If you’re here you’re probably a brand new beardie owner or you’re looking to add these awesome pets into your home as the newest part of your family!
Either way – this article will teach you everything you need to know about creating the best habitat for your bearded dragon.
This post is designed to give you an idea of ALL the things you’ll need to create an amazing home for your little lizard friend, but I promise we’ll keep all the items within a very simple and comfortable budget.
Make sure to bookmark this page as you’ll want to come back for any questions you’ll have in the future.
Be sure to check out our complete diet guide if you’re curious about the food your beardie will need!
The Full Bearded Dragon Setup
(image of full bearded dragon set up)
Components Of The Perfect Setup
- Correct Enclosure – either a glass, plastic, or wood tank.
- Substrate or Flooring – non-particle substrate is best.
- Landscape furniture – like a rock and flowers.
- Light source – UVA & UVB lighting
- Thermometers – ideally have 2.
- Water dish – make sure it’s shallow to prevent drowning.
- Background – this keeps your bearded dragon stimulated.
What Your Bearded Dragon Needs In Its Habitat
First thing first – you’ve got to remember that your bearded dragon comes from the Australia deserts. This means they NEED a lot of light – which includes UVA/UVB.
The habitat of Australia is desert landscape and arid woodlands. Native bearded dragons will spend most of their time in bushes and trees away from the heat because they’re searching for food. They’re also known to bask on rocks when they want to heat their body temperature.
Pro Tip – Do not get an all in one bulb. These are not great for your bearded dragon because they need specific UVB light for optimal health. They need to have the proper light because this helps regulate their temperature.
Types Of Bearded Dragon Enclosures
Here’s the deal – there are a lot of options for your bearded dragons cage. The options will range in the material, price, and functionality. We’ve given the pros and cons of each option for your convenience.
The enclosure options quickly include:
Before choosing your next cage you need to have a screen lid to help with air flow and keeping the humidity levels within correct levels.
Each enclosure needs to have individual UVB and UVA lights along with ceramic lighting to properly heat the tank at night.
These are great options because they’ll allow you to view the entire enclosure.
You’ll also find that glass enclosures or terrariums are easy to find, relatively cheap, and will last for many years without much upkeep.
Pros Of Glass Enclosure:
- Easy to find in many areas
- Very durable
- Good for 360 degree viewing
- Screen lid on top allows for great air flow
- Glass enclosure doesn’t hold heat very well
This isn’t your typical bleach white PVC if that’s what you’re thinking! Actually, the PVC plastic cages are often some of the most durable and easy to install.
These cages can also be stacked on top of eachother to blend into your home furniture so make it look natural and light.
Be warned though – PVC enclosures can be relatively expensive. Think hundreds of dollars for a single enclosure depending on the size.
- Lightweight and easily stackable
- Hold heat really well
- Can be customized with variety of colors
- Can be expensive
- Humidity will need to be checked weekly
- Airflow can be a problem if you have an enclosed top
If you have more than 1 beardie in the family I highly recommend you look into a vision cage. These are considered the most professional option within the bearded dragon community.
Vision cages are generally made with only 1 piece of plastic and will often have built in light fixtures. You can also get them custom made if you’re interested.
Typically the cages tend to be really easy for cleaning, which will be great to teach the kiddo’s how to clean, and you’ll find they’ll come with chemical resistance.
Plus, they act like PVC cages which means they’re lightweight and easily stackable!
- Light weight and stackable
- Easy to clean
- Comes with built in light fixtures
- Built specifically for bearded dragons
- Made from only single piece of plastic so you can’t increase size
- Expensive because it’s custom built for bearded dragons
ABS is a type of plastic which is generally used for the production of Legos. It’s another kind of enclosure which many beardie owners will use due to it’s lightweight properties.
We don’t often recommend this kind of material for your bearded dragon because the plastic can be damaged from UV light, causing you to need to replace it every couple years.
We do like them as a beginner enclosure, and only if you’re caring for 1 bearded dragon at a time.
Also, ABS plastic doesn’t contain halogens, which generally means they don’t produce any toxic organic pollutants.
- Lightweight and easily stackable
- Easy to clean as it’s plastic
- Doesn’t hold odors.
- UV light can damage the plastic causing it to crack over time
- Doesn’t produce toxic organic pollutants
- Fairly expensive
We recommend this wood because of the sturdiness and great insulation it provides for your favorite lizard friend!
