You already know that bearded dragons require sufficient light to stay healthy and thrive. This is typical of all reptiles, no matter the species. But is there such an issue as too much or too intense light?
Unfortunately, there is, and the line between a safe and balanced lighting system and an improper one is rather slim.
Fortunately, our job today is to highlight that demarking line to clear up the issue once and for all. Let’s get right in!
Understanding Bearded Dragon Lighting Needs
Bearded dragons essentially require an adequate lighting system for 3 reasons:
- Proper nutrient synthesis – UVB lighting is important for the synthesis of vitamin D3, which helps the dragon absorb calcium from its food. Without proper UVB lighting, bearded dragons can suffer from Metabolic Bone Disease, which can cause deformities and even death. Fortunately, nutrient deficiencies are gradual, allowing you to detect them in time and take appropriate measures early on.
- Temperature regulation – In addition to UVB lighting, bearded dragons also require a basking light that provides heat and light for the dragon to regulate their body temperature. Basking lights should be placed on one end of the dragon’s enclosure, allowing the dragon to move between the cooler and warmer areas as needed. It is recommended to use a bulb that emits both UVA and UVB radiation in the basking light, but if this is not possible, a separate UVA bulb should also be used. Make sure that the total area covered by the basking light doesn’t exceed 25-30% of the enclosure’s total surface. Your beardie should be able to leave the basking spot with ease whenever necessary.
- Performing natural activities – UVA lighting is important for the dragon’s overall well-being and is essential for their daily activities, such as eating, basking, and regulating their body temperature. Without that, the dragon may become confused about the time of day, which will mess up its eating, basking, and resting pattern with severe consequences. Disrupting your lizard’s normal circadian rhythm can cause stress, destroy the animal’s quality of life, and even become fatal.
When it comes to selecting lighting for a bearded dragon, it is important to choose a full-spectrum UVB bulb that emits UVB radiation in the 290-320 nanometer range.
You should ideally replace the UVB bulb every 6-12 months, as the UVB output decreases over time, even if the bulb still emits visible light.
Plus, always place the UVB bulb on a fixture that allows the dragon to get as close to the bulb as possible without touching it.
Accidents can happen, which can lead to burns, overheating, and overall discomfort and stress.
Why Leaving Lights on All Night Can Be Harmful
Leaving lights on all night can also be harmful to bearded dragons as it can disrupt their natural day and night cycle, which, in turn, will affect their health and behavior. In the wild, bearded dragons rely on natural light cycles to regulate their metabolism, behavior, and reproduction.
Exposure to artificial lighting, even during nighttime, can confuse their internal clock and lead to stress, decreased appetite, and other health problems.
Furthermore, these reptiles require a certain amount of darkness each day to promote healthy sleep patterns. Like humans, bearded dragons need periods of uninterrupted darkness to rest and recover from their daily activities.
Exposure to constant light can prevent their brains from getting the rest they need and lead to a weakened immune system and increased susceptibility to disease.
Additionally, uninterrupted lighting can cause the enclosure to overheat, which can be harmful for obvious reasons. Bearded dragons require a basking spot temperature of 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit and an ambient temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit, with a cooler area for them to retreat to if they become too warm.
If the lights are left on all night, the temperature in the enclosure can rise above the optimal range, leading to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or even death.
Always set up a stable lighting cycle in place to keep your bearded dragons healthy and comfy.
Remember that while bearded dragons are unique individuals with some unique characteristics, they also have universal requirements, and a stable and optimized lighting cycle is one of them.
Impact of Light Pollution on Bearded Dragon Health
Light pollution can have a significant impact on the health of bearded dragons.
These reptiles are highly sensitive to the amount and type of light they are exposed to, and prolonged or improper exposure to artificial light at night can disrupt their natural day-night cycle, leading to a range of health problems.
Here are some worth mentioning:
- Impacting the sleep pattern – Like humans, bearded dragons require a certain amount of darkness each day to promote healthy sleep patterns. Exposure to constant light can prevent them from getting the rest they need, leading to stress, decreased appetite, and weakened immune systems. This can increase their susceptibility to disease and infections, making it difficult for them to recover from illnesses. Most animals function the same at a biological level and will be impacted in a similar manner, humans too.
- Hormonal imbalances – Light pollution can also affect hormonal production in bearded dragons, leading to reproductive problems along the way. Bearded dragons require a certain amount of light to trigger the production of reproductive hormones, which are essential for egg-laying and mating. Exposure to constant light can disrupt these hormonal processes, leading to infertility, decreased libido, and other reproductive problems. Not to mention, hormones also regulate these lizards’ behaviors. So, it’s not uncommon for bearded dragons to become erratic, restless, overenergetic, and even aggressive when not getting enough rest or hyperstimulated by excessive lighting.
- Heat-related problems – Light pollution can cause overheating in the bearded dragon’s enclosure, which can be harmful to their health. The most obvious one is stress, which will decrease the reptile’s immune system, opening the door to an entire array of different problems. Another clear one is dehydration, which can happen if the reptile cannot cool itself in time. And the problem with dehydration is that it impacts reptiles more severely than it does other animals. Bearded dragons can experience irreversible damage after only a day of being dehydrated.
- Disrupting the natural patterns and behaviors – Finally, light pollution can disrupt the behavior and feeding patterns of bearded dragons. In the wild, bearded dragons rely on natural light cycles to regulate their metabolism, behavior, and feeding patterns. Exposure to artificial light at night can confuse their internal clock and lead to stress, decreased appetite, and behavioral problems, which are especially concerning in a bearded dragon community. Unnatural lighting patterns can stress your beardies out, causing them to fight each other or attempt to escape the enclosure.
Light pollution is often as severe as forced fasting, dehydration, and stress and requires just as much regulation and balancing.
