Every bearded dragon can become stressed from time to time but knowing the underlying reason for their change in both mood and behavior can help to calm them down and get things back to normal in the shortest time possible.
In this post, we will go deep and cover the ‘must know’ signs of stress in bearded dragons, the reasons why they get stressed as well as answering all other relevant and important questions related to stress in beardies.
Read On To Discover…
The 7 Signs of Stress in a Bearded Dragon
You know what it feels like when tasks and personal concerns pile up. Your skin gets tight, you sweat, your pulse accelerates, maybe you even get twitchy.
They’re common stress signs – in a human being. Bearded dragons feel anxiety, too, but their stress signs are a little different.
Knowing the signs of stress in your bearded dragon can help you to be aware of a problem early as well as get to the route cause and fix it without it causing long-lasting health issues to your beardie.
So what are the signs of stress in bearded dragons? The 7 signs of stress in bearded dragons are:
- Dark coloration
- Decreased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased basking time
- Glass surfing
- Frequent hiding
- Stress marks
Let’s now take a closer look at each of these signs of stress in bearded dragons…
1. Darker Coloration
You know bearded dragons develop a black beard when they’re displaying during the breeding season.
They also darken their scales first thing in the morning to better absorb heat after the cooler night.
And when they’re getting ready to shed? You guessed it, they change color. All of those changes are harmless.
But when you see a darker coloration with no females in sight (or potential rivals) and no scales shed within a day or two, you have a stress signal.
Is this a maddening sign to monitor? Of course, because the color change may mean nothing.
But as soon as you note darker scales, start scoping out the enclosure for possible problems. And if it persists for several days, consider calling the veterinarian – just to stay on the safe side.
Recommended Reading: Why bearded dragons turn their beards black…
2. Decreased Activity
While bearded dragons don’t run on wheels like hamsters, they still enjoy a healthy activity level.
As they rotate between the heat lamp and the cooler side of the tank, chase after live prey, or spend time with you, they work their limbs.
So if your beardie looks unusually lethargic, you should hear alarm bells.
Beardies that don’t want to engage in a normal level of activity are exhibiting stress. They should WANT to move.
And with the proper heat and humidity levels, there’s no reason they shouldn’t.
Lethargy indicates a beardie that’s either sick (consider a trip to the vet) or feeling so overwhelmed, they can’t cope. Either way, you need to sit up and pay attention.
3. Decreased Appetite
Healthy, happy bearded dragons enjoy mealtime. They pay attention when you deliver dinner, and they eagerly chow down on the offered food.
A stressed beardie, on the other hand, skips food. Why? Well, eating is a vulnerable time.
Even with the third eye adaptation for predator monitoring, they need to shift their focus to the meal in front of them.
And stressed beardies will avoid food to keep their attention on the world around them. It’s a concerning stress signal because they need the energy and nutrients in that food.
If you see untouched meal after untouched meal, you need to figure out why your bearded dragon feels so uncomfortable.
If you have a baby beardie, then we recommend you check out this post – 11 reasons why your baby bearded dragon isn’t eating…
4. Decreased Basking Time
Bearded dragons need proper heat to digest their meals, regulate their hormones, and stay active.
You set up the heat lamp to create an adequate basking section within the tank to provide that necessity.
But you haven’t seen your beardie under the warmth in DAYS! Yeah, that’s a HUGE stress sign.
Beardies avoid the open area of basking zones when they feel stressed. There’s too much vulnerability on that rock.
They stick to the cooler shadows where they feel safer. Unfortunately, the health risks that come with the avoidance of the heat lamp are significant.
You need to pay attention quickly and correct the problem before making an emergency trip to the vet.
5. Glass Surfing
Contrary to the sluggish lack of activity, “glass surfing” looks like a frantic increase in bearded dragon activity.
You’ll see your beardie scratching at the side of the enclosure, their abdomen slapping against the glass.
They look like they’re trying to climb out of the tank – unsuccessfully. (Claws don’t get much purchase on glass)
While it’s nice to see your beardie engaging in a form of activity, glass surfing is a stress sign. That frenetic energy is the panicked end of the stress spectrum.
Your beardie is trying to communicate a problem to you the only way they can. The escape attempt is real; they want OUT.
