Complete Guide To Brumation in Bearded Dragons (Beginner’s Guide)

One day your beardie is all active and soaking under the heat lamp. The next day, they won’t even wake up and aren’t looking quite like themselves. As temperatures begin to reduce and days become shorter, ectotherms like bearded dragons face a hard time trying to cope up with these changes.

If you’ve noticed your beardie has become lethargic, lost his appetite, and become extremely sleepy, it’s normal to think something has happened to your dragon. Don’t fret. Your beardie is probably undergoing a harmless process called brumation.

Brumation refers to the process when a bearded dragon becomes dormant through the winter months. This article will explain why this happens and how long you can expect how long the brumation lasts. We will also include tips on how to care for your brumating bearded dragon.

What Is Brumation in Bearded Dragons?

Brumation in bearded dragons is the process of sleeping for prolonged periods and conserving energy during the winter months. Brumation occurs in captive and wild bearded dragons and is similar to hibernation in mammals. 

Bearded dragons have natural survival instincts that kick in during the colder months when it’s harder to get the right amount of sunlight and temperature absorption needed to digest meals.

During winter, most insects and vegetation that the bearded dragons feed on in the wild naturally die, creating a need to save up energy by brumating until spring when the sun shines for longer hours during the daytime bringing with it an abundance of food. 

Differences Between Brumation and Hibernation?

Brumation occurs in reptiles while mammals hibernate. The mammals will sleep for prolonged periods without waking up to drink or feed when hibernating. Hibernating animals only rely on their fat stores to sustain them until the weather improves and food is available. 

Reptiles, on the other hand, brumate a similar process, albeit less deep sleep compared to mammals. The reptile will reduce movement and sleep for long periods during brumation to save energy.

However, the reptile can awaken to hydrate during brumation. 

Why Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?

Bearded dragons brumate during the winter months by burrowing to avoid the freezing temperatures. They save up energy as food is scarce during the cold months. 

Beardies also brumate as a natural instinct even in captivity, as it’s genetically ingrained for the reptile to brumate.

In captivity, where they cannot sense the seasonal weather changes, beardies will still brumate, although some will not.

Brumation is also linked to bearded dragons’ hormonal changes that make them more likely to breed after waking from brumation.

As a result, you will have to let your beardie brumate when they start including this natural life cycle. 

When Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?

It depends, but most bearded dragons brumate the first time between 10-24 months. In other words, some brumate in their first year while others may not brumate until they reach three years. Some will not brumate at all. 

Bearded dragons brumate during the cold months for around four weeks to four months, depending on the weather conditions.

However, pet beardies tend to brumate for shorter periods as their enclosures often have room temperature, significantly warmer than the cold Australian winters in which they have evolved to survive.

6 Brumation Signs and Behaviors in Bearded Dragons

How do you know your bearded dragon is brumating? There are common signs of this, but since it’s a combination of signs, different lizards may show it in different ways.

Some of the most common signs of brumation may include the following:

1. Inactivity or slugging movement

One of the most common signs of brumation is being slow and sluggish. It’s what makes them spend more time hiding, less time under the basking lamp, and decreased movement.

2. Reduced appetite for food

Some bearded dragons might still eat less during brumation, while others refuse food altogether. They won’t usually have an appetite for food during brumation, but you should also consider other reasons for reduced appetite in dragons.

3. Sleeping a lot and earlier

You may also notice that the beardie sleeps frequently during the day. Also, an early sign of brumation is going to sleep an hour ahead of their usual time. Most will prefer to sleep on the cooler side, but some will not do this.

4. Not defecating as usual.

With the decreased appetite, some bearded dragons will also refuse to eat at all. As a result, when brumation starts, they won’t eat at all hence the fewer poops.

5. Frequent hiding

Just before brumation, your beardie may start to love hiding in the caves and hiding in the tank.

That’s why you should have sufficient hides and tank décor where your beardie feels safe and comfortable for a healthy brumation.

6. Burying themselves in the substrate

In the Australian dry woodlands, bearded dragons can be seen preparing for brumation by burying themselves to keep safe from predators.

Burying also allows them to regulate their body temperature while they sleep underneath. This innate behavior is also seen in captivity, which is a vital sign that brumation is about to begin.

Most first-time owners panic about finding these symptoms. However, you do not need to worry because the process is harmless.

Sometimes the signs can resemble symptoms of an illness, infection, injury, or stress. Still, if you are uncertain, you should get advice from your vet.

Does Brumating Have Benefits?

Yes, it’s a natural behavior for them and helps reset the pet’s biological breeding clock. As they sleep, the cold temperatures favor the male sperm.

During the warm season, females begin ovulating. In fact, a few weeks after brumation, males begin looking for a mating partner when the females are ready.

Brumation is also beneficial for temperature regulation. Bearded dragons may not brumate because their environment is ideal.