Risks of Overexposure to UVB and UVA Light
While bearded dragons require both UVB and UVA lighting to maintain their health, overexposure can be harmful and lead to health problems.
Overexposure to UVB radiation can cause a condition called hypercalcemia, which is an excessive buildup of calcium in the blood. This can lead to dehydration, lethargy, decreased appetite, and other health problems.
It can also cause calcium deposits to form in the kidneys, leading to renal failure and potentially life-threatening complications.
Furthermore, overexposure to UVB radiation has been linked to sunburn and other skin problems. This can lead to peeling, flaking, and discoloration of the skin and increase their susceptibility to infections and other health problems.
Overexposure to UVA radiation can also be harmful to bearded dragons in case you somehow thought that UVA is safe across the board. While UVA radiation is essential for these reptiles’ overall well-being, too much of it can cause stress and other health problems.
Overexposure to UVA radiation can trigger eye problems such as cataracts and retinal damage, leading to vision loss and other complications.
Excessive UVA radiation can also affect the behavior and feeding patterns of bearded dragons.
And we’ve already discussed how it can confuse their internal clock and lead to stress, decreased appetite, behavioral changes, and the tendency to escape the enclosure.
Healthy Lighting Schedule for Your Bearded Dragon
A healthy lighting schedule for your bearded dragon should mimic the natural day and night cycle of their habitat.
Bearded dragons require both UVB and UVA lighting to maintain their health, and it is important to provide them with similar conditions to promote their well-being.
Here is a recommended lighting schedule for your bearded dragon:
- UVB lighting – Bearded dragons require a full-spectrum UVB bulb that emits UVB radiation in the 290-320 nanometer range. The UVB bulb should be replaced every 6 months to a year to circumvent the problem of intensity loss. We’ve already discussed the importance of proper placement to prevent the dragon from touching or tipping it over. The recommended time for UVB lighting is 10-12 hours per day.
- Basking light – Bearded dragons also require a basking light that provides heat and light to aid with optimal body temperature regulation. Basking lights should be located on one end of the dragon’s enclosure and be easy to access in and out. The recommended temperature for the basking spot is 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit with a timespan of 10-12 hours per day. The same concept applies to basking lights in terms of security as it does to the UVB setup. Place the basking lights at a sufficient distance from the substrate to prevent burns and make sure your lizard can’t touch the system. Your job is considerably easier if you’re using a heating mat, but this is for another time.
- UVA lighting – UVA lighting is important for your beardies’ overall well-being and daily activities, such as eating, basking, and regulating their body temperature. UVA lighting should be provided in addition to the basking light, with a recommended time of also 10-12 hours per day.
- Nighttime lighting – Bearded dragons require a period of darkness each day to promote healthy sleep patterns. So, no nighttime lighting. I recommend ceramic bulbs to preserve the beardies’ enclosure temperatures at night, as these bulbs do not emit any visible light, just heat.
It is also important to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in the dragon’s enclosure to ensure they are within the appropriate range.
A thermometer and hygrometer can help you tremendously in this sense, allowing you to detect any sudden variations in time.
Tips for Keeping Your Bearded Dragon Safe at Night
One thing to consider here is that your beardie’s safety during nighttime doesn’t resume to lighting only.
In reality, there are several aspects to consider, such as:
- Provide a secure enclosure – Bearded dragons require a secure enclosure to prevent escape and protect them from potential predators. Make sure their enclosure is properly sealed and locked at night but preferably without impacting the habitat’s ventilation. Covering the enclosure with a thick tarp can help in this sense, as the material still allows for fresh air to circulate through and around it.
- Turn off unnecessary lights – Bearded dragons require a period of darkness each day to promote healthy sleep patterns. Turn off any unnecessary lights at night, and avoid shining bright lights into their enclosure, as this can cause stress and affect their behavior.
- Maintain proper temperature – Bearded dragons require specific temperature ranges to maintain their health. Make sure the temperature in their enclosure is within the recommended range of 75-85 F for ambient temperature and 95-105 degrees F for basking temperature. Avoid overheating the enclosure, as this can cause dehydration and other health problems. This means that the presence of a thermometer is a must.
- Monitor humidity levels – Bearded dragons require specific humidity levels to prevent dehydration and promote healthy skin and shedding. The recommended humidity range is 30-40%, which is low compared to other reptiles, but it makes sense for desert-dwelling species like bearded dragons. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels in their enclosure and mist their ecosystem whenever necessary. Which is probably 1-2 times per day.
- Provide appropriate bedding – Bearded dragons require appropriate bedding to prevent injury and promote hygiene. Avoid using substrates that can cause impaction or bacterial growth, such as sand or soil. Instead, use reptile carpet, paper towels, or other safe bedding options that come with a plus in comfort, additional safety, and moisture-retaining properties. Also, prioritize practicality over aesthetics; this might sound like common sense, but trust me, it’s not.
- Keep them away from other pets – Bearded dragons should be kept away from other pets, especially at night. Other animals may view them as prey and try to attack them, causing injury or stress. Even if that doesn’t happen, and your pets are friendly, they may still stress out your beardies by not allowing them to rest at night.
- Monitor their behavior – Monitor your bearded dragon’s behavior and physical condition regularly. Look for signs of stress, dehydration, or illness, and take appropriate action if necessary. The earlier that you detect any such issues, the easier it will be to address and correct them.
Bearded dragons demand a stable and personalized light cycle, which should coincide with yours. So, you shouldn’t have difficulties setting it in place so long as you have the right equipment.
Follow my tips, research the topic even more in-depth for a clearer perspective, and you’ll soon learn the ins and outs of what bearded dragons require in terms of lighting, food, layout, and anything else.