Bearded dragons: heat mat placement and substrate choice?


Hi, I have tried to do as much research as possible but I need a little help.

So far I have got the vivarium (4ft by 2ft by 2ft), a repti-glo 10 UV light, caged basking lamp, and heat mat.

Question 1: I understand that the heat mat goes on the outer, under side of the viv. But at which end? The hot end, to boost heat, or the cool end to maintain cool spot temp?

Question 2: the major source of beardie controversy, choice of substrate. I understand that beardies may suffer from impaction if they ingest small particles eg sand. However, I would prefer to go with some form of calci sand, for looks, but also because the reputable reptile shop where I’m getting all my stuff from use claci-grit (slightly larger grain size) in their baby beardie tanks, and claim that impaction is rare. Also they suggest that any grit that is swallowed will dissolve; this is the claim made on the substrate packaging.

However, many people on various websites swear they would never use sand, or even calci-sand. I am confused. I want to make the right decision for my prospective pets. I would hate to cause them harm or distress.

Any help/opinions would be much appreciated. Thank you.

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8 Responses to “Bearded dragons: heat mat placement and substrate choice?”

  1. Shorty #1 says:

    answer 1: heat mats are very important and it doesn’t really mater witch side you place it on and you NEED a heat lamp.

    answer 2: i recomend carpet yes its harder to clean but its better so the lizards do eat the sand and the sand is bad for them so yea

  2. meghan says:

    the best thing for the substrate is repti-carpet because its easy to clean and they cant eat it. your bearded dragon needs to be in a 40 gallon breeder tank. here is a list of things you need and the things you can feed them

    1) a 40 gallon breeder tank
    2) veggies such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, endive, escarole, turnip greens, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, summer squash, hubbard squash, butternut squash (winter), scallop squash, cactus pear (prickly pear)
    3) live prey such as silk worms, super worms, crickets, and wax worms (only on occasion because they are high in fat)
    4) repti-carpet for the bottom of the cage
    5) heat lamps (day and night time) night time lights only ned to be use if the temp is below 65 degrees F
    6) rocks and logs so he/she can climb and bask
    7) multi-vitamins and pure calcium
    8) uvb bulb that goes across the entire lenght of the top of the cage the only two safe ones are the reptiglo 8.0 or a reptisun 10.0
    9)the temps for baby dragons110-115 and for the adults100-105

  3. ♥BMore Chick♥Tiki's are HOT♥ says:

    I have had my Beardie for over 4 years and i do not use a heat pad. and as for substrate i have used everything that has been out i would say the best i have used would have to be cage carpet its safe for beardie and is easy to clean. im not sure how big your tank is but i have a 55 gallon and i have a tile i bought from home depot and cage carpet and my beardie loves it i have the heat lamp over the tile so it get warm she loves to bask in that area. I would def saty away from sand its not really good for the beardie and its hard to clean. and in my expreince cause alot of dust that your beardie shouldnt be breathing in. when they are outdoors in there natural habitat its a wide open space and its ok for them to be on sand cause they have alot of fresh air. But being in a cage it just kinda ciculates in there.

  4. xxmack675hpxx says:

    Using a heat mat is not recommended for a bearded dragon. Use a good UVB/UVA spot light. Zoo med makes a really good one which I use all the time. It comes in several different wattage’s and I use there 150 watt with a basking log placed below it where the temperature is maintained at a constant 108 degree’s. I also use a Repti 10.0 bulb for ultraviolet light. The hot end of the cage is kept at 98 degrees the basking spot at 108 degree’s and the cool end at 86 degree’s. I use regular non bleached play sand which you can buy from any local home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Make sure that you get unbleached sand. I have raised all my bearded dragons on this sand and never had an impaction. I have also used the calcium sand several times and have never had an impaction. It’s wise not to use any type of sand with the babies only sub adults and adults. For babies your better off using news paper or paper towels because the babies are more prone to impaction than the larger bearded dragons

  5. ♥Missing Our Soldier♥ says:

    NEVER NEVER NEVER use a heating mat, rock or anything that your beardy will lay on. Reptiles are not able to feel how hot it is on their bellies and they will continue to lay there and eventually burn. Use a UVB basking bulb. That will be all that he needs for heat.

