For any Bearded Dragon owner, it’s a good idea to learn as much about brumation as possible.
As a Bearded Dragon owner and enthusiast myself, I have helped lots of Bearded Dragon through this process over the years so I’ve written this article to give you all the answers you need to keep your Dragon happy and healthy throughout the brumation period.
So what is Bearded Dragon brumation? Brumation is basically the reptile equivalent of hibernation. Bearded Dragons will conserve energy and sleep for prolonged periods of time during brumation. This behaviour takes place during the winter months both in the wild and captivity.
Read on to find out how old a Bearded Dragon needs to be before it brumates, how long brumation lasts and much more.
What Is Brumation? & Why Do Bearded Dragons Do It?
As mentioned above, brumation is a type of hibernation that is only relevant to reptiles.
In the wild, as the winter months close in, the sun’s rays become weaker and the daylight hours get shorter so it’s hard for a Bearded Dragon to digest any meal it consumes as they need the right temperature from the sun to do this.
Also, most of the insects have died off along with any vegetation so food is extremely hard to come by.
A Bearded Dragon has deep routed survival instincts that tell it to brumate over these lean months until spring when the sun starts to become warmer, the daytime hours are longer and the food source becomes richer again.
They will often burrow in a hole and stay there for large parts of the winter until they feel they either need to hydrate or there’s no longer a need to brumate.
An adult Bearded Dragons metabolism will slow right down and it will utilize the fat stores that it’s been conserving all year to basically drip feed it through the brumation period of the winter months.
What’s The Difference Between Hibernation & Brumation?
First of all, mammals go into hibernation and reptiles go into brumation.
When a mammal goes into hibernation it will fall into a deep sleep over the winter months and won’t wake up to eat or drink. The mammal will totally rely on its fat stores to supply itself with a drip feed of nutrients until the weather has picked up and food is becoming more readily available again.
When a reptile such as a Bearded Dragon goes into brumation it won’t fall into a deep sleep like a mammal.
They will vastly reduce movement in order to save energy and they will often sleep for prolonged periods to do the same but by the same token, they will also spend a lot of time awake.
Bearded Dragons also need to keep hydrated during brumation so in the wild they will try and find some dew or another source of water if needed.
In captivity, you will need to make sure you always provide your Dragon with fresh water during brumation so they always have the option to hydrate.
How Long Does Brumation Last For?
The brumation period for Bearded Dragon is typically anything from a few weeks up to 4 months long. I have heavily researched this and it’s also backed up by the guys at Exotic Direct who also state the exact same numbers.
Usually, in captivity, you will find that the brumation period will be shorter than it would be in the wild.
This is because the temperatures in your home are generally warmer than the temperatures out in the wild. This will then cause your Dragon to think that winter is over and therefore stop brumating.
That being said, there’s no guarantee of this and your Dragon may decide it wants to brumate for the full 4 months.
How Old Should a Bearded Dragon Be Before It Goes Into Brumation?
A Bearded Dragon can brumate at any age and there’s not a great deal you can do about it.
However, the ideal age for Bearded Dragon to brumate is at least 10-12 months of age.
This is because when they reach the 12-month mark growth has slowed down and almost come to a stop and they will then begin to fill out in stature and store fat. They can then use this fat to act as a drip feed during brumation when they won’t be eating for several weeks.
Baby and juvenile Bearded Dragons are growing at a considerable speed and sometimes won’t have the fat stores that are needed to feed them during a lengthy brumation period.
It’s can also unhealthy for a baby or juvenile Bearded Dragon to go into brumation as they need to eat constantly to keep growing. If they don’t eat for several weeks then they are missing out on an essential growing period.
For this reason, if your Bearded Dragon is preparing to brumate under the age of 12 months it’s certainly worth considering consulting your Vet to see if they are healthy and strong enough to brumate.
Do All Bearded Dragons Brumate?
In captivity not all Bearded Dragons brumate and the ones that do can have vastly different brumating habits.
Some Bearded Dragons might brumate for 3 weeks whilst others will brumate for up to 4 months.
There are some Dragons that will brumate like clockwork every year and others will only brumate every 2-3 years.
