Bearded dragons need both warmth and UV light to support their various biological functions and ensure optimal health. For instance, optimum warmth and UV light are essential for vitamin D3 synthesis and prevents excess vitamin D3 synthesis as can be harmful.
Remember, these pets are ectotherms, meaning they are cold-blooded animals whose thermoregulation or temperature regulation depends on external temperature (environment). Source of warmth may be artificial, from the sun or a heated surface such as a rock. The most preferred bearded dragon body temperature 34–35 degrees Celsius.
Therefore, to these reptiles, heat is crucial as it aids in digestion as well as ensuring optimal body function and health. Without enough of it, this pet will be susceptible to chronic infections. While in the wild, most of them will bromate if the temperature is too low, especially during winter.
Finally, like UVB light, bearded dragons need a regular anytime and nighttime heating cycle with the day heating lasting for 12-14 hours and nighttime 10-12 hours.
How to keep your bearded dragon warm?
To properly keep your bearded dragons warm, you need to create a thermal gradient with a hotter basking side and a cooler side inside their terrariums. This way, they will be able to warm and cool themselves.
Such an arrangement demands a correct vivarium size (volume and dimensions). For instance, if you have a small tank, it may be impossible to create a temperature gradient. This challenge also applies to tall cages with a smaller surface area (shorter ones). Therefore, ensure your enclosure is long enough.
1. Bearded dragon basking area – Heat and light
Ideal daytime basking conditions should have a sun-like visible light and a source of heat. You should also overlap the basking area with a UVA/UVB light source. Some basking bulbs can produce light, warmth, and UV rays while others do not.
The ideal basking area temperature should be 100 -110 °F (about 38- 43 °C) and the warmer end. This temperature should not be the temperature of the air below the heating bulb but on the basking platform surface.
In the case of small hatchling, a temperature of 95 -100 °F is sufficient, implying you need to go for a lower wattage bulb or put it a little far from their basking area.
Therefore, ensure you invest in the right heating lamp (basking lights, basking bulbs, or spotlights) that can maintain this temperature range. We will see some of the best brands later in the discussion.
Secondly, you need to create an elevated basking surface directly below the heat source. A basking spot can be stable and easy to climb rock, slate, log, or branch. It should be large enough to allow this pet to stretch and encourage longer basking time.
We recommend a basking rock since it absorbs and retains heat well. Also, it will help wear your pet’s nail, reducing the need to trim them frequently. Remember that sharp claws can easily break their skin, leading to wounds.
Thirdly, ensure the heating source is well guarded or inaccessible by your bearded dragons as it will burn them if they go so near or touch it.
Maintain the recommended distance between your basking rock and heat source since putting it nearer or further will influence on the surface temperature achieved.
Behaviorally, it is normal for these pets to gape once it has reached its optimal temperature. Don’t worry.
Finally, install a thermometer and a thermostat to help regulate the temperature. Temperatures higher than 45℃ will make your beardie to overheat, something that is fatal. Also, the bulb should not shatter as it will burn or injure them.
2. Cooler side
Here, you need another heat lamp set to a lower temperature. Ideally, set the temperature on the cooler side to be about 75-90°F (about 24 to 32°C). It should cover only 20-30% of your tank’s surface area. However, if you have a small vivarium, you may not need a bulb on this side.
These second warmth source should have slightly lower a wattage than that on the basking area.
Also, on the colder side, you need a thermometer and thermostat and guard the bulb to avoid burns, or these pets cannot reach the bulbs.
Understanding infrared rays – heat
Anything that emits heat is said to emit infrared rays. The sun and any object that radiates warmth, such as fire, infrared lamps, plasma torches, welding arcs, hot metal surface, and so on, emit infrared.
Infrared rays are electromagnetic radiations whose wavelengths are longer than visible light, typically from 700 nm to 1 mm, making them invisible to our eyes, but we can feel them, and they don’t need a media to be transmitted.
