Bearded dragons are fascinating reptiles that have many unique behaviors. One of them is puffing up their bodies, especially their throats and stomachs. But why do bearded dragons puff up? What does it mean? Is it normal or a sign of trouble?
In this post, we will explore all the possible reasons why bearded dragons puff up and what you can do about it.
What is Bearded Dragon Puffing Up?
Bearded dragon puffing up, also known as “bearding,” is a natural behavior that involves the reptile inflating its throat and beard to appear larger. This behavior is often accompanied by a darkening of the beard, which is caused by the expansion of the skin.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Puff Up?
Bearded dragon puffing up is a natural behavior that serves different purposes depending on the situation. It can be a way of communication, defense, thermoregulation, shedding, mating, or simply stretching.
Let’s look at some of the reasons in more depth!
1. They’re Scared or Stressed
One of the most common reasons why bearded dragons puff up is because they’re scared or stressed. Much like a cat fluffs up its tail and arches its back in the familiar “Halloween” pose, a bearded dragon puffs up (or seemingly inflates) to appear larger and threatening in order to fend off predators.
When a bearded dragon attempts to look aggressive, its beard may turn black. This is called “beard blackening” and it’s another way of showing displeasure or warning.
Some of the things that can scare or stress a bearded dragon are:
- Loud noises
- Sudden movements
- Unfamiliar people or animals
- Changes in their environment
- Illness or injury
- Improper husbandry
If your bearded dragon puffs up because of fear or stress, you should try to identify and eliminate the source of discomfort. Make sure your beardie has a safe and comfortable enclosure with proper temperature, humidity, lighting, substrate, hiding places, etc. Avoid handling your beardie when they are puffed up as they may bite or scratch you.
2. They’re Getting Ready to Shed
The shedding process, scientifically known as ecdysis, can also cause a bearded dragon to get puffed up. Shedding is an instinctual process, so beardies know when their old skin is about peel off. Through puffing, bearded dragons can stretch out the layer of skin that is to be shed.
Shedding usually happens every few weeks for young bearded dragons and every few months for adults. During this time, your beardie may also become less active, less hungry, and more irritable.
If your bearded dragon puffs up because of shedding, you should provide them with plenty of fresh water and humidity to help them shed easier. You can also gently mist them with water or give them a warm bath.
Never pull off any loose skin as this can hurt your bearded dragon and cause infection.
3. They’re Trying To Attract A Mate
One of the more common reasons that a male bearded dragon might puff up is because he is trying to attract one of your female beardies over.
Male bearded dragons are notorious for puffing up on a regular basis as a means of showing the females that they are ready to mate and attractive.
Male bearded dragons may also bob their heads, wave their arms, and display their colorful throats while puffing up. These are all signs of courtship behavior that indicate interest in breeding.
If your male bearded dragon puffs up because of mating season, you should make sure you have enough space and resources for both him and his potential mate(s). You should also monitor their interactions closely as some males can become aggressive or territorial towards females or other males.
4. It’s Territorial Behavior
Another reason why male bearded dragons may puff up is because they want to assert their dominance over other males or females in their territory. This can happen when you have more than one beardie in the same enclosure or when they see their own reflection in glass or mirrors.
Note: Never house two male bearded dragons together.
Male bearded dragons may also hiss, bite, or chase away any intruders while puffing up. These are all signs of territorial behavior that indicate aggression or competition.
If your male bearded dragon puffs up because of territoriality, you should separate him from any other beardies immediately. You should also provide him with his own enclosure with enough space, enrichment, and security. You should also cover any reflective surfaces that may trigger his aggression.
5. Their Bath Water Is Too Deep
Sometimes, beardies may puff up when they are taking a bath. This can happen when the water is too deep for them.
Bearded dragons are not very good swimmers and they can drown in just a few inches of water. The bathwater should be up to 1 inch deep for a young lizard and 1-3 inches deep for an adult.
If your bearded dragon puffs up because of bath time, you should make sure the water is shallow enough for them to stand comfortably.
You should also check the water temperature and make sure it is between 85 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also supervise your beardie closely and never leave them alone in the water.
6. They’re Hungry
Another possible reason why bearded dragons puff up is because they’re hungry. Puffing up can help them stretch their stomachs and prepare for a big meal.
Bearded dragons have a large appetite and they need a balanced diet of insects, vegetables, fruits, and supplements.
