Let’s face it, we all want our pets to live as long as we do. They are our companions and every moment spent with them is simply priceless. While there may be an average lifespan for a bearded dragon, several factors come into play to either increase or decrease this number of years. The two major determinants are environmental and health factors, and we will be taking the rabbit hole to deeply understand these complementary aspects.
Bearded dragons in captivity live for 10 – 15 years under favorable conditions, but there are few cases where they can exceed this average by far or fall short of it. A good example of the latter would be wild bearded dragons that are exposed to much more life-threatening factors compared to pet beardies.
If you’re a newbie in owning a bearded dragon, you’re certainly required to know everything about your pet’s life for the long run. A discussion like this will give you a heads-up so that you can easily identify the detours from normalcy and quickly correct the problem. Let’s dive!
The Complete Bearded Dragon Life Journey From Hatchling To Old Age & Their Challenges
There are 4 major stages that make up a complete beardie life cycle. Each of these phases has unique characteristics, challenges, and dietary requirements that play huge roles in determining how long a bearded dragon’s life would be and how comfortable they are throughout its lifespan.
Hatchling Stage (0 – 2 months)
The hatchling stage involves newly born baby dragons that have cracked their way out of their eggs, they are usually up to 2 months of age. At this stage, bearded dragons are highly fragile, susceptible to illnesses, extremely active, and require the highest amount of protein to grow healthy. They do not have the mechanism or immunity to fight off diseases like the other phases and so, are more likely to die of choking hazards, starvation, improper temperature, impaction, and respiratory infections.
Juvenile Stage (3 – 6 months)
Juvenile baby dragons have obvious traits that set them apart from hatchlings. At this phase, they have a larger appetite accompanying the development of the beard and scales. Juvenile beardies have the same diet requirement as that of hatchlings but they have now developed a better chance of fighting diseases.
Juveniles would also develop femoral pores which would be used to mark territory and distribute pheromones during sexual maturity. They may be tougher, but they’re still susceptible to diseases, malnutrition, and choking hazards.
Sub-Adult Phase (6 – 9 months)
Bearded dragons in this stage have observed major differences that bring them closer to complete maturity. They will look bigger, be more coordinated, and would have much more prominent physical features during this stage. The only difference between this stage and adulthood is sexual maturity and size. At this stage, death by choking is less probable but possible, and the risks of metabolic bone disease are prevalent. They will also be susceptible to diseases like kidney problems.
Adult Phase (9 – 18+ months)
Adult bearded dragons are now in their sexually mature stage and are able to start reproducing safely. They are fully grown and thus, will require less protein (bugs) and more greens to stay healthy. Adult beardies have a better chance at fighting illnesses, but they’re still at risk of getting infected with several diseases that are fatal in the worst-case scenarios and the risk of dying from impaction.
|0 – 2
|Juvenile and stage
|3 – 5
|6 – 8
Metabolic bone disease
Fungal/ bacterial infections
|9 – 18+
|Metabolic bone disease
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live In Captivity?
The oldest recorded bearded dragon to live in captivity is Sebastian. He lived up to 18 years and 237 days of age and died in 2016. The average lifespan for bearded dragons under good conditions is 10 – 15 years, but some dragons have lived under and above this average.
Some factors determine the overall lifespan of the bearded dragon; some are physical factors like the environment and how much care is invested to confirm the health and comfort of the pet. Others are non-controllable reasons like the sex or genetic makeup of the bearded dragon.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live In The Wild?
Unlike Sebastian, there is no documented age of any bearded dragon in the wild to refer to. However, based on the numerous factors and risks beardies face in the wild, they are expected to live for 5 – 10 years at most. Wild bearded dragons are exposed to predatory dangers as early as the hatchling stage and this continues throughout their lifespan.
If they manage to survive the jaws and claws of predators, food sources are also limited in their surroundings. Putting the lack of medical care and other goodies like calcium supplements into consideration, you’d realize how tough of a world it is for wild beardies to survive to the senior years.