However, in the wild, brumation is triggered by the environment and serves as a natural way to stay warm and keep the metabolism slow until the season is right.

Factors Affecting How Long Bearded Dragons Brumate

It’s impossible to control brumation, but some variables can affect how long your pet beardie sleeps.

Although there’s no way to know how long the process could take, owners can sometimes persuade them to shorten brumation and even decide when they do it.

Some variables such as age cannot be changed, but some like temperature and lighting can.

Check out factors that affect brumation.

1. Age of your bearded dragon

The first thing to note is that beardies will rarely go into brumation until they are at least ten months old.

The logic is that younger dragons haven’t built enough fat reserves to use during the brumation period. That, coupled with the fact that baby dragons need more attention than adults to continue growing, makes brumation unlikely.

Since bearded dragons under a year do not brumate, you need to take them to the vet immediately if your young beardie starts showing signs of brumation.

2. Geographic location

Bearded dragons are likely to go to brumation in the early months of winter and during the fall season. Beardies are likely to brumate between September and February in the northern hemisphere.

Bearded dragons in the southern hemisphere begin to brumate between March and August. They do this because of the cold climate outdoors.

3. Temperature and lightning

Captive beardies brumate for shorter periods than those in their natural environment in the wild. This is because the temperature indoors is warm and more favorable than what they get in their natural settings in the cold months.

Rather than sleeping the entire winter, your beardie will only brumate for a few weeks (if at all) before the warmth in the enclosure awakens them to spring.

If you can notice the signs of brumation, you could try leaving the lights on for a longer time, raising the temperatures by a few degrees, letting them out of the tank to encourage running and exercise, and allowing them to go outside when it’s sunny.

Doing these will actually discourage brumation and may shorten the period.

What To Do When Your Beardie Is Brumating?

Brumation is a process that bearded dragons have evolved to do amazingly well over the years. Still, you can do a few things to ensure the bearded dragon has a healthy brumation experience.

You should encourage them by mimicking their natural conditions and allowing them to do their own thing without interrupting.

1. Allow them to bury themselves

In the wild, they make holes and caves to sleep in during the winter in the wild. This way, they can receive some warmth when the sun isn’t intense, while feeling safe from predators.

You can give them this opportunity in captivity by offering a suitable substrate that mimics the wild. Avoid keeping your beardie on tile or carpet.

2. Offer hides

As well as offering the best quality of the substrate, you can also offer hides, so they have places to sleep during the brumation period.

Make sure the hide is spacious enough for the dragon to fit. Also, it should help them regulate their body temperature.

3. Provide clean water

You still have to perform all the aspects of care like providing access to clean water, whether or not they drink it. Your dragon will be needing some water from time to time to keep healthy.

4. Give them a bath (optional)

If your bearded dragon is not drinking water, you have no option but to give them a bath.

If the beardie does not drink, you might want to offer a bath every 7-10 days to increase hydration. A 20–30-minute soak is all they need to support a healthy brumation process.

5. Reduce the temperature and lighting

When your beardie starts to brumate, you want to reduce the heat and light. If your dragon eats small amounts of food, keep the heat and light for a few hours.

Undigested food in the stomach can rot and endanger a beardie’s health. As the days go by, you should decrease the temperature in the tank to a very low level.

You shouldn’t cut off the heat entirely as this does not replicate their experience in the wild. However, most of the time don’t expose your bearded dragon to UVB light.

6. Offer some food

If they wake up during brumation, offer some food whether they eat or refuse. Favorite food for brumating beardies might include live feeds such as roaches, mealworms, silkworms, leafy veggies, and other safe herbs.

Sometimes he might have a bite or sip the water. If they do eat, make sure to turn on the lights for some time to help them digest it. Also, make sure the tank is clean to make brumation much easier.

Brumation is an arduous process for first-time owners, but these basic rules should encourage your beardie to brumate the right way.

Do Bearded Dragons Lose Weight During Brumation?

A healthy bearded dragon will not lose much weight during brumation. Ideally, your bearded dragon should have enough fat stores to support the process.

How much weight a bearded dragon loses during brumation will depend on a variety of factors such as age, the weight before brumation, and how long the process lasts. Some say they could lose 2-5 grams during brumation.

Just to be sure, it’s essential to weigh your beardie before the process starts and once every other week to keep a record.

If you notice your bearded dragon losing too much weight, you should consult a vet for an opinion. If you’re unsure whether your dragon is healthy enough to support brumation, you should consult a vet for a checkup.

If you’re unsure whether your dragon is healthy enough to support brumation, you should consult a vet for a checkup.

How Long Does Brumation Last?

Brumation will typically last as long as the Australian winter does. In most cases, the period can range from one to three months.

Expect them to enter into sleep anytime starting early June to September. If your beardie does not follow these seasonal cycles, they’ll likely brumate according to the conditions in their environment (tank).

During brumation, expect the pet to spend most of the time asleep as if lifeless and rarely coming out for water and other basics.

