Last updated on July 7th, 2021 at 02:04 pm
One of the very first things I learned about bearded dragons is that every one of them is different. Their behavior and needs vary wildly from one to the next. Because of this, it can be hard to find good answers about them on the internet.
Lots of people can tell you what works for their beardie, but very few can help you figure out what’s right for yours! This was especially true when I first tried to figure out how and when to give my bearded dragon a bath.
To bathe a bearded dragon, fill a small bin with warm water (99-101 F) no higher than their knees. Let them soak for 10-20 minutes, but don’t leave them unattended. Gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush and then pat dry with a clean towel and place them in their basking spot when done.
The full answer is a bit more detailed—that’s why I’m writing this article. I did a ton of research. I questioned other beardie owners and a breeder, and I’ve spent some very enjoyable time bathing our beardie, Bacardi.
Now all that information is here for you so that you can figure out what’s right for your beardie. Not only to keep them healthy and clean, but to keep them happy as well!
How often should you give your bearded dragon a bath?
Bearded dragons should be given a 10-20 minute bath in warm, clean water 3 times per week. Additional baths should also be given any time they become visibly dirty. Shedding bearded dragons should be bathed 4-5 times per week. Brumating bearded dragons should be limited to one bath per week.
Let’s start with what is universal. All bearded dragons need additional moisture to what they get from their food. That can come from a water bowl, a daily misting, or baths.
In an ideal world, it would come from a mix of all three!
When looking at the list of reasons why bathing your bearded dragon is important, near the top is hydration. As I detail below, it’s a myth that bearded dragons can get all of their moisture from the veggies they eat. As some of you have experienced, not all beardies will eat enough veggies in the first place.
Too many people assume that because their dragon doesn’t drink from a dish that they are well hydrated. It’s not until their vet gives them a diagnosis of dehydration that they realize their little reptilian friends are thirsty!
It’s for this reason that most vets, breeders, and experienced owners will agree that bathing your bearded dragon 2-3 times per week is an absolute minimum.
Many beardies who won’t drink from a bowl will drink deeply in the bath. A two to three times per week bathing schedule will give your beardie ample opportunity to stay hydrated and drink in a way they may like better than from a bowl.
When does your beardie need more than the minimum number of baths?
This two to three times per week minimum also helps to keep their skin healthy. This seems to be the minimum effective dose when it comes to keeping their scaly skin supple.
Twice per week is not enough if they are shedding. If they are shedding their skin, it’s important to up the bathing frequency to at least three times per week if not more. I prefer daily when my beardie is shedding.
It’s extremely uncomfortable for your bearded dragon when they have skin that doesn’t want to come off. You’ll see this happen on their toes and at the base of their tail specifically. It can also happen around their joints (shoulders and knees).
The best way to help your beardie shed this unwanted skin is with a good soak. With a little bit of time and water, the stubborn skin will fall right off with little to no effort.
Remember, never pull or tug on shedding skin. You want to make sure the skin underneath is ready and the only way you know that is when the skin comes off naturally. At best, use a soft-bristle toothbrush during their bath to gently rub their scales in the direction they face.
See the step by step bathing instruction below for details!
Bathing frequency guidelines
Here’s a quick reference to help you determine how often and when your bearded dragon may need a bath:
- Minimum of 2-3 times a week, every week.
- Minimum of 3-4 times a week when they are shedding.
- Any time they have soiled themselves.
- If they are overheated (applies mostly to outdoor dragons, but always keep an eye on your temps just in case!).
- If you think your beardie is impacted or constipated. (Another trick for this is to give them a small serving of fruit. Both together can work like magic!)
- If your vet prescribes a betadine soak. This will only be if your beardie has an open wound. Please consult your vet in these situations.
Why do bearded dragons need a bath?
With a dog, the answer to this question is pretty straight forward. With a bearded dragon, not so much. Bathing your beardie regularly is important for a variety of reasons.
Bearded dragons need baths to stay clean, hydrated, and help them shed properly. Another important function of regular warm baths is in assisting digestion and encouraging your bearded dragon to poop. A warm bath can definitely provide relief to a constipated bearded dragon.
While they can’t absorb water through their skin or cloaca (their urinary and fecal orifices located at the base of their tail), spending time in water does help to moisturize their skin. You’ll find that a regularly bathed bearded dragon will have softer skin and better color.