However, the shortwave or near-infrared ranging emit visible light while the far-infrared (dark emitters) that don’t emit visible light.
Terrarium, vivarium or tank heat sources
There are many ways to keep your bearded dragons warm. These ways include the following:
1. Infrared lamps
Produce infrared rays with very little visible light. These are nothing other than incandescent bulbs that are tinted red to produce very little visible light.
2. Incandescent bulbs – halogen basking lamps
When electricity heats these bulb’s filament to high temperature, they produce visible light and infrared rays. The halogen lamps (tungsten halogen, quartz iodine lamp, or quartz-halogen) are typical examples.
You have a choice of buying halogen UVB lamps that emit warmth, light, and ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB).
Naturally, most incandescent bulbs have a near yellow color making it not to look like that from the sunlight. Pairing them with a metallic halide bulb will help resolve this problem and produce full-spectrum sun-like light.
Finally, if you go for Incandescent basking lights, their edges should have a silver coating or reflector. Also, they should have a transparent glass to ensure it produces focused, bright light, which these pets will love and will make creating a thermal gradient easier.
3. Ceramic heat emitters or bulbs
Ceramic heat emitters or ceramic infrared heat emitters use electricity to warm or ceramic semiconductors, which in turn emits radiant thermal without emitting any light. These types are the best choice for warming your pet’s tank at night.
Most ceramic heat emitters are bulb-like shaped and can fit into Edison screw ceramic lamp holders. However, there are also flat and concave brands.
Finally, their typical wattage is between 60 to 150 watts. Therefore, depending on your vivarium size, you can get those of higher or lower wattage.
4. Mercury vapor lamps – basking
These are high-intensity gas discharge lamps whose electric arc uses vaporized mercury. They are more energy efficient when compared to most halogen or incandescent bulbs.
Furthermore, they produce bright white light, last longer, and produce UV (UVA and UVB) rays. All these will ensure proper coloration of your bearded dragon, increased appetite, and improved health.
However, you cannot control them with a thermostat or rheostat, are more expensive and require proper disposal when you stop using them. Varying placement distance is the only way to regulate the amount of warmth and UV light that your bearded dragon receives fro these bulbs.
Finally, mercury vapor lamps need a ballast controller, and they will focus their heat and light to a smaller area.
5. Metallic-halide lamps – basking
Like mercury vapor lamps, they are also high-intensity gas discharge lamps that will produce not only visible light but also ultraviolet light and heat. They are an ideal choice for people with larger terrariums.
Unless self-ballasted, they need a ballast controller, and you cannot dim them (with thermostat).
6. Heating pads and mats
Heat pads or mats are mainly electrical devices with heating elements that heat the pad. While they radiate a little heat, therefore, these devices conduction to keep surfaces warm. However, they don’t produce light and come in various sizes.
You can place them on beneath or on the side of your vivarium using their adhesive side. Placing them on a vivarium side will make them less effective. Similarly, if placed beneath your tank, have a thick substrate will make them ineffective.
To avoid overheating, ensure you have a thermostat such as a thermostat or ministat for on-off control to reduce the chances of belly burns. Some have inbuilt thermostats too.
If possible, avoid heating mats or pads since they can burn your pet’s belly. Beardies sense warmth from above their head and not below on their bellies, meaning that these lizards may sit these mats for a long without knowing they are burning.
Also, since they keep these pets warm by conduction or contact, only cover a third of their vivarium with these mats to give your pet a chance to choose whether they will sit on it or not.
Finally, use them as a supplemental source of heating and not the primary source of warmth.
7. Heat rocks
They are more or less similar to heat pads, with the difference being the warming happens on specially designed basking rock. A familiar brand is the Zoo Med Repticare Rock Heater for Reptiles.
Like heating pads, they are not the recommended ways to warm your pets since they may cause thermal belly.
Finally, ensure they have thermostats to control temperature and place your thermostat’s probe on the surface of the rock and not in the air.
