Why Do Bearded Dragons Turn Black? 18 Reasons

Bearded dragons are popular pets known for their calm demeanor and easy care. However, as with any pet, it’s important to pay attention to their health. One thing that may catch your attention is if your bearded dragon’s color suddenly changes. One common color change is when a bearded dragon turns black. But what does it mean when this happens?

Is it Normal for Bearded Dragon to Turn Black?

Bearded dragons are known for their ability to change their coloration on different parts of their body, such as the neck, head, tail, stomach, chest, back, or all over. These color changes are completely normal and not a cause for concern.

While it is expected for bearded dragons to experience color changes, it is important to pay attention to the circumstances surrounding these changes. The reason for the color switch can be due to internal factors or external factors related to the animal’s environment. It is up to the owner to understand why their bearded dragon may have suddenly changed to black.

Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon is Turning Black

Bearded dragons have special cells called chromatophores on their skin that allow them to change color. These cells contain pigments and reflect light, which helps to create the color of a bearded dragon’s eyes and skin.

It is normal for a bearded dragon to change color gradually as they grow, so there is no need to worry if your bearded dragon turns black. This change may take place over a period of months.

In addition to age, there are many other reasons why a bearded dragon may change color, including communication and camouflage. These changes can occur quickly or slowly, depending on the situation.

Bearded dragon changes colors based on mood

Below are the reason why your bearded dragon may turn black.

1. Changes in Temperature

Bearded dragons are cold-blooded reptiles that rely on external sources of heat and light to regulate their body temperature and metabolism. When their environment is too cold or too hot, they may exhibit various physical and behavioral changes, including color changes.

Bearded dragons change color due to temperature changes when they are exposed to extreme heat or cold, which can affect their pigment cells and cause them to produce more or less melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives color to their skin, scales, and beard.

In most cases, bearded dragons turn black due to temperature changes when they are trying to regulate their body temperature. They do this by adjusting the amount of melanin in their skin and scales, which helps them absorb or reflect heat.

For example, if a bearded dragon is exposed to cold temperatures, it may turn black to absorb more heat and stay warm. Bearded dragons often turn black in the morning and return to their normal color after basking for a few hours

2. Stress or Anxiety

Bearded dragons are sensitive reptiles and can experience stress due to various factors, including changes in their environment, overcrowding, or lack of proper care.

When they are under stress, their bodies may produce certain hormones that can cause changes in their coloring, including turning black. This phenomenon is known as melanism and is a natural response to stress in many animals.

It is important to monitor your bearded dragon’s stress levels and try to provide a calm and comfortable environment to prevent this coloring change. It is also essential to seek medical attention if you notice any other signs of illness or distress in your bearded dragon.

3. Infection or Illness

bearded-dragon-resting-on-a-log

Bearded dragons may turn black due to an infection or illness for a number of reasons. The color change may be a sign of inflammation or a response to the body’s immune system trying to fight off the illness.

Additionally, some infections or illnesses can cause a change in the bearded dragon’s metabolism, which can affect the production of pigment in their skin.

It is important to pay attention to any unusual color changes in your bearded dragon, as it could be a sign of a health issue that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your bearded dragon is losing its appetite, not moving much, or has swollen belly, consult with a vet immediately.

4. Hormonal Changes During Mating Season

During the mating season, bearded dragons may experience hormonal changes that can result in the color of their skin darkening. This is especially common in males, as they may develop darker colors in order to appear more attractive to females.

Male bearded dragons may also use head bobbing accompanied by darker color as a way to flirt with females during the mating season. These color changes are completely normal and typically temporary, occurring only during the mating season and fading once the breeding season is over.

5. Lack of Proper Diet or Nutrition

Bearded dragons, like all reptiles, require a specific balance of nutrients in their diet to maintain their overall health and well-being. When they do not receive the necessary nutrients, their bodies may react by changing color.

In the case of bearded dragons turning black, a lack of proper diet or nutrition could be the cause. This is because the pigmentation in their skin, which determines their color, is directly related to their diet.

Without the proper nutrients, bearded dragon’s skin may become darker or take on a black color. This is a sign that their body is not receiving the necessary nourishment and may be at risk for health issues if the issue is not addressed.

Make sure that bearded dragons are provided with a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and insects to support their overall health and prevent color changes due to malnutrition.

