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Light & Heat – Beardies
Lighting and Heat Requirements for Bearded Dragons
by Elizabeth Semple – Port Credit Pets
Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps), are one of the most popular and common lizard pets in the reptile enthusiast community. Most often chosen as a “starter reptile”, the endearing personality and wide range of colour/pattern “morphs” make the “beardie” one of the most common “exotic” pets available in pet stores and from hobbyist breeders. Despite its popularity and friendly nature, bearded dragons have specific lighting and heating requirements that keepers must be aware of to keep your pet lizard healthy. Please read on to learn more about what you need to do to maintain the health of your beardie.
By far, the most effective way to heat your bearded dragon enclosure and simultaneously provide the basking spot your dragon needs to warm itself is by using a “basking light”. A bearded dragon’s basking light wattage should be chosen to allow your animal a temperature of 105-110 degrees F (40.5-43.3 degrees C). This might take some trial and error to find the best wattage to obtain optimal temperatures. Temperature readings should be measured on the surface of the highest basking spot (closest to the light) via a digital thermometer with a probe (probe sitting on the basking surface) or by a temperature gun. Temperatures can be adjusted by moving either the light or the basking spot or by reducing the wattage of the bulb. The basking light should be placed at one end of the terrarium so a temperature gradient is established, meaning the hottest spot is on one end, and the coolest spot on the opposite side.
Besides heat, your beardie’s basking light should provide an adequate amount of bright while light to illuminate your terrarium. Bearded dragons are diurnal (awake and active during daylight hours) so they need bright light to be active and stimulate natural behaviours like feeding and basking.
UVB Light (Artificial Sunlight)
As mentioned previously, bearded dragons are diurnal animals requiring bright light during daylight hours. A key component of this bright light must be a source of UVB lighting. UVB is the light wavelength that triggers vitamin D synthesis in exposed skin. Without vitamin D synthesis, calcium cannot be absorbed in the bodies of reptiles and other animals, including us. So, in order to provide bearded dragons (and other diurnal reptiles) with essential UVB rays we must provide beardies with a UVB producing light source. There are four product options on the market right now: a linear fluorescent bulb, a compact fluorescent, mercury vapour bulb and metal halide bulb.
Florescent UVB bulbs, both linear and compact are light-emitting bulbs only, whereas mercury vapour and metal halide bulbs emit both light and heat. Therefore, the mercury vapour and metal halide bulbs can be considered a “2 in 1” bulb providing both heat and UVB. Most pet stores carry at least fluorescent UVB bulbs, however Port Credit Pets carry a full line of all four bulb types.
Linear fluorescent bulbs should span the length of the enclosure, while the compact fluorescent bulbs should be placed on the hot side of the enclosure alongside the basking light.