Bearded Dragon Brumation – What Are 5 Easy To Recognise Signs?
What Is Bearded Dragon Brumation?
Bearded dragon brumation is a process whereby reptiles slow down their metabolism to preserve energy during colder weather. Reptiles are cold blooded and therefore require external heat from the environment – ideally the sun. It’s similar to hibernation in mammals.
Mammals are warm blooded so they generate their own heat. Many mammals hibernate, which is a more extreme form of brumation. In hibernation the mammal generally ‘sleeps’ fully for a time, in order to preserve body mass during the months when there is little food available. Hibernation is a protective mechanism so that the animal can survive the lack of food during the cold months.
Bearded dragon brumation is also a protective mechanism but is done to preserve the creature during the colder months as they cannot generate their own heat. Their entire metabolism relies on external heat, so during the colder months there is not enough heat in the environment to sustain them.
However, during brumation, reptiles will still wake up occasionally. This is usually because they need water or sometimes food. But they’ll only wake up from their brumation when there’s enough heat in the environment to sustain them. This might be when the sun is out and they can capture enough heat temporarily.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?
Bearded dragons are reptiles and as such they cannot generate their own heat internally. They rely on the heat from the environment to digest and metabolise their food. When there’s not enough heat in the environment, they enter brumation in order to survive.
Mammals have internal heat generation, mostly from metabolism itself but also from skeletal muscle activity such as shivering. Bearded Dragons can’t shiver and don’t generate their own heat.
What Triggers Brumation in Bearded Dragons?
In the wild, the bearded dragon has evolved to look for certain triggers to begin brumation. The temperature dropping is likely to be the biggest trigger. Shorter days and longer nights will also trigger the brumation process. A reduction in food sources will also trigger the brumation process. Many insects are more prolific during the warmer months. If you’ve ever experienced a ‘locust’ season in Australia you’ll understand the proliferation of food available during the spring and summer.
In captivity these changes are less marked because the keeper controls the environment. This is usually through the use of timers and thermostats to keep the temperatures at the ideal point and to manage the amount of light the enclosure has throughout the day. But often the keeper won’t need to keep the enclosure heated overnight ( depending on the overnight temperature in the house ). The nights might start to get cooler and the amount of genuine daylight will still drop during winter months.
What Are The Signs Of Bearded Dragon Brumation?
Brumation can be a scary time for bearded dragon owners – particularly new owners. Many new owners are thrown by the brumation process because it can look like your bearded dragon is sick. In some cases it may be that they are sick, so it’s worth checking everything before deciding that they are brumating. I’ll go into that a bit later.
Signs that your bearded dragon is going into brumation;
- Eating less – particularly if they were ravenously hungry a few days/weeks prior
- Being less active
- Spending less time in the basking zone
- Retreating into their cave area
- Spending more time in the cool zone of the tank
Signs Something Is Wrong, not Brumation
Some keys to look for to make sure your bearded dragon is brumating versus becoming ill;
Bearded dragons going into brumation will be slowing their metabolism down. This means they don’t eat as much but don’t burn as much energy. They shouldn’t therefore be losing any weight if they’re brumating because their energy input will match their energy output. A sick Bearded Dragon will still have their normal metabolic rate (or possibly even increased to fight the illness). If they’re not eating but still burning the same amount they will lose weight.
It’s worth weighing your dragon every so often even when they appear healthy just to keep a baseline so you can be sure if they start losing weight. It’s also good information to be able to give to your vet if necessary.
A Bearded Dragon that is losing weight and lethargic is SICK not brumating.
Baby Or Juvenile Bearded Dragon
Bearded Dragons less than 10 months old don’t generally brumate – at least not fully. If your baby or juvenile bearded dragon is lethargic and avoiding eating there’s probably an illness at play, not brumating.
Other Problems That Mimic Bearded Dragon Brumation
There are various problems that can mimic brumation and are worth checking to make sure these aren’t going on before accepting that your dragon is brumating.
Shedding can cause a bearded dragon to be off their food and appear more lethargic. Bearded Dragons need to shed their skin in order to grow. If they have been gaining weight well and then becomes lethargic you might find they’re going to begin a shed. Look for small areas of their skin to become lighter in colour and look like it’s lifting away. This is probably a shed starting, not a brumation. In this case, have a look at what to do when your bearded dragon is shedding instead.
