- It looks like a good deal.
It seems super convenient.
- But then you learn more and you realize that many items in these kits aren't suitable for your new scaly friend.
It is a shame that these kits get sold the way they do; with just a few minor adjustments on the manufacturers part, these would be amazing kits! But alas, they are not. That is where we come in. So if you've bought one of these kits, don't fret - We will explain to you what is worth keeping, and what is complete junk.
Skip to the bottom if you just want to be told what to replace :wink:
From Petco's website in relation to one of their bearded dragon kits:
A great starter setup for your bearded dragon.
Complete Bearded Dragon Kit in a 40 gallon USA Made glass tank
Comes with Large Combo Repti Rock Food and Water Dishes
Has a Dual Analog Thermometer and Humidity Gauge
To provide lighting this kit comes with a Combo Deep Dome Dual Lamp Fixture a ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Compact Fluorescent Bulb and a 100 watt Repti Basking Spot Lamp
Also includes a Bearded Dragon Care Booklet and a couple of sample packs
Includes 12lbs of Desert White ReptiSand Substrate
- Lets go over each of those items
Firstly, the tank. You can't really go wrong there. Most 40g tanks sold in these kits are 40g breeders, which are 36 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches. This is an adequate size for a dragon, although many like to eventually upgrade their adult dragon to an even larger tank. A 48 inch by 24 inch by 24 inch is a common enclosure chosen if a larger one is desired. Either way, if you just got a baby, this tank will do for a long time; it's whole life if you so choose.
The food dishes
Secondly we have the combo repti-rock food and water dishes. Once again, not really something you can mess up, and they might work well for you for a bit, but I've found that I end up not really using things like that in my tanks. Some do though so there is definitely nothing wrong with using them!
The third item is where we get into our first issue. To be brief, there is NOTHING more important to the health of your dragon than proper temperatures. We can debate that later but just trust me on that one. An area of care that is so critical to your dragons health can not be relied upon by such a cheap instrument. And I'm not talking monetarily cheap here, as a good thermometer isn't even very expensive either!
This is the first item i'd ask that you just toss. Yes, throw it away. I've tested analog thermometers like this in the past and found them to be off by nearly 20 degrees in many cases. In extreme cases they were off by over 40 degrees in my testing. Do yourself a huge favor, and buy a digital thermometer with probe end. They are cheap, less than 10 bucks, and they give you the ability to actually measure surface temperatures, which is what you want.
You can keep the humidity gauge if you want, but they are usually quite inaccurate also. There is a way to check your hygrometers calibration, I will link to a guide on how to do so at a later date.
For the fourth item, we unfortunately have another issue, and this is where you will need to spend the most money on correcting the issue with the kit. The lighting. Now, if temperatures are the most important aspect of their health, proper lighting is a very close second. They both are absolute necessities, so don't think that just because you already corrected the first issue, that the second issue can slide. It can't!
The Kit comes with a dual dome fixture, which houses the basking bulb it comes with, and the UVB bulb it comes with. The fixture is fine, however it's not what you'd want to buy if you were setting up your tank from scratch. They give you the dual dome fixture because they want to make it convenient - 1 fixture houses your heat bulb and your UVB bulb. However, the UVB bulb they provide (and most UVB bulbs that fit that style fixture) is no good. Exactly why the CFL UVB bulbs are bad is a lengthy discussion so we will not be discussing that here, but if you spend some time reading around here you will quickly find out why. I will link to some threads explaining why at a later date.
So you can keep the dual dome if you want.
You can keep the basking bulb if you want - But only if it actually provides you the proper temperatures! You might find that you need a different wattage. If the bulb it came with isn't getting your temps proper, you need to change it out for a different type/wattage.
The CFL UVB needs to be replaced. It is basically (and by basically I mean almost completely) useless. It's not that the brand is bad, its that the CFL bulbs in specific are just generally way too under-powered. You will want to buy the reptisun 10.0 long florescent tube, or the arcadia tubes. These will require a florescent fixture, so you will need to buy the bulb, and a fixture for it. Some sites sell them as a combo, but you can easily buy them separately if you choose.
For the fifth items, you usually get a little care guide and some samples. The care guide typically is not very good (hey, you're here for a reason right?) and the samples are usually kinda junky, but use your own discretion on whether or not to use them. The sample items seem to change by area and time, so I can't comment really on exactly what they are.
And lastly this specific kit comes with 12 lbs of reptisand. Some kits come with repticarpet or a fake sand mat. Those are better alternatives than what this specific kit comes with. If your kit didn't come with sand, feel free to skip this part.
Sand is a widely debated topic. I personally believe that sand can be used in an acceptable manner in regards to dragon husbandry. However, I also believe that it comes at some risk, and should really only be done by someone who already has a little bit of experience with dragons. No offense, but if you're reading this thread because you need to, you're not there yet. And there is nothing wrong with that. We all start somewhere. I say this from experience and my own failures and mistakes - Save the decision on whether or not to use sand until you have a bit more experience.
So you will still need some form of substrate for your tank right? Well, ditch the sand, and perhaps go out and buy that repticarpet or buy that sand mat. A lot of members here use semi-textured tile. It's a great choice. You can also use non-adhesive shelf liner, paper towels or even newspaper. I know those last 3 don't sound the most attractive, but they are great options, really.
All in all, if you were going to buy everything separately yourself, you'd likely spend a bit less, if not about the same amount putting it together yourself. The difference being you'd get what you actually need, and not have to spend extra replacing key items.
I have a guide written here: https://www.beardeddragon.org/articles/newbies-guide-what-to-buy/ that goes over exactly what you need to buy for your dragon (and some things you might want to buy) if you haven't actually bought the kit yet. I'd strongly suggest following that guide so you miss out on all the junk you don't need.
- So to wrap it up, what exactly do you need to buy in addition to the kit you just bought?
1. A digital thermometer with probe end.
2. A florescent fixture (either a t5 fixture or a t8 fixture in the length of the bulb you buy)
3. A proper UVB florescent tube.
And what should you absolutely not use or rely on?
1. The CFL UVB
2. The analog thermometer
Feel free to ask any questions you may have