Stressed and Bearded Dragon Stress Marks

Stress is a physical, emotional, or mental response to changes that require an adjustment or response. Several things can make these lizards like:

  • Relocation pressure or being new. Not much you can do to salvage it. Instead, give a peaceful habitat, right diet, ideal terrarium conditions, and leave them alone to adjust. With time, they will be fine.
  • Small habitat, i.e., too small terrarium
  • Wrongly set terrarium temperature, humidity, or UV lighting
  • Excessive handling
  • Boredom
  • Housing a dominant and subservient together will stress the submissive beardie.
  • Vet visits
  • Change in their routine
  • The sight of a predator, strange or loud noises and smells
  • Illnesses
  • Poor diets

Signs of a stressed bearded dragon

When stressed, unlike humans, beardies don’t talk to let us know when something is bothering them. However, if you keenly observe them, you will notice some signs or some behavioral changes that will indicate all is not well.

Common symptoms of a stressed bearded dragon include the following:

1. Reduced or loss of appetite

Anorexia or appetite loss is one of the common signs of stress. However, it can also be a sign of illnesses, brumation, wrong habitat conditions (Temperature, UV light, and humidity), breeding, shedding, dehydration, having a dominant cage mate, among other reasons in case you house two or more beardies together.

Check if terrarium conditions are optimal, try giving your beardies different foods such as crickets, waxworms, silkworms, roaches, mealworms, and other live insects, as well as his favorite veggies and fruit treats to see they are picky eaters. If they still don’t eat, see your vet for further diagnosis.

2. Glass surfing

Glass surfing happens when these lizards repeatedly behave like they are trying to climb on the vertical surface of their terrarium wall without success.  Usually, they will stand on their hind legs while their bellies lie against the glass wall and their forearms clawing the glass. This glass dancing closely mimics surfing and hence the name.

Surfing is an indication of stress, and it can be due to a small enclosure, seeing their reflection or of another bearded dragon, boredom, hunger, wrong habitat setting, new decorations, and furniture, rearranging their terrarium, and so forth.

Carefully assess the various possible causes of glass surfing and fix it. Solutions may include having a terrarium background, adding décor and furniture to reduce boredom, providing food, or moving any nearby beardie so that they don’t see each other.

Also, ensure you maintain the right terrarium temperature, humidity, and UV lighting. To do so, invest in a good thermometer, hygrometer, and thermostat to monitor and control terrarium conditions)

Finally, reversing any terrarium rearrangement, or restore any change you made to their habitat.

3. Being sluggish and less active

When under extreme stress, your bearded dragon may be less active, lack energy, sleep more, look tired, or stay in one place for along time. Before assuming it is stress, check and rule out issues shedding, illnesses, nesting, or low enclosure temperatures as they can make this lizard less active.

Once you determine that the most likely reason why your pet is less active is them being under stress, go through the various possible causes to know which particular one is to blame.

4. Presence of stress marks and a darker coloration

Bearded dragons do change their colors, i.e., they may turning black (darker) or white (paler) or changing their beard color and so on as a means of thermoregulation, communication, and camouflage. It also occurs as they grow or during shedding.

Stress marks on bearded dragon
Stress marks

Similarly, when under stress, they develop ‘stress marks’ which will appear on their chin and underbellies. These markings are an evident sign. Usually, they will be more visible in the morning and may disappear as the day progresses.

Besides these marks, their color may be darker than usual, primarily when it is not related to shedding, thermoregulation, communication, or camouflage.

5. Routine changes – not basking or hiding

Some of these pets respond to stressing situations by changing their usual activity, such as not basking or hiding more. While these may be an indication of brumation, shedding, or being sick, it may also indicate intense stress.

6. Aggressiveness

While this pet has a mellow temperament, stress, illnesses, and other things may make them aggressive. When this happens, they will refuse to be handle, show their beard, and so on.

Stress management

Stress is one thing that will make your bearded dragon’s health and immunity to deteriorate swiftly, making make them vulnerable to illness and parasites. Therefore, this is a need to promptly fix anything that causes it as well as calm this pet down.

Solutions will involve a vet check to ensure your beardie doesn’t have parasites or illnesses as they could be a reason.

Secondly, to break their boredom, enrich their tank with décor, or furniture, and toys like climbing branches, hammocks, digging boxes, and so on.

Furthermore, since hiding is one of the ways to reduce stress, don’t forget to have a hiding place where these pets can be alone. They need some privacy.

Also, buy the right size of a tank and place it in areas with minimal interruption, noise, and where they don’t see other beardies or pets. Additionally, set its conditions well, i.e., set their optimum terrarium conditions as follows:

  • Maintain humidity at 30-40%. You need proper ventilation, particularly with a good terrarium cover and an accurate thermometer, such as a digital one.
  • Ensure the basking side has a temperature of 100 -110 °F or 95 -100 °F for babies and hatchling. The cooler side should be 75-90°F while night temperature should be 65 °F and 75°F and never below 60°F. Get heat lamps.
  • Also, invest in the right UV light bulb that provides 10-12% UVB light such as Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact Fluorescent or the tube lamp if you have a large tank and replace it as advised by manufacturers since UV emission declines with time.
  • Both UV light and heat should be available for about 12-14 hours each day unless they are brumating.

Also, you need to ensure you feed your bearded dragon correctly, depending on their age. Their typical nourishment includes live feeder insects, veggies, and safe plants with occasional fruit treats. Don’t forget to gut load feeder insects and dust their food with calcium, vitamin D3, and other multivitamins.

Finally, even if they seem not to have issues with handling, minimize handling as much as possible, maintain a regular feeding as well as day and night cycle with the help of a reptile timer like Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting & Terrarium Heat Power Center, and maintain proper sanitation.

See also

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