There’s really no way of telling what they will do but one thing is for sure, you will simply have to go with it and support them as best you can.
What Are The Signs Of Brumation?
When a Bearded Dragon is about to go into a period of brumation there are a few tell-tale signs that you should look out for.
This will quickly help you to know what to expect and prepare in good time.
Please note, you will notice that a lot of the signs of brumation can also be symptoms of illness and infection. If you are unsure at any point and think that your Dragon is ill in any way then you should consult for Vet and get their opinion.
Let’s look at the most common signs and behaviours a Bearded Dragon will display when they are about to go into brumation.
More Frequent Sleep
You may notice that your Bearded Dragon starts to sleep more frequently throughout the day, often for short periods.
Some Bearded Dragon will also sleep on the cool side of the tank. Not all Dragon will do this but it’s something you should keep an eye out for.
If you want to know more about how much sleep a Bearded Dragons need then check out this post I’ve written here
Just like sleeping for frequently, you may notice that your Dragon is wanting to go to bed earlier at night.
This could be by 30 minutes or even an hour but if you see a change in their overall sleeping pattern then this could be an early sign of brumation.
Have a decreased appetite or even refusing food altogether is a common sign of a Bearded Dragon getting ready to go into brumation.
During brumation, they usually won’t eat at all and you will notice a steady decrease in appetite as their preparation begins.
If you are worried that you Dragon has a reduced appetite of is refusing food altogether but you don’t think the reason is due to brumation then here is a post that details 9 reason why Bearded Dragons can not want to eat.
When a Bearded Dragon is about to go into brumation they are known to poop less.
This may have a lot to do with the fact that they are often eating less but it’s still a tell-tale sign that you should watch out for.
One behaviour that Bearded Dragons often produce just before brumation is frequent hiding.
If you have any hides or caves in the tank then you will often notice that they will spend more time there in the days leading up to brumation.
If you don’t have sufficient hides and tank decor that will help your Dragon feel like comfortable and safe as they prepare for brumation then take a look at this post that shares some great ideas for hides and decor.
Slow Or Sluggish Movement
Yet another tell-tale behaviour that Bearded Dragons tend to display just before brumation is slow or sluggish movement.
This is often linked to the fact that before brumation there will be more time spent hiding, less time basking and also decreased appetite and therefore decreased movement.
Most Bearded Dragons in the wild will bury themselves both for protection from predators and also to help and regulate their body temperature while they sleep in colder temperatures.
In captivity, this will often happen too and is a strong sign that your Dragon is about to begin brumation.
What Should You Do Before Brumation?
Once you’re sure that your Dragon is about to start brumation it’s a good idea to get them checked out at the Vets.
If your Dragon has parasites or some sort of infection or illness it can cause complications during the brumation period so letting your Vet give them a health check is highly recommended.
This will give you peace of mind that they are parasite and infection free as well as in good general health.
I would also recommend giving your Dragon a bath before they start brumation. You will be able to bath them during the brumation period but if you bath them before then you won’t have to disturb them a few days in.
What Should You Do During Brumation
Whilst brumation is something that Bearded Dragons have evolved to do amazingly well over the years, you can still do a number of things to ensure that your Dragon has the best brumation experience possible.
Let’s look at some of the things you can do to help your Dragon during brumation and give replicate their experience in the wild as much as possible.
Allow Them to Bury Themselves
In the wild Bearded Dragons usually, bury a small hole or cave for them to sleep in.
This helps them to regulate their body temperature when there are fewer day time hours and the sun isn’t as strong.
It also helps to keep them out of sight from prowling predators that might be in the area.
You can easily give them the opportunity to dig their own little hole or cave in captivity by providing a substrate that allows them to dig.
If you use tiles or carpet as substrate then this won’t be possible and you might even find your Dragon scratching around days before they begin brumation as they feel they need to dig.
The substrate that I recommend for Bearded Dragons that are coming into brumation is ‘excavator clay’.
I’ve written a great post on why I recommend you use excavator clay and the best place to get hold of it, you can check it out here
This is an amazing substrate that will allow your Dragon to dig holes and bury itself just like it would in the wild.