    Bearded dragons live in sandy desert areas. Playground sand is often used because it is relatively dust free and easy to maintain, although there have been reports of intestinal impaction. Substrates can also include wheat bran (pest free and rated for human consumption), outdoor carpeting, non-stick padded shelf liner, and paper towels. Other good substrates are newspaper, pea rock or aquarium gravel.


    The following are bad for one main reason – impaction (see the article on impaction too). A lot of stores may try and tell you that they are suitable, they may even be using them themselves, but they are wrong.

    Each of the following has been proven to cause impaction and death to Bearded Dragons (as well as other reptiles) and should be avoided:

    – Corn Cob: Hard, large and indigestible for Beardies.

    – Walnut Shell: It looks harmless enough, but the edges are very sharp and it could kill your dragon very easily. There have been documented impaction deaths in Bearded Dragons from this. Also goes under a variety of brand names, so check package labeling careful before listening to and buying from pet stores.

    – Calcisand: The problem with this product is twofold. First, they like the flavor of it and may eat it if they are lacking adequate calcium in their diet. Second, it can clump and form an indigestible bolus in their digestive tract.

    – Repti Bark: very fibrous and could easily end up causing impaction and has been known to end up lodged in the vent.

    – Original lizard litter (made from the kenfa tree) and Jungle Blend.

    Substrates such as mulch, shredded tree bark, or corn cob should not be used as they can hold moisture and promote bacterial growth.

    Any of the wood shaving like cedar or pine should also be avoided – cedar had dangerous aromatic oils and pine can get impacted if ingested.

    You should be also be very cautious using bleach on Dragon’s enclosure, the heat from their lights can cause toxic fumes from the bleach.

    There are several good substrates and the use of one or another depends of several factors – like the age of the dragon(s), their numbers and others. And at last a one very important tip: It is extremely important to make sure you never use sand in your beardy’ s cage until they are bigger then 6 inches in length – not including the tail.

  6. reticlady27 says:

    Hi there, I run a reptile rescue and have had numerous Beardies as pets and rescue babies…

    Your heat pad should go on the hot end of your tank. It does an amazing job of heating up that little tummy, which aids in digestion.

    As for substrate…NEVER use any sort of calcium sand. (It WILL cause an intestinal blockage or even throw off your Beardie’s calcium levels. Just use a good dust on each meal.) If you like the look of sand, use a non-silica playsand you would find at a home improvement store. Cheap and easy to clean! I personally use non-print newspaper. Even cheaper and easier. Of course, with the volume of reptile babies I have…lol

  7. Iain L says:

    Heat mats are not necessary, think which direction does the sun shine from above or below.

    The link above is very good, the people in the shop care about their animals a lot and would rather you went elsewhere if you wanted a cheaper set up so their advice may make the inital outlay slightly more expensive but when the cost is spread over the 10+year life span of a healthy bearded dragon its very little really

  8. Dawn V says:

    i know you had some answers already but i thought i would stick my oar in,
    firstly you need to not use the repti-glo light, it has been causing major eye and health issues in beardies, the only 100% safe one is the reptiSUN 10. calci sand kinda sucks as it clumps together very easily when wet and the beardie cant pass it with his poop. trust me they are messy eaters and will pick up sand with their food, when i got my beardie someone showed me what can happen with calci sand,…get a teaspoon full of sand and drip water on it… it clumps together in a hard lump, this is what would happen in your beardies belly. as for my substrate i used plain white kitchen roll until my dragon was 7 inches, (they are forever pooping as babies and this is easy to clean) then i use playsand mixed with dirt, just normal garden centre soil mixed with children playsand, just sift the sand to get the big lumps out and bake in the oven to make sure its dry and free of bugs, as the particles dont clump like calcisand then the beardie can pass it so long as you have the correct temps (i also feed my dragon OUT of the cage)
    now back to the first question, a heat mat is a waste of time and money and may harm your beardie, if its on the outside of the tank then all your doing is heating up your room, if at night when all the uvb lights and basking lights are out your room drops below 65f then we need to warm it up a bit, beardies like a drop in temp at night so you need to get a ceramic bulb, this gives off heat but no light to upset your dragon, you would need to work out the wattage by measuring the temps but i would educate a guess at a 60watt controlled by a thermostat set at 68f.this keeps the temp warm enough so as not to kill the dragon but not warm enough to keep him awake or confuse him.
    good luck with the dragon