No, and yes. Bearded dragons are ectotherms and hence do not have sweat glands to regulate their temperature. Sweat glands are usually where an odor develops. Most bad odors from bearded dragons originate from poorly kept enclosures.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why does my bearded dragon smell bad?
- How can I fix bad odors in my bearded dragon’s tank?
- What other reasons can cause bad odors?
What's In This Guide?
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Bad?
Bearded dragons develop a smell due to the odors in their surroundings or enclosure so it’s good to keep a regular cleaning schedule with a deep clean at least once a month. This ensures your beardie’s good health and prevents any smell from developing. Sometimes, the smell can be a sign of parasites or a fungal infection so keep everything clean!
Feces And Urine
Your bearded dragon’s natural waste products (feces and urine) are the top cause of bad odors for bearded dragons. Again, beardies themselves do not smell but their poop and urine have an odor. Since they are in an enclosure, the smell can build up quite quickly causing it to transfer to your dragon. The best practice is to spot clean 1-2 times a day to take out any droppings in your bearded dragon’s tank.
Take note that bearded dragons do not urinate any liquids, they instead excrete “urates” which are crystallized uric acid. Urates look like a dry, chalky substance often excreted along with their poop on the end or towards the side.
Bearded dragons developed this mechanism because of their need to keep hydrated in their natural habitat (dry, arid, deserts). So, instead of urinating liquids that cause them to lose precious water, they excrete urates.
It’s important to keep your tank clean to prevent any bad odors. Most owners who complain that their bearded dragons “smell” usually don’t have well kept enclosures. If you notice a particularly bad smell from your dragon’s poop, it may be good to have it checked for parasites by your vet.
A Dirty Tank
Related to the reason above, a dirty tank will cause your bearded dragon to smell. It’s recommended that enclosures are spot cleaned for poop and urine every day, cleaned once a week, and deep cleaned once a month. This ensures that your bearded dragon will not develop any funky smell due to its environment.
Unclean tanks lead to bacterial or fungal growth which can give off odors. Bearded dragons are especially susceptible to Salmonella growth on their skin which comes from their feces. If you don’t clear out their poop, they can crawl on it allowing Salmonella to transfer to their skin. Worse, this affects humans so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your dragon as a precaution.
Bearded dragon enclosures can quickly become infested with bacteria since it needs to be kept warm. Heat accelerates bacterial growth.
Leftover food not eaten by your dragon can quickly rot and develop a smell, especially greens. Not only can it make your dragon sick if it tries to eat spoiled food, live feeder insects left in their enclosures may also stress them out. Crickets tend to bite at beardies so it’s best to take out any uneaten food after 15 minutes of feeding time. Leftover food can also attract flies and other insects which can carry parasites.
Fungal Or Bacterial Infection
A poorly kept enclosure that is dirty and with higher than recommended humidity levels can accelerate fungal and bacterial growth.
Unfortunately, these growths can affect your beardie’s skin and health. If you notice something off about your dragon’s appearance, behavior, or demeanor, then you should plan on making a trip to the vet. Fungal infections can be accompanied by lethargy, excessive hiding and gaping, loss of appetite, and mucus or swelling in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Watch out for particular infections such as mouth rot or tail rot which can affect your bearded dragon. If you see your beardie chasing its food but not biting it, it may have mouth rot and is in pain. Discharges in the mouth or a foul smelling odor are also signs. Tail rot is accompanied by dry or flaky skin, discoloration, or a blackened tail tip. If you notice any of these, take your dragon to the vet. You may also want to check for any parasites by consulting with your vet.
Keep these infections at bay by ensuring cleanliness in your dragon’s enclosure, a proper and well balanced diet, good hydration, and proper heat, humidity, and lighting. These are all essentials to keep your dragon healthy and are discussed in detail in our enclosure set up guide.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Tank Smell?
A dirty tank will smell especially if bacteria and fungi have been given a chance to grow. Poor cleaning habits often lead to a smelly tank. Always make sure you spot clean 1-2x a day for any feces or urates and uneaten food. A more detailed cleaning should be done once a week then a deep cleaning with a safe disinfectant is also recommended once a month. If you keep live feeder insects, especially crickets, these will tend to smell also. Same with mealworms, roaches, and superworms which can give off a foul odor. You should clean their bins at least once a month as well.
Wrong Tank Conditions
Make sure that the temperature and humidity levels of your dragon’s cage are correct. If the temperature is too high, it can promote bacterial growth. Same with humidity. Though daily mistings help with the hydration of your dragon, make sure to let the cage dry in between mistings.
Poor Substrate Choice
If you notice a woody “pet store” smell coming off your tank or bearded dragon, then it may be because of the substrate. Cheaper ones (e.g. wood chips) may be chemically treated and therefore give off a weird smell that can rub off on your bearded dragon.
You should invest in a quality and safe substrate for your bearded dragon to avoid any odors and other digestion/gut impaction issues.
