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Do Bearded Dragons Need A Heat Rock?

Do Bearded Dragons Need A Heat Rock

Keeping your bearded dragon’s tank at the correct temperature and their basking spot nice and hot takes some getting used to when you’re a new beardie owner. However, the “quick fixes” – like heat rocks – may not be the best remedy to get the temperatures just right.

Although bearded dragons need a heat source, they should not be given heat rocks or heated caves in their tanks. Heat rocks easily get too hot and can cause severe burns and even death. Rather than using heat rocks, safer alternatives should be used when heating the tank and the basking spot.

This article will look at the safe alternatives to heat rocks that you can use for your bearded dragon’s tank, as well as how to install and use these alternatives. But first, let’s have a deeper look at why you shouldn’t put a heat rock in your bearded dragon’s tank.

Why You Should Not Put A Heat Rock In Your Bearded Dragon Tank

There are three main reasons why you should not put a heat rock in your bearded dragon’s tank:

  • Inefficient heating from infrared-C
  • A heat rock only heats the belly
  • A heat rock can heat too fast/too hot for bearded dragons, causing burns

Inefficient Heating From Infrared-C

Do bearded dragons need a heat lamp or a heat rock?

The electrical energy that’s converted to the heat that radiates from a heat rock’s surface, is infrared-C. This type of heat is weak and doesn’t penetrate a reptile’s skin, making it inefficient as well.

Because the heat doesn’t penetrate, the reptile won’t feel the full extent of the heat that it’s basking on – especially since the surrounding air is, most likely, not heated to the correct temperature.

A Heat Rock Only Heats The Belly

A heat rock furthermore only heats a bearded dragon’s belly – while most of their thermoreceptors (with which they sense heat) are on their backs because they’re supposed to get their heat from above.

By only heating the belly, you not only run the risk of your beardie not realising that they’re getting too hot but also not getting their metabolism high enough.

If your beardie’s metabolism is too sluggish, they won’t be able to properly digest their food. This can lead to their death.

Heats Too Fast/Too Hot, Causing Burns

Because the heat rocks can get too hot, your beardie runs the danger of getting severe burn wounds from touching or lying on the fake rock.

These wounds can be so severe that they can maim or even kill your bearded dragon.

What Burns Look Like On Bearded Dragons

Reptilian burn wounds look different than those on mammals, so any burns your bearded dragon may develop could look different than what you’d expect and would be looking out for.

Burns on reptiles like bearded dragons can look like:

The most common places that bearded dragons get burn injuries from heat rocks are the abdomen, hind legs, and base of the tail.

What To Do If Your Bearded Dragon Got Burns From A Heat Rock

heat rock for reptiles

If you see – or suspect – that your bearded dragon got burned on a heat rock or in a heated cave, you must take them to the vet immediately and not try to take care of the burns at home.

The vet will be able to confirm how severe the burns are, and how large they are, and treat the burns accordingly.

Why Heat Rocks Can’t Create A Good Basking Spot

The correct basking spot temperature for bearded dragons is 104-107°F (40-42°C). This may seem excessive, but remember that this is only the basking spot, not the whole tank.

In fact, the coolest part of the tank should be nearly 30°F (20°C) cooler than this, measuring 71-77°F (22-25°C). 

However, when using heat rocks, the temperature may measure correctly, but the actual surface of the rock may be a lot hotter and can then cause the burns referred to before.

This is why the heat for the basking spot should come from above, as it would in nature. For this, you can use heat bulbs and ceramic heat emitters (CHEs). 

Heat Bulbs Are Better Than Heat Rocks

Heat bulbs or heat lamps are the easiest way to get light and heat into your bearded dragon’s tank during the day.

When you’re installing these bulbs – whether incandescent or halogen – install them on the outside of the tank and above the tank. This will ensure that your beardie can’t touch them by accident. 

Tip: Here is a list of the best heat lamps for your bearded dragon

How Far From The Basking Spot Should A Heat Bulb Be Installed? 

