Bearded dragons are one of the most common pets in the reptile trade, so setting up a bearded dragon terrarium is something that concerns many owners.
Not only are they friendly, interesting, and rewarding, but bearded dragon care is fairly simple and straightforward. It all starts with setting up a bearded dragon terrarium.
The focus of this article will specifically be on setting up a bearded dragon cage, how to set it up and some beaded dragon cage setup ideas for new owners.
This will include examples, suggestions, and much more. Let’s get started.
Bearded lifespan and size
Before we talk about how big the terrarium should be, we should talk about how big the bearded dragon will get, and how long it will live.
These are important details for setting up a bearded dragon terrarium.
From the egg, bearded dragons are no more than a few inches. However, they grow to an average length of 18 to 20 inches, some even reaching upwards of 2 feet.
Size can vary, but expecting your dragon to reach that 2 feet mark should prepare you better for the future.
In addition to getting fairly large, bearded dragons can comfortably live for 10 to 15 years. That being said, owning one is a long commitment that should not be taken lightly.
Bearded dragon terrarium setup
When we think of an Australian bearded dragon habitat, we usually think of sand, stones, and the occasional dried-out plant.
According to reptile care experts, you have to find a way to replicate that natural habitat for your new friend.
It might sound a little daunting, but it’s actually quite easy, and all the components you might need are typically readily available.
Bearded dragon terrarium size
There are many starter kits for bearded dragons that come with a 20 gallon terrarium.
While this is perfectly fine for a smaller bearded dragon, it will definitely need to be upgraded eventually.
Since adults can reach up to 2 feet in length, a minimum terrarium the size of 40 gallons is recommended, but many bearded dragon care experts recommend around 75 gallons.
Bearded dragon cage substrate
Sand – Substrate in your bearded dragon cage setup is very important. There are many different ways you can go.
Fine sand is an okay option for larger bearded dragons, but it has been known to cause digestive issues which will lead to impaction, and potentially death. For juvenile bearded dragons, however, it is a good idea to avoid sand altogether.
If you do choose to use sand, make sure you feed using a shallow bowl. This will reduce the risk of your bearded dragon swallowing sand. There are even some digestible sand options out there, but ingestion is never recommended.
By the way, if your baby bearded dragon is not eating, we’ve created a complete guide on how to take care of it.
Regardless of what substrate you decide to use, make sure you follow all the directions perfectly so that your bearded dragon remains in great health.
Bark and mulch – Various barks and mulches are a staple for many reptile keepers around the world, but neither are recommended for bearded dragon care.
Both bark and mulch are very well known for holding moisture very well, which will in turn drive up humidity. Seeing as the bearded dragon comes from a dry and arid habitat, high humidity can end up causing damage to your dragon.
Reptile carpet – Reptile carpets, otherwise known as cage liners, are a great option for bearded dragon care. They are made of a synthetic material that is both cost-effective and reusable if cleaned properly.
The only downside to beaded dragon cage liners is that if they are made of fibrous material, your bearded dragon’s nails can get caught in them.
This could end up causing damage. Needless to say, make sure your reptile carpet is snag-free.
Ceramic tile – Ceramic tiles are a great option for bearded dragon keepers of all skill levels. They can easily be found at any sort of home improvement store, and can provide a nice warm surface for your bearded dragon to lay their stomach, aiding in digestion.
Many bearded dragon keepers use ceramic tiles on only the hot side of the terrarium because of their incredible ability at absorbing heat. This is something to keep in mind when purchasing a heating source.
Lighting and heat
One of the most important aspects of the bearded dragon cage setup and bearded dragon care, in general, is the heating source and lighting.
Bearded dragons like to have a nice basking spot of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 C). A basking light is recommended to achieve these temperatures.
he best setup for the basking area is to give the bearded dragon the option to get closer to the light if it needs to. A simple rock or branch will do, but make sure they’re cleaned properly and secured before using them.
On the opposite side of the terrarium, there needs to be a cool side. A place where the bearded dragon can go if they feel like they’re too warm or need a break from the light.
This side is the best place for a water dish, as it needs to be about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 C). As long as there is no heating element on this side, this temperature is easily achievable.
In addition to the basking light, a source of UV should be provided. An ultra-violet bulb (UVB) is vital for bearded dragon care, as it provides the essential vitamins that would normally be absorbed through natural sunlight.
Even if the bearded dragon terrarium is positioned near a window, a UVB bulb needs to be present. The bulb can sit right next to the basking light.
Both bulbs should be turned off during the evening, which will allow the temperature inside the cage to go down to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 C).
Please note that these are night-time temperatures only. The basking light and UVB will need to be turned back on in the morning.
Additions to the heating and lighting in your bearded dragon cage setup should consist of a thermometer and hydrometer, to accurately measure the temperature and humidity.
If you’re not achieving the temperatures that are suggested, try adding heat tape applied to the setup to help trap escaping heat. Just make sure that you don’t cover important ventilation holes.
If proper temperatures still aren’t being achieved, stepping up to a higher wattage basking light will bring those temperatures back up. Use caution when upgrading wattage, however, as it may drive temperatures above the desired mark.
Bearded dragon terrarium decoration
One of the most fun parts of owning any sort of reptile is watching them interact with the environment that you’ve provided for them.
Bearded dragon terrarium decorations can range from anything like natural stone and driftwood (so long as it is sanitized properly) to artificial plants and caves.
Whatever you choose, make sure that it does not have sharp or pointed edges, make sure that it is not so smooth that they can’t grip it, and make sure that it is sturdy enough for them to climb.
Now that you have a good idea of what it takes to properly house a bearded dragon for its entire life, you’re ready to take the next steps.
The key to any bearded dragon cage/terrarium is to make sure that they have absolutely everything they need. Oftentimes, new bearded dragon owners get so excited that they will cut corners in order to own the lizard sooner. This is not a great idea.
Take your time, set up the bearded dragon terrarium properly from the beginning, and your dragon will be much happier.
Overall, bearded dragon terrarium setups are quite simple. They don’t require anything fancy, and because of their natural habitat, bearded dragon’s terrarium setups can allow the owner to get creative with the decoration.