Best Bearded Dragon Enclosures: Terrarium, Vivarium, Tank or Cage?

So, you’re looking for the absolute best enclosure for your bearded dragon? Then you’ve come to the right place.

My name is Megan, and I’m a senior biology student with a love for reptiles. In fact, I love them so much that I’ve taken classes to study them specifically.

Reptiles are really special animals. I’ve spent a lot of time studying them, and I can say that they’re some of the most interesting animals.

While they may seem bland to some, they actually have unique, complex personalities.

This means that bearded dragons make wonderful companions and owning one can be a great addition to your life.

Bearded dragons are one of the best beginner reptiles, and they’re one of my favorite reptiles.

Whether you’re getting an enclosure for your very first bearded dragon or simply upgrading and buying a new one, there are a lot of things to consider.

Bearded dragons can be very sensitive animals, so your first step, before you even look at the different types of enclosures and which one is best, it’s important to know what conditions your bearded dragon needs to live.

What Type of Conditions Do Bearded Dragons Need?

Bearded dragonBearded dragons are ectotherms. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry.

That’s just the official word for cold-blooded, and it means that they need heat from an outside source as they can’t regulate their own body temperature.

Humans are endotherms, which means that we can regulate our own body temperature, through either sweating or shivering.

In the wild, bearded dragons’ natural habitats include arid areas and deserts.

Now, while this may sound like just a bunch of biology jargon that you won’t need to remember, it’s actually really important.

You see, keeping all of that information in mind, you’ll need to make sure that your beard dragon’s enclosure resembles their natural habitats – hot, dry, and with plenty of sunlight – or else they could become sick or even die.

The most important factor is temperature. If your dragon becomes too cold, they won’t be able to digest their food or survive very well.

During the day, you’ll want to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure at a temperature of at least 78 degrees to no more than 88 degrees (in Fahrenheit) , or 25 degrees to 31 degrees (in Celsius).

During the night, you can allow it to drop a degree or two cooler. Do not use a hot rock as a heat source, as it can injury your bearded dragon.

Your bearded dragon will also want a temperature gradient. This means that they’ll want part of their enclosure to be warmer than other parts so they can what’s most comfortable for them.

Once you understand the basics to providing your reptile a stable home, you can began looking at the different enclosures

After you have their temperature at a comfortable level, you’ll need to make sure they have proper lighting. Most animals are happy with white light.

This is normal light that you can find in nearly every light bulb. Bearded dragons, however, are not most animals.

Bearded dragons need a special spectrum of light called ultraviolet. This light, which isn’t able to be seen by the human eye, is found in sunlight.

Bearded dragons specifically need a spectrum of ultraviolet called UVB. This helps your bearded dragon produce the Vitamin D that they need to survive.

While you can use a full spectrum light as a secondary source, it’s not nearly as good as the sun, and the UVB that your bearded dragon needs cannot pass through glass.

How are you supposed to provide the proper lighting for your bearded dragon then? You walk them on a leash. No, I’m just kidding; that’s probably not a great idea.

You can, however, with the proper caging, allow your bearded dragon outside. Just make sure that it is a sunny day that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even though the main purpose is for your dragon to get sunlight, you’ll need to provide adequate shade, like in the form of a hiding hutch, in case your dragon feels the need to get out of the heat.

Different Types of Bearded Dragon Enclosures

What is a Vivarium?

A reptileIf you’ve done a quick internet search for bearded dragon enclosures, you may have seen this word typed around.

My fellow language enthusiasts out there will recognize the beginning of this word. You see, ‘viva’ comes from the Latin word ‘vivere’, which means ‘to live’.

You can also see a connection to Spanish word for ‘to live’, which is ‘vivar’. You’re probably wondering what this has to do with reptiles.

You see, a vivarium, as the name suggests, is any type of enclosure where something lives.

Yes, that means that even your house could be considered a vivarium! It’s an umbrella term that includes all types of enclosures, such as terrariums and tanks.

What is a Terrarium?

Terrariums are enclosures designed specifically with terrestrial animals, such as reptiles and amphibians in mind.

The name comes from the fact that the original enclosures for reptiles were aquariums, or tanks, and, as the owning reptiles become more and more popular, a special enclosure, the terrarium, was designed.

Terrariums usually designed with a screen top for a heat source and a full spectrum light as well as front openings to make interacting with your reptiles, such as your lovely bearded dragons, much easier.

What is a Tank?

Tank is just another word for aquarium. This work just fine for bearded dragons, but they weren’t designed specifically for them.

This can make certain things, such as feeding, interacting, and setting up, difficult, but, especially just the casual hobbyist, it isn’t impossible.

More often than not, due to their versatility and lack of extra accessories, tanks are cheaper than aquariums.

