In order to keep your beardie happy and healthy for years to come, a proper bearded dragon habitat must be correctly set up. This is the home where your pet reptile will be living throughout its entire life, so make sure you’ve done a thorough job to suit all its needs. Believe it or not, providing the perfect home for a bearded dragon isn’t a difficult task. This page will provide you with the information you need to ensure habitat setup goes smoothly.
Bearded Dragon Tank Size
For a baby bearded dragon (hatchling or juvenile), a 20-gallon tank will be enough. However, when buying a tank, you should keep in mind that they will not stay small forever. In fact, they can grow rather large within a span of a few months. That being said, an adult will need an absolute minimum of a 40-gallon tank. If possible, I would recommend a 50 to 60 gallon tank for adult dragons. This will allow them to run around with ease and get some exercise in. Feeding time will also be more fun to watch, as they’ll chase down their insects like a reptile predator.
From personal experience, size is important when it comes to your beardie’s habitat. If you think about it, these reptiles in the wild will roam around for hours while hunting for food. They have curious personalities and like to explore and roam in a natural setting. If you were to stick multiple dragons in one cage, you would be limiting their life experience by confining them within a small enclosure.
Many owners do decide to keep multiple beardies in a space smaller than what I recommend, and they go on and live a healthy lives. And although they may be healthy, will they be happy dragons? Most likely not. Of course not all reptile owners will have the resources or space to provide them with a large tank. So, if space permits and you can afford it, definitely treat them. If not, it’s not the end of the world for your beardie.
Types of Tanks for Bearded Dragons
During the process of selecting the perfect tank, you’ll be presented with a few options to build a wonderful habitat. There are many tanks to choose from, but these are the most popular for various reasons.
Glass Aquarium Tank – This may be the most popular choice, and for good reason. A clear glass enclosure lets you view your bearded dragon from all angles. This feature will come in handy if you have a lot of tank accessories where they can hide in. They are often very cheap and can sometimes be free if you look at local listings such as craigslist.
Aquariums have an open top, which makes it convenient for access to your reptiles. However, I wouldn’t leave it open. Make sure you cover the top with a metal screen to ensure nothing escapes (insects or dragons), while keeping constant air circulation within the enclosure.
Melamine Wood Cages – These enclosures are made out of wood, with a clear glass side panel for easy viewing. If you decide to go with a wooden cage, I’d suggest getting a white one so light reflects off the non-glass sides, providing more light for your dragon. However, these enclosures are heavy and may not always be the cheapest option.
PVC Plastic Cages – If you plan on moving your bearded dragon’s cage around a lot, I would recommend this option. Because they’re made from PVC plastic (same material as PVC piping), they’re a much lighter option. The plastic material makes them much cheaper than say, melamine cages. The one problem with these cages is the material will produce a faint plastic odor that may be a nuisance.
Multiple Bearded Dragons in a Habitat
A common question among new owners is: can you fit multiple bearded dragons within one enclosure? In order words, will they fight? Generally speaking, bearded dragons are very friendly reptiles. Given the right conditions, there should be very minimal fighting, if any.
If you have multiple baby bearded dragons, they won’t have any problems with each other no matter what sex combination. As long as there is reasonable space and enough insects and vegetables to go around, there should be no problem.
Once these reptiles become old enough, fighting may occur. Having multiple juveniles or adults in an enclosure may lead to fights between males. Due to their aggressive nature, two male beardies will likely fight for dominance at one point or another. If you have two females, the chance is drastically lower, but it can still happen.
Make sure your enclosure is around the 60-gallon range if you plan to raise multiple beardies, especially males. This way, there will be plenty of room for each to claim as its own territory.
Your Bearded Dragon will be spending most of his time in the ‘home’ you provide for him, so it’s important that it’s setup correctly when he’s ready to move in! This ‘home’ is usually referred to as an enclosure, however it can also be called a terrarium, vivarium or tank as each one is equally appropriate.
Many people don’t realize that bearded dragons are actually very fun, active reptiles to keep. In their natural habitat, they love to run, climb and move about so it’s important to try and replicate these conditions in their enclosure as much as possible. So there’s a general rule when it comes to keeping bearded dragons. That is, the bigger the space, the happier the dragon. Keep in mind that beardies come from the open landscape of Australia, which means they have almost unlimited space. So you can be sure that a bigger enclosure will make for a much happier bearded dragon.
How large should my terrarium be?
As a minimum guideline, your beardies tank should be 6 feet long, 2 feet high and approximately 2 feet wide. This is so they have plenty of room to run, turn, climb and bask on branches for warmth. Reptile enclosures usually come with their own cover. However, if you have a custom-made cage, or wish to make your own, materials such as metal mesh or hardware cloth will do just fine. The main key here is ventilation. The cover must be made out of a ventilated material to allow air to flow through the enclosure. The enclosure itself may be made out of glass, plastic, wood, etc and ready-made reptile enclosures should be available at your local pet store.
Next you’ll need to add a substrate. Now if you’re confused by the term, don’t worry, it’s just another word for the stuff you put on the bottom of the enclosure. You have plenty of options to choose from here. Paper towel, sand, aquarium gravel or pebbles, alfalfa pellets and carpet are all able to be used as a substrate on your enclosure. However each one comes with its pros and cons and you may find one to be more suitable than others. This though, is up to your own judgment.
Paper towel or unprinted paper is generally only used for baby bearded dragons as a cheap and easy to clean alternative. It is save to be ingested by the juvenile (in case he decides to eat it), which makes it a very safe, convenient choice. Note: Baby beardies should not be housed on sand or anything large that is not easily digested as this can cause intestinal blockage.
Sand, aquarium gravel and pebbles is usually the substrate of choice for adult beardies. These substrates replicate their natural habitat, which is most ideal and sand can be safely ingested by adult beardies in small amounts. You may wish to use commercially available substrates as these are the safest option. They are digestible and some even provide extra calcium, which is good and necessary for bearded dragons. Some of these include bone-aid and calci-sand, however there are many more available.
Carpet is also a great option. The only downside to this is that bearded dragons can get their long nails caught in the material. This can be avoided though, just ensure you purchase a carpet with a tight, short weave.
The other, less expensive alternative is alfalfa pellets. Although they are a cheap, digestible option, they can be difficult to clean and just generally don’t look very appealing.
Tank Decorations and Accessories
Cage accessories are essential to keep your beardie a happy dragon. As they love to climb, ensure they have a branch or log placed in the enclosure for your beardie to perch on. It’s also a good idea to provide a basking rock. This will be placed under a heat source which your bearded dragon will use to regulate his body temperature. It’s also important to provide a cave for your beardie. This gives him a place to ‘escape’ and feel secure. All these accessories should be available at your local pet store.
Most importantly, your bearded dragon will need heat and light. You’ll need to maintain temperatures of between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-70 degrees during the night. Bearded dragons also require a basking area and this will need to be kept at 88-100 degrees Fahrenheit. You can purchase artificial lights from all good pet stores, but make sure you purchase a full spectrum UV light as this provides the necessary UVA and UVB rays. It should be placed at least 2 feet above your bearded dragons basking spot, so putting it on the top of the cage will do just fine. Note: be careful not to place the heat source above an elevated perch, as this runs the risk of your bearded dragon getting too close to the heat. Too much heat can be fatal to your bearded dragon.
Always ensure the enclosure has areas that are hot and areas that are cool. Your bearded dragon will use this to thermoregulate. This means he’ll move from hot to cool to control his body temperature. Doing this will prevent him from overheating and keep him happy and safe.