If you’re a proud owner of a bearded dragon, you might be wondering why your little buddy is not growing as expected.
But don’t worry, there are several reasons why this could be happening, such as their habitat conditions, nutrition, genetics, and health concerns.
This article is meant to answer your lingering question: Why is my bearded dragon so small?
Some bearded dragons are smaller than others, and they don’t always grow at the same rate. But malnourished dragons and those without enough UV lighting tend to grow and be smaller (and unhealthier) than those with proper care.
In this guide, we will explore the reasons behind your bearded dragon’s small size and lack of growth, and provide you with tips on how to address these issues.
By understanding the potential causes, you can ensure that your bearded dragon stays happy, healthy, and grows to its full size and vitality.
Table of Contents
Reasons For Small Bearded Dragons
In this section, we’ll go over the main reasons your bearded dragon may be small.
We’ll also discuss what to look for and how you may be able to fix it.
Lack Of UV Lighting
Bearded dragons come from the Australian desert and have evolved to need the UV rays coming from the sun.
If it doesn’t get what it needs, bearded dragons won’t grow as they’re meant to.
The UVB from the sun (or special bulbs in captivity) helps the bearded dragon absorb the nutrients it gets from this food.
Without these nutrients, its growth may be stunted.
Bearded dragons should have a dedicated and specialized UVB light.
Turn the light off at night and the next morning.
If this is too hard to remember, buy a switch timer.
In nature, when a bearded dragon doesn’t get enough food, it won’t grow.
This state of undernourishment isn’t good for a whole host of reasons, let alone for their growth.
Younger bearded dragons should be fed often, as often as 3-5 times per day, while adult bearded dragons are fed five days a week.
For more information, check out how to help bearded dragons grow more section later on.
You’ll know if the cause is malnourishment because your pet won’t eat, and its body will appear skinny or bony.
Bearded dragons are active reptiles.
They need a lot of space to move and grow.
Much like a goldfish will grow to fit the size of the aquarium; a bearded dragon won’t grow past what the tank can handle.
It will naturally slow down its growth rate.
While a 5″ lizard may seem tiny in a 50-gallon tank, a fully grown one will fill it up easily.
It’s up to you to figure out what size to live with, but you need at least a 50-gallon tank.
For larger beardies, a 75 or 100 gallon tank may be preferred.
For more information, check out the details on how large a bearded dragon tank should be.
Sharing A Tank
Along the same lines, if you keep more than one bearded dragon in a tank (which we don’t recommend), your pet may still not have enough room, even in a 75-gallon tank.
Bearded dragons need a lot of space.
They’re territorial and won’t share a lot with other beardies, so a small space will feel even smaller.
Read our post on what can live with bearded dragons if you’re considering tank mates.
Parasites can severely affect digestive health.
This will then steal much of the nutrition your pet is getting.
This may also force them into a malnourished state.
It also may end up causing them to have loose stool.
If you suspect parasites, you need a vet to fix them.
It isn’t taken care of otherwise, and the longer you wait, the worse it will be.
Poorly Balanced Diet
The dietary needs of bearded dragons change depending on their ages (check chart below).
Younger ones need more protein, and older ones need more greens.
On top of this, they also need calcium.
In captivity, it’s prevalent for beardies to become calcium deficient.
This calcium is also a vital part of helping bearded dragons grow and reach their full size.
With feeding and younger bearded dragons, especially smaller feeder insects like crickets, won’t have a lot of natural calcium.
Combat this in three different ways:
- Increase calcium-rich greens and insects (like Dubia roaches)
- Sprinkle a dietary supplement onto the crickets or other foods
- Gut load the crickets with calcium the day before you feed the reptile
These three things should be a constant diet habit, even when you’re not worried about their weight.
And if you’re new to gut loading, read our guide to gut loading crickets for bearded dragons to give you a start on the process.
The Australian desert is hot, and bearded dragons love it.
As cold-blooded creatures from a desert environment, beardies need high temperatures for several reasons.
The higher temps help them gather energy.
It even helps with digestion.
But one way, you may not realize the heat helps is with growth.
Too low of a temperature, and your pet won’t be able to grow to a standard bearded dragon size.
Check the temperature and keep it up at 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for babies and 105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C) for adults in the basking spot.
Different Bearded Dragon Type
Another reason your bearded dragon is small may be because it’s a different species or type.
If you bought your pet from a breeder or pet store, you probably wouldn’t have gotten one of the lesser-known species, but a different morph is always possible.
Morph is a term referring to a specialized type of species.
This typing is achieved through selective breeding.
Please take a look at your pet’s markings, colors, and shape and compare it to other morphs (or check with the breeder).
Some morphs are just a little smaller than the average bearded dragon.
We have a post on bearded dragon types that goes into much greater detail.
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How Long Until My Bearded Dragon Is Fully Grown?
Bearded dragons reach maturity between 8-12 months old.
Though they grow at slightly different rates, still expect the reptiles to follow this general growth chart.
|Length in inches
|3″ – 4″ inches
|5″ – 9″ inches
|8″ – 11″ inches
|9″ – 12″ inches
|11″ – 16″ inches
|11″ – 18″ inches
|13″ – 20″ inches
|16″ – 22″ inches
Take these measurements yourself to get a general age for the bearded dragon.
Make sure you measure from the tip of their tail to the tip of their nose.
You may need to use one of your hands to hold them in place while you measure.
Don’t be surprised if they want to wiggle away!
How Can I Help My Bearded Dragon Grow?
There isn’t a lot to do beyond just giving the bearded dragon everything it needs.
To help with this, here are some quick things to check to make sure you’re providing the best possible:
- Provide a good UVB bulb for 12 hours of light per day
- Keep the temperature up at the right amount
- Feed enough food for the beardy’s age (see chart below)
- Use food higher in calcium
- Make sure the tank is 50 gallons or more
- Watch for signs of sickness
Light and temperature are easy to fix, but balancing a diet is tricky.
Just have a look at this chart, though, and it should become easy.
|30-80 insects total per day
|3-5 feeding times per day
|30-80 insects total per day
|2 feeding times per day
|30-80 insects total per day
|1 feeding time per day
|1 year +
|50 insects total per week
|1 day salad, 1 day insect, 1 day nothing and repeat
Warning! Insects and other foods should always be smaller than the distance between the bearded dragon’s eyes.
Food larger than this size has a higher chance of impacting the digestive tract and pressing on the spinal cord.
Crickets make great feeders for younger bearded dragons because they come in a variety of sizes.
Order these sizes in bulk online or in pet stores.
Greens should be fed chopped up into salads where each piece is small enough.
Sometimes bearded dragons don’t want to eat their greens, though.
This is especially true of juvenile bearded dragons as they transition to the adult stage of eating.
For more help, check out this guide on how to get bearded dragons to eat their greens.
Do Bearded Dragons Grow To The Size Of Their Cage?
Yes, and no.
Bearded dragons need a large tank (at least 50 gallons) to grow to their full potential.
However, even with a 150-gallon tank, the bearded dragon will grow only to around 2 feet in length.
Check out more information on how to set up a bearded dragon cage.
From Tiny to Thriving: Nurturing Your Bearded Dragon’s Growth
We hope you found this information on why your bearded dragon may be so small.
It is a concern if you aren’t providing enough for the beardy to be healthy.
Knowing this information can help you provide the best for your pet.