It may appear comical, but the panic’s genuine. Before your beardie ends up injured, you need to address the issue.
Here’s an in-depth guide that shares the 12 reasons why beardies glass surf…
When you feel stressed, you don’t want to deal with the outside world. This is especially true for small prey species.
Bearded dragons look for hiding places when they get stressed. So if your beardie’s tucked into the cave every time you walk past the enclosure, there’s a good chance that’s a stress warning.
The overwhelming issues of relocation or introduction into a new home often result in hiding.
And that goes double for baby or juvenile bearded dragons. They crave the comfort of somewhere safe and secure. You may think they’re doing okay, but make sure to check in on them.
If you notice your beardie hiding more than usual then we suggest you head over to our new guide that covers all the 13 reasons why bearded dragons hide…
7. Stress Marks
Separate from the dark coloration you may notice on your bearded dragon (and as ambiguous), they can develop genuine stress marks.
Along the underside of the chin and abdomen, long, dark striations appear. They’re stress marks, and you better believe they mean your beardie is feeling overwhelmed and upset.
Beardies in new environments often show stress marks. They’re one of the most common signs owners notice.
They’re also the first to go away. You still want to take note of their presence, though, as they represent an upset bearded dragon feeling ill-at-ease with their surroundings.
We have created a full guide here that covers everything you need to know about stress marks on bearded dragons as an owner including images and examples…
The 10 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Get Stressed
Bearded dragons can become stressed for many reasons and at first, it can be hard to find the route cause of the problem.
If you go through the list below you will be able to eliminate any of the reasons that aren’t relevant and then check the ones that are until you find the route cause of the stress.
So why do bearded dragons become stressed? Here are the 10 reasons why bearded dragons become stressed:
- Issues With The Enclosure
- Lack Of Enrichment
- Other Bearded Dragons
- Other Pets In The Home
- New to The Home
Let’s now take a closer look at the 10 reasons why bearded dragons become stressed…
Every detail in a bearded dragon tank needs to fall within their specific ranges. If temperatures go too low, they’ll feel miserable and sluggish.
Too high, and they’ll feel jittery (or baked alive). The same goes with humidity. If either bounces around throughout too rapidly, your beardie will feel like they’re on a roller coaster.
Look at your thermometers and hygrometers to make sure you’ve created a comfortable environment.
If you want to learn exactly how to set up the humidity for your bearded dragon then head over to this easy to follow guide…
Did you provide enough space in the first place? Baby beardies don’t need as much room, but they grow.
What worked in the beginning may pinch now that they’re an adult. A proper size is at least 75 gallons – for ONE bearded dragon. If you try to squeeze multiple beardies into a tight space, you WILL see stress signs.
Here’s a table that shares the tank size we recommend for your bearded dragon depending on their age:
Bearded Dragon Tank Size Chart
|Baby Bearded Dragon||Juvenile Bearded Dragon||Adult Bearded Dragon|
It’s okay to change up the decor now and then, but if you’re rearranging things every week, you’ll cause constant stress. Beardies need to understand where the hides, food bowl, and basking zone are.
They like a routine to feel safe and secure. Don’t change their enclosure more than once every three months.
You need to keep your bearded dragons happy and engaged. Are you handling them daily? Do they get regular baths?
Is there something in the enclosure for them to explore? Bored beardies often turn into stressed beardies.
You CAN find toys to give them entertainment when you’re not spending time with them. They’ll appreciate the chance to engage their beardie minds.
If you need ideas, we have a great article that shares the 17 beat toys and activities for bearded dragons…
A healthy enclosure’s essential, but if you neglect to care for the room where your bearded dragon lives, you could cause a lot of stress.
The tank needs lights, but if you have bright lights in the room, too, you’ll wreak havoc with the third eye.
Recommended Reading: The bearded Dragon Third Eye (All You Need to Know)
Not to mention the mess you could create if you’re continually turning lights on and off near the enclosure. Think carefully about what’s going on in their room.
How many people come by and TAP ON THE GLASS? It’s a horrible thing for a beardie to endure, and it’s guaranteed to cause stress.
While bearded dragons aren’t the pickiest eaters in the world, you want to make sure you cater to your particular beardie’s taste.
