Complete Guide to Bearded Dragon Lighting and Heating Setup (2023)

In this complete bearded dragon heating and lighting guide, you will find all about best UVB and basking bulbs, wattages, setup, essentials, lighiting and heating schedules. You will also learn what to get and how to setup lighting and heating yourself, how much lighting will cost and much more.

Is lighting important for bearded dragons?

Lighting is very important for bearded dragons, and thy need both UVA and UVB spectrum light to stay healthy. UVB light is crucial for making vitamin D in bearded dragon’s skin to metabolize calcium.

UVA spectrum light is important for good vision and to promote healthy behaviors and breeding interest. Even with UVB lights, you still need to remember about providing your bearded dragon with calcium and vitamin D3 (read our post about supplementation here).

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How long should bearded dragon lights be on?

The lights should be on for around 12-14 hours a day when bearded dragons are active (excluding brumation). There should be at least 10 hours of darkness in bearded dragon’s terrarium.

During brumation, the lights should be on for only 8-10 hours a day.

Which source of light does my bearded dragon need?

Your bearded dragon can benefit from both natural unfiltered sunlight or artificial light. While natural sunlight is better, not many people live in countries/states with sunny weather all year round.

But even how the natural sunlight hits the terrarium has the difference. It is hard to provide the bearded dragon with shaded area when sun rays are hitting the terrarium. This makes it hard to create a temperature gradient – as the temperature is increasing in all parts of the vivarium.

Also, sun rays traveling through the glass get filtered by about 50%, so bearded dragons will not benefit from filtered light.

The best idea is to take your bearded dragon outside in summer for basking (using a harness or outdoor cage/pen). Unfiltered sunlight is what bearded dragons need.

But for permanent light source, you will need to use artificial lights. Artificial lights emitting both UVA and UVB light are successfully used by most reptile owners to create optimal light sources.

Only choose light bulbs or fixtures for reptiles, as plant lights don’t produce UVB! Don’t choose just any full spectrum lights, such as ones for ponds or aquaria. Some lights can also emit UVC spectrum light which is very bad for your bearded dragon’s eyes.

What temperatures do bearded dragons need?

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During the day, the hot side of the terrarium under the bulbs should be between 92-110 degrees Fahrenheit (33-43 Celsius). The cool side of the terrarium should have a temperature range between 75-85 F (23.8-29 Celsius).

So, basking temperatures for hatchlings and juveniles can be slightly higher than for adults, and can be as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius). With age, dragons might prefer slightly lower temperatures.

Make sure to create a temperature gradient.

Ideal bearded dragon temperature at night

At night, temperature should be lower, around 65 F (18.3 Celsius) and not higher. If temperatures get lower than 65 F (18.3 Celsius), you can use additional heating to raise temperatures:

  • A ceramic heat emitting bulb (CHE) like this – the best choice for extra heat only
  • An under tank heater – not the best choice, as can burn your dragon
  • Don’t use any colored bulbs (red, blue moonlight, black), because bearded dragons can see light and it will disrupt their sleep

The best choice is a CHE. Most CHE that you will find will be 75-150 watts, and they get very hot. If you need to raise the temperature in your dragon’s tank at night by just a little, then you shouldn’t get a high wattage CHE. Choose a maximum 20-40 watt mini CHE like this instead.

Best bulbs for bearded dragons

Best UVB lights for bearded dragons

Bearded dragons require high UVB lights – either 10.0 or 12.0 UVB. It should also be a HIGH OUTPUT (HO) light. This full-spectrum light should be only for reptiles and in a tube form! Choose T5 over T8.

UVB tube should cover 50-66% of the tank’s length and not less. Fix at 12″ (30cm) for T5, and 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) for T8, above your dragon. Place near a basking light so your dragon can get UVB when basking.

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Not the best UVB light choices:

  • T8 tube UVB light – not as strong as T5
  • Compacts UVB light – not powerful enough for larger tanks
  • Coiled – please do not buy
  • Full-spectrum lights for plants – don’t buy, they don’t emit UVB!
  • Cheap bulbs – can be too powerful or not produce enough UVB!

Best basking lights for bearded dragons:

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  • Ceramic heat emitting bulb like this – best for night time heating
  • Halogen flood lights like this – choose bright light
  • Household lights
  • Mercury vapor – can get very hot in smaller tanks, cannot be used at night because emits UVB. Don’t use mercury vapor lamp in terrariums less than 40 gallons.
  • Reptile white basking bulb – make sure they don’t burn out quickly.

