Bearded dragons change colors for several reasons, many of which are benign. For instance, these lizards turn darker when they’re cold. This evolutionary adaptation forces the reptiles to take on a darker nuance to attract more heat from their surrounding environment. But what if they turn white?
Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily a reason for concern either. But let’s talk about it!
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Turning White?
Some causes behind this behavior are completely harmless, while others can get severe, depending on the case. Here are the primary causes behind your bearded dragon turning white:
Bearded dragons tend to shed approximately once every 2 weeks when they’re up to 6 months of age. The shedding frequency drops as they grow older, so that a 12-month-old dragon may only shed once every 6-8 weeks. 18-year-old dragons or older only shed twice per year, if that.
The dragon will showcase several foretelling signs before the actual shedding takes place. The most obvious sign is the whitening, as the animal’s overall coloring gets duller. This is because of the outer skin layer separating from the inner one. You may notice this color change up to 2-3 weeks before the shedding process even begins.
Approximately 2-3 days before shedding, your dragon may also stop eating and spend more time in hiding. The shedding should complete within several hours, although some instances span over 24 hours or more. Your dragon’s environmental humidity should stay between 30 and 40% to avoid complications. Some general tips here:
- Don’t attempt to assist the reptile during the shedding process
- Always look for stuck skin around the tail, mouth, or toes, as this can cause vasoconstriction, leading to localized necrotized tissue and gangrene
- Don’t let environmental humidity drop below 30%, as this can cause shedding problems, making your reptile prone to skin infections and stuck skin
Remember when I mentioned that bearded dragons turn black when the temperature is too low to take in more UV from their ecosystem? The reverse happens if environmental temperature turns too high. The dragon will whiten its coloring to lower its UV absorption, allowing its body to cool off. You should always monitor your dragon’s temperature to make sure it remains within the optimal parameters.
The top temperature should not exceed 100-107 F at most, and these values should only be present in one area of the enclosure. This is the basking spot where the dragon goes to regulate its internal temperature. The rest of the tank should display a temperature gradient, with the coldest area being around 72-77 F.
This way, your bearded dragon can easily change its position throughout the tank, depending on its temperature requirements. You should always have a thermometer in place to monitor environmental temperature and prevent dangerous temperature swings. It doesn’t take much for the dragon to overheat and experience temperature shock, which can sometimes be deadly.
Also, prolonged exposure to high temperatures accelerates the lizard’s dehydration rate, and we all know where that goes.
This is an unexpected one because many novice reptile keepers don’t know that bearded dragons turn white when sleeping. This is because of the reptile’s change in body temperature as its body enters the resting state. If your lizard turns white when sleeping, it means it’s relaxed and comfortable.
However, you shouldn’t rely on this reasoning. Instead, always assess your reptile’s condition and even speak to a vet to rule out more nefarious causes. It never hurts to exercise extra caution.
Bearded dragons can get stressed for a variety of reasons, as is the case with most reptiles. That’s because these animals are shier and more feral than your typical mammalian pet. Bearded dragons can become stressed when placed in a new environment, when sick, or when changing their enclosure’s layout for some reason. Poor diets, insufficient food, improper environmental parameters, loud noises and movements around their habitat, and even aggressive tankmates can have the same effect.
If your dragon exhibits signs of stress, such as lack of appetite, whitening, hiding behavior, lethargy, etc., assess the cause. The sooner you get to the bottom of it, the faster your dragon can recover.
A sick bearded dragon tends to lose its coloring, aside from exhibiting a variety of other signs of distress. The primary reason for the color change is stress associated with the pain and discomfort. Bearded dragons can’t express their distress other than via their behavior and physiological changes.
If your dragon’s coloring appears washed up, assess its physical health immediately. Any visible injury or sign of sickness should trigger an immediate response because any condition can aggravate fast. Fortunately, reptiles often exhibit a variety of symptoms, depending on the condition they’re dealing with.
Some of the symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, hiding behavior, irritability, etc.
Lack of Nutrition
There are 2 problems worth mentioning here. The first one is the problem of insufficient food. Adult bearded dragons past the age of 18 months eat once per day, but younger specimens may eat 2 to 5 times per day. This variation in meal frequency can sometimes lead to confusion until you figure out your dragon’s specific nutrient requirements.
Until then, your bearded dragon may not receive the proper amount of nutrients due to insufficient meals.
Another problem is that of poor diets. Bearded dragons require a varied diet consisting of insects, fruits, veggies, commercial food, and vitamin supplementation. If your dragon’s diet isn’t sufficiently varied, the reptile may experience calcium deficiency, leading to whitening, curled toes, spine issues, weak jaws, muscle twitching, and several other issues. Severe calcium deficiency is also responsible for MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease), a disorder that’s frequent among reptiles.
Advanced MBD is deadly and incurable, which is why all reptiles require calcium and D3 supplementation and proper UVB lighting to help synthesize those components.
In some cases, the whitening may simply be a sign that the bearded dragon is dying. This is never easy to hear or discover, but it’s the sad truth of life. We’ve already discussed the primary signs associated with various health problems in bearded dragons. If your dragon exhibits any of these symptoms, contact the vet immediately unless you can diagnose the condition yourself.
The problem is that some health issues only trigger visible symptoms when they’re already advanced. MBD is one of them, which is why proper nutrition is necessary to prevent the condition in the first place. As a general rule, if your gecko becomes lethargic, turns white, and stops eating, it means it’s living its final days.
Fortunately, these changes occur gradually, so you might be able to save your dragon if you ask for professional help in time. But don’t get your hopes high; sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.
Bearded dragons aren’t particularly sensitive animals, but they can sometimes experience health issues. It’s important to learn how to distinguish between the different health problems to provide your dragon with the proper treatment.
That being said, not all changes in coloring are bad, so there’s no reason to panic. You will learn your gecko’s behavior with time, so you will distinguish between normal and abnormal behavior easier over the years.