UK Bearded Dragons:

Heating

Properly heating your bearded dragons cage is vital to keeping a healthy dragon. It is fairly easy to set up your dragons home with proper heating. Armed with a little bit of knowledge and some good heating equipment, you'll have your dragons cage heated properly in no time.

Poor heating, is one the main causes of health problems in bearded dragons. It is important to spend a little extra care to provide proper temperatures. It might seem a little tedious to get just the right temperature, but it will definitely pay off in the long run. You will be rewarded with a happy, thriving pet.

Bearded Dragon Thermoregulation

What is thermoregulation? Basically, it is the way bearded dragons and reptiles regulate their body temperature. Since dragons can't produce their own body heat they rely on the sun to warm their bodies.

Bearded dragons originate from a climate that exposes them to high temperatures. They like to bask in the hot sun, helping them obtain a desirable body temperature. When their optimal body temperature is achieved, they will mover someplace cooler to avoid overheating.

Throughout the day they'll move back and forth from basking in the sun to hiding in shade, keeping their body temperature at an optimal level. This process is called thermoregulation.

Knowing what bearded dragons do in the wild helps us understand how to properly care for them in captivity. Since dragons like higher temperatures, we have to provide them with that warmth. We do this with various heating equipment.

Bearded Dragon Heating Equipment

Bearded dragons like to bask in the sun to warm up, because of this a good primary source of heating is a basking lamp. This will  provide an ambient warmth for the entire cage, and it will also provide a high heat basking spot.

For most cage situations a basking lamp will pretty much be all the heating equipment you'll need. There are some exceptions, though.

If your home is cooler than 60- 65 degrees F at night, or if you are having trouble keeping a good ambient temperature in your dragon's cage, you might need a secondary heat source.

Some good secondary (or additional) heat sources are ceramic heaters, under tank heaters, and heat mats. These will provide excellent support for your basking lamp if you can't keep a good temperature in your cage.

Heat Gradient

In the wild, bearded dragons keep a constant body temperature by thermoregulation. In captivity, we want to provide our dragons a way to thermoregulate naturally. This is the reason we set up a heat gradient.

Basically, a heat gradient is having a warm side and a cool side in your dragons cage so your dragon can move between them and regulate their body temperature.

Providing one temperature throughout the entire cage is not recommended. It doesn't let your dragon heat up or cool down, when they want to. Dragons need high temperatures to digest food properly, and also a place to go when they get overheated.

A constant temperature, that is to low, will not let them digest their food properly, causing the food to rot in their stomachs.

A constant temperature, that is to hot, will cause your dragon to overheat. Both of these situations can lead to severe illnesses and even death.

For information on setting up and maintaining a good heat gradient read on and we try and explain it for you.

Keeping  a proper heat gradient in your dragons cage is key to keeping healthy bearded dragon. This is one of the keys to being a successful bearded dragon owner

heat gradient allows a bearded dragon to thermoregulate their body temperature. This is highly beneficial to a beardie. 

Bearded dragons are do not produce their own body heat and rely on other sources to warm their bodies. In nature this source is the sun. In a vivarium this source is our basking lights or other heating equipment.

Bearded dragons will move from a warm area to a cool area in order to keep an optimum body temperature. If a hot end and cooler end are not provided in your bearded dragons cage, it will greatly affect their eating, digestion, and health.

Setting up the Heat Gradient

Setting up a heat gradient is fairly simple. All you have to do is put all of your cage heating equipment to one side of the enclosure. This will give you a high heat side and also leave the other side a little cooler.

Keeping a good heat gradient is easily done in the bigger cage size that an adult dragon requires. It is a little trickier in a 10-gallon aquariums, but it can be done with a little bit of effort.

Sidenote:
Using a 10-gallon aquarium to house your dragon, other than temporarily, is not advised. These can be used to house very small dragons like hatchlings, but soon become too small.

I found that I did pretty good if I didn't rest the basking light right on the screen top of the aquarium. When I put the light directly on the screen top of the aquarium it would soon overheat.

When I pulled the light back a little, it provided a nice warm basking area and also allowed one side of the aquarium to be cooler. An overheated enclosure, with no cool area for your dragon to retreat to, can cause health problems and even death.

heatgradient.jpg (30545 bytes)

This picture is yet another of my beautiful masterpieces. You can easily tell how a heat gradient should be set up. If you didn't know, I was an art major in college.  I'm just kidding. Please don't laugh at my atrocious art work.

My pictures might be the best, but I hope you are able to see what I'm trying to describe. This is kind of how I see a heat gradient in my mind.

How to Achieve a Good Heat Gradient

Achieving a good heat gradient is really going to be by trial and error. Setting up equipment and watching the temperatures in the enclosure over several hours, and making changes if needed. Make sure you do the trial and error before adding your dragon to the enclosure.

Trying different basking bulbs with varying wattage’s, and also using more than one can help you. If a 50-watt bulb isn't warm enough, try using a 100-watt bulb. If the 100-watt bulb is too hot, try a 75-watt bulb.