6 Factors That Determine The Lifespan Of Your Bearded Dragon
The factors that determine the longevity of your beardie’s life differ vastly. They allow diversity and uniqueness of requirements for each bearded dragon despite the strong similarities and classifications. Here are the factors that influence your bearded dragon’s lifespan:
1. Genetic Makeup
Genetic makeup places some bearded dragons at an advantage when it comes to beating diseases and resistance to malnourishment compared to other bearded dragons. There’s no specific reason for this other than natural selection. Just like us, some dragons have much-better-equipped bodies to carry them through the stages of their growth and thus, will thrive into their old age if they are cared for properly.
The habitat of your captive bearded dragon includes the enclosure and the space surrounding the enclosure. After setting up your beardie’s tank with the necessities, it’s important to acknowledge its environment as well. In some cases, the beardie in question may develop stress from the discomfort, and this will cause its lifespan to deteriorate.
Bearded dragons are omnivores and insectivores. They rely strictly on bugs for their dose of protein and on veggies for the bulk load of minerals and vitamins. The diet you feed your dragon is highly important to its lifespan. Beardies grow fast and at the end of the day, this growth is a representation of how healthy they will be and how long they can live.
4. Freedom Of Movement
Beardies love to move around, explore, and enjoy the luxury of space. The more comfortable a bearded dragon is, the less the likelihood of stress-related malnutrition. Beardies who move around a lot have a better chance of survival due to the relative chances of obesity being low.
5. Veterinary Routines
Routine checkups are a must if you want your bearded dragon to live a long and happy life. Ensuring that the vet stays present throughout your bearded dragon’s life helps it to thwart potential risks and fight off disease, therefore ensuring a lengthy lifespan.
6. Sex Of The Bearded Dragon
Female bearded dragons are at risk of egg binding when they reach sexual maturity; a condition where eggs are unable to be laid by the bearded dragon. This can cause serious complications for your pet and most often result in sudden death.
The Unsuspecting Actions That Actively Shorten Your Bearded Dragon’s Lifespan
There are several practices we might ignorantly indulge in that have negative impacts on the lives of our pets. It’s easy to focus on the major rules concerned with setting up the enclosure and feeding our dragon nutritious foods that we forget to take note of these little things.
Basking Spot Is Too Hot
One major mistake that bearded dragon owners make that can be detrimental to their pets is the wrong use of basking lights. When the bulb is only a few inches from the basking spot, especially in a small tank, the spot could get too hot and as such, your bearded dragon will refuse to bask underneath it. You’d instead find your dragon laying close to the rays instead of laying directly under it. Of course, this would seriously affect its metabolism since heat is a key factor for its digestive process, and thus, lead to a shortened lifespan.
Point-Specific UVB Rays
The UVB rays are meant to be everywhere in the tank, not just in the basking spot alone. Your bearded dragon will want to run around the tank or cool off after basking, and when it leaves the basking spot, your pet should still have UVB rays hitting it. UVB rays provide most of the vitamin D which is essential to your dragon’s skeletal health.
Wrongly Matched Diets
Bearded dragons have specific rations of vegetables and bugs that they should feed on about their age. This is because every stage has a specific requirement out of the diet, so your beardie’s meal must provide it with the nutrition it needs for that stage. Feeding your pet the wrong diet could cause digestive complications and malnutrition along the line.
Bearded dragons can suffer from all forms of stress, and one of them is manhandling. Poking or prodding your pet all the time will cause it to suffer from stress which can affect its health negatively. While bonding is fun, you should give your dragon space to be by itself when it wants to. Never force your bearded dragon to cuddle with you when it’s clearly displeased by the situation.
Too Much Environmental Interactions
If the area around your beardie’s enclosure is noisy, your pet can suffer long-term stress from this. Bearded dragons rely on their sense of hearing and touch to decipher whether they’re safe or not, and if your pet’s safe space is too interactive, it can feel threatened by this and unable to take part in normal activities. This is also highly linked to poor appetite and thus, malnutrition.
