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Bearded Dragons


What is Bearded Dragon brumation? 

Brumation is basically the reptile equivalent of hibernation. Bearded Dragons will conserve energy and sleep for prolonged periods of time during brumation. This behaviour takes place during the winter months both in the wild and captivity.


What’s The Difference Between Hibernation & Brumation?

First of all, mammals go into hibernation and reptiles go into brumation. 

When a mammal goes into hibernation it will fall into a deep sleep over the winter months and won’t wake up to eat or drink. The mammal will totally rely on its fat stores to supply itself with a drip feed of nutrients until the weather has picked up and food is becoming more readily available again.

When a reptile such as a Bearded Dragon goes into brumation it won’t fall into a deep sleep like a mammal. They will vastly reduce movement in order to save energy and they will often sleep for prolonged periods to do the same but by the same token, they will also spend a lot of time awake.

Bearded Dragons also need to keep hydrated during brumation so in the wild they will try and find some dew or another source of water if needed.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Brumate? 

In the wild, as the winter approaches, the sun’s rays become weaker and the daylight hours get shorter so it’s hard for a Bearded Dragon to digest any meal it consumes as they need the right temperature from the sun to do this.

Also, most of the insects have died off along with any vegetation so food is extremely hard to come by.

A Bearded Dragon has deep routed survival instincts that tell it to brumate over these lean months until spring when the sun starts to become warmer, the daytime hours are longer and the food source becomes more abundant.

How Long Does Brumation Last For?

The brumation period for Bearded Dragon is typically anything from a few weeks up to 4 months long and sometimes longer

Usually, in captivity, you will find that the brumation period will be shorter than it would be in the wild. This is because the temperatures in your home are generally warmer than the temperatures out in the wild. This will then cause your Dragon to think that winter is over and therefore stop brumating. That being said, there’s no guarantee of this and your Dragon may decide it wants to brumate for the full 4 months.

How Old Should a Bearded Dragon Be Before It Goes Into Brumation?

A Bearded Dragon can brumate at any age and there’s not a great deal you can do about it. However, the ideal age for Bearded Dragon to brumate is generally at least 10-12 months of age. This is because when they reach the 12-month mark growth has slowed down and almost come to a stop and they will then begin to fill out in stature and store fat. They can then use this fat to act as a drip feed during brumation when they won’t be eating for several weeks.

Baby and juvenile Bearded Dragons are growing at a considerable speed and sometimes won’t have the fat stores that are needed to feed them during a lengthy brumation period.

It’s can also unhealthy for a baby or juvenile Bearded Dragon to go into brumation as they need to eat constantly to keep growing. If they don’t eat for several weeks then they are missing out on an essential growing period. We have had juveniles go into a short brumation as young as six months old but we kept a close eye on its progress and while it did miss out on a growing period id caught up rather quickly once it woke up. 

Do All Bearded Dragons Brumate?

In captivity not all Bearded Dragons brumate and the ones that do can have vastly different brumating habits.

Some Bearded Dragons might brumate for 3 weeks whilst others will brumate for up to 4 months.

There are some Dragons that will brumate like clockwork every year and others will only brumate every 2-3 years.

There’s really no way of telling what they will do but one thing is for sure, you will simply have to go with it and support them as best you can.

What Are The Signs Of Brumation?

When a Bearded Dragon is about to go into a period of brumation there are a few tell-tale signs that you should look out for.

Please note, you will notice that a lot of the signs of brumation can also be symptoms of illness and infection. If you are unsure at any point and think that your Dragon is ill in any way then you should consult for Vet and get their opinion.

More Frequent Sleep

You may notice that your Bearded Dragon starts to sleep more frequently throughout the day, often for short periods.

Some Bearded Dragon will also sleep on the cool side of the tank. Not all Dragon will do this but it’s something you should keep an eye out for.

Earlier Bedtime

Just like sleeping more frequently, you may notice that your Dragon is wanting to go to bed earlier at night.

This could be by 30 minutes or even an hour but if you see a change in their overall sleeping pattern then this could be an early sign of brumation.

