Bearded dragons are adorable and fascinating pets. They live up to their name thanks to a “beard” of spikes under their chin, which can sometimes puff out and turn black for different reasons.
A pitch-black beard can be alarming, especially for first-time bearded dragon owners, because, let’s face it, it can be challenging to figure out the sudden black beard.
The color change can happen in seconds, and naturally, you’ll want to know what your bearded dragon is trying to communicate. Luckily, this change is pretty easy to notice.
Is it normal? Or is there something wrong with your beardie?
This is what we’ll do: This article will go through all the possible reasons your bearded dragon’s beard may suddenly turn black to help you understand your pet more.
We’ll give you a clue… sometimes it may be completely normal, but other times, you’ll need to visit a vet.
Is it normal for a bearded dragon to change color?
A leopard can’t change its spots. However, a bearded dragon can change its beard’s color.
A color change is a normal part of a bearded dragon’s behavior. This pet can change color on different body parts, such as the tail, neck, or head, for different reasons: age, brumation, camouflage, shedding, thermoregulation, or communication (with you or other beardies).
Interestingly, the beard may turn black in response to external factors. Identifying why it turns black is essential to providing your pet with a healthy and happy life.
But first, how are beardies able to change their color?
They can do this because they have skin cells called chromatophores, which can absorb and reflect light directly in response to changes in their mood or temperature.
Reasons a bearded dragon’s beard might turn black
Let’s discuss why a beardie’s beard can turn black, so you know whether you can manage your situation or visit a vet.
Stress, anger, or anxiety
Bearded dragons get stressed out for several reasons, including fear, anxiety, anger, or discomfort. Many environmental factors can cause stress in bearded dragons, including loud noise, other pets, relocation, a small tank, a dirty environment, cage mates, or shedding.
In addition to turning their beards black, they express stress through refusing to eat or drink, lethargy, hiding, aggression, glass surfing, stress marks, and hissing.
As the owner, it’s important to identify what’s stressing your beardie because long-term stress can lead to health problems.
You can calm down a stressed bearded dragon by removing its stressors (such as other pets, turning off loud music or TV, etc.) and making it feel more secure by providing a safe and stable environment.
Do you have two or more bearded dragons housed in the same tank?
Quick question, why would you do that?
Multiple bearded dragons housed in the same enclosure often fight for dominance, space, food, and heat, and there’s constant sexual harassment of the females by their male counterparts. Beardies are even likely to fight to the death.
In this case, you may notice your bearded dragon constantly displaying a black beard and bobbing his head to establish dominance over the rest.
What can you do about this?
Bearded dragons are solitary animals. They don’t like sharing space, heat, or food. As a result, you should never house two or more beardies in one tank- except when you’re trying to encourage breeding.
When a bearded dragon is ill, it may change its beard color to black. Some of the most common diseases in bearded dragons are metabolic bone disease, gut impaction, respiratory infections, parasites, adenovirus, mouth rot, and tail rot.
Oftentimes, a sick beardie will have other symptoms besides a black beard. Those symptoms include reduced activity, a loss of appetite, unusual bowel movements, a swollen belly, aggression, difficulty breathing, and sunken eyes.
If you observe these signs, visit a vet immediately because some of these conditions could be fatal if left untreated.
Bearded dragons are ectotherms, meaning they use the exterior environment for thermoregulation. This is why their enclosure needs a hot (basking) side and a cool zone to regulate their temperature.
Your beardie’s beard might be black if the enclosure is too hot or too cold. If it’s too cold, they turn black to try and absorb more heat. On the other hand, if it’s too hot, a black beard is a sign of distress.
You need to use a thermometer to measure the temperature. The ideal temperature range should be around 75-85℉ on the cool side and 95-105℉ on the basking side. In addition, the nighttime temperatures should be around 65-70 °F.
If it’s too cold, you should increase the heat to the ideal range, and vice versa. After this adjustment, their beard color should return to normal.
In the wild, bearded dragons rely on the sun to regulate their normal body processes. Therefore, a pet beardie’s enclosure should have full spectrum lighting to mimic its natural habitat.
UVA helps stimulate a beardie’s appetite, while UVB helps regulate the production of vitamin D3, which aids in calcium absorption. Without UVB, bearded dragons can develop metabolic bone diseases.
Poor lighting can make bearded dragons turn their beards black. Ensure they get 12 hours of UVB light and replace the bulbs every 6 to 12 months.
You may observe the following signs in a male bearded dragon who wants to mate; head bobbing, stamping feet, puffing out and darkening the beard, and glass surfing. Usually, they do this to attract females and threaten potential rivals.
Interestingly, your male bearded dragon may display these signs even if there’s no female around. This is just to communicate that he’s ready to mate and is hormonal. This might happen especially during summertime and springtime.
So, if your beardie seems aggressive or restless, is eating and drinking just fine, but is darkening his beard or bobbing his head, it might be that time of the year.
I know you’re wondering whether bearded dragons get lonely since we said they are solitary creatures who would rather live alone.
As much as they like living alone, beardies enjoy human attention from time to time. If your bearded dragon is familiar with you and its surroundings, it may show signs of recognition and trust, which include:
- Head bobbing when being petted
- Sitting still when being held or petted
- Closing their eyes or sleeping when being held
- Climbing on your laps to be held
- Comfortably lying next to you
So if you leave your pet for extended periods, it can darken its beard because it’s lonely.
Okay, maybe lonely is not the right word here, but it’s capable of missing your company.
On the other hand, they may turn their beards black due to excessive handling. If your bearded dragon turns black when being held or petted, give them some space.
Brumation is a natural process for reptiles, bearded dragons included. During this period, their digestive system shuts down, their heart rate reduces, and they appear to be in a very deep sleep.
Brumation is characterized by a refusal to eat or drink, lethargy, hiding for prolonged hours, sleeping for an extended period, and less bowel movement. It usually happens during winter.
You might notice a black beard if your dragon wakes up after brumation. This is because they are trying to get their energy levels up again by eating, basking, moving around, etc.
In this situation, you can help them by adjusting their habitat conditions—light, temperature, and humidity—to the ideal range. Also, provide food and water. But don’t force-feed them.
Malnourishment happens when a bearded dragon doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs to thrive. Essentially, it’s a lack of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs to function optimally.
In addition to a black beard, other tell-tale signs of a malnourished dragon are lethargy, deflated fat pads, a thin tail, and calcium deficiency (weak bones).
If your dragon seems malnourished, provide a proper diet of calcium-rich insects, vegetables, leafy greens, and fruits. Also, dust their food with a calcium supplement.
When should you call a vet about your bearded dragon’s black beard?
As you can see, your beardie’s beard can turn black for normal reasons, such as anger, poor lighting, heat, mating, and brumation. You don’t need to panic in normal cases because you just need to make a few adjustments.
However, you need to see a vet immediately in the following situations.
- When your beardie shows signs of an underlying health problem
- When the beard has been black for an extended period (a week or more)
- When you notice a black tail (this could mean tail rot)
- When your beardie has stress marks that won’t fade away for an extended period
We hope this article helped you understand why your beardie may be showing a black beard. Some reasons are natural, and you can help your beard remain healthy and happy with simple adjustments.
However, other reasons are serious and can be dangerous to your beardie’s health. So they need immediate medical attention.
One thing is for sure, though, if you can’t figure out the problem, seek medical advice.
Final tip for beginners: The more time you spend interacting with your beardie, the easier it becomes to recognize the stressors and to help you help your beardie live a long, healthy, and happy life.