As bearded dragons are used to being in the sunny arid environment of Australia they require a good amount of UV-A and UV-B lighting to maintain good health. Light is a necessary part of the calcium absorption process and also helps them develop vitamin D and digest calcium. Without this, your reptile will have weak bone development and other health problems.
There are a lot of options, products, and brands on the market at the moment selling reptile lighting products and accessories, many of these are specific to the size of your enclosure, the depth and of course the type of lizard. Lighting can often be a main source of heat for a well-sealed vivarium and used in addition to a basking lamp to maintain a good temperature also. Options such as florescent lights, mercury-vapor lights, and sunlight. It is always worth getting a good brand light source as cutting corners is really not worth it.
Fluorescent Bulbs / Tube Lights
These are a great and popular choice for vivaria lighting, there are lots of options, some which give off less heat which is advisable to some, particularly in a small enclosure so as to not affect the necessary heat gradient your lizard needs to self regulate their temperature. The range is about 6-8 inches, so your lizard needs to be able to get within that distance to absorb and utilize the UV rays. Whilst these bulbs will still seem bright to the human eye after 6 months to a year, they are actually not giving off nearly enough UV-B and should be replaced every 6 months ideally and not when you think they have gone or aren’t very bright anymore.
Mercury-Vapor Lights / Basking Lamp
MVBs emit much higher levels of UVB than the fluorescent bulbs do, they should, however, be considered carefully as your reptile should not get too close or touch the light or any of its fittings as it could receive serious life-threatening burns as a result. Always check the height of the vivarium you are using, and the wattage to ensure you will not overheat your bearded dragon. Most of these bulbs give off both light, and heat which is why they are ideal for a basking spot.
Ideally situated one third from the end of the vivarium this allows some heat gradient between one end and the other allowing your pet to self regulate his temperature.
I personally use both, a UV-A fluorescent bulb, a fluorescent UV-B bulb, and an MVB to maintain a good temperature.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a decent climate then you may be able to take your bearded dragon out for some of the real stuff regularly, it is possible in cooler countries on the right day and in the right season. Here in the UK, there are some nice days where the sun is bright in the spring and summer which is fine. It’s not advisable to do this when your bearded dragon is too young. a) because the environment may stress them b) they lose their heat far more quickly with a larger surface area and less body mass and c) because it’s easier for them to get away, get lost or shrug out of a lizard harness. In some countries, you can keep bearded dragons in an outdoor enclosure.
The photoperiod is the cycle of day and night/light and dark. Bearded dragons have of course evolved to follow the Australian photoperiod which in winter is about 10 hours daylight 14 hours night, and in summer the other way around, so 14 hours daylight, 10 hours night, in the transitional seasons between it would be around 12 and 12.
I would highly recommend to anyone that buying a timer for the plug is a great way to ensure your lizard has consistency and a good body clock. This especially saves you time and worry in those moments when your late home, or out on a date.