Pros: High UV, relatively inexpensive, keeps the bearded ones healthy and happy
Cons: Won't work through glass or plastic, don't even try
Bearded dragons love the desert and certainly must wonder what theyre doing in cold, damp east central Illinois, even if their terrarium has heat and lots of light. Our bearded dragons have never seen the desert, however, something in their genetic roots probably dreams of a place with 10 inches of rain or less a year. They need sunshine and lots of ultra-violet light. Without this their body rebels as does their appetite.
To meet part of their lighting needs we use the Hagen Repti-Glo 8.0 UV Bulb that is designed for desert-dwelling reptiles with high requirements for ultra-violet light. UV light is required for several reasons:
Desert-dwelling animals are adapted to the deserts intense light, more so than tropical reptiles, and their body functions have evolved strategies to maximize this light level,
UV light stimulates appetite as well as reproduction and activity,
Without UV bearded dragons can not convert vitamin D into vitamin D3, which is necessary for preventing metabolic bone disease. D3 is necessary for absorbing calcium.
These bulbs come in a variety of lengths and the best recommendation is to use one that is the length of the terrarium. The one we use is a 20 watt bulb that is 24 inches. This is an affordable bulb at $14 and it's easy to install in a standard fluorescent fixture. These don't generate excess heat in the habitat. It has also been recommended that we use this in conjunction with a full-spectrum daylight bulb, which we do.
Not long ago we were concerned that our bearded dragons were suffering from metabolic bone disease, a common condition among reptiles in captivity. Our light was reaching the dragons through plastic and glass. Those who own dragons are going oh no! After conducting a little research and talking to some vets we have since changed the configuration of the bulbs in relation to the dragons. Their activity level increased considerably and they started running all over the cage and basking under the light in new places. Their appetites increased along with their activity level. Were monitoring the health of our dragons, but their future appears promising.
According to the package, the UVA (33%) stimulates appetite, activity and reproductive behavior, the UVB (8%) promotes Vitamin D3 synthesis. These serve the needs of desert reptiles along with some dietary supplements of calcium and a well balanced diet.
Raising and caring for bearded dragons is in many ways much more complicated than caring for cats or dogs. Understanding their natural habitat is important when designing their captive habitat. They live in a region with direct sunlight that warms the rocks, soil and air to very high temperatures in the day but cools off in the night after sunset. Tropical reptiles have more shade and the light is filtered by the air and is less intense. Reptiles that evolved for tropical regions have completely different light requirements than desert-dwelling reptiles. The bearded dragons thrive on bright, full-spectrum light loaded with UV.
Desert animals are exposed to more UV than other reptiles in part because of the lack of moisture in the air, the intensity of the light, and the lack of a vegetative canopy (few trees). Make sure when setting up the habitat that you also provide some shade in case your bearded friend needs to thermoregulate. Desert lizards enjoy morning heat in the summer, but they tend to seek shade in the afternoon heat under a rock or shrubby plant to control its body heat through a natural process of thermoregulation. You do need the combination of a full-spectrum daylight bulb as well as a UV bulb and this Repti-Glo bulb is more than adequate for providing UV light.
I can happily report that so far life is good with our dragons. They are frisky, eager to eat, and enjoying new places and spaces in their enclosure. If something appears wrong with your dragons and if youre observant you know when theyre feeling off, call a small animal vet or check with some experts.