As your bearded dragon grows and changes, you may begin to notice shifts in its coloration. Perhaps your bearded dragon was brown when you adopted it, but now has transitioned to a shade of dark red. Maybe these changes happen when your pet sheds its skin, or maybe you notice its skin changing color as it basks under the UV light.
So why is my bearded dragon’s beard orange? An orange beard usually shows that your bearded dragon is feeling happy and content. Lighter colors typically indicate happiness, while darker colors can be a sign of stress.
Read on to find out all about the reasons why bearded dragons change colors. You’ll also want to take a look at our guide that explains what each color means as far as your bearded dragon’s mood. Finally, don’t forget to read through our list of indicators that your pet is happy and healthy.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Change Colors?
When you think of a lizard that changes colors, a chameleon is probably the first animal to come to mind. But bearded dragons also have the ability to change color. Bearded dragons have chromatophores, which are special cells that contain pigment and reflect light to create different skin colors.
Bearded dragons are capable of changing the color of only one body part at a time–head, neck, chest, stomach, back, tail–or all at once. They can change color in order to thermoregulate, or adjust their body temperature.
Bearded dragons also change color in order to communicate with other bearded dragons. This could be in mating situations or territory disputes, among others.
In some cases, color changes can indicate stress or illness. Your bearded dragon’s colors may also appear brighter after a recent shed or under good lighting. In addition, bearded dragons tend to change color with age. Overall, there are many reasons why bearded dragons change color!
One important reason that bearded dragons change their color is to regulate their body temperature, or to thermoregulate. Since bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals, they rely on their environment to keep their temperature around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
This means soaking up the sun (or UV rays) when they need to increase their temperature, or hiding away in the shadows to cool down.
One way to help this process along is to change their coloring. By changing the color of their back to a darker shade like brown or black, bearded dragons are able to absorb more heat from the sun and warm up their bodies faster.
They can actually save hours of basking time by doing this! On the other hand, bearded dragons can also change their color to a lighter hue such as yellow if they need to cool down.
It’s important to note that thermoregulation usually only affects the color of your bearded dragon’s back, rather than its beard and chest. The beard and chest typically change color during social communication with other bearded dragons.
A recent study revealed that bearded dragons change the color of their beard and chest during social interactions with other bearded dragons. This is because when communicating with others, the beard and chest is the area the other bearded dragon sees.
One example is during mating season. Male bearded dragons may puff up and darken their beards to impress potential mates. Another situation in which bearded dragons might change their colors to communicate with others is when they’re establishing dominance or fighting over territory.
When your bearded dragon is stressed, threatened, or otherwise upset, you may see it darkening or even turning black. This is often paired with puffing up its beard in an attempt to make itself look more threatening. Other signs of stress include a sudden loss of appetite, lowered levels of activity, and clawing at the sides of its enclosure.
Whenever your pet appears to be stressed, it’s extremely important to try to figure out what caused the stress and adjust your pet’s environment appropriately. Stress can lead to illness and other problems, so it’s not something to ignore!
Illness can cause your bearded dragon to turn a darker shade or even black. If you think your bearded dragon could be sick, look for the following symptoms:
- Discharge or mucus around eyes and nose, which could be symptoms of a respiratory infection
- A dark-colored belly, which could indicate impaction (constipation) or problems with laying eggs
- Loss of appetite and lethargy
If your bearded dragon is suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s time to get it to the vet! While most health issues and illnesses are treatable, you should never delay treatment.
Young bearded dragons often get brighter and develop new coloration patterns with each shed. Once they’ve reached about 18 months of age, their colors will typically remain the same. You may notice that before shedding, your bearded dragon appears to grow darker, but has a much more vibrant and lighter color after shedding.
What Do Different Colors Mean?
You may be wondering if, like a mood ring, different colors indicate different things about your pet. Below, find out more about each color and what your bearded dragon may be feeling.
Orange beard coloring usually indicates that your bearded dragon is happy and content. A bearded dragon that has turned orange doesn’t feel stressed or threatened in any way.
Yellow or Light Brown
Along with orange, yellow and light brown show that your bearded dragon is feeling comfortable and happy. However, yellow patches on your bearded dragon can actually be a fungal infection. If the color is consistent rather than patchy, you probably just have a happy bearded dragon on your hands.
A green bearded dragon may actually be growing algae! This is especially common for bearded dragons that live in enclosures with very high humidity and limited access to UV light. If this is the case for your pet, make sure to adjust its environment to suitable levels. It’s also wise to get in contact with your veterinarian to see if you need to take any further action.
Bearded dragons that shift to darker colors are usually experiencing stress or feeling threatened in some way. Look out for other signs of stress, such as lethargy, glass surfing, and lack of appetite.
Additionally, bearded dragons that are feeling stressed often develop dark patterns of coloration on their stomachs and chins. A few reasons your pet may feel stressed include problems with its environment, illness, and excessive handling.
How Can I Tell if My Bearded Dragon Is Happy?
Aside from orange coloration, which usually indicates that your bearded dragon feels secure and happy, here are several other signs that your pet is feeling content.
- Your bearded dragon closes its eyes when you’re around. This means that your pet trusts you and knows it’s safe around you.
- Your pet seems healthy and alert. Health and happiness go hand in hand for bearded dragons.
- Your bearded dragon’s everyday functions (eating, sleeping, pooping, and basking) are all going smoothly and normally. This is proof that your pet’s body is doing exactly what it should be.
- Your pet doesn’t display any aggression towards you. If your bearded dragon never hisses, bobs its head, bites, or puffs out its beard, it definitely feels comfortable and happy in its environment.
- Your bearded dragon allows you to pick it up without any fear or resistance.
- Your pet enjoys sitting or laying on you for extended periods of time. This is a true sign of your bearded dragon’s high comfort level!
- Your bearded dragon doesn’t run away from you. Remember that bearded dragons are pretty cautious creatures because they’re prey animals in the wild. So if your pet doesn’t run from you, that’s a great sign that it feels happy and safe.
The most likely reason your bearded dragon’s beard has turned orange is because it’s happy and content. However, there are several other reasons why bearded dragons change colors. These include thermoregulation, communication with other bearded dragons, stress, illness, and development as your pet grows.
Different colors indicate different feelings and behaviors. For example, light colors are generally associated with happiness in bearded dragons, while darker shades occur when your pet is feeling stressed or threatened. A couple things to look out for are yellow coloration, which could be fungus, and green coloration, which could be algae.
You’ll be able to tell if your bearded dragon is happy if they turn orange, or through lots of different behavioral cues. A healthy and alert bearded dragon that carries out its everyday functions successfully is a happy bearded dragon.