I would recommend this as my top substrate anyway as you can mould it into hills, valleys and caves to create an awesome looking tank setup.
Excavator clay provides the best all-round substrate for Bearded Dragons, especially during brumation.
Provide Them With a Hide
As well as providing your Dragon with a high-quality substrate to help them brumate, you can also provide them with hides so they have places to retreat to during the brumation period.
You should try and make sure that the hide is big enough for them to fit their whole body under. This will help them to feel both safe and comfortable plus help them to regulate their body temperature.
This post here shares my favourite hides that will allow your Dragon to feel safe as well as looking awesome in their habitat.
It’s hugely important that during brumation you provide your Bearded Dragon with fresh water daily.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, brumation is different from hibernation and although your Dragon won’t need to eat anything they will be looking to hydrate themselves from time to time.
Giving them access to fresh water is one of the most important things you can do to keep them healthy during brumation.
Give Them a Bath
Giving your Bearded Dragon a bath during brumation can be a huge help to them especially if they aren’t drinking.
Some Bearded Dragons won’t drink much if at all during brumation so giving a bath every 7-10 days is a great way to increase hydration.
Giving them a 20-30 minute soak is ample and really all they need. When you take them out of the bath you need to dry them thoroughly as wet areas can lead to fungus and health problems.
If your Dragon doesn’t wake up for the bath then you need to be careful that you don’t allow them to swallow any water. This may seem harmless but if your Dragon swallows water while they are sleeping it can lead to major health problems.
Reduce The Temperature
When your Bearded Dragon first starts to brumate you don’t want to cut off all the heat and light straight away!
There are a couple of important reasons for this, the first is that to start with your Dragon may still be eating a small amount of food and if you cut off all access to the basking lamp then they won’t be able to digest the meal they have eaten.
Undigested food in a Bearded Dragon’s stomach can pose serious risks to their health if it starts to rot and there is a high chance of this during brumation so you need to give them chance to digest the food they eat.
As the days go on you can slowly start to decrease the temperature of the tank and then finally turn off all heat and UVB light altogether once you are sure their food is digested and they’ve had a poop too.
The second reason why you shouldn’t cut off the temperature in the tank all at once is that this approach doesn’t replicate what they would experience in the wild.
You should always try and mimic their habitat in the wild as best as you can and cutting the temperature gradually is exactly what they would experience in the wild as the sun’s rays get weaker and daylight hours get shorter through the winter.
If you want to know more about providing the correct temperature for your Bearded Dragon then take a look at this post
Do You Still Need to Provide UVB Light During Brumation?
In the wild, for the most part, a Bearded Dragon wouldn’t be exposed to UVB light during brumation as they would be burrowed in a hole totally out of the way of the sun.
Bearded Dragons need UVB light to aid many vital functions but in brumation, as they will be sleeping most of the time the UVB light simply isn’t needed.
For this reason, you can gradually lessen the amount of time you have the UVB light on each day and eventually turn off the UVB lighting knowing that it won’t harm them.
Weight Loss During Brumation?
A healthy Bearded Dragon shouldn’t lose much weight during brumation as they should have enough fat stores to feed them over this period. This can be backed up by Swell Reptiles who also give this advice about weight loss.
I would always recommend that you go to your vets and get a checkup done so you can rest assured that your Dragon is going into brumation fit and healthy.
Bearded Dragons will often lose a little weight during brumation but exactly how much is difficult to say as this will totally depend on age, weight before brumation how active they are in brumation and how long the brumation lasts.
A common amount of weight to lose during brumation is around 2-5 grams but this will depend highly on the factors above.
It’s good practise to weigh them before the brumation period starts and then once a week while they are in brumation to monitor their weight. Don’t worry about disturbing their sleep, you can weight them before you bath them so you only have to disturb them once.
If you notice that your Dragon is losing weight rapidly or they have lost way more than 2-5 grams then you may want to consider consulting your Vet so they can take a closer look and give you their opinion.
What Should You Do After Brumation?
After the brumation period is over and you notice that they are fully awake you can do a few things to help them regain their strength, freshen up and ultimately get back to their old self again.