Impaction can cause Bearded Dragons to become lethargic and be off their food. If your bearded dragon hasn’t had a poo for a while or begins to regurgitate their food, then they could be impacted. Only you can know what is normal for them because every dragon has a different routine for this! Impaction is where an undigestible substance has been eaten and cannot be broken down. This forms a solid blockage in their bowels beyond which waste can’t pass. More information about Bearded Dragon Impaction is available.
If you think your bearded dragon is impacted, you should consult a herpetologist immediately. Impaction can be fatal.
Bearded Dragons can pick up parasites from their food. Good reputable food suppliers should be parasite free, but sometimes a bearded dragon might eat an insect that flew into the enclosure for example. These wild insects can easily contain parasites which grow in the nice environment their internals provide. Fortunately, home testing kits are available, or a quick trip to the vet with a stool sample will be able to rule parasites out and treatments are easily available. If you think your bearded dragon is entering brumation, it’s a good idea to do a parasite check to be sure it’s not parasitic infection and is definitely brumation.
Dying / Old Age
If your bearded dragon is getting on in years it could simply be that sadly, they are dying. This is something none of us want to think about but unfortunately it is inevitable at some point. See Is My Bearded Dragon Dying for more information.
The signs of a bearded dragon dying are likely to be similar to bearded dragon brumation, but you’ll probably be able to tell that something is different. It may be that their eyes don’t have the same shine as they used to. Their colour will fade and they may look grey. They’ll probably be very lethargic and not respond to you in the way they used to. It may look like they’ve just given up. Of course, these symptoms could be something else going on as mentioned above. If you’re concerned you should consult your vet before assuming that your dragon is definitely dying.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?
Each bearded dragon is different, and each one’s brumation is different. Some will brumate for months, others will only brumate a few days. Even the same bearded dragon might brumate for a different length of time this year compared to last year. So long as you’ve ruled out all the possible sickness causes when they enter brumation then there’s no need to panic if they brumate for longer this time than they did last year.
Even the type of brumation can vary each time. Your dragon might only slow down a little bit and become a little bit lethargic during the day – other times they might go to sleep on Monday and not wake up again until Friday, a month later… They’re very unpredictable. Some times you might not even notice that they’re brumating at all.
What Should I Do While my Bearded Dragon is Brumating?
Normally, provided that you’ve ruled out any causes of sickness and your bearded dragon has a clean bill of health, then you don’t need to do all that much at all during your bearded dragon brumation period.
You will most likely need to reduce the amount of food you leave out for them, because they’re not likely to eat it. If you leave live food in the tank, worms are likely to turn into beetles or flies because they’re not getting eaten. Vegetable and leafy greens will likely go untouched and go rotten. So, reduce the amount of food and try not to leave any in the tank to get spoiled.
They might want some food now and then even during brumation, so be guided by your dragon. They’ll let you know if they wake up hungry. You should still put some fresh food and water every day but it can be a reduced amount. We used to put a small drop of water on our dragon’s nose every day during brumation which they usually licked off (because it annoyed them) to ensure they stay hydrated.
Reduce Light and Heat
You can reduce the light and heat gradually during the brumation process. They’ll likely be spending more time in the cooler end and potentially in their cave so they won’t need as much light and heat. Try to keep the cool end at around the 25 degree celsius mark though, don’t make it too cold for them as they are after all from the warmer areas of Australia. Even during the winter most of their natural habitat won’t get too cold. We switched our tank lights off about an hour earlier in the winter during brumation time.
A good rule of thumb is to disturb them as little as possible during brumation. Keep your eye on them but be guided by them as to how much food they want, how much basking they might want (which may be none). Check on them daily but without disturbing them too much, and if it helps you to keep your mind at rest you can weigh them now and then to make sure they’re not losing weight. They may lose a little bit of weight, but it shouldn’t be much.
So, don’t panic, let them rest. They’ll wake up refreshed and be bugging you for a larger meal soon enough.
If you have any questions after reading this post, please leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help.
Hi my bearded dragon is 5months old and he is pressing himself against his tank glass and is not very active sometimes he will close his eyes and breathe very lightly I have been feeding him kale and crickets but I heard kale is not good so I just recently took kale out of his diet and started him on freeze dryed crickets and he has stopped pressing his against the glass and started running to his food bowl so my question is why was he doing this in the first place?
