How to set up a vivarium for bearded dragons

Bearded dragons are great reptiles for beginners due to their docile nature and friendly temperament. You can keep more than one beardie in the same enclosure, but never house two males together because they will fight. Multiple females live peacefully with each other. Prepare your vivarium correctly with an ultraviolet light source, heat gradation and appropriate substrate and you can expect your pet reptiles to be happy and healthy in a stable, safe environment.

Choose an appropriately sized vivarium for your pet dragons. Glass or wooden vivariums are equally suitable and a 120 cm (48 inch) long vivarium is ideal for one or two adult bearded dragons.

Install the ultraviolet light tube and T8 electronic ballast unit. Attach the two lamp clips inside the roof of the vivarium, at the front, 60 cm (24 inches) apart, using the screws provided in the pack. Place the starter unit on top of the vivarium and feed the cables and connectors inside through one of the vents at the back of the vivarium. Secure a connector cup to each end of the UV tube and gently push the tube into the holding clips.

Screw a ceramic lamp holder into a corner and insert a 60 W spotlight bulb to make one end of the vivarium warmer than the other. Bearded dragons require a basking spotlight in addition to a UVA and UVB combination tube. The extra heat helps them digest their food and regulate their core body temperature. The ideal temperature under the basking spot is between 35 and 41 degrees Celsius (95 and 105 Fahrenheit).

Install a ceramic heater or heat mat as an additional heat source and plug the mat or heater into a thermostatic controller. A thermostat prevents overheating by switching the heat source on and off as needed to maintain a constant safe temperature. The ambient vivarium temperature for a bearded dragon must be around 27 to 29.5 degrees Celsius (80 to 85 Fahrenheit), dropping to between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius (65 and 70 Fahrenheit) overnight.

Attach a hygrometer near the centre of the vivarium and a temperature gauge at each end to measure humidity and temperature gradation. Bearded dragons require an extremely arid atmosphere, so aim for a humidity level of around 45 per cent. Calcium sand substrate, reptile carpet or play sand help to keep the air dry. If needed, you can increase humidity by placing a small bowl of water anywhere in the vivarium.

Create a natural environment for your bearded dragon with driftwood, branches and basking rocks. Artificial plants are hygienic and look just as good as the real thing, plus you can disinfect them along with the other decorations when you clean out the vivarium. Monitor humidity and temperature over a day or two; once you are happy that everything is stable, introduce your beardies to their new home.

Things You'll Need

  • Vivarium
  • T8 electronic ballast unit
  • 90 cm (36-inch) combined UVA and UVB 10.0 lamp
  • Ceramic light fitting and guard
  • 60 W spotlight bulb
  • Ceramic heater and guard
  • Thermostatic controller
  • Digital thermometer with probe
  • Hygrometer
  • Substrate
  • Driftwood or thick branches
  • Ornamental plants
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About the Author

Alex Burgess has been a professional writer since 1990, specializing in travel, herpetology, lifestyle, fashion, health and fitness. Her work has appeared in various British newspapers, magazines and international online publications. Burgess studied design before working as a journalist in England.