If your bearded dragon appears cold then it can be worrying as an owner, especially if you can’t find any reason for the sudden change in body temperature.
Bearded dragons are ectotherms, or in slang “cold-blooded”. This means they cannot internally control there temperature like mammals. Instead, they rely on external sources to gather heat to function correctly.
Although bearded dragons can tolerate lower temperatures for a time, if they are cold for an extended period they can suffer serious harm.
In this post, we will cover the signs, causes and fixes for a cold bearded dragon so you can rectify any issues early and keep your beardie both happy and healthy.
Read On to Discover…
What Will Happen If My Bearded Dragon Gets Too Cold?
Before we look at the signs, causes and fixes for a cold bearded dragon, it’s important to first understand what will happen if your bearded dragon gets too cold and if there could possibly be any serious health issues to follow.
So, what will happen if my bearded dragon gets too cold? if a bearded dragon gets too cold it will not be able to digest food. If digestion halts then food can rot in the gut or become impacted and cause serious illness. Nutrient absorption can also be severely impacted and other functions including growth, development and recovery will be affected.
A bearded dragons basking spot should be kept at around 95-100°F and a cooler spot of 75-80°F to mimic the natural environment in which they are found.
Here’s a table that shares the recommended tank temperatures…
Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide
|Bearded Dragon Temperature Guide|
|Basking Area 95°-100°F|
|Cool Spot 75°-80°F|
These temperatures will allow for ideal body function and promote optimum health. A temperature fluctuation is needed at night, down to 65°F minimum to preferably 70-75°F (as shown in the above table). This lower temperature promotes rest and recovery.
Temperatures any lower than this may stimulate your bearded dragon to go into brumation.
Brumation is a natural process to conserve energy during cold temperatures.
Our complete guide to brumation shares all you need to know about brumation as an owner in a simple and easy to follow article.
It is not necessary for captivity but allowing captive reptiles to brumate can encourage natural cycles and signals for the reproductive systems. Continuous low temperatures can cause prolonged brumation which will have adverse health effects.
If your bearded dragon gets too cold for too long all of its body functions will struggle. The immune system will weaken, shedding will be poor, activity low.
The worst effect will be on the digestive system. Any food still in the gut when temperates drop will stop digesting and rot inside the animal, causing serious illness.
Food in the lower part of the digestive tract may become impacted and no be able to pass out of the body.
Which hinder digestion the body of the bearded dragon will not be able to receive any water or nutrients so slowly all functions will cease and ultimately cause death.
A cool environment can also promote higher humidity in your bearded dragon’s enclosure and this can result in other issues such as respiratory conditions. Humidity should be monitored with a hygrometer as if the humidity is too high it can cause respiratory infections and fungal issues.
If you are unsure about how to regulate the humidity levels in your beardies enclosure then check out this article here that covers everything…
Signs a Bearded Dragon Is Too Cold?
Since we do not keep bearded dragons enclosures at a constant high temperature and promote some lower temperatures, how do we know if it is too cold for the bearded dragon?
You should monitor the enclosure with a general thermometer to get an idea of overall enclosure temperature throughout the day and night and the use of a temperature gun is beneficial so you can pinpoint basking, warm and cool spots in the enclosure and make sure they are all within the desired range.
As well as a general thermometer, we also highly recommend using a handheld digital thermometer.
This will allow you to independently check the temperature of multiple areas of the tank at any time.
The thermometer we recommend is the ‘Zoo Med’ Repti Temp.
You can check it out directly over at amazon below…
- Great for Monitoring Basking Areas, Thermal Gradients, Incubation, and Hibernation Temperatures.
- Temperature measurement Range -28° to 230°F (-33° to 110°C)
Last update on 2021-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
If your lamps malfunction and stop working or there is a power cut you may find that you aren’t able to maintain the enclosure temperatures at which you need to monitor and observe if your bearded dragon gets cold.
Understanding the signs of a cold bearded dragon are vital to helping you understand if there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
So, what are the signs of a cold bearded dragon? There are the signs that your bearded dragon is too cold:
Let’s now take a closer look at the signs that your bearded dragon could be too cold…
The easiest thing to do it physically assess your bearded dragon’s temperature is to touch it.
If it is cold to the touch, clearly it’s temperature is too low. Bearded dragons should not be cold to the touch as they tend to spend a large portion of their day searching for heat to bask under.
If your bearded dragon feels cold when you touch it, there is a problem with your heat source. It may have stopped working or it is not accessible to the animal.
If a bearded dragon is cooling down and becoming uncomfortable it will be searching for heat sources.