It’s a great alternative to other types of wood because it will come with a nice laminate coating which makes it very aesthetic.
Melamine is also generally fire retardant and warp proof, making it a great choice for holding a UV light within the enclosure.
Be warned though – these types of enclosures are generally custom made and can get a little expensive, plus they’re often heavy and shouldn’t be stacked together.
- Great insulation for your bearded dragon
- Sturdy and doesn’t warp
- Looks nice with your other home furniture
- Fire retardant – which means you’re okay having a UV light
- Expensive and needs to be custom made
- If the inner portion of the wood gets wet it can get ruined
This is a great option if you’re looking to build a DIY bearded dragon enclosure!
Plywood is lightweight, cheap, and can be custom built to your specifications.
If you’re interested in this, check out our complete DIY guide on building a customer bearded dragon cage.
Be careful though – you need to seal the plywood with nontoxic sealant to stop liquid from getting in, and plywood is flammable so be careful.
- Very cheap and easy to custom build
- Lightweight and can be stacked
- The material is flammable so be careful
- If not sealed correctly, water can hurt the plywood
Bearded Dragon Tank Size
When it comes to determining the tank size for your bearded dragon you need to factor in the age of the beardie.
In general though, you want the bearded dragon to have enough room to maneuver.
Consider these recommendations based on size:
Baby Dragon Tank Habitat
- Baby bearded dragons are under 10 inches within a couple months old
- It’s recommended to have a 20 gallon tank
Juvenile Dragon Tank Habitat
- Juvenile bearded dragons are about 10-16 inches and are about 6 months and older
- It’s recommended you get at least a 40 gallon tank for them to grow into
Adult Dragon Tank Habitat
- Adult bearded dragons are generally over 16 inches and older than a year
- It’s recommended you have a minimum 50 gallon tank.
- We recommend you have a 75 gallon tank though which provides the right kind of size to let your favorite friend openly roam and claim their territory
Bearded Dragon Substrate
Now that you’ve figured out the outside of the enclosure and the tank size, the next most important part for your bearded dragon is the flooring or substrate.
If you want a more detailed article check out our article on the best kind of substrate to use, but for now it’s very important to know that you want the flooring to resemble their natural habitat.
Below we’ve detailed out the differences between solid state substrate and loose particle substrate. In general we highly recommend a solid state substrate because loose particles can possibly be ingested by your beardie leading to impaction.
Trust me… You don’t want an impacted beardie!
Keep reading to learn the differences!
Loose Particle Based Substrates
As you can imagine, loose particle substrate is based on material which is generally small and easily digestible.
These include materials like:
- Wood chips (strongly recommend you avoid as wood is toxic to bearded dragons)
- Walnut shells (DO NOT USE THIS)
- Calcium sand (most brands claim they’re digestible, however we tend to disagree)
- Alfalfa pellets
The reason we highly recommend you avoid loose particle substrates is due to the increased risk of impaction if these materials are digested.
Impaction is when the digestive tract of your bearded dragon becomes blocked, causing them to not successfully pass a bowel movement. Basically, your bearded dragon gets REALLY constipated.
Impaction is the leading cause of death for bearded dragons, and it’s best to create a situation that avoids this costly and emotionally draining experience.
Also – loose particle substrate can often get into the nose and eyes of your beardie causing infections. Loose particle can be difficult to clean too.
We highly recommend you choose a non-particle substrate for the flooring of your bearded dragon enclosure. In general it’s easier to clean, and there’s low risk of the material getting ingested.
Here are some common forms to add as flooring:
- Reptile carpet
- Paper towels
- Non-adhesive linoleum
- Ceramic tile
Pay attention though – if you get carpet your bearded dragons claws can get caught in them and you’ll have to help them get untangled. Your bearded dragon can also slip on ceramic tile, so it’s recommend you find a non-toxic adhesive to provide some grip.
Landscape For Your Bearded Dragon
Now that you’ve got the flooring all set – it’s time to get the furniture added!
Below are our best options for adding the best furniture into your enclosure so your beardie will have great stimulation, keeping them occupied and happy.
1 Large Rock or Branch
This will be the cornerstone to the enclosure, and it’s there to provide them with some way to bask in the UV light. Much like their homeland in Australia.
You want this platform to be large enough to get about 8-10 inches away from their light, which helps with their digestion.
