Proper bearded dragon tank heating and lighting are essential in promoting the optimum health of these reptiles. We have a separate discussion on UVB lighting, including the best UVA/UVB bulbs. Therefore, this is a general guide on the correct lighting setup and the best fixtures to use. We will also give answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Significance of lighting
Light is critical to bearded dragons and other reptiles. They have a third eye, also known as a parietal eye, that transmits any information to control daily or annual rhythms (circadian and circannual) rhythms to the brain.
The parietal eye is a light-sensitive area on their skull that detects the sun’s glow to help determine the sun’s position, day length, and so on. This ability will help them know the time and season. Being able to time and season is vital to these animals in adjusting not only their daily activity levels but also thermoregulation, mating, and other seasonal behaviors.
Finally, many people assume that bearded dragons don’t see well. They do, maybe, in a different way. They have four types of cones in their eye, unlike us, who have only three cone types.
What kind of lights do bearded dragons need?
Bearded dragon requires UV (UVA and UVB) and full-spectrum visible light (that closely mimic daytime sunlight). While most of the ultraviolet (UV) and basking lamps, such as the mercury-vapor lamp, produce a complete spectrum ray. The UV rays and heat rays (infrared rays) are not visible.
Therefore, this means that if you are using black lights as your ultraviolet ray sources and ceramic heaters, you need to provide a full spectrum light bulb as it will help in enriching coloration, stimulate breeding behaviors, etc. A bulb-like Sun Glo / Halogen Daylight Lamp will help, and it also emits UVA.
Do bearded dragons need light at night?
No. These reptiles don’t need light at night, including UV. As diurnal reptiles, they spend their day awake and sleep at night. Putting a bright light at night may disrupt their normal sleep-wake cycle, which has many physiological benefits to these pets.
Therefore, ensure you don’t expose them to light 24/7. Instead, let these lizards have it for 12-14 hours a day.
However, at night they need a heat source if the ambient temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In such a case, you can a non-light emitting heat source such as ceramic.
Bearded dragons lighting cycle or schedule
Give these pets about 12-14 hours of light (visible and UVB) and 10-12 hours of darkness. This duration will be enough to satisfy their lighting needs so long as you have the right UVB bulbs or lamps and basking lamps.
Are infrared, red, and blue bearded dragon light ok?
If you are in places where the ambient temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, you need a nighttime heat source. During the day, use heating bulbs that emit white or sun-like light.
At night, some people will opt to use infrared, purple, blue, or red heat bulbs that emit infrared rays to keep their bearded dragon warm. Are they ok?
1. Infrared basking lamps or red lights
Infrared rays are invisible electromagnetic rays emitted by the sun, hot surfaces, incandescent lamps, infrared heaters, or infrared bulbs. These are heatwaves with wavelengths that are longer than the visible spectrum.
You can use infrared lamps, including incandescent bulbs, infrared heaters, etcetera, to keep your bearded dragon warm. Examples include the Zoo Med Ceramic Heat Emitter and the 250W Reptile Heat Lamp Pet Infrared Ceramic Heater Emitter, which don’t emit light.
However, if they emit visible red light, don’t use them, including those tinted to minimize visible rays. Not everyone agrees with this. Some sources (1), (2) will say it is ok to use red or infrared basking lights at night so long as they are from red bubs and not from red painted bulbs.
Research has proven that these pets can see them, and this can disturb them or make them insomniacs. Don’t use red basking lamps even during the day, including those tinted to reduce the light they emit unless you also have a daytime bright light source.
At night, only use them if you are sure your beardie hides in a place where it is not visible while they sleep.
2. Night-Glo lamps (blue or blacklights)
Another contentious issue is the black or blue light for bearded dragons. Are they safe? Before we answer, you deserve to know what these bulbs that emit infrared rays and moon-like illumination.
The Exo Terra Night-Glo Moonlight Lamp is such a great brand, and it emits a bluish light which, according to Exo Terra, will not disturb the normal night cycle. Another brand is the Exo Terra or Swell Nightglow Heat Spot Lamp black bulbs.
While they have many benefits, such as enabling you to watch your pet’s nocturnal activities, stimulating breeding, and so on, beardies are diurnal animals and not nocturnal. Instead, use them on your crested geckos, geckos, and other nocturnal pets.
3. Dim orange lights
While they may be ideal for crepuscular reptiles, they resemble sunset and will not be suitable for this pet’s vision.
4. Floodlights or spotlights
If you go for mercury or metallic halide UVB lamps, choose floodlights as their beam spreads to an angle of 120 degrees, meaning that they will cover a larger area. Spotlights include about 45 degrees angle only. Narrow beams can cause thermal burns to your pets since they illuminate a smaller space.
Finally, ensure any of the ultraviolet metallic halide or mercury vapor lamps don’t produce any hotspots.
UVB bulb wattage and tank size
The wattage of UVB bulbs to use in your bearded dragon tank will depend on the type of bulb you use and the size of your vivarium, including its height.
For instance, mercury vapor bulbs typically have a higher wattage when compared to fluorescent since they also emit heat. Furthermore, a larger or taller vivarium will require a more top wattage bulb.
Therefore, in deciding on the wattage, such as 20W, 100W, 150W, etc., by considering your tank size, dimensions, and light source.
For instance, a 40-gallon tall tank may require a different UVB bulb wattage if it is tall. Also, using fluorescent, mercury vapor lamp, or halogen floodlights will require different wattage bulbs.
Bearded dragon UVB and basking light fixture
Different ultraviolet sources require different types of fixing accessories, with some coming with their custom-made fixtures.
