When our bearded dragons start slowing down, looking lazy, and sleeping a lot, we, as owners, can become extremely worried. We worry that something’s wrong with our dragon. Do they have parasites? Do they have impaction? What the heck is going on with our bearded dragon? He’s not acting right? These are some of the questions we ask ourselves.
This post will answer all these questions and explain everything about bearded dragon brumation.
What is Brumation?
Brumation refers to the hibernation-like state that some ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals enter during the winter. Many reptiles, including bearded dragons, and Chinese water dragons, go through brumation.
Some cold-blooded animals seek refuge underground or in rock crevices, where they can remain secure and warm during winter. Similar to hibernating endotherms (warm-blooded animals), their activity levels, heart rate, body temperature, and respiration rate will all slow down.
What is Brumation in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons may brumate at any time throughout the year. Still, they will mostly brumate during the winter or fall in response to the change in lighting and temperatures.
When Bearded dragons brumate, they will not eat, drink, defecate, or move for several weeks. They will typically seek an insulated location to spend most of the brumation period. They may also bury themselves underground or go to their enclosure’s darkest and coldest part.
This behavior may worry you at first, but this usually is not a cause for concern. However, if your bearded dragon is rapidly losing weight, appears lethargic, or is less than ten months old, we recommend getting medical attention ASAP.
Why Does a Bearded Dragon Brumate?
Brumation is an innate behavior of bearded dragons. Therefore, their body tells them to do it. It is completely natural and 100% safe for your bearded dragon.
In the wild, bearded dragons brumate in order to avoid cold temperatures and lack of water and food.
In captivity, even though their temperature and food supply may stay constant throughout the year, their biological clock may take over and tell their bodies to brumate for a while.
Bearded Dragon Behavior During Brumation
Each bearded dragon may behave differently during the brumation stage. Some dragons will sleep during the whole brumation period without waking up, and some will take long naps off and on.
As mentioned earlier, a bearded dragon will become sluggish and stop eating and drinking. It may also bury itself underground and not move for several weeks.
Bearded dragon Brumation Signs/Symptoms
How can you tell if your bearded dragon is going into brumation?
There are some obvious and some less obvious ways to determine whether or not your bearded dragon is brumating. Your beardie can show signs of brumation at any time, but when the temperature in their enclosure drops, they usually do the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleeping for longer periods.
- Staying out of the basking spot.
- Staying out of direct light.
- Not drinking at all
- Not interacting at all
- Moving slower than usual.
- Retreating to colder areas of the enclosure
- Spending more time in a hide or digging to make a nesting spot.
The first sign of brumation is that bearded dragons will become very lazy. They will stop chasing crickets or any other insects you put in the tank.
Your bearded dragon will sleep considerably more than usual during brumation. This allows them to cut their energy consumption. Instead of being awake throughout the day, they will sleep most of their time in a hide. Along with sleeping more, they will also decrease their activities. Even if your dragon is awake during brumation, it will be less active.
Another common sign of brumation in beardies is loss of appetite. To survive brumation, bearded dragons rely on their fat reserves. Due to this, they do not require as much food as usual. They will also poop less often because of not eating as normal.
Many signs of brumation discussed above can also be signs of health problems. During this time, you will need to monitor your beardie closely. The average adult bearded dragon weighs somewhere between 300 and 500 grams. During brumation, they shouldn’t lose more than 50g weight. If they lose a lot of weight or look sick, get professional help immediately to check for parasites or other major health problems.
How Long Does Bearded Dragon Brumation Last?
It is challenging to determine precisely how long a bearded dragon will brumate because several variables, such as age, gender, and geographical origin, can affect brumation. The brumation period can vary among species and even individuals of the same species.
Depending on the species, you can get a general idea of how long your pet will brumate. Bearded dragons may brumate for a few weeks to the entire winter, depending on individual and other external variables.
Most Bearded dragons don’t begin brumating until they are at least a year old. They can be unpredictable; they may brumate one year but not the following year.
Not all bearded dragons will brumate, so you should keep this in mind if your dragon never shows any of the above signs.
Note: A bearded dragon shouldn’t be disturbed during the brumation period. Waking your beardie during this period can cause the brumation cycle to increase.
For example, waking your bearded dragon every week for food or bathing can extend a 1-month brumation to up to 3 months.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Age
Many bearded dragons will brumate for the first time when they are at least ten months old. But not all beardies are the same. Some brumate earlier than others, while some may not brumate until they are three years old. There’s no way to know if your beardie will brumate or not. They might do it every year, every other year, or never.
The one thing that we can say for sure is that young bearded dragons don’t brumate until they are at least ten months old.
Do All Bearded Dragons Brumate?
Not all bearded dragons go into brumation, but most of them do. Both male and female dragons can go into brumation.
Males usually go into brumation for shorter periods than females.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Weight Loss
During the brumation period, the bearded dragon will stop eating and drinking, which is perfectly okay and natural.
Your dragon should not lose much weight even without drinking and eating anything during this period.
If your beardie does lose weight, then it probably has parasites. A vet check-up before brumation wouldn’t be a bad idea to ensure your beardie has no parasites.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Or Dead
During the brumation period, your bearded dragon will stop eating and drinking and won’t move for days. This might make you think whether your bearded dragon is brumating or has died.
