Bearded dragons are one of the most suitable lizards for keeping as pets, mainly because of how territorial they are.
While they will adamantly defend their offspring, bearded dragons are not necessarily naturally born predators since their diet only consists of worms, crickets and a few vegetables and greenery, which means they are highly unlikely to show any aggression against owners who are considerate and care for the reptile properly.
However, a question that is often a little unclear is exactly how long they can live, and considering lizards can live from 3 to 50 years depending on their breed and their living environment, it can often make it hard to narrow down.
To make this easier, here is all you need to know about the average lifespan for bearded dragons and how this is affected depending on if the animal is living in captivity or in the wild.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live As Pets?
Bearded dragons in captivity have an average life expectancy of 8 – 12 years, however, they can be known to live for longer than this with the oldest domesticated bearded dragon being 18 years old and 237 days old.
It should be remembered however that many different factors can affect this including diet, enclosure and breeding, these are factors that you can modify and encourage to help a pet bearded dragon live longer.
Alongside these factors, proper lighting, heating, humidity and space are also essential components for allowing a dragon to feel as comfortable as possible and be healthy so that it can live a long and happy life.
Do Wild Bearded Dragons Live As Long As Pet Ones?
The average lifespan for a bearded dragon in the wild is a bit shorter than domesticated dragons and is around 5-8 years.
There are two main reasons why bearded dragons usually live for much shorter periods than if they were in captivity, the first is food scarcity.
Since they need to find food on their own and while they do have excellent vision and hearing to find their creatures to eat, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find the crickets, mealworms and vegetables that are required for them to remain healthy.
This is especially the case in dry climates and during droughts where not only can they struggle to find food, but they also won’t receive 20 to 30 ml of water per kilo which is another daily requirement for keeping them refreshed and healthy.
The second reason they live for shorter periods is that they are commonly hunted by many other predators including hawks and buzzards, but also snakes, cats, foxes, wolves and many other animals that are even slightly bigger than dragons and can easily catch them to eat.
What Is The Longest Bearded Dragons Can Live?
Provided they are in captivity, bearded dragons have been known to live past 14 years of age, however while this is extremely rare, there are a few factors it depends on.
Great genetics play a big part in a bearded dragon living for longer, however it also comes down to an optimal space and suitable environment along with a good diet and consistent husbandry.
Husbandry is actually the most important element of keeping a dragon healthy so that they live for as long as possible and essentially refers to all the factors that go into caring for the pet such as appropriate lighting, feeding and necessary veterinary care.
How To Encourage A Bearded Dragon To Live For Longer
If you have a bearded dragon, it’s always worth taking the time to know how to keep them healthy not only so they can live for longer, but also so that they can feel as happy as possible in their day to day life rather than getting irritable or potentially picking up any illnesses.
Here are a few major factors that can impact the lifespan of a bearded dragon:
Probably the most important factor when it comes to keeping a bearded dragon as healthy as possible comes down to their diet, and this is actually something that a lot of owners can get wrong, especially as the lizard gets older.
The main mistake people make is feeding adults too much protein and not enough plants.
While dragons do require plenty of worms, crickets and other insects and small creatures to supply them with the necessary amount of protein to grow, when they are fully grown at around 12 months, they require a diet that is more reliant on plants and vegetables to keep them feeling healthy and to provide them with all the antioxidants they need to help their immune system resist illnesses and disease.
Calcium is also an important supplement to keep track of since the requirement for this also changes as the dragon gets older.
While hatchlings will need a calcium supplement added to their diet at least five times a week, young dragons who are in their first year of life will only need this supplement every other day while fully grown adults only require it once a week.
Calcium-rich foods that you can easily incorporate into the dragon’s diet include pieces of prickly pear, collard greens, dandelion leaves and escarole.
As long as their diet remains balanced and you adjust the type of supplements they are consuming as they grow older, the only other thing to keep in mind is that you’re feeding the dragon at the appropriate times so that they’re not left too long without food.