Bad basking light options for bearded dragons:

  • Reptile white spotlight – can burn out quickly
  • Moonlight bulbs – produce colors
  • Black, red or other colored bulbs – produce color and disturb sleep.
  • An under tank heater – bearded dragons can’t tell how hot the floor is and can easily overheat. They rely on heat and light overhead.
  • Hot rocks – high chance of burns and poor heat distribution.
  • ‘Soft white’ bulb – make sure it’s bright white light instead or it will be too bright.

Bearded dragon light and heat setup

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  1. Get a UVB Light – a full-spectrum 10.0 HO tube that runs the 50-66% of the enclosure. Measure the tank’s length and get the suitable length tube.
  2. To house the UVB tube, you will need a hood. When buying a hood, note the size. For example, this Zoo Med 36 inch hood will fit a 34 inch T5 fixture. 24″ hood should fit a 22″ ReptiSun tube.
  3. Get a basking light. Choose one from the option above. Mount near a UVB tube so your dragon can get UVB when basking. Make sure that the basking light produces a bright white light, as it will mimic the sun and encourage basking.
  4. House a basking light in a dome fixture like this. If you need to house 2 bulbs, get a dual dome with ceramic sockets, that can handle up to 100w bulbs (each).
  5. You can also get a light stand like this to accommodate bulbs in their domes, above the screen top.
  6. Get a thermostat like this and connect heating devices to it, to control the temperatures.
  7. The best way to automate the lights in the tank is to get a timer or a power center like this. This way you won’t need to turn lights on and off manually. The Zilla power center features a 24/7 timer and 8 outlets – 4 for constant power, and 4 for alternating setups.
  8. Get 2 thermometers – one for hot spot and one for cool spot. Choose digital thermometers with probes like this. Put the probe on a basking spot and in a cool spot where your dragon lays or hides. It can take up to an hour for a probe to get a reading.
  9. For accurate temperature readings, you will benefit from an infrared handheld thermometer like this. You will be able to get a temperature reading, by pointing at specific spot. Make sure to hold it 1.5-2 inches (around 4-5 cm) away from the spot when checking temps.
  10. Humidity gauge – often comes with a thermometer.
  11. To mount UVB hood to the top of the tank, you can use heavy duty Velcro tape like this or other hooks.

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How much does bearded dragon lighting cost?

It will cost around $20-40$ for a UVB light tube, then $20-$40 for a fixture.

A basking light will cost around $10-$15, a dome will cost around $20-30.

2 thermometers with probes and humidity gauges – around $20.

An infrared handheld thermometer – $20-$40.

Thermomstat can cost around $10-20.

Timer and surge protector – up to $40-50.

An optional light stand – around $30.

Heavy duty Velcro or other hooks – around $20.

The approximate total cost for bearded dragon’s lighting and heating – $250-300. You will only then need to replace UVB and basking bulbs every 6 months.

How much does a bearded dragon cost in electricity?

Regarding on how much bearded dragon costs in electricity, it would be hardly anything – up to $5-$10/month.

What wattage bulb for a bearded dragon’s cage?

Which wattage bulb you will need for your bearded dragon’s tank will greatly depend on many factors. The best way to achieve ideal temperatures in the tank is to try out some variants. A lot of trial and error might be needed before you get there.

For example, with a 40 gallon breeder tank, you might achieve ideal temperatures for your bearded dragon with a 50-60watt halogen flood bulb. If you get an energy saving bulb, you might need higher wattage because it won’t produce much heat.

For a general household or reptile basking light, you would need a 100-150watt bulb to reach ideal basking temperatures.

If you cannot reach optimal temperatures by just a little, you can also choose a mercury vapor bulb of same wattage. They get hotter, so you are likely to reach ideal temperatures.

Light distance in a bearded dragon’s cage

Generally speaking, will have its own ideal distance to be mounted from top, it will depend on bulb wattage, type of the bulb and if it has a reflector.

The distance from the 10.0 HO UVB tube without a reflector to your bearded dragon should be between 12-13 inches (30.5-33cm) if hung inside the tank, with a reflector add another 2-5 inches. If you hang it on top of screen cover, allow around 10 inches (25.5 cm) from your dragon.