It will also display basking behaviours including, flattening its body to increase the surface area from above so it can soak up as much heat from high sources as possible.
If your bearded dragon has turned itself into a scaly pancake it is too cold and looking to warm up!
Here’s a great article that explains the 3 reasons why bearded dragons flatten out…
Your bearded dragon may become completely still and immobile if they are too cold for a long period of time.
If it has run out of energy and does not have any heat to metabolize, it will not be able to move at all. You may find it still aware but unable or unwilling to move.
If the temperature has been too low for too long, the bearded dragon may be completely unresponsive.
It will appear to be in a comatose state as it is unable to function. Breathing may be shallow and it will be longer between breaths.
This can be scary and you could confuse it for being dead. If your bearded dragon is ever unresponsive, take it to the vet immediately.
The colour of your bearded dragon can also be a strong indicator that they are cold.
Beardies will often darken their body colour in order to absorb more heat when their body temperature is too low.
You can often see this early on a morning when your beardie has just woken up and they haven’t had a chance to bask yet.
Some dragons will darken the colour of the skin to increase their body temperature until they have had some time under the basking lamp.
This is perfectly normal, however, if your beardie is darkening their skin at random times throughout the day then it could be a sign that their body temperature is too low.
It’s also important to note that there are many other reasons why bearded dragons darken their skin and beard so you can’t just assume it’s to do with body temperature without further investigation.
What Can Cause a Bearded to Dragon Become Too Cold?
Now that you know the signs of a cold beardie, you also need to know what can cause your bearded dragon to become too cold.
So, what can cause a bearded dragon to become too cold? The causes of a cold bearded dragon are:
- Wrong lamp or lamp placement
- Blown lamp
- Poor enclosure ventilation/insulation
- Inappropriate tank size
- Power loss
Let’s now take an in-depth look at the cause of a cold bearded dragon…
1. Wrong Lamp or Lamp Placement
If your heat lamp is not high enough wattage it will not produce enough high for basking. Ensure you are purchasing bulbs that are specifically for reptiles and do your research.
We have actually researched and listed the 9 best basking bulbs for bearded dragons in this article here…
If your lamp is not placed correctly you could limit the heat available to your bearded dragon.
The ideal spot is hanging from above, no on the side of the enclosure as bearded dragons are most efficient at absorbing heat on the dorsal side (above!) as they naturally bask in sun.
Also, make sure that the bulb is at the right level. The heat will dissipate as it moves through the air so the further away it is the less heat that will reach the animal.
Test this using a temperature gun pointed at the basking spot and adjust the height of the lamp as needed.
You should also be using furniture to create height for the bearded. Items such as slanted rocks or logs can be used to get closer to the heat lamp.
2. Blown Lamp
If your heat lamp is light-emitting you will know immediately if it has blown. If you are using a heat lamp that does not emit light, it won’t be visually obvious if it has blown as there will be no light change.
Take daily readings of temperature, first thing in the morning and last thing at night so that you can pick up as soon as possible if you have a blown lamp.
All lamps will blow eventually but do your research on lamp types to find which is most reliable.
Always, always have a spare bulb! If you use your last bulb, immediately order some more. If your bulb blows and you do not have a replacement this is the time when you will struggle to keep your bearded dragon warm.
3. Enclosure Ventilation and Insulation
If your lamps are pumping out the right amount of heat in the right places but you still are not maintaining a good temperature across the enclosure, you are potentially losing heat out of the enclosure.
Many tanks available are glass with a mesh top. These are widely found but due to the large area of mesh on the top, a whole lot of heat can escape upwards.
If you have a tank like this, you can cover most of this mesh area (leaving some for ventilation) to reduce heat loss.
Other common enclosures are made of wood and glass with inbuilt ventilation. These are good choices as the wood and glass hold the heat in and there is no large scale heat loss.
Recommended Reading: Our 3 recommended Tanks For Bearded Dragons
4. Inappropriate Tank Size
If you have a tank that is too large and not enough heat sources, the heat will dissipate evenly throughout the whole tank and reduce the overall heating effect of the heat lamp.
In this case, you should provide multiple sources of heat and perhaps incorporate a ceramic heat lamp in addition to your basking lamp to keep a warm temperature. Smaller enclosures, the basking lamp itself should be enough.
Make sure your enclosure size is appropriate for the size of your bearded dragon and that enough heat sources are presents to create a gradient of heat in the enclosure with a hot basking spot, a cool area and an overall warm temperature.
Here’s an article that shares the appropriate tank size your beardie needs depending on their age…
5. Power Loss
You can do everything perfectly in providing and maintaining a perfect environment for your bearded dragon, but ultimately it will always rely on a power source.
