Bearded dragons make phenomenal pets. They have great personalities, come in a spectrum of beautiful colors, and have fairly easy maintenance. Check out this blog post to learn more about why they make such great companions! One of the biggest maintenance questions, however, is how to heat these cold-blooded critters. It isn’t as simple as throwing a blanket over the top of them or leaving their tank in direct sunlight. They are used to their natural habitat in the warm Australian desert.
What Is the Ideal Temperature for a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons need an external temperature of ~95℉ (35℃) during the day. In addition to heat, they need cycles of light and darkness. Unlike most reptiles, beardies are diurnal, meaning they are awake during the day and sleep through the night. To keep this cycle, they need heat and light during the day and cooler temperatures and darkness during the night. You should shoot for 10-14 hours of light and 10-14 hours of darkness.
Does my Bearded Dragon Need Heat at Night?
Yes. Bearded dragons need heat 24/7 to keep regulate their body temperature. While you might not need to heat the tank at night, if your house or apartment cools to a temperature less than 65℉ (18℃) during the night, you will need to provide extra heating.
So how does one properly achieve this heat? There are a few options, the most common being heat lamps, ceramic heat emitters, and heating pads. Each of these accomplishes a different task in supplying heat, light, or both to your reptilian friend.
Can I Use a Heating Pad for My Bearded Dragon?
Heating pads (or mats) are a viable option for providing the heat needed for a bearded dragon. It is important to note, however, that these are not the same type of heating pads humans use. Heating mats for bearded dragons stick to the bottom of the tanks and provide infrared heat waves through contact. They are the most controversial heating source, as many experts debate whether they provide more harm than good.
Bearded dragons benefit from heating their stomachs, as this helps with digestion. Unfortunately, beardies cannot feel heat through their stomachs, so they don’t know when things become too hot. Many argue that the only heat sources used should be ones that emit heat or light from above the tank. Since heating mats can overheat without the dragon realizing it, some believe it is not worth the risk. Others, however, maintain heating mats are viable sources of heat for bearded dragons if they are maintained correctly.
The important thing to remember. if you decide to use a heating mat, is to ensure the mat’s temperature is controlled. You can buy heating mats that come with automatic heat control, or you can use a thermostat to guarantee it won’t overheat. You should also make sure your dragon’s skin never comes directly into contact with the mat. This might require adding extra sand or substrate. As long as you are continuously checking the condition and temperature of the heating mat, they are fine to provide some extra heat for your dragon.
Heating Pad vs. Heat Lamp
Another heating source popular with experts is the heat lamp. Unlike heating pads, heat lamps hang over the tank and are useful for providing both heat and light. They should only be used during the day, so the dragons can easily get to sleep at night. Beardies really enjoy “basking” in the sun, but putting terrariums directly in sunlight can cause the tank to overheat. Therefore, these lamps are great to provide a safe place for these pets to enjoy some artificial sunlight. They also have a less chance of overheating, so they are safer than heating pads.
Heat lamps are available in various wattage for the various sizes of tanks, typically ranging from 50-150 watts. The bigger the tank, the need for more heat and higher wattage. There are also nighttime bulbs to use if your house does not supply enough heat overnight. The important thing to remember is dragons need darkness in order to sleep, so you should not leave regular heat lamps on overnight.
Heating Pad vs. Ceramic Heat Emitter
If it sounds like a lot of work to have to change out light bulbs every 10 hours, you might want to look into ceramic heat emitters. These look like light bulbs but, like heating pads, only emit infrared waves. However, they supply heat from above, like heat lamps. They come in the same range of wattage as heat lamps, 50-150, but they tend to last longer than heat lamp bulbs. Ceramic heat emitters are especially good for overnight heating because they do not supply light and will not overheat.
So, what is the best path to provide heat for your bearded dragon? The main issue with only using a ceramic heat emitter or heating pad is bearded dragons still need exposure to UVA and UVB rays. They need their “basking” time to ensure they stay happy and healthy. Really, a combination of the three is the best way to ensure your pet is getting the heat they need in all the ways they need it. The heat lamp provides a “basking” area during the day, the ceramic heat emitter supplies heat during the night, and the heating mat provides an area of extra heat if needed.
Still, you can get by without all three, so long as you make sure to provide enough heat and light during the day and enough heat overnight. As always, keep an eye on your bearded dragon, and adjust to their needs. Their physical and emotional health greatly depends on their environment, and they will let you know if it is not to their liking.