The Best Bearded Dragon Cage Setup in a 55 Gallon Tank

Large adult bearded dragons can grow to be nearly 2 feet in length, so they need plenty of room in their habitat to run around, bask, feed and sleep. A 55-gallon aquarium with a screen mesh lid can be outfitted as the perfect environment for a single bearded dragon.

Substrate Concerns

If you've talked to other bearded dragon owners, you may already be aware of the two distinct schools of thought on substrate matter for bearded dragons. While it is generally agreed that sand is never a suitable substrate for baby or juvenile beardies, some owners insist that it is the best choice for mature dragons, as their natural habitat is desert sand.

Opponents to sand cite impaction as their primary concern -- sand accidentally swallowed by a bearded dragon can cause intestinal blockages that can quickly lead to death. If you are concerned about the possibility of impaction or are planning on procuring a young dragon, opt instead for reptile carpet, newspaper, paper towels or ceramic tile. While none of these has the natural look of sand, they are ultimately safer for your beardie.

Lighting and Heating

As with most diurnal reptiles, bearded dragons use UVB from the sun to synthesize vitamin D3, which aids in the absorption of calcium. Use full-spectrum, UVB-emitting reptile lighting for your bearded dragon's habitat. Over one side of the cage, install a heat lamp that produces basking temperatures between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient heat from this fixture should bring the non-basking side of the terrarium to around 85 degrees. Use terrarium thermometers on both sides and make adjustments until the temperatures are right. At night, turn the lights and heating fixture off and allow the tank to reach room temperature, but not cooler than 65 degrees.

Rocks, Branches and Decorations

On the basking side of the tank, place a basking rock large enough for your dragon to stretch out and catch some rays. Your beardie will also happily climb on sturdy branches -- sandblasted driftwood is widely available and sturdy enough to support a grown dragon. If you choose to perk up the tank with plants, use only plants that the beardie could eat without getting sick. Chances are, your curious dragon will take a bite at some point, and many common live plants can make her sick. Junipers are a good option, as they grow slowly and don't require much water. Alternatively, use artificial plants made from nontoxic plastic. Provide a shallow water dish and food plate as well.