T8 can be hung 6-8 inches (15-20cm) away from your dragon – hang it inside the tank.

How to keep a bearded dragon warm without a heat lamp?

In case of an emergency, do not panic and use whatever you can to keep your bearded dragon warm. You can use hot water bottles filled with water, hand warmers, blankets. Also, keeping your bearded dragon close to your body will help it stay warm.

You can read a full guide on caring for your bearded dragon during a power outage in this post.

What is the lowest temperature a bearded dragon can survive?

Bearded dragons have a preferred body temperature of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) and rely fully on external heat to stay warm.

Bearded dragon won’t survive long (maximum few days) with temperatures lower than 50-55 Fahrenheit (10-13 Celsius) during the day. With slightly higher temperatures, it will become mostly inactive and develop complications if it goes on for a long time.

How often to change bearded dragon lights?

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You need to replace spotlights and full spectrum UVB lights every 6 months, as they decline. Replace mercury vapor bulbs every 12-20 months.

You will most probably not notice its quality declining as the bulb/fixture will produce light but not UVB. But low levels of UV exposure will cause vitamin D3/calcium deficiency in your bearded dragon over time.

How to position bearded dragon lights?

Never place the bulbs on the side of the terrarium, as they might harm bearded dragon’s eyes. Always mount lights from above, and never vertically or from the side.

Bearded dragon lighting times and sleep schedule

Bearded dragons are diurnal lizards, so they are active during the day and sleep at night. However, you can slightly change the times when your bearded dragon sleeps by turning lights on/off at specific times.

During the summer, provide 12-14 hours of light & heat, and in winter – around 10 hours. 12-12 hours in summer should work well.

For example, you can have these lighting times for your bearded dragon: 7am-7pm light on and 7pm-7am lights off. If you are more of a night person, you can arrange the sleep schedule to 11am-11pm on and 11am-11pm off.

Some owners even successfully keep the lights on during the night, and turn them off during the day. But in this case, you must ensure that there is no light coming in the room and the tank during the day. It should also not be loud or noisy in the room.

Temperature gradient in a bearded dragon tank

You will need to create a temperature gradient so that your bearded dragon can move from a hot spot to the shade when it needs to.

On one side of the terrarium, place the heating bulbs that will create a basking area (you can use flat platforms, flat rocks or branches for basking areas). Beardies love to flatten themselves for basking.

And on the other side of the terrarium, leave the space for your bearded dragon to cool down with no heating bulbs.

Humidity setup in a bearded dragon’s tank

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After you have set up the lights, it is time to think about the humidity in bearded dragon’s vivarium. Humidity levels are important because bearded dragons live in arid to semi-arid conditions, mostly dry deserts of Australia.

Very humid conditions make bearded dragons sick and make them develop respiratory infections. But in general, semi-dry conditions will not harm your beardie. Check humidity levels in the vivarium with a digital hygrometer for accurate readings.

What is the ideal humidity for bearded dragons?

The humidity range in your bearded dragon’s terrarium should be around 25-40%. Anything above 50% is too high (apart after misting times and spraying).

How to keep humidity down in a bearded dragon tank?

To keep the vivarium dry, you need to think about ventilation. If the vivarium is poorly ventilated, humidity levels will go up. To ensure good ventilation, you need to place an appropriately sized mesh air screen cover.

Don’t use glass or plastic screen covers, as they block the air flow. If you wish to improve the air flow even more, installing a small fan above the terrarium fan can help.

What is more, don’t use large water bowls in the terrarium if you want to decrease the humidity levels or place them near heat lamps – heat will increase water evaporation.

As we have mentioned in previous posts, it is a good idea to mist your bearded dragon few times a week for extra water for it to drink. Misting your bearded dragon also helps with shedding.

When misting, don’t worry too much about humidity levels. To increase humidity levels, use a reptile mister for misting or place an extra water bowl near lights.

Don’t use any substrates that hold in the moisture (read about best substrates here) such as moss or coconut coir – they will increase the humidity and cause mold formation.

But if the humidity in your house is too high, use a dehumidifier to help decrease the humidity levels. Don’t use any foggers or humidifiers for the bearded dragon’s vivarium.

Thank you for reading! If you have any comments, leave them below. In the next post, we will talk about the for your bearded dragon’s vivarium.

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