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A good size for a bearded dragon terrarium is a 125-gallon tank. While this size tank will be way more than a baby bearded dragon needs, it will allow you to purchase only one tank that you can use throughout your pet’s entire life. You can purchase a smaller, 20-gallon long tank for a baby bearded dragon, but purchasing a large tank at the beginning will keep you from having to uproot your pet later on in life to move him to a different tank.
So what kind of terrarium will be best suited to your bearded dragon? Glass aquariums make excellent terrariums and are a very popular choice among hobbyists today. They are easy to clean, provide optimal viewing pleasure, and they will generally last a very long time. Plastic or acrylic terrariums are also quite popular. These enclosures are also easy to clean, and they retain heat very well. However, they are easily scratched, which can disrupt your ability to see your bearded dragon as well as his ability to see out of the enclosure. Also, they may not allow for enough ventilation for your pet. As great as these kinds of terrariums are for some other herps, the amount of moisture and humidity that they hold could be detrimental to your dragon’s health.
Bearded dragons are native to the desert, so a low degree of relative humidity is necessary for their survival. If you’re going to place a cover on your pet’s terrarium, it should be made of mesh wire or rubberized screen. These kind of covers will keep your dragon secured in his tank and protected from any curious members of your household (such as the family cat), but they will also provide enough ventilation.
No matter what sort of enclosure you decide on, the bottom of it should be covered with a substrate. This can be made out of a variety of different materials, including smooth sand, bark chips, garden mulch, recycled newspaper, or commercially-sold cage liners and reptile cage carpet. Whichever type you choose, maintaining it is a very important part of keeping your dragon’s cage clean, so be sure to change it as often as necessary.
Your bearded dragon’s cage should also contain at least one wide, tall climbing branch. Dragons love to climb, perch, and bask, so you should make this as easy as possible. You can also include a rock (preferably in addition to a branch), because dragons also enjoy basking on a large, smooth rock. You can use either a real rock (sandstones are a good choice) or an artificial rock, available at pet shops and in the garden section of hardware stores.
A bearded dragon’s cage should also include a hide box. In the wild, dragons have many natural enemies that they escape from by hiding. This instinct does not disappear once they are in captivity. In fact, in order to stay healthy and happy, they require a hiding place for seclusion, darkness, and security. A hide can be fashioned out of just about anything (including a broken clay pot or wooden planks) or purchased ready-made from a pet store. As long as the hide allows your dragon to completely disappear from view, he will not care what it is made of.
Heating and lighting are the final important components of a bearded dragon tank. Always keep in mind that the Australian Outback, the bearded dragon’s natural habitat, is a hot, sunny, dry place. The temperature in his terrarium should remain between 80° and 84°F and include a basking spot where the temperature reaches 95° to 100°F. To maintain these temperatures, you can use incandescent light bulbs, heat emitters, or undertank heating pads. The best way to give your bearded dragon exactly the heating and lighting he requires is to combine methods, using different sources in different parts of the tank, different sources for different times of the day, etc.