Many new owners don’t know if bearded dragons need light at night or not, and it’s completely understandable. There’s actually a lot of misinformation being passed around on this topic!
This guide will set the record straight and explain everything you need to do.
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Do Bearded Dragons Need Light At Night?
Bearded dragons are relatively easy to take care of, regardless of your experience with reptiles. Once you nail down their basic care requirements, you can keep these pet lizards healthy for many years to come. While most owners understand the dos and don’ts of humidity and temperature, lighting is where things can get a little more confusing.
Despite what you might hear, bearded dragons do not need light at night. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Leaving your beardie’s enclosure lights on throughout the night can negatively impact your bearded dragon’s health (more on that later).
Like many other animals, these reptiles need a stable day and night cycle. The hours of darkness are equally as important as the light they receive. Providing too much or too little light exposure throughout the day can have dire consequences.
So how much light do bearded dragons need?
The ideal setup is to have a lighting rig that can provide 12 to 14 hours of daylight and roughly 12 hours of darkness.
Your lighting system should include more than just standard bulbs, It needs a full-spectrum basking light and UVB lights. You can also have traditional tube lights depending on the size of the habitat. In total, your lights should flood about two-thirds of the enclosure with light for at least 12 hours every day.
Do yourself a favor and invest in a timer. Timers can switch the lighting rig on and off at the same time every day, ensuring that you provide the right amount of light and dark. With a reliable timer, you can keep your bearded dragon’s circadian rhythm intact even when you’re not at home.
Why Is This The Case?
To understand why bearded dragons shouldn’t have light at night, you must look at their natural habitat and what type of environment they’re used to living in. These reptiles hail from desert-like arid regions of Australia. These areas of the country have long, scorching hot days and relatively cool nights.
During some parts of the year, the sun is out for a staggering 16 hours! But once the sun sets, nothing but moonlight illuminates the area. Like other parts of the world, the days are shorter during the winter months. However, beardies still need around 12 hours of sun daily.
It doesn’t matter if your bearded dragon hatched in captivity. The species evolved to adapt to its natural habitat, and even captive-bred lizards have the same requirements as their natural habitat.
When you take a bearded dragon home to live with you, creating a home that simulates the animal’s native lands should be your top priority. That means mimicking the humidity levels, providing ample UV exposure, and creating the same day/night cycle.
Failing to do so can lead to many health problems and an overall inferior quality of life.
Lighting is important for a few different reasons. First, your lighting rig provides enough heat for bearded dragons to thermoregulate and stay healthy. These animals are cold-blooded and move throughout their environment to control body temperature. That’s why you must have a basking light and a temperature gradient.
Light and temperature also play a role in many biological functions. It helps keep the digestive tract moving, avoiding potential disasters and complications. Reliable lighting will also help with hormonal production and maintain that circadian rhythm.
While many reptile enthusiasts focus on getting daytime lighting just right, nighttime darkness is just as critical. At night, your bearded dragon’s body resets, allowing them to wake up rejuvenated and healthy enough to make it through the day. It’s the very reason why you sleep!
Contrary to popular belief, bearded dragons are not nocturnal. There’s a common misconception that these creatures are more active when the sun goes down. Some sources even claim that they’re crepuscular, saving their activity for dawn and dusk.
Both of those misconceptions couldn’t be more wrong! Bearded dragons have a similar circadian rhythm as humans. They’re diurnal, remaining active during the day and resting at night. Sure, you might not see your beardie being super busy as they bask under the glow of their artificial lighting.
However, they’re expending more energy than you realize and need those nighttime hours to recoup and recharge.
Providing This In The Enclosure
Since bearded dragons don’t need light at night, enclosures should be dark for around 12 hours at night. Furthermore, these reptiles should receive no UVB light during those 12 hours.
During the day, UVB exposure is paramount. UVB radiation simulates the sun’s brightness and color. It also helps your bearded dragon’s body synthesize Vitamin D, which plays a critical part in the absorption of calcium. Without UVB, your beardie will experience a significantly higher risk of painful conditions like metabolic bone disease.