Thanks for the question. I’ll be honest though I have no idea why. The two events may not even be linked. The only thing I can add in response to your question is to make sure he’s getting live bugs not just freeze dried bugs. If he’s not very active make sure to check his temperatures and lighting as it’s super important these are right to keep him warm enough to be active. He may also just be bored?
Hope that helps,
Steve and Claire
Have a 8 month old bearded dragon. Sleeping more kinda stiff. Still seems to be breathing. Worried it’s been since last nice. Moved a tiny bit today . First time dragon mom. Kids are worried he’s dead . Help a mama
8 months is a little bit young for brumation, so it shouldn’t be that. If he’s moving then he’s not dead. You’ll want to check your temperatures and lights ( Bearded Dragon Heating And Lighting, Why It’s Super Important To Get It Right ) and make sure that’s all spot on. If they are, then it might be worth a vet check to see if he’s becoming overloaded with parasites (it sometimes happens). Or he may be a bit older than you think and actually entering brumation…
Have a look through some of our other articles around diet and sicknesses to see if any of those can help you out. Husbandry is key to a happy healthy pet and new beardie owners often inadvertently don’t get it quite right at first.
Either way, if he’s not responding normally then it’s a good time to get a reptile vet to check him over.
My 3 month old baby bearded dragon has been sleeping a lot lately, and hasn’t eaten for two days. I give him a bath to hydrate him so I don’t think he’s dehydrated which would maybe cause him to slow down. When I pick him up, he acts normal and opens his eyes wide like normal and is happy to see me, his scales are also bright, and he doesn’t look sick. We called two pet stores to ask about the lighting, and we told them about our UVB lamp and heat lamp, and they say it is perfectly fine. Since Fall is here, could he be trying to brumate or is he sick? I’m very worried.
Your bearded dragon is too young to be brumating – they shouldn’t start to show signs of brumating until at least 10 months. So, something else is going on. We’d recommend having a look at Bearded Dragon Heating And Lighting for advice on temperatures and UVB requirements. Pet shops almost never know this information properly and may well have given you incorrect advice.
He may be bored? Since he perks up when you handle him it may just be that there’s not enough stimulation in his environment to keep him awake?
Give us a yell if you need anything more after reading those 🙂
All the best,
Steve and Claire
My 10 month old female dragon just laid eggs 2 weeks ago and rebounded great. I feed her collard greens,turnip greens, mustard greens, butter nut squash, giant meal worms and a little apple once a week, and she seemed to be doing great, she even snuggled with me last night. When I put her in her 40 gal. tank with new bulbs last night she crawled up in her hammock for a while and then moved down under her infrared light and went to sleep. about 2:30 am. I heard her poop and got up to clean it up -she was under her log in the tank sleeping. when I got up this mourning she was still under the log but had turned around. her beard has turned black and she is non responsive, I don’t know if she died in her sleep or is brumating ??
Sorry to hear about the troubles you’ve had with your baby girl. 10 months is a little young for egg-laying and it’s going to take a toll on her. It’s not unheard of to be that young but it does take a lot out of them.
We’d remove the infra-red light. There’s no need for lights overnight and in fact it can keep them awake overnight.
Nevertheless, it’s extremely unlikely that she’s brumating – particularly so soon after egg-laying and being only 10 months old (and they generally don’t black-beard for brumation, black beard indicates she’s in pain). The best we can suggest, if she has started responding again, is make sure your temperatures are spot on, and if she’s still black bearding and lethargic then a vet visit is in order – she may have some eggs stuck.
Hope that helps,
Please let us know how you get on,
Steve and Claire
My little girl hasn’t opened her eyes or even moved since the other day, I can’t tell if she is even breathing ?
She still seems to be limber, but as this is my first Dragon, at this point I don’t know what to expect. She laid 34 eggs 3 weeks ago, but after a few days She went back to eating very well ! My tank temperature is fine and I’ve taken steps ( dehumidifier ) to keep the Humidity down in the house even with the extreme temps. we have been having. How do you know what to look for if She has passed away ? At this point I don’t know what to do as we have become very close, any suggestions would be helpful as I would never forgive myself for burying Her alive ?
34 eggs is huge – she would be absolutely exhausted. She’ll need some significant calcium and protein boosting if she’s made it through the experience. Let’s determine if she actually has made it through first though.
When you pick her up does she feel warm? She won’t generate her own heat so she needs to be in the warm end of the tank. When you pick her up, how does her beard look? Is it all squashed and doesn’t regain a nice looking composure when she’s off the ground? Is it black? Is her mouth open slightly but not natural looking?