A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to installing heat bulbs for your bearded dragon is that the bulb should be the following distances from the basking spot:

Wattage bulbDistance from the basking spot
50-watt5-7 inches
75-watt7-9 inches
100-watt10-12 inches

However, always make sure that you keep an eye on the actual temperature through the use of thermometers to ensure that the temperature doesn’t get either too high or too low.

You may find that your specific setup needs to have the 100-watt bulb 13 inches away from the basking spot, for example, to get the correct temperature. 

If you have enough light for your beardie in their tank but need to add more heat – especially at night when you switch the lights off – you can add a ceramic heat emitter to your setup.

Again, don’t add a red light to the tank to add heat at night, but use a CHE. 

Ceramic Heat Emitters Are Better Than Heat Rocks

should I use heat mats or heat rocks for bearded dragons

You should also not use a heat rock or heated hide to add heat to the tank at night. Your bearded dragon can still burn itself on these objects and the temperature inside the tank could also become too hot.

Even in this case, a CHE will work better than a heat rock or a heat mat

Note! Always use fittings that are made specifically for CHEs when installing them and not just any light fittings that are used in bearded dragon tanks even though they are more expensive. The correct fittings won’t melt or cause short-circuiting or fires. 

What Wattage CHE Bulb To Use In Your Bearded Dragon’s Tank

It’s extremely important that you use the correct wattage CHE bulb in your beardie’s tank to ensure that it doesn’t make the enclosure too hot and cause your beardie injury.

The following wattage CHE bulb is what you should use for different enclosures:

  • 100-watt CHE bulb for 30–40 gallon enclosure
  • 150-watt CHE bulb for 50–100 gallon enclosure

What Are The Differences Between Heat Bulbs And Ceramic Heat Emitters? 

There are some fundamental differences between heat bulbs and ceramic heat emitters that will determine when you use them.

Below are the main differences between heat bulbs and CHEs – which should not be confused with the normal light bulbs or UV bulbs which may be used in bearded dragons and other reptile tanks. 

Heat Bulbs Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHEs)
Emits both light and heat Only emits heat
Ideal to use in a bearded dragon tank to give your beardie both light and heat during the day Ideal to use in a bearded dragon tank to give your beardie enough warmth during the night without adding lighting to the tank
Only used during the dayMay be used during the day and the night, depending on the lighting/heating setup of your bearded dragon tank
Generally uses more electricity than CHEsGenerally uses less electricity than heat bulbs 
Must be used with caution and along with a thermometer to ensure that the tank/part of the tank doesn’t heat up too much

Basic Safety Tips For Installing Heat Bulbs And Ceramic Heat Emitters 

heat rocks vs ceramic heat emitter

When you’re installing the heat bulbs and/or ceramic heat emitters for your bearded dragon’s tank, you need to keep in mind that the bulbs can get extremely hot and you should, therefore, take extra care with them. 

  • Always ensure that your bearded dragons can’t touch the bulb – whether a heat bulb/basking light or CHE – directly as this will cause severe burns and even death from those burns. 
  • Test your setup for your bearded dragon’s tank with regard to heat, humidity, etc. while your beardie isn’t in the tank. If necessary, you can put them in a quarantine tank for a few days while you figure out the exact setup of their permanent tank
  • Always measure the temperature inside your bearded dragon’s tank with a thermometer made for the job to ensure that the temperature gradient remains stable and correct. 
  • If you find that the basking spot is getting too hot, move the bulb further away from the tank. For example, if it was 5 inches above the basking spot, move it to 6 inches, wait a while, and then measure the temperature again. Continue moving elements around until everything is perfect before settling your beardie back into their tank
  • Ensure that you use the correct fittings for the heat lamps, as using the wrong ones can lead to the fittings melting or even causing fires. 

Conclusion

If you need to add more heat to your bearded dragon’s tank, especially to create their basking spot, you shouldn’t use a heat rock as it can overheat easily and cause severe burns to your beardie.

Instead of using heat rocks or even heated caves, use a heat bulb during the day and a ceramic heat emitter at night, as required, along with a thermometer. 

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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