Setting Up Bearded Dragon Heating and Lighting
Bearded dragon heating and lighting is brought together to replicate desirable elements of the sun (UVA, UVB and heat). With this in mind the placement of heating and lighting becomes a little easier to understand.
UVB is not required over the entire length of an enclosure. Bearded dragons are capable of regulating their own UVB requirements and should be provided respite from it when they have decided that they have had sufficient.
If the basking temperature is to low, it will force them to remain under the UVB longer whether they need it or not (or lower their metabolism enough to reduce activity including eating). If it is too hot then they may not bask long enough to get sufficient UVB; or will force themselves to remain under the UVB and risk overheating. Excessive heat may also send them off to seek shelter and excessive UVB may well cause cancer.
Do not separate the heat and UVB sources. Spreading the heat and UVB across the enclosure will no longer replicate the sun beating down on a concentrated area such as bearded dragons will seek in the wild when basking and likely to cause confusion which can result in abnormal behaviour (i.e. hiding, lack of appetite, sluggish behaviour) and/or development of illness where the environment is inadequate.
Different light and heat sources require slightly different placements to produce the best possible outcome. In all setups a thermostat should be used to maintain consistent temperature and improve comfort of the enclosure occupant.
For tanks or any other types of enclosures where the heat source will sit on top of the enclosure there will typically be some form of mesh screen top that helps protect the bearded dragon from directly touching the heat source. However the mesh screen itself can become used to climb on and hang upside down by the bearded dragon. This could result in burnt toes and other body parts too close to heat sources.
Where lighting and heating is fitted internally (usually hard wired), protection must still be provided from directly touching any heat source. Placing accessories in a manner that does not allow elevation towards heat sources will help. Mesh guards can be fitted to help prevent direct contact but can themselves be used as a climbing object.
No matter which choice is taken, there will always be some danger with bearded dragon heating. Place accessories wisely and choose a good sized enclosure to reduce risks.
Ceramic Heat Emitter Wattage
What wattage heat lamp is required is dependent on the temperature/climate the setup is in. Lighting and heating setups will be far more flexible for the seasons, and perhaps even on the power bill, if it is adaptable for different wattage. For example, a 60 watt ceramic heat emitter may produce enough heat for summer months where as in winter 100 watt may be required. To ensure you have flexibility, purchase a high wattage lamp fitting. The bulb can always be a lower wattage than the fitting, but it can never be higher.
Placement of bearded dragon lighting and heating
CHE and Mercury Vapor UVB
Where a ceramic heat emitter (CHE) is used with a mercury vapor UVB bulb (UVB with additional heat source) and a UVA basking bulb (UVA with additional heat source), the placement is simple; all the elements are placed as close together as possible.
The CHE should be placed on a thermostat to maintain consistency in temperature and avoid overheating. Do not place lights on a thermostat, their continual turning on and off as the thermostat maintains the temperature will significantly shorten the life of the bulbs and likely cause disruption to the reptiles environment.
The CHE can be placed in between the two light sources or placed closest to the center. If placed central it will assist in providing the ambient temperatures required for night time.
CHE and fluorescent tube UVB
For the ceramic heat emitter (CHE) and fluorescent UVB combination place the CHE and the UVA basking light to one side of the UVB light. This setup provides maximum heat and lighting in a concentrated area with sufficient white light provided to encourage activity.
The fluorescent lighting should not be the length of the enclosure. Bearded dragons are capable of discerning when they have had sufficient UVB and remove themselves from it given the right conditions (i.e. temperature gradient) in the enclosure.
Setting up Bearded Dragon Lighting and Heating Mistakes
In these two setups, the heat and light is spread across the tanks. In the first image the UVB tube lighting is spread across the entire enclosure leaving the bearded dragon with only a burrow to seek respite from it. The thermal gradient was almost non existent with the spread of heat. Prior to resolving the type and placement of lighting and heating in this case, the bearded dragon spent a lot of time in the enclosure.
In the second tank the thermal gradient was non existent with the ceramic heat emitter on one end, the UVB mercury vapor on the other and the basking light in the middle. This resulted in behavioral issues, particularly lack of appetite. The correction was as simple as placing the fittings with their existing bulbs together.