Bearded dragons are increasingly becoming one of the most popular exotic pets amongst many people across the globe, including the US, UK, Canada, as well as other places Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Australia.
Besides their cute look, some unique behaviors like head bobbing, beard display, and arm waving, there is a large inventory of bearded dragon morphs with different colors, patterns, skin texture, leucism, and so on.
That is not all. These reptiles are hardy, easy to care for, require a small space, and have a laidback or mellow personality, and they allow handing. These factors and many others make them a first-choice of an exotic for older kids, first-timers, adults, and virtually anyone.
Bearded dragon supplies and accessories
If you are considering buying bearded dragons, you need to know their cost, the required accessories, and the correct setup. This post is a straightforward full setup guide not specific to a 10, 75, 20, 55, or 40 gallons tank and so on for baby, juvenile, or adult beardies.
Furthermore, we will not also wade into the setup cost or cost of buying the various items, as this will largely depend on the specific ones you choose.
Here is everything that your bearded dragon needs, i.e., all stuff, including equipment and food.
1. Get a tank or enclosure
A bearded dragon enclosure or tank (vivarium, terrarium or cage) should top the list of the various supplies you must buy. There are various tank sizes with common ones being 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 55, 67, 75, 100, 120 gallons enclosures.
Since they are relatively expensive, aforethought will help you cut down the price of replacing them if you have a young bearded dragon that is growing. When buying one, consider the following:
- Tank size – This will depend on the size of your beardie with babies requiring about 15-20 gallons, juvenile 40-55 gallons, and adults at least 75-gallon tank. See more details on bearded dragon sizes and best brands depending on your lizard’s size.
- Cage type – Here, you need to decide on whether you want a glass, wooden, plywood, PVC, ABS, or vision cages. You can also have a homemade (DIY) or a custom-made one. Learn more about each type bearded dragon cage type, including its pros, cons, and any available brands for sale.
2. Buy terrarium substrate
A substrate is what will cover your tank cage floor surface, and you have a choice of going for a solid or loose substrate. The various type of terrarium substrates with each type having its owns advantages and disadvantages. Also, not all substrates are safe. Some are harmful.
- Solid substrate – They include stone, porcelain, linoleum or ceramic tiles, reptile mats and carpets, shelf liners, newspapers and paper towels, artificial grass,
- Loose substrate – Common ones are sand, aspen shavings, bioactive substrate, alfalfa pellets, among many others.
Our best pick is Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber if you need a loose substate. Other incredible brands include Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells Desert Blend, Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate, and Exo Terra Sand Mat.
3. But a heat lamps/heat emitter
As desert lizards, these agamid lizards thrive in places that have high temperatures and low humidity with a preferred body temperature 34–35 degrees Celsius. They need warmth to digest food and stay healthy.
The typical bearded dragon heat lamp to buy comprise of incandescent bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, mercury vapor lamps, metallic-halide lamps, heat pads, mats, rocks, cables, and so forth.
Always consider your tank size. Some highly rated brands include Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Lamps Mini Halogen Bulb or Evergreen Pet Supplies 100-Watt UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Lamp.
While considering which one to buy, our guide on bearded dragon optimum temperature and ideal heat lamps will answer most of the questions you may be having and give you the best heat lamps for day and nighttime.
4. Buy a UV light bulb
Bearded dragons need both UVA and UVB rays (10-12% for adults and 5% UVB for babies for 12-14 hours a day). UVA light helps in stimulating daily and seasonal activities as well as the wake and sleep cycle while.
On the other hand, UVB light helps in the synthesis of vitamin D3 needed calcium absorption. Insufficient UVB light makes your bearded dragons susceptible to metabolic bone diseases.
Some UV light source includes mercury vapor lamps, metallic halide UVB lamps, linear and compact UV fluorescent bulbs, halogen lamps and so on that you should regularly replace.
