Nobody wants their bearded dragon to be displaying signs of stress, such as stress marks. The last thing we want when we bring our new pet bearded dragon home for the first time, for it to be feeling stressed out.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to minimize stress when you bring your beardie home for the first time. Stress can also occur under a variety of other situations.
In bearded dragons, stress can be visible in the form of black markings on the neck and underbelly of your lizard.
These markings can appear suddenly during stressful situations, and can take up to a few days to dissipate and for your beardie to go back to looking normal.
If you see these markings at any point, don’t fret. There are things you can do to help your beardie recover from stressful situations and make the markings go away.
What Are Stress Marks
Stress marks or markings are small black streaks that occur on the belly or neck of a bearded dragon. They can appear suddenly, like in the mornings when it may be too cold, and they may take a few days to go away.
The stress marks are naturally occurring pigmentation in your beardie’s soft skin and a clear indication that they are going through a stressful period.
This will allow you to avoid and reduce activities that are causing the stress in the first place.
What Causes Stress
1. Excessive Handling
It’s fun to play with your pet bearded dragon, take it out of its terrarium, and have fun with it. But too much handling can cause your pet a lot of stress.
Especially when you first get it, there will be lots of temptation to take it out and show it around. Remember that this can be the most stressful time for your beardie, as it gets used to its new home.
If you notice stress marks then you are potentially handling it too much.
Anyone who has experienced a parasite on their own body will tell you that it is not a pleasant experience. The same can be said for beardies.
If you notice that your bearded dragon has mites then you will want to find effective ways of curing mites. The presence of these parasites can cause stress and discomfort for your bearded dragon who will feel helpless against the infestation.
They will recommend a special diet and there might even be a salve that needs to be applied. This can be a reason for stress marks.
3. High Humidity
If you live in an area that gets really humid and you are noticing stress marks on your beardie, the climate in and around its habitat may be the reason.
There are things you can do immediately to help with this, but first of all, you will want a reliable gauge to assess the humidity levels. You can now even get smart humidity sensors (hygrometers) that send data right to your phone.
The optimum humidity for a bearded dragon is 35 – 40%. This will be a comfortable humidity level for your beardie, maintaining perfect humidity can be challenging but with the correct equipment, you can do this with ease.
4. Small Tank
Another reason your bearded dragon may be showing stress marks is the tank might be too small. Proper tank size should be a consideration when buying all of the equipment.
A minimum of 40 gallons should be the absolute minimum when purchasing a tank for a baby bearded dragon.
This will allow ample room for your beardie to roam around and bask underneath the heat lamp, creating a solid habitat that your pet can thrive in.
For adult bearded dragons, you will want to have a larger tank size, potentially between 75 to 120 gallons, depending upon the size of your beardie.
Boredom could also be a reason for the stress marks on your bearded dragon. While it’s possible to handle your bearded dragon too much, it’s also possible to not handle it enough.
Your bearded dragon will eventually get bored in its surroundings. It’s at this point that you should consider activities, such as taking it for a walk, a swim, giving it a ball, or simply handling it more.
Consider purchasing a leash and harness for your bearded dragon to allow you to take them on a walk.
6. Dirty Tank
Cleaning your beardie’s tank is paramount as it will ensure minimal germs and bacteria, and will lead to a healthy habitat that your beardie can thrive in.
A clean tank means less stress for your animal. You can find the essentials required to clean your beardie’s tank right here.
7. Wrong Diet
Giving your beardie the wrong foods is certainly a sign that it may be stressing out.
Always buy food that is recommended for bearded dragons, and as for treats, the proper worms and insects should be given in sparing quantities to prevent your bearded dragon from putting on excess weight.
8. Too Low Temperatures
If the temperature in your beardie’s enclosure drops too low, which can sometimes happen throughout the night, your beardie may be stressing out.
If this is the case then you may want to invest in a ceramic heat emitter to maintain the correct temperature around the clock.
Depending upon the age of your beardie, you will want to maintain different temperature levels. The diagram below displays the optimal temperature for a bearded dragon at various ages.
It is also important that the tank has different temperature zones, being a cold-bloodedanimal, your beardie will need to regulate its own temperature.
