Every bearded dragon habitat should include several key ingredients to ensure proper health. These include the
- cage itself
- the substrate
- a small water dish
- a heating device, and
- some form of UV lighting. If you lack any of these items, then the habitat is incomplete. Also, the bearded dragon’s health is in danger if good lighting is not in place.
Do bearded dragons need light at night? Bearded dragons do not need light at night. Likewise, it would do them a world of good to have a completely dark resting place at night where they can sleep in peace. In summary, bearded dragons do not need heat at night either, unless the room temperature drops at a significant rate.
Below are some of the important information on bearded dragons lighting:
- Considering the original habitat of bearded dragons
- Why lighting is important
- Risks of insufficient lighting
- The circadian rhythm connection
- UVB lighting and its importance
- UVB lighting placement and sizing
- Best UVB lighting to use for your bearded dragons
- UVB bulb replacement period
Considering the Original Habitat of Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons come from the vast and expansive Australian desert. This is a part of the Earth which receives sunshine for a major part of the day, often in the region of 12 to 14 hours or more. Thus, during the day, it would be essential that you provide ample light for your bearded dragon.
Natural light reaching your bearded dragon’s habitat is quite likely to be insufficient. Which is why you will have to supplement that with artificial light.
Although, at night, it is a different story altogether where bearded dragons need their beauty sleep. Therefore, in the absence of darkness, the bearded dragons will indeed not be able to sleep properly. Again, think of their natural habitat where it is pitch dark in the desert or woodlands.
In summary, lighting needs to mirror your bearded dragon’s cage where you house them in the daylight, while they prefer it to be dark at night for better sleep.
Why Lighting is Important
In the wild, bearded dragons spend a lot of time basking under the sun. They do this for the following reasons:
- they use the sun’s rays to warm their bodies. Like all reptiles, bearded dragons are ectothermic. That is, they depend on external sources for body heat.
- they also depend on the UV rays put off by the sun. In particular, they use the UVB spectrum to manufacture vitamin D within their bodies.
- without this kind of light, a bearded dragon will not be able to get vitamin D from the food it eats.
- and without this essential vitamin, the lizard would suffer a variety of health problems.
This is why proper lighting is so important for bearded dragons in captivity. Also, nothing compares to the UV emitted from the sun. But with the right lighting products, you can mimic that level of UV enough to ensure proper health for your bearded dragon.
Risks of Insufficient Lighting
With bearded dragons, lighting is a very serious business. Hence, If you do not ensure ample lighting during the day, you could subject your beardie to mood swings. Over time, it may even develop to Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD.
Therefore, when your bearded dragon suffers from MBD, it won’t eat as much as it should. Which could, of course, lead to a whole host of complications that you would want to avoid at all costs.
The Circadian Rhythm Connection
Remember how we humans are constantly reminded about our body clock? With animals, things are no different. They have their circadian rhythm where they prefer to fritter around during the day and rest with calmness at night.
Night light, especially if it is too bright and invasive, ruins this entire cycle. However, remember it is not only about sleep. The hormonal release is also a critical factor of circadian rhythms.
Likewise, when hormones are not released at all, it causes undue imbalance and stress.
This will, of course, affect the overall wellbeing of your pet drastically. For these reasons too, it is recommended that you maintain a dark environment for your pet at night. Especially, because that allows it to maintain its circadian rhythm which in turn ensures optimal hormonal release.
Some bearded dragon owners believe that the ideal light inside the enclosure of your bearded dragon is basking light. In particular, it is the light which provides just the right amount of lighting during the day.
This light switches off in the night when it is not useful.
Also, as a proud bearded dragon owner, especially if you are new to the game. You would want to choose a light which switches through these lighting cycles on its own.
In essence, we would be looking at:
- About 12 to 14 hours during the day when the light would be on, and
- Another roughly 12 hours when it would be off.
As surprising as it may sound to you, many pet shops do not end up having the right kind of lights.
In addition, most common household bulbs manage to provide this lighting. Yes, you might have to adjust the wattage (or find a bulb with the desired wattage) which offers just the right temperature gradient.
Once you do that, you will be able to ensure that your bearded dragon is lit with comfort during the day. While it will also be able to enjoy complete darkness at night.
Also, you should bear in mind that this light will provide your bearded dragon with sufficient heat (which it requires) during the day.
UVB Lighting and its Importance
UVB fluorescent lighting is the backbone on any bearded dragon setup. Without it, bearded dragons develop something called Metabolic Bone Disease. Along with a few other health problems.
What is UVB Light and Why is it Important?
UVB (or ultraviolet-B) light is electromagnetic radiation that falls between 280 – 315 nm. For humans, this might not mean too much. After all, our eyes do not see this spectrum of light all the time.
However, for bearded dragons and many other reptiles, though, UVB light is the key to survival.
Generally, in reptiles, UVB light helps regulate the production of Vitamin D3 within the skin. Vitamin D3 is extremely important because it allows your bearded dragon to absorb and use calcium. As a result, reptiles without proper UVB light will have low Vitamin D3 levels, and low calcium levels.
In addition, bearded dragons with low calcium levels often suffer from something called Metabolic Bone Disease (juveniles are especially susceptible). This is a very painful disease that causes bone issues and deformities
Hence, make sure you provide proper lighting from the start.
UVB Lighting Placement and Sizing
Choosing the right size UVB light is very important in keeping your bearded dragon healthy. Ideally, the UVB bulb should span 2/3 to 3/4 the length of your tank. This allows your bearded dragon to absorb beneficial UVB rays no matter where it chooses to rest or sit.
Therefore, while placing your UVB light, mount it all the way to one side of your tank (preferably the side with the basking light). Likewise, you can give your bearded dragon a small portion of the tank (1/3 to 1/4) with no lighting helps create a “cool zone”. Which can be necessary for body temperature control.
Best UVB lighting to Use for Bearded Dragons
When it comes to picking out a UVB fluorescent bulb, there is one clear winner that dominates the pack. The Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB lamp could be the way to go.
Zoo Med is a great company and their UVB bulbs have a solid reputation among reptile enthusiasts.
To this end, the Zoo Med ReptiSun is available in two versions: T5 and T8.
In my opinion, the T5 seems to be superior. This is because it has a much higher UVB output and you can place it 12″ to 18″ away from your bearded dragon.
In addition, you can sometimes mount T5 fixtures above the mesh top of your enclosure. If you plan to do this, though, use a reflector to maximize UVB output (since mash screens can filter out 30-50% of UVB rays).
On the other hand, you should place T8 bulbs within 8″ of your bearded dragon. Since UVB output is much lower in T8 fixtures, you should place the bulb inside of the tank.
UVB Bulb Replacement Period
As UVB bulbs age, their output falls out of the 280-315 nm range. As a result, it is extremely important that you replace your UVB bulbs regularly. In particular, every six to twelve months is a good rule (T8 fixtures burn out quicker, usually around 6 months. T5 bulbs can last up to a year).
Remember that humans cannot see UVB light. So although a 2 year old bulb looks perfectly fine to the naked eye. It is most likely completely ineffective for Vitamin D3 synthesis in bearded dragons.