One of the most common questions among new owners and reptile enthusiasts is can bearded dragons swim?
For the most part, bearded dragons are associated with making their way through the vast desert-like areas or even woodlands of Australia so swimming isn’t one of the first activities that pops to mind when you think of a beardie.
In this post, we will take a close look and see if bearded dragons can actually swim, and if so how you can safely let your bearded dragon swim in captivity.
So, can bearded dragons swim? Bearded dragons can swim under the proper conditions. You need to make sure you provide warm water that isn’t exceptionally deep, is free from harmful additives, and you should never leave a bearded dragon unsupervised while swimming.
Read On to Find Out…
Can Bearded Dragons Swim? (More Information)
Talk with any swimmer, and they’ll assure you that hitting the pool is a fantastic exercise.
The buoyancy of the water takes the strain off joints, allowing anyone at any age to partake.
And that freedom extends to the animal world. Yes, even reptiles like bearded dragons.
The scales provide a water-repellent barrier, while those lengthy tails allow them to zigzag through the water a little like an alligator or crocodile.
They tuck their arms and legs in tight and zip around – little reptilian swimmers.
However, that doesn’t mean you can pop your beardie into any body of water you come across at any given time.
There ARE some careful restrictions you need to keep in mind. Bathing a beardie is relatively straightforward. But SWIM TIME?
That can take a turn for the worst without some careful planning and monitoring.
Do Bearded Dragons Swim in the Wild?
Most beardie owners know the lizards come from arid regions in Australia. And most people think that means desert.
While you CAN find pockets of water in the desert, they’re few and far between. So it seems reasonable to question whether bearded dragons swim in the wild.
So, do bearded dragons swim in the wild? Bearded dragons live in arid deserts and woodlands, allowing the lizards to come across natural springs, ponds, and streams. And while they’re not as prone to living in the water as other reptile species, they can and will swim when needed. They can inflate their bodies and float.
The Australian water dragon LOVES the water. You’ll often find these lizards frolicking in and around streams.
And if you own one, you need to set aside swimming time to keep them happy. Bearded dragons aren’t quite the water-lovers of their reptilian cousins.
But that doesn’t prevent them from taking to the water now and then – even in their natural environment.
Beardies encounter the chance to swim in the wild. There, they SEE water. Still water isn’t visible to bearded dragons.
They need to catch a glimpse of the movement on the surface to notice the water’s presence.
With wind, current, and sunlight, it’s easier for them to find water sources. Then they know where their next drink or bath will come from.
Once they find a safe place, they inhale air. This allows them to float on the surface of the water. A quick flick of their long tails, and they swim around without a problem.
Their parietal eye helps them keep watch for potential predators circling above. At the first shadow, they can dart for cover OR exhale and make a dive for the bottom.
Check out this post that covers all you need to know about the bearded dragon’s third eye in an easy to follow guide…
Is Swimming Good for Bearded Dragons?
A quick dip in a pool allows beardies to take a drink. But that’s a little far to go to develop all of the evolutionary traits that allow for swimming.
Clearly, there’s more at work here. And exercise? Well, running around in the brush or across the rocks could quickly burn just as many calories.
So why would beardies learn how to swim in the wild? And why would so many owners encourage it in their homes today? Easy – it’s GOOD for them!
Whether in the wilds or the safety of your home, swimming provides a few key benefits to bearded dragons:
- Hydration (kind of obvious)
- Assistance in the shedding process
- Promotion of bowel movements
- Mental and environmental stimulation
Let’s take a closer look at why swimming is good for bearded dragons…
Bearded dragons LOVE their time under the basking lamp. And it’s essential to get that temperature just right.
But when they start looking dull and flaky, the excess time under the heat may be blamed.
You’ll want to start by checking your thermometer and hygrometer to ensure the enclosure isn’t to blame.
And their regular baths may be enough to provide the extra moisture your beardie’s scales are clamoring for. But when the poor lizard still looks bedraggled? A quick swim might do the trick.
The extra hydration provided by an occasional swim can help your bearded dragon look – and feel – comfortable.
