If you are new to the bearded dragon world, setting up the terrarium for your new family member can seem like a daunting task. The bearded dragon set up is not that difficult if you follow a few simple steps.
There are primarily five steps for basic terrarium set up that should be followed. After these are met you can add items to the terrarium to suit your taste and specific needs as you build more experience and confidence caring for your bearded dragon.
Here are five simple steps for basic bearded dragon terrarium set up.
Step 1: Select a Terrarium
The first thing you should provide for your bearded dragon is a home. We commonly call this the terrarium, the enclosure, or the habitat. All of these mean basically the same thing – your bearded dragon’s house.
Bearded dragons are land-based creatures that love to roam from place to place in the wild.
They do not require much vertical space, but do enjoy climbing up onto rocks and other perches to bask.
Knowing this means we need to provide a home that has plenty of floor space so the bearded dragon can easily and freely move about.
Adult bearded dragons can reach lengths up to two feet including the tail, so a terrarium that is about three times this length is ideal. Baby and juvenile bearded dragons can comfortably live in an enclosure that is smaller, but you will need to upgrade the enclosure as the bearded dragon ages and grows.
The Zoo Med ReptiHabitat Bearded Dragon Kit is a great starter kit for the beginner parent. It comes with everything you’ll need to get your terrarium from the start.
Read more about Selecting the Best Bearded Dragon Enclosure.
Step 2: Provide Heating & Lighting Elements
You will need to supply your new bearded dragon with ample heat in order to ensure good health. Bearded dragons are desert-dwelling animals. They come from areas with high temperatures, and these temperatures will need to be replicated in their captive environment.
Bearded dragons love to bask out in the sun in the wild. Reproduce this behavior by supplying a basking perch underneath a basking bulb. There are specialized bulbs which provide radiant heat for basking reptiles.
Bearded dragons also need full-spectrum lighting from the sun in order to synthesis calcium for strong bones. You can supply the proper UVA and UVB radiation by using specialized fluorescent bulbs made especially for reptiles.
Both heating and lighting bulbs need to be housed in fixtures made for these particular bulbs.
Read more about Full-Spectrum Lighting Requirements of Bearded Dragons and Proper Temperatures for a Bearded Dragon.
Step 3: Add Substrate & Decor
You wouldn’t want your bearded dragon to live on a bare glass floor, so you need to add some type of substrate. The best substrate depends on your experience level and budget. A substrate we highly recommend for beginners is Reptile Cage Carpet or newspaper.
Cage Carpet is relatively inexpensive and easy to clean. Newspaper is even more inexpensive, easy to clean, and very safe to use, but should be replaced once a day.
Try to avoid using the sand type substrates for baby and juvenile bearded dragons. Loose particle substrates can lead to digestive blockages (called impaction) when swallowed. Impaction is a common culprit of death with pet bearded dragons.
Make sure to add a basking perch that is large enough for your bearded dragon to climb on and is stable. You don’t want the perch to fall over causing injury. Pieces of driftwood, grape vine, and rocks provide very good basking perches.
Avoid using live plants as bearded dragons will eat them. It’s best to use fake plants for decor.
Also, provide your bearded dragon with an ample hide box. Stress may occur if left out in the wide open all the time. Bearded dragons need a place to hide during times when they feel unsafe.
Read more about Plants and Decor for a Bearded Dragon Terrarium.
Step 4: Provide Adequate Food & Water Bowls
You will need to supply adequate food and water bowls for feeding your bearded dragon. It’s best to use shallow bowls so baby bearded dragons can see and reach the food, and to prevent any drowning accidents with water bowls.
There are some very attractive bowls you can use at most pet stores, but any shallow bowl will work just fine.
You want to locate the food and water bowls away from the basking area of the terrarium to prevent the food from spoiling quickly.
For more information on the best foods to provide, please read The Best Foods for a Bearded Dragon.
Step 5: Monitor Conditions
You will need to continually monitor the conditions within the terrarium a couple times per day. This means checking the temperatures in the basking area and cool area to make sure they are not too low or too high.
Attach high quality terrarium thermometers on each side of the terrarium – one in the basking zone and one in the cool zone.
You should also monitor humidity levels within the terrarium. There are some digital and analog thermometers that come with hygrometers for checking both temperatures and humidity.
Make sure to check water levels throughout the day and add fresh, dechlorinated water if needed. Be sure to clean up any fecal matter and left over food particles after each meal.
Bearded Dragon Terrarium Set Up Made Simple
A bearded dragon terrarium set up is not difficult when following the proper steps. When getting a new bearded dragon it is best to have the terrarium completely set up and fully operational a week or two before bringing it home for the first time. This allows you to adjust temperatures and lighting so it it just right when you introduce your new family member to its home.
This will help reduce stress during the acclimation period.
Make sure you provide a comfortable home for your bearded dragon, supply the best foods, interact a little each day, and get regular check-ups from a qualified reptile veterinarian. These steps will go a long way towards your bearded dragon having a long, healthy life.
Tayla Neil says
Does anyone know how to get the humitidy down from 80 it just got high and i cant get it down
Steven G Fisher says
A fan blowing near by does it for mine. Not close but just to move the air. Mine never goes over 40.
This is my first time I’m getting a breaded dragon. I want to know how to set up my tank to what a breaded dragon like.
Hi Betsy! I’m so excited for you getting your first beardie! I was ecstatic when we purchased our little “Roshi”, and I Know you will love having one too!
