If your pet of choice is a bearded dragon, you’ll be familiar with their need to bask in an external heat source. But what happens when we get some actual summer heat in Worcestershire - is there such as thing as ‘too hot’ for bearded dragons?
Alun Edwards and our veterinary team have put together their top tips for keeping your dragon’s vivarium at an optimal temperature for basking this summer.
Eight summer heat basking tips for bearded dragon owners:
1. Opt for an all-in-one heat bulb with UV light – UV light helps to prevent metabolic bone disease, and heat is needed to warm up your exothermic pet’s body to its optimal temperature. This mimics their natural environment and ensures essential functions like digestion work properly. Our team found this by doing a quick search online (others are available) - Combined UV heat lamp for reptiles
2. Install a thermostat – This vital piece of equipment will dim the heat lamp when the set temperature is reached, reducing its heat output. Look for a high-range dimming thermostat. In hot weather, you can adjust the thermostat to keep the vivarium at the optimal temperature. Without one, your bearded dragon could be exposed to dangerous temperatures of 42+ degrees with nowhere cold enough to cool down.
The optimal temperature for a bearded dragon is 38 – 42 degrees Celcius in the bright end of their vivarium for basking in, and 22 – 26 degrees in the shaded end. The heat lamp (and UV bulb if separate) should be on first thing so your dragon can spend about an hour energising for the day.
3. Install some fans – Attach fans to the vivarium vents to blow fresh air in and suck stale air out. This will create a steady airflow exchange in the enclosure and help cool it by a few degrees. Room fans on especially hot days can help a little too.
4. Add more ventilation – During hot summers, you might want extra ventilation in your dragon’s enclosure to help cool it down and reduce humidity (and risk of bacteria). If you’re a keen DIYer or know someone who can help, try adding some secure mesh panels to the walls of the enclosure.
5. Try water misting – Cool down your dragon’s home in the morning, afternoon, and evening with a quick misting.
6. Water ‘bath’ bowls – Give your bearded dragon a large, shallow water bowl they can easily climb in and out of. This will make an excellent summer soaking tub to cool down in if they so desire.
7. Create a dragon ‘cooling room’ - In the darker end, create a shaded, moist area for your dragon to cool down in if needed. Line it with a bed of sphagnum moss, which you can buy online.
8. Substrate digging – Bearded dragons naturally like to dig. Besides doing it for enrichment, hunting, and foraging, burrowing is great for staying warm at night and cooling down in the midday heat. To achieve a good substrate, try using a play-sand/topsoil mix, slightly heavier on the topsoil.
We hope our hot weather basking temperature tips have been helpful. If you have any tips for other dragon owners, please do share them on our Facebook page.
Here’s one final piece of advice from Clent Hills' team - it’s not normal or healthy for bearded dragons to sleep all day in the summer as they can miss vital basking time.
If your pet has become lazy, lethargic, and isn’t eating, this could be a sign of being too hot (or something else). As a first check, look at the vivarium temperature and follow our advice above.