Bearded dragon brumation is similar to hibernation for mammals. Where your bearded dragon will go through a period of dormancy and dramatically reduced activity. Generally, you will see this happen in bearded dragons that are at least 12 months of age. However, it’s also quite common for them to go into this cycle at an earlier age.
Bearded dragons experience brumation as well, and not just in the wild. Thus, bearded dragons entering autumn slumber is something that is commonly seen in a terrarium setting. However, each bearded dragon will brumate differently. And maintain different levels of activity. Naturally, many owners become worried about it. Still, always remember that brumation is a natural process which you should not stop. Lastly, studies suggest that trying to snap a bearded dragon out of brumation will only result in prolonged overall brumation time.
The following information will be addressing bearded dragon brumation:
- about bearded dragons brumation
- why bearded dragons go into brumation
- how long bearded dragons brumate for
- baby bearded dragons brumation
- stopping bearded dragons from brumating
- signs that bearded dragons are gearing up for brumation
- tips for a healthy brumation
- ways to care for your bearded dragons during brumation
What is Brumation?
Bearded dragon brumation is similar to hibernation for mammals where your bearded dragon goes through a period of dormancy and reduced activity.
You will see this happen in bearded dragons that are at least 12 months of age. But it’s also very common for them to go into this cycle at an earlier age.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?
This is a natural process that helps them with survival and also replication.
During the colder months (winter), there are quite a lot fewer insects around. Hence, the plants that bearded dragons usually eat have gone dormant. Thus, in order to survive both the cold and food shortage, bearded dragons brumate until the warm weather and the food returns typically in spring.
This is also linked to their mating cycles. That is, during their brumation, the male’s sperm will dramatically increase and the females will ovulate. So when they come out of brumation, they will instinctively look for a mate.
How Long Does Bearded Dragons Brumation Last?
In the wild, bearded dragons often brumate for most of the winter. And they come out for spring once the temperatures begin to warm up.
However, in captivity, this period can last a few weeks or a few months (I’ve read cases where owners have had dragons hit nearly 6 months!).
Since they will be living inside a relatively stable environment with a constant supply of food and stable temperatures. Therefore, don’t expect your bearded dragon to follow the same brumation cycle as their lizards in the outback.
Do Baby Bearded Dragons Go into Brumation?
Most bearded dragons will start to brumate once they hit the 12-month mark. However, I have heard of cases where 6-month-olds have gone into brumation and worked through their cycle without any problems.
The reason why vets typically don’t like bearded dragons brumating at a young age is that they may not have enough body energy to handle 3 months.
Can You Stop Brumation from Taking Place?
Once bearded dragons instinct to brumate kicks in, there really is little you can do. Thus, it’s best to let it happen and make all of the necessary preparations.
In fact, there are some owners who shorten the brumation period by slowly upping the temps inside the tank. However, my advice is that you relax and let your dragons do what they ought to do.
Classic Signs that Your Bearded Dragon is Gearing Up for Brumation
Here are a few signs that tell you that your dragon is preparing for brumation:
A bearded dragon’s behavior may change and as a result, become agitated so easily. Thus, while it is unlikely that they’ll get nasty and bite you.
It is best for you to just leave them alone and reduce the amount of time you spend handling them.
Generally, during this period they really do just want to be left alone. That said, each bearded dragon is different so read the body language while you’re close or handling them.
Little or no interest in food
During the winter period, the earth is usually tilted away from the sun.
This means that there are fewer UVB rays and heat which is necessary to help dragons digest their food.
Even if food was abundant, eating would still cause problems. Such as not being able to pull the nutrition from their food, and potential impaction (constipation) which could kill them.
Therefore, don’t be alarmed if your bearded dragon refuses food even if they have not eaten for a while.
Thus, make food available but let them decide if they can eat or not.
Less activity and lots of sleep
You will notice that your dragon’s activity level has dramatically reduced. They will sleep a lot and also refuse to get under the basking light. This is because they’re simply trying to cool down.
In Australia, it’s very normal for bearded dragons to dig a hole where it’s nice and cool. Thus, if you are using a loose-particle substrate (sand, crushed walnuts, hulled millet, etc.) then you may notice them digging to get to somewhere cooler.
Tips for a Healthy Bearded Dragon Brumation
Now that you know the classic signs to look for. Therefore, it’s time to ensure that the brumation cycle is as stress-free as possible.
Thus, the best way to have a healthy dragon at the end of this cycle is to make sure that they go into brumation in top health.
Visit the vet
The reason for this is that you want to remove any potential issues that could make your bearded dragon sick or even kill them while they’re in brumation.
Take their poop sample
Take this sample to the vet so they can examine it for possible parasites.
Parasites can eat through your bearded dragon. Therefore, cause them to get very skinny which opens them up to more serious health issues.
Make sure you have a hide spot
If you currently do not have a hide spot, it is best to get one, even if it’s just an old box, flip it upside down. And then cut the front out out so they can get in and out without problems.
Generally, this gives them refuge from the light and also makes them feel safe.
Make water available
Bearded dragons often times come out of hibernation incredibly wrinkly and dehydrated. Thus, always keep a fresh bowl of water at their disposal.
A very good way to tell if your bearded dragon is dehydrated is by doing the pinch test. That is, just pinch his skin and if it stays in the pinched position then they need some fluid.
Ways to Care for Your Bearded Dragon during the Brumation Period
So now that your bearded dragon has entered into brumation, how do you care for them?
Lighting and heating
In the wild, bearded dragons will burrow into the dirt and also cover up the opening (to keep predators away). Thus, they are perfectly fine with little or no light, just reduce it slowly over a couple of weeks.
However, if you’d like to keep the lights on, that’s perfectly fine. But simply reduce the light to 7-9 hours per day, this could be from 12pm to 9pm for example.
Also, make sure that they have a cave that they can sleep inside of to get away from the light.
Set your temperatures to 70°F (21°C) during the day (in the cool spot) and 60°F (15°C) in the night.
Always make water readily available during this time. Likewsie, you can try placing them into a warm bath once per week for 10-15 minutes. However, keep it no deeper than 1-2 inches.
Make sure you keep an eye on them at all times, bearded dragons can go to sleep in the bath. Thus, you want to make sure you keep their head up, so fluid doesn’t enter into their lungs (causing pneumonia) and to prevent drowning.
Therefore, after the bath dry them off properly before placing them back into their tank.
Make food available but don’t force feed them, no matter how little they are eating. Ideally, you don’t want them eating too much anyway as the food can go rotten inside of them since they won’t be pooping as they used to.
What to Expect after Bearded Dragons Brumation
When your bearded dragon finally does come out of hibernation, it’s best to let them slowly come back to normal.
So, don’t start handling them like you normally do. Give them a few days to about a week or two as they will be more aggressive during this time.
Generally, the reason for this is that the brumation period spikes their hormone levels. Hence, they are ready to mate, so you may see more confident posturing behaviors like black-bearding, head bobbing, etc.
Each bearded dragon is different, some will go down and will sleep through most of their brumation period. While some will go into a cycle of light periodic sleep and everything in between.
Hence, know the natural brumation patterns of your bearded dragon. So you know what their “normal” looks like and let them go down naturally without having to wake them up