If you’ve been lucky enough to own a bearded dragon, you must have been intrigued by their eyesight. And if you’re planning to adopt one soon, chances are you’re curious to know how the dragons see at various angles and times.
In this post, our comprehensive probe into bearded dragon’s eyesight reveals how the lizards see, what they can see, and everything that affects their eyesight. Additionally, we reveal whether they see colors and share some valuable information nuggets to improve your beardie pet’s eyesight.
But first, do bearded dragons have good eyesight? Absolutely! Bearded dragons have exceptional eyesight to help them evade predators and chase after prey. They have two primary eyes positioned at the sides of their head that give a wider field of vision than most other animals.
Along with this, beardies have a third eye that looks like a grey spot at the peak of the skull between the primary eyes. This third eye only detects changes in light such as shadows and movements. Nevertheless, beardies are rumored to have poor perception of distances and surrounding objects.
How Do Bearded Dragons Perceive Objects and Surroundings?
When eyes are centrally located on the skull as with humans and most animals, vision tends to take a generally straight path from the face. Moreover, central eye placement on the face results in limited peripheral vision around the shoulders. This means we often need to turn our neck or body for a better all-round view.
On the other hand, bearded dragons are created differently. The location of the primary eyes at the sides of the head results in a wider field of view than most animals.
In addition, this convenient eye placement allows beardies to see objects in front, at the sides, and behind almost simultaneously without turning.
Other than the two primary eyes, possibly the most intriguing characteristic of bearded dragons is their third eye. This eye is called the parietal eye and it’s barely visible as a grey spot on top of the skull, just between the two main eyes.
Surprisingly, many beardie owners are unaware of this eye and the pivotal role it plays in the survival and comfort of their pet reptile.
The third (parietal) beardie eye is complete with a lens and retina but lacks an iris, so it doesn’t perceive colors and images like the others.
Nonetheless, it detects shadows and light variations from above, thereby providing vital information about changes in the surroundings that affect the survival and comfort of beardies.
Moreover, the parietal eye features a lean and transparent skin layer for protection against external elements. For this reason, it’s okay to pet your beardie pet on the head as long as you’re gentle.
Is Sight Essential to Bearded Dragons?
In reality, bearded dragons would find it nearly impossible to survive in the wild without proper eyesight. They’d be easily overrun by their predators or die of starvation.
At best, a beardie would find life extremely challenging and uncomfortable in their natural habitat without appropriate vision.
Likewise, captive beardies rely on apt vision from their primary and parietal eyes to survival and thrive in the terrarium.
Although the pet owner provides most of the food, protection, and comfort for caged beardies, the lizards still need accurate vision to live a healthy, active, comfortable, and long life.
Let’s take a more profound look at the importance of strong eyesight in bearded dragons:
1. Dodging Predators and other Perceived Threats
Since bearded dragons are prey to some animals and birds, it’s imperative that they have acute eyesight to evade predators in the wild. They leverage the wide-angle view of their primary eyes to concurrently scan all their surroundings without perceptibly moving their neck or body.
Moreover, beardies are blessed with a secret weapon- their third (parietal) eye that detects predators when they approach or hover overhead.
The eye’s ability to sense even slight light changes around the beardie allows them sufficient time to escape from danger particularly when they’re in an exposed spot such as when basking.
In the same vein, correct eyesight is crucial to guarantee survival, all-round health, and comfort in captive bearded dragons.
Remember, beardies interpret any strange creature, object, or surroundings as a potential predator or threat, and dash into hiding for safety.
Besides, even a captive beardie can be preyed upon by any predator than finds their way to your terrarium. In this light, correct vision is essential to help the beardie to scrutinize their surroundings and respond appropriately.
There’s more: Captive bearded dragons use their third eye to sense light variations in their tank and respond in step. For instance, they can detect when you’re about to pick them up and will dodge away if they don’t want to be disturbed.
In the same way, the parietal eye helps the captive lizard pets to evade perceived predators or other threats in or around their artificial habitat.
2. Capturing Prey and Locating Other Types of Food
In the wild, bearded dragons bank on their brilliant all-round eyesight to locate food and hunt prey, particularly live bugs. The placement of their primary eyes at the sides of the head enables them to easily spot food and track potential prey from multiple angles without even batting an eye.
Similarly, beardies in captivity use their excellent vision to see the food you feed them as well as spy on and hunt live feeders.
