Have you ever seen your bearded dragon’s beard turn black? Beard blackening is a form of communication for beardies. Find out what your dragon is trying to tell you in the article below.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why do bearded dragons puff up their beards and turn black?
- How can I calm my bearded dragon down?
Bearded dragons are fascinating animals that make great pets. With their friendly attitude and characteristic calmness, their popularity has grown a lot in the last few years.
If you are a first-time bearded dragon owner, seeing it turning darker from one moment to the next might be worrying. However, changing color is very normal for bearded dragons. Beardies can change their dorsal coloration to different shades. In this article, we will go through the main reasons why bearded dragons turn black, to help you better understand your pet.
What's In This Guide?
Is It Normal For A Bearded Dragon To Turn Black?
Yes, bearded dragons often change the color of their body as a response to external factors. Their ability to change their pigmentation is possible due to chromatophores present in the skin of almost all reptiles. These chromatophores are special cells that catch light in a certain way, changing the color that our eyes perceive. These cells also aid in the thermoregulation of reptiles since darker colors absorb more light/heat.
Bearded dragons change color for many reasons, for example, to regulate their temperature or to express their feelings. They often turn darker when they feel scared or threatened or when they are feeling sick.
Identifying the causes for your beardie’s change in color is key to understanding them better to help provide a life in captivity that meets all their needs.
How Long Will Your Bearded Dragon Stay Black?
Bearded dragons change their skin color as a response to external triggers. Bearded dragons will normally change their coloration for a few minutes until the danger or issue has passed.
Sometimes, your beardie may stay dark for a longer time. This behavior can happen when they are exposed to prolonged stress. It can also take place when your pet is going through brumation or needs to regulate its body temperature drastically.
Bearded dragons also turn darker with age, so if you notice your pet is getting steadily darker as the years go by, there is nothing you should worry about.
Unless it’s brumating, a healthy bearded dragon should not be darker for more than a few minutes. If your dragon turns dark often and for longer periods, it is certainly a cause for concern and you should visit a vet.
7 Reasons Bearded Dragons Turn Black
Regulation of their body temperature is the most common reason for bearded dragons to change color. Reptiles are cold-blooded animals, which means that they depend on external heat and light sources to keep their bodies warm. By taking a darker color, beardies can absorb more heat. Therefore, they increase their body temperature much faster than with their regular coloration.
Most bearded dragons turn darker early in the morning and they go back to their original color after some hours of basking when they have reached an optimal temperature.
What Should You Do?
If you think your beardie is turning dark in an attempt to cope with an insufficient tank temperature, you should monitor the temperature of your terrarium with the help of a thermometer.
The temperature in a bearded dragon’s tank should range from 75-80°F in the cooler part and 95-100°F in the hotter part near the basking spot during the day. The UVB light and heat lamp for basking should keep a temperature around 95 °F to help your beardie raise its temperature quickly when it needs to.
Bearded dragons express stress through their skin, along with other behaviors, like rapidly opening and closing their mouths. Stress and anxiety can be caused by many reasons, like being approached when they want to be alone, relocation, or the presence of other pets. If your beardie is turning dark for no apparent reason, check for stress triggers around its enclosure. As soon as you remove the stressor, your animal will probably turn back to its original color. If there are no stressors, then you may want to check if your beardie is sick.
📚 Read More >> Bearded Dragon Stress Marks
What to do if your bearded dragon is stressed?
If you have recently placed your lizard in a new enclosure and it is turning black, it might just need some time to get used to it.
3. Mating season
During mating season, male bearded dragons turn darker and bloat their beards to impress females and improve their chances of mating with them. Other courtship rituals are moving their head up and down rapidly and having an aggressive attitude.
What can you do about it?
Not much. When the mating season arrives, you might notice your beardie acting a bit differently than it normally would. It may become more aggressive and agitated, but the only thing you can do about it is waiting. Make sure your beardie has a tank where it feels safe and protected to minimize its stress triggers during this delicate period.
4. Feeling Threatened
Changing color is one of the reactions bearded dragons have when they are scared. If your beardie feels in danger, it will probably turn darker to appear more threatening.
Although there are probably not a lot of real threats near your beardie’s tank, you should make sure that their terrarium is in a quiet area, separated from other pets. If your beardie is turning dark while you handle their cage, they might feel that you are infringing on their space.
Although they are somewhat social reptiles, bearded dragons are solitary animals who don’t like being disturbed. If you notice your lizard turning black when you try to approach him, your pet might not be used to you and you should respect its need for quiet.
What can I do to help my beardie relax?
If you notice your beardie reacting negatively to your presence or a stressor, then give it some time to calm down before approaching it again.
5. After brumation
After a period of brumation – the reptile version of hibernation – normally, your animal presents a darker color. Adapting back to active life after a period of lethargy is challenging for beardies. After brumation, beardies take a while to regulate their appetite, increase their body temperature and go back to their old habits.
What Should You Do if your beardie is coming out of brumation?
