Like Turtles, the Bearded Dragon requires correct lighting, diet and specialised housing in order for them to thrive.Housing Hatchling Bearded Dragons can be done easily in an empty glass fish tank. We have raised two hatchlings in a tank 100 x 40 x 40cm. If I was to raise up to four hatchlings then I would recommend using a tank 120 x 45 x 45cm. A small water dish for drinking from, bark on the floor, plenty of logs to climb and hide under, a flat rock under a heat lamp, and a UVA / UVB Reptile light above was pretty much the tank set up. It is worth mentioning here that the UVA / UVB Reptile light must be no more than 300mm away from the Dragons basking spot as the effectiveness of the light is greatly reduced the further away it is
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT. When keeping Reptiles in captive environments we need to provide artificial sunlight. Not any old light will do!!! There are specific Reptile lights sold by Pet Shops. Some are different shapes and come in many different sizes. Every keeper needs to be made aware of what light is right for their Reptiles well being. So here we go, and I hope that what you are about to learn is not too confusing.
UVA / UVB. What does all this mean??? The UV spectrum is broken up into three parts: UVA, UVB and UVC, all of which are present in natural sunlight. UVA and UVB are essential for Reptiles wellbeing. UVA is the visible light range, and is responsible for normal behaviours such as feeding and activity. UVB is a non-visible wavelength, and allows the synthesis of vitamin D3, which helps process calcium and prevent Soft Shell in Turtles and Metabolic Bone Disease in Lizards. (Metabolic Bone Disease is particularly common with Bearded Dragons and Eastern Water Dragons that have incorrect lighting)
WHICH IS THE RIGHT LIGHT FOR MY REPTILE??? "Sun-worshippers". Some Reptiles are described as "Sun-worshippers", including Bearded Dragons, Eastern Water Dragons and many species of Turtles especially Red-eared Turtles. In the wild these Reptiles spend many hours a day exposed to the sun and high UVB levels. They require high levels of UVB!! If you keep any Reptile in captivity in New Zealand, you are bound to have a "Sun-worshipper", therefore it is imperative that you purchase a Reptile specific light with the highest possible UVB output. The Florescent Tubes that you will find for sale in New Zealand currently range from 2.0, 5.0, 8.0, and 10.0. These numbers represent the percentage of UVB wavelengths that they give. The higher the number the higher the percentage of UVB, the better that light is for the wellbeing of your Reptile. We at Hot House Turtles recommend no matter what Reptile is kept, that you use the higher UVB percentage bulbs or tubes, either an 8.0 or 10.0.
Some of the Compact UVA / UVB Low-energy Bulbs come with a percentage of UVB and some do not. I personally use Lucky-Reptile Compact UVA / UVB. They don't claim a percentage of UVB given off, but I have trialed these and find them to be brilliant. (These have also been tested by www.uvguide.co.uk and come out with a glowing report.) They are the only UVB light that has an effective range of up to 50cm from your basking Reptile, so are ideal for deeper enclosures. These are the lights that are best for the "Sun-worshippers" kept as Pets in New Zealand. To us there is no compromise!!
INTENSITY OF LIGHT. Glass filters 95% of UVB. Fly mesh filters 30% of UVB. It is best to have no lids on your Turtle tanks, and to mount the light on the inside of your Lizards environment. This will then ensure that your Reptile is going to get the full benefit from the UVB given off. There are two types of Reptile bulbs available, UVA / UVB Fluorescent Tubes and Compact UVA / UVB Low-energy Bulbs. In order for your Reptile to gain the highest possible UVB% from your bulb, the distance between your Reptiles sunning area and the UV bulb must not exceed 300mm (unless you are using a Lucky Reptile Compact in which case you can have your basking distance of upto 50cm). The further your Reptile is from the light, the UV light levels are greatly reduced. Also note that the Florescent Tubes and Compact Bulbs need to be changed as per the manufacturers recommendations. Usually annually, as the UVA / UVB output is reduced over time. Even though the light still goes, they are of no benefit to your Reptile at all!!
AMOUNT OF LIGHT. 10 hours of artificial light is the minimum per day. An easier way to make sure that your Reptile is getting enough UVB is to turn the lights on when you get up in the morning and off when you go to bed
Dragons require a basking spot in their terrarium which will provide a temperature of 35oC – 40oC. This is to be setup down one end of you enclosure. This way your Dragon can thermo-regulate. Thermo-regulation is what all Reptiles do. As they are cold blooded they must heat themselves up (outside this is achieved in the warmth of the sun) so they can be active enough to feed, digest food and go about their daily activities. Once up to temperature they can move about their enclosure. As they cool down they must return to their basking spot to heat up again. If their entire enclosure was 400C they would have nowhere to cool down and would over heat and eventually die.
There are a few different ways of Heating enclosures or part of an enclosure to raise the temperature of your Reptile artificially. I have listed only two methods as this is what I have had experience with and both are very easy to set up and use.
Ceramic Heat Lamps: These are a ceramic heat element designed not to give off light but plenty of heat, and also come in a range of wattages. It is essential that these be used with a probe thermostat to avoid over heating of your terrarium and Dragon. These bulbs must be mounted inside a mesh protection cage to prevent burns to active Dragons and burns to the keeper by accidentally coming in contact with a hot bulb. The surface temperature of these heat emitters is in excess of 200oC so will do serious damage to skin of any type upon contact. As these bulbs give off a lot of heat they must be used in conjunction with ceramic fittings. These bulbs are expensive to purchase but will burn for approximately 10,000 hours. I have the temperature at 35oC for Bearded Dragons and 30oC for Water Dragons.
Infrared Heat Bulbs: These are a specific red colored Infrared Reptile bulb that reflects a lot of heat and come in a variety of wattages. They are best used without a shade (this will prolong the life of the bulb) and must be used with a probe thermostat to avoid over heating of your terrarium and Dragon. These bulbs must be mounted inside a mesh protection cage to prevent burns to active Dragons and burns to the keeper by accidentally coming in contact with a hot bulb. As these bulbs give off a lot of heat they must be used with ceramic fittings.
Heat Rocks, Heat Pads, and Under Substrate Heating Cables: I have read conflicting issues regarding Heating Rocks, Heat Pads and Heating Cables, and have avoided using these as I also believe that Reptiles are designed to absorb the heat directly on their backs, not their bellies. I have never seen a Reptile of any description lying on its back, feet in the air, soaking up the rays!!! I have also heard of Reptiles being cooked from the inside out by these forms of heating when thermostats malfunction.