. Make sure the bulb isn't sitting on anything made of plastic, plexiglass, or glass. The rays will not be able to pass through these compounds and reach the reptile. The conventional metal mesh screen often used for the tops of reptile tanks may block a large proportion of UVB rays as well, according to research published in 2007, however the judgment is still out on this notion.
Unless you choose a tiny fluorescent bulb, you'll undoubtedly need a ballast for your full-spectrum fluorescent lamp. Some of these fixtures are dual-purpose, with incandescent and halogen bulb sockets all installed on the same fixture. These dual-purpose fixtures are great for compact spaces, but be sure they can withstand the heat wattage you want; otherwise, the fixture may melt.
If your fluorescent light does not have a reflector built in, you may create one out of aluminum foil and place it within the bulb to maximize the quantity of UV rays reaching your bearded dragon.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
Mercury vapor lamps can be used for a variety of purposes by your bearded dragon. They offer heat for your cage while emitting UVA and UVB rays. It's a two-for-one deal. Instead of using two bulbs, you may use one to deliver both heat and essential UV rays.
These bulbs last far longer than fluorescent and heat bulbs, and while they are more expensive, the fact that they last so much longer typically makes them worthwhile. When utilizing mercury vapor lights, several individuals report that their beardies have a greater appetite, coloring, and vitality.
Because of the strength of the UV rays generated by these bulbs, there is significant debate in the reptile world about whether mercury vapor lamps are toxic to reptiles. If you do decide to use a mercury vapor lamp, be sure to give enough of shade in the enclosure, use a ceramic socket, and keep a gap of 12 to 24 inches between your reptile and the light for safety. This bulb works best in large settings with plenty of room for your beardie to move about.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
These bulbs perform similarly to fluorescent lamps but can be fitted into incandescent fixtures. These bulbs utilize less energy and should last longer than fluorescent lamps, but the UV levels may be too strong for reptiles. Make sure your bearded dragon's environment has enough diversity so that it can control UV levels on its own by hiding in shaded locations when needed.
If you don't have a mercury vapor bulb, you'll need to buy more heat bulbs to keep the beardies warm. The temperature required varies depending on the beardie's age. Adults require a little less heat than babies. For example, the temperature range for newborns is 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas for adults it is 80 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. The lizard's basking region is the warmest location. Beardies also require different zones so that they may control their body temperature if they become overheated by moving to a cooler location. At night, temperatures should drop by 10 degrees all throughout.
Fluorescent bulbs do not give off enough heat on their own; beardies will need a supplemental heat source if you are using fluorescent lighting.
Heat bulbs are a better option than heat rocks, which can result in thermal burns. Furthermore, heat lamps are better than under-tank heaters, making it impossible to precisely manage the temperature in the enclosure. UVA rays are emitted by certain heat lamps.
Ceramic Heat Bulbs
Ceramic heat bulbs do not offer light, but they do deliver heat to an enclosure. They come in a variety of wattages, much like ordinary incandescent light bulbs. The required wattage is determined by the enclosure's size and whether or not extra heat lamps are utilized. They endure an exceptionally long time, making them more cost-effective than conventional incandescent bulbs, but they do not emit UV rays. As a result, you'll want to acquire a full-spectrum fluorescent light. Ensure that ceramic heat bulbs are not placed in direct contact with a flammable surface.
Incandescent Heat Bulbs
These are your standard heat bulbs, which emit light, UVA rays, and heat in various wattages. Different bulb sizes and shapes, as well as different light colors, are available (wavelengths). Nightlight bulbs are blue/purple lights, while nocturnal lights are red (do not use painted bulbs). These bulbs do not provide enough UVB rays to prevent metabolic bone disease on their own.
A conventional screw-in bulb socket is used for the incandescent fixture. This sort of fixture can accommodate most heat lamps and ceramic bulbs. Some halogen bulbs are intended to work in both incandescent and halogen settings.
The wattage needed depends on the size of the enclosure and if any other heat bulbs are used. The size and shape only matter for fitting in your incandescent fixture.
The forms of these bulbs are typically functional. Basking lights are designed to funnel heat into the region directly below the bulb rather than the entire tank, and they're frequently shaded on the sides to help with that.
Halogen Heat Bulbs
These bulbs provide the same functions as incandescent heat bulbs, and they release more heat, light, and UVA rays than an incandescent bulb of the same size, albeit costing a little more. They also last longer and consume less energy than incandescent bulbs, but they don't provide UVB on their own.
Some halogen bulbs fit in incandescent fixtures and others fit in halogen fixtures. Make sure your bulbs fit into your fixtures before purchasing them.
Halogen fixtures are different from fluorescent and incandescent fixtures, so don't try to make a halogen bulb fit into one unless the packaging specifically says it will fit.
If you want to know if your beardie is getting enough heat, you should measure the interior of your enclosure on a regular basis. To achieve a good thermal gradient, you should have at least two thermometers: one immediately beneath the basking light and one on the "cold" side of the cage. You should have numerous thermometers throughout your bearded dragon's house if you have a bigger cage.