Why Has My Bearded Dragon Turned Black and Died? – What To Do Next

Has your bearded dragon turned black and died? This article will dive into the reason behind why bearded dragon has turned black and died, or lost their appetite.

(Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find ‘Other related articles you might like’, once you are done reading).

Bearded dragons are forever becoming more popular. The reason for becoming so popular is because of their relaxed temperament and ability to be handled regularly. Bearded dragons are a very hardy species. They live is conditions which humans are not cut out for. So they are naturally born survivors. And for this reason they appeal to beginner reptile enthusiasts, as well as veteran reptile owners. 

Unfortunately, we know beginner reptile owners get a bit excited, like we all do with new pets. And again like most of us, we don’t do our full research before actually purchasing your new companion. So “Why has my bearded dragon turned black and died?” Is a question we hear quite commonly from beginner owners.

First of all, I should probably start by saying that you bearded dragon probably hasn’t turned black and died.

Bearded dragons commonly seem to have lighter and darker skin throughout their lives, which can occur from a range of different reasons. The most important thing though is to actually make sure you bearded dragon isn’t actually dead.

Bearded dragons will sometimes brumate through the winter seasons. Being a cold blooded reptile means they cannot self regulate their body temperature, so rely on some form of heat source. (This usually being a heat lamp or heat matt).

If you didn’t already know, the colour black is the most absorbent colour for light and heat, whereas lighter colours will reflect the light and heat. If you see that your bearded dragon is turning black and died, then this probably isn’t the case. They’re probably just a bit cold.

6 reasons why your bearded dragon has turned black

1. Your bearded dragon is cold, and is trying to warm up

When bearded dragons get cold, they have the ability to darken their skin colour. This is an amazing evolutionary technique bearded dragons use to increase heat absorption. Obviously if your reptiles enclosure set up is correct then this should happen. However, sometimes heat mats and heat lamps can stop working unknowingly, and this is a tell tale sign that your dragon is just too cold.

Inside a bearded dragons enclosure the optimal temperature at the hot end is between 92-105 degreed Fahrenheit, as this closely resembles temperatures of its natural habitat. These can be tracked with a reptile thermometer.

Temperatures in the cooler end of the enclosure should vary between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Make sure you check the bulb you have inside the enclosure actually emit UVB. Commonly house hold lights do not emit any UVB so purchasing the correct bulb online or from a reptile store is crucial. If you are unsure, here is a link to a great reptile lamp at a great price.

Last of all, reptile lamps usually only last about 6 months. Although the light may still be on, the UVB will stop emitting. You can check it’s still working by simply tuning off all other surrounding lights and holding up a white sheet of paper. If it seems to be glowing bright white/blue colour, then your bulb is still working fine. If not, then it needs to be replaced.

2. Sick or Stressed

On the odd occasion your bearded dragon may become sick or stressed. This can be due to a number of factors which we’ll cover in another article. What you need to know is sickness and stress causes a lack of appetite for bearded dragons. A lack of appetite will have continues affects of becoming lethargic, lack of proteins and nutrients. So maybe its diet isn’t as healthy as you thought.

This can also occur after an enclosure clean if you completely change their living space around. Bearded dragons get used to their home, just like us humans. If you put them back in their enclosure and it has been completely revamped, then this will undoubtably cause a lot of stress, as they are unfamiliar with the new environment. Try to keep the enclosure similar after a clean, but there no harm in added some new climbing apparatus or branches.

3. Your bearded dragon may feel threatened

Again this is kind of similar to the last point, however there is a slight difference in behaviour you need to look out for. In this situation your bearded dragons beard will turn black. (Just like the last point) However, if feeling threatened, your bearded dragon will puff out its bearded, making their appearance known.

This is very common behaviour when introducing two bearded dragons for the firsts time, usually for breeding reason. It’s very rare that bearded dragons take an instant likely to each other. Bearded dragons will always defend their territory and will never back down from a fight if they feel their lives are in danger.

You can take this as a sign that your bearded dragon wants to be left alone and is not in the mood for socialising. 

Strangely you might see this kind of behaviour when housed alone, and sometimes it can seem like they’re staring out the glass whilst doing this. Don’t be alarmed, they’re usually getting aggressive to their own reflection. This is very common for singular housed dragons. In this case it may be suitable to turn the enclosure lighting down for a short while, just until they calm down. It’s they light from the inside of the enclosure that will be causing the reflections, so there is no need to darken the room completely. 

4. Your bearded dragon may be ready to mate

This one is slightly different. Instead of the whole body turning darker, in this situation only the bearded turns darker. Almost to a charcoal black. This only happens to males through the breeding season and is a sign that they are ready to mate. It’s thought this change in beard colour is used to appeal to the opposite sex. The black colour on the underside of its neck shows the bearded dragon is sexual active.

In combination to this, males may start head bobbing, like they are nodding at you. This can be seen as early as 5-6 months as males naturally reach sexual maturity quicker than females do. 

Females so signs of their bodies becoming slightly darker, however not usually as much as when they are cold. So it can be tricky to identify between the two. Females will usually take at least 12 months to become sexually mature, so keep this in mind if house with another juvenile male.

Behaviours like this should start roughly 1 months are the ending of the brumation process, usually once winter us over. Spring will bring a lot more life back into your bearded dragon. It’s important to replicate this in your enclosure as brumation is a natural part of their lifestyles and keeps them healthy.

5. Your bearded dragon may be bored

This one, in my opinion is a bit out there. I’m not sure how true it is, or if it can be proven but I have heard a lot of success stories regarding this. And what I love most is that it promotes interaction and time spent with your bearded dragon. 

So, if your bearded dragon is eating, basking and pooping fine, then it’s thought by many people that sometimes when your bearded dragon is bored, it will turn its beard black also. Almost like when mating, their beard turns black to try to get some attention. Maybe they just want to get out of their enclosure for a bit of exploring. 

Bearded dragons love seeing things. This is great because it means you can carry them about the house and they will be completely happy. They don’t always need to be running around the floor. Sometimes they just enjoy being carried around and climbing over their owners.

6. Black Tail? Your bearded dragon may have tail rot

If your bearded dragons tail is black, or has darkened considerably, this could be a sign of tail rot. Tail rot occurs when a bearded dragon sheds its skin and some is retained. Retained skin can lead to some very serious health issue, including tail rot.

To find out more on Bearded dragon tail rot, follow this link. Bearded Dragon Tail Rot

When shedded skin is retained it causes tightening around the bearded dragons tail. This tightening then causes a lack of blood flow, and in the worst cases stops blood flow completely. When this happens the cells which have been suffocated from blood flow and oxygen begin to die, causing a skin to turn black. This can have knock on affects when can lead to further infections if not treated correctly. If you notice signs of tail rot then please contact your local veterinarian for professional advise.

Hopefully this article has informed you on the reasons why your bearded dragon has turned black and died (or not). The most likely reasons for this to happen are the first 4, but there could be other reasons to why they do this which we do not yet understand. This is a great place to start though, and like I have said before, if you are still unsure then please seek professional advice for a veterinarian.

If you are 100% sure that your bearded dragon is dead, then you can follow this link for What To Do With Dead Bearded Dragons

After searching and testing many different products, we have come up with our list of “Must Have” items for recommendations for both price, and durability for the best enclosure accessories.

Bathing Water Bowl – Click Here

Heat Mat – Click Here

Heat Lamp – Click Here

Reliable Thermometer – Click Here

Vivarium/Enclosure – Click Here

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Why Has My Bearded Dragon Turned Black and Died? – What To Do Next

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