Let’s take a look at some of the simple things that you can do to help your Bearded Dragon after brumation.
Provide Some More Water
The first thing you should do is to make sure they have some fresh water so they can hydrate.
If you’ve read through the rest of this article then you will understand that providing water all the way through brumation is important and it’s equally important as they wake up.
Your Dragon might not be hungry as soon as they wake up but they will often want to drink so making sure they at least have some water is a must.
Give them a Refreshing Bath
One of the first things you can do is give your Bearded Dragon a bath. It’s a good idea to bath them regularly during brumation but giving them a bath shortly after they come out of brumation is also good practise and will help them to feel refreshed.
It will also help your Dragon to top up their hydration levels after a long period of rest.
Remember to make sure that you dry them thoroughly as failure to do this can encourage fungus.
You might want to consider giving them a spell under the basking lamp as this will ensure they will dry properly.
Gradually Turn Heat & Lighting Back On
At this point, you should start to turn on the basking lamp and increase the amount of hours you have the UVB lighting on in the tank.
Some people just switch the basking lamp to the maximum recommended temperature and have the UVB light on for the maximum amount of hours per day right from the word go.
I would actually recommend increasing the temperature and hours of exposure over a number of days to replicate what they would experience in the wild but this will depend on how fast your Dragon wakes and how fast they are demanding food. The sooner they are wanting food, the sooner you should look to get the temperature in the tank back to normal.
You can do something similar to what you did when you decrease the temperature and UVB light for brumation but obviously do it in reverse.
Ultimately which option you choose is up to you but you need to start giving them heat and UVB exposure right away.
Offer Some Food
Once you have the temperature in the tank to the required level then you can start to offer food to your Dragon.
Don’t be offended if they refuse food to start with or they only eat a little. It may take several days for them to get their full appetite back and if you are increasing the temperature and hours of light per day then this is good because if they eat a lot of food they will need to be able to bask in order to digest the meal properly.
You can also give your Dragon fresh veggies daily so that they have food in their tank whenever they feel a little hungry and this will also help to re-hydrate them as well.
What If Your Bearded Dragon Finishes Brumating After A Few Days?
If your Bearded Dragon stops brumating after just a few days then there’s a good chance that they are being disturbed, the conditions are stopping them from brumating or they weren’t even trying to brumate and they could simply be ill.
Brumation will last at least a few weeks so if your Dragon stops after just a few days you need to check the temperature of the tank, the number of daylight hours you are exposing them to and make sure it’s correct for brumation.
It also could be that your Dragon is simply not feeling well and they are sluggish and have a lack of appetite though some illness or infection.
If you suspect this at all you should contact your Vet at once to get them checked over.
There’s also a chance that you have the temperature in the tank set too low so your Bearded Dragon hasn’t got the right amount of heat it requires to digest food so some of its behaviours mimic those of brumation such as loss of appetite and looking tired.
Should You Ever Try And Stop Your Bearded Dragon From Brumating?
It’s not good a good idea to try and stop a Bearded Dragon from brumating. This is a natural behaviour that they will display in both the wild and captivity and there’s not much reason to stop it.
Trying to intervene will usually only either confuse your Dragon or prolong the brumation period.
Some people don’t like their Dragon to brumate if it’s under the age of 12 months old and I can see why there is some concern because at this kind of age a Bearded Dragon hasn’t built up a lot of the fat stores that are needed to feed it for the weeks of brumation.
This isn’t something you should really worry about too much as you should always consult your Vet first if your Bearded Dragon is under 12 months old and wanting to go into brumation.
If your Vet gives your Dragon the all clear then there’s really nothing you should worry about.
I really hope you’ve got a lot of value from this article about Bearded Dragon brumation and you have had all your brumation questions answered.
The main things to remember are brumation can last anything from 3 weeks to 4 months, it’s usually adult Bearded Dragons that go into brumation although Dragons under the age of 12 months can brumate too.
You should always consult your Vet before your Bearded Dragon goes into brumation and use the tips I’ve provided in this article to help them have a healthy and easy brumation period.
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