Adult bearded dragons should always be fed once per day while juveniles only require feeding twice a day, preferably with 4-6 hours in between the feeding time.
Finally, baby dragons will require feeding 3 to 5 times a day since they will need the nutrients to start growing.
While breeding is often encouraged for many animals so that they can build a family and carry on their genes, if you own a female bearded dragon and want to encourage her to live for as long as possible, it’s better to not let her breed since doing so can enlarge the abdomen which results in a loss of mass in the pelvis and the limbs which can make her body a lot harder to move, causing her to slow down and decreasing the overall lifespan.
While you can choose not to let a female dragon interact with a male so that breeding doesn’t take place, it’s not uncommon for female dragons to lay eggs on their own, similar to how chickens can do so without a mate.
This usually occurs from the second year onwards of the dragon’s life, and if this does occur, the best thing to do is support the female as much as you can by directly handing her food and water over the next week.
Females will feel exhausted after laying eggs since they can lay up to 25 per clutch which takes a toll on their body, so ensuring that they are still happy and healthy right after is vital.
Breeding has not been seen to have a significant enough impact on the life expectancy of male dragons to be recognized as much of a factor, however, if you do have a male and female in your captivity, for the female’s sake it’s still not advised to let them breed if it can be helped.
Reptiles are quite literally solar-powered with nearly every aspect of their life being dictated by the amount of light they receive throughout the day.
Without any light, reptiles such as bearded dragons can quickly develop metabolic bone diseases along with other severe illnesses, even if it’s just been a few days without a light source.
It’s therefore always vital to ensure that your dragon has the light it needs to roam around the cage and feel comfortable without its bones and organs becoming affected by the cold.
Make sure that you’re using a UVB bulb and not a coil. Using a UVB is important because it helps to regulate the production of Vitamin D3 in the lizard’s skin, and ideally, you want the light to be covering 2/3 to 3/4 the length of the overall tank.
You don’t ever want the light to be covering the entire tank since this can cause overheating if the dragon does not have a shady part of the tank to reside in when they want to get out of the heat.
Keeping this balance between keeping most of the tank heated with little pockets of shade is the perfect way to allow your pet to feel as comfortable as possible without any danger of them getting too warm and overheating.
Finally, always ensure to keep the humidity between 30% and 40% in order to protect the dragon from picking up any respiratory infections which are caused by poor habitat conditions including a lack of appropriate lighting.
Space And Environment
So that they have enough room to stretch their limbs and so that they don’t become stressed from feeling boxed in or isolated, alongside the lighting, it’s also important to ensure the environment your dragon is living in is big enough for them to feel comfortable.
This is especially important since built-up stress and anxiety can quickly lead to illnesses and disease in bearded dragons, however it also impairs their physical growth which leads to a few problems throughout their lives including difficulty shedding their skin.
Keeping bearded dragons in a terrarium is often seen as the best type of cage to contain them in.
These indoor containers are usually a lot bigger than regular cages designed for other smaller pets and usually have a basic and clear design that won’t look like you’re sealing the dragon away.
The general rule of thumb is that the terrarium should be at least 2-3 times the tail-to-nose length of the dragon, this ensures they will have more than enough space to roam around even when they’re fully grown.
It’s also advised not to keep more than one bearded dragon in a cage at once, not only to prevent breeding, but also because it means the cage can quickly become crowded which can make it awkward for each dragon to move around.
Check For Diseases And Illnesses
Bearded dragons can unfortunately pick up certain illnesses and diseases quite easily if they’re not cared for properly, however this can also happen even if they do seem completely healthy.
Because of this, it’s important to examine your dragons frequently for abnormalities or any signs of illness that could be a cause for concern.
Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common illness that can affect dragons and is usually a result of not absorbing enough calcium.
Luckily, it can be easily spotted by checking for any swelling in the limbs or the jaw. Also, check frequently for any bumps along the spine or bones to try and catch the illness early.
