Bearded dragons are reptiles, which already says everything about their relationship to their native ecosystem and the notion of heat transfer.
Bearded dragons rely on their environment to regulate their core temperature, without which they couldn’t function properly. So, what does this say about captive-bred bearded dragons?
What temperature do they need, and how does temperature influence the reptile’s physiological functioning? Let’s get to it!
Understanding the Bearded Dragon’s Natural Habitat
Bearded dragons are native to Australia, which should speak volumes about their environment already.
But let’s dissect their vital environmental requirements for a plus of clarity:
- Temperature – Bearded dragons are used to thrive in arid and desertic conditions, so their preferred daytime temperature range sits between 85 and 105 F, give or take. Nighttime temperatures can go as low as 65-75 °F, which is fine because it allows bearded dragons to regulate their internal functioning properly. The dragon’s metabolism drops during nighttime and resets morning come when temperatures begin to rise again.
- Humidity – Fortunately, bearded dragons have evolved to live in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, so humidity isn’t as vital to them as it is to other reptiles. A 30-40% humidity range should be just fine, preferably with a source of clean water nearby. Bearded dragons don’t need as much humidity because they are more adept at preserving water compared to other reptile species.
- Vegetation – Bearded dragons are omnivorous animals with a predominantly plant-based diet. Their dietary preferences are the result of living in arid regions with little live food and even fewer hunting opportunities. So, the dragon had to adapt to its current conditions, which revolved more around plants, trees, and shrubs than anything else.
- Shelter – Bearded dragons rely on their environment to find shelter from the sun whenever in need to cool off. They rely on the same safe space to protect themselves from predators or digest their food in peace. Rock crevices, burrows, tree logs, vegetation-filled areas, and other natural shelters are all just fine for the lizard.
- Sunlight – As diurnal animals, bearded dragons are creatures of the sun. They often bask in the sunlight on a flat rock to absorb UVB radiation, which helps with vitamin D3 production and calcium synthesis.
As you can see, bearded dragons are fairly resilient and adaptable, used to living in scarce ecosystems with not enough food and even less water.
This recommends them as great pets because they don’t need as much maintenance and precise parameters to thrive.
Even so, setting up the temperature right is critical for these animals because it influences their lifestyle more than anything else.
So, let’s talk about that!
Recommended Temperatures for Bearded Dragons
The recommended temperature for bearded dragons sits between 72 and 105 F. But this obviously generous range doesn’t get you any closer to understanding the exact dynamics at play.
So, here’s how you make use of these temperature values to create an optimized closed ecosystem for your beardie:
- Basking temperature – Create a basking area covering 30% of the entire enclosure’s surface at most. This area should deliver temperatures around 100-110 F. The dragon will bask quite often during the daytime to replenish its UVB deposits.
- Ambient temperature – The rest of the tank, or most of it, should deliver temperatures around 85-95 F. This is the main dwelling zone where the reptile will spend most of its time.
- Cool temperature – The cool zone should deliver temperatures around 75-85 F. This is important for the dragon to be able to cool off when too warm.
- Nighttime temperature – Nighttime temperatures can vary between 65 and 75 F, but never below 65.
This temperature system may seem overly complex, but it’s really not. However, you do need specific equipment to put the system in place, which we will discuss shortly.
Figuring out the right temperature gradient is critical for your bearded dragon for a number of reasons.
- Proper digestion – For one, the reptile’s digestive system depends on the animal’s core temperature. If the dragon is too cold, the digestive system may shut down completely, at which point problems begin to arise. This explains why bearded dragons tend to bask almost immediately after eating. Increasing their core temperature accelerates the digestive system, allowing for better and faster nutrient absorption.
- More stable behavior – Cold beardies are stressed beardies, and you don’t want your beardie to be stressed. When stressed, reptiles exhibit irritability, aggression, lack of appetite, and decreased immune system, making them more prone to infections, bacteria, and parasites.
- Better immunity – Prolonged exposure to low temperatures affects the lizard’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to parasites and bacteria.
So, there’s a lot of incentive to get things right in this department. Let’s see how you can do that effectively!
Equipment for Achieving Ideal Temperatures
You require several pieces of equipment to produce, maintain, and regulate the proper temperature in your beardie’s tank.
- Heat lamps – These come in various shapes, types, and sizes, depending on your needs. Heat lamps are primarily used for the basking areas, so they’re meant to deliver higher temperatures. Some of the most common types of heat lamps include incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, and ceramic bulbs. You should use heat lamps in conjunction with a specialized hot spot like a flat rock, with the lamp directing the basking light directly onto the surface. Check the surface in question and verify the 100-110 F temperature goal. Also, fix the lamp thoroughly to secure it in place and prevent it from moving or even falling down. If the lamp drops too low to the basking spot, it may increase the temperature, burning your beardie as a result.
