If you’re a first-time bearded dragon owner, watching your pet suddenly turning into black bearded dragon can be as fascinating as it can be worrying.
Luckily, a gradual color transition isn’t only normal but also expected in most beardies. However, it’s still best to keep a close eye on your pet and the circumstances leading to the transition.
Black bearded dragons are not a frequent natural occurrence. Generally speaking, if your bearded dragon turns black, an internal or external factor triggers the change. The most common triggers include temperature changes, illnesses, stress, aggression, and mating behavior.
However, the phenomenon can often be much more complex than you’d think.
Therefore, in this article, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide taking you through everything you need to know about your bearded dragon turning black, including when the change should be considered a cause for concern.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Turn Black?
If your bearded dragon turning black is not necessarily a cause for panic. As you’ll see in the following sections, there’s a wide range of triggers that might be causing the color change.
While some can be dangerous, others can be as simple as your bearded dragon trying to attract a mate.
Therefore, I highly recommend reading through this article first and considering the circumstances that lead to the transition.
If you’re still worried afterward, don’t hesitate to call your vet and speak to them about your concerns.
Bearded dragons usually turn black because of drastic temperature changes. They can also turn black when stressed, threatened, sick, trying to attract a mate or assert dominance, and when not receiving enough light.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll take you through each of these causes more in-depth, but before moving on, you should note that the color-transitioning process isn’t a freak accident.
A bearded dragon’s ability to change its pigmentation is well-documented.
The process occurs due to the presence of chromatophore cells in the bearded dragon’s skin.
These cells are renowned for their ability to catch the light in such a way that changes the color our eyes perceive.
They’re also used to facilitate thermoregulation, which you’ll learn more about in the following section.
There’s Been a Drastic Temperature Change
Drastic temperature changes are usually the main culprit behind your beardie’s color change. The chromatophore cells I previously discussed play an essential in facilitating thermoregulation.
Bearded dragons are cold-blooded creatures, which means they have to rely on external sources if they need to raise or lower their body temperature. This thermoregulation is where chromatophore cells come in.
When an environment becomes too cold, beardies seek to increase their body temperature, and one of the most efficient ways is to take on a darker color.
When chromatophore cells start reflecting less light and absorbing more, beardies can reach a more comfortable internal temperature.
For this reason, sometimes, you might find that your bearded dragon is darker in the morning and turns lighter as the day goes by when it has finally reached its optimal temperature.
If this is the case, there’s absolutely no cause for concern. What you’re witnessing is thermoregulation, and it’s a fascinating process to see firsthand.
Remember that a bearded dragon turning black doesn’t necessarily mean that your house is particularly cold.
These creatures are native to Australian deserts, meaning they thrive in high-heat environments. However, it’s still a good idea to turn the thermostat up to accommodate your beardie’s needs.
Beardies need an enclosure that provides a hotter, brighter side during the day between 88-100°F (31-38°C) and a cooler side between 75-85°F (24-29°C). Nighttime temperatures should be between 70-75°F (21-24°C).
If necessary, you can always use a heat lamp and UVB light to ensure your beardie is thriving in its ideal environment.
Remember that UV rays do not pass through glass or plastic so ensure the light is not covered in your vivarium.
The Bearded Dragon Is Feeling Stressed or Threatened
If the thermometer placed in your bearded dragon’s enclosure consistently reads 95°F (35°C) or above, temperature changes might not be the trigger behind its color change. Sometimes, a beardie turns black to communicate stress or fear.
Even though, as a bearded dragon owners, you never want to see your beardies experiencing either of these emotions, the good news is this trigger is easy to catch and remedy.
You should keep an eye on the circumstances and changes that lead to the color transition.
For example, if your bearded dragon turned black after interacting with another creature (pet or human) or taking one of those dreaded baths, chances are the cause behind the change was stress or fear.
If a beardie seems to turn black for no apparent reason and your vet has already ruled out any health-related issues, stress triggers are the most likely culprit.
These issues are relatively easy to fix. Remove your beardie immediately from the situation and prevent these occurrences from repeating in the future.
If your pet seems to have a particular disdain for baths, don’t force them. Instead, try misting regularly and only bathe your beardie when absolutely necessary (for example, when shedding).
The same goes for any other possible trigger. After removing the stressor, the bearded dragon should return to its original color. If not, there might be another underlying issue causing the color transition.
7 FACTORS That Cause Bearded Dragons To Feel Stressed or Threatened
Here are some of the most common stress and fear triggers you’ll want to look out for:
1. A New Pet/Human/Object Has Been Introduced to Their Living Space
Beardies thrive in stability. When faced with a foreign presence, they often perceive it as a potential threat. Therefore, they may need to express their aggression or fear through a visible color change.
However, as your pet becomes more comfortable with the new presence, the pigment transition should occur less and less frequently.
2. The Bearded Dragon Is Feeling Lonely
I know that this point might contradict the previous one, but with beardies, you have to learn to walk a fine line to ensure you’re socializing them enough, but not too much.
