How to setup a Bearded Dragon Enclosure

One of the most common questions we get asked is how to set up the correct home for a Bearded Dragon. Whilst our Bearded Dragon Care Sheet goes into more depth, this guide is designed to help you create the perfect enclosure for your bearded dragon. The products outlined here will ensure you only purchase the correct equipment from the outset - therefore, you won’t have unexpected costs later on.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to set up a Bearded Dragon enclosure including:

What type and size vivarium do I need?

First things first, when picking a vivarium for your bearded dragon enclosure, the most suitable type is a large wooden vivarium. These are cost-effective, secure and help keep in the heat - crucially they are available in sizes that are large enough for bearded dragons.

The minimum wooden bearded dragon vivarium size you should choose is 120x60x60cm (4’x2’x2’). An even larger vivarium is more suitable, this is recommended from the moment your baby bearded dragon is old enough to be welcomed into his or her new home. Our top selling vivarium for bearded dragons is the Vivexotic Bearded Dragon Vivarium.

At Internet Reptile we do not offer ‘juvenile’ bearded dragon setups as we feel they are just a way of enticing impulse purchases or selling more bearded dragons. The reality is that not only would a smaller vivarium be outgrown in a matter of weeks it is also much harder to correctly install lighting at the correct distances and maintain a suitable thermo-gradient if your vivarium is less than the recommended minimum. Juvenile bearded dragons are generally much more active than adults so whilst they may not ‘need’ the space, they will use every inch of it until they do.

To save you time, we have picked out our most suitable bearded dragon vivariums so you don’t have to.

What type of heating is best for a bearded dragon?

Bearded dragons like it nice and warm, with a basking spot (the hottest area in the vivarium) reaching around 40-42C. This can be achieved by using a good quality bright white reptile spot lamp or halogen lamp - this will replicate the bright sunny spots that dragons would seek out and bask in under natural sunlight in the wild and should always be controlled by a high range dimming thermostat for safety and accuracy.

IMPORTANT: The basking lamp should always be turned off during the night to allow a natural day and night cycle.

It is important to ensure that the basking lamp is installed at one side of the vivarium rather than centrally, this will create a ‘thermogradient’ (i.e. a hot end and a cool end) within the vivarium. Correctly set the ambient (air) temperature at the cooler end of the vivarium should be around 24-26C, this is important to ensure your dragon can seek out the correct temperatures needed at any time.

Night-time or background heating is not usually necessary in most UK homes for most of the year, but in large vivariums or if you are struggling to maintain the ambient temperatures in the daytime or they drop below 18C at night it can be added. The simplest way to do this is by using a low wattage ceramic lamp controlled by a pulse thermostat.

What Type of UVB Lighting is best for Bearded Dragons?

Your bearded dragon has evolved over millions of years to utilise and rely on the high levels of bright, natural sunlight found in Australia. We must, therefore, aim to replicate this as closely as possible when choosing a UVB lamp in the vivarium.

In most setups, Arcadia High Output T5 lighting with a reflector is the best choice for bearded dragons due to its brightness and ability to provide the correct UVB levels for your dragon at a safe distance from the lamp.

The best-selling and most recommended UVB lamp for bearded dragons is the Arcadia T5 12% 34inch fluorescent tube.

This lamp covers around 70% of the width of a 120x60x60cm vivarium and produces a UV index of 4-6 at around 30-45cm (lamp to the dragons head whilst basking).

This lamp is available as part of an all in one kit called an Arcadia ProT5 which incorporates a reflector and controller in a simple to install stylish unit, for larger vivariums you can choose a longer 46inch lamp or for taller vivariums you can opt for a 14% intensity which will provide the same UV index at 45-60cm

The lamp should be installed from the ‘warm end’, pointing straight down and either to the front or back of the vivarium, this will create a UV gradient front to back as well as a small area in the coolest end which is not directly under the UVB lamp.

You will notice that our choice of lamp does not produce the required UV index at the full height of the vivarium, this is so that you can ‘build-up’ to the light and have a range of UV index levels available to your dragon as he or she climbs and utilises the decoration you provide to move closer to and further away from the lamp.

If you want further information, we have a more comprehensive guide on what UV light you should buy your bearded dragon in our blog.

How to decorate your bearded dragon vivarium?

Decorating your bearded dragon vivarium is more than just making it look nice, it should be thought of first and foremost as a way of making sure that your investment in heating and lighting pays off by providing the best for your pets. We’ve already discussed the need for thermal gradients within the vivarium (hot to cool end) and lighting gradients (top to bottom and front to back) and this should be considered carefully when choosing your decoration.

Solid raised areas made of material that absorbs and retains heat such as stone or resin make ideal basking areas underneath your lights. Thick secure logs or branches will allow climbing areas which allow your bearded dragon to move within the desired UV index range. The more areas with different temperatures and UV Index levels you provide the better, this will allow your bearded dragon to regulate its own requirements with the vivarium.

Suitable bearded dragon substrates that are designed specifically for your bearded dragons are recommended. Healthy and well-cared-for bearded dragons are the ones that are provided with the correct diet and supplementation. These will help ensure they can exercise their own natural digging behaviours and promote healthy feet and limbs.

You should also purchase a small water dish and a bowl for salad which should be positioned at the cool end of the vivarium away from high levels of heat and UVB and can consider any other reptile safe items that help make the vivarium look attractive and offer further enrichment for your bearded dragon.

Round up

Whether you’ve just bought your bearded dragon or you’re updating your current enclosure - if you follow our guide of how to set up a bearded dragon enclosure, your beardie will be happy, healthy and secure. Remember each aspect of your set up will need consideration:

Why not remove the hassle of purchasing each item separately and purchase one of our bearded dragon starter kits. 

Bearded dragon