- Under-tank heating pads – You may know these ones as heating mats, and they are the top choice if you want to secure even temperature distribution. Heating mats are great at stabilizing the environmental temperature and equalizing it throughout the tank, but they are trickier to use precisely due to the uniformity that they’re producing. That’s because you need a temperature gradient throughout the enclosure, not uniformity. So, only use heating pads if they meet your requirements.
- Ceramic heat emitters – These are great for nighttime temperature regulation. Ceramic heat emitters only produce heat, but not light, making them ideal for nighttime. More importantly, you can use them as general temperature management devices during nighttime or even as basking temperature regulators during the day.
- Thermostat – You absolutely require a thermostat to monitor and control your beardie’s environmental temperature. Thermostats come with a temperature probe that goes into the tank to gauge temperature values and can be used with any heat source.
- Infrared temperature guns – Infrared guns are useful in case you don’t have a thermostat or you want to read the environmental temperature without disturbing the beardie in the process.
All these tools are just meant for temperature control, monitoring, and regulation, but you may require additional equipment for humidity, aeration, and cleaning jobs.
So, make sure you inform yourself about all the tools necessary to preserve your beardie’s habitat in peak condition.
Measuring and Adjusting Bearded Dragon Temperature
It’s important to remember that your dragon’s environmental temperature may not remain within the ideal range at all times. Several factors can influence temperature, including aeration and humidity.
So, you need to monitor and adjust the dragon’s temperature each time it goes off the charts, even if the fluctuation is minor.
Here’s how you can achieve that safely and effectively:
- Regular measurements – The thermostat and the infrared gun should come in handy here. You don’t need to check the temperature every 5 minutes for the entire day, but at least once per day is necessary.
- Adjust the heat source – The adjustment part depends on the heating system you’re using. I recommend getting one that is a bit more adjustable than ‘raise or lower the heat source.’ An adjustable lamp should allow you to juggle the temperature output depending on your needs without necessarily changing the position of the lamp.
- Monitor the new setup – Once you’ve adjusted the system to the right temperature, monitor the environment to make sure that the new values don’t deviate again.
Hopefully, you won’t need to adjust the temperature too often, but you may need to at times.
Factors that Affect Bearded Dragon Temperature
There are multiple factors to discuss here, such as:
- Seasonal changes – Environmental temperatures change gradually with the different seasons, allowing the bearded dragon to adjust in time. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem worth mentioning with captive-bred dragons, given that they live in a fully-controlled ecosystem.
- Enclosure size – Naturally, this only relates to captive-bred bearded dragons. In short, the larger the enclosure is, the more difficult it is to maintain the temperature stable. You need more powerful and more heat sources overall to obtain and preserve the ideal environmental temperatures for your bearded dragon.
- The location of the enclosure – This is an aspect of particular importance because it can have a severe impact on your heating system’s efficiency. Many people don’t realize that the room’s temperature will influence that of the enclosure itself. So, if you place the enclosure in an excessively hot room, the lizard’s ambient temperature may spiral out of control. The same goes for placing the tank in direct sunlight, which you should never do, by the way. I recommend placing the tank in a well-aerated, cool, and shaded room, out of direct sunlight.
- Heat source placement – Where you place the heat source matters greatly when it comes to producing and maintaining a safe and optimized temperature range. If the heat source is too high above the substrate, the heat output may be insufficient. Conversely, the heat output will become excessive if the source is too close to the substrate, in which case your beardie risks overheating or even direct skin burns. Figure out the exact height by gauging the temperature output directly under the source at ground level.
- Type of heat source – The type of heat source you plan on using is also critical. For instance, ceramic heat emitters deliver less heat than incandescent light bulbs. Choose wisely depending on your dragon’s needs and the environment’s layout.
- Humidity – Interestingly, humidity has a very low actual impact on temperature. But it feels like it does. In other words, the more humid the air is, the warmer it seems to be, even though, in reality, it isn’t. Just as low humidity creates the impression of a colder climate, even if that’s also an illusion. But it doesn’t matter either way. It makes little difference whether humidity actually influences the temperature or just makes your dragon feel like it does; the lizard will still experience significant physical discomfort either way. So, mind the temperature, as well as humidity, for the best results.
These factors should give you a good idea of what it takes to keep your beardie’s temperature in the optimal range.
Bearded dragons have a closer and stricter relationship to their environmental temperature than they do with anything else, including food.
After all, they can survive without food for weeks or even months in some cases.
But they cannot survive in extremely high or low temperatures for more than a few hours or even minutes, depending on the situation.
Fortunately, you’re now aware of this relationship and possess the right set of knowledge to ensure its stability.