Why Is My Bearded Dragon Turning Black?


Bearded dragons are becoming increasingly popular as pets because of their personalities. They have chromatophores which are pigments capable of changing and partitioning the color of specific parts of the beardy’s body. The pigments in the chromatophore cells reflect light, giving rise to skin and eye color when the beardie reacts to the surroundings.  

There are several reasons your bearded dragon is turning black, like; they are stressed out, looking to mate, adapting to temperature change, unwell or sick, feeling aggressive, need of attention, new environment, or just poor general care.

If you are looking forward to adopting a new beardie, this article will help you understand why your naturally-colored bearded dragon can transition to black.

Reasons Why My Bearded Dragon Is Turning Black

If you go into a reptile shop, they might tell you that a beardie is the best beginner pet to have. But when it comes to having the bearded dragons getting used to you, it might not be that simple, especially for beginners who adopt them. 

Here is a table showing bearded dragon species you can have as a pet with their unique colors and size:

Most of these reptile species transitions to black to indicate something is going on. Give them close attention if you realize changes in their colors and ensure everything is alright. These are some of the reasons your beardie turns black:

Stress

When something stresses your beardie, it tends to turn black as a way of letting it out. Several triggers like birds, excessive handling, incorrect tank temperature, loud noises, vibrations, and relocation stress cause anxiety and project feelings.

Other causes of stress are:

  • Small enclosures make it difficult for them to move around and roam in.
  • Not letting your beardie out of its enclosure to explore other hiding places causes a lack of attention and boredom.
  • A dirty enclosure can make your beardie sick due to unwanted bacterial growth.
  • Other pets that can see your beardie through its tanks might mess, scare, and threaten it.

Look out for any stressors and get rid of them so that your beardie can return to its standard color. If the size of the tank is small, have it expanded. A large tank also gives juvenile beardies a chance to feel safer due to enough space to roam around.

Looking for a Mate

Female beardies have fewer dark beards as compared to their male counterparts. During the mating season, male beardies usually turn their beards darker as a communication tool to attract females. Turning their color darker is a sign of submission and a way of letting them know it is a suitable mate. 

The male beardie will bob its head up and down transition the beard jet black to flirt with the female. However, this fascinating behavioral and social interaction only applies to at least half a year old male beardies. Since hormones are in control, there is nothing much you can do to stop your beardie from transitioning its color during this mating season.

Temperature Regulation

The most common reason your beardie will turn its color black is a temperature change. If your bearded dragon’s environment is too hot, it will turn black to absorb heat faster. They also turn their skin black when it gets chilly or cold to absorb and soak up more heat.

In the morning, you will find most bearded dragons having a black color on their backs to help reduce the time of reaching their body temperature.

However, after basking for some hours, your beardie will return to its standard color. You should always measure the temperature of the enclosure to ensure the comfortability of your beardie. 

If the temperature is too hot, ensure that the enclosure has enough ventilation to prevent overheating. If you live in an area where temperatures fluctuate frequently, you will have to adjust the temperature of your bearded dragon’s enclosure accordingly.

You can maintain a temperature range of 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit for adult beardies, and 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit is enough for newborn beardies. 

Feeling Sick or Unwell 

Another reason your bearded dragon may turn black is when battling an illness. It would help if you were on the lookout when your beardie develops stress marks or transitions all black. Younger bearded dragons are more likely to have stress marks, and if you don’t take care of them, they might grow more substantially. However, they do fade with time when the beardie is healthy.  

You should always take your beardie to the vet if it shows any signs of illness alongside the all-black color. Here are some of the other symptoms you should look out for when your beardie pet is ill:

  • Lack of appetite,
  • Heavy breathing
  • Reduced movement, 
  • Gaping mouth
  • Mucus around the eyes and nose 
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Coughing when breathing

When They Feel Aggressive

Your beardie will feel aggressive and turn its color black when it feels threatened. It is the same scenario: you will feel annoyed and mad when you are in danger.

The feeling of aggression comes when bearded dragons are around other pets and during upsetting baths. 

Do not bathe your beardie regularly if the bath makes it aggressive. You can give it water droplets or mist its snout, allowing it to lick, and you can only bathe your beardie during shedding.  