While their sharp eyesight allows them to spot the food, their acute wide-angle viewpoint facilitates stealthy hunting of any insects hiding inside the tank.
3. Navigation and Orientation
In their natural habitats, bearded dragons and other breeds of lizards are extremely territorial reptiles that occupy specific areas as their own. You’ll rarely find two beardies living on the same spot as they’re solitary creatures.
By the same token, captive bearded dragons choose specific spots in their tank for basking, laying eggs, sleeping, hiding, and get through brumation. Like most lizards, bearded dragons are habitual creatures that hardly deviate from their chosen spots.
Since bearded dragons are adventurous, they often move away from their territory to explore the surroundings.
You must have observed your beardie moving around their tank but they always return to their select spots without a struggle. No doubt you’re wondering how this is possible.
In this study, two scientists set out to establish whether lizards use their parietal (third) eye or other senses for navigation. They caught numerous lizards, covered the parietal eyes of half the lizards, and then released the entire group more than 200 meters away from their homes.
The result: The lizards with exposed parietal eyes found their way back home easily. In contrast, the group with masked parietal eyes was disoriented and took more than two days longer than the other group to retrace their way back home.
Thus, the study concluded that lizards such as bearded dragons, geckos, and other breeds use the parietal eye for navigation and orientation.
In the wild, beardies use the third eye to find their way back home while those in captivity employ it to retrace their steps to specific spots inside their enclosure.
4. Establishing the Time of Day
Unlike nocturnal creatures, bearded dragons are diurnal (naturally active during the day but turn in when dusk sets in). As the sun sets and darkness starts engulfing the world, a beardie’s parietal eye detects the deteriorating daylight and determines that it’s nearing night, the time to retire for the day.
In the same way, a caged beardie’s third eye perceives the onset of darkness when you switch off the lights in the terrarium, and they head to their sleeping area.
Like their wild friends, a constant day-and-night cycle is crucial for a captive beardie to enjoy a healthy, comfy, full, and cheerful life.
That’s why it’s vital to keep them on a regular bedtime routine by killing the terrarium lights at a fixed time every night.
Beardie experts recommend turning off the terrarium lights at night as your beardie could wrongly presume it’s daytime.
In turn, this would interrupt the dragon’s sleep patterns, often with awful health and behavioral repercussions.
What Affects a Bearded Dragon’s Eyesight?
By now, we all agree that eyesight is an essential component of a bearded dragon’s life. The pets rely on sharp, wide-angle, and parietal vision not only for survival but also to thrive in both natural and artificial habitats.
But there’s a catch: More often than not, a mix of factors inside and around the terrarium influences the way a bearded dragon perceives things. Here are the most obvious:
Like in the wild, bearded dragons in captivity rely a lot on their diet to grow and develop their eyesight. Thus, beardies need sufficient and healthy food choices to cultivate and maintain strong vision.
On the other hand, a deficient diet often leads to poor eyesight in bearded dragons. In turn, this causes subsequent consequences such as illnesses, inability to locate food or hunt prey, failure to identify threats such as predators, and eventually, untimely death.
2. Lighting Arrangement
We’ve already established that a regular lighting schedule is crucial for a bearded dragon to thrive in captivity. In addition, beardies need sufficient UVB exposure to digest food and assimilate various nutrients such as calcium into their systems for healthy growth.
Thus, abrupt and inconsistent variations in the duration and frequency of artificial lighting are bound to decline the uptake of nutrients and minerals from ingested food. In turn, unsuitable lighting arrangements weaken bearded dragons’ vision and deteriorate the reptiles’ overall health.
3. Terrarium Temperature
Bearded dragons are ectothermic- they derive heat from the surroundings unlike mammals that generate third own body heat. For this reason, the temperature inside the beardie’s tank affects the pet’s body temperature directly.
But that’s not all. Beardies thrive at specific temperature ranges-their overall health (including that of their eyes) and behavior depends on the temperature in their enclosure. Thus, temperature discrepancies could make it too hot or too cold for the lizards to perceive properly.
4. Parasitic and Infectious Attacks
Parasites fleece bearded dragons of valuable nutrients by sucking their blood or clinging to the pets’ digestive tract. As a result, only a fraction of the nutrients go toward improving the health of a parasite-laden bearded dragon.
In the same breath, diseases prevent bearded dragons from growing and developing as they should. Consequently, an ill bearded dragon, especially one that falls sick in their early days, is more likely to have flawed eyes and experience defective vision.