The reliability of your power source is beyond your control for the most part but you should be prepared in the case of a power loss situation.
Include your bearded dragon in your emergency scenario plans and ration accordingly.
(More information below about supporting your bearded dragon through a power cut)
How Can I Warm My Bearded Dragon Up If They Are Too Cold?
If you return to your bearded dragon enclosure and find the heat source has failed and your bearded dragon is cold to the touch there a few steps you can take to facilitate it to come back up to a comfortable temperature.
So, how can I warm up my bearded dragon if they are too cold? If your bearded dragon is too cold you can warm it up quickly using the following techniques:
- Put under a heat source
- Heat mat
- Water bottle
- Body heat
Now let’s look at each of these solutions in more detail…
1. Put Under a Heat Source
If you can recover your regular heat source in the enclosure, do so as soon as you can and place your bearded dragon under the heat source.
It may not recover immediately, but it will naturally warm back up. Depending on how cold and how long the bearded dragon was cold for, will determine how long it takes for it to come back to normal.
It may take a few days before you see regular behaviours resumed.
2. Heat Mat
If your heat lamp is blown or busted and you can’t replace it you can use a ground-based heat source if required.
This is not good as a long term solution but can help keep the temperature up until the heat lamp is sorted out.
An example of this is a heat mat. You mustn’t let your bearded dragon lay directly on the heat mat but cover it in a towel or something similar to create a barrier between the animal and the heat mat.
Since bearded dragons gain most of their heat from above they have less sensory nerves on their underside, meaning they may not feel if they are too hot and can potentially burn themselves on the likes of an uncovered heat mat
3. Water Bottle
If you do not have a heat mat or it cannot be used for whatever reason you can also use the same technique with a water bottle.
The same rule of covering the bottle applies. With a water bottle you will need to monitor as it will lose heat over time and if left overnight could cool right down. You will need to refill it regularly.
4. Body Heat
If you don’t have access to any of the above heat sources and you are starting to panic, do not worry as you will always have one vital heat source… Your body heat.
If you are unable to keep your bearded dragon warm any other way you can bring it to close to your body under your clothes and onto your skin.
Fortunately, humans are endotherms, so we create our heat source internally and you can share this with your struggling ectotherm friend.
Do not wrap your bearded dragon in a blanket. It may be what you do when you want to warm up but it will have the opposite effect on your bearded dragon.
A blanket wrapped around acts as insulation for holding in the heat but since cold-blooded creates do not create heat you will not be helping them, you may even prevent them from getting outside heat through the blanket to themselves.
How Long Can Bearded Dragons Stay Cold For?
The bottom line is that bearded dragons need heat to survive. Although short periods of cold are manageable, I’m talking a few hours.
Bearded dragons can survive up to 24 hours without heat, after these approximate periods it is highly likely there will be some significant health effects particularly if the temperature is below 65°F.
The period of cold temperature should not be encouraged and it should be limited as much as possible.
There are some times that loss of heat is out of our control. Below we will talk about how to get through a power cut and keep our bearded dragons warm.
How Can I Provide Heat to My Bearded Dragon If There’s a Power Cut?
Depending on where you live a power cut may be a regular occurrence or something that happens once in a blue moon.
A power cut is going to mean you can’t provide any power-based heat, which is what we mostly rely on.
If it is the middle of summer you may not have to worry at all, the ambient temperature in the room may be suitable or you can even shift the enclosure to the sun for some natural heat.
But it is winter and the temperatures are far too low for your bearded dragon you need to provide alternate heat.
As soon as the power goes out you should get a thick blanket and cover the enclosure. This will act as insulation and hold what heat is in the enclosure for longer. This will buy you some time to organize other heat sources.
If you have the opportunity to heat water, i.e a gas cooker then you can use a hot water bottle as detailed above. Other small personal heat sources such as hand warmers can also provide heat.
If you have a wood fire you can keep your bearded dragon nearby.
If power cuts are something you experience often then it would be beneficial for you to have a backup power source.
This could be solar or a generator. This will ensure you are not putting your bearded dragon at risk often.
If your power has been off for some time and you cannot keep your bearded dragon warm with these minor heat sources or your body heat and it is getting colder and colder then you can always take a drive and use the heater of your car to get it through.
What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Continues to Be Cold?
If you reach a point where no matter what you try or what heat sources you utilize, you cannot warm up your cold bearded dragon then you should seek veterinary advice.
Your vet will have more resources at their disposal and will be able to monitor and mitigate serious effects from being cold.
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