8. Heating cable and heat strips
Heat tape, cable, or wire are low wattage, low-cost heaters used as a secondary source of warmth. They have a heating element and can be wrapped around basking rocks, branches, furniture, or used under tanks like heat mats.
Strips and cables are similar with the only difference being a heat cable is stiffer but can be plied around anything without shrinking while a heat tape is much more flexible.
The Zoo Med Reptile Heat Cable is an example of a cable you can buy for your bearded dragons.
9. Space heaters
For people who have an extra-large terrarium, a space heater is one of the options to consider, as it will avoid having several basking lamps.
10. Reptile Deep heat projector
These reptile heat projectors are vivarium infrared heating bulbs that warm up fast, don’t produce light, have reflectors to target where you want to keep warm such as the basking area, to hence minimizing losses and use less power when compared to tungsten bulbs.
Best bearded dragon heat lamps and heaters
In the list of the best heat lamps, we will not include tropical, nocturnal, or night bulbs, including the night red or blue bulbs.
1. Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Lamps Mini Halogen Bulb (light + heat )
The Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Lamps Mini Halogen bulb is a high heat and light intensity incandescent bulbs that come in either 25 or 50 watts. It comes in day white; day blue and night red. Day white is ideal for daytime basking.
- Excellent source of warmth that will boost your pet’s appetite as well as visible light.
- It is up to 250% more efficient than other incandescent bulbs. A 50-watt bulb is equivalent to a 150-200 watt standard incandescent bulb.
- It has a longer lifespan of up to 2000 hours thanks to its stronger filament and thicker glass construction.
- It fits in most Zilla fixtures, including such as the Zilla Mini Halogen Reptile Dome Heat lamp and Zilla Heat & UVB basking fixture.
- Can use a dimmer
Many users are happy about their efficiency, affordable prices, and small sizes.
2. Evergreen Pet Supplies 100 Watt UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Lamp
This Evergreen Pet Supplies self-ballasted mercury lamp is an excellent basking lamp choice for your bearded dragons and other pets like the iguanas, chameleons, pythons, turtles, tortoise, geckos, frogs, toads and so on.
- Excellent heat output, i.e., it will provide the necessary warmth.
- Two in one bulb since it also produces UVA, UVB, and visible light for proper absorption of calcium and good wellbeing of your pets without the harmful UVC rays.
- It ha a long lifespan that comes with a warranty.
- Usable with different reptile cages, including vision cages, tanks, vivaria, terrarium, and so on.
- Value for money
Like any other bulb that has a ballast, don’t use it with a thermostat or rheostat. Also, use it with a ceramic socket and a deep or large dome with the correct voltage rating.
3. Exo Terra Solar-Glo High-Intensity Self-Ballasted UV/Heat Mercury Vapor Lamp
The Exo Terra Solar-Glo bulb is a self-ballasted mercury vapor lamp that comes in 80, 125, and 160 watts. You need to choose the wattage size depending on the size of your vivarium, with larger ones requiring higher wattage.
- It has a correctly balanced UVA, UVB, visible light as well as heat (infrared) for optimum health of your reptile all in one bulb.
- Will ensure best pet coloration, appetite, activity, and calcium absorption as the UVB light helps in vitamin D3 synthesis, which in turn helps in proper calcium absorption and utilization, and thus prevent metabolic disease.
- A higher UVB penetration range that is +12 inches
- Compatible with most standard ceramic sockets as well as Exo Terra Light Dome, Exo Terra Wire Light, or Exo Terra Reptile Dome.
4. Zoo Med ReptiCare Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter
If you want a day and night heat source, a first quality porcelain ceramic heat emitter, the porcelain Zoo Med brand, will serve you well. Coupling it with a daytime light source such as Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp creates an ideal basking spot.
- It fits in any porcelain incandescent socket, and you can use it with a dome or wire cage fixtures.