6. Aging or Natural Color Changes

an-old-bearded-dragon

As bearded dragons age, they may naturally experience a change in color. This can manifest as a darkening or blackening of the skin, especially around the head and neck. This is a natural process and is not a cause for concern.

Remember, every bearded dragon is different and may exhibit different coloring as they age. Make sure you provide your bearded dragon with proper care and nutrition to ensure they are healthy and happy throughout their lifetime. With proper care, your bearded dragon can enjoy a long and healthy life, despite any changes in color.

7. Shedding or Molting

Bearded dragons go through a process called shedding or molting where they shed their old skin and grow new skin underneath. This process is natural and necessary for the growth and development of the bearded dragon.

During the shedding process, a bearded dragon may turn black, especially around the head and tail. The black color is caused by the shedding of the outer layers of the skin, which exposes the new, darker layers underneath. This process is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, Make sure that the bearded dragon has a suitable environment and diet during the shedding process to support healthy growth.

8. Defense Mechanism to Protect Against Predators

Bearded dragons turn black when they feel threatened or scared as a way to protect themselves. When they are in a stressful or dangerous situation, they will try to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating by puffing out their beard and turning black. This behavior is known as “beard puffing,” and it is a way for the bearded dragon to deter potential predators or threats.

Some common signs that a bearded dragon is feeling threatened or scared include:

  • Hiding or seeking shelter
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Vocalizing or making loud noises
  • Flattening their body or tail
  • Stretching out their legs
  • Flicking their tongue rapidly

If you notice any of these behaviors in your bearded dragon, it is important to take steps to reduce their stress. This might involve providing them with a more secure and comfortable enclosure, reducing noise and activity around them, or simply giving them more space and time to relax.

9. Genetic Predisposition

Some bearded dragons may be predisposed to turning black due to their genetics. Genetic predisposition refers to a tendency to develop certain traits or characteristics due to inherited genes. In the case of bearded dragons, this means that if their parents or ancestors had the gene for turning black, it is likely that they will also exhibit this trait. This is not the same as a disease or illness, but rather a natural variation within the species.

The process of turning black, known as melanism, occurs when the bearded dragon produces an excess of pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for the coloration of their skin, scales, and beard. When a bearded dragon has a genetic predisposition for melanism, they will produce more melanin than usual, causing their skin to turn black. This process is not harmful to the bearded dragon and does not impact their overall health.

If you are considering adopting a bearded dragon, it is important to research the genetics of the animal and understand the potential for melanism. By understanding this genetic predisposition, you can better care for your bearded dragon and ensure that they live a happy and healthy life.

10. Sunburn

Bearded dragons require access to sunlight in order to maintain good health, but they can also be prone to sunburn if they are exposed to excessive heat. Sunburn can cause bearded dragons to turn black.

Sunburn occurs when a bearded dragon’s skin is directly exposed to intense sunlight for an extended period of time. This can cause the skin to become damaged, leading to inflammation and pigment changes that can cause the skin to turn black.

11. Exposure to Toxins or Chemicals

a-curious-bearded-dragon

Bearded dragons, like many other reptiles, have a very sensitive respiratory system. When they are exposed to toxins or chemicals, their bodies may react by turning black as a defense mechanism. This blackening is caused by the release of melanin, a pigment found in the skin, which helps to protect the reptile from harmful substances.

There are several potential sources of toxins or chemicals that could cause a bearded dragon to turn black. These could include pesticides, cleaning products, or other chemicals that are present in the environment. In some cases, exposure to these substances may occur through ingestion or inhalation, while in other cases it may be through skin contact.

Bearded dragons are not the only reptiles that may turn black due to exposure to toxins or chemicals. Other species may also exhibit this behavior, as it is a common defense mechanism found in many reptiles.

If you suspect that your bearded dragon has been exposed to toxins or chemicals, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

12. Side Effect of Certain Medications

Sometimes bearded dragons may turn black due to the side effect of certain medications. This phenomenon is caused by a chemical reaction in the bearded dragon’s body when they are given certain medications. These medications may contain ingredients that interact with the bearded dragon’s natural pigmentation, resulting in their scales turning black.

This change in color is typically temporary and will resolve once the medication is no longer being given.

This change in color is not harmful to the bearded dragon and is simply a cosmetic side effect. However, it is important to carefully follow the instructions of a veterinarian or other qualified professional when administering any medications to your bearded dragon to ensure their safety.

13. Genetic Mutations or Abnormalities

bearded-dragon-with-black-strips

Bearded dragons can sometimes turn black due to genetic mutations or abnormalities.