By providing different zones you will allow them to do this effectively. If you do not have these zones then this could be the cause of your beardie’s stress marks.
Note: If you are unsure of how to set up your bearded dragon’s lights then you can find out in this handy guide here.
9. Cage Mates Bullying
If you have more than one bearded dragon, you should keep them separate from each other. Bearded dragons are solitary creatures and the presence of other beardies can cause stress and other potentially life-threatening issues.
Bearded dragons are easily intimidated and bullying can be a serious issue when they are kept in the same enclosure. This sounds rather silly, but animals do have a social network, and one will always dominate the other.
This could mean unequal access to food or resources and therefore the more submissive dragon will be likely to become stressed quite quickly.
If you currently keep more than one beardie in the same tank then you should definitely consider buying a separate tank to help with reducing stress and potential injury.
10. Loud Noises
If there are loud noises such as construction happening close by, your beardie could be stressing out as a result of that. No animal likes to be around loud, annoying noises all the time.
Consider repositioning your beardie’s tank so that it is farther away from the disturbance.
How to Prevent Stress
1. Prevent Boredom with Decor
Boredom is a major cause of stress and can be avoided through creative imaginings for your beardie’s habitat. Decorating the tank smartly with objects such as vines and a hammock, will give it something to look at, or more importantly, play with.
Interacting with its environment in interesting ways will cut down on problematic boredom. There are plenty of other great decor ideas, click here for 25 of the best tank decor ideas.
In the wild, a bearded dragon will feel the need to shelter itself from potential predators. When in captivity, this remains the same.
Your beardie will feel much safer if it has a secluded area where it can get some personal space away from prying eyes.
You should certainly consider providing a hide or shelter for your beardie, these come in many forms but can be quite quirky and add a decorative element too.
Hides such as this replica skull can make great additions to any habitat for a bearded dragon.
3. Optimizing Tank Conditions
As mentioned above, optimal tank humidity should be around 35% – 40% and can be measured using a hygrometer.
Humidity is a major stress factor if it is too high, so always keep an eye on it.
When you think about it, a bearded dragon’s natural habit is arid and not humid at all, so not mimicking this would naturally cause a fair amount of stress and could lead to marks.
As a cold-blooded creature, your bearded dragon is used to high amounts of heat.
Creating different temperature zones within your beardie’s tank is important however to effectively measure the temperatures of these zones you will need a specific kind of thermometer.
Using an infra-red thermometer will allow you to accurately and precisely read the temperature without even disturbing your beardie.
You can also find advice here on the optimal lighting setup for your beardie, following these tips will help create the ideal temperatures for your beardie.
UVB rays, emitted from a bulb, are extremely important for your pet’s health and happiness.
In the wild, a beardie would get the required rays from the sun, in captivity though, this is provided with a specific type of bulb. You will want to use a bulb that has an 8 to 10 percent output of UVB rays.
Below is one example of a basking bulb that provides both UVB light and heat as well. Depending on your setup, you will likely want to supplement this with other lighting solutions too.
4. Feeding Correctly
Calcium is extremely important for bearded dragons as it ensures proper bone and skeletal strength. All feeder insects should be dusted with calcium powder in order to provide your pet with that added boost.
Vitamin D3 is another important component of a bearded dragon’s diet and is often combined within calcium supplements since it provides proper uptake and utilization of the mineral.
If your beardie is getting enough from natural sources then consider a calcium powder without Vitamin D3.
Worms make a fantastic treat for a bearded dragon, particularly baby bearded dragons who are using a lot of energy in growth and development.
There are many types of worms suitable for bearded dragons, they all have different nutritional levels so be sure to select the correct ones.
They are highly nutritious and quite hydrating but they are filling.
It’s possible for your beardie to eat too man hornworms and not have enough room for its regular food. So just be sure to balance this out.
Stress is very common for all living organisms. There are many potential causes for stress for your bearded dragon, and stress marks are the most common sign of this.
Luckily, through prevention, it is possible for your beardie to live its life without encountering large amounts of stress marks.
We all want our pets to be happy, so try not to stress yourself out if you are noticing your pet becoming overly stressed!
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