- It produces an intense, muscle penetrating infrared rays (heat) without any visible light.
- Has a long-life of up to 5 years
- It features a very efficient flat face which lasts longer than the conical faced ones. The tapered designs accumulate heat internally.
- You can control it with a thermostat, such as the Zoo Med ReptiTemp 500R thermostat.
What wattage to buy?
For 10-20 gallons, buy a 40w ceramic heater, for 30-40 gallons, go for a 100-watt ceramic heater while for terrariums with 50-100 gallons, the 150W uses the 150-watt ceramic heater.
Excellent alternatives of this Zoo Med brand is the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter for Reptiles and the OMAYKEY. OMAYKEY comes with a digital thermometer.
5. Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulbs for Reptiles 100 watt
Manufactured by Fluker’s Farms, the Repta-Sun incandescent spotlight bulb is an ideal choice of a basking light and warmth source.
- It focuses heat towards a chosen basking spot, making it easy to create a temperature gradient in your terrariums.
- Has an installation guide to help you choose correct wattage and distance to achieve desired temperatures.
- It is long-lasting, giving you up to 3500 hours of usage.
- Value for money
Bulb placement distance
At 6 inches, the 40 and 60 watts will produce 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t use the 75, 100, or 150 watts at this distance.
When placed at a 12-inch distance, the 40, 60, and 75 watts bulb will maintain a temperature of 95, 101, and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid the 100 and 150 watts at this distance.
If placed 18 inches away, the 40, 60, 75, 100, and 250 will have temperatures of 80, 89, 95, 106, and 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
At 6, 12, and 18 inches, the 40 watts will have 110, 95, and 80 degrees Fahrenheit respectively, while for the 60 watts, temperatures will be 120, 101, and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t use the 75, 100 or 150 watts at 6 inches and 12 inches except for the 75 watts at 12 inches that will produce a temperature
6. Zacro Reptile Heat Lamp 100W with One Digital Thermometer
A ceramic heat emitter and digital thermometer all at one price what this Zacro offers you at a very affordable price.
- It doesn’t emit light, making it suitable for day and night time heating. For daytime, ensure you get a daytime full-spectrum visible light source.
- Although smaller in size, it has high thermal efficiency and warms fast. This feature will cut on electricity costs.
- It is flat-faced to make it last longer and be more efficient
- Works with any ceramic E27 socket
If you buy it, you will be happy with its efficiency, accuracy of the thermometer it comes with, and its low price. Also, Zacro has an excellent Zacro reptile under tank heater for a 10-20gal tank.
7. Zoo Med Repticare Rock Heater
As a secondary source warming your tank, a rock heater may aid digestion for your bearded dragon and other reptiles. Depending on the size of your pet, you can buy the small, standard, or giant one with 5, 10, and 15 watts, respectively.
- It is long-lasting, thanks to the hardened rock that is twice as hard as pumice or cement.
- It comes with a one-year warranty
- Has good heat conduction
- Full nichrome heating element coverage will ensure even heating with no hotspots that may burn your pet.
- It has a rheostat to help in temperature control.
- Energy efficient (low wattage)
If you opt for this rock heater, avoid covering it with anything, including your terrarium substrate, and don’t use it as the only heat source for your pets.
8. ReptileUV Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor floodlight bulb
This Mega-Ray bulb is another excellent choice of narrow mercury vapor bulb floodlight that will produce ultraviolet and visible light as well as heat (infrared rays).
Depending on your terrarium size, you can buy the 70, 100, 160, and 275 watts. Each has a recommended placement distance since you cannot use it with dimmers or thermostats.
- It is a source of heat, UVA, UVB, and light that closely mimics the natural sunlight.
- The manufacturer gives free advice on which size or wattage of the bulb is ideal for your terrarium size.
- Value for money
9. Zoo Med Repti Heat Cable
Buy the Repti Heat Cable is an excellent way of providing warmth only where it is most needed. You can wrap it around your terrarium furniture, branches, basking rocks, and so on.