Your beardie will puff out its head and turn black when a predator of the same size perceives it rather than escaping. For instance, this behavior is typical amongst territorial beardies, especially males, when they encounter one another.

It will also open the mouth wide as a way of threatening the predator, accompanied by other behaviors like lying on top of their rival or bobbing their heads when marking their territorial boundaries.

However, female bearded dragons are not as territorial as males. Bearded dragons are solitary creatures, and keeping two in the same enclosure isn’t a good idea because it risks terrible territory fights. It is crucial to keep the territorial beardies separate to avoid such situations.

You will have to rectify the situation by keeping away the predator that perceives your beardie. Make sure you provide adequate space in the enclosures for your bearded dragons so they won’t feel intimidated by the presence of others.

It is not a good idea to keep two bearded dragons, especially males, in the same enclosure all of the time.

They Want Attention Due to Loneliness

A bearded dragon will turn its neck black when it feels lonely, especially when separated from its groups. The best thing you can do is monitor the situation closely and make sure you give your beardie pet close attention by giving it a chance to play outdoors.

Beardies are brilliant pets with fun behaviors of trying to draw the attention of their owners. You need to know that despite meeting their needs, they might communicate with a darkened beard so that you allow them to explore others hiding outside the enclosure.

Relocation to a New Environment

If you move your bearded dragon to a new environment, it will most likely turn black. The new setting unfamiliar to your beardie might overwhelm them due to insecurity, fear, and anxiety. In addition, the bearded dragons will be naturally more stressed when trying to adjust to the new environment.

The best way to prevent your bearded dragon’s doubt and fears is by providing it with space and time to adjust to the new environment.

It will feel at ease with time, and the dark color will go away since stress is part of the beardy’s relocation and adjusting to the new habitat. 

Stress associated with relocation might linger anywhere from a few weeks to a month. It would be best if you never housed a new beardie with another from a different location as they can bully each other and get territorial. 

Here are some tips and tricks when dealing with relocation stress in bearded dragons:

  • You should limit how you handle your beardie despite being excited about it.
  • Use a towel to cover some parts of the tank to reduce its sensory intake.
  • Try not to overwhelm your beardie but give it some time to conform to the new environment.   
  • Provide your beardie with extra safe hiding places within the enclosure. 
  • Keep off your family, especially children, from the tank as the beardie might feel aggressive when threatened.
  • Always support your beardie’s legs and tail when you pick it up to help it feel secure.

When Your Beardie Is Not Comfortable Around You

Some beardies may behave aggressively towards people who approach them first. It happens mostly for new owners who want to adopt the beardies, but they don’t trust them. To avoid this problem, try to make sure that you always treat your beardies gently and approach them reasonably, not like a predator. 

Meanwhile, give your beardie the space and time as it tries to adjust to being comfortable around and trusting you. However, the beardie will likely change its color if you rush the process. 

They might even try to hide immediately you show up. However, if you can reduce the interaction and pay close attention, you will realize that it will start feeling comfortable again.

Poor General Care

Bearded dragons tend to lose their natural coloring and start to darken when neglecting some of their essential needs. Small miscellaneous activities such as dilapidated habitat, in short supply of light, dirty & unsafe substrate, and a low diet & nutrition will probably disappoint your beardie. 

If your bearded dragon lacks proper care, you should establish a caring plan to help it regain its standard color.

Poor Lighting

You must know how much lighting these pets require if you own a beardie. If the lighting is poor, your bearded dragons will react by transitioning their color dark.

To stay healthy, they need enough illumination, especially from visible UV lights of the 700-2600nm range. 

UV lights aid your beardie in developing their appetite and mental health. It would be best to use the correct UV bulbs to ensure enough lighting. Also, have them replaced every six months.

FAQ’s about Bearded Dragons

Conclusion 

When your bearded dragon turns black, you first need to identify what caused the color change before correcting the problem. You must correct the problem once you determine what caused the color change.

Always make sure your beardie’s environment is clean and comfortable. Make sure your baby and juvenile bearded dragons get used to handling so that they can interact when they are in the adult or senior stage. Don’t forget to sign up for updates to get more information about why your beardie might transition color.

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