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Why A Bearded Dragon’s Beard Is Black?
If you’re wondering why your bearded dragon’s beard is black there can be a number of reasons. Some are sinister and some are not. In this post we investigate the various different reasons for a black beard on a bearded dragon and help you to work out what might be wrong, if anything.
Bearded Dragon’s Beard Is Black To Communicate
To our knowledge bearded dragons don’t communicate orally, aside from hissing when they’re being threatening. They can communicate to some extent through chemicals called pheromones (strong scents) which alerts other bearded dragons to their territorial presence or desire to mate. But other than that, bearded dragons rely on body language to communicate. This is why you may often see your bearded dragon wave or head bob when another dragon (or any animal for that matter) is around.
Bearded dragons can turn their beards black to communicate in a few ways.
Bearded Dragon Feels Threatened
If they are approached by another animal which scares them they will puff out their beard and turn it black to indicate a “don’t mess with me” attitude. Look at me, I’m big, I’m scary and I’ve got a bushy black beard.
This will often be a temporary situation, lasting only a few minutes. During this time your bearded dragon may puff their body up to appear larger. They’ll probably stand up very tall to make themselves look bigger. Their head will be up and alert and they may stare at the object of their fear.
They’ll possibly also hiss at the other animal as a warning to back off or be sorry. They’ll look agitated and angry. This will be a last ditch attempt by the dragon to ward off the other animal that is threatening them.
Once the threat has passed they’ll calm down and their beard should return to normal colour.
Bearded Dragon Is Feeling Amorous
If a female bearded dragon is around, a male will often turn their beard black when they’re feeling amorous. They want some love action and they’ll show off that big black beard to impress the girl. They’ll probably head bob a lot.
The darker the beard the stronger the bearded dragon appears to the female. The continuation of the species relies on survival of the fittest. The bigger, blacker the beard, the stronger and fitter the owner must be. At least, that’s the logic of the feisty amorous male dragon.
If this is the reason your bearded dragon is showing a black beard you’ll be able to tell because they’ll be a male dragon (females don’t generally show black beards to attract a mate). They’ll strut around in front of the female. They’ll hold themselves tall, with tail in the air. They’ll look proud and strong. They’ll head bob, probably quite vigorously and they may run about.
They’ll be showing off.
Most of the time the female will be like “meh, whatever dude”… But occasionally he’ll get lucky.
Bearded Dragon Black Beard To Warm Up
Bearded dragons are cold blooded animals and so they require heat from the environment to stay warm. A bearded dragon that wants to warm up will turn their body and beard black. They seem to do this more when they’re out in the natural sun rather than in their vivarium habitat. I’m not sure why this is. Ours go very black outside in the sun.
If your bearded dragon is out in the sun, or basking under their basking lamp and has turned themselves black it’s probably for this reason and is nothing to worry about. Their colour will normalise once they’re warm enough or they move to somewhere shadier.
Black Beard As A Sign Of Discomfort
Sometimes your bearded dragon’s beard will go black just because they’re uncomfortable and annoyed. This usually means they’re about to begin shedding.
Bearded dragon skin isn’t very stretchy and it doesn’t grow as the bearded dragon grows. So as they get bigger they have to shed a layer of skin so that the skin underneath which is slightly bigger can fit them better. At this stage they can be profoundly uncomfortable. It would be rather like you wearing clothes that are too tight. Certain positions will be more uncomfortable than others. Certain activities will make you more uncomfortable if your clothes are too tight. It’s the same for bearded dragons prior to a shed.
This will be accompanied by an unusual grumpiness in your dragon’s demeanour. They may go off their food and they may turn their beard black too. If you give your dragon a good head to toe examination you’ll probably see somewhere that’s beginning to look a different colour to the rest of their skin. It’ll usually be a patch that is lighter than the rest. The colour may be subdued in that area. They’re probably beginning a shed. Giving them a nice warm bath can help them feel better. A bath will help soften their shedding skin and make it easier to begin the process. If they are shedding, don’t try to pull any off though – they shed different areas of their body at different times and if the shed isn’t ready to come off then pulling it will cause damage to the tender, underdeveloped skin underneath.
Black Beard As A Sign Of Pain
If none of the reasons above seem to fit then it is possible that your bearded dragon is feeling acute and possibly severe pain somewhere.
The biggest difference enabling you to decide if this is the reason your bearded dragon beard is black will be that your dragon will also be lethargic. They may look like they are dying even. They’ll go off their food.
This reason for black bearding often comes out of nowhere. It may be sudden and may take you by surprise. There may be no obvious explanation for why your bearded dragon is experiencing pain.
This will likely be a distressing time for you. If it’s distressing for you, it’s definitely more stressing for your bearded dragon. At this point be gentle with them. They feel horrible – like you would with severe pain somewhere.
Things to check here;
- Has your bearded dragon possibly eaten something they shouldn’t? Fireflies for example are toxic and will cause sudden onset of pain and other problems.
- Has your bearded dragon recently fallen from a height and injured themselves? Any height that is higher than they are long could potentially cause internal injuries.
- Has your bearded dragon been to the toilet recently? By recently we would suggest within the last few days – but be guided by how often they normally go. If not, they may be impacted.
- If they have been to the toilet recently, was it normal consistency? Diarrhoea will cause abdominal pain.
- Is there any blood in there stools? This is cause for immediate alarm.
If the answer to any of the above is yes then it’s recommended to contact your specialist reptile vet as soon as possible.
In the case of one of our girls, she became very lethargic recently and displayed a jet black beard which is unusual for her. She looked incredibly sick – the rest of her body went a pale colour. She became very lethargic and laid on the bottom of the vivarium. None of the things above seemed to fit. The lethargy and black beard came out of the blue with no warning and she’d previously been completely normal.
She looked like she was going to die.
As we had no idea what was happening we decided we would wait a few hours with a close eye on her and see if anything changed before panicking. We kept her warm and removed any stimulation from the vivarium. Essentially we turned it into a nursing bedroom. And we waited.
A couple of hours later she vomited up a sizeable volume of locusts and morio-worms that she’d gluttoned on earlier. She stayed unhappy looking for a couple of hours more but the black beard gradually faded. She remained quite lethargic for the rest of the day but looked better. The following day she was up and about as soon as the lights came on and wanted to come out to see us.
She had black bearded because she probably had a horrible belly ache from over-eating.
Moral of that story is don’t rely on your bearded dragon to feel full and stop eating when you’re feeding them! We restrict her livefood diet now and feed her small amounts throughout the day rather than the more usual “feed them as much as they’ll eat in 15 minutes” regime that many owners use. Funnily enough though, the other girl knows when she’s had enough and won’t eat any more. She closes her eyes and turns her head away when she’s had enough… Proof if it were needed that no two dragons are the same.
If you have another story of when your bearded dragon has displayed a black beard that we haven’t covered here, please drop us a comment below. Thanks for reading and we hope this post has helped you to understand why your bearded dragon’s beard is black.