As cold-blooded animals, bearded dragons need external heat sources to live. Therefore, bearded dragons will bask in the sun to get heat in their natural environment.
When in captivity, we, as bearded dragon owners, need to provide this heat for them. In fact, heat is one of the most important things you need to know about when you have a pet reptile.
If a bearded dragon’s environment isn’t warm enough (or is too warm), it won’t be healthy or happy.
If, for some reason, you find that there is a problem with your bearded dragon’s heat source, you’ll need to come up with ways to keep him warm while you fix it.
This article explains how you can keep a bearded dragon warm when your usual heat source isn’t available. Remember, though, that these aren’t permanent solutions and are just temporary measures you can put in place.
First, though, let’s look in more detail at why bearded dragons need heat lamps.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Need Heat Lamps?
Bearded Dragons are exothermic. This means they require an external heat source because they cannot generate their own body heat as mammals do.
In their natural habitat of Australia, they use the heat from the sun to increase their body temperature. However, they don’t have access to sunlight in captivity and need an external heat source. This is called a basking lamp or heat lamp.
Providing heat is essential to your bearded dragon’s health. Most importantly, bearded dragons need heat to digest food properly and absorb its nutrients. If a bearded dragon can’t bask after a meal, there can be health problems.
Ultimately, a bearded dragon can end up with rotting, undigested food in its digestive tract if it can’t get heat after it’s eaten. They’ll likely become impacted, too, as their undigested food will sit and cause constipation and blockages.
Impaction is severe and can be deadly if it is not resolved. But, before getting to that stage, it’s also very uncomfortable and causes restricted movements and loss of appetite.
Baby Bearded Dragons and Heat
Just like adult bearded dragons, baby bearded dragons also need heat, if not more so.
Because babies grow at a considerable pace, they need lots of food throughout the day, which obviously means lots of heat to facilitate digestion.
A bearded dragon will grow to 90% of its adult size in its first year so getting the heating right for your baby is crucial.
If babies can’t digest their last meal, they won’t be hungry for the next one. This will result in impeded growth.
How Much Heat Should a Bearded Dragon Have Each Day?
Now you know just how vital the heat source is for your bearded dragon, you might wonder how much heat exposure is needed per day.
A bearded dragon needs between 10 and 14 hours of light each day, though some people provide 16. So, your basking lamp should also be on whenever your light is on.
Some owners like to reproduce the seasonal light cycle and change how many hours of heat and light they provide, whether spring, summer, autumn, or winter.
If this appeals to you, you should offer 10 hours of heat and light in winter, 12 in spring and autumn, and 14 in summer.
If you’d like to keep the hours the same throughout the year, it’s best to stick to summer hours.
What Temperature Should the Basking Spot Be?
A bearded dragon’s basking spot temperature will change according to the beardie’s age. You’ll also need to ensure that other areas of the tank have different temperatures, as your bearded dragon will need a space to cool down and regulate his temperature if he gets too hot.
As a quick guide, the basking spot should be between 95 °F and 100 °F. The cool spot should be between 75 °F and 80 °F. At night, the ideal temperature should be between 70 °F and 75 °F.
The nighttime temperature is low at 70 to 75 °F to replicate the bearded dragon’s experience in his natural habitat. Therefore, if the temperature drops to less than 65 °F, there should be a nighttime heat source to keep it at 70.
One way to maintain the temperature overnight is with a ceramic heat emitter. These heat lamps don’t give off light, so they don’t disturb the nighttime slumber!
Depending on your location and where your bearded dragon is in your home, you might not need to consider nighttime heating at all.
Using a Timer for Your Heat Lamp and Lights
A great idea is a timer for your bearded dragon’s heat and light sources. Not only does it free you up from daily switching on and off, but it will mean you never forget to turn them on or off.
Just imagine one morning you forget, and your poor beardie has to go without heat or light while you’re at work! When everything is automatic, you just need to focus on monitoring things, feeding, and cleaning.
