One of the nice things about having a bearded dragon as a pet is that they are relatively low maintenance. Much more so than common household pets like dogs and cats. Once a day is usually all your beardie will need your attention.
But what if you need to leave them alone for longer than a day? How long can you leave a bearded dragon unattended?
Generally speaking, leaving a bearded dragon alone for one to two days is never a problem. Even three days is a viable time frame. Anything over 3 days with no human care is probably too long and you may be risking problems.
One note… You MUST have an appropriate sized enclosure like this one. An enclosure that’s too small is not healthy in many ways, including leaving them unattended. If you aren’t sure about enclosure size, see our full guide here.
Should you leave them vs. could you leave them
When talking to other bearded dragon owners on a variety of subjects, there is a distinction that always needs to be made. That’s the difference between “could” and “should”.
There are lots of things you could do to a bearded dragon. You could not provide proper temps in their vivarium. You could give them low-quality food. You could feed them insects you caught in your yard (please never do this!).
You could do all of these things and your beardie would probably not die (unless they ate lightning bugs, so, ya know, please don’t do that). But in reality, you should not do any of those things.
If you care about your bearded dragon, you will be much more concerned with what you should do and not very concerned at all with what you could do.
Too many people get caught up with what their beardie could handle in an extreme case and they leave out what the proper care of another living being looks like. There are very few areas this is more evident than when talking about how long you can leave your beardie home alone with no care.
There are people out there that regularly leave their bearded dragons home alone for two weeks with no care. Does their beardie die? No. Is their beardie healthy and happy? NO! Two weeks is far too long to leave them alone. You should never do this.
“My beardie didn’t die” is not a good way to judge whether or not they are receiving proper care. Letting a bearded dragon live in a week’s worth of feces with no food and no one there in case something bad happens is simply not a good idea.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what we should do. What responsible pet owners and loving bearded dragon parents do. What people who want to provide much more than a mere subsistence living standard would do.
While we’re not saying to never leave your beardie home alone, what we are saying is that there is a time limit. We’ve left our beardie, Bacardi, home alone for 1-3 days on several occasions. We’re always a little nervous being away from our baby, but she does just fine without us.
In other words, if you follow a few guidelines, it’s okay to leave them alone. Let’s take a look at how long and what you’ll need to consider.
The first thing to consider is the age of your bearded dragon. The younger they are, the less time they can be left to their own devices. They are a lot like human children that way. Of course, they aren’t going to have a house party when you are gone, but there are other things to worry about.
If your beardie is just a baby, it’s not a good idea to leave them home alone, even overnight. This is a fragile time in their lives and they need daily care. In fact, baby beardies need care and interaction several times a day to ensure they grow up healthy.
If your bearded dragon is a juvenile, you have a bit more freedom. An overnight trip is usually not a problem here. We wouldn’t stretch it to 2 days, but 1 should be just fine.
The reason for this restriction on young bearded dragons has to do with their metabolism. At this stage, they are growing fast. Their little bodies are growing at an alarming rate and in order to do that, they need daily nourishment.
Young bearded dragons need food daily, and skipping even a day or two could be detrimental to their health. Could they go longer? Sure. But remember, this isn’t about what we could do. It’s about what we should do.
Once your beardie is mature and an adult, its metabolism has slowed. They no longer need food in the amount or frequency they did when they were younger. For this reason, a two to three-day trip will present no issues for them.
In fact, adult beardies regularly go without food for a couple of days in the wild when they simply can’t find food. They have enough stored body fat to make it through times like this with little to no issue.
That means that if your bearded dragon is a mature adult, head out for the weekend and have fun! Your little scaly buddy will be just fine and waiting for you when you get back!
How long can you leave them alone?
So let’s look at some real-world scenarios. While it’s easy for us to go on about woulds and coulds, a lot of people find themselves in situations with very few options. Not everyone has a place to board their bearded dragon. Not everyone has a neighbor who is willing to take care of a reptile.
When it comes down to brass tacks, what is a real-world guide to how long you can leave your beardie alone?
As noted above, one to two days is almost never going to be an issue. You shouldn’t think twice about this and as long as the precautions we list below are taken, you and your bearded dragon should be just fine.
Three to four days is stretching it. It’s not something you’ll want to do often, but it’s still considered okay for an adult. We asked our vet this question and he said that four days should be considered the max before we really look hard for some alternatives.
Once you get to the five to seven-day range, you start asking for issues. If you have an emergency and your dragon ends up alone for a week, they’ll probably live. They’ll even probably be okay with no long-term ill effects.
We would not recommend this amount of time alone if you can at all prevent it. With that said, emergencies are emergencies and sometimes poop happens.
Longer than a week is a problem. We know a couple that goes as long as two weeks, but these are the same people who lost a beardie not too long ago when it was only a few years old and couldn’t figure out why.
