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The bearded dragon, or Pogona barbata, is native to Australia as well as to thousands of home habitats worldwide. It needs not only the right type of omnivorous diet and at least a 55-gallon (208.2-liter) tank to stretch out, but also a heating light that provides a simulated natural environment. Lighting for a bearded dragon will contain sun-simulating ultraviolet rays to keep the temperature in a basking area between 95 to 100° F (35 to 37.78° C). Elsewhere in its enclosure, the bearded dragon should have a temperature of between 78 and 88° F (25.56 and 31.11° C).
The cold-blooded bearded dragon will not be able to digest its food — ranging from crickets and vegetables to small, "pinky" mice and mealworms — without a properly heated and lighted tank. This does not imply that a bearded dragon's heat lamp should be kept running all day. Many handlers recommend a schedule of 14 hours of "daylight," followed by a natural 10 hours of darkness — just like in the wild.
Using a timer will ensure the bearded dragon's environment is controlled, even when its owner is not there to control it. These timers are available at most pet stores and online. The lighting for a bearded dragon, contained within a reflective dome-type assembly to concentrate the rays, should point downward onto a dedicated basking area. It should not be shining through the glass from the outside, since this will deflect UV rays. This is where a bearded dragon will go when it feels chilly, though this area should not be allowed to get hotter than about 100° F (37.78° C).
The rest of the enclosure should hover between 78 and 88° F (25.56 and 31.11° C). This area should contain some climbing branches and even some rocks and a hiding cave. The entire floor should be coated with a substrate like sand, reptile bedding or carpet that can adequately absorb waste. Lighting for a bearded dragon should be maintained on a stringent schedule, and flooring should be replaced or cleaned weekly. The typically docile reptile should return the favor by being easily handled and cuddled.
Properly supplementing vitamin intake with pet store supplements or a balanced diet will complement the lighting for a bearded dragon. These reptiles use the ultraviolet rays of their lights to make the vitamin D required for a healthy skeleton. Keeping the light close to the bottom of the enclosure's basking area — less than 1 foot (0.3 meters) away — will ensure proper metabolism. Another sound investment in lighting for a bearded dragon is a dim, nighttime heating light that can offer a constant heating source for when the lights are out and everyone is sleeping.
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