If your bearded dragon puffs up because of hunger, you should feed them as soon as possible. You should also follow a regular feeding schedule and provide them with enough food according to their age and size. You should also avoid overfeeding your beardie as this can cause obesity and health problems.
7. They’re Excited Or Feeling Playful
Sometimes, bearded dragons may puff up when they’re excited or feeling playful. This can happen when they see something interesting or stimulating in their environment, such as a new toy, a treat, or another beardie.
Puffing up can also be a way of expressing happiness or curiosity.
If your bearded dragon puffs up because of excitement or playfulness, you should interact with them and provide them with enrichment activities. You can play with them by gently rubbing their head, stroking their back, or letting them explore outside their enclosure (with supervision). You can also offer them different toys, treats, or puzzles to keep them entertained.
8. Meal Time or After Meal
While there hasn’t been any study on why bearded dragons puff up before or during a meal, there are a few ideas as to why this may be the case.
The first is that by puffing up, the bearded dragon creates more space in its mouth, allowing it to consume more calories. Remember that wild bearded dragons always compete for their food, which can be difficult to come by at times. So, they consume just enough food to last them before the next meal.
If you see a connection between puffing up and mealtime, give them a smaller portion for the next meal and watch to see if they puff up. When you’ve given it a shot to see if it makes a difference, serve the remainder of their daily part a few minutes later.
Another theory is that bearded dragons puff up to intimidate their prey as well as to look bigger and more aggressive to a predator that would challenge them for food. This behavior is more common in captivity when bearded dragons consume live food, such as crickets.
9. While Basking
It’s normal for bearded dragons to bask in the morning to warm their bodies after being exposed to cold temperatures. Since beardies have cold-blooded animals, they warm themselves up by basking.
When the dragon’s body temperature rises above a certain point, it usually opens its lips, which is often followed by puffing up the beard. If your pet is acting this way, you can check to see if the temperatures in the tank are within the normal range of 95-110°F. If they aren’t, adjust accordingly.
10. Sign of Stretching
After a long period of resting, sleeping, or relaxing, you will need to stretch up the body to improve muscle function. The same holds true for bearded dragons, who would stretch their bodies in order to feel comfortable.
We yawn to wake up our bodies, increase blood supply, and become more conscious. Yawning also tends to pop our ears while sitting in an elevator in a high-rise building or on a plane. Bearded dragons, too, puff out and relieve themselves by pressuring their ear canals.
When the beardie is stretching and puffing, you may see it opening its mouth. It can do this even while relaxed in a peaceful environment.
Why Do Baby Bearded Dragons Puff Up?
Puffing up the beard is common in baby bearded dragons, particularly when they enter a new home where everything is foreign to them. They will do this to show you that they do not feel safe in their new surroundings.
However, you need not be concerned; give the beardie a few days to explore its new habitat, and it will finally adapt. When the pet realizes that you are not a predator and that the world is healthy for it, the puffing of the beard should decrease.
To help make your beardie feel at home, first and foremost, they would need a suitable enclosure. Second, provide them with a nice substrate and incorporate trees, rocks, and other accessories to help them feel more at ease in these natural-looking surroundings.
Within a few days, if anything is in order, your pet will be at ease. It would also make them happier and make them feel secure.
However, if the baby beardie continues to puff up and shows other symptoms such as black bearding, refusing to go to the toilet, declining food, and becoming sluggish, you should be worried. Don’t keep quiet about it; speak to your reptile vet immediately to get their take on it.
Should I be Worried About Bearded Dragon Puffing Up?
The easy answer to this question is No. You generally do not need to be concerned with puffing because It helps them in dealing with predators, saving themselves while in deep water, supporting certain ecological processes, and resolving any perceived issues.
However, if your pet is always puffing, you should be worried. It may mean that something is stressing it out. If it’s something in the tank or in your surroundings.
Be sure you inspect the vicinity for something that may be disturbing your lizard. Remove all suspected things until you see the beardie stops puffing permanently.
It is important to understand that bearded dragons can puff up not only when something is wrong, but also when something is right. This means that if you see your pet puffing, it’s usually nothing to be worried about.
However, this doesn’t mean you don’t keep an eye on them and keep track of their behavior. You should always try to understand the various behaviors of bearded dragons and their causes in order to react appropriately in cases that will need to be addressed. This way, you’ll save yourself from always worrying, and will still be able to act quickly if there is something to worry about!