If you keep offering vegetables they hate, they’ll grow stressed – and refuse to eat. And be careful with crickets they may miss.
As feeder insects hang around the tank, they can start to bite and harass your beardie. Nothing’s more stressful than a meal that bites back!
Bearded dragons have superb hearing. Add in the fact that they sense vibrations through their feet, and noise can provoke stress signs.
If you don’t take care with your tank placement, your poor beardie may be trying to tell you to turn the racket down already!
Other noises such as loud music or a TV could easily be enough to scare your beardie and therefore cause stress especially if they aren’t accustomed to the sounds.
Always think about the room you house your bearded dragon in and how sounds could affect your beardie.
6. Other Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are generally solitary reptiles and the presence of other beardies in the home can cause stress.
Housing 2 or more bearded dragons together isn’t advised as this can cause many health and stress-related issues and if you are housing multiple bearded dragons together then we would recommend separating them as soon as possible.
There will usually be a dominant beardie that will take most of the food while occupying the basking area most of the day, which means the other bearded dragon will be underfed while not getting the basking time they need.
Stress can also be a factor when 2 bearded dragons are housed separately but are still housed in the same room.
If the bearded dragons can still see each other they will often display territorial behaviors and over the long term, this can lead to stress.
This is something to be mindful of and if you feel this could be an issue then we would suggest housing the beardies in separate rooms or at least where they can’t see each other.
7. Other Pets In The Home
As well as other bearded dragons causing stress, pets such as cats and dogs can also cause stress for your beardie too.
Bearded dragons can often see larger animals as predators, especially if they aren’t used to them and this can cause them to feel threatened and alarmed whenever they are around.
Even pets that your bearded dragon has previously been comfortable around may all of a sudden be an issue.
For example, if a generally placid dog starts barking around your beardie’s tank then this may be enough to cause panic and stress.
You should observe how your dragon reacts when your other pets are in the room as tell-tale signs such as frequent hiding will be a key indicator that your pet could be the reason for their elevated stress levels.
Sometimes issues such as injury can lead bearded dragons to become stressed.
This is due to them being in constant discomfort and pain. Injuries can be hard to spot and in certain cases, there may only be subtle indicators that something is wrong.
You shouldn’t try and press or move any of your beardie limbs as this can make things worse.
Again, you should simply observe their behavior to see if you notice anything uncommon about their body posture and how they walk etc.
If you feel your dragon could be injured in any way then it’s vital that you take them to see a vet right away.
Similar to injury, bearded dragons may become stressed if they are ill in some way.
There are many different illnesses that beardies can suffer from that can be stressful both on their body and their mental state.
An ill bearded dragon will usually display one or more behaviours that will indicate an illness is present.
The signs of illiness include:
- Lack of appetite
- Frequent hiding
Observation is always the key and if you feel your dragon is ill and stressed then an appointment with the vet is needed.
10. New to The Home
One of the most common reasons why bearded dragons become stressed is due to being new to the home.
Arriving at a new home is a big deal for a beardie as there is so much to take in and evaluate.
Your new beardie will need to get used to a new tank and surroundings while learning to trust new owners and often pets (and learning at all of them aren’t predators)
This can be too much for bearded dragons to take in all at once and it’s usually followed by a short period of stress.
The good thing is that this generally settles down after a week or so as long as you allow them time to settle in.
This means not over handling your dragon (as tempting as this may seem) and providing them with a habitat that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible.
As long as you are sensible, your new beardie should settle in and get used to their new home in no time, but the key is to give them time.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Stressed Easily?
We’ve established the signs of a stressed bearded dragon and what can actually cause a beardie to become stressed.
It’s now time to take a look at if bearded dragons actually get stressed easily.
So, do bearded dragons get stressed easily? Bearded dragons can become stressed easily if unwanted situations arise. Some bearded dragons are more resilient than others though and will become less stressed in these situations. As long as you provide them with good quality care stress should be a long term issue.
Bearded dragons have specific needs within their enclosures – and in the room around the tank.
If you overlook something, they’ll show stress signs. And the less you pay attention, the more you’ll need to run around trying to figure out what’s causing the problem.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Stay Stressed?
You hate seeing your bearded dragon stressed and miserable. How long are they going to stay that way? It depends on the cause of the stress.