If your lizard is turning black after a period of brumation, there is not much you can do about it. Give your pet time to readapt to its normal lifestyle and don’t push it to do things it’s not yet ready for. Monitor the temperature of their tank to make sure it is warm enough for them to regulate their body temperature.
Bearded dragons can also change color when they are sick. If you fear your beardie might have fallen ill, you should look for other potential symptoms, such as discharge from the nose and eyes. Other symptoms might be a lack of appetite during the summer months or when the temperature is high enough that your beardie can’t be brumating.
If you notice a dark color under the belly, it might be a sign of impaction and you should consult a vet. If a female is pregnant and has a dark belly, it might be a sign that the female is gravid, meaning that it might need surgical help to remove the eggs from its belly.
What can you do if you think your beardie is sick?
If your bearded dragon has fallen ill, you should visit a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible since some illnesses can have a terrible impact on the health of your beardie. Your pet might be expressing its condition through its skin by turning darker.
If you think your female beardie has turned black because its egg bound, you need to take it to an expert vet immediately. If the eggs inside its belly don’t get removed soon, your lizard will develop a very serious infection that can kill her.
Bearded dragons also use color to impress other bearded dragons. Bearded dragons are solitary reptiles who don’t enjoy each other’s company. If you have two bearded dragons together, they will try to establish a hierarchy between them. One will impose its supremacy over the other by bobbing its head, changing color, and bloating its beard to look bigger and more impressive.
What can you do about it?
Bearded dragons are extremely territorial animals and you should never keep them together in the same cage. In the wild, they live solitary lives and are not used to having other lizards around. If you have more than one bearded dragon, make sure their enclosure is big enough to have areas completely secluded from each other. This way, your beardies can have their respective territories where they can feel safe. This will help reduce the stress and aggression between your pets.
When Should You See A Vet?
A bearded dragon that turns black is usually not a reason for worry. However, if you notice that the color change in your dragon is accompanied by other symptoms, it might be time to visit a vet. Fatigue, lack of appetite, irritability, or a swollen belly are signs your pet needs to visit the vet. If you notice your bearded dragon is turning black from the tip of its tail, your bearded dragon may be suffering from tail rot caused by an infection or constriction due to shedding.
📚 Read More >> Bearded Dragon Tail Rot
Bearded dragons turn black to convey their emotions (stress, aggression, or fear), show dominance, or thermoregulate. It is not usually a cause for concern unless you notice a prolonged color change accompanied by signs of illness such as lethargy or loss of appetite. A darkening of a bearded dragon’s tail (especially at the tip) could also be a sign of tail rot. For these cases, it’s probably best to take your bearded dragon to the vet.
Why is my bearded dragon turning GREY?
Bearded dragons lose color or fade as they age, and it can result in them turning grey towards the end of their life. Their skin color can also darken or fade as they prepare for shedding. After this process, they will have brighter colors than before with their new scales.
However, if you notice the color change in your dragon starting from the tail tip, it can be a cause for concern. Grey and black colors at the tip of their tails can be a sign of necrosis or tail rot. It is common for bearded dragons to develop infections from minor cuts or constriction on their tails from their old skin that can lead to tail rot. If you fear the grey coloration in your dragon could be the result of an infection, you should visit a vet.
How can I tell if my bearded dragon is stressed?
When bearded dragons are stressed, they turn darker around their belly and chin. Color change due to stress is probably accompanied by other symptoms, such as loss of appetite and clawing at the sides of their terrarium.
Long-term stress can have devastating impacts on the health of your pet. Make sure there are no stress triggers, such as bright lights, loud noises, or the presence of other pets around your lizard’s terrarium.
What do you do when your bearded dragon turns black?
It is normal for bearded dragons to turn black in the presence of short-term stressors or threats. If your beardie turns black, identify the reason why your lizard has changed color and try to address it. If it is stressed or threatened, you should help make your beardie feel safer. Try dimming the lights, giving it a place to hide, keeping other pets away from its terrarium, or simply leaving it alone for a while to help it calm down.
Why do bearded dragons’ beards turn black?
Bearded dragons change the color of their beard to express their emotional state. If your beardie’s beard turns dark, it might be feeling threatened or is under stress.
However, their beards can also turn darker while trying to impress a female, regulating their temperature, or coming out of a brumation period.
Why is my bearded dragon’s tail black?
Bearded dragons tend to have darker colors towards the end of their tail. However, if you notice the tip of their tail turning darker or is an unusual color from what it used to be then it might be the beginning of tail rot. Tail rot could become a serious and even life-threatening condition if left untreated, so a trip to the vet is always best at the first sign of this illness.
Tail rot could be caused by a wound that got infected or a constriction from their old skin that did not shed properly. Give your dragon a nice, warm, 20-minute soak to help them during shedding but never peel the old skin by force as this can be painful.
These kinds of infections are also a sign that your dragon is not getting enough vitamins and nutrients such as calcium that can help it build its immunity. Make sure they also get enough UVB light to help them absorb calcium.
Overview on Bearded Dragons:
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Comprehensive bearded dragon care sheet you can print (PDF):
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