The environment in their enclosure may pull moisture out of their system. Different substrates look attractive but also draw more water out of a system.
And if you use artificial plants rather than live plants, there’s no extra water entering. This takes a toll on a reptile’s scales. Swimming can help restore the balance.
Shedding can be both a difficult and stressful time for bearded dragons with many complications and bathing and swimming can help to make the process much easier.
You find out all the ways to help your beardie shed more easily in our complete shedding guide here…
It’s no one’s FAVORITE swimming reaction, but one of the first things bearded dragons usually do when they hit the water is poop.
Again, it links back to that extra hydration. As their bodies absorb the water, it goes into their GI tracts, helping everything move along.
It’s an argument for choosing your beardie’s swimming space carefully (we’ll explain more in a bit).
Some bearded dragons end up impacted. This can result from improper diets (crickets the wrong size or too MANY crickets) or even poor substrate choices.
To find out all the signs, causes, and solutions of impaction head over to our in-depth article that covers all you need to know as an owner…
The warm temperature and a nice, relaxing swim go a long way to helping the impaction move through the beardie’s system. And the same goes for female beardies struggling with eggs.
Provided they DON’T get stressed in water (we’ll get to that in a second), the swim calms the body’s muscles. Instead of everything contracting and tightening, she can settle.
Nothing’s more boring than the same four walls, day after day. Sure, you take your bearded dragon out for handling on a routine basis – which is fantastic – but it’s still part of a routine.
Allowing your beardie the chance for a swim now and then changes things up. They get to see, smell, feel, AND do something different.
That stimulates new muscles (their tail’s going to get a workout), and it gets their mind working in fresh ways.
All beardies need mental and environmental enrichment to stay healthy. When you allow them to take swim breaks, you’re catering to both.
Even if all your bearded dragon does is float around like a scaly pool toy, they’re getting the stimulation they need. (Relaxation is good for the brain, too!)
Recommended Reading: The 17 Best Toys & Activities For a Happy Bearded Dragon
Do Bearded Dragons Like to Swim?
So, we know bearded dragons CAN swim and that it provides plenty of health benefits for them.
And, of course, bearded dragons need to get their regular baths. But a bath and a swim are vastly different things.
So, do bearded dragons LIKE swimming? Every bearded dragon’s different. And while some beardies take to swimming without a problem, others may not. It’s essential to carefully monitor your bearded dragon’s reaction and never force one to swim if it shows signs of stress.
When you embark on the bearded dragon swimming adventure, you’ll want to start by observing signs in the bath.
Does your beardie attempt to claw their way out of the tub as soon as they touch the water?
Or do they sink into it and close their eyes, floating happily in the warm water? Those clues will let you know if you have a potential swimming bearded dragon or not.
You can also introduce the concept of swimming by adding a LARGE water dish on the warm side of the enclosure.
You DO need to make sure you add a dripper to allow your bearded dragon to see the surface of the water properly.
If the dish is large enough for them to explore, you can consider moving to a swimming experiment further down the road.
Some bearded dragons NEVER enjoy swimming. This is okay. You don’t want to force swimming on them. Sticking to their regular bath is fine.
If you try to push them into swimming, you’ll end causing them stress, and that’s NOT the response you want. Remember, the idea behind bearded dragons swimming is relaxation and mental stimulation. Not horror and panic.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Swim?
When is it that bearded dragons first begin to pick up the knack for swimming?
The parents don’t raise the eggs in the wild (or even in captivity), so it’s not a skill they receive guidance in.
So, can baby bearded dragons swim? Baby bearded dragons can swim. Swimming helps them to grow stronger. However, they tire much faster and can become chilled faster. As such, you need to take care of how you set up their swimming space and make sure you never leave them unattended.
Swimming builds muscle strength. Water provides natural resistance. And for baby bearded dragons, the exercise of swimming also helps their bone development.
When you set them up in a tiny pool, you’re helping them put on the strength they’ll need down the road – as long as you’re smart about it.