Eating Less

Have a decreased appetite or even refusing food altogether is a common sign of a Bearded Dragon getting ready to go into brumation.

During brumation, they usually won’t eat at all and you will notice a steady decrease in appetite as their preparation begins.

Pooping Less

When a Bearded Dragon is about to go into brumation they are known to poop less. This may have a lot to do with the fact that they are often eating less but it’s still a tell-tale sign that you should watch out for.

Frequent Hiding

One behaviour that Bearded Dragons often produce just before brumation is frequent hiding. If you have any hides or caves in the tank then you will often notice that they will spend more time there in the days leading up to brumation.

Slow Or Sluggish Movement

Yet another tell-tale behaviour that Bearded Dragons tend to display just before brumation is slow or sluggish movement.

This is often linked to the fact that before brumation there will be more time spent hiding, less time basking and also decreased appetite and therefore decreased movement.

Burying Themselves

Most Bearded Dragons in the wild will bury themselves both for protection from predators and also to help and regulate their body temperature while they sleep in colder temperatures.

In captivity, this will often happen too and is a strong sign that your Dragon is about to begin brumation.

What Should You Do During Brumation

Whilst brumation is something that Bearded Dragons have evolved to do amazingly well over the years, you can still do a number of things to ensure that your Dragon has the best brumation experience possible.

Let’s look at some of the things you can do to help your Dragon during brumation and give replicate their experience in the wild as much as possible.

Allow Them to Bury Themselves

In the wild Bearded Dragons usually, bury a small hole or cave for them to sleep in.

This helps them to regulate their body temperature when there are fewer day time hours and the sun isn’t as strong.

It also helps to keep them out of sight from prowling predators that might be in the area.

You can easily give them the opportunity to dig their own little hole or cave in captivity by providing a substrate that allows them to dig.

If you use tiles or carpet as substrate then this won’t be possible and you might even find your Dragon scratching around days before they begin brumation as they feel they need to dig.

Provide Them With a Hide

As well as providing your Dragon with a high-quality substrate to help them brumate, you can also provide them with hides so they have places to retreat to during the brumation period.

You should try and make sure that the hide is big enough for them to fit their whole body under. This will help them to feel both safe and comfortable plus help them to regulate their body temperature. 

Provide Water

It’s hugely important that during brumation you provide your Bearded Dragon with fresh water daily.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, brumation is different from hibernation and although your Dragon won’t need to eat anything they will be looking to hydrate themselves from time to time.

Giving them access to fresh water is one of the most important things you can do to keep them healthy during brumation.

Reduce The Temperature

When your Bearded Dragon first starts to brumate you don’t want to cut off all the heat and light straight away!

There are a couple of important reasons for this, the first is that to start with your Dragon may still be eating a small amount of food and if you cut off all access to the basking lamp then they won’t be able to digest the meal they have eaten.

Undigested food in a Bearded Dragon’s stomach can pose serious risks to their health if it starts to rot and there is a high chance of this during brumation so you need to give them chance to digest the food they eat.

As the days go on you can slowly start to decrease the temperature of the tank and then finally turn off all heat and UVB light altogether once you are sure their food is digested and they’ve had a poop too.

The second reason why you shouldn’t cut off the temperature in the tank all at once is that this approach doesn’t replicate what they would experience in the wild.

You should always try and mimic their habitat in the wild as best as you can and cutting the temperature gradually is exactly what they would experience in the wild as the sun’s rays get weaker and daylight hours get shorter through the winter.

Do You Still Need to Provide UVB Light During Brumation?

In the wild, for the most part, a Bearded Dragon wouldn’t be exposed to UVB light during brumation as they would be burrowed in a hole totally out of the way of the sun.

Bearded Dragons need UVB light to aid many vital functions but in brumation, as they will be sleeping most of the time the UVB light simply isn’t needed.

For this reason, you can gradually lessen the amount of time you have the UVB light on each day and eventually turn off the UVB lighting knowing that it won’t harm them.

Weight Loss During Brumation?

