Bearded dragons do not have a distinct smell because they do not sweat like humans, and their bodies produce less waste. Besides, they don’t produce any fluids that could release a smell.
Humans may start to sweat when it’s hot outside or during sports. Bearded dragons are entirely different. These cold-blooded creatures rely on an external heat source, e.g., the sun and warm stones.
To raise their body temperature, beardies lie in the sun, preferably lying on a warm rock. However, a beardie does not have to sweat to regulate the body temperature.
For them, it’s as simple as, when it gets too hot, moving out to a cooler place then. In cooler areas, the temperature begins to drop, and the reptile will have to move to the sun again.
It’s worth noting that beardies also have a mechanism that’s similar to sweating. But since their bodies need to maintain a lot of the waters (in the dry woodlands of Australia), they gape instead.
Gaping is when a beardie reaches its maximum thermal level, forcing it to keep its mouth open as a way to dissipate extra body heat.
Some people argue that beardies can produce a smell when shedding dead skins, but this is a myth.
8 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Smells So Bad
While beardies are odor-free, it does not mean your beardie shouldn’t smell anything. It’s important to note that the environment it’s living in can have an impact on the smell. Bad smells may be caused by rotting food, filthy substrate, and feces.
Knowing the reasons why the tank stink can help you keep the enclosure clean and healthy. Ultimately, you’ll have a healthy, playful, fresh-smelling bearded dragon. Here are seven reasons why your bearded dragon could be smelling.
1. Poorly-Kept Tank
Sometimes it can seem like your dragon smells, but it’s actually the environment they are in. Pet bearded dragons living in a tank means the tank is their toilet too. If uncleaned, their poop could encourage the build-up of bacteria.
This might be the reason behind the weird smell you’ve been dealing with lately. If you think this might be the reason, you need to perform a full clean-up to cut short the bacteria.
A full cleanup can be done monthly to eradicate the bacteria before it spreads and keeps the tank smelling fresh and looking hygienic at the same time.
That’s not enough. You need to spot clean the tank for feces every day to limit buildup. As a general rule of thumb, ensure you clean the poop once every day.
It’s essential to wipe up the poop as soon as it’s released not only to prevent smell but also to ensure no bacteria.
Poop can contain bacteria such as salmonella, and you really don’t want them to crawl near the surfaces you use. Removing the poop earlier also minimizes the chances of the bacteria to move to the substrate. Speedy cleanup is paramount to reducing the smell and keeping the environment clean.
2. Rotten Greens
Another not-so-common cause of smell in a beardie’s environment is fresh greens. Beardies do not like them, so they may not eat the veg right away, if at all. As a result, the greens may sit in the tank for quite some time.
The heat and dry air rob them of moisture – crispy bits of greens do not rot. But on the cooler side of the tank, the greens can keep the moisture and rot over time.
Eventually, they start to decay. Decaying organic matter smells pretty bad, for that matter. Check around the tank to see if there may be remains of the previous greens.
3. Dead Insects
In addition to greens, beardies get fed insects regularly. Insects like crickets smell pretty terrible, not to mention that these tiny creatures should be kept far from your home. Go for other alternatives like dubia roaches that don’t emit a strong odor and are better than crickets nutritional-wise.
It’s best if you feed live insects outside the tank, in a separate tank or bin. The vile ones like crickets and roaches will rush to the crevices and hide. If you put them live in the tank, some of them may not be eating.
Most of the time, they’ll hide until they die and decay in the hiding places. It could be the reason for the awful smell coming from your beardie’s enclosure.
Sometimes a bearded dragon may also smell like a certain insect they recently ate, but it shouldn’t be too strong. If the smell is too much, check the enclosure for food remains that have been hidden and rotting.
4. Excessive Moisture
Humidity plays a vital role in a lizard’s enclosure. As such, it’s vital to maintain just the proper humidity for your bearded dragon.
What if the humidity is too high? One of the results of high humidity is increased mold and mildew, leading to unwanted odor.
5. Mouth Rot
Although uncommon, mouth rot can also cause your beardie to smell. Infectious stomatitis is a bacterial infection that causes the beardies’ mouth to rot and directly affects the jawbone. The first sign is a thick mucus around the mouth that appears like cheese.
The bacterial infection can smell and spread. There are many causes of mouth rot in bearded dragons, but they revolve around poor hygiene and food choices.
Avoid a high sugar diet for beardies as they are prone to tartar buildup. Offering too acidic and sugary foods is hazardous in the long run.