UVB lighting should be an integral part of your daytime lighting rig and turn off simultaneously to provide 12 hours of UVB-free rest. UVB rays are invisible to the human eye, so don’t rely on visible confirmation alone. While you might not see that UVB light, it can harm your bearded dragon if left on throughout the night.
The Importance Of A Proper Sleep Cycle For Beardies
Bearded dragons need a proper sleep cycle to remain healthy. Most living things, from plants and animals to tiny microorganisms, have established circadian rhythms. Think of it as an internal clock that dictates time for activity and sleep.
Many things can affect your beardie’s circadian rhythm, but environmental factors like lighting have one of the most significant impacts.
Bearded dragons don’t need light at night, so when you leave the lights on after dark you’re throwing off your bearded dragon’s internal clock. Not only will they have trouble getting rest, but that extraneous light can also lead to health problems.
Sleep is a critical biological function that helps your beardie stay healthy. It’s when the body repairs itself. Without sleep, your bearded dragon can experience a weakened immune system, eventually resulting in many ongoing health problems. But that’s not all.
Your bearded dragon’s body produces and releases certain hormones at night. These hormones will only flood the body when your lizard is asleep. They serve many purposes, controlling health factors like metabolism, growth, organ function, development, and more.
That’s why it’s so essential for bearded dragons to maintain a proper sleep cycle. Without quiet and dark nights, hormonal production is at a standstill. It won’t be long until your reptile suffers the consequences.
Temptations To Avoid
Now you know why your bearded dragon doesn’t need light at night. Despite what some reptile keepers incorrectly believe, these lizards are not nocturnal and need a whole night of darkness to stay healthy.
But that begs the question: Are there any exceptions? Is there any time when you should leave the light on at night?
There are a couple of situations when you might feel it’s alright to leave the lights on. The first is when it’s too cold in the room that the enclosure is in. If you live in a part of the world that experiences harsh winters, room temperatures might fall to dangerous levels.
The same goes for enclosures kept in cold basements or attics. The idea is that it’s worth keeping the lights on to maintain healthy temperatures. But is that an excuse to deprive your bearded dragon of a dark night?
While the intention is good, you should not leave the lights on even if the temperatures are too cold. There are other ways to give your bearded dragon heat at night without relying on lights. For example, you could install ceramic heat-emitting bulbs, utilize heating pads, or nestle heated cables.
Those methods can work to keep your bearded dragon’s habitat above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave the lights on as a backup heating method. Doing so will only cause more problems moving forward. Invest in other heating accessories on cold nights, and avoid using your lights.
Another common reason many bearded dragon owners want to keep the lights on is to observe their pets in the dark. Maybe your lizard is sick, and you want to keep an eye on them as they recover. Or perhaps you’re simply worried about the environmental conditions and want to check on them every few hours.
Whatever the case, it’s best to avoid turning on the enclosure lights at night. Even a few seconds of that sudden bright light exposure could startle your bearded dragon, ruin its sleep cycle, and throw off its circadian rhythm.
The best thing you can do is use indirect lighting. For example, you could turn on the lights in an adjacent room and use the distant glow to check up on your lizard. Alternatively, you can use an infrared bulb.
These bulbs produce a soft, red glow. They can provide quick visibility without disturbing your bearded dragon. We don’t recommend leaving these lights on throughout the night because some reptiles still respond to them. But if you simply want to check on your lizard, these lamps will be less intrusive than turning on the entire lighting rig.
There is no situation when you should leave the lights on throughout the night. Whether you’re worried about visibility or warmth, there are safer alternatives that don’t put your bearded dragon’s sleep cycle at risk.
Bearded dragons don’t need light at night. In fact, it’s not good for them at all!
Now that you know this, it will be easier to provide excellent care for your little pet. But if you have any questions, just let us know.