UK Bearded Dragons:
Bearded Dragon Housing
Providing a good home for your bearded dragon is essential in raising a happy and healthy pet. As with all aspects of dragon care, following some simple guidelines can increase your chances of being a successful dragon owner.
are different options that you can use for housing your bearded dragon in. Each option has
it's own strengths and weaknesses. No matter what option you choose, make sure that it
provides the essentials that all dragon homes need.
First Things First
Before you bring your new bearded dragon home, it's good
to have their enclosure set up and ready to go. Make sure that everything is in
place, and you have a good heat gradient going. This will give your new friend a warm and
cosy place to settle into.
Providing ample room for your dragon cannot be overstated
enough. The bigger the dragons cage, the better they will do. You don't want your dragon
to just survive, you want them to thrive.
Baby Dragon Exception
There is an exception for hatchlings and dragons less than 6" long. You can temporarily house these guys in a ten to twenty - gallon aquarium. They will quickly outgrow this home within a month, A twenty - gallon long breeder is preferred over a ten gallon tank.
If you don't want to buy an aquarium, you can always use a small plastic carry home box or starter aquarium, These are in-expensive and can be used for a short time, then easily cleaned.
You should never start a dragon off in to bigger enclosure as if it is smaller it helps them to feel safer and more secure as well as making it easier for them to be able to catch their prey at feeding times.Bearded Dragon Housing Options The options will vary for your bearded dragons home. You can go as cheap or expensive as you want to. Your cage can be as extravagant and beautiful, or as plain and simple as you would prefer.
There is no one 'best' choice, but many good ones. I say this because your idea of 'best' and my idea of 'best' can be different.
I will give you some information on the different housing options. Then I will leave it to you to decide what will work best for you and your dragon. Just remember to follow the size guidelines on the previous page. Some of your options are:
Aquarium / Tank
bearded dragon tank is probably the most popular housing option that's used as an
enclosure. It's by no means the "best" housing option, but it's far from being
there are quite a few advantages of using a bearded dragon tank. I guess the first one is,
it's easy to heat. This in itself is a huge advantage.
What are the drawbacks?
all these positive things that I have written about bearded dragon tanks, one would think
I was endorsing them. Well they are a great choice, but there are some drawbacks. The
biggest thing that pops into my head is money.
I think that I have expounded enough on using a bearded dragon tank for an enclosure. I
probably could ramble on a lot more, but I'll save that for some newsletter articles.
Moulded Plastic Cage (Vision Cage)
the best housing options for your bearded dragon
are moulded plastic reptile cages. They aren't made just for bearded dragons, but
for almost any kind of reptile.
really like this housing option for bearded dragons. There are many advantages to using one of these cages. The most notable drawback is probably the price.
The prices aren't all that bad, but if you are on a tight budget these cages aren't the best choice.
Why do I like moulded plastic reptile cages so much? They are made specifically for housing reptiles. They also have places that were made specifically for placing lighting and heating devices. I don't know if it gets much better than that.
What are the Advantages?
The huge advantage, of a moulded plastic reptile cage, is
that they were made specifically for reptiles. They come with places to put heating and
really only think of one at this time. It all comes down to the price of the cage. There really is no other drawback that
I can think of. These are great homes for bearded dragons and other reptiles.
The bottom line for moulded plastic reptile cages is that you need one. That's all there is to it. Go out and buy one right now! I'm just joking, but these are really nice cages.
If my thoughts on this type of cage seem a little biased, it's because these cages are a great option to house bearded dragons.
This is not the cage that I use, however. The price alone was a big hurdle for me. I found that I was able to build the type of cage I wanted for less money. That is why I chose to build by own cages.
Would I use moulded plastic reptile cages? I would in a heartbeat. They are made way better than my home made cage. If you're not a great carpenter and have the funds, there are not too many better choices on the market for housing reptiles.
If you don't have the money right away and want to upgrade later, this is definitely something worth saving your money for.
Build Your Own Cage
Building custom cages is cost effective and fun way to provide an enclosure for your bearded dragon. It is almost a hobby in itself.
Even if you aren't the greatest carpenter, you can still build a fairly nice cage. With just a little knowledge, you'll be able to build your dragon a home that you can be proud of.
Providing a proper home for your dragon is not only a necessity it can also be very rewarding. I know that for me, building my own custom cage helped me gain confidence in owning a dragon.
Even though, a store-bought cage would have been suitable. I wanted to build something to my own specifications. I also found that cages, that were the size I needed for an adult bearded dragon, were fairly expensive.
When it comes to building your own custom cage, your only limit is your imagination. You can build a beautiful cage out of expensive wood, or you can build a functional cage out of cheaper materials. The choice is up to you.
