Most pet parents reserve the thought of bath time for larger, more fluffy animals like dogs or cats. But what about the scaly members of your family? That’s right, reptiles need to bathe too, and they might even enjoy it! However, there’s more of a refined technique to bathing bearded dragons.
In fact, they require much more careful handling to help them stay happy and healthy. So without further ado, let’s dive into how to bathe a bearded dragon!
How To Bathe A Bearded Dragon
1. Where To Bathe Them
The best place for a bearded dragon bath is in your bathtub. You may be tempted to go for the sink; it’s smaller and easier to clean up.
However, your bearded dragon needs adequate space to feel comfortable and have a good time swimming and splashing around. And also somewhere they can’t jump out of and hurt themselves.
2. Bath Temperature
You need clean, fresh water in a lukewarm temperature. Around 29-35°C (85-95°F) is perfect.
It shouldn’t be too cold, as reptiles struggle to move in cold temperatures. But equally, you don’t want it to be too hot either. Because even though beardies spend 75% of their lives sitting under a heat bulb, they burn quite easily on their underside where the skin is softer.
3. How Deep Should The Water Be
SHALLOW! You want them to enjoy the bath experience, so they need to feel full control and no potential danger. That means the water should be shallow enough that they can touch the bottom by stretching their legs, and deep enough so they can swim around a little bit if they choose to.
This is a good rule of thumb: one to three inches of water for adult bearded dragons, and half an inch to an inch for baby bearded dragons.
4. Introducing Them To The Water
Because bearded dragons aren’t used to water in the wild, they’re bound to be a little edgy at first. And even if they’re used to baths, you can’t just throw your bearded dragon inside, you need to work up to it gradually.
Gently lower them into the tub so that their tail and feet touch first and they can sink into it.
5. How Long To Bathe Them For
This really depends. Bearded dragons don’t get wrinkly (dry) when bathing as we do, so having a long soak is acceptable if your dragon is having a good time. Check on their behaviour:
- Having a good time: Splashing around, playing with toys, running up and down the tub, or swimming.
- Wants to get out: Sitting in the corner in a huff, gradually getting lower on their legs so their head dips under, trying to climb the sides of the tub, or frantically splashing their tail in obvious distress.
Be mindful that the water will gradually get colder so 15 minutes is probably the longest that your bearded dragon should stay in an initially lukewarm bath without starting to feel uncomfortable. Possibly less in colder climates.
6. What Soap Can You Use
None! Some bearded dragon owners will tell you that using soap is completely fine. However, most soaps contain many harmful chemicals and toxins that are extremely bad for your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons’ skin is incredibly absorbent, meaning that any chemicals within the soap are taken into their body and can then have disastrous effects. Not to mention, it’ll likely dry their skin out.
If you really want to soap them up, there are some specialist reptile shampoos that you can purchase. These are specially designed for skin irritations in reptiles. However, human soaps should NEVER be used on a bearded dragon!
7. Scrubbing Them Up
In most cases, you aren’t bathing your bearded dragon because they’re filthy. After all, they’re naturally clean animals. So just gently sweeping the water over them will be enough to achieve that “extra shine”.
If you do notice any particularly dirty bits, a soft toothbrush will get rid of them. Use it lightly and scrub in a single direction.
How To Dry Off A Bearded Dragon
Next up, drying. You need to dry them immediately when they’re out of the water. They’re used to hot and dry climates, so waiting for them to drip dry just isn’t acceptable. Also, contrary to the above image, a hairdryer isn’t acceptable either.
You’ll need to set them down in a soft towel and gently dab the water off them. Don’t rub! This could damage their skin, and they also really don’t like it!
Ensure that their skin is as dry as possible before putting them back in their habitat. Then, place them immediately under the heat lamp to dry the rest of the moisture you might’ve missed and warm them up quickly.
Remember: Before lifting them off the towel, make sure their claws haven’t become stuck in any particularly fluffy bits. It could hurt them if their toes get caught.
What About Baby Bearded Dragon Baths
If you intend to bathe your bearded dragon throughout its life, it’s a great idea to start early. Just like in any other animal, practice makes perfect, and the earlier you start, the easier bath time will be on them.
It’d be difficult and inadvisable to try to bathe hatchlings. They really don’t need it at that age, and they’re so small that drowning would be a big issue.
You should start the bathing process when your bearded dragon is around three months old. This will mean that they’re big enough to make the process safe and worth it, yet not old enough to be stuck in their ways just yet and be offended by the very mention of bath time.
For first-timers, ensure the temperature is right and that the depth works for your dragon’s size before placing them in. Gently lower them in there, keeping your hands underneath them so that they feel supported.
You want to avoid panic at all costs. If your dragon freaks out, they won’t want to do it again, and it’ll be a struggle every time! Let your hands rest on the bottom of the tub and let them wander off by themselves.
Don’t force them into situations that they aren’t comfortable with. You’ll only regret it later.
If you notice:
- Insecurity: an unwillingness to move away from your hands
- Panic: immediate splashing and tail flailing
- Stress: Inability to keep their head above water
Then take them out and try again another day. Don’t force it on your bearded dragon if they aren’t ready. Remember that this needs to be a positive experience. But don’t give up – tomorrow is another day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Bearded Dragons Need Baths?
