What Lighting Do I Need For My Bearded Dragon?
Before you get your dragon, you should always ensure you have the proper lighting. Too many people do this the wrong way around and find that when it comes to obtaining the correct lights after getting their dragon that the cost is more than they expected, so they get improper lighting, and the dragon will suffer as a result.
Lighting is pretty simple; the main two lights you need are the heat lamp and the UVB fluorescent tube fixture. The heat lamp is the easier one to set up; you can buy the reptile heat lamp fixtures at pretty much any pet store. You need a fixture with decent coverage for your tank, a "sun dome" type fixture works well. You will need a clear non-colored bulb; the reptile branded ones are great, but the wattage you will need depends on the size of your tank and how your tank is set up. A 100-watt bulb usually works for a standard 40-gallon breeder tank, although you may have to move your tank around, test other wattage bulbs, or buy a dimmer so you can dial the bulb up or down as needed to achieve the desired temp. The warm side of the tank will need to be covered by the basking lamp and the UVB tube; this is the side that will have your basking spot, your dragon will sit and digest, so they need both heat and UVB to do so.
See below for temp guide:
Basking spot temp: 100°f – 110°f (37.8°c – 43.3°c)
Warm side ambient temp: 90°f – 95°f (32.2°c – 35°c)
Cool side ambient temp: 80°f – 85°f (26.7°c – 29.4°c)
The best ways to measure your temps is to use an infrared temperature gun for your basking spot temperature, and a probe thermometer for your ambient air temperature readings. As well as the reptile branded bulbs, you also have the option of using an indoor/outdoor halogen flood lamp bulb, which is often more reliable. They come in different wattage types than the reptile one, the equivalent to the 100watt reptile bulb in the halogen bulb type is 90watt. Still, they heat at much higher temps, so you will need a dimmer if you go this route.
The UVB bulb is just as important as the heat bulb; some people may not realize this and see it as a secondary need, which isn't the case. Without UVB, they won't be able to absorb calcium, which can lead to metabolic bone disease, which is extremely serious, for more information on MBD click here. There are options in the pet store that employees sometimes recommend. Still, you need to be careful, if they recommend the smaller coil or compact bulbs that fit into the same fixture as your heat bulb. Be aware that these are not strong enough for your dragon and can only be used in emergency cases such as a travel tank or a sick tank and only temporarily. You will need to get the fluorescent tube type fixture, and the appropriate bulb fits into the fixture. There are two types of fixture, the T5 is the best and easier one to go with since you can just rest it on top of the screen lid as it's higher wattage means that it can penetrate the mesh and provide your dragon with the UVB it needs. The T8 is the alternative and can be cheaper, but this will need to be fixed underneath the lid, usually with zip ties through holes made in the mesh or command hooks or even industrial velcro.
The length of the fixture you choose is dependent on the size of your tank; it will need to cover about 2/3 of the length of your tank. For a standard 40-gallon breeder tank, this is the 24-inch fixture. The T5 fixture will only take the T5 bulb and the T8 fixture the T8 bulb, but with both, you will need to ensure that your lamp is strong enough, the 10.0 Reptisun or the 12% Arcadia bulbs are the best ones to use. Same with the fixtures, these brands are the best, but the T8 fixture does come in several other less expensive brands; however, you will still need to install the reptile branded bulbs in the fixture regardless of the brand of the fixture. You won't need any other visible lighting for your tank unless you have a larger size tank that needs an extra bulb.
The only other source of heat you may need is if your tank temps dip below 65°f (18.33°c). If this is the case, you will need a ceramic heat emitter bulb to supplement the heat. Night temps should never be over 75°f (23.89°c), or they will not be able to cool down properly and regulate their natural fauna in their digestive system as they do so in the wild. The ceramic bulbs emit heat but no light, you do not need a source of visible light at night, this would just disrupt the circadian rhythm of your pet. Your dragon needs both the heat and UVB to bask under after eating; without these, your dragon cannot digest properly, and this will lead to malnutrition and illness and costly vet bills. It's recommended that you let your dragon warm-up for about an hour before eating then left to bask under the heat and UVB for about an hour before eating then left to bask under the heat and UVB for about 3 hours after eating to digest their food.