Bearded dragons are perfect if you are looking for a reptile that’s small enough to be easily cared for yet big enough to be handled and bonded with. But is your pet a girl or a boy? That’s easier to find out once it reaches puberty.
When do bearded dragons hit puberty? Bearded Dragons hit puberty between 8 to 18 months. Going by the size, a bearded dragon could be between 18 to 22 inches when it reaches puberty. Bearded Dragons can show (pre)puberty signs at about 5 to 9 months of age.
If you know the age of your bearded dragon, you can tell when it approaches puberty. Other signs include its length, changes in physical appearance, changes in behavior, etc. Knowing that the changes are related to puberty can help answer a lot of questions you might have. In this article, we will walk you through everything there is to know about beardie puberty.
What happens when a bearded dragon reaches puberty?
The changes in beardies when they reach sexual maturity can be classified as physical change and behavioral changes.
Reproductive organs: Before a bearded dragon reaches puberty, it is almost impossible to tell whether it is a male or a female. Gender detection merely by looking at the beardie is difficult. But as it reaches puberty, the differences between a male and a female are apparent.
If you hold the beardie flat against its belly and gently lift the tail so that it is perpendicular to the body, you can see the tell-tale signs of puberty. Male beardies will have two vertical bulges on either side on the underside of the tail, just above the vent.
Female beardies will have a single bulge above the vent. These bulges are the reproductive organs of the beardies taking form and their presence indicates sexual maturity.
Femoral pores: Femoral pores look like dots that run across one hind leg to the other, all over the underside of the dragon. These pores are only found in males. At the onset of puberty, these pores would be fewer in number and less prominent.
As the male beardie grows, the pores become more visible. Bearded dragons are territorial creatures and they use the femoral pores to secret their scent and mark their territories.
Size: A bearded dragon is between 18 to 22 inches when it reaches puberty. Usually, male beardies of the same age are slightly bigger than their female counterparts at puberty. However, this might not always be true.
Healthy males also appear stocky (not fat) when they reach sexual maturity. Also, males can have bigger heads than females.
Aggression: Bearded dragons might show classic adolescent behavior when they hit puberty. They might suddenly try to charge and bite anything and everything in sight. This includes their caretakers when they try to get near them or pick them up. They also hiss at things or at nothing in particular.
Even the tamed beardies can show some aggression when they are going through this phase. It can be a difficult time for the owners to deal with this sudden change in their pets.
A heightened sense of smell: Some bearded dragon owners claim that their beardies get more aggressive during puberty when they smell something different. Hence, it is best to wash your hands well with a non-scented soap before you handle your pet.
Black-bearding: Another form of aggression at puberty is the beardie’s sudden discovery of their beards. They might puff up their beards at the drop of a hat. Also, the beards appear dark in color, almost black.
Head bobbing: Some beardies might resort to head-bobbing to demonstrate their first steps towards adulthood. They can also be seen moving around restlessly around their tank and stopping to bob their heads or wave by lifting one of their forelegs.
Taking care of bearded dragons during puberty
The best way to take care of a beardie during puberty is to give the beardie as much space as you can. Beardies in the wild go through this phase and come out of it without any help from humans. And beardies in captivity need not have it much different either.
So, if you see that your pet beardie is in one of those ‘moods’, just give it some time to calm down.
If the beardie has taken to attacking you every time you come near, it might get difficult to do routine tasks such as cleaning its terrarium. In such cases, approach the beardie with some food such as fresh greens.
When you put your hands inside the tank and it opens the mouth to hiss or bite, just put some greens in its mouth. (Only for the brave ones)
If the beardie does not let you hold it, things might get difficult. To avoid getting bitten, wear protective gloves before you pick it up. Also, make sure you let it know that biting and squirming is not okay by talking to it in a firm voice.
Don’t keep a squirming beardie down. Instead, let it calm down before you set it back in its tank. This teaches it that squirming does not mean that you will do as it wants.
Bearded dragons and company
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures. It is best to keep them alone in their terrarium. This holds true even more when beardies hit puberty. The sight of another beardie of the same or different gender can aggravate them.
Hence, one beardie per tank only, and the tanks should also be placed in such a way that beardies cannot see each other when they are in puberty.
Bearded dragons can get all worked up at the sight of anything moving, even their own reflections. You can minimize their stress by partially covering their tank or keeping it in a place where they don’t come across many distractions.
Spaying or neutering bearded dragons
Spaying or neutering bearded dragons is similar to neutering any other pets, in principle. It involves the surgical removal of reproductive organs. However, unlike other pets, this surgery can be comparatively riskier in beardies.
Also, most experts believe that neutering is not at all required in beardies. Even if the aggression is hormone related, beardies should be allowed to live off this phase. Once the initial months pass, most beardies return to their normal selves.
However, if you feel your beardie is showing severe signs of aggression that are related to puberty, take it to an experienced vet who can advise you on the best course of action.
Puberty is a natural phase through which bearded dragons go, just like any other animal. While some beardies might show drastic behavioral changes, some might go through puberty without a hitch.
This phase could be over in a few weeks or can last for up to 6 months depending on the individual beardie. As owners of these adorable pets, you need lots of patience during this time. And your pet needs just a little love and caring.
How long do bearded dragons live? Bearded dragons in captivity have a lifespan of about 8-10years. When properly cared for, they can live up to 10-12 years easily. In rare cases, when owners take very good care of them, they are known to live up to 15 years, too. Bearded dragons have relatively shorter lifespans in the wild.
Do bearded dragons have teeth? Yes. Bearded dragons have front teeth that fall and grow out. They have permanent side teeth that are fixed to their jaws and are used for chewing food.
What age do bearded dragons start brumation? It is believed that bearded dragons less than a year old do not bromate. However, this is not true. Beardies can start brumating at any age. It is a natural instinct triggered by seasonal changes.
Read our brumation guide for more information! It´s important to be prepared correctly.