Quick as they are (and they’re FAST in the water), baby beardies also use up their energy stores in a short period.
You need to provide them with plenty of “haul-outs.” These are places they can LEAVE the water.
They have the same ability to inflate themselves and float, but they tire faster than adult beardies.
And they can’t control their body temperature as well as they will down the road. So even in water at a proper temperature, they’ll start to get chilled.
Baby beardies need an attentive lifeguard to prevent unwanted accidents from happening while they’re swimming – more so than adults.
How Deep Should the Water Be For a Bearded Dragon to Swim Safely?
You’ve determined your bearded dragon loves the water. Not just for baths but swimming trips, as well.
And you want to make swimming a regular part of their routine. Which is fantastic! Now getting the depth of the water is the next step to ensure you are providing your bearded dragons with a safe swimming environment.
So, how deep should the water be for a bearded dragon to swim? To protect bearded dragons when they’re swimming, you shouldn’t allow the water to go any deeper than their elbows or knees. They’ll still be able to swim at this depth, though you may see them walk around, as well.
It’s tempting to fill your pool or tub as deep as possible to watch your beardie fill with air and float around the surface.
And you want to see that snapping tail in action. But even with a bearded dragon that enjoys swimming, deeper water levels pose a potential hazard.
You want to keep the water depth at a level they can manage. Remember, they aren’t Australian water dragons.
The elbow/knee height is the safest depth for beardie swims. They CAN lift their legs and float if they choose.
If NOT, they can extend their legs and walk. This prevents accidents. It may not seem as much fun, but you want to keep your beardie safe.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim Underwater?
Ok, so you know your bearded dragon can swim and many of you regularly give your beardies swimming sessions.
But you might now be wondering if your bearded dragon can swim underwater?
So, can bearded dragons swim underwater? As with any other reptile, bearded dragons can hold their breath for several minutes at a time. As such, they can swim and stay underwater. However, it’s important not to force this behavior. And if you feel your bearded dragon’s been underwater for too long, contact your veterinarian.
Anyone watching a reptile breathing knows it’s a SLOW process. And the colder a reptile gets, the SLOWER their breathing.
People in the veterinary profession end up challenged when it’s time to anesthetize a snake, turtle, or lizard. These species hold their breath FOREVER. And bearded dragons are no exception.
It’s a habit that serves them well in the wild when a shadow passes overhead, and they need to dive underwater.
They swim to the bottom of the pool they were floating in and wait for time to pass. And this can happen if your beardie gets startled when swimming with you.
Until they feel it’s safe, they’ll hang out underwater. And as you watch time tick by, YOUR stress level starts climbing. How long is TOO long?
This is difficult to put into hard numbers. As long as the water temperature’s correct (more on that in a second), your beardie’s probably fine.
They’ll resurface when they feel the danger’s past. But if you didn’t set the temperature correctly? Or you left your beardie swimming too long?
Those minutes may stretch on too long. This is why it’s so critical to monitor swimming bearded dragons closely.
And while they CAN swim underwater, never force them to do so. You’ll stress them out. Think how YOU’D feel if someone grabbed you and shoved you into a pool without warning. Not fun, right? Your beardie has the same train of thought.
What Temperature Should the Water Be For a Bearded Dragon to Swim?
Bearded dragons, like most reptiles, are ectotherms. This means their internal body temperature depends on the OUTSIDE temperature.
And that applies when they’re swimming, too. So when you set up a pool or tub for swimming, you need a thermometer handy to get everything perfect.
At a MINIMUM, you want to keep the water on the warm side of lukewarm.
That means warmer than the temperature of the room you’ve set up for swim practice. Realistically, you should be aiming for your bearded dragon to swim at a temperature of around 80F (26.6C).
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in Cold Water?
You know you’re supposed to use warm water for your bearded dragon to swim in. But maybe you came across an outdoor pool, or you have a natural pond in your backyard.
You’re not 100% sure of the water temperature, but it feels chilly to you. Is it ever okay for a bearded dragon to swim in cold water?