Now, as far as actual setup; Roshi seems to be quite content with the set up we have designed for him in his home (a 10 gallon terrarium with mesh cover at this time, he is a baby and this is a good size for them). He has a long UV lamp that is the full length of his home which lays across the back side of the cover. Then, he has a basking lamp positioned over his rock/cave on the right side of his home where he likes to spend most of his time, and he has a night lamp with a blue night bulb on the left side of his home (these two lamps are never turned on at once so he always has a cool zone to escape to if he gets too warm basking). He has a fake plant that is kind of centered toward the back of his home, a little closer to the cool zone than the basking zone, he will rest underneath the plant if he just wants to chill or sometimes he will jump to the top of his plant and bask in the UV for a little while (so cute cause he raises his head and closes his eyes looking so content). On the cool side of his home is where we have his food and water set up so it doesn’t dry out under the heat of his basking lamp. He seems to really like this layout and gets grumpy if I try to switch it up. I tried once and instead of pooping in his usual spot he decided to poop all over his home – yes he has picked a spot that he normally poops but goes everywhere if he gets cranky lol.
On a side note, we were able to purchase all our supplies from our local Petco, and even though we already had a couple aquariums in our house we decided to purchase the Zilla desert lizard/bearded dragon kit. It came with most of the basics needed for a beardie’s care and actually helped us save money when purchasing supplies because of that. If you haven’t purchased supplies yet I highly recommend this as a starter. Then you can purchase anything included in the kit separately obviously lol.
I really hope all this helps you with your new beardie! Congrats on your new little friend and good luck! 🙂
Is tile good in place of a different substrate for an adult beardie?
about 10-12 years
Steven G Fisher says
Issue with tile is keeping clean.Tiles are porous and will eventually stain with feces. Peel n stick fake tile is better.
How long do they live for?
It depends on how you treat and take care of your dragon. Mine lived for about 17 years.
Currently my beardy is in a medium size fish tank. I want to build him a larger tank for adequate running & exercise. Is it better to build vertical or horizontal? Thank you
Janalle Kellie says
From the miscellaneous books I’ve read, horizontal
Michael W Oaks says
My beardie is an older one but my question is can a dragon eat non suger oats that comes in s bag/ cearial and if so how many is enough. I also noticed someone mentioned that they can eat earthworms. Is this OK as wett?
Steven G Fisher says
I’ve never heard of that and would never feed it to mine. Adult Dragons need about 80% veggie diet.Mine love their greens,crickets too and blueberrys now and then also.
Hello guys! Ima get a beardie soon and i’m quite questionable so as a baby would you say 30-40 crickets a day is not enough or too much? Now Ima also look into a 10 gallon with a Florescent bulb and a basking bulb and maybe some toilet paper on bottom with food and water bowls would that be fine for my beardie if not then tell me how i could improve this!! 🙂
The beardie a diet is definitely not 80% vegetables and 20% vegetables. Your bearded dragons Diet should consist of 80% protein and 20% vegetable. Also it is a great idea to look into a calcium supplement as this helps them with shedding and just a really good supplement for them to have when I first got my bearded dragon I noticed he was having a hard time sharing and he would get flustered.. I felt so bad I could see his old peel coming off he looked so uncomfortable and I knew I couldn’t help him so I would just put my hand in there and he would scratch his back on my fingers I felt so bad for him and as soon as I added calcium to his diet the difference was incredible. His next shed was so much easier as he was under six months the sheds were more sporadic and not full body sheds. He will shed his tail then his head down his back and I noticed the main spots that he was having a problem with was around His eyes and mouth which is a problematic area in most beardies.. I did so much research as I had it owned I’ll be at a dragon on my own I had one when I was younger and my mother had done most of the husband Drake and husband Jay such a big part of your dragons well-being if they don’t I have the correct basking area times and cool area times you can notice a big difference so once you get that set you’ll be OK good luck with your new bearded dragon they’re fun little guys I did a lot of watching of my bearded dragon also so if I would change something up I would sit and watch him for about 15 minutes and see how he would react.If he didn’t like something-he would Glass surf, then I would move things back to how they were it was trial and error. I noticed when he was younger he like to I have smaller perching areas because he couldn’t jump up on his rock as easy as he does now so now he has a new favorite basking area which is lower so then I would have to adjust the height of the lamp because the lamp is supposed to be about 6 inches to 12 inches from the basking spot so he wouldn’t get burnt.now that he’s about 6 months he likes to have the little small fake plants that go in aquariums he uses them to get his peel off, as when he was younger his terrarium was empty just a basking rock, food & water bowl, & a perch on the cool side. At about 4 1/2 five months I put a hammock on the front side of the cage under his UV lamp with his basking rock behind that and he goes back and forth. I Recommend the bamboo hammock that also helped with his peel. Giving a dragon playtime in the tub is also a fun little thing to do I bought cute drink coolers and he uses those in the tub to kind of get out of the water. At the first he wasn’t to fond of it but now he enjoys it. I’ll catch him just laying out in his water bowl with his feet sprawled out kind of just chilling out so then I’ll know that he wants to go in the tub and then he’ll relax in the tub and when he wants to get out he comes over to my hand and climbs up my arm LOL he’s a funny little guy I wish you the best of luck enjoy
Kris Dowson says
are there any other insects that last longer and are cheaper? I have a 3 months old bearded dragon. Thank you