I like to build cages that look like a nice piece of furniture where I can show my dragons off, but your cage can be whatever you want it to be.
Where to Start with Custom Cages
The first thing you'll want to do, is to make sure that you have some tools that will be required to build your custom cage. It doesn't take a whole lot of tools, but it does require a few.
If you don't have the tools already, you'll have to add this to the cost of building your custom cage. I found this out for myself, but on the plus side I now have tools.
You will need a couple of power tools. They don't have to be the most expensive ones out there. I bought some cheap ones at the DIY store.
I bought my tools from the store where they where cheapest.
Here's a list of the tools that you are definitely going to need:
Basically these are all the tools that you will need. There are other tools that can be used, but for someone just starting out these are all you'll need to build a basic custom cage.
What to Build a Bearded Dragon Cage With
There are different materials that you can build your custom cage out of. The most popular is wood. You can also use melamine, a plastic like material.
You can also use mesh screen or wire fencing. If you use wire, make sure that the holes are small enough so your dragon won't get its head stuck in it.
I like to use ½" or ¾" hardwood plywood. The thicker it is the better it will retain heat, and the more expensive it will be. You can also use ½" or ¾" melamine, or press board, it's up to you.
You can find plywood, press board and melamine at your local hardware or diy store . If you don't live by one of these, most smaller hardware stores will have what you need, just at a little higher price.
If you decide to use plywood or any kind of wood, make sure that it is non coniferous. Coniferous wood is from evergreen trees such as pine, balsam, spruce, fir, and cedar. These may pose a threat to your dragon's health. Preferred woods are maple, oak, ash, birch, cherry, or other hardwoods. You can also use softwoods like aspen and poplar.
Most plywood, press board or melamine comes in 8' x 4' sheets. You can usually have these cut into the sizes you need at the store. This is what I had done when I built my first custom cage. I got all the wood I needed from one sheet of plywood. See picture:
Depending on the design of your custom cage, you might have to get some Plexiglas as well. This is fairly cheap, and most stores will cut it to size for you. I used two 2' x 2' 6" sheets of Plexiglas for sliding showcase doors.
You can also use glass if you want to. Glass is a little heavier, but it doesn't scratch as easy and I think that it is a little cheaper as well.
This picture is the design for the first custom cage I ever built. I look back at it now and can see things that I would do different and have. Even with the cages I have now, I can see things that I would do differently.
I used ¾" oak plywood for this custom cage. I used 2" screws to hold it all together. I believe I use 1/8" thick Plexiglas, though I'm not sure. I also used 1" x 2" boards for the Plexiglas railing. I used vent covers for the air vents.
The cage doesn't have to be 2' high. You can get by with 18". I needed the height, because I had the basking lights inside the cage and didn't want them to hang too low.
How to Build a Bearded Dragon Cage
Building a bearded dragon cage really isn't all that hard. If I can build a cage, just about anyone can.
I am not an expert builder, so I didn't really know what the proper way of putting a cage together was. I just did what I thought would work, and it did.
If you see things, that I did improperly, hold your laughter back as best you can. This is really the first thing that I ever built by myself.
Basically all I did was line up the plywood I cut, made sure that it was square, and screwed the pieces together with wood screws.
I started with the back and sides and then added the bottom. At this point I cut holes for the vents and put the vent covers on.
Next I put the boards for the Plexiglas rail in place. Then added the Plexiglas and put the top on, securing the glass in place.
It is a good idea to pre-drill holes for the wood screws. I know that you don't have to for wood screws, but it helps them go in easier and straighter. To pre-drill a hole, use a drill bit that has a smaller width than the screws your using.
After the cage was together, I drilled two holes on top of it for basking lights. I also drilled a hole in the top of the back wall to run the chord for my UVB fixture.
I installed the UVB light fixture on the ceiling of the cage with a couple of screws. Actually, I used an under cabinet florescent light fixture from Walmart, making it easy to install.
I also sanded, stained and put an acrylic finish on the wood. If you do this make sure that you provide enough time to pass to let it dry entirely. The fumes from these can be harmful to your dragon.
I also sealed the inside with clear caulking. You'll want to let some time to pass for this to dry entirely, as well. If you don't provide time to let it cure, it can also be harmful to your dragon.
The last thing I did was put moulding around the edges. This was not important. It was just for looks. Actually, I could have done a better job with the moulding than I did. I didn't have the proper tools at the time.
This isn't how every custom cage design will be built. This is just an example of how I built my first one. I included this to, hopefully, inspire your cage building.
There are different designs and also different
ways to build a custom cage. You just have to use your imagination. It is a good idea
though to draw out your design on paper before starting to build. This will save you a lot
If building a custom cage isn't your idea of a good time, don't worry. There are plenty of nice cages on the market that are great choices. However, if you like to build things, this is an excellent opportunity to use your creativity.