So, can bearded dragons swim in cold water? Bearded dragons shouldn’t swim in cold water. Cold water puts bearded dragons at risk for potential problems. As their body temperature drops, so does their ability to move and swim. Without proper precautions, you could find yourself rushing to the emergency vet.
The warm temperatures of their natural environment keep bearded dragons racing around.
If they spend too much time in the cooler shade – something that the parietal eye prevents – they’d never have the burst of speed to avoid a predator. And that’s the kicker with cold water.
Cold water temperatures slow down everything in a beardie’s body. Their metabolism AND their muscles. Instead of a swimming bearded dragon, you have a sinking bearded dragon.
Unless they have haul-outs and sun or basking lamps close by to heat them up again, they’ll end up on the bottom of the pool.
And while they can hold their breath, this isn’t a good situation. Lifting a cold bearded dragon from the bottom of the pool is an emergency.
You could justify allowing a bearded dragon to swim in cold water if the pond sits in full sun on a hot day.
The warmth of the outdoor weather will help balance the water’s chill. But it’s not ideal to inflict the two extremes on your beardie’s system. It’d be better for you to set up a pool and let the sun warm up the water FIRST.
Recommended Reading: Cold Bearded Dragon – Signs, Causes & Solutions
How Long Should I Allow My Bearded Dragon to Swim For?
There’s nothing quite as charming as a bearded dragon swimming through the water.
They look so graceful! You could watch them for hours. But that begs the question: how long should a bearded dragon swim for?
So, how long should you allow your bearded dragon to swim for? To prevent exhaustion, it’s essential to keep bearded dragon swimming sessions to just 10-15 minutes at a time. This allows them plenty of time for enrichment and hydration without causing them to use up all of their energy stores. Even if they float the entire time, don’t go over 15 minutes.
It sounds disappointing, but 10-15 minutes is plenty for both baby and adult bearded dragons to enjoy a swim.
Remember, they’re not aquatic species. Even in the wild, they keep their forays into the water brief.
Fifteen minutes is plenty of time for them to rehydrate, enjoy a few laps, and then return to their enclosure.
If you go over that time limit, you’ll start to cut into their energy stores. And an exhausted beardie? That’s a beardie that’s going to end up with problems.
Can Bearded Dragons Drown?
No one wants to hover over a bearded dragon at the bottom of the tub or pool. Even knowing they can hold their breath or swim underwater.
It’s unnerving! And while you’d NEVER step away or leave your beardie unattended while swimming, it has to make you wonder: can bearded dragons drown?
So, can bearded dragons drown? Bearded dragons need to breathe air. If too much water enters their lungs, they can drown, the same as any other animal. This can happen if they become chilled in water and cannot exit the water or get exhausted from swimming for too long. In either case, veterinary care is needed.
Reptiles may not share many characteristics with mammals, but both of us breathe air, not water. And what’s the definition of drowning?
Replacing air in the lungs with water. It’s not fun to contemplate, but bearded dragons can drown. This is why it’s so vital to get their swimming set-up right. AND never leave them alone when they’re in the pool.
A floating beardie isn’t expending a ton of energy. They take in air and relax on the surface.
But a beardie that’s actively zipping around the tub? THAT engages the muscles and requires resources from the body.
And the longer they swim, the more exhausted they get. It’s fun to watch them imitate a little alligator or crocodile, but when you go past the 15-minute mark? You’re pushing into their reserves.
If they don’t have some way to crawl out and rest, they’re going to get slower and slower. And odds are they’ll start to swallow water. The more water they take in, the greater the risk they’re going to aspirate.
Before you know it, they’re sinking to the bottom – and NOT in an underwater dive.
The exact process takes place when beardies swim in cold water. The chill invades their muscles, slowing them down. It gets harder and harder for them to keep their heads above water. Suddenly, they’re sinking. Different cause, same result.
Reviving a Drowned Bearded Dragon
If you lift your bearded dragon and hear something that sounds like choking, you KNOW they aspirated water.