All gas discharge lamps that use a self-ballasted bulb need a socket and without a ballast controller. However, if not, you need a fixture with an external ballast.
Important things to look at fixtures include:
- Heat resistant fixtures– Ensure your electric cable, sockets, or accessories don’t get burned by heat emitted.
- A good reflector – A 30 degree’s reflector can help increase the beam to the intended areas.
- Correct ballast controller wattage – In case they need a ballast, especially the fluorescent tube, match it with their bulb wattage.
Best light fixtures
Most of the UVB light sources can fit into the various standard fixtures and sockets. You only need to ensure they can support the bulb’s wattage. Some of the best accessories include the following:
1. Fluker’s 27002 Repta-Clamp Lamp with Switch for Reptiles
If you are looking for a great clamp lamp that has a switch, Fluker’s Repta-Clamp Lamp with an on/off switch is a perfect choice. It comes in three sizes, 5.5”, 8.5” and 10” rated at 75 watts, 150 watts, and 250 watts, respectively. These ratings make it suitable for people with a small to a giant terrarium.
Approved by UL/CUL, it has a ceramic socket rated for ceramic heat emitters and incandescent bulbs. Furthermore, it has a safety clamp and is easy to attach to any terrarium’s rim.
2. Zoo Med Mini Deep Dome Lamp Fixture with 5.5-Inch Dome
The Zoo Med Mini Deep Dome is a 5.5” lamp fixture that features a ceramic socket usable for up to 100-watt bulbs. Its extra-long aluminum polished dome will ensure your bulb doesn’t stick out of it.
This fixture comes with a one-year warranty and is ideal if you want to suspend your heat or light source above your terrarium, i.e., outside and above your terrarium.
3. Zoo Med Combo Deep Dome Dual Lamp Fixture
Like the Repti Zoo above, this is a combo fixture that will allow you to combine daytime heating lamps, UVB lamps, and nighttime heating lamps.
The dual ceramic sockets can withstand a load of 160 watts independently, and a combined maximum capacity of 300 wats and comes with a one-year warranty.
Finally, its deep dome will prevent bulbs from sticking out, and the polished aluminum inner surface helps in ensuring superior heat and light outputs.
4. Zilla Premium Reflector Domes
This Zilla brand is an incandescent fixture meant for incandescent bulbs for lighting or heating your terrarium. It has a ceramic socket designed to withstand constant heat from an up to the 150-watt bulb.
You have an option of going for the 5.5” that fits a 60-watt bulb or the 8.5” ideal for ceramic heating bulbs, incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs.
Finally, its dome reflector is black on the outside, and its inner white surface is powder-coated, making it lustrous and long-lasting.
5. Hoke Flexible Clamp Lamp Fixture for Reptiles
This hoke flexible clamp lamp fixture stand is ideal for your UV lamp, infrared emitter, heater, or light bulb. It has a hole for handing it, or you can clip it and has an inbuilt safe US-made fuse.
The Hoke flexible clamp lamp fixture can be rotated 360 degrees in any direction, has a corrosion-resistant steel clamp, and the inner reflecting surface is white to enhance its lighting or heating efficiency.
Finally, this Hoke fixture has a voltage of 100-120V, a maximum load of 120W, and you can use it with your halogen, LED, UVB, incandescent, fluorescent bulbs, or ceramic heaters.
6. REPTI ZOO Dual Reptile UVB Light Fixture Dome with Dual Lamp Cap
Instead of buying two separate fixtures for heating and lighting, go for this combo REPTI ZOO dual reptile bulb fixture. It has two bulb sockets, each with each having a 150W maximum load usable with infrared spot lambs, basking spot lamps, UVA and UVB bulbs, reptile ceramic lamps, and so on. However, for the dual dome, use only one heat emitter.
Furthermore, it features two independent switch power lines for separate control, and it is made from a heat resistant ceramic socket and black metal to ensure it serves you for a long time.
Finally, it features a heavy-duty hook for handing it and ventilating holes on the top to enhance heat dissipation.
7. Other reptile habitat lighting and heating fixtures
- Fluker’s 27004 Mini Sun Dome Reptile Lamp – Deep Dome Fixture
- Exo Terra Mirror Dome
- Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting
- Zoo Med Desert UVB & Heat Lighting Dual Kit
- Zilla Slimline Reptile Fluorescent Fixture
- Carolina Custom Cages Reptile 22″ T5HO UVB + Single GU10 Basking Fixture
Bearded dragon light setup tips
Both the basking and UV light must be appropriately set up in your vivarium to ensure they benefit your pet maximally. Set up will include proper placement, including location and distance. Some important setup tips include:
- Remove any UVB barriers – There should be no glass, plexiglass, or plastic between your pet and the UV radiation source.
- Placement distance – Place your UVB source at least 6 inches from your pet’s body and much further if they also emit heat such as the mercury vapor lamps. Don’t forget to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Pair them with basking lamps – Pair them or overlap with your basking lights. However, they should cover at least 80% of your vivarium surface area.
- Place them above their head – All lights should be placed above your pet’s head and never on the sides to minimize chances of eye irritation.
Mounting ultraviolet bulbs
With the right fixtures, you can go ahead to install your lighting bulbs. You can have them on top of your reptile screen or inside your vivarium. If inside your reptile tank, safely guard them. Some cages come with heat and light mounting areas and fixtures inside the vivarium.
Remove any plastic protector as they will filter UVB rays and place them at the appropriate distances for optimum ultraviolet rays as well as correct heat amounts for those that emit heat.
Finally, use a thermostat, or if the type doesn’t work with thermostat, varying height will also vary the heat and ultraviolet intensity.