Further, a bearded dragon’s vision plummets if their eyes get infected. Eye infections impact visibility in beardies in a number of ways.
They could damage the eyes, cause watery eyes, or prevent the eyes from opening correctly. As a result, the eyes function less efficiently, and vision gets impaired.
5. Shedding and Brumation
During brumation and skin shedding, bearded dragons are known to eat less, play little, and sleep a lot. These extended periods of sleep mean that the beardies keep their eyes shut, and this prevents them from seeing as much as they normally would.
How Can You Improve a Bearded Dragon’s Eyesight?
As the owner and care-giver of a bearded dragon pet, the responsibility to keep the reptile’s eyes healthy and in flawless working state falls squarely on your shoulders. Besides that’s the only way to guarantee your pet perfect eyesight and a blissful life.
Here’s what you can offer a captive beardie to perk up their eyes’ health and vision:
1. Proper Nourishment
It goes without saying that proper nutrition is at the core of healthy growth and living for any creature. Equally, a bearded dragon needs sufficient and correctly balanced food in their diet for their eyes to grow, develop, and function effectively.
Bearded dragons require a mix of proteins from insects and vitamins from veggies and other green plant fodder for all-round healthy living. Moreover, they need a daily uptake of calcium, vitamin, and other nutrient supplements for ideal eyesight.
But it doesn’t end there. You must feed the beardie with the right amounts of balanced diets in the right frequency for optimal health in the eyes and other parts of the body.
The correct proportions of proteinous insects and vitamin-rich veggies vary with the reptile’s age. In addition, the recommended frequency of feeding caged beardies changes with their age.
Ideally, you should aim to feed young bearded dragons a diet of 75% insect proteins and 25% plant vitamins.
On the other hand, adult beardies best benefit from a diet of 25% proteins and 75% vitamins. Don’t forget to include the recommended doses of calcium, vitamin, and other mineral supplements.
2. Appropriate Lighting
Caged bearded dragons should live in constant light-and-darkness cycles for optimal health. Since sleep, feeding, playing, and basking are equally important, it’s paramount for the beardies to get sufficient time for each to ensure proper development and functioning of eyes and other organs.
Beyond this, captive bearded dragons require Ultraviolet-B (UVB) lighting in the basking area of their tank. The UVB light facilitates the digestion of ingested food and the assimilation of nutrients such as vitamin D3 and calcium.
Ensure your bearded dragon’s cage has the right UVB lighting set up so that the lizards can derive maximum benefit from the food you provide via feeding and supplementation. Only then can you expect their eyes to function at their best.
Here are a few tips to help you set up and maintain appropriate lighting for your beardie friend:
- Place the light bulbs strategically without barriers between them and the beardie to help the pet receive most of the emitted heat and UVB rays
- Install light shades around high-intensity UVB lights to lower the intensity and protect your bearded dragon from harm
- Use suitable light fixtures and corresponding bulbs to prevent melting and the possibility of electric fires
3. Maintain Suitable Tank Temperatures
Since beardies are cold blooded (endothermic), any temperature variations in their tank can affect the efficiency of various organs and systems in their bodies. Extremely high temperatures elicit heightened scratching and panting whereas very low temperatures inhibits proper digestion and makes beardies lethargic.
Both high and low temperature extremes hinder accurate eyesight and can kill your beardie pet.
For this reason, you’re advised to maintain the temperature ranges of various dedicated points in the cage in recommended ranges.
Ideally, you should cap the temperatures in the general are at 80° to 85° Fahrenheit while maintaining the basking area at 90°-115° Fahrenheit.
Further, the cooling section should stay between 75° and 80° for optimal eye performance and overall healthy and comfy living.
As a rule of thumb, remember to keep the temperature ranges at their lower limits at night and then crank them up to the upper limits during the day.
This way, you’ll mimic the conditions of the dragons’ natural habitat better and allow them a better opportunity to flourish in captivity.
4. Overall Hygiene
Naturally, filth fosters the growth and propagation of various disease causing pathogens including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In the same way, a dirty beardie’s body, tank, and food are more likely to attract pathogens.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg considering the countless harmful consequences such as infections that thrive in dirt. Additionally, some filth-borne repercussions are long-lasting and costly to resolve.
Worse yet, waiting too long or failing to resolve unhygienic conditions can aggravate a situation that’s already awful.