This is a debated topic among bearded dragon parents. Some people feel that bathing a bearded dragon is unnecessary, while others swear by a weekly bath. The truth is, it totally depends on your situation. Generally, baths have a couple of benefits:
Bearded dragons don’t hydrate only by drinking. This is because, in the wild, they live in a hot, desert climate where there isn’t a whole lot of groundwater, so they take in most of their moisture from food sources and the environment around them.
Note: If you don’t intend to bathe your dragon that often, you will need to make sure they have a bowl of fresh, clean water available at all times.
This will allow them to soak in the water themselves if they’re feeling a bit dehydrated. So if you ever saw your bearded dragon laying in water and wondered why, now you know, they’re hydrating.
They Keep Their Skin Healthy
Bearded dragons need to keep their skin clean and moisturized just like us, and the water is a natural way of freeing their pores from dirt and sand that might get caught in awkward places. It also helps them feel fresher and keep their skin well moisturized.
Note: If you’re bathing them for this reason, you may choose to bathe more often as they get older, just like us taking better care of our skin as we age.
A baby bearded dragon will naturally have softer, more supple skin. However, as they get older, it’ll become rougher and dry out more quickly, especially if they’re basking all day.
They Aid Bowel Movements
Sitting in water makes bearded dragons need to go to the toilet more. They take water into their bodies through the same place they excrete, meaning that water can free flow in and out. This loosens any stools and often makes them poop in the water.
Note: For this reason, you can bathe your bearded dragon if you notice that they’re constipated or if they’ve been ill, as it ensures a healthy bowel movement.
It’s also great for older bearded dragons, as they are more prone to impaction – which is a build-up or blockage of food matter in their intestines, usually left by insect casings. Baths are much healthier and cheaper than reptile laxatives.
They Are Fun
One of the best reasons for bathing your bearded dragon is enrichment. It gives them more things to experience and explore to prevent boredom. It also gives you that extra bit of bonding time with your beardie.
Studies show that bearded dragons don’t feel love like mammals do, but they do show signs of having positive and negative interactions. That extra bit of bonding will ensure another positive interaction, giving you and them something to look forward to. You can even buy reptile bath toys!
How Often Should I Bathe My Bearded Dragon?
This is yet another topic that’s debated heavily among beardie parents. Some will only bathe their bearded dragon once or twice a month, whilst others bathe them once or twice a week.
It depends entirely on your circumstances and most importantly, whether your bearded dragon enjoys the experience.
Bathing once or twice a week is the most popular frequency, but honestly, it’s up to you! However, we would strongly advise against daily baths.
Like us, a bearded dragon’s skin produces natural oils to keep it healthy and crack-free. Too much water can wash away those oils and do more harm than good.
But there are a few special circumstances where frequent bathing a bearded dragon may be necessary:
Brumation is the reptile version of hibernation. Before your reptile goes into a brumation, they’ll need to clear their bowels to avoid food rotting in their intestines whilst they’re asleep.
This is why on the run-up to brumation, you’ll notice that your bearded dragon becomes more sluggish and loses their appetite.
Anyway, a few days prior to their sleep you should bathe them more frequently to ensure that they have everything out of their system.
Also, while your bearded dragon doesn’t need to brumate (it has no detriment to their health if they don’t.) However, if you’ve chosen to allow them to, it’s a good idea to wake them up slightly every so often to hydrate them.
When this happens, they’ll go into a ‘half-waking’ state. That’s the perfect time to slightly bathe them to get some water into their system. Remember to leave your hand underneath them in this case, as they won’t hold their heads up.
Normally, bearded dragons can shed on their own with no issues. However, there are a few tricky spots, such as around their feet and eyes, where the skin might not come off so easily. If this builds up over time, it can become uncomfortable for your dragon and might cause sores.
So if you notice a piece of skin that your bearded dragon is struggling to shed, a few baths may help it on its way.
As we’ve mentioned, bearded dragons take water in through their skin. If you notice that your bearded dragon has become dehydrated – their skin will become tighter, and their eyes may bulge slightly – then a few extra baths may help to make them feel a little better.
As with brumation, baths promote healthy bowel movements, and if your bearded dragon has become impacted (has a build-up of food causing a blockage), then a bath can help them loosen the blockage resolve the problem.
If your bearded dragon is recovering from an illness or if they have an open wound that needs treatment, your vet may recommend more baths to aid the healing process.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim?
Oddly, bearded dragons are excellent swimmers. In the wild, they live in Australia’s desert areas, where there’s barely any water at all, so most people assume that they actually won’t like water.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Due to the way their body is structured – flat with a long tail – they’re very buoyant and quite enjoy splashing around in the water.
That said, you’ll still need to make sure that the water in their bath is quite shallow. Because while they might enjoy the water, they can get tired easily and might sink.
Hopefully, this has provided some great insight into how to properly bathe your bearded dragon along with some useful (and important) do’s and don’ts.
Remember to stay with your bearded dragon throughout bath time. NEVER leave them alone while bathing! Always try to make the experience as positive as possible and immediately take them out of the water if they’re in obvious distress.