Bearded dragons are perfect to have as pets if you like reptiles. They are just the right size, friendly enough to be tamed, and completely adorable. But are they territorial?
Are bearded dragons territorial? Yes, male bearded dragons are territorial creatures. Males sharing a tank can get aggressive towards each other and even bully and attack. Females are a little milder, but they too need their own space and might get stressed if kept with a male or other females in a tank.
You need to understand that your friendly pet is not a social animal. Some beardie owners feel that they are doing an injustice to their pet by keeping it all by itself in a tank. This could not be further away from the truth.
The fact is bearded dragons don’t want company; they don’t need it. So while your beardie might get all cozy and friendly with you, that does not mean it will extend the same courtesy to another beardie. Let’s see all about bearded dragons’ territorial behavior in this article.
Bearded dragons and territorial behavior
Bearded dragons are naturally territorial. You can observe a bearded dragon and tell that it is getting territorial if it shows the below signs.
1. Head bobbing:
Head bobbing can mean lots of things as far as beardies are concerned. But if you have just introduced a new beardie to a tank, its original occupant might bob its head as a sign of being territorial.
Beardies bob their heads up and down in rapid succession to let the newcomers know that they are not welcome.
If two beardies are head bobbing at each other where one is bobbing faster and the other’s movements are slow, this is again a sign of territorial behavior.
It means that the beardie with faster movements is establishing itself as the dominant and the one with slower movements is acknowledging this and submitting.
Bearded dragons fluff their beards to project themselves as bigger and to appear menacing. If faced in a situation where their territory is threatened, they might fluff up to frighten each other.
3. Hissing and opening their mouth:
Beardies can also hiss at new entrants in their territory to signal their displeasure. Some might open their mouths wide to appear fearsome.
4. Lying on top of each other:
If two of your beardies are lying on top of each other, don’t be fooled into thinking they are cuddling and getting along. Beardies need UV light for their physiological functions.
When a beardie gets on top of another, it is basically showing its dominance by indicating that it is entitled to more basking. The beardie under it is showing signs of being oppressed.
What can happen if two or more males are housed in the same terrarium?
Male bearded dragons won’t allow a new member in their territory, in this case, their terrarium. If they see another beardie in the tank, expect a lot of aggression from both sides. They can get into fights and attack each other.
In the wild, the weaker beardie can run away. But with no place to go while inside a terrarium, the weaker one can become oppressed.
On the surface, an oppressed beardie living with a dominant beardie can look as if you have been able to successfully house two beardies in one tank. But, if you look closer, you will find that this is not the case.
The dominant beardie can bully and attack the weaker one to the point of physically harming and injuring it. This is apparent by missing toenails and/or the tip of its tail.
Also, remember that being the weaker male in a terrarium is extremely stressful for a beardie. It might stop eating, keep to itself by staying in a corner or hiding for long periods of time. Their activity can get diminished and they show a black beard that is indicative of stress.
Oppressed beardies can be spotted due to how weak and thin they look.
Another problem that can arise is that when a male bearded dragon comes across a stronger, dominant male, it could try to hide its gender. This is known as ‘gender suppression’. The beardie deliberately and willfully changes its physical characteristics which identify it as the male of the species.
This can again cause tremendous stress to the beardie.
In addition to this, an oppressed beardie might use circumduction to indicate submission.
In this, it lifts one of its forelegs and moves it in circles as if waving.
Oppressed bearded dragons can get weak and stressed and it can lead to malnutrition culminating in death. That is if they are not killed off by the dominant male in the tank. Hence, it is totally not recommended to keep two or more males together.
Why do bearded dragons become territorial?
The simple answer to this question is that this is how they have been created by nature. It is an evolutionary phenomenon so that only the stronger dragons are able to establish their territories and mate with females.
Bearded dragons don’t live in groups in the wild. Adult males have femoral pores. They secret their scent through these pores to mark their territories. And they guard their territories well. Other males are not welcome in this marked area.
When a new male tries to enter another male’s territory, a fight ensues and the stronger one gets to stay while the weaker runs away.
A female entering the territory of a male will be pursued by the male for mating. If the female mates, she buries the eggs in the territory before leaving. If the female does not want to mate, she can very well leave. Thus the only time bearded dragons come close is when they mate.
And once done, both beardies go their separate ways never to meet again.
When baby beardies hatch out of the eggs, they scurry along to find sustenance and solitude. Their first instinct after being born is to get away from other bearded dragons and predators and find their own environment to live.
Can female beardies also become territorial?
Females are not aggressively territorial. However, even they are not very happy to share space with other beardies. Two or more females in one tank are capable of living peacefully, technically speaking.
However, when the tank space is less, even females are known to attack each other. Also, in the wild, the females also live solitary lives, so it doesn’t make much sense to make them stay together just because you want them to.
If you absolutely want to keep two or more females together, the least you could do is get a bigger tank so that they are not in each other’s way. For two beardies, anything less than a 100-gallon tank would be too small.
Can you keep a male and female together?
In the wild, male bearded dragons are known to guard their territories against other males. But, they allow more than one female in their territory so that they can mate. They also protect these females from other males.
Bearded dragons’ behavior in the wild can make some think that since males and females do not try to drive each other off, it might be a good idea to keep them together. But, it is a wrong assumption.
Bearded dragons in captivity usually see another beardie of any gender as threatening and might not be particularly partial towards females. Besides, they don’t like the company or even need it.
Since nature has created bearded dragons to be loners, it is best not to try and make them stay in groups.
So what should you do if you have more than one beardie?
A good option is to give them away to someone who will appreciate these lovely pets and nurture them. But, of course, if you are too attached to your companion, make separate housing arrangements for them.
If you find that even the sight of another beardie is triggering territorial behavior in them, consider positioning their tanks in such a way that they cannot see each other.
Pet store owners might try to convince you that having more than one beardie is a good idea. But don’t fall for it. It never is a good idea even if the beardie has been housed in a group at the pet store.
Understand that a beardie is forced to stay in a group at the pet store and it would much rather have its own space.
What is a bearded dragon’s lifespan? Bearded dragons can live for about 10 years in captivity. When given superior care, some go on to live for up to 15 years too! Beardies in the wild have shorter lifespans, though.
Why does my bearded dragon wave at me? Waving is usually a form of communication between bearded dragons. It shows submission. If it is waving at you or another bearded dragon, it does that to indicate acknowledgment of your dominance.
Why is my bearded dragon clawing at the glass? A bearded dragon might do that to get out of the tank. Constant clawing or scratching at the glass can make beardies stressed.