6. Dirty Substrate
When you use a loose substrate, you need to clean it regularly. The substrate picks up poop, foods, dead skin, and all manner of grim. The substrate should be thoroughly maintained for every six months.
The process entails getting rid of all substrates, deep cleaning the tank, and refilling the enclosure with a new substrate.
As for the hard substrate, you need to remove it from the tank altogether while disinfecting. Failure to do this encourages skins, foods, and moisture to collect, encouraging bacteria buildup that leads to odor.
Such an environment can also lead to health complications for your beardie.
7. Poor Aeration
Sometimes the slight smell can be caused by poor aeration of the tank. You can prevent this by airing the tank a few minutes every day by taking out the screens. You could also set up the tank near a window or any other area with good airflow.
8. Fungal Infection
Also, the odor may be as a result of a fungal infection. The chances of a dragon catching a fungal infection may be higher in unclean environments or if there are other pets in the vicinity.
Besides, high humidity may increase the chances of fungal infections in bearded dragons. Other symptoms of fungal infections are a lack of appetite, lethargy, and lack of movement, mucus around the mouth, excessive gaping and puffing.
8 Steps To Stop Your Bearded Dragon From Smelling!
1. Bathe Your Bearded Dragon
You can get rid of the stinky odor of a bearded dragon by bathing it. Start by filling a tub with warm water up to the beardie’s shoulders. Avoid splashing water into its eyes and clean its back by pouring water gently and rubbing it with a soft bristle brush.
Depending on the temperature of the water, you can let the beardie play and soak in the tub for at least 15 minutes in lukewarm water. Take the dragon out and pat it dry before placing it on the basking area to warm up.
2. Remove Food Remains
After feeding your beardie, you should remove the food tray and any remains. This prevents any rotting leftovers from stinking up the cage.
The food remains can also cause illness if the beardie consumes fungal-infested food remains. Ensure that the beardie may have hidden the substrate doesn’t have any leftovers.
3. Clean The Enclosure
If your beardie is active and tends to leave behind a mess, you should switch the spot cleaning to about twice per day and regular cleaning every week to get rid of bad smells. Every once a month, you should also conduct a deep cleaning of the entire enclosure to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
4. Check for Fungal Infections
Fungal infections on the bearded dragon can produce a foul smell and leave the beardie with scaly skin. The skin will gradually turn dark and thicken as the infection progresses, and if left untreated, it can be lethal.
5. Use High-Quality Substrate
The quality of the substrate used in the pet beardie’s pooping area will determine how well it traps the stinky odor. If you notice that the bearded dragon’s enclosure is smelly even after removing poop and urine stains, you should consider getting higher quality substrate.
The high-quality substrate is harmless to the beardie, and it doesn’t break easily, which allows it to trap smells and poop particles by draining away the moisture content and compacting the waste matter.
6. Lower The Humidity Level
For a bearded dragon to live healthily, you must provide conditions that closely imitate their Australian desert habitat with low humidity levels. High humidity levels in the enclosure will encourage bacterial growth, limiting the humidity to 35%.
You can purchase a hygrometer to keep track of the moisture level within the beardie’s cage and adjust it accordingly. Ensure that the hygrometer keeps track of the humidity level in the enclosure and not just near the tank.
7. Use Sweet-Smelling Products to Make the Tank Smell Better
This is not necessary for most vivariums, but there are certain products that can help to keep the tank smelling fresh. Look for products without toxic chemicals inside, as these can have implications on your dragon’s health.
8. Bathing The Dragon
If you find it crucial, you can also clean your dragon regularly. There are steps on how you can effectively clean a dragon.
Check Out These Four Steps on How to Clean a Bearded Dragon
Step 1: Fill the Tub With Clean, Warm Water
The first step is to get the material and bathing area clean before picking the beardie out of the enclosure. Have a small basin or a tub, or even a plastic box.
Having a separate place is great because you can easily clean and disinfect after every bath. You can also use deeper basins as long as you are careful, as this prevents the beardie from escaping.
So, fill the basin with warm water up to the level of the beardie’s knees and armpits. The water level should be 0.5 – 1 inch for smaller dragons and up to 3 inches for larger ones.
The reason for this is to make sure its head is above the water level to prevent water from reaching the lungs. Even if the water level is low as recommended, make sure to keep an eye on your beardie.