As soon as you do think your dragon may be affected by MBD, it’s crucial to take them straight to a veterinary since while it cannot be removed entirely, it can be reversed which is always better than your dragon living a painful and deformed life.
Another common infection bearded dragons can catch is an Upper Respiratory Infection or URI which can be easily spotted if the bearded dragon is constantly breathing with their mouth open, if they are gasping for air and if you notice slimy mucus coming from their nose or mouth.
This infection is usually due to incorrect humidity, an insufficient bulb or if the dragon consumes too much water at once which can often happen by accident when they are being bathed.
Finally, if you notice that a bearded dragon has begun vomiting or has been losing weight, experiencing diarrhea or seeming more lethargic than usual, it could be the case that they are dealing with a high parasite count which can rob them of nutrients and even blood.
If your dragon vomits, bag this up and take it to the vet who will be able to detect whether it really is parasites that are affecting the reptile, and if it is, they will prescribe antibiotics to flush them out of the dragon’s system.
How To Tell How Old Your Bearded Dragon Is
If you’re interested in checking how old your bearded dragon is in case you’ve forgotten how long you’ve had it, or if you picked it up while it was still growing or when it was already an adult, there are a few easy ways this can be done.
It all comes down to the length since because bearded dragons tend to grow at roughly the same speed, it makes it easy to test what stage of their life a dragon is at by measuring them from head to tail.
Hatchlings who have been born in the last month will often be under four inches while those that are between four and ten inches are under four months old.
Twelve inches or less then signifies that a dragon is just under a year old while fully grown adults will often be between 16 and 24 inches.
While these are rough estimates, if you want to know exactly how many months a bearded dragon has been alive up to a year, these are the more accurate measurements:
- 3-4 inches = 1 month
- 5-9 inches = 2 months
- 8-11 inches = 3 months
- 9-12 inches = 4 months
- 11-16 inches = 5-6 months
- 13-20 inches = 7-8 months
- 16-22 inches = 9-12 months
Another easy way to determine a dragons age is by recognizing if they are sexually mature yet. If they are, then they will be at least 8 months old.
To determine this, check under the dragon’s tail for any bulges, if there are no bulges, then the dragon has not yet sexually matured and will be younger than 8 months.
Does Loneliness Affect A Bearded Dragon’s Lifespan?
While many animals can suffer from loneliness if they are alone for too long or don’t interact with their owners or other animals enough, bearded dragons are naturally solitary creatures which means they will not feel lonely if kept in a cage for some time away from their owners or other dragons.
These reptiles actually prefer having their food and heat to themselves rather than sharing it which actually makes them a lot happier than having to share a confined space with another one of their kind.
Because of this, bearded dragons will not experience any mental stress and will not get irritable if they are left on their own for a few hours, this is much different from many mammals who are accustomed to living in groups out in the wild, in contrast, lizards including bearded dragons almost always live on their own and only interact with other dragons during breeding.
With that being said however, while they are recognized as solitary creatures, because they grow familiar with their owners so quickly they will still enjoy human company every so often so it’s always advised to bring them out of their cage on occasion just to give them some interaction and keep them happy.
Because they are so territorial, it’s also another reason why they often prefer to live on their own as opposed to residing in a cage with other dragons since this can usually cause them to compete over the warmest areas and can occasionally fight each other, so in order to keep them happy and healthy, it’s always a better idea to only have one in a tank at a time and if you do own 2 dragons, keep them in separate tanks.
Bearded dragons in captivity that are well-fed and cared (Also check out Caring For A Silkback Bearded Dragon) for can live on average between 8 and 12 years, however, they can even live a little longer than this if they contain the right genetics.
The major factors to always keep in mind when caring for a bearded dragon to ensure they live for as long as possible are their diet, which must be adjusted as they grow older, and illnesses which can shorten their lifespan drastically if they get out of hand, along with maintaining the appropriate humidity levels in the tank at all times.