As you probably know, bearded dragons can get pretty huge. They do not get as big as iguanas, but they definitely can become big boys or girls. If your bearded dragon is not growing, something has to be wrong. So if you ask yourself: Why is my bearded dragon so small? – Here is your answer!
Often times, small bearded dragons that do not grow properly are malnourished or live in a tank with an insufficient lighting setup. Further, not all types of bearded dragons become big. The pygmy bearded dragon (Pogona Henrylawsoni) only gets around 12 inches (30cm) in size.
However, the are are even more reasons that could lead to slower growth or no growth at all in bearded dragons. Below I show you, what those other reasons are and what you can do about it. Further, at the end of this article I show you an easy way to tell if your bearded dragon is growing properly or not.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon So Small?
As you just have learned, there are several things that could cause your bearded dragon to stay small. Fortunately, most of the reasons are easily explained and also easily fixed. So if your bearded dragon is smaller than it should be, in most cases that can be changed quickly.
However, that does not mean that you should take this lightly. Actually a couple of reasons require immediate action. So here are all reasons for lack of growth.
1. Is Your Bearded Dragon Suffering From Parasites?
A lot of bearded dragons in captivity suffer from parasites at least once in their lifetime. While parasites can occur if you do not clean the tank properly, your bearded dragon could also get infected with parasites by only eating its food.
Sometimes, the box of crickets that we get from pet stores or online can be infested with parasites. So even if you do everything right, this can happen.
Parasites are known for draining a lot of your bearded dragon´s energy. If your bearded dragon is still young, it can happen that those parasites drain so much energy that they reduce your bearded dragon´s growth and the beardie stays small.
Needless to say that you should take your bearded dragon to a reptile vet immediately. If you can´t take your bearded dragon to a vet right now, but you suspect that your bearded dragon is suffering from parasites, send a stool sample of your bearded dragon to the reptile vet.
This way they can check your bearded dragon on parasites quickly even if you can´t drive to the vet.
Some parasites do not only slow down growth. They can also kill your bearded dragon slowly or quickly, so it is very important to check your bearded dragon on parasites at least once a year or as soon as your bearded dragon acts weird.
2. Do You Keep Multiple Bearded Dragons In One Tank?
Even though a lot of pet shops sell bearded dragons in groups, you should not keep multiple bearded dragons in one tank.
Bearded dragons are solitary animals or in other words, they are loners. Most of the times, keeping multiple bearded dragons in one tank just doesn´t work. Male bearded dragons are very territorial.
If you keep two male in one tank, one of those males will get oppressed and even attacked. Even if you keep one male and one female or two females in one tank, things like that can happen.
Male bearded dragons can even suppress their gender in order to appear like a female. This way, they can survive living with another, stronger male bearded dragon in one tank.
People that keep more than one bearded dragon in one tank often say that one of their bearded dragon is substantially smaller than the other bearded dragon. This happens mostly because the smaller bearded dragon gets oppressed.
So if you have a very small bearded dragon, you should separate the two immediately before worse things can happen.
3. Not Enough Calcium?
Bearded dragons need calcium to grow properly. Calcium is very important for healthy bones and if a bearded dragon does not get enough calcium, it won´t grow and it bones will get soft over time.
A bearded dragon that suffers from soft bones over a long period of time, will become deformed and it won´t be able to hunt nor to even stand still as it´s limbs are so weak that a stable position will be impossible. Eventually your bearded dragon will die from that if left untreated. This disease is called metabolic bone disease.
While most people already dust the feeder insects with a calcium supplement, that might not be enough. It is very important that you offer calcium at all times. If you do not do that yet or if your bearded dragon isn´t growing properly, I highly recommend to read my article on beardie diet tips. Click here to read it.
4. Wrong Temperature?
Bearded dragons come from the wild of Australia. As you can imagine, it is pretty hot there and that´s why you have to get heat bulbs that can get really hot. The temperature under the basking spot should be around 110 °F.