Step 2: Place Them in The Water Calmly
Once the water level and temperature are set, put the dragon in calmly while taking care of the water not to splash to the eyes and mouth. If it’s your first time to bathe your dragon, you need to let the pet get comfortable.
You could put your handle in the water to swirl the water, so your dragon could see it. Let them investigate and settle on their own.
Once the beardie is comfortable, let them splash around for a few minutes, take a drink and defecate if they like. Remember, the warm water encourages bowel movement so ensure you bathe your dragon for this reason.
A quality 20-minute soak can do wonders to your dragon’s skin and hydration levels. Be patient with bath time if your beardie is just beginning the baths.
Step 3: Gently Brush and Rinse Them Clean
This step is possible for beardies who are already comfortable with handling and bathing. Newbies should only soak until they are comfortable on their own and can enjoy baths. Avoid using soap during your dragon’s baths since they will probably drink a sip or two.
When stroking them using a soft toothbrush, you need to be gentle and do so in the direction of the scales.
Avoid brushing too near the eyes and cloaca to avoid damage. It’s essential to avoid these areas. Parts to brush are the head, cheeks, and underside.
In case you come across loose skin, do not force it out. A soak might be enough to loosen it. Regular baths and adequate hydration will make the sheds easier.
To rinse your dragon, gently pour water over the dragon’s shoulder. Avoid pouring over the head as the dragon might inhale it into the lungs.
Step 4: Dry Them Off
After rinsing for at most 30 minutes, it’s now time to dry off your dragon using a soft towel. Some owners opt for paper towels as it’s one-time and does not risk bacterial growth and transmission.
Dry them thoroughly before taking them back to the tank to prevent the substrate from sticking to the wet skin.
Do not air dry. The drastic change in temperature from water to air may be extremely cold for these cold-blooded creatures. If the temperatures are low, probably during winter, you want to dry them thoroughly, preferably near a heat lamp.
On returning them to the tank, ensure you place them directly under the basking spot so any tiny moisture can evaporate.
Finally, you need to clean up your hands and the bathtub to rid of any bacteria. You may opt to disinfect the tub or basic with lemon or vinegar as well.
How to Clean and Disinfect a Bearded Dragon’s Glass Tank
Your bearded dragon’s glass tank will require deep cleaning to remove all odors and potentially harmful pathogens. After a thorough clean-up, you should sanitize it with a bleach solution. Follow these steps to clean and disinfect a bearded dragon’s tank:
- Remove the bearded dragon from the enclosure and place it in a secure container, preferably in another room. You can also make a temporary enclosure for your beardie and place a bowl of water for your beardie to soak in while you clean up the tank.
- Unplug all lights and heating appliances connected to the tank. While you can safely clean the tank with some attachments if they are firmly attached, you will need to remove any exposed electronics that might get destroyed by splashing water. While at it, remove all decor and any substrate that might be in the tank.
- Move the tank near a sink or drainage area. This makes it easy to clean out and flush the dirty water safely as it might contain salmonella bacteria. If the tank is too large, you can bring a trash container or a storage bin to collect the dirty water from the enclosure.
- Clean the decor and brush the tank thoroughly with a bucket of warm water with dish soap and remember to scrub all interior surfaces. Rinse the tank a couple of times with clean water to get rid of any soap particles.
- Disinfect the tank with a 10% bleach solution. This will eliminate all harmful microorganisms that might be stinking up the tank. Use a microfiber cloth to clean the glass surfaces, and set up the tank in the enclosure before returning your pet bearded into the area.
Does a Bearded Dragon Shed Smell?
Most reptiles are constantly shed to replace the skin cells. The shed may contain some living cells that could smell after being released. Bearded dragons don’t drop their shed until it’s dead, so it rarely smells. It starts to die as soon as the process begins.
Can I Use Baking Soda In My Bearded Dragon’s Cage?
No. Baking soda is toxic to bearded dragons and could lead to sudden respiratory issues and potentially death. An effective combination when cleaning your beardies tank is water and bleach in a ratio of 1:1. Make sure you rinse the cage with warm water to clear any traces left behind. Replace the old substrate with new and choose a non-particle base substrate.
What Should I Do If My Tank Continues To Smell?
If you think you have done everything to end the smell, but it still smells, you need to ask yourself about any other thing in the tank. Consider any accessories in the tank, e.g., the hammocks and hides. If not, it could be something we have mentioned earlier in this guide, like fungal infections or mouth rot. Both these causes require a vet for checkups and advice.