With relocation stress, most beardies acclimate within a few days, a week at the maximum.
However, if you’re coping with one of the other causes of stress, your beardie may stay upset for more extended periods. (In other words, how long does it take you to fix the problem?)
A bearded dragon that develops hard urates, foul-smelling waste, and lethargy needs to go to the vet. You DON’T want to see stress persist for a month. That’s rough on the body, and it’ll lead to health concerns.
Can Bearded Dragons Die From Stress?
You’ve heard the phrase “stress kills.” High levels of cortisol take their toll on the body – and not in a good way. But does the same theory apply to bearded dragons?
So, can bearded dragons die from stress? Some illnesses prompt stress signs to begin with. However, when stress signs, such as loss of appetite and resulting lack of defecation, continue for long periods, the build-up of stress can result in death. If a beardie isn’t improving when stress appears, they need to see a vet right away.
So your bearded dragon missed a couple of meals. That’s okay, right?
The problem is if there’s no food going in, there’s no food coming out. It’s how digestion works.
Not to mention that lack of nutrients leads to a lack of energy. Now you have a beardie that isn’t eating, isn’t defecating, and isn’t moving. Without serious intervention, they’re on the road to passing away.
Stress isn’t necessarily the cause of your beardie’s death. However, the reactions of their stress lead to severe health concerns. It’s a vicious cycle you want to interrupt as soon as possible.
If you make changes to help your beardie, but you don’t see improvement, schedule an appointment with your vet ASAP.
How Do I Prevent My Bearded Dragon From Becoming Stressed?
You want to keep your bearded dragon as calm and stress-free as possible. You’ve reviewed their enclosure to make sure it’s in perfect condition.
You walked through the room with the tank and made sure it gets the beardie stamp of approval. But you’re afraid you’ll see stress signs. Not to worry – there are still a few tricks to employ.
Let’s take a look at how you can prevent your bearded dragons from becoming stressed…
You want to put fresh food into the enclosure every day. You want a nice mixture of vegetables with a sprinkling of calcium powder and vitamin D3.
Live food stimulates activity, but make sure you remove uneaten insects promptly.
If you want to go for treats, try delicacies:
- Insects (properly gut-loaded)
You wanted to give them everything in the world, but that last live plant might have been the final straw. It’s often a lot of extra additions that prompt stress.
Start with the minimum your beardie needs for a healthy tank. As they adjust to their surroundings, slowly add plants, rocks, or hides ONE at a time.
You’ll know when you reach the tipping point with your beardie. If stress signs appear, remove the last item you added.
Sometimes bearded dragons need a “less is more” approach. Try cutting back a little.
- Cover the tank. Bearded dragons sometimes catch their reflection and mistake it for another beardie. If you use a towel or a background, you minimize that problem.
- Avoid roommates. Even if you have a large enough enclosure, don’t combine beardies. One may turn bully and prevent the other from basking, eating, or playing with the toys. Guess what happens then? Stress!
How to Calm Down a Stressed Bearded Dragon
Stress happens. It’s not always avoidable. You do your best to stay ahead of things, but sometimes your bearded dragon becomes stressed.
It’s okay – you can take steps to help them calm down. (Put the paper bag away – that won’t work here)
- Minimize handling. While it sounds reasonable to offer comfort, you want to take a hands-off approach. Stressed beardies are frightened beardies. Handling will only make things worse. If you don’t need to touch them, don’t.
- Reassuring Scent. You CAN remind them that you’re there for them. Cut up pieces of an old shirt of yours and put them into the tank. Your scent will reassure your beardie they’re safe.
- “Bubble” Bath. A warm, 20-minute bath can do wonders. Set the water between 85-92F (29.4-33.3C) and make sure they don’t submerge their heads. Keep them supported, then let them soak. They’ll get hydrated and soothed. (No bubbles, though, seriously)
- Soft and Soothing. Remember that excellent hearing? Sometimes using a calm tone of voice can do the trick. Lower your voice in volume, use gentle words, and they may settle.
No one enjoys getting stressed – whether they’re a human or bearded dragon. Figuring out the trigger helps you resolve the situation, though.
Once you pinpoint the problem, you can correct it and work towards calming down your beardie. Then everyone can settle back into their comfort zone.
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