The process takes time, so you need to be patient. Also, it’s either your dragon is brumating or not – there’s no in-between.

When You Need To Worry

You should be worried when brumation occurs during the summer or if the beardie is yet to reach a year of age. When these happen, it may be a sign of underlying problems. For example, they could have compromised immunity or illness.

Furthermore, having the wrong parameters in the terrarium can trigger brumation. These include temperature and lighting. Also, a lack of minerals and vitamins could be possible causes.

bearded dragon

How to Wake Your Bearded Dragon from Brumation?

There’s no justified reason why you should wake your brumating dragon. Always leave your dragon alone during brumation and let them wake naturally. Some owners grow impatient and increase the tank temperature to wake a brumating dragon.

Once the process starts, there’s probably nothing that can stop it. That said, you should focus on how to make brumating healthy for them.

Turn off the heating and lighting systems, provide a clean environment, offer hide places and feed them when they are hungry, if at all.

But is there a way to wake your brumating dragon? Well, they say that the best way to wake a brumating dragon is to prevent it from brumating.

To begin with by exposing them to winter-like conditions in the habitat. As the brumating season gets closer, increase the temperature to about 1050F and extend lighting to 14 hours a day.

Waking your beardie to stop brumation is actually harmful and could lengthen the process. Still, we do not have so much control over whether your beardie go to brumation.

There’s no guarantee these things work. Some will go to sleep regardless of what you do. If this happens, allow them to sleep in peace.

What to Do After Brumation?

Once the brumation period comes to an end, your beardie should be ready to get back to normal. There are a few things you should do to help them regain strength and get them back to their old self.

These include:

  • Offer some freshwater/
  • Offer a refreshing bath for more hydration.
  • Increase the heat and lights on gradually.
  • Offer some food, including fresh greens.

It may take some time for your bearded dragon to get back into the usual routine they are familiar with. Be patient with your pet until it’s back to normal in no time.

Should You handle a Bearded Dragon During Brumation?

It’s not advisable to frequently handle a bearded dragon during brumation as the extra attention will only interfere with this natural cycle. Reduce the amount of contact you have with your beardie as it brumates to avoid getting it too active, which will cut short the brumation cycle.

At What Age Do Bearded Dragons Start to Brumate?

Most bearded dragons start to brumate after they are ten months to one-year-old. This period coincides with sexual maturity as the bearded dragons will often undergo their first dehydration cycle, followed closely by their first breeding session.

Do Bearded Dragons Stop Pooping During Brumation?

Bearded dragons reduce their pooping frequency during brumation as their digestive system slows down significantly. They can go for more than one week without pooping while brumating. The frequency is bound to change depending on the age and conditions in the brumation environment.

How Long Can Bearded Dragons Go Without Food During Brumation?

Brumating bearded dragons have reduced appetites, and feeding isn’t a significant requirement during this period. However, you should still provide a little bit of food for your bearded dragon when they venture out of their hiding spot.

Even such a minuscule amount of food will still need to be digested, a process that requires an external heat source, so allow your beardie to bask for a while after a meal before going back to brumating.

How Do You Rehydrate A Bearded Dragon During Brumation?

Bearded dragons can absorb moisture through their skin during brumation which makes it easier to soak them to rehydrate while they are brumating.

Make sure that the water doesn’t go above their head while soaking for at least 10 minutes every few days.

How Do You Tell If a Bearded Dragon Is Dehydrated While Brumating?

If you slightly pinch the skin of a brumating bearded dragon and it fails to return to its normal state, then you need to get in touch with a vet to confirm if the beardie is indeed dehydrated.

The skin color also changes from its regular bright color to a dark blackish hue when the beardie is dehydrated.

What’s the Best Food to Feed a Bearded Dragon After Brumation?

During the first few days after your bearded dragon wakes up from brumation, you should feed them a diet that’s rich in vegetables to help them rehydrate quickly. The insect protein should then be gradually increased but avoid overfeeding them as it can easily lead to impaction.

Do Bearded Dragons Brumate in Summer?

When bearded dragon brumate in summer you should look for any underlying issue as it could be a sign of underlying illness or nutritional deficiency.

bearded dragon brumation

Wrap Up

Brumation is a natural cycle in every bearded dragon’s life as they evolved over millions of years to survive the harsh climate in their native habitats.

Brumating allows bearded dragons to conserve their energy during the cold winter months when they are scarce food to be had.

This adaptation is also present in captive bearded dragons, and you will have to plan accordingly to assist your pet to get through this cycle without any complications. 

You should reduce the heat and UVB lighting to simulate the wild conditions present during the brumation stage and only handle the beardie when necessary.

Keep in mind that brumation length varies across different species, and you will have to tweak various variables as we have discussed in this guide to influence your beardie’s brumation cycle.

If you notice anything out of the obvious, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your vet immediately.

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