Bearded dragon drinking drops of water misted onto the wall of its house

How to Get Your Bearded Dragon to Drink and Dehydration

There are a few ways to get your bearded dragon to drink and if all else fails, there are ways for you to ensure it stays hydrated. Methods to get them to drink include:

  • Misting,
  • Offering a bowl of water,
  • Bathing, and
  • Food.

Offering a bearded dragon water, particularly in the enclosure, is not enough to get it to drink. Continual mild dehydration, including during long or poorly managed brumation periods, can result in, or contribute to, cause significant health issues and (in extreme cases) death.

Water is vital. Health problems include gout and dysecdysis (Stahl and Donoghue 2010) kidney disease and constipation.

How much Water a Day do Bearded Dragons drink?

The amount of water reptiles need per day for maintenance is 10-30 ml per kilo per day (Mitchell, 2008) based on ideal weight for the animal. If your bearded dragon is dehydrated, skinny, obese, gravid or otherwise of abnormal size, then estimate the weight it should be. A full sized adult Pogona vitticeps will weight somewhere around 300 grams give or take.

At the rate of 10-30 ml per kilo per day the average amount of water a bearded dragon would need a day would be something aroundabout 2 teaspoons worth of fluids (5ml per teaspoon). That is assuming an average ideal weight of an adult Pogona vitticeps or barbata.

The amount of water a baby (hatchling) bearded dragon needs to drink everyday is even less. A bit of misting should be sufficient to provide fluids outside of food.

A lot of fluid will be taken in via food so very little is needed by mouth, but it is needed.

Do bearded dragons need water in their cage?

All captive creatures should be provided with access to water. However there are a few issues with providing water on demand in a bearded dragons habitat.

bearded dragon drinking from dish
Bearded dragon drinking from a pot plant tray used as a water dish.

As mentioned earlier, they can dehydrate even with the presence of water. They do not seem to instinctively know to drink from a bowl of still water. However, some will take to the water even if only to lay in it.

For some, walking through the water seems to stimulate the bowels, often a stools is left behind. A valid use of the water, but additional cleaning is required.

Keep the water on the cool side of the housing. Warm stagnant water in the habitat is a breeding ground for pathogens and some parasites. However, if kept clean, this can add to the environmental enrichment. Issues really occur with poor husbandry practices or enclosures that are too small or inadequate like glass tanks.

4 ways to get your bearded dragon to drink

If your bearded dragon doesn’t drink water you can instead try a combined hydration schedule which includes misting, moving water and bathing.

Bathing should not be used as a replacement for providing water by mouth and may well result in constant mild dehydration if used as the only means.

Providing water in a bowl

If a water bowl is to be provided it is best to be wide and shallow to allow for bathing, laying in or standing in and prevent drowning. The bearded dragon will more likely use the water to lay in than drink, but this also provides benefits from adding to hydration to enhanced environmental enrichment.

If the humidity is too high in the enclosure then just leave the bowl of water for a fixed time and remove it. Resolve the issue with the excessive humidity before leaving water permanently. For more information on humidity see the post Complete Guide to Humidity for Bearded Dragons. But remember it must stay clean which includes disinfecting the bowl.

How to encourage your bearded dragon to drink
How to encourage your bearded dragon to drink water from a dish – Vanessa Oldham’s beardie

Water that shows some signs of movement, even if it is a drop hitting the water surface, is far more attractive to bearded dragons than still water. Try stirring the water and perhaps putting a droplet of water on its snout. You could also try squirting a water sprayer directly into the bowl. It may take hours, days or weeks to encourage them to drink from a bowl, or it may never work at all.

Who else in the Bearded Dragons World community is supplying a water dish in the house?

There was a small survey conducted with the Bearded Dragons World community members to see how many were provided constant access to water and how often they are drinking water kept in their habitat.

Out of a total of 73 bearded dragons to it was found that 66% were provided continual access to water. Out of those 7% had been observed drinking on multiple occasions, 31% were seen to drink occasionally (less than once a week), 54% had never been observed drinking directly from the water dish and 8% were only observed to drink when assisted.


