Whether you’re considering getting a new pet, recently brought home a scaly friend, or have been a long time owner, it’s important to know how long your bearded dragon will live. Yes we could just put a bearded dragons lifespan at 4 to 10 years but there is more to it than that.
It is nearly impossible to determine the exact lifespan of bearded dragons in the wild but there are guesstimates out there which are less than that of our pets.
VCA Hospitals put the average lifespan of a pet bearded dragon at 7 to 12 years (Axelson and Hess, 2016), while National Geographic lists 4 to 10 years as the average (Schabacker, 2020). If we consider them together, that gives us an answer of anywhere from 4 to 12 years.
There are also a few cases of bearded dragons living up to and even past 14 years. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, one bearded dragon in the UK named Sebastian lived for 18 years and 237 days before dying in January 2016.
This is worth keeping in mind when it comes giving bearded dragons to children for pets. Who will be looking after the pet if your children will move on to a college or out of home in 5 or 10 years?
So why the huge disparity in lifespan numbers? How long do bearded dragons live? The real answer is, much of it depends on you.
How Can I Increase my Bearded Dragons Lifespan?
Bearded dragons are exotic pets. Compared to many other exotics they are easy to care for and this unfortunately gives them the title of being great pets for beginners. Their needs are not always recognised or catered for and this can bring about ill health to early death.
75% of pet reptiles in the UK die within their first year (Fry, 2015). This is not just an issue in the UK, it is worldwide. The quality of care directly impacts their life.
The good news is that if well looked after, then bearded dragons can have a lifespan of 10+ years.
There are many things that impact your pets health. Here are 5 ways to improve the lifespan of your bearded dragon:
- Good and varied diet.
- Habitat which encourages natural behaviours.
- Prevent and treat health issues. Medical support from your vet.
- Brumation. Providing conditions that encourage brumation may also increase lifespan.
1. Getting the Diet Right
Bearded dragons are omnivorous and in the wild will eat a wide variety of vegetation including leaves, flowers, and fruit as well as insects. When keeping a bearded dragon as a pet, it is important to approximate this diet by giving it a range of invertebrates and vegetables. Supplements are also important, mainly calcium and vitamin powder.
So to recap, the right diet for your scaly friend includes:
- Variety of invertebrates such as crickets, cockroaches and some worms.
- Leafy greens and chopped vegetables.
- Calcium and vitamin supplement powder.
Finally, although bearded dragons are used to living in an arid climate with little access to water, they still need to drink and will enjoy a nice cool bath every now and then. You can provide both of these by simply putting a shallow dish of water in their habitat. Make sure to change the water and clean the dish regularly.
2. Hydration is Essential
Hydration for pet bearded dragons can be an issue and continual mild dehydration is a recipe for diseases which take years to become evident. They don’t need much as they are extraordinarily efficient at using water, but they do need some daily.
3. Create A Good Habitat
There are some basic, minimum requirements for creating an adequate habitat for your bearded dragon:
- Give space (4 foot is small but standard).
- A good source of heat.
- Exposure to both UVA and UVB light.
- Accessories and substrate that encourages natural behaviours.
- An outdoor enclosure for sunny days.
You will often find kits that help you build a glass tank with these minimum requirements, but remember much of how long a bearded dragon lives depends on you. If you want your beardie to live 10+ years rather than 7, you’ll want to provide a habitat that goes beyond those minimum requirements.
If you want the best housing for your beardie, here are things to keep in mind:
- It’s better to start with a good habitat rather than buying something inferior and planning to upgrade later.
- Habitats need regular cleaning, and small containers will need more frequent cleaning than large ones.
- Whatever materials you use will have different pros and cons. Choose material that works with your space and lifestyle.
There are many ways to build a great habitat for your bearded dragon. For a more comprehensive look on habitats, read our article on indoor and outdoor housing.
4. Prevent and Treat Common Health Issues
To ensure your bearded dragon lives a long life, be aware of potential health issues and how to prevent and treat them. Common health issues include metabolic bone disease (MBD), atadenovirus, impaction and parasites.
You can prevent many of these issues simply by providing a balanced diet and proper habitat including adequate heat and lighting.
Visit a veterinarian familiar with reptiles at least annually prior to brumation. For new bearded dragons, VCA Hospitals recommend you visit within 48 hours of purchase for an examination to check for physical abnormalities, signs of dehydration and weight loss, and parasites (Axelson and Hess, 2016).
There has been some speculation amongst vets that brumation could impact lifespan, certainly weight as well. Check out the article on brumation.
So as you can see, there is no clear answer to the question of how long do bearded dragons live. Your bearded dragon may live anywhere from a few to 14 years. What makes the difference is primarily the level of care they receive from you.
To keep your bearded dragon healthy and happy into old age, provide a proper diet, housing, and visit the veterinarian regularly to prevent and treat any health issues before they become severe.
And who knows? If you’re lucky, maybe 19 years from now, you’ll have a new Guinness World Record for the oldest bearded dragon ever.
- Axelson, R. DVM, Hess, L. DVM. (2016) Bearded Dragons – Owning. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bearded-dragons-owning
- Australian Museum. (2019) Central Bearded Dragon. https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/reptiles/central-bearded-dragon/
- Fry, B. (2015) Venomous Reptiles and Their Toxins: Evolution, Pathophysiology, and Biodiscovery.
- Schabacker, S. Bearded Dragon. National Geographic. Accessed February 2020. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/group/bearded-dragon/
- Guinness World Records. Oldest Bearded Dragon Ever. Accessed February 2020. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/116317-oldest-bearded-dragon-ever