This type of skincare is very important if your dragon is shedding. Regular bath time will aid this process and helps to safely remove dead skin that is sloughing off. Remember not to pull on loose skin, let it come off naturally (See my step by step guide, complete with pictures, below).
Many bearded dragon owners don’t keep a water bowl in their beardie’s enclosure. I don’t agree with this practice (what harm can come from leaving them some water!?). Those owners say it’s because their bearded dragon won’t drink from one so it’s not needed. Regardless of who is right, in either case, beardies need water!
Bearded dragons can get much of their moisture from the produce that they eat. The problem is that they can’t get it all that way. It’s a myth that beardies who eat lots of veggies don’t need additional water. They do.
Don’t rely on an internet myth to keep your beardie hydrated. Rely, instead, on water!
One of the best ways to do this is by giving them regular baths. You’ll most likely find that one of the things your bearded dragon does in the bath is drink. I know that Bacardi, our beardie, loves to sip some water during her bath time!
Help keep your bearded dragon healthy and hydrated by giving them baths. It’s a very important part of their care!
And remember, in order for this to be effective, baths need to come multiple times per week. Once in a while just won’t cut it. Imagine if you only got to drink once in a while!
While bearded dragons are generally not dirty animals, that doesn’t mean they don’t need cleaning. They do!
The presence of parasites, fungus, and bacteria can be limited and even prevented with regular baths. Your beardie will thank you for this practice!
I recommend occasionally using a soft-bristled toothbrush to GENTLY brush their skin. Go with the direction of their scales and again, be very gentle! You aren’t trying to scrub them, just kind of give them a nice massage. See my full step by step guide to beardie baths below for more details.
I can tell you from experience that a clean beardie doesn’t smell. If we are prompt in removing feces from their enclosure and give them weekly baths, we shouldn’t run into any problems with odor from our little scaly friends!
***Never use soap or detergent or a cleaner of any kind!!! These can be dangerous to your bearded dragon, especially if they like to drink in the bath. Just use water, there is no need for anything else.
It helps them poop
In an article I wrote about potty training your bearded dragon (we put together detailed instructions that you can see here), I pointed out that bearded dragons often like to poop in the bath.
They not only like doing this, but it makes things really easy to clean up and can help you to keep their homes clean and free of feces. Make sure to take their poop out of the bath immediately!
The warm water can also help your beardie with mild impactions (complete information on impaction can be seen here). Impaction is when your bearded dragon is having trouble digesting and passing something that it ate. One of the things that can help is a bath.
If you notice your beardie hasn’t pooped per their normal schedule, a nice warm bath may be just the thing they need. It can help head off an impaction before it becomes more serious.
They enjoy it!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, every bearded dragon is different. When it comes to baths, not all of them will like it. But most of them do and the odds that your beardie will are high.
Our dragon, Bacardi, actually doesn’t like them for long. She enjoys the first few minutes of soaking. Then she drinks for a minute or two. After that, she scrambles to get out of the tub and has no interest in hanging out in the water any longer.
Other beardies will enjoy the water and splash and play for a while. It varies by the individual, but it seems that almost all of them enjoy being in the water to some extent.
Supplemental daily misting
Since my beardie isn’t a huge fan of baths, I have her on a 3 times per week schedule. She’ll get in, soak for no more than 5 minutes, drink for a minute, and then scramble to get out.
If she liked them, I’d give her one every day. Since she doesn’t, she gets a daily misting instead. While definitely not a substitute for weekly baths, it’s a great supplement.
Regular misting can help with hydration and skin dryness. The shape of a bearded dragon’s head is such that little drops of water are funneled to their mouth where they can drink.
Every time I mist her, I can see my beardie taking advantage of this and licking the water droplets off of her nose.
I strongly recommend misting your dragon every day they don’t get a bath. Again, it’s not a substitute, but it’s a great compliment to regular bathing!
After using a household spray bottle for a while, I spent a few dollars on a reptile mister and it was a great investment. I can get the water only on her and not all over the enclosure. It’s also nice that the pressure is low enough that it kind of simulates a gentle rain and not some giant human spraying her with a hose!
Step by Step Guide to Bathing Your Bearded Dragon
Now that we’ve established a guideline for how often to give your bearded dragon a bath, let’s take a look at how to do it. While it is a simple and enjoyable process, there are a few important things to get right!
What you’ll need:
- Grip tape
- Rock (maybe)
- Soft bristle toothbrush
- Paper towel
- Temperature gun
Step 1 – Get a bathtub
A lot of bearded dragon owners use their own bath tubs or sinks for this. I’m not a fan of this for two reasons.