Hydration is important for every living thing, even for beardies that need only little amounts of water from time to time. Bearded dragons have a strict relationship with water; it’s easy for them to overdrink water and fall sick from it, and for them to get dehydrated from the lack thereof. Too much water leads to diarrhea and minimal absorption of nutrients, meanwhile, dehydration leads to constipation and intense lethargy. Both of these extremes are risky to your beardie’s health.
5 Ways To Ensure Your Bearded Dragon Lives A Long, Blissful, And Healthy Life
Your beardie can live long if you take care of it properly. By following these 5 rules below, you should be looking to experience your dragon in its senior years.
1. Ensure Your Bearded Dragon’s Enclosure Is Efficient All Round
The most important part of housing a bearded dragon is setting up the enclosure to keep it in. Everything your dragon requires to live a long and beautiful life starts from its enclosure. Confirm that the lighting and temperatures are correct at all times. Basking bulbs and UVB light rays are different, and should be used according to their capacities. You need a UVB lamp (view on Amazon) to illuminate every inch of the enclosure and a basking bulb (view on Amazon) to heat the tank and provide a spot for your pet lizard to bask on.
The temperature in the tank must be appropriate as well. It should not exceed 104° to 107° Fahrenheit at the basking spot and 71° to 73° Fahrenheit in other areas. Ensure you keep a thermometer inside the tank at all times to regulate the fluctuations in temperature and a hand thermometer to measure an accurate temperature of the basking spot.
2. Feed Your Dragon The Correct Diet
It’s important to provide your bearded dragon with the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Feeding your pet an incorrect diet takes a toll on its immunity and overall well-being, so much so that every illness becomes life-threatening. There are several options for bugs and vegetables including treats like herbs, flowers, and fruits to help you create a delicious and nutritious meal for your bearded dragon. The table below will give you a clear representation of the appropriate diet for your dragon’s age:
|0 – 2 (Baby stage)
|30% greens, 70% grubs
|3 – 5 (Juvenile stage)
|30% greens, 70% grubs
|6 – 8 (Subadult stage)
|40% greens, 60% grubs
|9 – 18+ (Adult stage)
|70% greens, 30% grubs
3. Maintain Good Hygiene
Good hygiene is essential for keeping bad bacteria away from your pet and reducing the chances of illnesses. Ensure that you practice daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning habits with safe reptile cleaning agents (view on Amazon) or a solution of vinegar and water. A tip for easy cleaning is choosing easy-to-maintain flooring like tiles that you can wash with water easily.
4. Hydrate Your Dragon Appropriately
Good and proper hydration is highly important to ensure your dragon stays healthy. Beardies require water daily, but not necessarily for adults since they eat more vegetables that contain water. Ensure that you mist the top of your beardie’s head once daily so that it can drink water. I do not recommend leaving water inside the enclosure because it can interfere with the humidity of the enclosure and cause your pet respiratory illnesses.
Also, beardies have a hard time seeing water when it’s still. Unless your dragon lives in an extremely large tank where the rise in humidity will be insignificant, then you may leave water inside the terrarium.
5. Practice Routine Veterinary Visits
A professional reptile health practitioner needs to keep tabs on your beardie’s health for a healthy life. Sometimes, some symptoms take us unawares and can lead to undesirable outcomes. Visits to the vet every other month should be included as a routine for a happy and healthy beardie life.
How Do I Know If My Bearded Dragon Is Sick? 5 Major Symptoms
There are signs you can pick on if you suspect your dragon has fallen sick. It could be a mild disease or a rather life-threatening one, here’s what to expect:
Lethargy is a state of reduced activity or unresponsiveness. If all of a sudden your beardie is looking dull, moving slower, or not moving at all, it’s lethargic and should be evaluated immediately.
Loss Of Appetite
While adult beardies may have a reduced appetite due to their growth and nutritional needs, there is always a routine you can use as a reference. If your dragon is eating less and less, it’s probably suffering from an underlying illness.
Bearded dragons can lose weight when they’re ill. In some cases, you may not notice the difference in weight easily, but instead, you’d find their skin getting far more lines and creases than normal.
Your bearded dragon’s poop should be consistent and firm, it should not be too loose or too crackly. If it’s watery, chalky, or bloody, your pet is sick and should be taken for veterinary evaluation immediately.
