How to Set Up a Bearded Dragon Habitat Correctly

To set up a bearded dragon habitat successfully, you’ll need to consider a few simple things to make their home as natural as possible.

There are some absolutely essential items that you MUST include in the new home of your bearded dragon. There is also a particular way that you must set everything out within the habitat to make sure your beardie is content.

Keep reading to find out exactly how to set up your beardie’s new home.

Over time, you will get to know how your beardie likes everything but for now, a basic setup is a good place to start.

The diagram below shows some of the key items a tank should have.

bearded dragon habitat setup

Keep reading to find out some more of the recommended stuff you need for your bearded dragon.

Key Considerations

Tank Size

The most important thing to think about is the size of your bearded dragon. Although you might be purchasing them as a baby, you need to make sure that there’s enough room for them to grow and roam around comfortably.

For a baby bearded dragon, the tank size should be at least 20-gallons however, 40-gallons would be much more suitable because they will quickly outgrow the smaller tank.

bearded dragon tank size

For an adult beardie the ideal size is 120-gallons. This will give them plenty of room to move about and keep fit.

The height of the tank is also important, although bearded dragons aren’t tall, you’ll need to leave space for branches and rocks for your bearded dragon to use.

Note: For more info on selecting the correct tank size then check out this guide here

Lighting Setup

You’ll also need to think about the lighting inside the vivarium that you’ve chosen. Bearded dragons like to bask in the sun for most of the day in the wild, so you need to mimic this with a UV light.

The light will need to be on for the majority of the time (12 hours a day). However, there will also need to be a darker hiding spot for your bearded dragon if they need it.

Bearded Dragon temperature

Note: You can find out how to set up your bearded dragon lighting in this guide here. 

Substrate Selection

The next thing to consider is the flooring. Obviously, your bearded dragon can’t walkabout on the bare floor. You can use:

  • Newspaper
  • Reptile Carpet
  • Clay-Like Sand

Bear in mind though, that newspaper doesn’t tend to last very long, so you’ll need to change this every day.

You can find out the best and safest substrate for bearded dragons in this guide.

Decorative Elements

Then you’ll need to decorate their new pad with branches, rocks, hideouts, and a freshwater bowl.

What’s the First Thing I Need to Do?

Make Prior Preparations

Ideally, you’d purchase your vivarium and all of the accessories a couple of weeks prior to your bearded dragon actually arriving in the new habitat. This allows you to test out the lighting and heating before their arrival.

The last thing you need is to purchase a faulty heat lamp and not know until your bearded dragon is already in there.

Establish an Airflow

When searching for your bearded dragon’s perfect home, consider the size and practicality of airflow.

Bearded dragons do move around a lot, so you’ll need to think about how big they’re likely to grow and purchase something that will allow them plenty of space.

Remember: It’s going to be hot in there, so a vivarium with a mesh top is ideal as it allows the air to come and go freely, reducing the humidity.

Don’t purchase one without a lid! Your live food will escape out of the top and wander around your house.

Install Thermometers

You’ll need to monitor the temperature conditions within the new habitat a few times per day to make sure you’ve got it right. It’s a great idea to purchase a couple of small wall thermometers for the inside of your tank.

Place one in the basking zone and one in the cool zone. That way, you can see the temperature changes at a glance. Some of these thermometers also come with a humidity gage, which could come in handy too.

Inkbird ITH-10 Digital Thermometer

What Do I Need to Buy for the Inside of the Habitat?

Basking Rock

The most important part of any bearded dragon’s day is their basking time. So, you’ll need to buy a larger rock or wide branch for the inside of the habitat.

This needs to be big enough for your bearded dragon to lay down and put his feet up and will need to be placed underneath your UV light.

MagNaturals Rock Ledge


You’ll also need somewhere within the new habitat that your bearded dragon can hide when everything gets a bit much. You can buy reptile hideouts at pet shops, or just a simple box with a hole in would do.

Place this at the opposite end to the UV light, so the temperature will be noticeably different to your bearded dragon.

Tank Decor

To decorate, you’ll need to add in some foliage. This can be in the form of plants or vines that can hang from the ceiling.

Anything like this can provide a natural hiding place for live food, which will make your dragon’s feeding time seem more natural.

Fluker's Repta Vines for Reptiles

These accessories can also act as ‘boredom busters’, but make sure that you don’t make it too cluttered. Your dragon still needs room to move.

Don’t use real plants, as your dragon might try to eat them and some can be harmful to your beardie.

What Type of Flooring Do I Need to Provide?

Bearded dragons have long claws that can get stuck in certain material surfaces, so you’ll need to make sure that you give them something to walk on that will naturally wear these down.

Reptile Carpet

Pet shops supply specialized reptile carpet. This is basically a fake grass type carpet with a slightly rough surface.

It avoids the dragon’s claws getting stuck and lets them walk freely. However, the downside is that it’s quite difficult to clean and won’t last you too long before you need to replace it.


Perhaps the easiest and cheapest option is just newspaper. It’s completely fine for your bearded dragon health-wise, and it gives them something to read.

The only downside being, that you’d need to change this daily. Newspapers don’t stay clean for long. If your bearded dragon accidentally nudges the water bowl, the whole lot will need to be scrapped.

Is Sand a Good Substrate?

Advice upfront: Steer clear of sand for baby bearded dragons.

Sand is a cheap alternative that looks quite good in a tank. However, younger bearded dragons have been known to swallow this unintentionally.

When a bearded dragon eats, they tend to ‘strike’ at their food to avoid the risk of it getting away.

In the process, it might mean that they accidentally get some of the sand in their mouths… sometimes their aim isn’t great.

This can be a problem for younger bearded dragons as they can’t digest it, and it can cause blockages, also known as impaction. You are best off using a non-particle substrate for your baby beardie.

Once they get older you could consider getting them a burrowing substrate that looks good and also can’t be accidentally digested.

Zoomed Excavator Clay Substrate


It is well worth making these preparations for the habitat well in advance before you get your bearded dragon. Doing this will mean you can have everything perfect for their arrival.

Beardies really don’t like change so you want things to remain as consistent as possible when they are in their new habitat.

Over time you will get to realize what your beardie does or doesn’t like and you can tweak accordingly however the items in this guide are the basics that every beardie will require.

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bearded dragon habitat

  • About Matthew Cantell

    I was just 15 years of age when I first met a bearded dragon. It was at my friend's house and I instantly grew an immediate attraction to, what has now become, my favourite animal on the planet! Making fantastic pets for both children and adults alike, they each have their own personality and are certainly full of character. There are, though, some important things that we should all know when it comes to caring for these amazing animals!
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