It’s going to sound harsh perhaps but in order to test if she is still alive you’re going to have to try to stimulate her. Make sure she’s warm, then handle her. Move her around, upside down, hold her in a position you think will not be at all comfortable for her. A brumating dragon will still respond to external stimuli. Try to open her mouth. If she opens her eyes then you know she’s still with you. You could try putting her in a warm (approx 37-38 Celsius) bath.
If she doesn’t respond to any external stimuli then unfortunately it sounds like the egg laying has exhausted her to the point that she has died.
Please let us know how you get on – our thoughts are with you.
Steve and Claire
My beardie -Seth is around 7/8 years old he’s been eating less the last few days then today looks completely still I’m not sure if I can see a shallow breathe or am I just wanting too
His eyes are open but again still
Is he brumating or have I lost my pal?
There’s no reason not to pick him up and check, even during brumation you can pick them up. Indeed, we’d recommend picking them up to weigh them every so often, and even putting some drops of water on their nose during brumation for them to lick off. Brumation is not generally a deep sleep like a mammal in hibernation. So, we’d recommend picking him up and seeing if he responds. Hopefully he does! If he does, it’s probably worth making a vet appointment for a checkup as it’s an odd time of year for brumation (unless you’re in the Southern hemisphere?)
Good luck, we’ll be thinking of you both!
Hope that helps,
Steve and Claire
Hi my name is Ken we have a 2yr male citrus and 3 days ago he was very active we had him out many times because he was doing a lot of glass surfing. He was eating fruits and veggies consisting of a mix of kale, mustard greens, apples, Peaches, and kiwi everyday. Every other day he also got 2 big dubia roaches and 5 superworms. Then 2 days ago he started laying around sleeping a lot with a really black beard. He doesn’t want to eat especially any roaches which he would run to them n scarf them down we even held one in front of him he just closed his eyes. When we hold him he just lays on our chest n sleeps usually he would crawl all over us and the furniture. We bathed him he has drank water and pooped for us. We figure it’s brumation but it’s spring time in Ohio and I can’t find anything about them having a black beard during brumation. So any suggestions on the next step to take could he be sick should we go to the vet? Just figured I’d ask around before going to the vet as we are a low income family. Please answer me by email in case I lose this site on my browser.
This doesnt sound like brumation, It sounds that your beardie is feeling a bit under the weather. The black bearding that you have described along with the other symptoms sounds like a pain/stress response. I would suggest cutting right back on the fruit.
Fruit should not be part of its staple diet as it is acidic and high in sugar, this can lead to fermentation in the gut which will give him a belly ache and can encourge a parasitic infestation.
Its always worth rechecking your husbandry, make sure your temps are correct and your bulbs dont need replacing.
If he doesnt show signs of improvement in a few days you should get some vet advice, make sure that the vet specialist in bearded dragons.
You may find some helpful infomation in these posts:
- What Fruits Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
- How Much Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon And When?
- 12 Ways To Help Afford Vet Bills
- My Bearded Dragon Looks Sick, What Could It Be?
Please let us know how you get on
Claire and Steve
My Bearded dragon Lizzy is 2 years old almost 3 . She has not been eating for about a month and half now. How long can adult bearded dragon go in to brumation ? She has pooped either . I feed her dried worm grasshoppers, crickets, greens, and carrots. She seems healthy. She will drink small amount of water and will lick the water off her face when I spray her . I’m very worried about her . Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Whilst it’s not unheard of a dragon to be entering brumation at this time of year, unless you’re in a southern hemisphere country it’s relatively unlikely. That said, a month and a half is a long time to not eat for any other reason. Is she losing weight? If she’s losing weight then it’s not brumation.
If all of those foods are dried we’d recommend switching to live insects – dragons like to catch what they eat and she may just be very uninspired with dried foods.
Check her temperatures and change her UVB bulb if it’s been longer than 9 months since she’s had a new one.
Finally, it’s worth a vet checkup to make sure she doesn’t have parasites or something more sinister going on if the above things make no difference after a few days.
Hope that helps!
