Do Bearded Dragons Need Water?
And is my beardie getting enough?
April 8, 2022
Everybody needs water to survive, and your bearded dragon is no exception.
When it comes to bearded dragons, ensuring proper water intake is a frequently neglected need.
– Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
However, when it comes to drinking habits and needs, bearded dragons are definitely quirky.
Do Bearded Dragons Drink Water?
Yes, contrary to popular belief, bearded dragons drink water. In fact, water is essential for dragons, same as it is vital for other animals.
Bearded dragons come from regions with a dry climate and are well-adapted to living in such water-scarce environments. Dragons satisfy most of their water needs in their natural habitat via the food – plants and juicy insects. They can also go several days (up to a week or two) without drinking water.
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However, in captivity, the conditions are different and bearded dragons need a constantly available source of fresh water.
How Do Bearded Dragons Drink Water?
In their wild, desert-like, and natural habitat, bearded dragons would get most of their water need through the food they eat – leafy green veggies, fruits, and insects. Most insects are relatively poor water sources, but bearded dragons do not need too much water.
For bearded dragons kept as pets, things are not so straightforward.
Bearded dragons also drink water from moving water sources and from the water droplets that fall on them or in their surrounding while it rains.
For bearded dragons kept as pets, things are not so straightforward. First of all, bearded dragon pets are more likely to develop constipation if lacking adequate water intake. This is closely related to the sedentary lifestyle most pet bearded dragons practice.
Secondly, as mentioned, bearded dragons are used to drinking water from moving sources and will likely fail to recognize the water bowl as a water source. In such cases, you will have to teach your bearded dragon how to use the bowl.
Finally, our tap water is much different from the rainwater wild bearded dragons drink. Although tap water is classified as drinkable for bearded dragons, there are much safer options (more on this later).
How To Give Bearded Dragon Water?
There are several different ways of giving your bearded dragon water and hydration. Each way has its pros and cons. Sometimes, it may take some experimenting before finding the method that will fit your bearded dragon’s preferences the most.
It would be best if you were patient and consistent in the efforts of getting your bearded dragon to drink water. Like most desert creatures, bearded dragons are not particularly zealous water drinkers.
However, once they start tasting water and realize they are provided with a constantly available water source, most bearded dragons will enjoy the water – and by enjoy, we do not mean just for drinking purposes but also bathing.
1. Bearded dragon water bowl
Water bowls for bearded dragons come in different designs and sizes. The ideal water bowl depends on your bearded dragon’s size – neither too small nor too big and neither too shallow nor too deep. If the water bowl is too big, your bearded dragon will likely bathe inside.
Water bowls are practical, but most bearded dragons refuse to drink from still-standing water sources. In the wild, they are used to drinking from moving waters and simply fail to recognize the bowl as a water source.
To encourage your bearded dragon to drink from the bowl, you can add a few drops of juice (apple, strawberry) into the water. The juice smell will attract your bearded dragon and tempt it to try drinking.
Additionally, an open water bowl increases the overall humidity level in the tank, which may lead to respiratory issues (red flags include wheezing and nose discharge).
Still, if a water bowl is the most affordable solution to getting your beardie to drink. One of our favorite water bowls you can try is the Fluker’s Reptile Water Corner Bowl. It comes in a few sizes, fits the corner of the terrarium, and is easy to keep clean.
Or, if you would like to provide your beardie with the option to use the water dish for bathing as well, then you should check out the Repti Rock water dish.
If your bearded dragon likes using its water bowl, you can avoid the potential respiratory issues by monitoring the humidity (should be between 30% and 40%). A hygrometer (humidity gauge) measures the humidity of the habitat so you can prevent any health problems. This Zoo Med Dual Thermometer and Humidity Gauge is a great product to use for this purpose.
Bearded dragons can be messy and defecate inside their water bowls or drag food inside. Therefore, if using a water bowl, you should change the water a couple of times per day.
It is also recommended to clean the bowl daily with a reptile-friendly cleanser like Fluker’s Super Scrub Organic Reptile Habitat Cleaner. Just make sure you rinse the cleanser well before letting your bearded dragon drink.
2. Bearded dragon water dripper
Suppose neither the water training nor the encouragement work, or you cannot constantly keep track of the humidity levels within the enclosure. In that case, it is advisable to consider a bearded dragon water dripper.
