How to Setup A Bearded Dragon Habitat

Unless you live in the desert, it is unlikely that your climate and environment is appropriate for a bearded dragon. You want to provide the proper environment for your dragon and keep her safe from potential dangers. You will need a secure cage with the right lighting, bedding, and decor.

To set up the perfect bearded dragon habitat you will need to carefully choose between a variety of cage options set up the heat and lighting correctly,  provide a safe and easy to clean substrate, and decorate the cage in an engaging way, as well as providing sturdy food and water bowls.

Choosing a cage is an extremely important part of making your dragon feel at home. Learn your options,  along with the pros and cons from glass aquariums, to specially designed reptile enclosures, to screen enclosures.

Maintaining the appropriate lighting and heat is essential to your dragon’s happiness and health. Learn what kind of lighting you need when you set up your bearded dragon habitat.

The substrate that you choose for your dragon’s cage can make cleaning easy for you. The right substrate also makes living comfortable for your dragon. The wrong substrate, however, can lead to health problems. Learn what kind of substrate is safe and what you should stay away from.

Just like us, dragons need to have some essential furniture, and it is fun to have some nonessentials as well. Your dragon’s food and water bowls are important to make sure that she gets proper nutrition and has access to fresh water. Cage decor and decoration is important as well for providing mental and physical stimulation and having fun with your dragon.

Choosing a Cage

Your bearded dragon will spend most of her life in her cage. Dragons are affable lizards that respond well to handling and having time out of the cage. Most of their time, however, will be spent within the terrarium. This is where your dragon will eat, sleep, and do her business.

The hatchling that you bring home from a breeder or the pet store may be small enough to look comfortable in a 10-gallon aquarium, but you must keep in mind that your dragon will grow. This is a substantial lizard that needs a lot of room to run around. Choose a cage that will be large enough for your adult lizard or make arrangements to transition to a larger cage as she grows.

Glass Terrarium

perhaps the most classic choice for a cage for your bearded dragon is a glass aquarium. Glass terrariums allow you to see your dragon clearly and make it easy to maintain a clean cage as well. They don’t insulate as well as acrylic or wood, but as long as you are using appropriate heat sources, your dragon will be comfortable in a glass terrarium.

Bigger is better when it comes to the size of your glass aquarium.  You will need a terrarium of at least 50 or 60 gallons for a full-grown dragon. If you want more than one dragon to live together, you will need even more space. Since dragons tend to be more terrestrial than arboreal, choose a terrarium that is wide and flat rather than tall.

Reptile Enclosures

Front opening terrariums like those offered by Exo Terra Cost more than a classic glass terrarium, but they also make it much easier for you to take care of your dragon as well as exhibit and interact with her. Front opening doors make it convenient to access the tank without having to lift up the lid and reach in. Furthermore, these enclosures are specifically designed of a combination of glass or acrylic and screen for the kind of ai flow and insulation that is best for reptiles.  

You can also build or have a custom-built enclosure made of wood, glass, and screen to provide an ideal balance of insulation and aeration while also creating a beautiful piece of furniture for your home.

Screen Enclosures

Wire can be dangerous for your dragon since she can rub her nose on it or snag a toe. For this reason, wire enclosures are discouraged for our dragon. That said, if you want to give your dragon more space without increasing the cost, you can buy or build a screen enclosure.

Keep in mind that screen will not keep your dragon safe from other household pets, so if you have dogs or cats this may not be the best choice for you. Screen enclosures are also not a good choice for very cold climates since it can be too difficult to maintain heat with the reduced insulation.

Providing Heat and Light

Bearded dragons require a basking lamp for sunbathing and also full-spectrum light so that they can properly digest their food. Provide your dragon with basking places at varying distances from the basking lamp so that she can choose the heat level that she would prefer.

If your dragon always chooses the very top basking place, consider choosing a more powerful heat lamp. Choose the correct UVA UVB light for the size of your enclosure. Putting glass between the light and the dragon may impair some of the benefits of the light.

Deciding on Substrate

In the wild, bearded dragons would run over and dig into a wide variety of substrates from dirt and sand to rock and wood. In captivity, there are risks associated with using natural bedding materials. Even the kind of sand that is sold for reptiles can lead to impaction, especially for small dragons.

It is much safer to err on the side of caution and use a safe material like reptile cage carpet or a paper product.

If you have your heart set on a terrarium that looks natural, wait until your bearded dragon is grown to introduce sand and then only use sand that has been approved for use with reptiles. Even at this time, carefully watch your dragon to make sure that she is not deliberately ingesting substrate and keep a careful eye on her when she needs to make sure that she does not accidentally ingest substrate.

Food and Water Bowls

Your dragons probably love chasing her crickets more than just about anything else, but dragons also eat a range of other foods. Especially as your dragon girls older, she may be interested in foods that she previously rejected. Young dragons or more insect-driven, while older dragons become a little more cultured in their appreciation of a varied diet.

In order to provide your dragon with plenty of varied fruit, vegetable, and dry food options, you will need a sturdy bowl that can be thoroughly disinfected in between servings. Choose a heavy bowl that your dragon can easily climb into but which she will not tip over.

For the water bowl, choose a bowl that is big and deep enough that it will not run out of water between fillings, but also that is not so deep that your dragon might accidentally drown in it. Remember that these are desert animals which would rarely see open water in the wild. You can mist your dragon and her cage decorations. This is like the mist that would settle in the environment in the desert in the early mornings and evenings.

What about decor?

Decorating your dragon’s cage is a lot of fun. Furthermore, the decor is important to provide mental stimulation and physical exercise for your dragon. Different textures and shapes provide challenges for your dragon to climb over as she chases her crickets. Furthermore, different materials absorb heat differently and can be more or less preferential as basking surfaces.

It is a good idea to provide a lot of decorations and to change them occasionally in order to keep your dragon entertained. You can use natural wood and rock that has been approved for use with reptiles. You can also buy hammocks, ladders, and other fun furniture that has been specially made for use with large lizards. Whatever you choose to put in your dragon’s cage, be sure that it cannot be accidentally ingested and have a plan for how you intend to clean it.


Setting up the perfect habitat for your dragon is fun and easy. A habitat that has been designed especially for your dragon with plenty of space, decor to explore, and safe materials, will keep your dragon happy and healthy for years to come.