Can Bearded Dragons Get Depressed Or Bored?
Have you ever wondered is my bearded dragon bored? If you have, the answer is potentially yes – as they do need stimulation. This post looks at different ways to help keep your bearded dragon from being bored
Yes, A Bland Vivarium Is Boring
In this post we look at whether bearded dragons can get depressed or bored. The answer might surprise you, in that yes, bearded dragons without adequate stimulation can get depressed and/or bored. We’ll also look at different types of stimulation you can give your bearded dragon throughout the day to help stop them becoming bored and depressed. In reality, they don’t need all that much stimulation really – after all they’ll spend much of the day basking in the warmth of their heat lamp.
But every now and then they do like a change of scenery, or something to do. Even just chasing and catching their food can provide some mental stimulation to break the monotony.
Is My Bearded Dragon Depressed? Can They Get Bored?
Have you ever wondered “Is my bearded dragon depressed?” – the answer might surprise you depending on the stimulation you provide in his tank and how often you take her out for some extra exercise and activity.
Do Bearded Dragons Need Exercise?
Any animal kept in captivity probably lives in a place that is quite a small enclosure compared to the vast area they can explore in the wild. Australia, where Bearded Dragons originate, is a huge island covering some 7.7 million square kilometres. A lot of that is unsuitable habitat for a Bearded Dragon of course, but nonetheless, it dwarfs the space available in your vivarium!
In the wild most animals do tend to find an area to claim as their own and if they wander into anothers territory they’ll have a fight on their hands. Beardies are no different – so they will of course tend to stick to an area – but even this area is going to be bigger than your vivarium. So it’s difficult for Beardie to go exploring often and as such there’s potential for boredom and lack of exercise. And every animal can get depressed if they’re not exercised and stimulated.
In human studies, it’s well established that a good exercise regime can help people reduce their susceptibility to depression and there’s no real reason to assume that it would be different with any other animal.
Things To Do To Help Exercise Your Bearded Dragon
In my research around the web I’ve seen some really boring vivariums. Some look very sterile with a hard substrate, 1 small cave, 1 small basking area and a food bowl. For your bearded dragon this is like you living in one room with nothing but a table and a bowl of fruit on it with a hard couch to sit on and nothing to do but look out of the window. Within a few hours you’d be out of your mind with boredom and after a few days you’d definitely be depressed.
So, perking up the vivarium can be the easiest way to start providing a bit more interaction for your Beardie.
Here’s some things you can use to perking up the vivarium;
We’re not huge fans of hammocks for bearded dragons, although many people love them. There are some things to watch out for though;
Make sure the mesh is small enough that toes / toenails aren’t going to get caught in them if they jump or fall off.
Most hammocks fix to the glass interior of your vivarium with included suction cups. These are notorious for falling off and of course they’re going to do that just as Beardie is relaxing on top of it. A stressful experience when your bed falls down on you!
The best way to secure the hammock to the glass is to throw away the suction cups. Some people suggest a light water film on the suction cup before applying it for a better seal. I suggest just discarding the suction cups and instead use 3M Command Hooks. These will be strong enough to hold Beardie and don’t look any worse than the original suction cups. They are semi-permanent though so if you want to move the hammock you might need to get a new set of cups.
Bridges / Ledges
Bridges and ledges give your Beardie a chance to get up a bit higher in the vivarium which effectively increases the space they have to explore. Beardies love to get a bit of height to look down on their surroundings. The image above is a MagNaturals Rock Ledge which is attached to vivarium using strong magnets on the outside. These magnets will work through glass, plastic and wood sides.
The manufacturer states they’ll hold up to around 500g ( enough for one adult Bearded Dragon safely ) and works through up to 1/4″ glass. You can use some wood or branches to provide the ability to allow your bearded dragon to climb up there.
There’s loads and loads of ideas for Bridges and Ledges over at Amazon. The image posted here is just one example.
Caves and Hidey Holes
Beardies do love to hide away now and then and relax, as well as exploring the darker corners of the tank. They’ll probably also want somewhere to go during brumation (although many Beardies will just brumate anywhere!). Something like the image to the left will provide a hidey hole for your beardie and provide a spot to sit on as well. Many of the caves available on Amazon suffer from the same issue as this one apparently does in that the entrance hole is a little bit small for a large adult dragon. With some creative arrangement of the substrate it could easily be raised up a little to make the hole a little higher.
If you’re really wanting to provide custom made caves and hidey holes, check out the Zoo-Med Excavator Clay substrate. You won’t need the whole vivarium to be using this, but the areas that you want to make tunnels and caves can use it. With the excavator clay your imagination is the only limitation.