The bearded dragon water dripper consists of a dripping system and a container. The containers are usually large enough to store water for several days. However, it is advisable to change the water more frequently.
Water drippers are made of non-toxic materials that are easy to keep clean (both inside and outside). Some water drippers feature filtration systems (activated carbon cotton filter, checkered board) to purify the water and make it more bearded dragon-friendly.
The water drippers are attached by the tank’s walls meaning they do not take up floor space. The attachment system (magnets, clips) must be solid enough to prevent accidental falling.
Some water drippers, or better said, their reservoirs, can be placed outside of the enclosure, which is an even more space-friendly option.
Depending on the water dripper design, it is advisable to place the dripper outlet over an empty bowl. The bowl can serve as a reservoir and prevent the dripping water from pooling inside the habitat. Plus, the sound the falling droplets make can encourage your bearded dragon to drink more water.
If you want to test your bearded dragon’s willingness to drink from a dripper before making a purchase, you can use a simple syringe. Just fill the syringe with water and put a drop or two on your bearded dragon’s mouth.
If your beardie drinks the droplets, providing it with a water dripper could help get enough hydration. Zoo Med provides a reptile dripper that comes in two sizes and is an excellent way to see if dripping water is the best solution for providing your beardie with water.
3. Bearded dragon water fountain
Water fountains for bearded dragons are designed to mimic the natural way of drinking water – from a fast-moving water source.
Because of the waterfall-like feature, fountains are the most natural choice for bearded dragons.
The best bearded dragon water fountains feature a filtering system (usually a carbon pad) for water purification. They work using low-wattage pumps that are not too noisy and disruptive.
Some water fountains have soaking bowls, and others do not. If the fountain you choose does not feature a soaking bowl, you will need to provide your bearded dragon with a regular water bowl where it can perform its daily baths.
Because of the waterfall-like feature, fountains are the most natural choice for bearded dragons. However, compared to the other options (bowls and drippers), they are more complicated to take apart for cleaning purposes.
Plus, water fountains offer continuously flowing water, thus increasing the air humidity within the terrarium. As desert animals, bearded dragons do not appreciate high air humidity and can develop respiratory problems if exposed.
To avoid these issues, it is recommended to place the water fountain in the cold part of the enclosure; that way, the water evaporation will be less pronounced. It would also help to monitor the humidity levels regularly.
If you’re looking for a water dispenser with moving water to get your beardie drinking and to avoid dehydration, then check out this NOMOY Reptile Drinking Fountain. It has an activated carbon filter to keep the water clean and a quiet water pump. It has a 1000ml water capacity that can last a week, but we recommend changing the water daily when possible.
4. Misting a bearded dragon (or the tank)
For some bearded dragons, misting is the only way of ensuring water intake. You can either mist the dragon or the enclosure. Alternatively, you can even mist the fruit and veggie treats you are offering.
Misting is a natural hydration method for bearded dragons. In the wild, bearded dragons search for droplets of water on wild plants and surfaces. They also lick the water droplets that fall on their heads and snouts. Even if they do not lick them on purpose, they will eventually roll into the mouth.
In addition to keeping your bearded dragon well-hydrated, misting the tank in the morning will make your bearded dragon feel like it is in its natural habitat. Plus, misting the tank increases the air humidity within the terrarium but for a limited period. This is beneficial as it will make your bearded dragon’s shedding process much more manageable.
Misting spray bottles (like this Fluker’s Hand Spray Bottle) and hand pumps feature adjustable spray nozzles. That way, you can choose between a fine mist and a more concentrated water stream.
Another option is to get a humidifier that mists the tank evenly and automatically. This Coospider Terrarium Humidifier has a large tank and a 1.5-meter outlet pipe so you can place the machine outside the terrarium and have the mist spread evenly in the colder part of the cage.
To make things completely automatic, you can plug in a humidifier (and all the other electronic accessories like a heater and basking light) into this Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting & Terrarium Heat Power Center to ensure your beardie has the perfect environment at all times and stays healthy.
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How to Bathe a Bearded Dragon?
Bathing your bearded dragon comes with several benefits, including:
- Better hydration – bearded dragons do not absorb water through their skin – only through the vent and mouth. However, when surrounded by water, they are instinctively driven into taking a few laps.
