Being reptiles, Bearded dragons are ectothermic. This means that they rely on external heat sources to increase their body temperature. Bearded dragons are also poikilothermic, meaning they can have a variable body temperature depending on the environmental temperature.
The environmental temperature of Bearded dragons can be increased in several ways. For these reptiles, the ultimate goal is to create a basking spot of about 40 ºC / 104 ºF on one side of the enclosure with a natural temperature gradient towards the other side of the enclosure. To achieve this, an electrical heat source needs to be supplied. Popular heat sources used to increase the temperature for Bearded dragons include heat rocks, heat pads, and overhead heat mounting.
Heat rocks & head pads
Heat rocks and heat pads are commercially available electrical devices with built-in heat sources. They are often easy to use, but because they are in direct contact with a Bearded dragon, these devices should be used with extra caution. Their temperatures should be tested regularly/routinely with a thermometer to ensure proper functioning.
Overhead heat mounting
The preferred way to supply heat to Bearded dragons is to supply overhead heating. For this, a basking lamp (which is a spotlight) mounted over a decorative rock can be used. Heating spotlights are more natural because they allow heat to be emitted from the top and from the bottom.
Infrared daylight heat bulbs are also available for the same purpose but are a bit more expensive with no additional advantages over regular spotlight bulbs. The distance from the bulb to the rock and the wattage strength of the bulb can be used to reach the desired temperature. The result will vary depending on the size of the enclosure and the ambient temperature. When mounting a spotlight over a rock, make sure no direct contact between the Bearded dragon and the light bulb is possible.
The temperature gradient
The environmental temperature should have a 24 – 34 ºC / 75 – 93 ºF temperature gradient which should be maintained by the heat source. If this gradient is not supplied, Bearded dragons will have no place to cool down or regulate their temperatures when the basking area becomes too hot. In the case where the environmental temperature is too hot a Bearded dragon will spend a lot of time in its water bowl, breath with its mouth open, or trying to escape the enclosure.
Bearded dragon night temperatures
Temperatures at night can drop to as low as 17 ºC / 63 ºF. For this to happen it is most often only necessary to switch off all the heating devices.
Some keepers recommend the installation of infrared lighting to maintain a warmer temperature during the evenings too. Infrared lighting will not interfere with the sight of Bearded dragons. By increasing the night temperatures growth and appetite are stimulated, but it is believed it will also shorten the overall life expectancy of Bearded dragons.
Bearded dragon egg incubation temperatures
Bearded dragon eggs should be incubated at 29 °C / 84 °F. This temperature is significantly lower than the average temperatures recommended for their keeping enclosures and even the average temperatures of their natural environments. Also, see Bearded dragon egg incubation temperatures for more information.
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