Genetic mutations occur when there is a change in an organism’s DNA. These changes can affect the way an organism looks or behaves. In the case of bearded dragons, genetic mutations can cause the color of their scales to change to black. This is a result of a change in the pigment cells that produce color in the skin.

Abnormalities can also cause bearded dragons to turn black. These abnormalities can be caused by a variety of factors, including environmental factors, nutrition, and health issues. For example, if a bearded dragon is not getting enough sunlight or is experiencing stress, they may develop black patches on their skin. Similarly, if a bearded dragon is not getting the right nutrients or is suffering from a health issue, they may also develop black patches.

In either case, a bearded dragon turning black due to genetic mutations or abnormalities is not a cause for concern. These changes do not affect the health or well-being of the bearded dragon and are simply a result of natural variation in the population. However, if you notice any sudden or dramatic changes in your bearded dragon’s appearance, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that your pet is healthy and happy.

14. Reaction to New Surroundings or Changes in Environment

One of the reasons that bearded dragons may turn black is due to their reaction to new surroundings or changes in their environment.

When bearded dragons are exposed to new surroundings or changes in their environment, they may become stressed or anxious. This can lead to a change in their body chemistry, which can result in a change in their color. Bearded dragons may turn black as a way to cope with this stress or anxiety.

Bearded dragons turning black is a normal and natural response to stress or anxiety. However, make sure that the bearded dragon is comfortable and well-adjusted to its new surroundings or changes in its environment in order to minimize stress and anxiety.

15. Change in Social Hierarchy or Dominance

bearded-dragon-black-beard

Bearded dragons are social animals that live in groups, and within these groups, there is a hierarchy or social structure. The dominant individual, usually a male, will have a higher status within the group and will have access to resources such as food and mating opportunities.

When there is a change in the social hierarchy, such as a new individual becoming dominant, the physical appearance of the bearded dragons may change.

One common physical change that may occur is the turning black of their skin, particularly on their underside and legs. This change is due to the release of the hormone melanin, which is responsible for the coloring of the skin.

When a bearded dragon is feeling stressed or threatened, such as during a change in social hierarchy, their body may release more melanin as a way to protect themselves. The increased melanin gives them a darker and more intimidating appearance, which may help them assert their dominance and deter other individuals from challenging them.

16. Feeling Aggressive

If a beardy dragon is feeling angry or annoyed, it may change color to black. This is a sign that something is bothering the dragon and needs to be addressed. If the dragon is being annoyed by another pet, it’s best to keep them separated. If the dragon is upset during a bath, try misting it or giving it water droplets on its snout instead. It’s only necessary to give the dragon a bath during shedding.

17. Brumation

It’s common for bearded dragons to turn black after they have brumated. This is because they are adjusting to longer daylight hours and getting their appetite back after being in a deep sleep. This process can take several days or weeks, so it’s important to give your dragon time to transition back to their normal selves. Try not to disturb them too much during this time.

18. Loneliness

Beardies are intelligent creatures. If they are feeling lonely and want some attention or the chance to play outside, they will change the color of their neck to black in order to get your attention.

If your beardy does this when it’s in its habitat or after you’ve ignored it for a while, it’s probably trying to let you know it wants your attention. If you think this might be the reason your beardy is changing color, consider taking it out of its tank and giving it some cuddle time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, bearded dragons turning black can be a natural part of their aging process or a result of environmental factors. It is important to provide your bearded dragon with the proper care and environment to prevent them from turning black and to monitor their health. Consult with a veterinarian if you notice any changes in your pet’s color or behavior.

References

  1. Jones, S. (2013). Bearded dragon care. Exotic DVM, 15(1), 20-29.
  2. de Vosjoli, P. (1998). The bearded dragon manual. Lake Forest, CA: Advanced Vivarium Systems.
  3. Pianka, E. R., & King, D. R. (2004). Lizards: Windows to the evolution of diversity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  4. Mader, D. R. (2006). Reptile medicine and surgery (2nd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier.
  5. Clifton, K. (2010). Bearded dragons: A complete guide to Pogona vitticeps. New York, NY: Barron’s Educational Series.

I am the editor-in-chief at MyPetReptiles.com. I have been a reptile enthusiast for over a decade, and during this time I have kept and bred a variety of different reptiles such as bearded dragons, geckos, and chameleons. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others to help them provide the best care possible for their pet reptiles.

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