When I first started with reptiles I thought that only Chameleons can change their color. I remember observing a huge veiled chameleon turning completely black in a pet shop.
I went to the pet shop owner to tell him that something is wrong with his chameleon, but he just laughed and told me the real reason for this color change. It was just bugged by my presence, lol.
When I got my bearded dragons and I first saw them completely black I thought they would have died. Luckily this was far from the truth. Everything was alright with my little pancake beardies. Maybe the exact same thing happened to you right now and before rushing to the vet you want to get some information on the internet.
Great that you are doing your research! The number one reason for your bearded dragon turning black really is totally harmless.
(BTW: We are not talking about a black beard here!)
Why Do Bearded Dragons Turn Black? - The Number One Reason!
Without further ado, let´s get right into the truth! The number one reason for your bearded dragon turning black is simply temperature regulation.
Bearded dragons are ectothermic, which means that they regulate their body temperature with external heat sources which would be the sun in the wild, or the heat bulb in your terrarium. In captivity your bearded dragon needs multiple climate zones inside the terrarium.
For example one hot zone on the right side of the tank. A "normal" zone in the middle of the tank and a cool zone on the left side of the tank.
So if a bearded dragon gets cold it will lie in the hot zone. If it gets too hot you might see your bearded dragon opening its mouth to regulate its temperature and after that it will most probably go to the cool zone. If you need help with your lighting, read my lighting guide!
By turning black your bearded dragon just wants to make sure that it gets the body temperature up quickly. Most of the time you can see that in the morning. The light turns on, your bearded dragon lies there, ready in full pancake mode and completely black.
By going full pancake they create a bigger area that absorbs more of the heat. Your bearded dragon will slowly turn back to the normal color during the day. Sometimes they stay a little bit darker, sometimes they have an even lighter skin tone. There is nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately the reason for your bearded dragon turning black is not always this harmless. Here are some other reason for this behavior.
Your Bearded Dragon Might Be Stressed Out
This really can be anything. If you just got your bearded dragon and it is black all the time just give it some time. Most of the time it will turn normal after a couple of days.
However, it could also be that they feel threatened by something. For example other animals that could be in sight distance of your beardie. Especially birds that sit in front of your window can freak beardies out.
How To Help A Stressed Bearded Dragon
If your bearded dragon is stressed and turns black the easiest way to help is to get some hides for your bearded dragon. I recommend to get a hide like this as it is very cheap and you can choose the size you need.
Reptile Hide Box
Some bearded dragons are shy and need some time alone. A hide box will definitely help here! Get this one as it is inexpensive and you can get it in various sizes.
You should also cover the sides of the beardie tank. This way your bearded dragon doesn´t see what´s going on around the tank and it will calm down and show normal colors quickly.
I recommend to use these plants to cover the sides of your tank. The plants make your bearded dragon feel safe inside the tank, because your beardie can also use them as hides.
Fluker´s Repta Vines
These plants look great, they can be used by your bearded dragon as hide and you can cover the sides of your tank so that your beardie feels more comfortable.
Make sure that your bearded dragon eats and drinks well and that its eyes are open and looking shiny and healthy. Look for any threats that could freak your dragon out. If your dragon does not turn normal it could be one of the next reasons.
Your Lighting Is Not Sufficient
This happens to all of us. Especially as a beginner. Most people just do not know what the correct lighting for bearded dragons is and I totally understand that. There is so much information on the internet which is downright confusing. To make sure that your lighting is sufficient, read my beardie lighting guide here!
There is one simple rule when it comes to lighting if your temperature and UVB is set up correctly: If you have enough hides for your bearded dragon, there is never enough light for a bearded dragon tank!
Seriously, they love bright light!
Is Your Bearded Dragon Sick?
In most cases there is no need to panic, but on the other side it is never too early to visit the vet. Your bearded dragon could be sick. However just turning black is not an indication for an illness. Here are a couple of symptoms your bearded dragon might show if a disease really is a factor.
Okay, I think that this is enough of the negative stuff. As I said in most cases your bearded dragon is just enjoying the sun, happy and healthy.
However, never feel bad for going to the vet too early. It could save your bearded dragon´s life!
So I think that I answered your question: Why do bearded dragons turn black? I hope you weren´t as shocked as I was when I first saw my bearded dragons completely black! 🙂
Any questions? Any stories? Leave a comment in the comment section below!