A healthy Bearded Dragon shouldn’t lose much weight during brumation as they should have enough fat stores to feed them over this period. Bearded Dragons will often lose a little weight during brumation but exactly how much is difficult to say as this will totally depend on age, weight before brumation how active they are in brumation and how long the brumation lasts.

If you notice that your Dragon is losing weight rapidly and losing condition then you may want to consider consulting your Vet so they can take a closer look and give you their opinion.

What Should You Do After Brumation?

After the brumation period is over and you notice that they are fully awake you can do a few things to help them regain their strength, freshen up and ultimately get back to their old self again.

Let’s take a look at some of the simple things that you can do to help your Bearded Dragon after brumation.

Provide Some More Water

The first thing you should do is to make sure they have some fresh water so they can hydrate.

If you’ve read through the rest of this article then you will understand that providing water all the way through brumation is important and it’s equally important as they wake up.

Your Dragon might not be hungry as soon as they wake up but they will often want to drink so making sure they at least have some water is a must.

Give them a Refreshing Bath

One of the first things you can do is give your Bearded Dragon a bath. It will also help your Dragon to top up their hydration levels after a long period of rest.

You might want to consider giving them a spell under the basking lamp as this will ensure they will dry properly.

Gradually Turn Heat & Lighting Back On

At this point, you should start to turn on the basking lamp and increase the amount of hours you have the UVB lighting on in the tank. Some people just switch the basking lamp to the maximum recommended temperature and have the UVB light on for the maximum amount of hours per day right from the word go.

I would actually recommend increasing the temperature and hours of exposure over a number of days to replicate what they would experience in the wild but this will depend on how fast your Dragon wakes and how fast they are demanding food. The sooner they are wanting food, the sooner you should look to get the temperature in the tank back to normal. 

You can do something similar to what you did when you decrease the temperature and UVB light for brumation but obviously do it in reverse.

Ultimately which option you choose is up to you but you need to start giving them heat and UVB exposure right away.

What If Your Bearded Dragon Finishes Brumating After A Few Days?

If your Bearded Dragon stops brumating after just a few days then there’s a good chance that they are being disturbed, the conditions are stopping them from brumating or they weren’t even trying to brumate and they could simply be ill.

Brumation will last at least a few weeks so if your Dragon stops after just a few days you need to check the temperature of the tank, the number of daylight hours you are exposing them to and make sure it’s correct for brumation.

It also could be that your Dragon is simply not feeling well and they are sluggish and have a lack of appetite though some illness or infection. If you suspect this at all you should contact your Vet at once to get them checked over.

There’s also a chance that you have the temperature in the tank set too low so your Bearded Dragon hasn’t got the right amount of heat it requires to digest food so some of its behaviours mimic those of brumation such as loss of appetite and looking tired.

Should You Ever Try And Stop Your Bearded Dragon From Brumating?

It’s not good a good idea to try and stop a Bearded Dragon from brumating. This is a natural behavior that they will display in both the wild and captivity and there’s not much reason to stop it.

Trying to intervene will usually only either confuse your Dragon or prolong the brumation period.

Some people don’t like their Dragon to brumate if it’s under the age of 12 months old and I can see why there is some concern because at this kind of age a Bearded Dragon hasn’t built up a lot of the fat stores that are needed to feed it for the weeks of brumation.

If your dragon is under 9-12 months old, rather small and doesn't have a lot of fat stores I suggest keeping a close eye on it and not allowing it to brumate. Daily sunlight as well as moving it to its basking spot in the mornings to heat up prior to a feed is your best option. Don't stress if its not eating too much and lethargic, this is normal until it decides it no longer needs to brumate. The most important thing is to make sure it isn't losing too much condition make sure it is not losing condition. 

Wrapping Up

I really hope you’ve got a lot of value from this article about Bearded Dragon brumation and you have had all your brumation questions answered.

The main things to remember are brumation can last anything from 3 weeks to 4 months and sometimes more, it’s usually adult Bearded Dragons that go into brumation although Dragons under the age of 12 months can brumate too.

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