If you find your beardie struggling to breathe or expels weird sounds when it does, there is something wrong with its respiratory system. It could be a problem with humidity or with an infection, either way, ensure you contact a specialist to provide relief for your pet.
Sudden Change In Behavior
If suddenly you experience aggressiveness from your bearded dragon, it could be that it’s suffering from an underlying disease. Feeling sick and having no idea can make anyone grumpy and upset, even your bearded dragon. Give your pet some space and contact your vet for information on what to do.
The Most Notoriously Common Life-Threatening Bearded Dragon Diseases
There are several ailments your beardie can come down with. However, some are more common and happen to be the demise of many captive dragons.
Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease occurs as a result of poor UVB rays (lack of vitamin D) and a calcium deficiency. It affects the skeletal structure leading to abnormalities in the beardie and difficulty in movement. In severe cases, the abnormality is incurable and the bearded dragon suffers from the damage throughout its life.
Mouth rot results from bacteria infecting the mouth, teeth, and gums of bearded dragons. It is quite painful and can cause your dragon to lose its appetite along the way. A direct cause of this is poor hygiene or transmission from one dragon to another.
Bearded dragons suffer from impaction when they eat foods that are difficult to digest. The food later causes a blockage in the digestive tract and may be so severe that it becomes fatal. Feeding your pet too many mealworms or superworms with tough outer layers can lead to it getting impacted.
A respiratory infection could result from drastic temperature drops, airborne bacteria, or excessive humidity. It’s highly dangerous to bearded dragons and even much more fatal to hatchlings.
Parasites can find their way into your beardies enclosure and cause it to fall ill. They could be internal parasites like worms or external parasites like ticks and mites. Adult beardies may survive the incessant disturbance, but baby dragons are at higher risk of dying from such an occurrence. A simple remedy would be practicing good hygiene at all times.
5 Dangerous Senior Bearded Dragon Diseases To Look Out For
Senior dragons above 6 years of age experience illnesses related to age, and this is often due to the decline in vigor. Here are the following bumps you should be expecting along the way:
Your beardie’s kidneys can wear out and decline in capacity. This can result in excessive passing out of urate, swelling of the limbs, lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, and paralysis due to nerve damage.
Senior beardies can also experience abnormal growth of the cells due to constant exposure to day-to-day chemical matter. This can result in tumors and organ failures. To prevent or manage the growth of cancer cells, you must regularize veterinary visits for early detection and treatment.
Arthritis is a regular senior beardie disease caused by poor management and diet. However, due to kidney failure, your beardie can also develop arthritis. This disease targets the joints and limbs of beardies, making movement painful or rather impossible to attain.
Senior bearded dragons can also grow blind due to old age. While there is no particular cause for this problem, you can help manage the severity by feeding your pet foods rich in vitamin A. If you notice a strange discharge coming from your senior dragon’s eyes, contact your vet immediately for analysis.
3 Ways You Can Specially Care For Your Senior Bearded Dragon
Once your bearded dragon is a senior, it would require a special kind of management to ensure it’s comfortable.
1. Remove Obstructions From The Enclosure
As your dragon reaches old age, the usual helter-skelter activities would be much more tedious for it to accomplish. Basking spots that are a steep climb, overly dramatic scratching logs, and furniture that they’d need extra steps to go around should be removed from the tank to allow your pet to move around easier.
2. Handle With Care
Senior beardies require to be handled less frequently than normal. It would help your beardie if you keep it away from kids for the time being. Your pet may enjoy the interaction, but it may not enjoy getting picked up from its comfortable position or fondled around in its current stage of old age.
3. Maintain A Nutritious And Stable Diet
Your dragon’s diet is the most important aspect of its well-being. At the senior stage, it will need a constant supply of nutrients to manage its daily activities and reduce the risk of falling sick. Ensure that you feed your senior pet the correct staple diet of nutritious vegetables and bugs. Also, perhaps it’s the right time to reduce the ‘occasional food’ intake. Too many treats for senior beardies is too much of a risk for your pet.