Hopefully, they’ll take a nice breath of air for you. (If not, you need to book it to the vet for help) You can help them recover from their near-death experience by bumping the temperature in their enclosure two degrees.
Place your beardie gently under the basking lamp, with their head angled DOWN. Gravity will help pull the remainder of the water out.
Unfortunately, water aspiration means your bearded dragon will be at risk for a respiratory infection.
Watch for bubbles around the nose or difficulty breathing. If you see ANY problems, get to the vet. And (obviously) no swimming until your beardie recovers.
How Often Should I Allow My Bearded Dragon to Swim?
Once you find you have a swimming bearded dragon, it’s tempting to break out the pool ALL the time.
And it’s hard to remember they’re not an aquatic species. It IS possible to have too much of a good thing. (For you – your beardie probably won’t think it’s a good thing if they end up in splashdown mode every other day)
You don’t want to change the frequency of your beardie baths. They’re essential for hygiene.
And a bath and a swim? They’re not precisely the same thing (unless you decide to combine the two into one).
But if you want to add a swim into your routine every other week, your bearded dragon shouldn’t mind. This will keep them hydrated without causing them to become waterlogged.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in a Bathtub?
Depending on the size – or age – of your bearded dragon, it seems almost anything would work for a swimming pool. For instance, isn’t a bathtub the perfect place for beardies to swim?
So, can bearded dragons swim in a bathtub? Bathtubs have slick sides, making it difficult for bearded dragons to climb out. Bearded dragons also often have bowel movements when they swim, requiring you to disinfect the bathtub to prevent Salmonella from transferring to other people in the house. As such, beardies shouldn’t swim in bathtubs.
High, slippery sides make bathtubs dangerous – and not just for bearded dragons! People often slip in them and injure themselves.
And while beardies have claws, they can’t gain purchase on the porcelain surface. So when they get tired and attempt to climb out of the water when swimming, they scramble and start to panic. This makes bathtubs less than ideal.
Then there’s one of those key swimming benefits for bearded dragons. When they hit the warm water and relax, they poop.
Even if you scoop the offending waste up as soon as it hits the water (ideal, because if their tail brushes against it, it’s going EVERYWHERE), it’s still reptile waste.
And that means Salmonella in a place everyone uses in the household. To protect your family, you need to disinfect the bathtub every time your beardie goes for a swim.
Does it mean you CAN’T use the bathtub? No. Does it mean you SHOULDN’T? Yes.
Bearded Dragon Swim Gyms
It’s a much better idea if you create a bearded dragon “swim gym.” You can do this with a plastic kiddie pool, a large plastic tub, or a similar container.
You’ll have better control over the water depth, and you can set it up anywhere – even outside.
Once you have the container selected, add in the following:
- Turtle docks
The objects provide critical haul-outs for your bearded dragon. Then they can swim when they want AND climb out and bask if they wish. It provides safety during the swimming process. It’ll also make cleaning MUCH more manageable.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in Tap Water?
Everyone knows you absolutely CANNOT use tap water if you have frogs or other amphibians in the house. But does the same rule apply dor bearded dragons?
So, can bearded dragons swim in tap water? Strictly speaking, tap water is okay for bearded dragons to swim in. However, your best bet for safety is to consider adding a de-chlorinator. The chlorine levels in certain areas can be high. As bearded dragons often drink while swimming, you want them to stay safe.
Do you know exactly what’s in your tap water? Probably not. But it likely has a mixture of chemicals that keep YOU safe.
And since it’s the water you usually use to fill your beardie’s water bowl and bath, there’s not much harm in using it for your beardie to swim around in.
But some areas have HIGH chlorine levels in their tap water. You may know that already.
If you do, you want to invest in ReptiSafe or another water dechlorinator.
This goes double if you watch your beardie drink when they swim all the time. A few drops will do the trick, and you can rest easier knowing your beardie isn’t ingesting unwanted chemicals.
You can check out the latest price of Reptisafe directly over at Amazon below…
- 4.25 ounces of instant terrarium water conditioner
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Last update on 2022-05-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in Chlorine Pools?
