Why Do Bearded Dragons Turn Black? The 12 Causes

As much as we’d like our beloved pets to be able to talk to us, this isn’t something we’re blessed with. So the next best thing is getting your attention in other ways, for Bearded Dragons, this means turning black.

This isn’t something you want to ignore, when a Bearded Dragon turns black, it could mean a number of things, some serious, and some not so serious.

In this article, I’m going to help you identify why they’re turning black and the steps you need to take when it happens.

Why Is My Bearded Dragons Turning Black?

Warning: If your Bearded Dragons tail is black, contact your veterinarian specialist immediately as this could be an indication of tail rot.

Below I have listed 12 reasons your Beardie may be turning black and what you need to do in the situation.

Thermoregulation

The most common cause for a Bearded Dragon to turn black is because they’re thermoregulating. They’re cold-blooded and ectothermic, meaning they require external heat sources to warm up their body.

So, if your Beardie is a tad on the cold side they will go to their basking spot to warm up, and to do so quicker they’ll turn their scales black in order to absorb the heat at a faster rate.

This could happen at any time, but if you notice a trend of it happening in the morning, it may be because the enclosure temperatures are dropping below 70°F overnight

To resolve this, check the temperatures with a digital thermometer and adjust accordingly with your heat source of choice. You want your overnight temperatures to range between 70°F – 75°F.

If your Bearded Dragon doesn’t return to their normal color after 5 – 7 days, contact your vet.

Anger

Bearded Dragons are territorial reptiles and can get angry over a potential housemate, being picked up or petted when they’re not in the mood.

Preventing this is simple, never house more than one Bearded Dragon in an enclosure, and don’t interact with them if they’re giving you all the warning signs to leave them alone.

It’s similar to a dog growling or snarling at you when they want to be left alone, Beardies just don’t have such a mean bite so turning black and puffing out their beard is the go-to method.

Stress & Anxiety

I have put stress and anxiety together as the causes and outcomes of these two reasons are the same.

If your Beardie is stressed or anxious, they’ll typically turn black but also show other symptoms that’ll eventually lead to illness if go unchecked.

Bearded Dragons aren’t a fan of change. So the smallest changes to their enclosure or outside surroundings can cause them to be stressed or anxious.

I recommend if you’re adding new decor, changing substrate, or relocating their enclosure do so slowly and take their feelings into account. 

If you’ve recently done any of these things then your Beardie will climatize to the changes eventually and return to normal. If this doesn’t happen after 5 – 7 days, contact your vet.

You can help prevent stress and anxiety by ensuring there are plenty of hiding spots and burrowing opportunities for your Beardie to go into.

Signs of stress and anxiety are;

  • Lethargy
  • Stress marks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Glass surfing
  • Constipation
  • Refusing to bask
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth constantly open
  • Hissing

If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet immediately to prevent illness.

Threatened

As I mentioned above, Bearded Dragons are territorial reptiles. So as a demonstration of strength, in the wild, Beardies will turn their beards black, bob their heads, hiss, and even wave their arms when threatened.

Having more than one Beardie in an enclosure is highly not recommended unless they’re in mating season. If they’re not in mating season, the more dominant one will severely injure and potentially kill the weaker one.

It doesn’t always have to be another Beardie they’re threatened by, it could be other pets like inquisitive cats or dogs trying their best to see into the enclosure. 

I recommend monitoring your other pets, and young children, and keeping them away if you notice this behavior occurring.

Illness

One of the most concerning reasons your Beardie will turn black is because they’re already sick.

Signs of illness are:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss in appetite
  • Swollen belly
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Discharge from eyes and/or nose
  • Respiratory problems
  • Vomiting
  • Bulging eyes

If you suspect your Bearded Dragon is sick, contact your vet immediately.

Impaction

Impaction is when your Beardie has something stuck in their digestive tract, This can occur from a number of reasons such as; Undigested foods, swallowing substrate, or food being too large.

