Just like humans, bearded dragons receive ultraviolet (or UV) radiation from the sun which is needed to maintain good health. With keeping bearded dragons as pets we need to supply artificial UV radiation by the way of specially designed light bulbs.
Let’s go over the best lighting for a bearded dragon available today.
Fluorescent Tube Bulbs
Fluorescent bulbs are the most widely used bulbs on the market today. These bulbs are relatively inexpensive, energy-efficient, and provide the proper wavelengths of UV rays to accommodate bearded dragons.
Not just any fluorescent tube will do, you need to use bulbs that are specifically designed and manufactured for reptiles. Regular household fluorescent tubes do not have the UV output needed to benefit a captive-raised reptile.
We highly recommend two fluorescent tube bulbs that provide adequate UV radiation:
Select a fluorescent size that best fits your terrarium. You want the bulb to extend across as much of the full length of the terrarium as possible.
There are some cons to using this style lighting:
- The bulbs usually need to be placed within twelve inches of the bearded dragon so that it receives sufficient radiation.
- The bulbs can become weaker over time requiring frequent replacement. The general rule of thumb is to replace fluorescent tubes every 6 months.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
The one exception is that the bulbs needed for reptiles has a much higher intensity and UV output over regular household types.
One advantage to using compact fluorescents is that they are much smaller in size and do not require a long ballast hood like fluorescent tubes. Compact fluorescents can be placed in a dome fixture which helps to save space and money in the long term.
Like tube bulbs, compact bulbs should be replaced every six months. The compacts do have a longer life, but still tend to lose intensity and output as they age.
If you decide a compact fluorescent is right for you, we recommend the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Desert Compact Fluorescent and the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 Mini Compact Fluorescent for use with your bearded dragon.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
Mercury vapor bulbs are typically the “go-to” lighting solution for most serious bearded dragon owners and breeders. Mercury vapor bulbs produce excellent UV radiation and also supply heat, eliminating the need for several bulbs.
Mercury vapor bulbs are very efficient for supplying UVB and UVA rays and tend to last much longer than fluorescents. Most mercury vapor bulbs do not need replacing for about a year, and do not lose output strength as quickly as fluorescent types.
Here are just a few benefits of using mercury vapor:
- Mercury vapor bulbs have better long-term radiation output resulting in less frequent replacements
- Mercury vapor provides excellent radiation and heat, eliminating the need for multiple different bulbs
- Mercury vapor bulbs can be placed a little further away from the bearded dragon due to the higher overall output
The downside to using mercury vapor is the cost. These bulbs generally cost about double what many fluorescents do, but the benefits outweigh the cost.
Always provide Excellent Lighting for Your Bearded Dragon
It is important to always provide the best lighting for a bearded dragon on a daily light cycle. Using poor lighting and not maintaining the bulbs can have very serious health consequences, resulting in loss of appetite, Metabolic Bone Disease and even death.
For more information on lighting for your bearded dragon, please read Full-Spectrum Lighting for a Bearded Dragon, or the lighting page of our Bearded Dragon Care Sheet – Bearded Dragon Lighting Requirements.