- Comes in various length that correspond to your vivarium size, i.e., the 11.5′ (15W) cable is ideal for 5-10 gallon tank, the 11.5′ (25W) for a 10-20 gallons, 23′ (50W) for 30-40 gallons, the 39′ (100W) good for 50-100 gallons while the 52′ (150W) for breeder terrarium size.
- It is inexpensive
- Flexible and water-resistant
Note that cables and tapes are secondary heating sources and should never serve as the only or primary sources.
Besides the above, the following will also work well:
- Fluker’s Heat Mat for Reptiles and Small Animals
- Exo Terra Heat-Glo Infrared Spot Lamp, 120-Volt
- iPower Reptile Heat Pad Under Tank Terrarium Mat
- Lucky Herp Reptile UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Bulb, Heat Lamp for Reptile
- iPower Under Tank Heat Pad and Digital Thermostat Combo Set
- Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulbs for Reptiles
- Exo Terra Heatwave Rock, Ul Listed
- Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Mats
- Zoo Med PowerSun H.I.D Metal Halide UVB Lamp & Lamp Fixture
- AIICIOO Reptile Ceramic Heat Lamp Bulb
Do bearded dragons need heat at night?
During the night, you should turn off the basking lamps as well as the UVB lights since these pets will sleep well in darkness. A digital plug timer such as Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting & Terrarium Heat Power Center will help you turn these lamps on and off during the night and day cycle.
Whether to warm your vivarium at night or not will depend on the ambient temperature. These pets can tolerate temperatures as low as 65°F (about 18°C) and above. Therefore, should temperatures fall way below 65°F, such as below 60°F (15.5°C), you need a heating system.
Since you don’t need light as they will disrupt these pets’ sleep and wake cycle, to warm their vivarium, go for ceramic under tank heaters. We prefer ceramic.
Once you have one, set the temperature to 65 °F and 75°F, with the ideal one being 21°C (70°F). You will need a thermostat to help maintain this temperature range.
Otherwise, if the nighttime temperatures remain above 65°F, you don’t need a nighttime vivarium heating.
While some may advise you to use duvet or blanket to keep this pet warm, while it may work, ensure it doesn’t affect ventilation to avoid humidity build-up.
Can I use red, blue, or purple heat bulbs at night?
Ceramic heaters supplemented by under the tank or heat cables (strips) are the best options touse at night. However, some people go for incandescent blue, red, or purple heat bulbs, including the moonlight or night glow bulbs. There is no consensus on their effect on your bearded dragon’s sleep.
However, since these pets require darkness to sleep well, avoid them as they may disrupt your pet’s sleep making them an insomniac. Also, painted bulbs are not ok.
Finally, these pets are not nocturnal. You don’t have to use the red incandescent bulbs to keep them warm. Such should be for nocturnal pets.
Best vivarium heating tips
- Cage or guard the bulb – Put heat lamps in on places where your bearded dragons cannot reach. Furthermore, cage or guard it. Moreover, you can mount it above the tank or on your terrarium screen cover.
- Ensure they illuminate your pet’s entire body and not some spots, as this can result in thermal burns. Also, your bulbs should not have any hotspots, too, as this can also cause thermal injuries.
- Buy and use several lower wattage bulbs instead of one high wattage basking bulb.
- Go for unfrosted bulbs such as halogen floods lights since they have white light.
Deciding on bearded dragon heat lamp wattage
The wattage you choose depends on by your terrarium size, the distance of lamp placement, lamp type, targeted temperatures, among other factors.
Typically, smaller vivaria use low wattage lamps as opposed to bigger ones. Also, those placed far from the basking area will require more wattage to effectively keep your pet warm as opposed to the set closer.
Besides maintaining correct terrarium temperature, bearded dragons need UV light and should be feed properly with the right food (prey food, greens and veggies, and safe plants and flowers, and fruits).