Undigested food: Your Beardie will typically go under their basking spot once they’ve eaten a meal as they need the heat for their body to metabolize the food. If your basking spot is not hot enough, they’ll be unable to digest their meals properly.

Swallowing substrate: To avoid the accidental ingestion of substrate, don’t use loose particle substrate such as sand, gravel, or woodchips. I recommend using substrates such as reptile carpets, or excavator clay.

Read my in-depth article for more information on Best Substrates for Bearded Dragons.

Food being too large: Some reptile owners make mistakes, it happens to us all in the beginning. When it comes to feeding your Beardie, make sure the food you’re providing is no larger than the gap between their eyes. This will prevent impaction.

UVB Light

In the wild, Bearded Dragons will spend the majority of their time basking in the sun absorbing the UVA and UVB rays.

They need UVA to warm up their bodies and UVB for Vitamin D3 synthesis to encourage healthy growth and development. This is the reason we provide a basking spot and a UVB light in their enclosure.

They need UVB exposure for 12 hours a day, a lack of UVB lighting exposure can lead to illnesses such as metabolic bone disease, causing skeletal deformities.

If you notice your Beardie turning black, it could be because of a lack of UVB exposure. To prevent this, you may need to get a stronger UV bulb, I recommend using the ReptiSun T5 Fluorescent Bulb.

You may just need to replace your UV bulb as it’s no longer emitting the amount of rays required. Typically, people replace their bulbs every 6 – 12 months. However, I always recommend reading the manufacturer’s guidance on when to change their products.

A template showing the different temperatures required for baby, juvenile and adult Bearded Dragons

Post-Brumation

When your Bearded Dragon emerges from their brumation, it’ll likely have a blackened beard. This will happen because they’ll need to adjust to the lighting, temperature and their appetite returning.

After 5 – 7 days, your Bearded Dragons beard will have returned to normal or be in the process of. 

Read my article on Bearded Dragon Brumation to learn more.

Mating Season

Bearded Dragons hit sexual maturity at around 12 – 24 months of age, and this means males will exhibit displays during the mating season.

Mating season for Bearded Dragons typically happens between the warmer months of September – March in Australia.

Even if you don’t have a female present, the male’s biological clock may get the better of him and he will display a black puffy beard, head bobbing, glass surfing, and typical territorial behaviors to find a mate.

Dehydrated

When Bearded Dragons become dehydrated they display a black beard, other signs of dehydration are loose saggy skin, and, sunken eyes.

Causes of dehydration are:

  • Not providing enough water
  • Diarrhea
  • Refusal to drink
  • Parasites or other illness

If your Bearded Dragon has diarrhea or parasitic mites, contact your vet for expert advice.

If they’re refusing to drink, you can always try to bathe your Bearded Dragon. Sometimes they prefer drinking from the bath water instead of their water bowl.

Read my guide to learn How To Bath Bearded Dragons.

Malnourished

When a Beardie isn’t getting the correct diet, they’ll become malnourished displaying a black beard, skinny, and weak look.

To prevent this, ensure you’re feeding your Bearded Dragon a balanced diet of proteins, fruits, and vegetation.

Baby Bearded Dragons require a diet of 60% proteins and 40% vegetation.

Juvenile and adult Bearded Dragons require a diet of 20% proteins and 80% proteins.

When Should I Call A Vet?

Identifying what your Beardie is trying to tell you can be difficult, as some reasons have similar symptoms.

I recommend calling your vet if at any point you’re concerned for the health and wellbeing of your pet. 

It’s always best to err on the side of caution, better safe than sorry.

Summary

Bearded Dragons have a wide range of reasons as to why they’d turn black, serious examples of when to take action are:

  • Signs of illness
  • Blackened beard for 7 days or more
  • As soon as you notice a black tail
  • Stress marks
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen belly

Remember, it’s always better to play it safe and call your vet for advice than to wait and see how it plays out.