Your beardie could suffer malnourishment due to a parasitic attack, experience excessive diarrhea, get dehydrated, lose a lot of weight, and possibly die before their time elapses.
Luckily, you can evade most hygiene-related challenges by keeping your beardie’s food, body, and cage spotless.
A simple way to achieve this is by bathing the pet occasionally, cleaning their tank frequently, and supplying them with clean and fresh food daily.
Do Bearded Dragons See Colors?
Yes! Like other lizards, bearded dragons have a built-in capacity to perceive colors. Surprisingly, they can see a broader spectrum of colors than humans.
Here’s the simple explanation: Human eyes have three light-sensitive cones at the back that detect and identify a range of colors in light.
On the other hand, the primary eyes of bearded dragons and their fellow lizard fraternity are equipped with four light-sensitive cones that perceive a far wider color spectrum.
Besides enabling bearded dragons to distinguish millions of extra color than most other animals, the additional light sensitive cone enables the lizards to perceive UV light.
Are Red Lights Bad for Bearded Dragons?
Yes, red lights are bad for bearded dragons. It may be a shocker to many, especially inexperienced bearded dragon owners. Generally, you shouldn’t allow red lights inside or around a beardie’s tank especially at night.
Sadly, many amateur bearded dragon owners often follow common misleading recommendations to purchase red lights for their newly-adopted lizards.
Although they’re sometimes branded ‘red basking lights’ with labels that claim to help beardies sleep better, red lights are harmful to these lizards.
Red lights are considered unsafe for bearded dragons for several reasons but the most apparent ones include:
1. Sleep Deprivation
Those who recommend red lights for use in beardie cages claim that the lizards don’t perceive this type of light. On the contrary, bearded dragons clearly distinguish the light from a spectrum of millions of other colors.
Thus, keeping a red light on in a beardie tank at night disrupts the lizard’s usual sleep-wake cycle as they might wrongly interpret the light as daylight and wake up.
After this, the pet may not fall back asleep again for the night, leading to acute sleep deficiency.
Besides, e light doesn’t yield sufficient heat to keep a beardie warm at night. As a result of insomnia, bearded dragons are susceptible to other corresponding difficulties counting anxiety, aggravated stress levels, and a dwindling appetite.
2. Eye damage
Beardies are extremely sensitive to light, including ultraviolet light. Moreover, their eyes’ pupils require bright light to contract and shield the eye from UV light damage.
Unfortunately, red light isn’t sufficiently bright to contract the pupils in beardies’ eyes. Thus, using this light often leads to eye damage from harmful UV rays.
3. Diminishing appetite and Upsetting the Immune System
Red light emits limited amounts of UVB light that’s insufficient for effective digestion and nutrient absorption. Moreover, using red lights in a bearded dragon’s tank at night usually disrupts the animal’s normal sleeping cycle.
The insufficient UVB light and recurrent sleep interruption occasioned by red light often impacts bearded dragons’ appetite adversely and compromises their immune system. Consequently, your pet is more susceptible to frequent illness attacks.
Instead of red lights, consider using these alternative appliances to light up or warm your bearded dragon’s tank:
- Fluorescent bulbs to supply safe UVB light
- Ceramic bulbs to keep your beaded dragon sufficiently warm
- Mercury vapor bulbs that emit both ultraviolet rays and heat
- Ceramic heaters that supply only infrared heat to warm up and keep beardies comfy at night.
Bearded dragons continue to fascinate more pet owners each day with their unique attributes. But probably one of their most intriguing concepts about these reptile pets is their eyesight. Beardies have three eyes that provide superior vision.
While a beardie’s primary eyes offer sharp and wide-angle visibility, their third (parietal) eye picks out light variations and shadows in the reptile’s immediate surroundings.
Combined, the two sets of eyes allow beardies to perceive objects and surroundings with surprising clarity.
The extraordinary vision in bearded dragons is essential for survival and comfort. It not only enables the lizards to evade predators and other apparent threats but also allows the dragons to efficiently hunt insect prey and pin-point other foods.
Beyond this, beardies’ enhanced eyesight helps them in judging the time of day, navigating back to their territory, and regaining orientation.
If you own or plan to adopt a bearded dragon pet, prepare to play your part in growing and maintaining their vision at its optimum.
Nourish them accordingly, maintain various weather elements in their artificial habitat such as temperature and humidity at recommended levels, and observe overall hygiene to keep your beardie pet healthy all-round, cozy, and lively.