First, if you or your family use that sink or tub for anything else, there’s always a chance that there could be harmful residue. Since beardies like to drink in the bath, any type of household chemical or cleaning product residue could be harmful or fatal to your pet.
Second, beardies like to poop in the bath. Their poop can have salmonella in it. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want salmonella in any of my household sinks or my tub.
It’s much more hygienic and safe for you and your bearded dragon to have a dedicated beardie tub. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We use a Sterilite container we bought at our local hardware store for just a few bucks.
Some people like to get tall sided containers so that their beardie can’t get out. I went with a lower sided container. This is a preference thing on your part.
That container gets cleaned and disinfected after bath time. Always remember to thoroughly rinse out any cleaning agents you might use. You can also use a water and vinegar mixture which has less of a chance of causing problems for your dragon. Either, rinse and then rinse again just in case!
Pick up a cheap pack of waterproof grip strips and cover the bottom of your container. Your beardie’s nails will not have any traction on slick plastic. Adding these strips will significantly aid to their footing so they can more easily walk around their tub. I bought these on Amazon and they worked great!
Some beardies also like a way to get out of the water for a minute. In these cases, it’s nice to have a good sized rock to put in there with them. That way they can climb up on the rock and get out of the water for a minute if they want.
We don’t do that with our beardie, instead we have a smaller tub with lower sides that allows her to get up on the side or get out if she wants.
Do not leave your beardie unattended in the bath!!! Always be there to supervise in case your beardie gets stuck under the water for any reason (more about proper water levels below). You also need to be there if they start to freak out and want to get out.
Stress is not good for your beardie and they can quickly become stressed in the tub. Make sure you are there to take them out if needed!
Also, it’s important that you are there to remove any feces as it happens. You don’t want your beardie pooping in the water and then having that poop sit in there with them for any length of time.
Step 2 – Fill the tub with water
The water level should only come up to their knees, no higher. Beardies aren’t strong swimmers and this is a bath, not a swim meet! Make sure they can comfortably relax in the tub without worrying about water coming up over their face, nose, or head.
The temperature of the water should be 85℉-100℉ (29℃-38℃). I like to use my temp gun (an important tool to have as a beardie owner for several reasons) to make sure the water is the right temperature.
You’ll need a temp gun for more than just baths, so if you don’t have one, I really like this one that I got on Amazon. It’s worked well for years and is still on the first battery!
If your bearded dragon likes longer baths, remember to swap out some of the water and keep it at a nice warm temperature for the duration of their time in the tub. What I like to do is start the water at 100℉ (38℃) and even if it cools some, it’s still nice and warm 15 minutes later.
Is tap water okay?
The quick answer is that it should be (we wrote a complete article on the subject of tap water that you can see here). But there are people that would disagree. I’ll start by telling you that I use tap water, my breeder uses tap water, and a lot of other beardie owners use tap water with no ill effects.
That said, tap water varies from city to city. Fluoride and chlorine are added in many places and in high amounts can be bad for your bearded dragon. I’ll leave it to you to research your local water quality and make a decision.
If you decide that your local water is not good for your beardie, there is a great product out there called Reptisafe. It’s a water purifier made just for reptiles. Just a few drops should take care of your bath or drinking water. You can pick some up on Amazon by clicking here.
It’s also not advisable to use distilled water. You want your beardie to get the minerals that are present in regular water. Distilled water removes those. Since your beardie will probably drink in the bath, you want your water to have minerals. Distilled water doesn’t.
Step 3 – Put them in the water
Be gentle here. Some beardies can’t wait to get into the water. Others might be wondering what the heck you are doing. This is especially true when you first start with regular baths.
Take your beardie out of their enclosure and make sure they are calm first. I like to rub Bacardi’s head until she calms down and closes her eyes. She likes that a lot!
Once calm, lower them into the water. One thing to keep in mind is that they cannot see the water when it’s still! So splash the water a little before putting them in. This allows them to see it and know what’s coming.
Step 4 – Let them adjust
Some dragons will start to play and splash right away. Others will sit there frozen. Whichever your dragon does, let them get adjusted before going on. Allow them to chill out in the water and enjoy the warmth.
Many beardies will start to drink now. Others will poop almost immediately. You’ll get to know what your beardie likes to do. Let them do it!
Step 5 – Time to clean
It’s very important not to use any detergents or soaps here. Warm water is all that is needed! It’s also important that any poop is removed from the water promptly.