Continual access to water

66%

Seen drinking on multiple occasions

7%

Seen to drink occasionally

31%

Observed drinking directly from the water dish

54%

Only drank when assisted

8%

water dish in bearded dragons cage
Water dish provided in a bearded dragons house.

Misting, drinking off walls and surfing on floors

If your beardie won’t drink try misting surfaces. Some enjoy sliding on misted surfaces and can’t help but give it a lick on its way through. Moving water droplets is much more attractive than bowls of water.

bearded dragon sliding on wet surface
When bearded dragons don’t drink much try wetting surfaces. Some enjoy sliding on wet surfaces.

The surfaces to be misted should be disinfected and rinsed prior to wetting which makes it a practice best done after the daily cleaning. It’s good practice since they are confined to their enclosure and so pathogens and parasites build up quickly.

I have found wetting the floor surface encourages ‘surfing’ which is quite amusing to watch. They will flatten their belly on the surface and slide across it seemingly enjoying the experience and perhaps having a lick along the way.

Bearded dragon drinking water off the floor
Bearded dragon drinking water off the floor. First disinfect and rinse the area to be misted.

Clearly you can’t do this with a loose substrate. Good reason to change to something more versatile like tiles if you haven’t already.

Clean up the water after misting especially in glass tanks or other enclosures with poor air circulation. Mist outside of the habitat if it is a problem that cannot be fixed.

Survey of a few of the Bearded Dragons Community looked at Who else is misting their bearded dragon

Out of 21 bearded dragons (surveys submitted in the Bearded Dragons World Community), 12 had a misting routine ranging between daily to once a week, 3 were misted occasionally if the weather was hot and 9 were not provided a misting routine at all. The majority of survey respondents provided glass enclosures which is likely to provide some explanation for the lack of misting routines.


Misting routine ranging between daily to once a week

12%

Misted occasionally if the weather was hot

3%

Not provided a misting routine

9%

How do I teach my bearded dragon to drink water – from Misting to Drinking

This could have almost counted as a way to get bearded dragons to drink all on its own, but as it is a combination of the two methods above, it didn’t get its own number in the list.

Since moving water seems to attract bearded dragons when they are thirsty, moving from misting to drinking might be relatively easy for you to achieve. Form water droplets on an accessory over top of a water bowl and see if that brings any interest. You could also try spraying water in your hand (cleaned of course). Trick is to let them see you actually spray the water. This may take a number of attempts and it will work better when they are thirsty, not much point doing it after bathing if they are resistant.

Bathing

Bathing seems the most popular way to hydrate bearded dragons. Bathing on its own as a means of hydration is not going to be enough, or you will be bathing frequently which is often something they really don’t enjoy and just causes undue stress. If your bearded dragon doesn’t like bathing, rest assured you do not need to force it to. If it does enjoy it, then by all means use it as part of the hydration routine. More on how to bath a bearded dragon here.

Bathing bearded dragon in the sun
Bearded dragon bathing in the sun in shallow water. The bearded dragon initially showed fear in the water but settled with a supporting hand.

Direct fluid intake is the most effective and assured method of maintaining hydration. Bathing alone is a hit and miss method with no real way to determine how much water it is drinking.

Bearded dragon bathing in a tub
Spryo bathing in a tub. Photo courtesy of Amanda Bradbury.

Food

This one is the easiest method because it’s just vegetation. Not only is vegetation made up of a lot of water, but it can be misted prior to feeding. Adds more fluids to the diet but in a less intrusive and gentle way.

Top 20 Foods by the highest water content

Frequency Type Food Water_(g)
Often Vegetable Turnips frozen 95.67
Occasionally Vegetable Radish fresh raw 95.27
Occasionally Leafy green Watercress fresh, raw 95.11
Often Vegetable Zucchini inc skin, raw 94.79
Often Leafy green Lettuce Romaine or Cos fresh 94.61
Occasionally Vegetable Endive 93.79
Often Vegetable Capsicum, bell peppers, raw 93.3
Occasionally Leafy green Mustard greens, frozen unprepared 93.21
Often Leafy green Turnip greens, frozen 92.93
Occasionally Vegetable Cauliflower frozen unprepared 92.51
Occasionally Vegetable Cabbage, raw 92.18
Occasionally Fruit Strawberry, raw 92.1
Occasionally Vegetable Cauliflower fresh raw 92.07
Often Vegetable Turnips raw 91.87
Occasionally Leafy green Rocket fresh raw 91.8
Occasionally Fruit Watermelon, peeled 91.6
Warning Leafy green Spinach 91.4
Occasionally Vegetable Squash, button raw 91.1
Often Vegetable Carrots, baby, raw 90.35
Often Leafy green Turnip greens 89.67

References for data (national food databases and research) see the post Diet, Food & Nutrition for Bearded Dragons.

