A bare tank does not make a good home for any lizard. A bearded dragon needs a few basic items in its cage, including a substrate and a water bowl. Other optional accessories enrich the environment and allow your dragon to display natural behavior, such as climbing, basking or hiding.
Bearded dragons need a comfortable substrate at the bottom of their tanks. It is essential that the substrate is nontoxic and absorbent. Ideally, it should also allow the dragon to burrow or dig if it wishes. Suitable substrates are old newspapers, chemical-free potting compost or a commercial reptile substrate such as bark chippings. Cedar and pine shavings are dangerous, as are chemically enriched potting composts. Non-absorbent materials such as gravel are useless, and uncomfortable for your pet.
Some dragons like to drink from a bowl, although you should also spray them with a plant mister. Provide a spill-proof ceramic or plastic bowl and change the water daily. Suitable bowls are available from pet supply stores.
Dragons like to climb. Tree branches are ideal for this purpose. Use a branch with thick twigs at least as wide as the dragon, and ensure it has not been exposed to chemicals. Bear in mind that a few types of wood, such as pine and cedar, are toxic. Safe woods include fruit trees, except cherry wood and oak wood. Any branch oozing sticky sap is unsuitable. Either leave it for a few weeks to dry or use another branch.
To feel secure, reptiles need somewhere to hide. Hideouts should be just a little bigger than the dragon and made of a nontoxic material. Clay plant pots, cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes and molded plastic lizard houses are all suitable. Place the hideout relatively high in the cage, perhaps on top of another accessory. If your dragon doesn’t use the hideout, try moving it or using a different shape of accessory.
Bearded dragons bask to regulate their body temperature. The most suitable basking accessories are smooth flat rocks. Such rocks also help to wear down the dragon’s nails, reducing the grooming required. Position one or two rocks underneath the heat source. A thermometer on top of the rock allows you to monitor and control the temperature, which should be about 90 degrees in this part of the cage.