Deciding what is what you need can be so perplexing, particularly to those who are not techy savvy. Cast your worries away and see more on UVB light bulbs, and terrarium lighting setup that has FAQs. The rest will be a breeze.
5. Invest in monitoring and control devices
As already hinted, these pets require warmer drier habitat. To help maintain various terrarium conditions, you need control and monitoring devices which include:
Plac them on the warmer and colder side as well as other places in your vivarium to help you know if temperatures are correctly set. There are digital (best), infrared, and analog thermometers with combo ones that also measure humidity.
The recommended bearded dragon relative humidity level is 35-44%, with 30%-50% acceptable. High humidity will increase the risks of respiratory infections and other illnesses. Various ways, such as keeping proper ventilation, especially with a terrarium screen cover, will help keep humidity lows.
To accurately monitor humidity, you need a hygrometer where there are digital and analog brands. Don’t go for anything less than a reliable reptile hygrometer, especially the digital or high-end analog ones.
Our best pick is the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer Humidity Gauge Combo, which independently gives you humidity and temperature readings. Of course, you will find other good brands while looking at some of the best terrarium thermometers.
Thermostats are devices that help control temperature, which could be on/off, pulsating, or dimming. Each of these will work well on specific heat sources and have their advantages and disadvantages.
Before buying a thermostat, ensure you familiarize yourself with these various types of thermostats and which heat sources they can control.
However, if a ballasted bulb such as fluorescent or high-intensity discharge bulbs such as mercury vapor lamps or metallic-halide lamps, don’t buy a thermostat. They don’t work with them.
e). Reptile timers
Switching lights and UV light on an off can be very tedious. However, with a timer, especially a digital one, because it is easier to use, you can automatically turn your tank lights on and off at a set time.
Buying the Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting & Terrarium Heat Power Center will help you achieve this objective. Also, the BN-LINK 8 Outlet Surge Protector with Mechanical Timer with four outlets will serve you well too.
6. Get a feeding bowl
If you use loose substrate, to minimize the chances of your pet swallowing some, invest in a non-porous, easy to clean, non-tipping food bowls like Exo Terra Feeding Dish or any other good brand.
Additionally, investing in cricket feeders like Exo Terra Reptile Cricket Feeder or Rep-Cal Cricket Shaker will making the feeding of live crickets, locusts, or insects that leap much fun.
7. Get a shallow water bowl
Bearded dragons need drinking water. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure they always have clean, fresh drinking water in a shallow drinking water bowl in their terrariums. Some may not drink water, while others will soak themselves in the water bowl.
Always clean their water bowl and replace the water daily or in case they poop inside it as they soak themselves. Also, don’t forget to detoxify the water if you use tap water to reduce chloramines, chlorine, nitrates, or ammonia while providing the needed electrolytes or amines with Zoo Med ReptiSafe.
8. Buy food for your bearded dragon
Beardies are omnivores that require various in varying proportions of food depending on whether they are babies, juveniles, or adults, as well as their health status, including if carrying eggs. Foods you need include the following.
- Live feeder insects – Crickets, black soldier larvae (Phoenix or Calci-worms), roaches, silkworms, hornworms, grasshoppers, and locusts are part of their staple feeder insects. Others include mealworms, butterworms, waxworms, fruit flies, pink mice, king worms, among others.
- Veggies and herbs– Squash, endive, escarole, radicchio as well as dandelion, turnip, collard, and mustard green make best veggies and salads for bearded dragons. However, the list of other occasional vegetables and safe herbs is endless.
- Plants and flowers – Cactus leaf and alfalfa sprout are safe staples while there are many other occasional safe plants. See a whole list of safe plants, including the unsafe ones.
- Safe fruits – Fruits make part of their delicious and sweet treat or snack, but not all of them are safe. Ensure you know safe and unsafe fruits.
- Commercial foods – These include freeze-dried live feeder insects and pelleted ones balanced to meet your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs. They have their pros and down. We have a review of the best commercial bearded dragon foods.
