Is your bearded dragon’s skin turning black?
Are you worried about the health of your bearded dragon?
Depending on what turns black on your pet, this might be a natural behavior or sign of something more serious.
So, what does it mean when a bearded dragon turns black?
When a bearded dragon turns black in its beard, it’s a sign of stress of exerting dominance. On the other hand, if the bearded dragon turns black in its belly and skin, it may be a sign of normal temperature regulation, abnormal stress, or improper UVB lighting.
Read on for more details.
Table of Contents
Bearded Dragon’s Beard Turning Black
A bearded dragon’s beard turning black is a normal part of its behavior patterns.
There are several reasons it turns black, which are entirely natural and nothing to worry about.
Ready To Mate
If it’s the mating season and your beardy is male, the blackened beard may be a sign it’s ready to mate.
This often happens to male bearded dragons older than 5-6 months old during breeding seasons.
These black beards are often paired with anxious behavior and head bobbing.
If you see all of these behaviors, it’s likely your pet’s beard is black for a mating reason.
Note: The female’s beard can turn black during the breeding season as well.
However, this is much less likely to occur.
Breeding seasons usually happen around a month after the brumation period.
This usually happens during the winter months but is artificially forced by lowering temperatures to simulate a cold-weather environment.
However, this isn’t recommended without appropriate experience and knowledge.
We have more information on bearded dragon mating behaviors if you want to learn more in another post.
Aggression Or Dominance
Black and puffed-out beards are a normal behavior response to feeling threatened or challenged.
If a perceived predator is of similar size (or they don’t see an escape), the bearded dragon may puff out its beard, turn it black, and open its mouth wide as a way of looking bigger and more threatening.
This is especially common when dealing with territorial behavior, such as when two bearded dragons (especially two males) come across one another.
Note: We don’t recommend keeping any two bearded dragons in the same enclosure full time.
NEVER keep two males in one tank for any reason.
Stress From Relocation
During a relocation or moving to a new home, bearded dragons are naturally more stressed.
They don’t know or trust their new environment yet.
As part of this stress and exploration, bearded dragons may turn their beards dark for the same reasons as dominance: a full, dark beard is more threatening.
If you’ve just moved your bearded dragon to a new location, this may be why its beard is black.
They Want Attention
Bearded dragons are popular because they have fun behaviors, and they’re pretty smart.
If they want attention or to explore outside the enclosure, they may communicate this need by drawing attention to themselves with a darkened beard.
If other needs have been met, this may be why the beard is black.
Getting Ready To Poop
In some cases, bearded dragons darken their beards before they have to defecate.
There isn’t a clear reason why or predicting factor.
Some beardies do this every time they go, but then, some never will.
If this is the reason, the beard darkens a few hours before going and then returns to normal.
Bearded Dragon’s Body Turning Black
Many people forget the bearded dragon has color-changing abilities similar to the chameleon.
Unlike the chameleon, the beardy’s reason is more related to surviving in a hot, desert environment.
A bearded dragon can turn its entire body or belly black.
Although this is, in some cases, related to a black beard, most of the time, it’s for a completely different reason.
Check out these reasons why a bearded dragon’s body and belly may turn black.
This is by far the most common reason a bearded dragon turns black all over.
Bearded dragons thrive on high heat.
This is why their basking spot needs to be from 95° – 105° degrees Fahrenheit (35° – 41° C).
When they turn their skin black, it’s to absorb as much heat as quickly as possible.
Black absorbs heat faster and more efficiently than other colors.
It’s the same reason you don’t usually wear black on hot days.
If your enclosure is too cool, the beardy may turn black to heat itself.
Check the temperature with a good thermometer.
Don’t go right into a panic, though.
Many bearded dragons turn when they wake up with the sun (or light in captivity) as a way of heating first thing in the morning.
If a black coloration is paired with your reptile laying flat under the basking light, it’s probably just naturally controlling its body temperature.
- Day/Night Temperatures
- Humidity & Timing Control
- Alarm When Temps Reach Unsafe Levels
In cases of extreme stress, your beardie may turn all black as a sign of its feelings.
This usually resolves itself after it has calmed down though it may take a couple of days before it returns to its regular coloration.
Extreme stress might be from relocation, but it’s usually a result of something else, such as:
- Animals bugging the enclosure (cats are famously bad about doing this)
- Lights being constantly turned on and off
- Loud noises or vibrations disturbing the beardy
- Being handled too much or improperly
- Sharing a space with another reptile
If the animal is under extreme stress, you need to take steps to calm it.
You can learn how to relax your reptile in our post on tactics to calm a bearded dragon.
Essentially, all these calming methods boil down to the same ideas:
- Remove the stressors
- Check the environment for proper lighting, temp, and humidity
- Raise the body temp/comfort level
Poor UVB Exposure
Because of their naturally sunny habitat in the Australian deserts, bearded dragon physiology requires UVB light exposure.
In captivity, we need to make sure the beardies get their UVB through special light bulbs.
Keep it on for 12-16 hours and then turn it off at night.
A timer is a safe choice for this.
With a timer, you’re able to guarantee the light turns on every time, even if you forget it.
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Bad Health/ Illness
In consistent bad health or illness, a bearded dragon may turn all black or develop black “stress marks” that look like circles on its belly.
These stress marks fade with time but grow stronger the longer they’re unhealthy.
The marks are more common in younger bearded dragons.
If you’re worried your beardy is sick, you should take it to the vet.
Keep in mind; a black body is usually seen with abnormal behavior when your bearded dragon is sick.
Here are some other signs of illness to watch for:
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of movement
- Mucus around the nose and eyes
- Coughing when breathing
- Gaping mouth
- Heavy breathing
- Swollen abdomen
- Unable to move
If you see these signs with an all-black body, take your reptile to the vet right away.
It could be a sign of something major needing professional attention.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Change Color At All?
Bearded dragons can change to other colors besides black, but the question you may be asking yourself is, “Why?”
Temperature Regulation – As we discussed before, darker colors allow the reptile to gather heat more quickly.
The beardy can lighten its color if it’s too hot, although this is less common.
Camouflage – Bearded dragons have a limited color selection compared to some of their reptile brothers.
Still, in Australia’s sandy and rocky desert, it doesn’t take much change to blend into the natural yellows and reds of the environment.
Communication – They can change their colors to communicate with other bearded dragons around them.
These colors are used to signal dangerous predators nearby to other beardies.
This is usually accompanied by hand waving.
They can communicate a willingness to mate or a challenge for territory and food.
In general, bearded dragons change the color of their heads and backs to regulate temperature and camouflage, and they change their bellies and beards for social cues.
Fun Fact: When bearded dragon color-changing abilities were studied, it was discovered they have specific control over which limbs change to a particular color.
They can even change different parts to different colors for various reasons, all at the same time.
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We hope you found our information helpful in figuring out why a bearded dragon turns black.
In almost every case, this isn’t a cause for serious alarm.
With some simple checks, you will help your beardy feel happy and be healthy.
Keep in mind, if you’re in doubt about your pet’s health, take it to the vet.
Color changing by itself is not a typical sign of any severe problems, but a vet visit may be in order when partnered with other unusual behavior.