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.
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.