New Member, New Build Questions

Hi all! I just joined the forum in search of knowledge and advice on a habitat build for my first beardie, a rapidly growing boy named Mushu.
Interior dimensions will be 72x22x24"(ish).
While I'm still in the design phase, I could use some help figuring out appropriate heating/lighting/ventilation for something of that scale, and also what to make the bottom out of(not the substrate, the bottom of the enclosure that it sits on). The glass panels I have definitely aren't meant for that load.
I'm using materials from a massive old aviary I was given, and I have wood framing, glass panels, and fluorescent lamp fixtures from it. Double glass doors will open out from center. Plan is for all screen(or half screen) top. Any and all input is greatly appreciated.

Edited to add that my concern for the base is whether something like wood would be safe to use with under tank heaters if I need them.
Last edited:

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
A wooden base is common and that's probably what I'd go with. I'd seal it well using some polyurethane to keep it water tight, especially if you decide to go with a bioactive substrate or something like that. For ventilation, I suggest putting some vents low on the cool side and high on the warm side. That will help circulate the air via convection. A 36'' T5 Arcadia 12% is a good choice for UVB. For heat, I would just try out some halogen and incandescent bulbs and see what gives you a nice bright light and proper surface temperatures. Using a wide/flood style is better than having a narrow beam if possible. PAR38 and BR40 bulbs tend to work pretty well, so I'd start there. It's probably a good idea to include an extra socket so you can set up a heat projector bulb that can be set to turn on in case the enclosure gets too cold overnight. This is a better way to go than using a heat pad and you can either have it set on a manual switch, or use a simple on/off thermostat for it. They produce heat without visible light so they're ideal for overnight or supplemental heat.


Original Poster
Thank you for the quick response! You've settled the base material question for me, which is awesome because that was my biggest barrier to further development. I was thinking about a partial screen top cold side and wiring up a quiet computer fan on the hot side for active ventilation. Is convective via passive vents (as you suggested) a better way to go? I want to have as little visible cables as i can get away with, so one side will have a hidden diy electrical box (and I have enough familiarity with circuits to do that safely after some research). For lighting, I do have a pair of 24" 2-bulb F17T8 fixtures that came with the aviary. They're cheap home improvement style units and from what I've been reading elsewhere here, those aren't recommended. I was thinking that maybe the four 22" bulbs might be enough to not need the reflectors, but now I'm realizing that may not leave enough room up top for heating... Hmm. Trying to reuse as much as i can, but I'll buy whatever I need to make it well.

Mushu Tank Build

Linked is a dropbox folder with a few pictures of what I'm working with. They include the original aviary, what I salvaged from it, and a mockup of the intended frame. The 'thick' end is where I intend to house all of the eletrical. (You may notice I do have enough frame source material to build two, and will probably use lessons learned from the first to refine a second to sell, but I'm not here to make a sales pitch)

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
I would imagine the passive vents would be enough since that's how most enclosures are. You might be able to install circular vents that have sliding vent covers (like on a weber grill) so you can modify the flow manually. Unless there is an unusual amount of humidity, I doubt you'll need a fan - but that can be installed later if needed.

I would avoid using T8s. They really aren't strong enough for an enclosure that size. You're best off with a T5 bulb and a fixture with a good reflector and that should be plenty.


Original Poster
I live in the Atlanta, GA area so humidity can definitely get up there. Even now, in December, the interior humidity of our house is >50%. Not sure how much of an issue that is though, as the higher temps in the tank will reduce the relative humidity inside.

Thanks for the bulb advice, I'll go with your suggestion and instead use the salvaged units as supplemental lighting for my succulent collection for the winter.

You have been super helpful, thank you so much!

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
50% humidity is totally fine. Anything in the 30-60ish range is similar to their nautral habitat (the range varies quite a lot depending on where they are). I generally go by how the room feels to me. If it doesn't feel extremely humid, then it's probably OK for a dragon. If the air is very dry and my skin is cracking (common in the winter) then adding a little humidity is a good idea (to prevent drying of mucous membranes).


Original Poster
Thought I'd update my build progress and ask another question, since I have one...
Build is going well: frame, back, and bottom are done! (That's him in his 20gal in the new frame for scale).

I'm on to lighting, now, and thought I'd go with a 46" T5 high output 12%uvb w/ reflector. I just can't seem to find any one source with all those specific things. (I'm in Georgia, USA). Wondering if anyone has a particular site I've missed, or if I just need to keep looking.


  • 20220116_214954.jpg
    166.2 KB · Views: 140

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
That looks great! It's crazy how much of a change the upgrades appear to be when compared side by side like that isn't it?

This light and fixture should serve you well: Arcadia PRO t5 Fixture 12% Bulb 46" SALE They ship from Maine and are excellent.

Since you're running the UVB for a good portion of the enclosure, I suggest mounting it a bit to toward the front or the back in order to create a gradient along the depth of the enclosure. They don't always want to be under the most intense UVB so it's good to provide some options for them.


Original Poster
HAH! That's exactly what I want and so much better priced than I've found! One more problem solved.😁
I'm pretty sure I can build a screen lid for it, so this brings me to my last(?) question (maybe): what's a good tile to use for substrate? I need to cover a bit less than 11ft²

Staff online

Members online

Still Needs Help

Latest resources

Latest posts

Latest profile posts

Pearl Girl wrote on moorelori1966's profile.
i feel so sad reading your about me 😢
Clapton is acclimating okay I think. He's quick as lightning so I'm not sure how much I should bring him out of his house yet. He's not at all interested in his salad though. I wonder if I should change what I'm giving him. Least he's eating his crickets.

Things to do:
Buy calcium powder
Material to raise surface for basking spot
Scenery decals for back of tank
Taking my beardie for a walk
Hi everyone, I have a question please. I have a thick branch I got from outside. It has been in freezing temperatures so I know that it is insect free. I took it off the ground and sat it up during a night we got down to 15 so the entire thing would freeze. Well tonight I put white vinegar all over it too cleanse it since it won't fit in my oven. Do I need to rinse with water tomorrow or is it fine left alone dried?

Forum statistics

Latest member
Top Bottom