Why Build Your Own Reptile Cage?
When I first started my interest in reptiles I
was only young. At that stage of my life I had little or no skills and did not understand
the requirements of the wonderful creatures so I did not keep them effectively. We just
kept the local lizards, so the cage temperature was not an issue.
This divider was fitted over the middle of a heat mat, allowing for two reptiles to be housed in the cage. It also had two doors. The cage is now used for another purpose but will soon be empty.
The divider can still be placed back in the cage for another small snake and then simply removed as the snake gets larger.
This snake will finally be moved into an arboreal cage. To
purchase a plastic cage with divider that will only be a transient cage before the snake
goes into a final cage is an expensive exercise.
You can also expand your collection in an affordable way, making more money available for the reptiles while still getting quality cages.
The Importance of a Plan When Building a Reptile Cage
Would you put together a model plane without looking at the finished plane picture or looking at the plans? Does a builder build a house without a plan?
The answer to these is pretty clearly no. A home-made snake or other reptile cage is so much simpler though, you say. I can just put it together as I go.
Not so, my young apprentice. There are many pitfalls awaiting the inexperienced. Simple things you can miss. Silly mistakes you can make, and believe me, it is very easy to make them.
There are a host of things that can make a simple cage take
much longer than it should plus some possible costly mistakes.
A snake will need cages of certain dimensions; lizards will
need other dimensions and arboreal species yet another type of cage with different
dimensions. Its also helpful if you know how large your pet will get so you can plan
At this stage, having a plan, however rudimentary, is important. Once you have a plan in place you can think through the issues. In many cases it will allow you to remove the problem before you even start, as the plan often reveals an error or issue.
Naturally, the more detailed the reptile cage plan, the more
you can make allowance for possible issues. It can also eliminate waste and save money as
you only purchase the correct amount of material.
Using a Reptarium
for bearded dragons can be a very viable caging option. I have not had experience
with these but they seem like they would do a good job housing your pet.
A Reptarium is one of the options that I was
really considering when I first wanted to own a bearded dragon. I was on limited funds and
it seemed like it would be decent home.
This is just my opinion, but using Reptariums
for bearded dragons seems like it would work rather well. There may be differing opinions
on this, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they are alright to use.
These are only some of the options you have to
choose from. I will add more in the future such as custom made cages, and plastic totes.
Yes, you can use a plastic tote, if you so desire.
Things To Consider Before Choosing
How easy will the cage be to clean?
The easier the cage is to keep clean, the more likely it will be cleaned. I tell you this out of experience. I lack the enthusiasm sometimes to clean my own cages. It's the job I least like to do, but it needs to be done. The easier a cage is to clean, the easier it will be on you.
Some enclosures are easier to get into and clean than others. I'm a fan of enclosures with opening front doors. These are very accessible, and like the moulded plastic cage, easy to keep sanitised.
easy will it be to get at your dragon?
A cage that provides easy access to your dragon will make handling a lot easier. When picking up your dragon, it is better to come in from the side then from above. This is especially true with younger dragons that tend to be skittish.
Cages with opening front doors are really good for this purpose. If you get a cage with a top opening, try to come at your dragon more from the side when attempting to pick them up. A dragon can feel threatened with your hand coming from the top.
Having a cage that is hard to get into, will make it hard to get at your dragon. If your cage is easy to get into, life will be a lot easier when cleaning the cage, picking your dragon up and feeding crickets to them.
Where will you keep the cage?
Keeping your dragons enclosure where there isn't much foot traffic, will provide less stress for your pet. Keeping the cage out of direct sunlight will help prevent cooking your dragon. Also, making sure your dragons home isn't to close to air-conditioning or heat vents will help with controlling cage temperatures.
Bearded dragons like to see activity, so even though you don't want them in direct high foot traffic areas, don't isolate them either. I have heard of some people leaving their television on when they weren't home to keep their dragons from getting bored.
That last paragraph is directed toward older dragons. I have observed that as my dragons have got older they like to see activity. Young dragons (hatchling to 6 months) will like a little more peace and quiet.
Is the bearded dragon housing attractive to you?
Functionality is the first thing to look for in a cage, but make sure that you choose something that suits you as well. There is no right or wrong answer to this. You can go with a simple and functional cage or a beautiful naturalistic enclosure. It is entirely up to you.
Having a nice looking cage may be more of a factor if you live with your parents, are married or share your home with other people. Most people don't like to see a make-shift cage containing reptiles in their home. Remember to be sensitive to other people living with you.
If you live by yourself, you won't have to worry about this. The only person you have to impress is yourself.
2006 UK Bearded Dragons