Substrate will need to be cleaned and replaced regularly to prevent it from developing a foul smell. Regular cleaning will also help prevent any bacterial or fungal growth on the substrate
Leftover Food, Poop, Or Urine
Your tank can smell because of leftover food, poop, or urine (urates). During feeding time, feed only what your dragon can consume in 15-30 minutes and then clear out the rest. Crickets tend to smell and vegetables can rot easily, giving off a bad smell. Bearded dragon poop and urine will also give off a bad smell especially when left uncleared in the tank. Make sure you spot clean your tank for any leftover food, poop, or urine (urates) at least 1-2x a day so it doesn’t develop a smell.
Sometimes, tanks with poor aeration can cause odors to get trapped in causing it to smell. You can prevent this by airing out your tank by taking out the screen a few minutes each day. You can do this during handling time, for example. You can also play around with the tank placement a bit and try to set it up in an area with good airflow.
How To Fix Bearded Dragon Odor
A good way to get rid of your bearded dragon’s odor is to give it a nice, warm bath and a good soak. Remember to stay away from soap – clean water will be enough. This will also give it a good chance to hydrate. You can use a very soft brush to gently scrub its belly, legs, and tail (stay away from the vent, eyes, and nostrils) and give it a nice cleaning.
Pro tip: Beardies tend to defecate during bath time so this is a good way to avoid poop in your tank by regular bathing at least 2x a week.
Keep a good tank cleaning schedule
It cannot be said enough – a good tank cleaning schedule should be followed for your beardie’s proper health. This will also prevent any smells from your dragon or tank.
- Daily spot cleaning (even up to 2x a day)
- Regular cleaning once a week
- Deep cleaning once a month
Daily spot cleaning should be done especially after meals to clear out uneaten food and before turning in for the night to check for feces and urates. Loose substrate can be scooped and sifted like cat litter but newspapers and other sheet-like substrate should be replaced daily.
Regular cleaning at least once a week should be done to thoroughly clean the substrate and the nooks and crannies inside your tank with a mild disinfectant spray with no harmful chemicals. Using a cloth or sponge, wipe down the hard surfaces of your tank. This is to prevent any bacterial build up on their surfaces.
A deep cleaning is recommended once a month where you take out all the furniture and clean the tank well with a safe disinfectant or good old fashioned soap and water. Use a good sponge to scrub the surfaces of your tank. Make sure it is completely dry before setting it up again.
Adjust your humidity levels
Keep your bearded dragon cage’s humidity between 35-45% which is relatively dry similar to a bearded dragon’s natural habitat in the deserts of Australia. Check the levels with an accurate hygrometer. If the humidity increases it promotes the growth of bacteria especially with the high temperatures required in your bearded dragon’s tank.
Get a better substrate
Loose substrate can get a lot of feces and uneaten food stuck in between them that you can easily miss during daily cleaning. Some substrates such as wood chips can also take in moisture and promote bacterial growth. They may also absorb some odors. Sheet-like substrates such as a reptile carpet or tiles are a bit easier to maintain and clean.
Do Bearded Dragons Smell When They Shed?
No, bearded dragons do not smell when they shed off their dead skin. Reptiles, like bearded dragons, do not have sweat glands that often produce odors that “smell.”
How Bad Does Bearded Dragon Poop Smell?
Bearded dragon poop smells like any normal poop. If it smells particularly bad then that may be a sign of a parasite infection. A new bearded dragon that is still trying to get used to its new home may have poop that smells worse because of stress but this will subside once they get their natural gut bacteria back to normal. Usually, you won’t be able to smell the poop in their tank until you take it out while cleaning.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Like Poop?
Bearded dragons don’t have any natural odors because they don’t have sweat glands. If your bearded dragon smells like poop then it may have accidentally crawled in its feces or there may be some left in their tank that you missed during cleaning. The odors in their tank can sort of stick to your beardie and make them “smell.”
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Like Pee?
Beardies don’t really give off any scent since they don’t have sweat glands. Their urine is in the form of solid urates that are the whitish substance you may see with their poop. Sometimes, you can miss these during clean up, causing your tank to smell. The odor then sticks to your beardie making it smell like pee.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Like Fish?
A weird fishy smell can be an indication of leftover food in the tank or a possible build up of bacteria and fungi. Always do spot cleaning of your tank every day by clearing out uneaten food, poop, and urates to keep your tank and your bearded dragon from smelling.
If your bearded dragon stinks, this usually means their habitat or enclosure has grown dirty. Preventing this from happening is quite easy by keeping a good cleaning schedule. Not only will this prevent a smelly beardie, it will also ensure its good health.
Quick care sheet for a bearded dragon (PDF):
Bearded dragon husbandry
News on Salmonella infections linked to Beardies as pets:
Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons
Explaining common myths and facts about bearded dragon care:
Myths and Facts about Bearded Dragon Care