Bearded Dragons and Brumation | What to Do
What Is Brumating and Why Do Bearded Dragons Do It?
In the wild, bearded dragons enter a state of dormancy known as “brumation” during the cooler months. In the southern hemisphere, this is June, July, and August when the days are short and food is more scarce. During this time, they will burrow down, conserve energy, and rest until warm days return.
In captivity, many bearded dragons may also brumate. Typically they will start to slow down in late fall or early winter in the Northern hemisphere when the days become shorter.
During brumation, the bearded dragon’s body will slow down and go into conservation mode. They will avoid food, and tend to spend most of their time sleeping in cool, darker areas. They may come up from time to time to briefly bask before retreating to cooler areas again.
Brumating is a natural process that is instinctual for the bearded dragon. Studies have shown that bearded dragons allowed to brumate are typically in better physical condition, more active overall, and have longer lifespans. That being said,
if your bearded dragon wants to brumate - let them!
Baby bearded dragons will typically not try to enter brumation due to their need for frequent meals and limited stores of fat. If your baby bearded dragon attempts to brumate, it is best to chat with your veterinarian to assess whether allowing your young beardie to brumate is recommended.
Signs of a Bearded Dragon Going into Brumation
- More sluggish
- Reduced feces
- Less interest in food
- Spending shorter time basking/Hanging out on the cool side
- Burrowing into the substrate
For new owners, these symptoms may cause alarm since they can look very similar to other health concerns. Fortunately, there are a few other things you can look for when determining whether your bearded dragon is attempting to brumate or showing signs of illness.
- Does your bearded dragon show signs of stress like black beard?
- Is your bearded dragon losing weight?
- Do they have any other physical symptoms of illness such as increased mucous or concerning stool texture?
If you answered no to all of those questions, and the signs your beardie are exhibiting are stricting behavioral, especially (but not always) in conjunction with outdoor temperatures cooling down and days getting shorter -
Congrats! Your beardie is likely going into brumation.
Brumation is similar to hibernation that is observed in mammals. In the wild, due to less ideal seasonal conditions and scarcity of food, reptiles will enter brumation to wait out the cooler months. In captivity, reptiles may brumate at any time of the year.
How Long Does Brumation Last?
There is no set schedule for how long a bearded dragon will brumate. Some may only brumate for a few weeks, and others may brumate for a few months.
During this time, it is best to leave them alone and let them rest. Disturbing the brumation process can cause stress and throw off their natural process.
Bearded dragons likely will not want to eat very much during this time. They may accept small amounts of food, but it will be much less than they typically would eat. Even with the reduction in food intake, a beardie should not lose much weight during brumation. Slight weight loss is not cause for concern, however if you notice your bearded dragon losing significant weight, it is possible your bearded dragon is actually sick and not brumating, and you should take them to the veterinarian promptly.
How to Care For A Beardie Going Into Brumation
You may reduce the overall light cycle of your bearded dragon during this time as it is unlikely they will be out utilizing the lights. In the wild, the light cycle would be shorter during the cooler months and the temperatures would drop lower, so we can replicate that by cutting back the lights a bit during this time.
It is not likely that your bearded dragon will want to eat much during this time. Their metabolisms are much slower, and food consumed that is not properly digested can cause issues. If you notice your bearded dragon out to bask, you can offer a small amount of food. They may choose to not take it, or they may eat a bit. Either is fine. Ensure your dragon has access to basking and UV light during this time in the event they do eat and need proper conditions to digest their food.
Bearded dragons still require access to water during brumation. They may not accept water, but having a small dish available and dripping some water for them while they are awake typically is sufficient for offering a source of hydration.
Once you notice your beardie showing signs of basking more often and taking interest in food, you can increase the light cycle once more if you previously reduced it when they began to brumate.
Expect the first few days of waking up to be slow and sluggish, but trust that your bearded dragon will get back to the swing of things over the next week or two!
Now that you know more about brumation, what it is, and why your bearded dragon does it - hopefully the concept and process is a bit less scary for you! Remember, your bearded dragon was designed to brumate, and as a caring owner, all we can do is ensure that our bearded dragons have the optimal conditions to stay healthy during their winter rest!
Happy Brumating, from all of us at Zen Habitats!
To learn more about bearded dragon care, behavior, and enrichment, check out our other articles!
We also offer an extensive care guide on all things beardie related! Over 90 pages of history, in depth care, and research in one guide! Check out our Bearded Dragon Ultimate Zen Guide!