Bearded Dragon Bioactive Enclosure Upgrade! | Zen Habitats
Turning Our Bearded Dragon’s Enclosures Bioactive! | Stunning Enclosure Build!
From their native range in central Australia, to the homes of millions across the globe, bearded dragons have scurried their way into the hearts of countless reptile lovers! In fact, a study of Google Trends conducted by researcher Jose Valdez concluded that bearded dragons are the second most popular pet reptile! With so many people having a bearded dragon of their own, many different methods of care have come in and out of popularity over the years. From sand to walnut shells, to solid substrates like shelf liner or Zen mat, and then to naturalistic or bioactive setups; many keepers have adjusted their care and methods of husbandry over the life of their dragon. At Zen Habitats, we decided to try our hands at creating arid bioactive setups for two of our female bearded dragons, Zoe and Tai!
Creating the Build
Our dragons currently reside in 4x2x2 Zen Habitats with a Zen mat, a Zen cave, a branch, and a MagNaturals ledge. While this setup is perfectly suitable for a bearded dragon and very easy to maintain, our animal care manager Kasey wants to provide our dragons with more enrichment opportunities, which a bioactive setup can certainly provide! Kasey mentions that she would like to keep the accessories from their current enclosure and utilize them in their new habitat builds. Both Zoe and Tai are comfortable in their 4x2x2 habitats, so we’ll be enhancing their current enclosures to add a bit more excitement for our girls!
After a deep clean of both enclosures using a diluted mixture of Dawn dish soap, Kasey installs the substrate shield and a BioBasin liner into each habitat to hold our bioactive substrate and eliminate the risk of any leaks. Next, Kasey installs Zen backgrounds into each habitat. These backgrounds not only look phenomenal, but they are also incredibly durable and designed to offer a vertical climbing space as well as a rough texture that is helpful when reptiles are trying to shed. With the BioBasins securely in place, Kasey adds an arid substrate mix consisting of topsoil, excavator clay, charcoal, and other useful components that aid in fast drainage for arid plants. Since these enclosures are designed to be lower humidity than our tropical species, they will not be hooked up to our misting system, and therefore do not need a drainage layer. Kasey adds water to the substrate mix to make it stick together, which will allow her to form structures and burrows. Leaf litter is added on top of the substrate to help support the cleanup crew that will be helping to keep the enclosures clean.
Now that the substrate is in, Kasey begins to add the décor back into the enclosures. She adds the Zen caves into both; a corner cave for Zoe and a standard cave for Tai. She then adds the branches that were recycled from the old setups, as well as some new cork rounds. Before adding the larger décor pieces, Kasey plants a variety of arid plants such as agave, aloe, earth star, prickly pear cactus, and elephant bush. Not only do the plants make the enclosure more naturalistic, some bearded dragons will choose to snack on the foliage in their habitat. It is important to choose edible, spineless plants for your dragon in case they are too tasty to resist!
Once all of their décor is in place, its time for Kasey to reinstall the lighting and mag-naturals ledges for our beardies! Each dragon has a 36 -inch 10.0 UVB bulb, 36-inch LED plant light strip, as well as an 80-watt halogen basking bulb. Both the UVB and the LED grow light are secured on the inside mounting bars using zip ties; the halogen is placed on top of the screen roughly 12 inches away from the basking platform.
Kasey notes that although this is an arid bioactive, it is “a common misconception with keeping bearded dragons, that they [only] come from the desert- that is completely inaccurate. They are actually found in various climates and environments within Australia, including woodlands, coastal dunes, scrublands, and tropical savannas.” She adds that she is going for a woodland/scrubland-type environment for our bearded dragon’s enclosures. Kasey states that an arid setup does not mean completely void of humidity or moisture and that moisture is actually still quite important in arid habitats. For bearded dragons, you will want to aim for 30- 40% humidity with pockets of higher humidity to serve as microclimates for beneficial cleanup crew to survive in. Our last step of the build is to add our arid isopods and springtails. Kasey gets too excited and releases them into the enclosure sporadically, however, she states that the goal is to release the clean-up crew between the substrate and leaf layer so they have lots of places to hide with higher moisture.
Now that our cleanup crew is in place and hopefully taking shelter from hungry little dragons, it’s finally time to introduce our special scaley ladies to their new setups! They are immediately curious about their new setups and look around for a few moments before beginning to explore their upgraded habitat. We can’t wait to see Tai and Zoe thrive in their bioactive setups and utilize their new enrichment opportunities!
To learn more about bearded dragons, bioactive enclosures, and much more - head over to our care sheets and articles section!
Bearded Dragon Care
Bearded Dragon Basics For New Owners
Beardie Tips From Zen Habitats Animal Care Manager
Bearded Dragon Complete Food Guide
Bearded Dragon Complete Substrate Guide