9. Get calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins
Besides gut loading their foods, you need to dust it with calcium, vitamin D3 and multivitamins to ensure your pet receives all the necessary nutrients. Vitamin D3 aids in calcium absorption, while calcium has many functions like promoting the formation of strong and healthy bones.
10. Buy furniture, toys and other enrichments
Décor, furniture, and enrichments are what will transform your bearded dragon’s tank into an excellent habitat. Without them, it is like having a house without furnishings or beds. Your home will surely feel empty. Some important ones to buy include:
- Hides or hideouts – Provide a hiding and sleeping place. They will help minimize stress.
- Climbing branches and logs
- Basking rocks
- Hammock and loungers
- Digging spots or using Zoo Med Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate
- Terrarium live and artificial plants
- Terrarium backgrounds
- Beardie toys
11. Extras – harness leash, outfits, and costumes.
While they are not a must-have, these extras can help when going for a walk with your pet or making them look adorable. Some of the extra supplies include:
- Outfits and costumes – They include hats, shark costume, devils costume, and wizard costumes.
- Harness and leash – If leash-trained, you can use a harness leash while having a walk in the park with your beardie.
Placement – where to put the tank
With all the supplies in place, the next important step is to decide where to place your enclosure before you begin setting it up. Where to put it will depend on its size and the space available. Ideal places will be:
- Not on direct sunlight or near windows that allow sunlight to reach the cage. The heat from the sun will cause temperature rise, making effective temperature control in your vivarium to be very difficult.
- A quiet place. Avoid noisy locations, as this will stress your lizards.
- Settle for a place with minimal interruptions such as other pets passing by to avoid stress.
Bearded dragon habitat or tank setup ideas and guide
Bearded dragon tank setup entails preparing the tank, adding your substrate, installing heat lamps, UV light bulbs as well as control and monitoring devices. Afterward, as you put in décor, furniture, and other enrichments and personalize them to your liking.
Here is how to properly set your bearded dragon’s tank.
Step 1: Assemble your tank
If you already have an assembled tank, skip this step. Otherwise, follow your manufacturer’s guide while assembling your terrarium. Putting your enclosure together is an easy task that will take you a few minutes.
Step 2: Disinfect and clean it
Thoroughly sanitize your tank with a hospital-grade disinfectant or those designed for reptile cages to get rid of any germs like bacteria that may be lingering on your terrarium surface.
To sanitize it, spray and wipe using the F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant, Clorox Healthcare Broad Spectrum Quaternary Disinfect Cleaner, or Zoo Med Wipe Out.
Finally, after sanitizing your tank, wipe it down with water to get rid of any remnant sanitizing agents and let it dry.
Step 3: Add substrate
Add the substrate of your choice. If you chose a loose substrate, make it 2-3 inches deep. However, for a solid substrate, you need to put just a single layer.
Step 4: Add enrichments, furniture and décor, and water bowl
Begin adding the various enrichments, including your furniture and décor. A little creativity and personalization will ensure you get a stunningly beautiful and naturalistic terrarium.
The essential ones are the basking platforms, which should be directly below where you will put your basking light and a hide or sheltered place on the cooler side. If it has a hollow beneath, such a platform will give your pets a chance to crawl beneath it if they don’t want to be directly on the heat but want to remain warm.
For climbing branches and logs, incline them towards the basking platform. However, ensure your pet cannot get close or touch the heating lamp or the screen beneath the source of heat as it will be scalding.
Afterward, you can add other enrichments like artificial or live plants, terrarium background, hammocks, and so forth in your tank. However, avoid overdoing it as this may take all the space these pets need. Leave plentiful of space.
Finally, place your water bowl with water on the cooler side. Only move it to the warmer side or the middle of the tank if the vivarium’s humidity goes too low.
Step 5: Set heat lamps and UV lights
Place the terrarium screen and begin installing heat lamps and UV light bulbs. All you need is lamp fixtures compatible with your bulb choice and mount them on top of your screen. Some tanks come with mounting hoods and accessories. Such will make the whole process a lot easier.