Automatic timers also help regulate your bearded dragon’s circadian rhythm, as the timings will always be spot on. Your bearded dragon will know when to expect food, etc.
Emergency Heating – How To Keep a Bearded Dragon Warm Without A Heat Lamp
Now you know the importance of keeping your bearded dragon warm, you might wonder how long a bearded dragon can go without heat. What would happen if there was a power outage, for example?
If you’re concerned or curious, we’ll let you know many different ways to keep a bearded dragon warm without its heat bulb.
Temporary Heat Solutions
Here are some ways you can keep your beardie warm:
- hot water bottle
- hot grain pillow (an alternative to a hot water bottle that you can put in the microwave)
- cuddles with you!
- a warm bath
- heat packs
- a heating pad
Before we go into detail, it’s essential to know how cold is too cold for bearded dragons.
What’s the Coolest Temperature That’s Safe for A Bearded Dragon?
Anything below 65 °F is unsafe for these cold-blooded animals. A bearded dragon can recover after spending time in temperatures of 60 °F. Still, they will have an increased risk of becoming ill. As such, you should know what to look out for.
Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Too Cold
A cold bearded dragon will behave differently. Here are some of the things a bearded dragon owner should look out for:
Problems with The Digestive System
When bearded dragons are cold, the most common symptoms are digestion. As previously mentioned, bearded dragons need heat to digest their food. When they’re too cold, the food remains in their stomach.
If a bearded dragon remains cold, the food will rot in its stomach, which can be fatal.
Being unresponsive and lethargic
If a bearded dragon is left without a heat lamp for a long time, he will become weaker and slow down. This is because he won’t be able to digest food for energy and nutrients.
After being warmed, they should return back to normal.
However, a cold spell can lead to brumation, which is a bit like reptile hibernation. This is to help Beardies cope with the cold and conserve energy.
It can be scary to witness shallow breathing and unresponsiveness, but this is normal for a cold bearded dragon.
Suppose your beardie remains unresponsive even after being given heat, and it isn’t down to brumation. In that case, you should seek advice from a vet immediately.
Changes in color
When your bearded dragon looks darker, it could signify temperatures being too cold. This is because bearded dragons make themselves darker to absorb more heat from their environment and maintain body temperature.
Color changes can also be a symptom of other things, so check to see if they are still dark in appearance after being warmed back up.
How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go without Heat?
A bearded dragon can go without a heat lamp for 24 hours, provided their enclosure temperature doesn’t drop below 65 °F. Anything longer than one day would mean they’re at significant risk of health problems.
There are times when your pet needs to manage without a heat lamp. This could be due to a power outage because you need to collect a new bulb or even because you’re taking them somewhere.
Sometimes, being without a heat lamp for a few hours will be fine. However, you must ensure you get them into a good setup as soon as possible.
Some bearded dragons will go into brumation due to not having a heat lamp. However, they can manage like this for up to two days if they’re not in a temperature lower than 65 °F.
This is only suitable for fully-grown adults, however. Baby bearded dragons and juveniles shouldn’t be allowed to brumate.
If you know your beardie will be without a heat lamp for whatever reason, it’s a good idea to be well prepared to keep them happy and healthy until they are back in their tank.
The best way to keep them warm is to replace their heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter as soon as possible. In the meantime, here are some strategies to keep them warm and bridge the gap.
Keeping Your Bearded Dragons Warm Without A Heat Lamp – in Depth
As mentioned above, there are many ways in which you can keep your bearded dragons warm while you await a new heat lamp set up. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Though blankets aren’t themselves a heat source, they do work at helping your bearded dragon keep retain heat in his body. You can use a blanket in different ways.
Firstly, you can place a blanket over the tank, so the enclosure doesn’t lose heat too quickly. Secondly, you can keep your bearded dragon warm inside a blanket.
When covering their enclosure, you should keep an eye on the temperature to ensure it doesn’t drop below 65 °F. This is usually fine if the ambient temperature in the room hovers around this level already. However, if it does drop, you’ll need to look at other solutions.
