No one likes being too cold or too warm— not humans, not plants, and not bearded dragons! With these creatures, it’s even less about preference and more about survival. Their perfect temperature is a lot more complicated and although maintaining a consistent bearded dragon tank temperature seems a bit confusing at first, it gets much easier after learning the basics!
Why Is Temperature Important?
We’re used to using a single thermostat to heat up or cool down a room, depending on the season. It’s very simple but why isn’t it the same with bearded dragons?
Humans are endothermic, meaning we can generate and regulate our body heat with our own. Body heat makes way for proper digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food.
On the other hand, bearded dragons, along with other cold-blooded reptiles, are ectotherms, meaning they cannot regulate their body heat, spelling trouble for their digestive system. To make up for this, they use external heat sources to warm up.
As all pet owners know, it’s essential to place any pet in a place that mimics their natural habitat. Bearded dragons largely originate from Australia and Tasmania, in deserts, scrublands, and other similar warm places with smatterings of cool areas, which helps prevent them from overheating in the sun. In your bearded dragon’s enclosure, there needs to be a distinct temperature gradient for the best results.
This means that you shouldn’t be asking about the proper temperature for your bearded dragon enclosure, you should instead be wondering what are the proper temperatures and tools for your bearded dragon.
What You Need To Know About Temperature Gradients?
The best temperature gradient in a bearded dragon enclosure makes full use of five requirements: heat set-up, lighting, tank size, humidity controls, and temperature gauges.
By using these well, the temperature gradient of the enclosure should have three zones during the day— a basking area, a warm zone, and a cool zone.
1. Heat Setup
This refers to the basking area, the warm place where bearded dragons go to lay down and warm up to help speed along the digestive process. In the wild, they do this using the sun as their basking light.
In your bearded dragon’s enclosure, there should be a place for your beardie to perch and sit on while basking. Placing this basking platform, be it a rock, hammock, cork, or bark, at a higher point in the tank encourages their climbing habit and helps you adjust the right proximity to the basking bulb.
A regular halogen bulb with a 40 to 100 wattage with white light would work well as a budget-friendly heat source for your beardie. You can also use a special basking light or a Mercury Vapor Bulb for this. It should be kept in a sturdy warming lamp that’s sure to be safe to place in proximity to your beardie.
Different bearded dragon ages have different temperature needs with each temperature zone in the gradient. Baby bearded dragons, up to four months old, need a basking area around 105ºF–110ºF, juvenile baby beardies from 5–11 months old, need basking temps around 100ºF–105ºF, while adults at least a year old need a 95ºF–100ºF basking area.
You’ll notice that young beardies need it much warmer. This is because they will need to consume a lot of live food and veggies to grow, needing to get their digestive system working more frequently.
If your home goes below 65ºF at night, it’s also important to install a Ceramic Heat Emitter to help your beardies keep cozy and warm at night.
Do take note that some commercially sold basking platforms are dangerous for your bearded dragon. One example is the warming rock which sounds clever but is quite dangerous due to its tendency to store too much heat and unknowingly burn your beardie.
Before allowing your bearded dragon to stay in a new heat setup, first measure the temperatures yourself on each laid out surface at up to three hours after turning it on, for the most accurate reading of their surface temperature of the basking area.
Lighting is another facet not only of bearded dragon tank temperatures but also of your beardie’s overall health.
Bearded dragons are diurnal, meaning they’re most active during the day and need a lot of the sun’s UVB light to develop calcium for their bones.
This lighting should span across the whole tank and, since it’s part of the cooling zone, it should emit minimal heat. This bulb, along with the basking light and other possible light fixtures, should be replaced every six months to ensure quality, even if it still produces light.
Along with mimicking their natural habitat, it’s also important to recreate the cycle of the day, with bright daylight and cool nighttime. This is important in maintaining their body cycles and helps them rest well for more energy when the day comes.
Rather than turning off the lights manually, most owners recommend connecting the light to a timer that closes after 12–14 hours of use, including the basking light. With all the lights off, the temperatures should drop between 70ºF – 75ºF, regardless of their age.
3. Tank Size
The tank size should be based on your bearded dragon’s size. If you’re unsure what size tank to purchase, remember it’s better to choose a larger tank to help prevent housing your bearded dragon in a cramped enclosure. Tanks that are too small are not only uncomfortable, it also increases the risk of overheating.
It’s difficult to achieve the right temperature gradient in a tank if the basking lamp is overpowering the rest of the zones, or if your bearded dragon is big enough to occupy two zones at a time. It makes it challenging to digest food or cool down, both of which can be deadly for your beardie.
The right tanks should allow an 85ºF cool area, with the warm zone ranging from 95ºF–100ºF for baby bearded dragons. Juveniles should have space for a cool side ranging from 80ºF–85ºF cool zone, with a 95ºF warm area. Mature bearded dragons need the cool side to range from 75ºF–80ºF, and a warm side ranging from 90ºF–95ºF.
Proper tank sizes help them regulate their body temperatures more efficiently while feeling comfortable and safe in your care.
Since bearded dragons are desert creatures, they source their water a little differently. They quench their water needs from drinking it, from the water content in their food, and the humidity in the air.
Humidity is an extremely important factor in the temperature gradient of your bearded dragon enclosure. Higher temperatures have lower humidity while cooler temps are usually more humid.
Humidity helps regulate temperature and also helps mimic how the night would feel in the wild. Your bearded dragon’s tank should stay around 30%–40% humidity for proper hydration and a healthy respiratory system.
5. Temperature Guage
After setting it all up, temperature and humidity gauges are needed to help monitor temp levels.
These measuring devices help you understand how comfortable your bearded dragon is in the tank. It’s your best tool in helping you accurately adjust temperatures in response to external and uncontrollable factors.
Most owners use a temperature gun, humidity gauge, and a mounted digital temperature reader for the best results.
Several mounted digital readers should be placed in different areas of the enclosure, while temperature guns can detect surface temperatures, usually using infrared, and humidity gauges to measure the water levels in the air.
All three of these work together for an accurate reading of what your beardie likes and what it needs, temperature-wise.
|Basking Temperature||Warm Zone Temperature||Cool Zone Temperature||Nighttime Temperature|
|Baby Bearded Dragon||105ºF–110ºF||95ºF–100ºF||85ºF||70ºF–75ºF|
|Juvenile Bearded Dragon||100ºF–105ºF||95ºF||80ºF–85ºF||70ºF–75ºF|
|Adult Bearded Dragon||95ºF–100ºF||90ºF–95ºF||75ºF–80ºF||70ºF–75ºF|
A lot goes into maintaining the best bearded dragon tank temp. They each work hand in hand to fortify and strengthen your beardie with temperatures that feel like home.
As owners, we all wish to extend the lifespan of our bearded dragons while still giving them the best life. It’s essential for their growth, comfort, and survival, making it quite an expense and a thought process but, ultimately, worth it for a happy beardie.