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Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Bad And Stink?

Have you noticed your bearded dragon seems to have developed a strong odor?

Are you afraid to adopt a bearded dragon because you’ve heard they smell?

Unfortunately, this is a common myth which even experienced beardy owners fall prey to.

But the smell is still there at times.

So you may wonder, “Why does my bearded dragon smell?”

A bearded dragon’s smell isn’t because of the reptile itself; it gives no specific odor. Instead, what you smell from a bearded dragon results from an unclean environment and is easily remedied with proper care.

Read on for more details on odor causes and ways to fix them.

smelly bearded dragon mouth open

Causes Of Bearded Dragon Smell

Bearded dragons don’t exude any natural smell.

As a cold-blooded creature, it uses no sweat glands to regulate temperature.

Instead, your pet will hold its mouth open and position itself in different locations of its tank.

Therefore, a bearded dragon doesn’t naturally smell bad itself.

It’s all up to its environment.

Bearded dragons absorb the odors around them.

Read below for specific causes of odor in bearded dragons.

Unclean Tank

If you don’t clean your tank regularly, bacteria can gather inside the enclosure along the same lines.

Not only does this increase the chances of infection, but it also adds a distinctly unclean odor to the tank, which pet bearded dragons then absorb on their body.

This is one of the reasons we recommend cleaning the tank once a week and deep cleaning it once per month.

Check out our in-depth article on how to clean a bearded dragon cage.

This may be the cause of your beardy’s smell, especially if you’re using reptile carpet requiring some attention.

Leftover Food

Another problem with bearded dragon smells is when the owner leaves food inside the tank.

It is against the recommendations for feeding (food rots quickly and makes the beardy sick); it also creates a smell that the reptiles then gather on its skin.

After you feed the beardie as much as it’ll eat in one sitting, you need to remove the food right away.

Leaving food in the tank causes it to rot, which smells bad.

This may be the cause of your bearded dragon’s smell if you smell something vaguely sour.

Cheap Or Dirty Substrate

Even following all of the recommendations may result in a smell you recognize from pet stores.

This smell is still not caused by the bearded dragon but from a cheap or dirty substrate.

Substrate or flooring is important for reptiles of all kinds, and many people go with cheaper loose substrate options like wood chips.

These are cost-effective and don’t usually cause problems as long as you get ones that aren’t treated with chemicals or too small where a baby bearded dragon can eat them.

However, they exude a recognizable smell your beardy will begin to reek of.

If you feel like your pet has a “pet store” smell, it’s probably the substrate or flooring.

And if you’re wondering what substrate to use, we have a post on the best bearded dragon substrates where we have reviewed the different options.

Poop And Urine

bearded dragon poop

Bearded dragon poop and urine are the most significant cause of the foul odor.

A bearded dragon’s poop and urine have a strong and foul smell (as you would imagine).

However, if you remove the droppings quickly with a paper towel, your reptile won’t gather the smell.

This is one of the reasons we recommend spot cleaning for droppings at least 1-2 times per day.

This will also prevent the spread of salmonella bacteria.

The people who complain about the worst odor with this lizard let it sit in the tank for a few days before cleaning it up.

While cleaning poop isn’t the most fun experience, it gives you an insight into your pet’s health.

Dry and chalk-like poop will tell you if your bearded dragon is dehydrated. It’ll help you take care of your pet better.

We have another post dedicated to bearded dragon poop that we recommend to everyone as it’s an essential part of their health.

Fungal Infection

Still, your bearded dragon may have a fungal infection which can cause an odor.

The chances of catching a fungal infection increases in unclean environments, sharing space with other animals (not recommended), or if the humidity is too high.

If it is a fungal infection, a trip to the vet can fix this quickly.

You may also want to read our post on antifungal creams for bearded dragons if you suspect your pet is experiencing this.

This may be the cause of the bearded dragon smell if you also see odd flaking on the reptile’s skin or other symptoms of poor health such as:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of movement
  • Mucus around the mouth or eyes
  • Excessive gaping, hiding, or puffing
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What To Do About A Bearded Dragon Smell

Knowing a bearded dragon’s smell comes from its environment, there are steps to take to eliminate the odor from this reptile.

Here are some techniques to get rid of the odor.

Cleaning The Tank

Ensuring the tank is clean is key to a healthy bearded dragon and one free of bad smells.

There are three layers of cleaning:

  1. Spot Cleaning (1-2x per day)
  2. Regular Cleaning (1 per week)
  3. Deep Cleaning (1 per month)

First, doing these regular lowers the risk of bacteria and infection.