We recommend you add a couple plants to provide color and stimulation. Here’s a great list of safe plants to add!
Remember – bearded dragons are predators AND prey so it’s best to have hiding spots they can sneak into and sleep in. You’ll be able to find these at a variety of online retailers or pet stores.
Here’s our recommended hide.
We would rank a hide as a crucial piece of furniture – mainly because when your beardie goes into brumation they’ll want a place to sleep safely.
This is a little extra piece for your beardie, but we’re adding it because we’ve found that most bearded dragons love hammocks!
You should consider adding this into your landscape mix where you’ll be able to hang it nicely under the UV light, letting your bearded dragon comfortably relax and enjoy the rays.
Plus, these special beardie hammocks are pretty cheap and can be cleaned quickly.
Perfect Temperature For Your Bearded Dragon
Here’s an important point to remember when getting the ideal temperature for your bearded dragons enclosure.
You want both a warm and cool side within the enclosure.
On the warm side – you’ll want the temperature to be between 95-110 degrees fahrenheit.
On the cool side – you’ll want the temperature to be between 70-80 degrees fahrenheit. Don’t let this side get any hotter than 80 degrees!
If the temperature at night gets any lower than 65 degrees you’ll want to add a secondary heat source, like a ceramic heat emitter for constant temperature control.
The above is true for any stage your bearded dragon is at – whether they’re a baby or adult!
We highly recommend you get 2 thermometers for your bearded dragons enclosure to be absolutely certain what the temperatures are.
What Kind Of Light Does Your Bearded Dragon Need?
So now that you know about the perfect temperature, what kind of light source will your bearded dragon need?
Because they’re originally from the deserts of Australia, you need to have light sources that naturally mimic their native habitat. Without proper lighting, your bearded dragon will have digestion problems and could get very sick.
Your entire enclosure needs to be lit with full spectrum UV lighting. This means you’ll need both UVA and UVB light for your bearded dragon.
Pro Tip – When you purchase your bulb, be extra certain it produces UVB light. These are the rays that allow for vitamin D3 absorption.
There are 3 kinds of UV light which you should pay attention to when picking the proper lighting for your beardie:
Reptiles and amphibians need both UVB and UVA light to live healthy lifestyles. These are both types of ultraviolet (and UV) light. Each type of light has a different role to play in keeping your pet happy and healthy. The UV spectrum is broken up into three parts: UVA, UVB and UVC. All three of these types of light are found in natural sunlight.
• UVA light – this light helps with regulating behaviors such as bowl movement, feeding, and sleep health.
• UVB light – this allows for the synthesizing of vitamin D3 and will help your bearded dragon absorb calcium correctly. This lighting source is VERY IMPORTANT.
• UVC light – This is the kind of light that kills bacteria. It’s recommended to have as a sanitizing light, but is not required for your bearded dragon, and too much of it can be harmful to your lizard friend.
If there’s anything you get from this section, please understand that a proper lighting source is the most crucial element of your enclosure. This will determine the health of your bearded dragon.
Water For Your Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are probably one of the few pets you’ll ever have where they won’t need a daily fresh water dish. Actually, most bearded dragons will get the majority of their water from their diet because of their adaption to the desert.
If you feed you beardie with enough greens and some fruit for toppings, you’ll find they get the hydration generally needed. However, you can always mist them with water as they’ll absorb it through their skin.
If you do want to give them water though, make sure to put it into a very shallow dish to avoid potential drowning. We also recommend you only offer water 1 to 2 times a week, and for a couple hours. Consistent water supply can lead to respiratory infections.
Pro Tip – if your beardie isn’t drinking any water, add a little amount of strawberry juice to flavor it up!
Bearded Dragon Background
This is an optional thing to add into your bearded dragons enclosure. By adding a high quality background image into their tank, it will provide great stimulation and will avoid them scratching the glass in their tank, or glass surfing.
They’re pretty cheap, but can really help eliminate your beardies anxiety.
Here are a couple options of tank backgrounds if interested.
That’s everything you’ll need to make the best enclosure for your bearded dragon! The above are the major considerations you should think through when making a home for your new friend.
Remember – if there’s one thing to get right it’s the lighting and temperature. This is the single most important part of keeping your bearded dragon safe and healthy.
Let us know if you have any questions!
Your beardie thanks you.