Despite the fact that bearded dragons are naturally desert-dwelling creatures who typically get most of their water from the plants they eat and the dew that forms on those plants, when they are kept as pets, they absolutely need access to a dish of fresh water. They also need regular baths, supervised by you, to keep them healthy and hydrated. What does it mean, however, when they don’t just sip from their dish on occasion, but bathe in it for hours?
Why is my bearded dragon in his water dish? The most likely scenario is that your bearded dragon is overheated. He is soaking in his water bowl in a desperate attempt to cool off.
Bearded dragons need to stay warm so they can sustain vital bodily functions, such as digestion. However, they can quickly become overheated if each area of their terrarium is not kept at the proper temperature. Overheating is a serious matter and can lead to dehydration, which bearded dragons are already prone to. Luckily, there are plenty of adjustments you can make, and tools you can use, to ensure that your beardie regulates his body temperature properly.
Other Signs Your Bearded Dragon is Overheated
If your bearded dragon is indeed overheated, he may display some other signs of being too hot, in addition to spending time in his water dish. Some of these signs include:
- Gaping or sitting for an extended period of time with his mouth open. Bearded dragons don’t sweat like humans. Therefore, when they reach their ideal body temperature, they will often open their mouths to allow excess heat to dissipate. If you catch your beardie gaping for shorter periods while he’s sitting under his heat lamp, for example, you don’t necessarily need to worry. However, if your bearded friend is gaping while sitting in his water dish, or while hanging out on the “cool side” of his terrarium, it probably means that he is having trouble regulating his body temperature.
- Digging, or attempting to dig a hole in their substrate. Bearded dragons will often attempt to dig a hole when they are too hot. In the wild, digging a hole helps expose cooler sand on which they can relax and cool themselves. They will attempt this same behavior in their terrarium when they become overheated.
- Climbing or “glass surfing” up the sides of their terrarium. If your bearded dragon is attempting to climb up the sides of his enclosure, perhaps frantically, he is “glass surfing”. Bearded dragons often glass surf when they are under stress. What’s one big cause of stress for a bearded dragon? You guessed it, overheating or suboptimal temperature. (It is worth noting that your bearded dragon may glass surf for other reasons, but this is certainly one of them. If they are not displaying any other signs of overheating, they may be stressed by an enclosure that is too small, another bearded dragon’s presence, new items placed in their tank, or because they are feeling hungry or bored, among other things.)
- Hiding for long periods in their shelters, or hide boxes. If your bearded dragon is spending extended periods of time in the shelter you’ve provided for him, it may be because he is trying to escape the heat. These hiding areas typically provide a small decrease in temperature (akin to sitting in the shade on a hot summer day). If you observe your beardie spending more time in his hiding area than is typical for him, you might want to examine the cause.
Immediate Help for an Overheated Bearded Dragon
There are some things you can quickly do to help your dragon cool down. Ultimately, you will want to tweak his habitat to make sure he doesn’t overheat again, but the first thing to do is get him to a comfortable temperature.
First, remove your bearded dragon from his terrarium until you can adjust the temperature to the correct range.
Next, you’ll want to mist your dragon, or, even better, give them a bath. Bathe your bearded dragon in water that is 90-96 degrees Fahrenheit and is about two inches deep, or shoulder level for him. Distilled water, or water that has been treated with a reptile-safe water conditioner is best.
A 15-20 minute bath will help to lower your overheated dragon’s body temperature and will also provide him with the opportunity to drink. He will desperately need this chance to sip his bathwater if he’s become dehydrated as a result of being overheated.
Adjust Your Bearded Dragon’s Habitat
After your bearded dragon is cooled down, hydrated, and in a safe place, you’ll want to check the temperatures in his tank.
Every bearded dragon’s habitat should be equipped with the following equipment for lighting and heating: A UVA and UVB light source that spans most of your dragon’s tank, a basking lamp, a ceramic heat emitter, a digital thermometer, a thermostat, and a timer (for turning off your beardie’s basking lamp and lights at the same time every evening, and on again each morning).
This is where your thermometer will come in handy (and more on the thermostat later on).
Use your thermometer to perform spot checks inside your dragon’s terrarium. Contactless digital thermometers are best, as they allow you to test specific parts of the dragon’s tank at once and get very accurate readings. You’ll want to check the temperature of both the basking area and the cool spot.
The table below shows the correct temperature range for both the cool and basking area for bearded dragons of each age group.
|Baby (up to 4 months)||Juvenile (4-18 months)||Adult (18 months and older)|
|Basking Area 100°-110℉||Basking Area 95°-100℉||Basking Area 95°-100℉|
|Cool Spot 80°-90℉||Cool Spot 75°-80℉||Cool Spot 75°-80℉|
|Night 70°-75℉||Night 70°-75℉||Night 70°-75℉|
If the temperature in your bearded dragon’s basking area and/or cool spot is higher than what is shown in the table above, or if you have not provided a cool spot at all, you will need to make some adjustments.
Maintaining Proper Tank Temperature
Ensuring that you have a terrarium that is the correct size for your bearded dragon is very important. Not only does it allow them adequate room for exercise, the larger the tank, the easier it is to maintain the proper temperatures for both the basking/warm side and the cool side.
Fully grown adult dragons that are 16-20 inches in length require a tank that is between 50-75 gallons. Adult dragons that are over 20 inches need a tank that is anywhere from 75-120 gallons. Baby and juvenile dragons can do with smaller tanks, but need to move to a larger tank once they reach the previously stated lengths.
Using a dimming thermostat is the easiest method for maintaining the proper temperature in a bearded dragon’s basking area. They work by dimming your dragon’s basking lamp and decreasing the heat when the temperature in the basking area reaches a certain preset level.
Once the temperature in the basking area reaches the bottom of the desired range, the thermostat automatically brightens the lamp to provide the needed heat. In a situation where your bearded dragon has overheated, you will want to make sure that your thermostat is working correctly and that you have set it to the right temperature.
If the thermostat for the basking area is functioning properly and has indeed been set to the correct temperature, you may simply need to raise the basking lamp. Raising the lamp quickly decreases the temperature in your dragon’s terrarium.
Just be sure to check the temperature again later to ensure that you haven’t raised the lamp too high, causing the temperature to fall below the optimal level.
If everything seems to be just perfect within your bearded dragon’s habitat, but they are still overheating, check the temperature in your own home. Although this may not be something you would initially consider, the temperature of your house can play a role in affecting the temperature of your dragon’s terrarium, especially during the hot summer months.
If the temperature in your home is increasing, chances are, so will the temperature in your dragon’s little home.
As cute as it is to see your little beardie splashing around in his water bowl, frequent dish baths may be a sign of a serious overheating condition. Overheated bearded dragons can quickly become dehydrated bearded dragons which can lead to constipation and a whole host of health problems.
If you catch your bearded dragon wading around in his water dish, be sure to check the temperature in his terrarium, as well as the functional condition of all of your equipment, and offer him the necessary help and environmental adjustments.