Tips for Controlling the Temperature of a Bearded Dragon Cage/Vivarium
Probably the single most asked about issue for new bearded dragon keepers is how to get the temperature set up correctly in the vivarium
It is quite a tricky thing to get right at the start, and because of this it is always recommended that you set up the vivarium and have it running for about a week before you get your bearded dragon. Slight adjustments while you’re sorting it out can cause the temperature to shoot up, or down, which wouldn’t make for a very comfortable beardie if it was occupied while you were playing around.
The first thing to consider is where you set up the vivarium. You do not want this to be in direct sunlight, or in a place that gets a lot of draughts as this will cause your temperatures to fluctuate. Placing it in a sheltered, shady part of the room is a good start.
Bearded dragons need to be able to thermoregulate – they will bask until they are too hot, and then they will retreat to a cooler place to cool off. You therefore need to have a basking spot with a temperature of around 105f (41c), and at the other end of the vivarium it should be cooler, with a temperature no more than 85f (30c). Lower than this is fine.
To do this you will need to have a heat emitting lamp at the ‘hot end’. Beardies are attracted to bask under bright lights, so a nice bright spotlight of 60 or 100 watts is ideal. You do not need to buy the expensive ones in reptile stores – a normal household one of the correct wattage will be fine. Ceramic lights which give off no light are acceptable, but the bearded dragon may not be so attracted to basking under it. That said, one of our beardies has always had a ceramic bulb and basks fine. Ceramic lights also have the advantage you can turn down the heat at night without a light disturbing his sleep. However, most houses are warm enough so that bearded dragons need no extra heat at night – as long as your house doesn’t fall below 60f (16c) for an adult, or 65f (18c) for a juvenile. Bearded dragons need a good temperature drop at night in order to get a good sleep.
The temperature should be controlled by a thermostat which will turn the heat lamp on or off to maintain a steady heat. The type of lamp you choose will dictate which thermostat you should buy. A dimming thermostat gradually reduces and increases the power to the lamp, a pulsing thermostat switches it on and off. If you have a heat light then a dimming thermostat is necessary otherwise you will keep blowing the bulbs. A pulsing thermostat can be a little cheaper, and can be used with ceramic bulbs.
The main thing to remember is that the thermostat should be used to keep the cool end cool. The basking spot is the actual place the beardie will lie to bask. This can be adjusted later, and by adding rocks of branches you can raise or lower the basking spot until it’s at the right temperature. It is not the whole of the ‘hot end’ of the vivarium that you are trying to get to that high.
Place the probe of the thermostat near the cool end of the viv, switch on the heat, and leave for a few hours. A good digital thermometer with dual inputs and a dual readout is great for being able to see the temperatures at the basking spot and the cool end at the same time. You are aiming for the cool end to be below 85f (30c) , and for the basking spot to be 105f (41c). If the cool end is right, measure the temperature at the basking spot, and add your rocks or branches or take them away to try to get to 105f (41c). If the cool end is lower than 85f (30c), and you cannot get the basking spot temperature up, more the probe slightly towards the middle of the vivarium. Again, allow to settle for a few hours before checking the measurements again. You should continue this until you have the correct temperatures at the cool end. It doesn’t matter if the cool end is below 85f (30c).
Once you have got the temperatures right, leave and stop fiddling. Wait a couple of days and then check again. Make sure you have the UVB tube on at the same time as this will emit a little heat itself.
If you find your vivarium is too warm, and you can’t get the temperature at the cool end low enough, check whether there are sufficient air vents in the back. There should be at least one at each end – one towards the top, and one towards the bottom. You can add extra vents if necessary.
If the temperature is too high because it is in the middle of summer you should consider investing in a reptile fan. A separate thermostat can control this, and it can be programmed to kick in when the temperature goes above a certain level.
Once the probe is in the right place, your temperatures have stablised, you should not need to adjust the settings. You can now introduce your bearded dragon to its new home.
MyBeardedDragons website contains information for the new owner on how to keep and feed a bearded dragon properly so that it is happy and healthy. An active forum dedicated to bearded dragons gives advice and support to new and experienced owners.