Steve and Claire
Wondering if you agree on brumation? We’ve had Dakota since last February,as a baby. she’s always been a voracious cricket and veggie eater. Starting in Sept she stopped eating veggies. And in the last couple months has decreased her cricket intake, now she won’t really eat any. She appears healthy, looks fine. She had bowel movements. Doesn’t appear to be losing any weight. She has good lighting/ fairly new bulbs. We moved her to a bigger enclosure where she can see outside a couple months ago. She seems to react to the sun going down earlier and goes to sleep even with her lights on. She was hiding out of light, but we bought her a hammock and now she just sits in the basking spot all the time, day and night. Do you think this sounds like brumation?
If it is, should I continue her lights/ heat on all day (10-12hrs) or decrease her light/ heat. I can’t seem to find a good answer on that.
Hi my bearded dragon hasn’t been eating much. I noticed he’s laying down and kind of keeping one eye open/ sleeping most of time…his skin seems a little wrinkly and his back seems a little gray. I usually feed him kale an (sometimes) the occasional crickets as a treat. But now he won’t eat any kale unless I put crickets in the bowl…I’m worried he could be sick. He’s about 10 months old so I’m hoping he isn’t dying
At 10 months old we’d hope he’s not dying too 🙂
He /may/ be brumating for the first time as he’s around the right age. However, I think he probably needs his diet changing a bit. At his age he should still be having plenty of protein from bugs. Crickets should be his staple food not just a treat – plenty of them for a few more months yet. Also, Kale isn’t a good leafy veg to feed as a staple as it contains too much oxalate and will bind up his calcium instead of letting him absorb it. Collard greens or Watercress would be a better staple leafy green. Mix up some squash strips in there for some variety too. You may find you need to dust his bugs and veg with some Calcium supplement to help boost his calcium.
You don’t mention the temperatures in his tank or whether you’ve recently changed his UVB linear bulbs as he’ll be coming up on needing a new UVB lamp shortly if he’s been with you 10 months or so.
Have a look through the various articles on the site for some additional ideas on what to feed him and what temperatures he needs for best outcomes. Please let us know how you get on and feel free to join the Facebook Group for some additional, more real time chats.
All the best,
Steve and Claire.
My bearded dragon is around four months old. For the past week or two he has avoided food. Makes small bowel movements but none with poo. And he has been sleeping longer or different times throughout the day just today he has started to black beard. I’m scared it’s a sign of him dying.
In this instance I’d recommend an urgent appointment with a reptile vet, preferable one that specialises in bearded dragons. It sounds like he could be impacted. You don’t mention what type of flooring you keep him on, or what you feed him, but from the symptoms alone he’s not very well and impaction is my best guess.
While you’re waiting for the appointment you can try some of the things at Bearded Dragon Impaction to hopefully help him go. But don’t delay on the vet appointment, impaction is life threatening. The black beard in this case probably indicates he’s now in pain.
I hope that helps,
Steve and Claire.
My dragon is 9 months old, he’s quite fat and usually scrambles about all day. He ears crickets and large worms and kale along with other greens. He started to become less active and a bit quiet so I changed his bulbs and, for the first time, I dusted his crickets with calcium. He did seem to pick up for a day or so but now he has relapsed and is lying flat out all day sleeping. He has stopped eating and is not at all interested in anything. If this is normal brumating how long do I give him? Should I take him to a vet just in case he’s sick?
Hi Paula It does sound like this could be his first brumation. There are a few things you can check, its good that you have replaced your bulbs they should be changed every 6 -12 months depending on the type. Check that the basking area is hot enough around 40 degrees C for a juvenile. If your beardie is beginning to brumate he should still look healthy and eyes will still be shiny. Its a good idea to weigh him, hes should not loose much weight during this time. Brumation varies from one beardie to another. Monitor him reduce handling and food (still provide fresh greens daily) for a while.
You say that he is fat? A fat beardies is not always a healthy one they should weigh between 350g – 500g. Obesity can cause health problems.
Large worms you refer to, I’m assuming they are morios/super meal worms? These have a high fat content and although beardies love them it might be a good idea to swap them out for a while. BSFL are a great source of calcium although they are small. Locusts are also a good alternative.
However all that said if you have any concerns or you think something else may be going on the a vet visit is advised.
Hope that helps
Claire and Steve
Our bearded dragon has not eaten or had a poo for 2 weeks nearly 3 we have been to the and he said that the boy was fine so why
If you’ve had him at the vets and the vet is happy that he is healthy and fine, then he’s probably in brumation. He won’t eat while he’s in brumation and he won’t poo because he’s not eaten.
Hope that helps,
Steve and Claire.
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