It also limits the gathering of smelly bacteria and a pervasive feces and urine smell.

Check out our article on how to clean a bearded dragon cage for more detailed information on these different levels of cleaning.

Lower the Humidity Level

Bearded dragons are native to the hot deserts of Australia.

As such, they shouldn’t be exposed to high humidity levels anyway.

But, if the humidity is higher than normal, the cage may gather bacteria quicker, resulting in a smellier environment.

The relative humidity should be between 35-40%.

Use a hygrometer or thermometer capable of measuring both; here is our review of our favorite thermometers if you need one.

If the humidity is too high, use a dehumidifier in the room where you keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure.

This should lower the humidity and prevent problems with bacteria and smell from moisture.

Getting Higher Quality Substrate

If you keep the bearded dragon tank clean, the humidity low, and remove the food right away, think about your substrate or flooring.

Is it cheaper? Is it high quality?

Replace the substrate with a new one more frequently or opt for a more expensive and quality type.

We recommend this Zilla Reptile substrate flooring liner on Amazon.

It’s quality enough; it doesn’t hold smells and tough enough; it doesn’t break easily.

It also works well with small bearded dragons who may eat a chip-based substrate and choke.

Remove The Food Right Away

Get in the habit of removing the food right away.

Food left in the tank after eating can rot quickly and cause illness.

This rotting also creates a funny smell.

Sometimes worms or other feeder insects can escape into hard-to-see spots.

Do a cursory check around furniture and in the substrate for leftover food even if you don’t think there’s any left.

There may be a piece of fruit under something stinking up the tank you didn’t realize was there.

Check For Fungal Infections

Check for fungal infections by looking for discolored or scaly-looking skin. You’re looking for thick yellow plaques on your beardy’s face, legs, and back.

Also, take note of any other poor health behaviors.

Take your pet to the vet for a checkup and possible medications if you notice these.

Bathing A Bearded Dragon

bathing a bearded dragon

This should be something you do regularly (every 1-2 months or as often as you want).

Please read our article on how to bathe a bearded dragon for more details, but here’s a quick summary on how to do this as well.

The six basic steps are to:

  1. Fill the tub with warm tap water up to the bearded dragon’s shoulders
  2. Put the dragon in calmly taking care not to get water in its eyes
  3. Clean the bearded dragon by pouring water on its back and gently rubbing it with a brush
  4. Letting it play and soak in the water
  5. Pat dry and warm your bearded dragon
  6. Clean up the tub with soap and water

Tip: Make sure the water temperature is between 85-92 degrees. You can use a thermometer to be certain.

Commonly Asked Questions

Does bearded dragon shed smell?

Most animals (such as us mammals) are constantly shedding and replacing skin cells.

The “shed” from us contains still partially living cells that smell when released.

Bearded dragons, however, don’t drop their shed until it’s completely dead.

It dies as soon as they start to go through their shedding process.

For this reason, as they drop their shed, it doesn’t smell at all.

Why does my bearded dragon smell like (insert specific smell)?

If you think your bearded dragon smells odd and you recognize the scent (fish is one people think they smell like sometimes), it’s either because of the food or the cage.

Sometimes, a bearded dragon smells like a certain food if they recently ate it.

They shouldn’t smell too strongly of it, though.

If they smell strongly of food, check the enclosure for food remnants that may have been hidden after a feeding.

Do bearded dragons sweat?

Sweat is a mechanism warm-blooded animals use to cool their body temperature.

Reptiles don’t need to do this because they’re cold-blooded.

If they have to, they change their temp by opening their mouths, finding a different spot, or changing their color. So, nope, bearded dragons don’t sweat.

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Want the ultimate guide to owning bearded dragons?

We've cut out all the confusion of owning bearded dragons in this easy-to-read ebook. It'll help you save money and ensure your pet lives its best life!

  • Save Money
  • Save Time
  • Avoid Mistakes
  • Longer Pet Lifespan
Click to Learn More

Smelly Business: Exploring the Causes of Bearded Dragon Odor

We hope you learned why your bearded dragon smells.

It’s not the beardy itself (unless it has a fungal infection).

The cause is the environment it lives in.

By cleaning the tank and bearded dragon regularly and removing leftover food right away, you will avoid the strong odors many people mistakenly associate with this reptile.

Don’t let this myth scare you off from owning this fun and oddly cute pet!

Get informed, and it’ll all be just fine.

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