Can I Use a Wire Cage for My Bearded Dragon?

Cages are good for most animals: cats, dogs, rodents, and even birds. But not bearded dragons.

In fact, putting your dragon in a wire cage can actually cause them a lot of harm because of two very big factors.

First, like mentioned above, you’ll need to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure at a stable temperature gradient.

With a wire cage, you won’t be able to keep the heat in the cage, which means your dragon won’t be able to function and will end up sick.

A reptile

Next, bearded dragon’s have fragile hands and a tendency to climb. With a wire cage, they’re more likely to become trapped in between the wires and injuring themselves.

So, if you can avoid it, don’t use a wire cage for your bearded dragon. If you absolutely have to, though, make sure it is only for a short period of time, and that you supervise them carefully.

I will say, though, that, if you plan to take your bearded dragon outside so that they can bask in the natural sunlight, a secure wire cage with a strong lock can be a very good option.

Once again, though, I suggest staying close by and keeping an eye on your dragon.

Which Style of Enclosure is Best for My Bearded Dragon?

In order to give you a better idea of each type of enclosure, I’ve designed a table comparing them on three different standards:

whether or not they were designed specifically for reptiles, how safe they are, and how well they work for reptiles.

One means that the enclosure is the best in that category, and three means that it is the worst.

Terrarium

Tank

Cage

Designed for Reptiles 1 2 3
Safety 2 1 3
Functionality 1 2 3

As you can see from the table, unless you’re taking your bearded dragon outside to bask, the cage is not a good option.

The tank is a good second choice. In fact, due to the fact that’s it’s designed to be sturdy enough to support large volumes of water, you may find that this option is the safest of all three.

However, due to the fact that most tanks lack elevated bottoms which are good for placing a substrate heater in.

Also front opening door for easy access to your bearded dragon, it comes in second to terrariums, which, for the most part, include both of these things.

It also falls into second because they weren’t designed specifically with reptiles in mind.

It’s like giving your large dog the food and water bowl that were designed for a kitten; they’ll work enough to keep your pet healthy and happy, but there are better, more efficient options.

Between the three options, I would have to say terrariums are the best option for all experience levels.

They’re the most efficient and functionally sound due to the fact that they are designed specifically for reptiles.

Top 8 Best Bearded Dragon Enclosures

Whether you decide to buy a terririm or a tank, picking the perfect one for you and your bearded dragon can be difficult.

After all, there are a lot of options available, some with things you won’t want or need.

Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to go through the hard work of digging and finding the absolute best enclosure. Here is a list of the top 8 best bearded dragon tanks and terrariums.

1) Aqueon 10 Gallon Black Aquarium

Sometimes simple is best, and that’s exactly what this tank is.

It doesn’t have any extra bells or whistles; it’s just a 10 gallon tank, perfect for the young or single bearded dragon.

Some customers say that then packaging can be a hassle, but other than that, it’s well worth the inexpensive price.

2) Exo Terra Nano Wide Terrarium

Exo Terra is one of the most popular brands for reptile tanks and terrariums.

While you can buy them in multiple sizes, this is the nano wide style, which is 512 cubic inches – the perfect size for smaller dragons or if you only have one.

Unlike regular tanks, this terrarium has a front opening door that allows you to easily access your bearded dragon for everything from feeding to play time.

It also has an elevated, waterproof bottom that will allow you to use a substrate heater to replicate the warm ground of the bearded dragon’s natural habitat.

The nano wide style is also highly reviewed and well worth the inexpensive cost.

3) Exo Terra Glass Reptile Terrarium

That’s right, another Exo Terra terrarium! I decided to include this one because, even though it is the same brand, it has a lot of different helpful features that I wanted to talk about.

First, this one is drastically larger. It’s 12”x12”x12”, or 1728 cubic inches. This means that this terrarium is a much better choice if you have an adult bearded dragon or multiple dragons.

This terrarium is also escape proof, even though it has a dual opening front door for easier access, and the bottom is elevated for a substrate heater and is waterproof.

It has a lock, and the top is removable to make cleaning and redecorating easier.

This terrarium, while on the higher end, still manages to be an inexpensive enclosure, making it great for hobbyists.

4) Zilla Reptile Start Kit Size 10 with Light and Heat

Let’s face it. Picking out the proper equipment as a first-time bearded dragon owner can be difficult.

They just have so many needs that need special equipment that picking the right think can be hard.

That’s while I like this kit. It still manages to be relatively inexpensive while providing nearly everything you’ll need for you bearded dragon.

This kit includes a reflective dome feature to make sure your reptile has the proper lighting; a screen cover for security; a humidity and temperature gage so that you can make sure your dragon’s enclosure mimics their natural habitat; and a substrate to line the bottom of the enclosure.

In all, this is a good relatively inexpensive choice, especially for beginners.

