Bearded dragons come in lots of different shapes and sizes. All of them derived from the standard bearded dragon – sandy colored skin and rough scales – using selective breeding and are called bearded dragon ‘morphs’.
Fairly recently, breeders have started to breed exaggerated or obscure traits to produce rarer and more attractive looks like the zero bearded dragon or the silkback bearded dragon.
So, what is a silkback bearded dragon? A silkback, or silkie bearded dragon is a scaleless smooth-skinned dragon. It is one of the most popular morphs due to its unusual appearance and amazing temperament.
What Is A Silkback Bearded Dragon?
A silkback bearded dragon, also known as a silkie or scaleless bearded dragon, has unusually smooth skin. They’re born without scales, so they have skin that feels much more like ours does, rather than the rough, bumpy scales that you might be used to.
They can still maintain the same colors as standard bearded dragons, but since they’re missing the characteristic spikes and rough skin, the colors look more exaggerated and unusually striking.
Their scaleless, smooth feel also makes them that much more enjoyable to handle. But it’s not all positive.
Silkback Bearded Dragon Care
Although silkback bearded dragons do make great pets, they are the most high maintenance of all different bearded dragons. That is because the selective breeding process that makes their skin so smooth also makes it extremely thin.
Standard bearded dragons have tough skin because they continuously scrape along the ground on sand and dirt. However, with a silkback, constantly walking on a rough surface could damage or tear their skin and cause some pretty severe injuries.
To avoid damage to the skin, you’ll need to put in a pretty intensive skin care regime.
- Substrates – House your bearded dragon on a smooth surface. Don’t use sand, soil, or shavings, as these things contain rough or sharp pieces of grit that can get embedded in your silkie’s skin.
- Furniture – You’ll obviously be providing bearded dragon furniture in their habitat – usually rocks and plants and a basking site to make them feel at home. However, you’ll need to consider the surface of these things too. If it’s too rough, you can’t use it.
- Bath Time – Silkbacks dehydrate and shed a lot, so bath time will need to become a regular thing. Giving your silkie a lukewarm bath once or twice a week will help them keep their gentle skin smooth and soft and prevent cracking. Check out our guide about bathing bearded dragons.
- Moisturize – You will also need to moistruize them after every bath. Buy a specialist reptile moisturizer or use a completely natural light oil/moisturizer (no chemicals whatsoever!).
- Water Bowl – A water dish with clean, fresh water should be provided in the terrarium at all times. It needs to be shallow enough and large enough for your dragon to climb into and bathe if they need to. If they’re starting to feel any irritation or dry skin forming, they can bathe it away themselves.
You’ll need to ensure that you have both a heated and cool area in the terrarium for your bearded dragon. Silkie’s still need to bask and require the temperature to be around 43°C (110°F).
However, it is possible for a silkie to burn if they are either too close to the bulb, or if they’re under it for too long. To avoid these issues:
- Make sure that their basking spot is close enough to the bulb to heat them, but not close enough that they could touch it and burn themselves. Try 20-30cm (8-12in) in-between your dragon and the light.
- Give them a cooler area to retreat to if the light gets too much. This should be on the other side of the terrarium and should maintain at least room temperature. Providing a hideaway cave in this area is even better.
Silkback Bearded Dragon Lifespan
The average lifespan of a bearded dragon is between 10 and 12 years. Silkback bearded dragons can live just as long as any other bearded dragon with the right care.
However, due to the dangers of skin breakages and infection (which can be deadly), they require much more attentive care than a standard bearded dragon, which is generally more self-sufficient.
Silkback Bearded Dragon Health Issues
Scaleless bearded dragons can come with a few different health issues if you aren’t careful. One of the main hurdles you’ll have to get over is the shedding process.
With a standard bearded dragon, any excess skin they’re struggling to shift can usually be eased away by your finger. However, a silkie is much more sensitive, and rubbing the skin off might hurt them.
To fix this you’ll need to:
- Have 1-2 weekly baths
- Add a shed-helper into the bath
- Moisturize them after every bath
- Give them a spray of shed-ease every day
Because they have such thin skin, silkbacks dry out easily in the heat. But they need heat, just like any other dragon, so turning the light off isn’t an option.
Instead, you’ll need to purchase a humidity monitor and ensure that the humidity within their habitat is always between 40-60%. Anything less than that is likely to cause a desert-like heat, which will quickly lead to dry patches and irritation on the skin.
But how do you maintain that 40-60% humidity? A few careful sprays from a fine mist bottle a day will do the trick.
Because silkbacks have their bare skin exposed at all times and no hard scales to protect them, it’s much easier for them to absorb any chemical in their habitat or from their food sources.
Anything unnatural can soak in and make them ill, and it can be challenging to track down the source. Make sure you wash everything with clean water before placing it in with your bearded dragon.
Silkback bearded dragons should receive live food like every dragon. However, this might take a little more patience than usual, as you’ll need to make sure they finish their meal before you leave them alone.
In normal circumstances, you can leave a bearded dragon to hunt down its prey. But if crickets are left alive with your silkie, they might bite their skin and cause an infection. Make sure they’ve finished their meal and remove any leftovers.
Silkback Bearded Dragon Price
As you’d expect, silkie bearded dragons are a little more expensive than the standard variety. That’s because a lot of careful breeding has gone into developing their look and ensuring that they’re healthy.
They’re much rarer than the standard, too, so a silkback bearded dragon will cost around $250 compared to a standard that is usually $100 or less.
That’s just the price of the dragon themselves. You’ll also need to remember to factor in the price of the terrarium, lighting, food, and extra care you’ll need to provide to a silkback. So, don’t go for it without any forethought.
What Other Morphs Are There?
There are a few other well know morphs that make great pets. Each has its own specific features and will require specialized care, just like a silkback.
Has a mixture of different morph characteristics, including spotted skin, smoother skin, translucent skin, and bright patches of color. No two paradoxes are alike.
One step away from a silkback bearded dragon. A leatherback has a much smoother back than a standard dragon, but the skin is much tougher, often darker, and still has spikes around the face and sides.
Entirely white bearded dragons. They still have the same rough skin and are the same as a standard bearded dragon in every way apart from skin color. Their skin is completely clear of the characteristic pattern and is bright white.
Silkie bearded dragons have naturally great temperaments and will make an amazing, even if unusual, addition to your family. But remember, they require a lot of care and attention; make sure you understand their special care requirements before going ahead.