Cleaning your bearded dragon’s tank on a regular basis is important to keep your dragon healthy and protect them (and you) from illnesses such as parasites and salmonella poisoning. Find out how to clean your bearded dragon’s tank and how often you should do it (plus learn some tips on how not to clean it, too).
Cleaning Your Bearded Dragon’s Tank: Gather Your Supplies
First things first. Before you dive in, grab your supplies:
- Rubber gloves. Never clean the tank with your bare hands!
- Cloth. Durable paper towels or a microfiber cloth are both good options.
- Scraper. Make sure the scraper is soft so it won’t scratch the terrarium walls.
- Cleaning solution. This could be vinegar and water, F10SC veterinary disinfectant, or reptile-safe disinfectant from a pet store.
- Steam cleaner. This is optional; you can clean and sanitize the tank and some decor with the steam cleaner if you don’t want to use a disinfectant solution.
- Boiling water to sterilize decor. This is an option if you are looking for an easy way to disinfect items such as the basking rock in your dragon's terrarium.
- New reptile carpet or substrate. This is optional. It’s only necessary if you use one of these in your terrarium, as they will need to be replaced.
- Hand-held vacuum cleaner. This is also optional, but it can come in handy for spot cleaning.
Pro Tip: Keep your bearded dragon’s cleaning supplies all in one bucket or bin to prevent cross contamination.
Supplies *NOT* to Use for Bearded Dragon Tank Cleaning
Bleach. Avoid using a bleach solution unless there is a serious bacteria problem and you have no alternative. (For example, your dragon gets sick and leaves diarrhea everywhere.) Bleach must be rinsed very thoroughly; even traces of residue or fumes can harm or kill your dragon.
Household chemicals and cleaners. Don’t use glass cleaner, disinfecting wipes, or any other household cleaner on your dragon’s terrarium. The chemical residue can seriously harm or kill your dragon.
Sponge. Don’t use a sponge unless you throw it away after each use. Sponges get nasty pretty fast, and they are difficult to sanitize once they have been in your dragon’s tank.
How Often Should You Clean Your Bearded Dragon’s Tank?
Every day you should spot clean the tank. Every week (or at least every other week) you should do a more thorough cleaning.
You should also do a deeper cleaning as needed. Some Dragon Keepers will do a deep cleaning four times a year to make sure everything stays as clean as possible.
How to Clean Your Bearded Dragon's Tank, Step by Step
Here are three step-by-step lists for daily, weekly, and deep cleaning.
Daily cleaning covers the basics to keep your dragon’s home fresh each day:
- Perform spot cleaning as needed
- Provide fresh water & fresh salad
- Make sure they have a clean water dish and food dish
- Remove uneaten food
- Remove uneaten insects if you feed your dragon in the tank (feeding your dragon in a designated bin can prevent live insects from escaping and hiding around the terrarium)
- Remove any droppings and disinfect anything your dragon pooped on
Pro Tip: A hand-held vacuum cleaner can be used to remove shed, dust, bits of dried up food, etc. if you don’t have loose substrate. Never use a vacuum to pick up poo.
If your dragon poops in their tank, remove it immediately and disinfect the area. Do not let it sit in the tank. You can use F10SC veterinary disinfectant or a designated reptile-safe disinfectant from a pet store. It’s important to do this immediately to prevent parasites, salmonella, and other illnesses.
Before you begin, move your dragon. Your dragon shouldn't be too close by while you’re cleaning.
Place your dragon in a spare tank or bin, or have someone give them a bath.
In fact, it’s always a good idea to give your dragon a bath before putting them back in the clean tank to help prevent cross contamination. Your dragon will need to go back under the basking light quickly once things are properly clean and dry.
Once you move your dragon, you can begin your weekly tank cleaning:
- Prep your cleaning solution. Mix a solution of 1 part vinegar, 2 parts warm water, or fill a spray bottle with F10 or a reptile-safe disinfectant.
- Put on rubber gloves. To stay safe, always clean your dragon’s tank while wearing protective gloves.
- Clear out any shed, debris, dust, food, droppings, etc. You can use the hand-held vacuum for this step except for the removal of feces.
- Remove decor. This includes logs, plants, rocks, hammock, etc.
- Discard flooring (if it’s carpet, newspaper, or substrate).
- Rinse decor in a designated sink or tub. Rinse it thoroughly, and use a mild soap to scrub it if need be, such as Dawn soap or a fragrance-free option. To keep you and your dragon safe, don’t use the same sink or tub you use for dishes or bathing.
- Scrape away scum. If there is nasty buildup on the walls of the tank, you’ll need to scrape them before spraying with disinfectant. Vinegar can be used to help break down any buildup. Use a scraper that won’t chip the walls of the terrarium.
- Soak the tank. Spray the disinfectant of your choice all over the tank. Follow the directions on your disinfectant and let it sit as long as required. Vinegar needs to sit for at least 30 minutes, so you really need to soak the tank.
- Scrub the tank. Grab a microfiber cloth and scrub thoroughly. You could also use paper towels, but a microfiber cloth tends to be easier to use and it does a good job of scrubbing. Just remember, don't wash your microfiber cloths with your other laundry.
- Rinse & dry. Rinse the tank thoroughly, then let it dry.
- Replace everything in the tank. Put new carpet or substrate in the terrarium. Once everything else is rinsed, clean, and dry, put the decor back in the tank, turn the heat lamp and lighting back on, and put your freshly bathed dragon in his basking spot.
Deep Cleaning & Sanitization
The main difference between the weekly clean and the deep clean is you’ll need something stronger than vinegar to clean the tank and decor, such as F10 or a steam cleaner, and you’ll need to use something stronger than soapy water on the decor.
Follow the steps above for a weekly clean, but in addition, you’ll need to do this:
- Deep clean the decor. You can boil decor such as logs and rocks, as well as water and food bowls, to sanitize them. If you have wooden logs, you should be aware that they may soften when you boil them. Soaking them in your cleaning solution or using a steamer are other options.
- Deep clean the tank. Once the tank is empty and the walls have been scraped, wear gloves and clean the tank thoroughly with a steamer or disinfectant. If you are using a steamer, hold the steamer close to the glass tank walls and be very careful not to burn yourself; always follow the steamer instructions.
There, that’s all there is to it! Now you know how to clean your bearded dragon’s tank.
If you feel a little overwhelmed after reading this, don’t worry. Although it may seem like a daunting task at first, keeping your dragon’s home fresh and clean gets easier once you do it a few times. Happy cleaning!
How do you clean your dragon's tank? Do you have any questions or feedback for us? Email us at [email protected]