If your bearded dragon is not eating, but drinking water by the gallon,

Can i Mix Vitamins and Calcium With Water for my Bearded Dragon

It is best not to mix vitamins and calcium in the water in your bearded dragons house. The taste of the water is likely to be unpalatable and it will increase bacteria (Stahl and Donoghue 2010). Some of the best ways to provide vitamins and calcium are in the post on Creating Healthy Bearded Dragons – Guide to Calcium and Vitamin D3.

How to tell if my bearded dragon is Dehydrated

If your bearded dragon doesn’t drink water, chances are it is dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include:

  • wrinkled skin
  • the saliva tackiness, double strands forming when the mouth opens.
  • decreased elasticity in the skin. The skin tents when gently pinched
  • sunken eyes (Gibbons, 2009)
Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)target=”_blank”
Double strands of saliva are one sign of dehydration in bearded dragons. Picture hyperlinked to Flickr.
dehydration signs in bearded dragons
Double strands of saliva are one sign of dehydration in bearded dragons.

To perform the pinch test, gently pinch a bit of soft skin and see how long it takes to bounce back. If the skin is slow to bounce back then dehydration is likely. Their skin isn’t as elastic as ours.

Test if my bearded dragon is hydrated
Pinching skin to test if my bearded dragon is hydrated

The Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets by Simon Girling states that by the time the reptile gets to 3% the urates will be reduced and it might be a little lethargic. At 10% dehydration it will be “dull to comatose”.

No one is going to notice a 3% difference in urates, so do not rely on that as a means to identify dehydration.

As dehydration progresses it will become a little more obvious with the skin on its back wrinkling. There are other possible causes for wrinkling which includes just having room for growth but it is easy enough to tell the difference.

Bowel movements have probably become a little less frequent moving on towards constipation (such a common cause of constipation and so easy to avoid). Shedding may be slowing down or becoming problematic.

The mucous membranes will get a bit tacky, again to what extent will be dependent on the degree of dehydration.

As the level continues to increase, signs may include sunken eyes, muscle weakness or even gout. Behavioral signs may include decreased body weight and reduced activity. This is really serious by the time these signs occur and radical changes need to happen immediately including adding a vet to the mix.

What do you do if your bearded dragon is dehydrated? Get the above hydrating routines in place!

References and Further Reading

  1. Girling, S. 2003. Veterinary nursing of exotic pets. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.
  2. Stahl, S., and Donoghue, S. 2010. Nutrition of Reptiles. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al, editors. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Topeka (KS): Mark Morris Institute.
  3. Mitchell, M. (DVM) 2008. Fluid therapy for reptiles (Proceedings). CVC in Kansas City Proceedings. DVM 360. http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/fluid-therapy-reptiles-proceedings
  4. Gibbons, Paul. 2009. Critical Care Nutrition and Fluid Therapy in Reptiles. Proceedings of the 15th Annual International Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Symposium. September 9-13, 2009. Chicago, Illinois. Pp. 91-94.

What do you do to stop your bearded dragon becoming dehydrated? Share your hydrating routine with the community.

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RangotheRainbowMango

I have seen my beardie go under water and then stick his tongue out and out it back in his mouth. it looks like he is drinking do you think he is? I also am wondering some more tips on how to make his tank less humid. Thanks!

Patti Box

I like Deana idea. I’m going to try the worm idea.

Vickie

Our guy enjoys bathing so we give him a bath about 3x a week. I’ve gotten him to drink water in the bath a few times by gently tapping the water to make small waves and splash a little. I think he’s been seen taking a quick lick of the water in his tank once. We’ll try misting his food, thank you for the advice.

Deana

I drop his worms in his water dish so he can get water