However, not only the temperature under the basking spot is important. The temperature in the whole tank is important. If the temperature in your tank is too low, your bearded dragon might not be very active, because it can´t get it´s body on temperature.
As you probably know, bearded dragons are cold-blooded, which means that they do not have a stable body temperature and need an external heat source to control their body temperature.
If they are not able to heat up properly, a bearded dragon´s body won´t function properly. It can´t move as fast as it normally could, it will be pretty lazy or even lethargic and young bearded dragons won´t grow properly.
As you see, the temperature in your tank is highly important. If you need to know what temperatures your beardie tank needs and what heat lamps you should get, click here to read my article on that.
5. Wrong UVB Lights?
Having no UVB lamps or insufficient UVB lamps and not offering enough calcium have the same results. Your bearded dragon´s bones will become soft, it won´t grow and it will become deformed and eventually it will die.
That is because, bearded dragons need to produce vitamin D to be able to process calcium. Bearded dragons can only produce vitamin D if they get enough UVB rays from a UVB lamp.
Unfortunately, not all UVB bulbs are good. In fact, most of them have an insufficient UVB output. Further, it is highly important to change the UVB bulb every 6 to 8 months as the UVB output of those bulbs reduces over time.
If you need to know what the best UVB bulb is, read my bearded dragon lighting guide. Click here to read it.
6. What Type Of Bearded Dragon Do You Have?
Actually, not all bearded dragons do get really big. While there are bearded dragons that simply do not get as big as other bearded dragons, there are also different types of bearded dragons.
For example, most bearded dragons in captivation are Pogona Vitticeps and can become 20 to 22 inches in length. Pogona barbata, or the eastern bearded dragon, can get even 24 inches in length in captivation.
The pygmy bearded dragon, Pogona henrylawsoni, only gets 12 inches in length.
If your bearded dragon is pretty small, it might be that you have a pygmy bearded dragon and not a standard bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps).
Pygmy bearded dragons do not have spikes as normal bearded dragons have. That´s how you can identify them.
7. Is Your Bearded Dragon Malnourished?
Juvenile bearded dragons should be fed live food each and every day, even multiple times a day. The protein they get from live food is very important for proper growth. Juvenile bearded dragons that are not fed properly won´t grow as quickly bearded dragons that get enough protein.
Baby bearded dragons can eat a full box of micro-crickets or small crickets per day. Some can even eat more. Just look at the baby beardie in the video below!
How To Tell If Your Bearded Dragon Is Growing Properly
Many people are worried that their baby bearded dragon, or young bearded dragon is not growing properly. That´s why a lot of bearded dragon owners weigh their bearded dragon every week or every month to ensure that their bearded dragon is growing as it should.
However, there is another way to tell if your bearded dragon is healthy and growing properly – regular shedding.
If you have a young bearded dragon it will shed every 4 weeks or even more often. The older they get the longer they need to shed. So if your young bearded dragon shedding at least once a month without any problems, your bearded dragon is growing properly.
Reptiles grow their whole life. However, young reptiles grow faster than older reptiles and that´s why they shed more often. If your bearded dragon is not shedding, it is not growing. More on shedding here.
Do Bearded Dragons Grow To The Size Of Their Cage?
That is a myth. Bearded dragons do not grow to the size of their cage. Lack of growth in bearded dragon is a result of insufficient lighting, bad feeding, diseases or parasites. Bearded dragons can get around 24 inches in length and they do not stay small just because they live in a small tank. Bearded dragons that are kept in a too small tank for too long will die eventually.
As you see, if you have a small bearded dragon, there are several things you might have to change quickly.
However, you should always keep in mind that some bearded dragons simply do not get as big as other bearded dragons. That´s just normal and if your bearded dragon is active, attentive and shedding properly, you don´t have to worry about it.
Why is my bearded dragon so small? – this article should have answered all the questions you had.
Still, if you have further questions, leave a message in the comment section.