- Healthy skin – keeping the skin well-moisturized and supple can simplify the shedding process. Basically, soaking will make the dead skin slough off.
- Improved personal hygiene – bearded dragons are notorious for their dirty habits (no shame in admitting the truth). Regular bathing can prevent bacteria and fungi buildups.
- Regular bowel movements – proper hydration prevents constipation (a common issue in bearded dragon pets), thus promoting improved digestive health.
Bathing your bearded dragon is a simple task. You can do the bathing in your own bathtub or use a plastic container or the kitchen sink.
(Note that beardies may often defecate in the water when they bathe, and they do carry parasites and diseases, so we recommend getting your pet their own bathtub such as this OMEM Reptile Bowl instead of using the sink.)
Just fill the bathing tub with lukewarm water. It is important not to overfill – the golden standard is to keep the water level no higher than the front armpits and rear knees. This is an important safety issue as bearded dragons can quickly inhale water into their lungs.
Your bearded dragon does not need fancy bathing products – a soft bristle brush (a toothbrush is an excellent choice) is enough to do the cleaning trick. You can safely scrub your bearded dragon with the brush. Just be mindful about the pressure you are applying and avoid brushing the areas around the eyes and cloaca.
Usually, the bath should last between 15 and 20 minutes (close monitoring is a must). Once the bath is over, you can dry your bearded dragon with paper towels or a regular, soft towel.
Dehydrated Bearded Dragon – Is My Beardie Getting Enough Water?
Dehydration in bearded dragons is a life-threatening condition that warrants prompt veterinary attention.
Things can go from bad to worse really fast
In bearded dragons, things can go from bad to worse really fast, meaning you need to seek help as soon as you notice the common red flags for dehydration.
The six red flags for dehydration in bearded dragons are:
- Lack of appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Sticky (thick) saliva
- Darker (yellow or orange) urates
- Pronounced skin wrinkles.
You can also check your beardie’s hydration by performing the so-called ”skin pinch test”. The term may sound fancy, but the test is quite simple – all you have to do is pinch your dragon’s skin and see how quickly it rolls back (keep in mind that the bearded dragon’s skin is not as elastic as ours).
In a healthy, well-hydrated bearded dragon, the skin will immediately roll back. However, in a dehydrated dragon, the rolling back can take several seconds: the more time it takes for the skin to move back, the more severe the dehydration.
Finally, we should note that over-drinking can be just as bad as dehydration. Namely, if your bearded dragon drinks too much water, it can develop diarrhea. Severe diarrhea cases usually result in dehydration.
Can Bearded Dragons Drink Tap Water?
Generally speaking, bearded dragons can drink tap water. However, it is better to stay on the safe side and use a special dechlorinating product (a so-called water conditioner) explicitly formulated for reptiles. We recommend the TetraFauna AquaSafe Water Conditioner.
The water conditioner will remove the chloramines, chlorine, and fluoride from the water (which can be harmful to reptiles) and add certain essential electrolytes (promoting better hydration). In simpler terms, the conditioner will detoxify the water and make it safer.
Alternatively, you can use filtered and bottled water as the filtering procedure removes some potentially harmful chemicals. However, adding a water conditioner to the tap water is the gold standard for offering reptiles water.
Bearded dragons are not keen water drinkers, which means every water drop they consume counts. You can try different water sources and see which method works best for your bearded dragon’s unique needs.
Sometimes, you can even offer different water sources. You can combine a water fountain with a soaking dish and an occasional tank misting.
The process of getting your bearded dragon to drink water can be challenging. Luckily, more often than not, most bearded dragons start enjoying water once they get used to the idea.
When it comes to bearded dragons, ensuring proper water intake is a frequently neglected need. This is probably because of the popular misconception that desert animals do not need water.
While it is true that in their natural habitat, bearded dragons can go for several days without water (based on reports of up to two weeks), bearded dragons living in modern terrariums have different water needs.
To encourage your bearded dragon’s water appetite, it is advisable to mist its favorite fruit treat – that way, you will satisfy its water need and indulge its sweet tooth (keep in mind not to overdo it with the fruits).
– Dr. Ivana Crnec, DVM
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.