Welcome To Part 3 of the Bearded Dragon Care Sheet: Bearded Dragon Lighting Requirements!
We know that bearded dragons come from the hot desert areas of the Australian outback. Because of this, bearded dragons receive UVA and UVB radiation naturally from the sun. Radiation is essential for the health of the bearded dragon, so it is important to understand bearded dragon lighting requirements.
- Learn to supply adequate lighting for bearded dragons
- Determine the differences between the different lighting bulbs for bearded dragon
- Discover the proper placement of lighting bulbs for maximum effectiveness
- Learn how to use light cycles to replicate natural lighting
Since bearded dragons need this radiation from the sun, we must replicate it when kept indoors. The best way to reproduce these rays is by specialized, full-spectrum lighting supplied by fluorescent and mercury vapor light bulbs. These full-spectrum bulbs are readily available at most pet stores.
It is important that your pet receives at least 10 to 12 hours of exposure to the lighting each day. Failure to provide UV radiation can lead to health issues including mental problems, loss of appetite, and metabolic bone disease.
Make sure the bulb you choose offers at least five to seven percent UVA and UVB radiation.
Next we will go over each type of bulb and how to select the best bulbs for your specific needs.
Keys To Success
- UVA radiation helps your bearded dragon to remain healthy, stimulated, and maintain a healthy appetite
- UVB radiation gives the bearded dragon the ability to metabolize vitamin D3 and calcium
- You should use a fluorescent bulb that is at least 80% the length of the enclosure
- Always read and follow the bulb manufacturer’s recommendations for proper bulb placement for your specific model and brand of bulb
- During the summer months you should provide your bearded dragon with a minimum of 14 – 16 hours of daytime light and UV exposure and 8 – 10 hours of nighttime exposure
- During the winter months the light cycle should be decreased to 10 – 12 hours of daytime light and UV exposure and 12 – 14 hours of nighttime exposure
Full-spectrum bulbs are a necessity for supplying UV radiation for bearded dragons. Many enthusiasts use linear fluorescent bulbs to supply UV radiation. Do not use just any ordinary fluorescent bulb, always use bulbs manufactured especially for desert-dwelling reptiles.
These bulbs come in lengths ranging from 15 inches to 48 inches in length. The length you need will depends on the length of the enclosure.
For instance, if the enclosure is 60 inches long the shortest bulb you should use is 48 inches in length. If the enclosure is greater than 60 inches long then you will need to use two or more bulbs to supply enough UV radiation over the length of the enclosure.
House fluorescent tube bulbs in a hood or ballast specifically designed for use with reptile bulbs. Replace bulbs every 6 months to provide optimum radiation output.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
In recent years compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) have gained popularity in the reptile husbandry world. These are the “curly” or mini fluorescent bulbs.
These bulbs offer good radiation benefits while consuming less power to operate. House CFL bulbs in a dome-style light fixture.
There has been some debate within the reptile-keeping community over the safety of these bulbs. There have been instances where the bulb has caused some reptiles to suffer from burned eyes leading to cases of blindness in the pet.
As we mentioned, this has been highly debated. Some users have experienced no detrimental effects from the bulbs, while others swear against their use.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
A preferred lighting option for many bearded dragon owners and breeders is the Mercury Vapor bulb. These bulbs provide adequate amounts of both UVA and UVB rays and also provide heat.
Mercury Vapor bulbs are more costly than fluorescent bulbs, but tend to last much longer. The downside to Mercury Vapor is they provide heat and UVB radiation in a relatively small area directly under the bulb. Fluorescent tubes provide radiation over a longer area, but provide little heat.
So, if you use a Mercury Vapor bulb in the basking area the bearded dragon will receive adequate radiation and heat while basking. If it moves to another area of the enclosure it will not receive radiation until it moves back under the MV bulb.
If you use a fluorescent tube that covers the entire length of the enclosure the bearded dragon will receive adequate radiation throughout the entire enclosure.
Proper Placement of Lighting Bulbs
Once you select the best lighting bulb for your enclosure, it is time to determine the placement of the bulb. Light placement is critical because if the bulb is too far away the bearded dragon may not receive enough radiation or heat.
Mount fluorescent bulbs in a hood or ballast designed for reptile use. Place the fixture no more than 12 inches from the floor of the enclosure. Placing these bulbs farther away than 12 inches greatly reduces the effectiveness of the bulb. If the terrarium height is greater than 12 inches add extra substrate or basking decor to decrease the distance to the bulb.
Place Mercury Vapor bulbs no higher than 20 inches from the floor of the terrarium for full effectiveness. Place Mercury Vapor bulbs at one end of the enclosure to replicate a basking area.
Which ever lighting you decide to use it is important to keep them on an appropriate light cycle each day. Our lives are generally dictated by the rising and setting of the sun, the same is true for bearded dragons. It is very important to replicate day and night within the enclosure.
The exact amounts of daytime light and nighttime exposure can vary. However, the bearded dragon should always receive a minimum of 10 – 12 hours of UV exposure per day. The best practice to accomplish correct light cycles is to use a timer. The timer will switch the lights off and on at the specified times throughout the day, automating consistent light cycles.
Next, we discuss the topic of heating your bearded dragon’s enclosure.