Bearded dragons, like all pets, require your care and attention. Therefore, if you’ve been ignoring your beardie for a while and it suddenly starts turning black, it might be trying to catch your eye.
3. There’s Been a Sudden Change in the Environment
Bearded dragons thrive in stability. It might be too overwhelming for your beardie to handle whether you’re moving houses or your pet’s enclosure.
It will start feeling stressed and anxious, which it communicates by turning back. As your pet becomes more comfortable in their new environment, the color should revert.
4. The Bearded Dragon Is Looking To Attract a Mate
Sometimes the reason behind your pet turning black is simpler than you’d think. Generally speaking, male bearded dragons have darker beards than their female counterparts. Therefore, as the mating season rolls around, they try to enhance this attractive, masculine feature as much as possible to find a suitable mate.
A few signs might help you determine whether your beardie is simply feeling flirty. For example, male bearded dragons accompany their mate-finding ritual with their signature head bobbing.
Moreover, you’ll find that throughout this period, your pet might behave a bit more aggressively than usual, as it’s trying to assert dominance (more on this in one of the following sections).
You could even determine whether the mating season has begun based on the time of year. However, doing so can be tricky as domesticated bearded dragons have different behavioral patterns than those in the wild.
If you suspect that this is the case, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the mating season to end before your beardie turns back to its original color.
In this instance, the pigment transition is driven by hormones, and external changes and cues will have little to no effect on reverting it.
5. Sick Bearded Dragon
Unfortunately, not all color-changing triggers are so harmless. Sometimes, your worst fear gets realized, and the reason behind your bearded dragons change color is an illness.
However, you should only come to this conclusion if the pigment transition is accompanied by other worrying signs, such as lack of appetite and discharge coming out of your beardie’s nose and eyes.
One of the most tell-tale signs of an underlying illness is a dark color under the animal’s belly.
If you notice this or any of the signs mentioned above, it’s time to consult a vet immediately.
I want to reiterate that you ultimately don’t need to observe any of these signs to call your veterinarian.
You know your pet better than anyone at the end of the day, and if the color change doesn’t sit right with you, a consultation never hurts.
In the meantime, make sure that your bearded dragon lives in a healthy, clean, comfortable environment. Some of the essential elements that positively impact a beardie’s well-being include:
- A varied, nutritionally-rich diet.
- A clean, stress-free environment.
- Time to exercise.
- Micronutrient supplementation.
6. The Bearded Dragon Is Trying To Assert Dominance
Dominance can be an especially common trigger if you keep more two bearded dragons in the same enclosure.
If one or more of your pets are male bearded dragon, there’s a high chance you’ll see them changing color to assert dominance over the shared space.
This type of behavior is typically accompanied by a dominating body language, including head bobbing or lying on top of the other animal.
I want to take this opportunity to discourage you from keeping multiple bearded dragons in the same shared space.
The species likes to live in solitude, and apart from a few unique scenarios (e.g., keeping a mother and her offspring together for a short period), in most cases, cohabitating deteriorates a beardie’s overall health.
7. The Bearded Dragon Isn’t Receiving Enough Light
I know this might be hard to hear as a loving beardie owners, but sometimes you’re simply not providing your pet with the right environmental conditions.
For example, most bearded dragons require much more light than you’d think to remain healthy and thriving.
Therefore, supplying their enclosure with a white UV light is a must; if its receiving poor lighting, your pet will start rapidly changing color, losing its appetite, and experiencing an overall deteriorated well-being.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Black?
Your bearded dragon can be black either due to excessive pigmentation or external and internal triggers causing it to change its color. Moreover, bearded dragons tend to grow darker as they age.
Before spending hours trying to determine whether your beardie is stressed, ill, or looking to attract a mate, it might be worth keeping in mind that some of them are simply more pigmented than the rest of the species.
Therefore, even though entirely black bearded dragons are unlikely to be found in the wild, there’s still a slight possibility that your is simply excessively pigmented.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Stay Black?
The answer to this question isn’t as cut-and-dry as you might’ve hoped. The permanence of a beardie’s color change heavily depends on the rigger that caused it in the first place.
For example, while excessively pigmented beardies will stay darker for a lifetime, those changing color due to a stressor will revert to a lighter color as soon as you remove the trigger from their proximity (or a few minutes after).
Bearded dragons can stay black anywhere from a few minutes to several years. If the cause behind the pigmentation change is a fleeting stressor, they should revert to their original color in a few minutes. However, if your pet gets darker due to growth, the color change will last longer.
There’s a wide range of reasons why your bearded dragon might be turning black; therefore, as worrisome as the phenomenon might look, it’s not always a cause for panic.
A bearded dragon’s black beard can be a sign for most beardie owners to watch and try to find the underlying reason behind it.
In most instances, the pigmentation change is temporary and occurs due to an internal or external trigger. Most commonly, bearded dragons turn black when there’s a sudden drop in temperature, as the color transition allows them to retain more heat.