5) Reptizoo Reptile Glass Terrarium

At 36”x18”x18”, the Reptizoo terrarium is the biggest on this list so far. It’s also the most expensive so far.

However, it’s highly reviewed and comes with a variety of features that make it unique.

The durable top screen allows for all the light and heat your bearded dragon needs to enter their enclosure.

For extra warmth, the waterproof bottom is elevated to allow for a substrate heater, and the dual front doors allow for easy access to your pet.

It has tubing to hire all wires, making it both extra safe for your bearded dragon and aesthetically pleasing.

It’s also easy to both install and take down, and it comes with good instructions.

The Reptizoo is a good choice for all level bearded dragon owners, though, if you are a beginner, you will need to make sure that you have all the necessary extra supplies.

6) Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium Extra Large

If you need the biggest terrarium possible, and your budget is high, then the Carolina Custom Cages is for you.

In fact, at 48”x24”x24” – a grand total of 27,648 cubic inches – this is one of the largest enclosures that I have seen.

It has a waterproof base, sliding doors, and the option for a lock and key. The setup is easy, and you can fit multiple adult bearded dragons inside of the enclosure. As I mentioned, though, it is definitely pricier.

I recommend this for someone who possibly breeds bearded dragons or is highly dedicated to them rather than the casual hobbyist, just because of the investment.

Other than that, though, in regards to functionality, it’s a great option for anyone.

7) Lifeguard Aquatics Crystal Aquarium

This tank is good if you’re looking to expand your bearded dragon family rather than start out.

That’s because this is an aquarium that is lacking a top, so you’ll need to provide a sturdy screen lid so that you don’t have to worry about your bearded dragon, also know as the world’s greatest escape artist, getting out.

You’ll also have to provide everything else, such as lighting, heat, and interior elements like substrate and a basking rock.

Due to all of this, it may be a bit pricy, but it’s extremely sturdy and waterproof, so you would have peace of mind knowing that your precious bearded dragon is safe.

8) Carolina Biological Supply Company 5 ½ Gallon Aquarium Tank

Just like the Lifeguard Aquatics tank, this is just a tank – nothing fancy about it.

It’s made in the United States, and, if you’re unhappy with it for any reason, you can return it.

You also have access to technical support if anything is wrong.

This tank is extremely cheap, and so, even if you have to go out and buy all of the extra needed supplies to make this tank a suitable enclosure for a bearded dragon, it will still be a fairly good deal.

I think that this tank is a great choice for all experience levels – from beginner to hobbyist to expert.

My Top Bearded Dragon Enclosure Picks

I think that each one of these enclosures are special in their own way, and I like them all.

However, when considering price, function, and safety, there’s just one that I think is the best, and that’s the Reptizoo Reptile Glass Terrarium.

It is a bit on the pricier side, though not the most expensive, but I think that it has a lot of really great features that make it worth the price.

I like how there is tubing that is designed to hide the wires. Because bearded dragons need so much extra equipment such as lights and heaters, the cords can get out of hand pretty quickly.

And, if your dragon was to escape of if you have other pets in the house, these cords can be dangerous.

I also like the fact that the Reptizoo terrarium is just that: a terrarium.

While tanks are okay, especially if you’re just a casual hobbyist, this enclosure was designed specifically with reptiles in mind.

My second top pick is Exo Terra Nano Wide Terrarium. With its small size, I just feel like it’s a great choice for beginners.

First of all, the nano wide style is designed to only fit a single bearded dragon, so it allows you to give your dragon all of your attention without the temptation of bringing another bearded dragon into your home.

It’s also easy to clean and set up because it’s so small.

Setting up the enclosure properly is a big part of making sure that your bearded dragon is as healthy and happy as possible.

How to Set Up an Enclosure

Setting up your bearded dragon’s enclosure can be a daunting task, but as long as you understand what a bearded dragon needs to survive, it can be a fun, easy, and, dare I say, relaxing task!

It’s quite similar to setting up an aquarium or cage for rodent, so, if you’ve done that before, congratulations, you have experience. If not, don’t worry!

The first step is to, of course, pick the enclosures that works best with you and your bearded dragon.

Enclosures are not a one size fits all type of product, so make sure you think carefully about the size of your bearded dragon, how many dragons you plan to keep in a single enclosure, and how much space you will need for the enclosure.

Next, the most important part: heating and light. I don’t think I can stress these two factors enough.

Like I mentioned before, when it comes to heating, keep it in the high 70s. Also, don’t forget that important temperature gradient.

Then, with lighting, you need a full spectrum light so that it replicates the sun’s beams.

Create an elevate platform, whether with a branch, rock, hutch, or even hammock, that allows your lizard to sit 6 to 8 inches away from the light.