If your bearded dragon is just limp and unresponsive, it could simply be brumating. But If it is stiff — as a board, doesn’t move at all — he’s definitely gone.
There are several ways to tell if a bearded dragon has passed away or brumating. There’s usually a huge difference between anything living and dead.
If your beardie is dead, it will lose its color, and the body will get rigger. For example, if your bearded dragon’s normal color is grey, it will become white when it passes away.
The top of their eyes may also drop down. Also, Look for the gaping mouth, sunken eyes, odd coloration, and fluid seeping from orifices.
Another way to get a fair indication of whether your bearded dragon is dead or bromating is to turn it on its back for a second (no longer). If he’s okay, he will struggle to right himself.
If your bearded dragon is healthy, it should reach an average lifespan of about 6 to 10 years.
How to Care for Bearded Dragons During Brumation
If you notice your bearded dragon getting lazy, avoiding the basking spot, and spending more time in its hide for a week or more, and it’s winter or fall, take your bearded dragon for a checkup to ensure it’s parasite-free. Parasites can kill your bearded dragon during the brumation period.
Don’t offer food to your bearded dragon at least a week before brumation. Every dragon’s system is different. Most of them probably poop twice a week, but it could be different for each dragon.
Make sure it has a big dump before brumation, and don’t feed it otherwise. Because if you do feed it and it doesn’t end up pooping that food, it is just going to stay in your bearded dragon stomach, and it’s just going to sit there while it brumates.
On the other hand, water should be available to them at all times, whether they drink it or not. Make sure your beardie has access to clean and fresh water.
Bearded dragons in brumation don’t want to be disturbed at all. Waking them up during the brumation period can actually increase the brumation duration.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want an extended brumation period, do not touch, play, distract or even just go near your bearded dragon when it’s in brumation.
During the brumation, check up on them every couple of days just in case anything happens. Consult a vet immediately if your dragon loses a noticeable weight or develops smelly stools during this period, as these are often signs of illness or parasites.
Many people don’t like their beardies going into brumation, so they try to prevent it by manually adjusting the cage temperature or lighting. However, we don’t recommend anything that will force or prevent brumation.
Some bearded dragon owners will also turn off the lights and stop offering food to their beirdies during brumation. However, we recommend keeping the cage lights on and continue keeping fresh food in the cage in case your dragon wants to eat some and wants to bask a little. But you should not force-feed them, just let them decide.
What Happens After Your Bearded Dragon Wakes?
This is the easy part; everything should return to normal. Once they wake up, they will act as if nothing has happened, as should you.
When your beardie wakes up from brumation, get them back on their normal feeding, heating, and lighting schedule.
Can I Force My Bearded Dragon To Go Into Brumation?
Changing the bearded dragon’s environment to push brumation should only be done if you intend to breed them. To do this, you should start reducing the light and temperature inside the enclosure to make it feel like winter. This will make the bearded dragon go into brumation, making it more likely to lay fertile eggs.
If you aren’t planning on breeding your bearded dragon, there’s no need to force it into brumation.
Can I Stop My Bearded Dragon Brumating?
No. If your bearded dragon starts to brumate, you shouldn’t try to change the light or temperature to stop the process. Brumation is a totally natural behavior that should not be disturbed.
You shouldn’t interfere with the brumation process unless your beardie is sick, under nine months old, or lacks the necessary body mass to go through it safely.
How To Wake Up A Bearded Dragon from Brumation
As mentioned above, you should not interfere in the brumation process under normal circumstances. But if your beardie is under nine months old, sick or underweight, then it makes sense to wake them up.
The best approach to wake up your beardie is to keep it from brumating in the first place.
But if your beardie has already gone into brumation and you think it will not make it safely, then the following might help.
- Increase temperature to above 105°F as it is summer
- Keep the lighting on for 14 hours a day.
- Take the bearded dragon out into the sunlight.
- Provide a warm bath.
Repeatedly waking up your beardie can actually lengthen the brumation duration.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do bearded dragons brumate with their eyes open?
Some bearded dragons sleep with their eyes open during brumation, while others sleep with their eyes closed.
Can bearded dragons brumate in the summer?
Bearded dragons will mostly brumate during winter; however, it can also happen in summer. This is especially true for captive beardies, who might not go through seasonal changes and food scarcity like they would in the wild.
Can bearded dragons brumate in the spring?
Bearded dragons typically brumate in the winter, although it can happen in any weather, including spring.
Can bearded dragons brumate more than once a year?
A healthy bearded dragon will brumate not more than once a year. If they try to do it multiple times, then it’s most likely a health issue. You should check your beardie for parasites or any other health concerns.
Can bearded dragons brumate in April or March?
Generally, a bearded dragon will brumate in winter, but it can happen in any month, including April and March.
Brumation is a phase of dormancy just like hibernation in which many reptiles, including bearded dragons, sleep for an extended period. The process can last from a few weeks to a few months.
Your beardie will become lazy and eat, poop, and drink far less during the brumation process.
You should never try to disturb a brumating bearded dragon. Instead, think about ways to make the process as easy as possible, like giving them fresh water and ensuring their tank is clean. But if your beardie is not healthy enough to go through the brumation process safely, then waking them up might be your only option.