What Size Enclosure For My Bearded Dragon?

This will be based on a Bearded Dragons needs. But It’s relevant for many species.

I see so many people in various Social Media groups/forums getting the “1 dollar a gallon” deals in American pet stores for a new tank for their Bearded Dragon.

Seems like an awesome deal, doesn’t it?
Well yes, for you, It’s a great deal!. For the Dragon. Nope. Not in the slightest!

This size enclosure is simply far too small for an 1 dragon to live in, and be able to cater for its mental, physical, development, and enrichment needs.

Dollar per gallon – not good for ALL species

Here in the UK, we have been lucky enough to have wooden vivaria made by large companies, as well as a select few custom enclosure builders for a good 15 plus years.
The absolute minimum people state here in the UK for a Bearded Dragon, and now thankfully, many other countries are “on-board” with this minimum, is a 4ft (L) x 2ft (W) x 2ft (H) – and I’d have to agree. It’s a good size. I think that is around 125 gallons in ‘tank’ lingo 😉  Correct me if I’m incorrect with that though.

But still, in absolute all honesty, even bigger than this is better, and I will always recommend bigger, with 5ft x 2ft x 2ft, or 6ft x3/2ft x 2ft highly recommended.

I know a couple of the bigger Vivarium making companies here in the UK are making them bigger as a standard now – and those State-Side are not hard-done by either despite the constant excuses given. There are so many custom builders, so ask them for bigger. It’s not hard 😉

So why do we need, big?

Our Dragons are naturally very fit, athletic, and lean reptiles, and they’ll use every bit of floor space provided.
Not only this, more floor space as well as that needed height equals more ‘usable space’ – the use of multiple strategically placed logs, branches, as well as rocks, slate etc, all increases that usable space. Something you simply can’t provide effectively in a 40g breeder tank.
With our dragon naturally being athletic and lean reptiles, it’s only incorrect setups and poor keeper routines that make a dragon lazy, Overweight, as well as a host of other captive related issues.
So a 40/75/100 gallon breeder tank is woefully inadequate, and the dragon just can not do what it should be able to is such a small sized setup.
Not to mention it’s poor at effectively providing and maintaining the needed UV and heat parameters.

It’s cruel, and needs to be rectified as soon as you can afford a new tank.

I know many will not like hearing this. Well, this is not my problem.
My job in my groups, as well as this blog to use such as an outlet for the facts, and of course to share that factual information.

There are some great kits. But many are poorly designed. Do your research on species needs beforehand

I also know many will probably leave my groups, as this information doesn’t suit their needs, so they’ll join some other group until they find one that warrants them using that crappy 40g breeder as says “the 40g is perfectly fine”. Thus, giving you exactly what you want to hear, a false sense of decorum, as opposed to fixing the actual problem YOU have caused by purchasing such a small sized tank.
It’s cruel, and needs to be rectified as soon as you can afford a new tank.
I even argue they are not suitable for even a juvenile or baby. There is absolutely NO reason you can’t put a baby/juvenile in a 4ft x 2ft x 2ft vivarium, I’ve done it many times without any issues over the years, and I know many other keepers that have also.
If you cater for all their needs, including having an area or two where they can get away and feel safe, they will retreat to such until they establish that enclosure as their own territory.

But it’s up to you to rectify this now. There is honestly no excuses.

Much of the problem comes from pet shops that do not help when they advise on suitable tanks for reptiles. Specialist reptile shops/stores are often pretty damn good – but the large chains often have untrained staff who know just where things are on shelves, and this in turn has the new keeper buying poorly sized enclosures, or poorly designed ‘Starter kits’,  So I do understand.
Many of you would have been ‘advised‘ by someone who is just doing their job into making an inadequate purchase, and I’m sorry about that.
But it’s up to you to rectify this now. There is honestly no excuses.

A few excerpts of excuse logic by a keeper in denial I hear/see spewed out goes something like this….

“My dragon is in a 40/50 gallon tank, and is perfectly fine and healthy”

Also, “I let my dragon out for exercise. So it’s fine”

To which I’d reply to this absolute guff – Sure, It might be ‘fine’, but I can tell you now – if you put that dragon in a suitably sized tank, THEN you will see the difference. THEN you will see what a dragon does naturally.
The Dragon can then “live”, and not just survive in its little tank you have supplied (providing you supply all their other needs also of course).

Like ANY enclosure for ANY animal, this is what you are essentially keeping.
You keep that enclosure in optimal condition for the animal, that animal has every chance of thriving.

Poor choice enclosure for your chosen species

Now, these small enclosures and with that, the 1 dollar gallon is still a great deal for a suitable species. That 40G Breeder tank good be great for a small Snake species such as a Western Hognose (Heterodon nasicus). Or even a small Gecko Species, so it’s not all totally useless.
It’s about researching your Reptile, and their natural behaviours, natural needs, and allowing them space to express such…..regardless of the species.

Also, remember. This is a tank for the dragon…..not for you.
If you can’t fit a 125 gallon+ tank in your home. Then, don’t get a dragon. Simple.

Like ANY enclosure for ANY animal, this is what you are essentially keeping.
You keep that enclosure in optimal condition for the animal, that animal has every chance of thriving.

If you want advice on advancing all aspects of your Bearded Dragon keeping, then please join my group Bearded Dragon Network

End of rant.

– Pete

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Pete Hawkins

Award winning Published author of herpetoculture.
Featuring articles on many species within,
Practical Reptile Keeping magazine (some linked on site as .pdf files).
Canadian Hobbyist magazine.
Reptiles magazine.

Also, Reptile/Amphibian blog article writer for;

Northampton Reptile Centre
Exotic Direct (links on this site)
Reptile Apartment

Public talker at Reptile meetings, for various organisations.

And founder of several huge Reptile and Amphibian related Facebook groups (links on this site)

Reptile Reports - "Lizard Personality of the year" 2016 - 2017

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