Third, add all of the extra stuff, such as substrate and décor, that will help your bearded dragon to feel more at home within their enclosure.

If you’re worried about the price, don’t! Substrate can actually be really cheap! How? Because you can use a newspaper.

A reptileIt’s cheap and easy to clean, but it can be a little bit more work, as you’ll have to change it every day – much like a litter box.

If you rather use a more permanent option, feel free to explore. However, if there is a young bearded dragon within your enclosure that is still mostly eating insects, avoid loose substrates like sand.

When they are hunting, they can swallow some of the sand and die from a condition called impaction.

For decorations, you’ll need things such as a hutch, for your lizard to hide in when they feel the need, and a basking perch to situate near their light source.

While live plants may work in a fish tank, you’ll want to use fake plants with your bearded dragons to avoid them eating them.

Finally, provide food and water bowls for your bearded dragon. Like every other living creature, they need these to survive, so keep them clean and full.

The best dishes you can use are shallows ones, as it’ll be easier for your dragons to reach and prevent any accidental drownings.

After you’ve set up your bearded dragon’s enclosure, it’s important to make sure that you monitor them. This includes temperatures, humidity, and your bearded dragon’s general happiness.

What Else Will You Need for Your Bearded Dragon?

The enclosure is just the first part of making sure your bearded dragon has a safe, comfortable home.

The goal is to make their enclosure as similar to their natural habitats – remember that’s arid areas and deserts – as possible, so you’ll have to put in a little work for interior design.

It’s more than just for aesthetic purposes though. By designing your dragon’s cage with their natural needs in mind, they’ll be a lot healthier and happier.

The absolute most important thing you need to buy is a heat source.

As an ectotherm, your bearded dragon relies on heat sources to survive, and, without one, they will become sickly and could even die.

Thankfully, though, you can cover this need and another one at the same time. You see, dragons also need 12-14 hours of full spectrum lighting.

By providing an elevated platform – a rock or branch works wells – that allows your dragon to come within at least 8 inches of the bulb, they will have both their lighting and heat needs.

A reptileYou’ll also need to invest in good flooring for your bearded dragon. Younger dragons will need firm, large flooring.

This is because their diet is higher in insects, and you need to make sure they won’t accidently ingest any of their flooring when catching their prey.

Good flooring for younger dragons can include things such as newspapers and paper towels. Avoid using sand, wood chips, or gravel as their flooring.

If you want to make sure your bearded dragon is never bored, you can also invest in furniture and even toys.

Bearded dragons especially enjoy furniture that they can lay out on close to their heat source, such as rocks, plants, and even hammocks.

You should also buy them places to hide, just as huts. These can double as a basking rock, too!

Furniture and Decorations for Your Beard Dragon’s Enclosure

Beaded dragons are that different from humans. While having just their basic needs met is great and all, they’re not minimalist.

No, they enjoy an enclosure full of their favorite thins – just don’t go too overboard and leave them no exploring room.

Basking spots are super important to both your bearded dragon’s happiness and health.

If you go into a pet store, you may see different kinds of basking platforms, but the most common is a branch.

For desert animals like a bearded dragon, though, you can experiment. Rocks are another good choice.

If you buy a rock style hiding hutch with a flat – it doesn’t have to be perfect – top, your bearded dragon will bask there and hide there.

If you want to get fancy and spoil your dragon, you can consider buying a hammock. You’ll need a taller enclosure for this, but most bearded dragons really enjoy them.

Final Thoughts

A reptileWhichever enclosure you chose to buy, it’s important to make sure that you have everything necessary to fulfill your bearded dragon’s needs.

Bearded dragons can be a bit of a tougher species. Unlike dogs or cats, they aren’t happy in a wide variety of climates, in fact, they’re only happy on climate: warm and dry.

This means that you have to invest a lot of time and money into making sure that everything is set up absolutely perfectly.

While it may seem like buying an enclosure in the only step to raising healthy and happy bearded dragons, it’s not.

They need a full spectrum light that imitates the desert sun, a heat source, and plenty of places to bask, climb, play, and hide.

A terrarium like Reptizoo or Exo Terra terrariums is the best choice, but, if you’re unable to buy these, tanks will work just fine, especially for the casual hobbyist.

The most important thing is that their needs are met and they’re safe.

No matter which enclosure you end up buying, from the smallest to the absolute largest you can find, so long as you are taking the proper precautions to ensure your dragon’s healthy and safety, you can be a great reptile owner.

Owning a bearded dragon is a fulfilling and wonderful experience that can provide you with endless companionship.

Due to the fact that they’re beginner reptiles, you’ll also find that they can help you prepare for reptiles that are harder to take care of.

Making sure that all of your bearded dragon’s needs are met is the first step to a hobby – or even career – of raising these intelligent, interesting reptiles.

 

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