Now that we are using clean, clear water, there are two steps you can take to help your beardie get clean in the bath.
Next, if you want, take a soft bristle toothbrush and gently rub them down. Don’t scrub, look at it more as a light massage. If you do it right, most beardies love this! Make sure to go in the same direction as their scales, not against them.
Watch their eyes here. The top of their head, their cheeks, and under their chin are all fair game, but be careful of their eyes. Also, avoid their cloaca (their urinary and fecal orifices). This is very important, so be cautious and stay clear of this area!
If they have any loose skin, don’t go to hard here. You want to knock it loose but don’t force it off. It will come off when it’s time. A nice soak and a gentle brushing will definitely help get rid of loose skin that is stubbornly hanging on and due to come off.
It doesn’t have to be a long toothbrush massage, but a little bit during each bath will be something that can really help your beardie stay clean and parasite free. It’s also something that will help them enjoy and look forward to bath time even more!
First, take your cup and gently pour some of the water over them. Make sure you get them wet everywhere. This will help hydrate their skin, remove loose pieces of shedding skin, and get a little water on their head for them to drink.
Don’t douse them. Be gentle! Don’t pour water over their heads, just a few drops will do. In fact, you may want to skip their heads all together in this step.
Perhaps I’m being more cautious than I should, but I certainly don’t know how to give a bearded dragon mouth to mouth! I’m simply going to err on the side of keeping their breathing holes free of water whenever I can.
Step 6 – Let them enjoy their bath
There really isn’t any harm in bathing them, so if they like it, let them stay in the bath for a while. A general guideline is to limit baths to 15-30 minutes, but you may find that your dragon likes something else.
In any case, I think 30 minutes is a good limit. Don’t mistake a lazy dragon for one that just wants to stay in the bath. And there are plenty of lazy bearded dragons out there!
Most dragons will let you know when they are done with the bath. Our beardie, Bacardi, is quite assertive when she is done with bath time. She heads for the exit and no amount of putting her back in the water will do.
Don’t force things. Give them an opportunity to soak and drink and get a little clean. But don’t make them stay in longer than they want. This is stressful for them and that’s the last thing we want to associate with bath time!
Step 7 – Dry them off
I prefer to use a paper towel. I’m a little overly cautious when it comes to bacteria and I like that I can just throw a paper towel away.
Other bearded dragon owners use a soft, fluffy towel. Either way works as long as your bearded dragon gets mostly dry. This is extra important if you use any substrate.
We use Retichips, our preferred substrate that you can see here, and the little bits of wood stick to Bacardi if she is wet. For this reason, we like to make sure she is nice and dry before putting her back in her home.
As an extra step, we recommend putting them in their basking spot after the bath. This will evaporate off any excess water. It’s also where most beardies like to be after a bath.
Even with warm water, the drying process can cool them down rather quickly. Placing them in their basking area allows them to thermoregulate back to a comfy temperature quickly.
Step 8 – Clean up
A quick spritz and wipe down with a vinegar and water mixture and your bearded dragon’s tub should be ready to go for their next bath time.
It’s best to do this right away and not leave possibly contaminated water to sit and stagnate in their tub.
The whole process shouldn’t take any longer than thirty minutes for a long bath. We are usually done bathing Bacardi in under fifteen.
Bonding with your bearded dragon
Bearded dragons generally enjoy the company of their owners. Bath time can be a fun time when this bond is made stronger.
Take your time. Make it fun and comfortable for your beardie. Do it regularly.
If you do all of those things, you and your bearded dragon will look forward to each and every bath time. And in the process, you’ll keep your beardie healthy, happy, and clean!
Can bearded dragons swim?
Yes, they can! If you look on YouTube, you can see quite a few videos of bearded dragons swimming. Whether they like to swim or not is debatable. This may very well be more of a survival instinct than anything else.
Does a bearded dragon urinate in the bath?
No. Bearded dragons do not urinate in liquid form in the bath or otherwise. Instead, they release a dry, white powdery substance. That substance is uric acid. Beardies bodies make extremely efficient use of water and therefore do not excrete any in the form of urine.
How long can a bearded dragon go without water?
It’s not good to test their limits, but if they have to they have been known to go 1-2 weeks without water. This is not good for them and is possibly fatal, so always make sure your beardie is well hydrated.
During brumation, beardies can go much longer without water. See my full explanation of brumation here for details.