Try different bulbs and combinations until you have reached the proper temperatures. The position of the basking lamp will also factor in. Try putting the light closer, or moving it further away.

Also, try using the other types of heat sources. I have found that I can get a good heat gradient by just using a combination of basking lamps, but that is just me.

In my cages that are 48" x 20" x 20", I am able to get proper temperatures with one 75-watt basking spot lamp in the summertime. In the winter I use a 75-watt basking light and a 60-watt regular clear light bulb for added warmth.

I have the lights hooked up to a dimmer, so I can regulate the heat during the day. I will share with you how to make a cheap dimmer switch for your dragons cage in the near future.

Whatever you use to get a nice warm basking spot, make sure that there is a cool area where your dragon can retreat to if needed. It is vital that you let your dragon thermoregulate their own body temperature.

Bearded Dragon Cage Temperatures

On the warm end of your dragons cage the temperature should be around 90 to 95  F (32 to 35   C).

On the cooler side you'll want a temperature around 75 to 85 F (24 C).

You'll also want a basking spot that will reach a temperature around 105-110 F (41 C).

At night cage temperatures can drop to mid-60's without any problems. Letting the temperature cool down in the enclosure at night is a good idea.

Using a thermometer on opposite sides of the cage, will help you monitor your heat gradient. It is also a good idea to check the basking spot’s temperature.  Also, using a thermostat can also help you maintain a good temperature, but is not necessary.

In Closing

It's important to provide proper bearded dragon heating. It is also key to let your dragon thermoregulate their body temperature by providing a heat gradient.

A lot of health problems can stem from improper heating. If you follow these heating guidelines, you should have no problem.

As in all cases with this website, these are my opinions. These are not set in stone rules for keeping bearded dragons. These are just some guidelines that have worked for me and others.

Feel free to research other sources to see what they have to say on bearded dragon heating. Always remember to do what is best for your dragon.

Bearded Dragon Heating Options

There are quite a few bearded dragon heating options on the market today. These are just some that you might find worth looking into.

These aren't the only options that are available to you. There are products similar to what's on this page made by other companies, as well. The products made by Zoomed, Exoterra though are the big brand leaders. That's why they are used here for examples.

Basking Light Fixtures

All of these basking light fixtures come with porcelain sockets. It is highly recommend to use a fixture made from porcelain, so it can withstand the high heat it is exposed to.
 
You can also buy clamp lights from a hardware store. If you are going to use a higher wattage bulb, though, I really recommend one of these. I'm not sure if you can get a reflector lamp, from a hardware shop, with a porcelain socket or not. It will be worth a look though next time you are in one.

Basking Lights

Using a heat producing light is essential for a dragon. These lights provide a tight spot light to create a high heat basking area. Bearded dragons are sun-loving animals and benefit from the use of lights for their heat source.

I use one 75-watt basking light in each one of my cages. This provides enough warmth and also gives the cage a good heat gradient. In the winter I add a regular clear 60-watt bulb for more heat.

I have never used Exo-Terra basking lights, but from what I have seen they appear just as good as any other light out there. I do use some of Exo-Terra's other products and really like them.

You can also use regular clear light bulbs in a reflector lamp to save some money. I like to use reptile basking lights because of the tight beam of light and heat. Even though, I'm not against using clear light bulbs.

UV-B Heat Lights

These provide heat and UV-B rays in one unit. I have never used these and don't have much of review for them.
The smallest size you can get is a 100-watt bulb. If you use one of these, be careful not to overheat your dragon. I have heard that these were made for bigger cages.

UV heat bulbs are said to give off more UV-B rays than florescent tubes. I also hear reports that they really provide good benefits for the animals. Remember to be careful using with a smaller sized cage, though.

These are also said to provide more UV-B rays than a florescent tube. Also, I have read of these providing great benefits for reptiles who need higher UV-B levels. Remember though to be careful using these in smaller cages. 

Heat Emitters

These are some heat emitters that are on the market. These will work well as a secondary heat source. I say secondary, because a basking light should be your primary heat source.

I have been able to get good temperatures and heat gradient by just using basking lights. If you do need a secondary heat source, these will work well. Remember to provide a heat gradient with a cool side ranging in temperature of 75 F to 85 F. Your dragon will need a place to escape the heat, if they want to.

Under Tank Heaters, Heat Mats and Heat Cables

These are other good sources of secondary heat. You probably aren't going to need one of these, but they are always an option if you do. Make sure you use these devices according to the manufacturers directions, and perform routine checks to make sure they are working properly. Heat mats can be major source of problems for dragons as they can cause burning to the belly area if the dragon burrows in the substrate.

Accessories

These are a couple of things that I really like, though, they aren't necessary. If you are using or plan on using an aquarium to house your dragon, these will help you regulate temperatures. These stands will allow you to keep the basking light from being directly on top of the aquarium.

These are just some of your bearded dragon heating options. There are other bearded dragon heating options out there on the market that you might want to check into as well as a lot mentioned here is personal choice for the individual and do as much research and reading to decide what is best for your particular set up.

There are always new products being developed . Check back often as I keep an eye out for them and write about them here.



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