Step 4: Housing and Substrate

Picture of Housing and Substrate
Ceramic Tile Grand Canyon.jpg
Bearded Dragons are large reptiles, and need plenty of room to move. In addition you will need room to establish a temperature gradient. This does not mean that a hatchling dragon needs a huge tank, as this can make it hard for him to find food.


A 20 gallon long aquarium is adequate for a hatching dragon, but keep in mind that they will outgrow it in 3 - 6 months, a young healthy dragon with proper care can grow an inch or more per week.

An adult bearded dragon will need a 40 gallon breeder tank or larger. Many people build custom enclosures from wood or melamine.

No matter what kind of enclosure you use it should have a secure top.


For young dragons the best substrate is newspaper or paper towels. These are easy to clean and completely safe for the Beardie. Young Bearded Dragons are at a very high risk for impaction (when the bowels become stopped up from foreign objects) and should not be kept on sand, calcium sand, repti-bark, wood chips, ground walnut hulls, or any substrate that could be swallowed. Reptile carpet is not recommended either, as they can become hung in the fibers.

For adults newspaper or paper towels can be used as well. Some people use finely sifted play sand, and this is fine if the animal is healthy. Rabbit food pellets made of alfalfa can be used, as these can be digested, however if water comes in contact with the substrate it will mold. Keep in mind, any pelleted substrate can cause impaction, including substrates many think of as "safe". Calcium sand, repti-bark, wood chips, ground walnut hulls, or any other substrate that could be swallowed should not be used.

Another natural looking option is ceramic tile, just make sure that the tiles fit firmly together in the enclosure, with no gaps that the Bearded Dragons nails could get hung in.


You can provide you Bearded Dragon with decor such as rocks for basking, just make sure they are sterilized. Branches are not recommended as they provide hiding places for crickets. River stones are a good choice under the basking light as they are easy to clean and aid digestion.
piruet6 years ago
I don't fully agree. But I do agree that for little ones paper towels should be used since they can cause many accidents. However, for adults I think all substrates are fine if used properly. I've heard and have had success stories by everything from sand to alfalfa. My beardies have been on zillas walnut shells for a loooooooong time. And nothing has ever happened. So I will only speak from personal and friends experience before ruling anything out.
flamesbane (author)  piruet6 years ago
Even healthy adults can become impacted on substrates that are easily swallowed. While you can keep bearded dragons on walnut shells, most experts do not recommend it. If you notice in my the post above I mention using sand and alfalfa, and both are fine if used properly. Thanks for the comments. ANY pelleted substrate can cause impaction and death.