You also must be careful that a blanket on an enclosure doesn’t pose a fire hazard. This is more likely if the lights inside are switched on.
If you’re wrapping your bearded dragon in a blanket, he might choose to wiggle out, so it might not be as effective. Instead, you can encourage him to stay inside the blanket by placing him on you with the blanket over the top so that he can use your body heat to keep warm.
A Hot Water Bottle or Microwavable Grain Pillows
Hot water bottles or microwavable grain pillows are a great way to keep your dragon warm when a heat lamp fails. These can act as a heating pad for your beardie.
It is vital to keep both types covered with a cloth or towel. This is so your bearded dragon doesn’t burn his belly or feet by going on top of them.
Grain pillows need to be checked for holes beforehand. A bearded dragon can’t digest grains, so you need to ensure he’s not going to consume the contents of the pillow.
If it’s summer and warm outside, consider taking your bearded dragon outside to bask in the sun. Not only would he benefit from the heat, but the UV light too!
If you do this, ensure you keep them safe in a pen or on a harness so that they can’t eat insects and plants and wander too far.
Try a Warm Bath
A bath can do the trick if you’re trying to warm up a bearded dragon that’s got a little chilly. The water depth should be lower than their nose and mouth, and the temperature should be 85 °F to 95 °F.
Bearded dragons often defecate in water, so be warned that they might do this!
Also, when you take him out of the bath, he will cool down quickly, even if you pat him dry. For this reason, it’s only a good idea if you’ve got another method of heating to use afterward or you’ve got a new basking lamp ready.
Use a Heat Mat
Heat pads should be a last resort, but they can be used as a stopgap or in an emergency.
In the wild, the heat will always come from the sun, i.e., above the bearded dragon. As a result, artificial heat should also come from above.
It’s easy for a dragon to overheat and burn with a heat mat because they can’t feel the heat through their bellies.
Use Your Heated Car Seats
If you’re transporting your beardie between places or taking him on vacation, you could place him on a blanket on your heated car seats.
You’ll need to ensure that you don’t overheat him, though.
How Do You Know if A Bearded Dragon Is Warm Enough?
Knowing the signs of a cold bearded dragon is essential, as discussed above. You will know if your bearded dragon is adequately warm because he will be behaving normally.
Using thermometers in the tank is a good idea. Still, it’s also helpful to use a temperature gun to check different areas.
The most important thing is to check the enclosure temperatures daily, even if you’re confident in your setup. This is because you never know if you’ve got overheating bulbs, a malfunctioning thermostat, or some other problem affecting the tank temperature.
It’s also important to do extra checks when the atmospheric temperature is much higher, for example, during heat waves.
What Does an Overheated Bearded Dragon Look Like? – Signs and Symptoms
Suppose we’re using non-traditional and temporary heating methods. In that case, it’s important to recognize when your bearded dragon might be too hot.
Here are some signs that your bearded dragon needs to cool down a little:
His mouth is Gaping.
A bearded dragon that moves with his mouth gaping open could be a sign of overheating. Unlike humans, bearded dragons can’t sweat to cool down, so mouth gaping is used to reduce their body temperature.
If a bearded dragon is digging incessantly, he might be too hot. This behavior is seen when he’s trying to find somewhere cooler to go.
Glass surfing (as discussed in this article) is always a sign that something isn’t quite right. One reason might be that a bearded dragon is trying to escape because of the high vivarium temperature.
When your beardie is too hot, he will look for the coolest parts of the tank. This might mean he hides.
It’s worth bearing in mind that although this can be a sign of an excessive vivarium temperature, it can be normal behavior too.
However, it’s worth checking the temperatures if you see this behavior.
Bearded dragons, as cold-blooded creatures, need an external high-quality heat source for warmth – and health. Though a bearded dragon heat lamp is always the best option, there might be times when you need to warm him in other ways.
Ensuring your beardie has the right body temperature is part of your responsibility. You should be focused on providing a replacement heat bulb quickly.
In the meantime, we hope you’ve found some possible stopgap measures to try!