If you have a smaller terrarium, you can use bulbs like mercury vapor bulbs that emit both heat and UV light. However, if it is enormous, use separate UV and heat sources. Unfortunately, smaller tanks will make creating a temperature gradient much harder.
a). Heat lamps
You need to create a temperature gradient with a basking spot having a surface temperature of 100 -110 °F (95 -100 °F for hatchlings) and a colder side at 75-90°F.
Place the basking bulb directly above the basking spot and ensure it covers the sufficient area to allow your bearded dragon to warm all its body at the same time. Varying distance for ballasted heat lamps or using thermostat are ways to maintain the required temperature.
Finally, if the nighttime ambient temperature goes way below 65°F, install your nighttime non-emitting light since they need pitch darkness to sleep well. Note that the under-the-tank heat mats or pads can serve as a secondary heat source and not a primary one.
b). UV light bulbs
For UV light bulbs, ensure they cover over 80% and overlap the area with the basking spot to allow these pets to absorb UV rays and warmth at the same time. To achieve desired UVB penetration, place your bulbs at distances recommended by manufacturers. Note that UVB light doesn’t penetrate glass.
Depending on your tank size, our best bet is the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Fluorescent Tube Lamp since it has bulbs that are of different wattage and lengths. Also, the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact Fluorescent Bulb and the MyComfyPets UVB Light and UVA 2-in-1 Reptile Bulb will work well.
Finally, if you have the money, you can buy a UV meter to ensure that your UVB light is up to the required amount. Solarmeter is a great brand to buy.
Step 6: Monitoring and control device
To determine if you have the right terrarium habitat setting, install your control and monitoring devices, i.e., your hygrometer, thermostat, and thermometer.
- Thermometers – Install them at various points, especially the basking spot, colder side, and in the middle of the tank. Place them near the surface and not closer to the heat source. If digital, their probe shouldn’t touch anything as this will influence the reading obtained.
- Hygrometer – Similarly, place hygrometers at various spots to help record relative humidity. You need to ensure there are no spots with high humidity.
- Thermostat setup – Connect your heating device via a thermostat to help regulate temperature if you don’t use ballasted heat lamps.
- Reptile timers – All heat going to the UV light bulbs and daytime heat bulbs should go via a timer to help in switching them on and off. All powerlines going to your various terrarium devices should go through your timer.
For the night bulb, you will need to set it in such a way that it comes on at night and goes off during the day.
Step 8: Test for up to a week
Test to ensure the setup works as intended for the few days to a week. Having an infrared gun thermometer will help measure temperature on various spots more easily. Only bring your beardie once the habitat conditions stabilize.
Cheap but cool setup tricks and ideas
To have a cool but cheap bearded dragon tank opt for DIY tanks, substrate, hides, basking spots, among others. In DIYs, the only limit you have is your skill sets and creativity. If you are creative enough, you should end up with something looking ultimately impressive without spending so much money.
However, as you strive to make a saving, don’t compromise on essential supplies, which include heat lamps, UV light, correct tank size, measuring, and monitoring equipment to avoid health issues.
Introduce your bearded dragon
Once you have verified that the terrarium conditions are stable, get your reptile carrier like the Exo Terra Faunarium Flat Home and bring your beardie home. Set your car temperature at optimum and drive straight home to minimize stress.
Once you arrive, introduce your bearded dragon to his new home and leave him alone to familiarize himself with his new home. During the first one or two weeks, minimize handling in the first two weeks.
Finally, don’t forget to feed him, replace his drinking water, keep his enclosure clean, continually monitor terrarium temperature and humidity. Also, ensure he is eating, active, and healthy-looking.
Care and more
With all the necessary supplies and the right setup, the next things you need to familiarize yourself with include the following:
- Buying and bring home your bearded dragon
- Feeding baby, juvenile and adult beardies
- Care and handling
- Signs of illness