So tap water’s on the acceptable list (depending on where you live), but what about the average chlorine pool?
Assuming you make sure the water temperature’s okay, and you promise to keep an eye on your bearded dragon at all times since the water depth is going to be on the steep side.
So, can bearded dragons swim in chlorine pools? Chlorine, especially when it goes into the higher levels is dangerous. It dries out bearded dragon skin AND poses a risk to the GI tract. You’re better off avoiding chlorine pools if you can help it. The exception would be if the pool’s chlorine level test is low comparable to tap water.
Why not bring your bearded dragon out for a swim to the pool in the backyard?
Aside from the fact you’re going to have to deal with a mess, anyway. (Never forget THAT part of beardie swimming) When was the last time you tested the chlorine level? Never? (It’s okay – most homeowners DON’T. It’s more of a public pool thing)
Chlorine and bearded dragons don’t mix well. As it goes up – and it SHOULD since you’re adding Salmonella to the mix – it starts drying out scales.
You probably notice the same effect on your skin. It also burns the eyes – of humans AND reptiles. And chlorine upsets the natural microbiome of the beardie GI tract.
Those are the bacteria that normally live in the small intestines. They’ve never encountered that level of the chemical before, so they die off. It’s a bad situation.
Now, if you DO test your pool’s chlorine, and it’s about the same as your tap water, you don’t need to worry as much. (Well, other than the fact you’ll need to clean the pool more often)
You should still consider giving your beardie an extra rinse after swimming in the pool, though. It’ll remove the pool chemicals from their scales.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in Saltwater?
Not everyone has chlorine pools. Plenty of people have ditched the hassles of chlorine for the convenience of saltwater pools. But is saltwater okay if your bearded dragon goes for a swim in?
So, can bearded dragons swim in saltwater? Due to their habit of drinking water while they swim, bearded dragons should never swim in saltwater. Their bodies aren’t designed to cope with the excess sodium. They’ll end up very ill, and the natural balance in their system will shift. You can expect hefty vet bills to result.
How dehydrated and exhausted do you feel when you’ve swam all day in your saltwater pool? That’s due to the salt.
You sweat in the heat, you accidentally swallow some of the water, and your body loses TOO much moisture.
If you don’t drink plenty of water to compensate, you can end up with heat exhaustion, if not heat stroke. And bearded dragons? They don’t have the same coping mechanisms we do – especially in saltwater.
Swimming around, they’ll drink the saltwater. That pulls moisture OUT of their bodies.
And they’re in a pool, so they have no other water choice. So they keep trying to drink to ease their thirst. And insane amounts of sodium build up in their bodies. It’s DANGEROUS. You should NEVER allow your beardie to swim in saltwater.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in the Ocean?
Your family took a trip to the shore. And you brought your bearded dragon along on vacation.
You forgot their usual swimming tub, but the ocean’s right there. Would even a tiny swim in the ocean be THAT bad?
So, can bearded dragons swim in the ocean? Bearded dragons should not swim in the ocean. They face the same problems with the ocean as they do with any source of saltwater. They can’t drink saltwater. Also, the rough conditions of the ocean will leave the bearded dragon struggling to stay afloat. They’ll tire quickly and may drown.
Even in a cove, you find waves with the ocean. And bearded dragons lack the swimming ability to cope with the surf.
In no time, they’ll end up exhausted. You can’t provide proper haul-outs for them to escape the water, either.
This puts them in a watery environment where the salt’s hazardous, and so are the water conditions. You’ll end up with a bearded dragon that will quickly succumb to danger and drown.
NEVER allow your beardie to swim in the ocean. Even if you brought your favorite reptile friend to the shore for a trip, leave them in their enclosure. They’ll do fine missing a swimming excursion. It’s better than the alternative.
Bearded dragons can swim. And some love it. Others not as much. But if your beardie takes to water, it’s one of the best enrichment activities you can provide.
And as long as you observe the proper conditions – and NEVER leave them on their own – they’ll appreciate the opportunity.
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