Vivarium decorations can spice up the vivarium quite nicely, along with some artificial plants. If you’re thinking about artificial plants though, bear in mind that Beardies do like to munch on leaves so make sure any artificial plants you buy are suitable. You don’t want them swallowing any plastic leaves!
Anyway, there’s a massive amount of wooden decorations that are suitable for beardies. If you find some driftwood on the beach you can pick up great wooden decorations for free. Make sure you give them a good clean and possibly even a decent disinfect in the oven for example. Make sure it’s not set too hot as you don’t want to set fire to it.
Outside The Vivarium
Leads / Leashes
Many people will be surprised to know that you can actually take your Bearded Dragon for a walk outside. This is provided outside is warm enough! Don’t take them out in the snow if you’re in the UK in the winter! They won’t need or want a long walk – probably just around the back garden is fine.
The great thing about taking Beardie for a walk outside is that it gives them stimulation, exercise and natural sunlight all at the same time. The down side about taking beardie out for a walk outside without a leash is that you’ll undoubtedly discover very quickly how fast they can actually run. They can get through small holes that you didn’t think they could too.
These leads will enable you to keep Beardie from straying into danger. They’re very cheap and they love it. You’ll notice that unlike a traditional dog lead they’re not going around the Beardie’s neck Instead they go around their front legs. This gives you the ability to make sure they don’t run off but without hindering their movement or being uncomfortable. The image above will take you to an Amazon seller who’s selling these, but there’s loads of others available on Amazon or eBay or other places too. Some even come with wings for that extra bling.
Bearded Dragon Toys
I’ve never even considered this as an option but after having a look around online and seeing some videos it seems that bearded dragons don’t mind a bit of playing with a ball. The best, most interesting ball for a dragon seems to be the type that is see through and can contain crickets or locusts. They can chase the ball around and potentially get a little tasty treat if one of them falls out. It’s worth keeping Beardie play time to a supervised occasion though because some of the videos I watched did suggest that Beardie might become stressed after a while. But they seemed to enjoy it for a while.
The ball we’ve linked to above is actually a small hamster ball. If you’ve put some locusts or crickets in there, it has the potential to move around on its own. Since it’s clear, Beardie will see the insects moving and will push it around the floor on their own. This will give your Beardie stimulation and exercise at the same time.
We don’t recommend using the ball to put the Beardie in (like you might with a hamster) – the curvature of the ball will cause your Beardie’s back to bend in ways it was not intended. It works for hamsters because their leg anatomy is different making the clearance high enough that hamsters can keep their backs straight. Don’t put a Beardie in one of these, crickets / locusts only.
If you’re going to give Beardie a ball to play with there’s a couple of things to bear in mind. The ball needs to be large enough and solid because Beardie will try to bite it. A tennis ball for example, whilst a good size, is covered with a material that Beardie may be able to rip off and eat. A solid rubber ball that is too big to eat and has nothing that can be ingested is the best idea.
Bath time is a great experience for Bearded Dragons and serves a number of purposes as well as providing them a break from the norm. Beardies should be bathed in warm water and generally with the water just about deep enough to barely cover Beardies back. They should be able to keep their head above water whilst touching the floor.
If you have the space and facilities, bath time can include some swim time. Bearded Dragons can swim and even appear to enjoy it. They’ll need to be able to have somewhere they can just rest without sinking and drowning. If you want to give Beardie some swim time, you can do it by putting some water in the bath and adding something into one end of the bath to provide a shallow end. The deeper end can be deep enough for a swim, with the shallow end being just deep enough for beardie to stand in. The shallow end could be a ‘wedge’ that enables Beardie to get right out of the water if they want. That will sort of defeat the object of bath time perhaps. Beardie should always be supervised in the bath, to prevent drowning or getting too cold.
Bath time is also a nice relaxing way to soften up their skin if they’re shedding, and can help them to go to the toilet if they’re a bit constipated. Our beardies almost always pooped in the bath – meaning the first set of water had to be discarded, the bowl cleaned and then they could enjoy it.
Bath Time Video
Below is a little video of one of our beardies having a bath. Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for how to entertain your Beardie and helps them get some exercise and prevent them becoming bored.
And now, Beardie Bath Time! (Sorry it’s a bit blurry to start with).
And finally, a bit of a longer video showing how to get a scaredy cat Bearded Dragon to take a bath…
Thanks for reading and if you have any other suggestions for entertaining Beardie or any questions or comments at all, please leave a comment below.