Bearded Dragon Lighting (The Complete Setup Guide)

Knowing how to set up your Bearded Dragon’s lighting can seem complicated, and getting it wrong can be harmful, but once you know, it’s actually straightforward.

This article will help you understand why Bearded Dragons need UVA and UVB exposure and where to place these bulbs correctly within the terrarium.

Ideal Setup Overview

Bearded Dragons are from semi-arid areas of Australia. Meaning their natural climate is warm and dry. 

They’ll spend most of their time basking in the sun on a rock. The sun provides UVA and UVB rays. These benefit the health of a beardie by aiding in digestion and vitamin D3 synthesis.

Your Bearded Dragon requires 12-14 hours of UVB exposure a day because of this, you’ll not need a UVB light during the night.

Different Lights Required To Create Natural Habitat

There are two bulbs you’ll need for your ideal setup;

  • UVA light
  • UVB light

Temperature Gradient

Bearded Dragons require a temperature gradient to help regulate their temperature throughout the day. In the wild, they’ll hide under a rock to cool off. We’re going to replicate this with the positioning of our lighting within the tank.

I will now discuss this in more detail below.

Understanding Bearded Dragon Lighting

Bearded dragons require two types of light: Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). Both are essential for a healthy bearded dragon and here is why:

Ultraviolet A

UVA rays provide;

  • Provides heat
  • Stimulates appetite
  • Assists with sleeping
  • Assists with mating
  • Allows them to see clearly

Fun Fact: Any light bulb that provides heat emits UVA exposure

Ultraviolet B

UVB rays provide;

  • Vitamin D3 synthesis
  • Encourages healthy growth development

How To Achieve UVA Lighting (Basking Light)

We achieve UVA light exposure by using what is known as basking light. The basking light replicates the heat and nutrients a Bearded Dragon would receive from the sun in the wild. 

Your beardie will spend most of their time underneath the basking bulb, it’ll help their digestion and mobility.

Types Of Basking Bulbs

  • Halogen
  • Incandescent
  • Mercury Vapor
  • Ceramic

You’ll want to place the basking bulb on the same side as your UVB light. 

Remember to monitor the temperatures of the tank to ensure you’re reaching the correct temperatures throughout the terrarium.

Replacing your basking bulb depends on the bulb you use. Read the manufacturer label for advice on changing these bulbs.

UVB Lighting

The use of UVB bulbs is the most important part of setting up your beardies habitat. Without this key component, the risk of health concerns greatly increases.

Bearded Dragons need UVB to synthesize the vitamin D3 production in their skin. Vitamin D3 metabolizes calcium which encourages healthy growth.

Complications with their diet can occur when your Bearded Dragon has no UVB exposure, leading to health concerns such as metabolic bone disease.

Types Of UVB Bulbs

  • Linear Fluorescent 
  • Compact Fluorescent
  • Halogen
  • Mercury Vapor
  • Incandescent

You’ll want to choose a bulb that covers ⅔ of the tank. This allows your beardie to sit wherever it likes in the tank and absorb those vital UVB rays. 

You’ll want to place your UVB light on one side of your tank as shown in the graphic leaving ⅓ of the tank uncovered. 

The UVB ray output will weaken over time. You’ll need to replace your bulb every 6-12 months. Remember to check the manufacturing label of your chosen UVB bulb for the best advice on when to replace it.

The Cool Side

The cool side of the tank is where you’ll put no lights or heat bulbs. The purpose of this is because Bearded Dragons are ectotherms and are unable to regulate their own body temperature. Providing this area gives them the opportunity to cool off.

Achieving the cool spot is done by the placement of your UVB and basking bulbs on the other side of the tank.

This creates something known as a temperature gradient. This allows your Bearded Dragon to adjust their temperature by just moving their positioning in the tank, to allow it to either heat up or cool off as required.

Bearded Dragon Temperature Gradient Graph

Do I Need a Night Light?

I don’t recommend the use of a night light. Your beardie doesn’t require light at night. These will interrupt its schedule and could result in illness.

The only thing your Bearded Dragon requires during the night is heat. As long as your temperatures do not drop below 70°F then you won’t need to provide anything.

If the terrarium loses heat overnight, I recommend using ceramic heat emitters (CHE). These keep the tank warm without disturbing your beardies sleep.

It’s recommended to put the CHE in the middle, more towards the basking area. This is so it doesn’t disrupt the heat gradient already in place.

How To Check If The Setup Is Correct?

After all the hard work you’ve put into setting up the terrarium, you’ll want to check that you’ve managed to get the temperature gradient correct. 

You can do this by using temperature and humidity gauges to ensure you’re getting the right temperatures.

What if My Tank Is Too Hot?

If your tank is showing temperatures too high for your Bearded Dragon, you’ll either need to change the bulbs to ones with less wattage.

Option two, depending on the type of tank you’re using you can raise your bulbs higher with extension clips or different mesh roofing.

What If My Tank Is Too Cold?

Having a tank too cold is fixed by changing the bulbs you have to ones with higher wattage output.

I wouldn’t recommend moving the bulbs lower as this won’t heat up the tank, it’ll only cause potential burns to your beardie.

Summary

To supply your Bearded Dragon with the optimal lighting set up remember;

  • A UVB light is required for vitamin D3 synthesis
  • Basking light (UVA) is needed to supply heat
  • CHE is only required at night if temperatures drop below 70°F
  • No light is needed on the cool side
  • No light is needed overnight to prevent interrupting the sleep schedule