How often do bearded dragons drink water?
Bearded Dragons World conducted a survey of 73 bearded dragons to identify how often they are drinking water in their captive environments. It was found that 66% were provided continual access to water. Out of those 7% had been observed drinking on multiple occasions, 31% were seen to drink occasionally (less than once a week), 54% had never been observed drinking directly from the water dish and 8% were only observed to drink when assisted.
Signs of dehydration in bearded dragons
Continual mild dehydration, including during long or poorly managed brumation periods, can result in or contribute to significant health issues, and in extreme cases death. Health problems may include kidney disease, shedding problems, and constipation.
Signs of dehydration may be picked up initially through lack of frequent bowel movements, decreased skin elasticity and tacky mucous membranes. Depending on the level of dehydration signs may include sunken eyes, muscle weakness or even gout. Behavioral signs may include decreased body weight and reduced activity.
There are multiple means to provide fluids including directly drinking, bathing, misting and moistening food. The articles on this page delve into the various elements of caring for bearded dragons with particular attention to hydration.
How do you get a bearded dragon to drink water?
All captive creatures should be provided with access to water. One of the issues this presents with bearded dragons is that it could be presumed that they are adequately hydrated because water is present in the enclosure, but not all have the inclination to drink from still water and therefore could dehydrate even when able to access it. With this being the case, other means of hydration are put in place including misting their body, misting vegetation and bathing.
For those able to teach their bearded dragons to drink from still water, the animal can be presented with water in the enclosure and is at less risk of continual mild dehydration which is, unfortunately, all too common and can result in some serious health issues.
On the other side of the coin, there are hazards with keeping water in a heated enclosure. The water must be changed at least daily, and the water dish washed thoroughly. The water should not be kept under the heat lamp. This could increase humidity (only a risk if the humidity is already too high) and warm the water making it far more attractive for pathogens.
If your bearded dragon does not show any interest in drinking, try misting an area in the enclosure. Forming droplets to drip off an accessory will assist in attracting attention. It may not drink directly from the water but instead rub on moist objects and flatten itself down into the moisture or more amusingly if the water is on the floor of the enclosure, flatten itself in the moist area and start surfing around in it.
Another way to attract attention is to wait until you think your bearded dragon is thirsty and then (using a misting bottle) wet the palm of your hand in front of the animal and patiently wait. It may take several attempts to get a reaction.
When misting any area in an enclosure, ensure it is clean first. Water, heat and waste matter can turn into a very unhygienic situation. Once the fun is over, clean up any excess water left.
Another means to provide additional fluids is by misting vegetation with water before offering it.
For bearded dragons that do not indulge themselves in drinking on their own, monitoring hydration levels is critical. Continual mild dehydration is disastrous for long term health. Their captivity and ability to access moisture cannot be compared to that of the wild especially for those kept in glass enclosures. There isn’t any escape from the heat levels provided which are typically (and need to be) provided for far greater duration and in excess of what they experience in the wild, this impacts their levels of hydration.
Misting bearded dragons – frequency and methods
Misting (or spraying) a bearded dragon is a common practice and particularly useful in environments that are low in humidity. Like bathing, misting is only an addition to hydration routines; it should not be the primary method. Direct fluid intake is the most effective and assured method of maintaining hydration. Misting can be used to encourage water intake by misting water into your hand and presenting it. Moving water is far more attractive than still water.
Glass enclosures are likely to have poor air circulation and mixed with pathogens in the tank; there is potential to create a very unhealthy environment. In such cases, it is best that any misting occurs outside the enclosure. You need to choose a cage that offers a lot of fresh air to your beardie, here is a list of top bearded dragon enclosures to start with.
Not all bearded dragons will readily accept misting. Ensure that it is a mist and not a stream of water being sprayed onto the reptile. Try spraying around the animal rather than on it, especially on the floor (see How do you get a bearded dragon drinking water?).
Spraying daily or interchanging with bathing may assist with hydration levels and can certainly be useful during shedding time.
In a survey conducted by Bearded Dragons World for 21 bearded dragons, 12 had a misting routine ranging between daily to once a week, 3 were misted occasionally if the weather was hot and 9 were not provided a misting routine at all. The majority of survey respondents provided glass enclosures which are likely to provide some explanation for the lack of misting routines.
Bathing your Bearded Dragon
Part of caring for bearded dragons is having a hydrating routine; when it comes to bathing, it has an added bonus of cleaning your bearded dragon as well. Some bearded dragons do not take readily to bathing. It is not necessary to bath; there are other ways to provide hydration. To start bathing keep the water shallow, little more than a puddle to assist in their comfort.
There is no need for the bearded dragon to have to swim; they are not aquatic. However, if the bearded dragon enjoys it, then the water level can be taken up enough to swim in which will aid in providing exercise. Place an object in the water such as a rock so they can move out of the water as they want. Just scoop the water by hand and pour it over the animal’s body if it stays on the rock.
The water should be luke warm which according to Mosby’s Medical Dictionary is between 90-96ºF (32-36ºC). This is within the range of basking temperatures making it ideal. For simply hydrating the bearded dragon up to 20 minutes of bathing will be sufficient, for constipation bath for 1/2 an hour or so keeping the temperature luke warm. Using a thermometer will assist when first starting until you get accustomed to what that temperature feels like to touch. Ensure the water doesn’t cool too much while your bearded dragon is bathing especially if it has recently eaten.
Some bearded dragons will bloat or puff out when bathing; this will assist in buoyancy. Splashing around and swimming is not necessarily a sign of enjoyment, it can be a sign of stress. It is important to detect the difference.
Bathing is also an excellent means of encouraging bowel movements, especially if experiencing constipation. Do not leave your pet in the bath with its bowel movements. Either remove the feces before it gets mixed into the bath water or end the bathing session.
Be cautious if using a hose on your bearded dragon, not only could the water pressure be too harsh but there is no way to regulate the temperature.
Once bathing has finished, it can be put back in the enclosure without drying first. Towel drying is not necessary.
Can offering water in the enclosure increase humidity?
There is indeed a possibility that water will increase the humidity enclosures, but unless the humidity is already at the top end (40% humidity) then this should not be of concern. Glass enclosures are likely to cause more issues than other types of enclosures with poor air circulation. Unfortunately, reptile tanks are all too readily available, manufacturers in bulk to keep prices down and marketed well by manufacturers and pet shops.
Monitor the humidity in the enclosure with and without water. If the humidity is in excess of 40%, then no further moisture should be provided in the enclosure. The choice of enclosure can impact the levels of humidity. Enclosures should always be chosen to suit the needs of the animal in all ways. Depriving the animal of access to water because it may breed disease is inappropriate and requires either a change of enclosure or more frequent and effective cleaning.
Any water provided should be placed in the cool area away from heat, warm water is neither pleasant to drink nor safe to drink as the pathogens will relish it. Keep the water clean including disinfecting daily, especially if your bearded dragon likes to bath in it.