The stress and lack of food of a two-week hiatus are extraordinarily stressful for a bearded dragon. Even though that dragon may seem okay after the two weeks, there’s no telling what the stress of those two weeks did to them long term.
Again, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you need to leave for more than a few days, please exercise one of the options we include below!
What to do for trips of a few days or less
Clean their tank
No matter how long you are leaving them alone, you should always make sure their vivarium is nice and clean before you leave.
You don’t need to do a full tear down, but thorough housekeeping is definitely in order. Make sure there are no feces or remnants of feces in the tank. Make sure any old greens are cleaned out. Pick up any skin they might have shed.
Also, make sure their water bowl and food dish are clean. You’ll be leaving them some of both, so make sure you are using clean containers!
Check your tank location
You shouldn’t ever have your vivarium in direct sunlight. This is a great rule to follow whether you are home or not. A vivarium turns into an oven very fast when it’s hit with direct sunlight.
Some bearded dragon owners think it’s a good idea to put the tank near a window when they are gone. I’ve heard and read this more than once. Please don’t do this.
Make sure your tank is out of direct sunlight and not near a window. Keep it in its normal place. Your bearded dragon will appreciate your attention to their artificial lighting much more than trying to get them sunlight when you are gone.
Put your lighting on timers
We’re always baffled as to why some people don’t do this full-time. Having your lights on 12-hour timers is one of the basics when it comes to properly setting up your lighting. Beardies will thrive in a 12-hour on 12-hour off set up.
Setups that are random, meaning the lights get turned on when you get up and turned off when you go to bed, can cause a lot of stress for your bearded dragon. It also means that you need to be there in order for the lighting to work.
If you don’t already have it set up this way, put your lights on timers. Simple travel timers will do. Set them to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Have both your basking lamp and UV light on the same cycle.
Instead of travel timers, We bought this power strip by ZooMed. It has 6 outlets. 3 always on and 3 on timers. It’s absolutely perfect for our set up. We have a ceramic heater and webcam plugged into the always-on side and the basking and UV lights on the timer side.
The ZooMed piece is a little more expensive than standard timers, but we think it’s well worth it simply to have everything in one place and in one unit. If you don’t already have something like this setup, head to Amazon, click buy now, and thank us later!
Set your home thermostat
In this age of smart everything, smart thermostats are found in a large number of homes. These little devices are great and pay for themselves in a short period of time.
One way they do this is by managing your heating and cooling based on whether you are home or not. It’s a feature called geofencing. While it’s great for saving you money on your heating bill, it’s not so great at knowing that when you are not home, your beardie is!
It’s important if you go away for a few days that your home doesn’t drop below 65 degrees. If it does, it could cause problems for your beardie. For a full guide to proper tank temperatures for bearded dragons, see our article here.
There are two solutions to this. One is to set your “away” temperature above 65. The other is to set up a ceramic heater that goes on when your basking light goes off.
Either option will keep your vivarium at the proper temps while you are away. Pick which one works best for you, and don’t forget!
Give your beardie some water
Regular baths should be a part of your weekly care routine. If they aren’t, make sure to check out our full set of instructions with pictures here. A nice warm bath should be given as close to your departure time as possible.
Proper hydration is important to the health of all bearded dragons. Baths are a critical way to ensure this hydration. Giving one before you leave should be standard practice.
In addition to the bath, leave your beardie some water. Many bearded dragon owners don’t leave water in their tank. We think this is a mistake. It’s double, so if leaving for a few days.
Even those that don’t think their bearded dragon will drink from a dish may be surprised at what their beardie does after a day or two without water.
This falls into the better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it category. Do your beardie a favor and leave them some fresh water!
Set up a webcam
This might sound silly to some, but we set up a webcam to keep an eye on our bearded dragon the first week we had her home. Since then, it’s been a regular source of amusement for us. We check on her several times a day just to see what antics she might be up to.
This also allows us to keep an eye on things when we are away. Are the lights cycling properly? Is she up and moving around? Is everything okay with our little friend?
Having a webcam like this can be a lifesaver for people leaving their beardie home alone for a few days. It will not only give you peace of mind knowing your dragon is okay, but it will allow you to call someone for help if they are not.
A webcam can allow you to catch a problem right when it occurs. You won’t have to find out the hard way days later when it’s a much bigger issue! It lets you know to call for help right away.
You don’t need to spend a ton on something like this. In fact, the model we bought and love was surprisingly inexpensive. You don’t need high resolution, tilt & pan ability, or high-quality night vision.
You just need something solid that works, has a good app, and allows you to clearly see what’s going on. The CTQ2C by EZViz gave us all that, plus the ability to take screenshots and have two-way audio. For just a few bucks, it’s been one of the best things we’ve bought for our bearded dragon! This is another one of those things that you’ll kick yourself for not getting sooner, so head on over to Amazon and pick one up now!
Get the help of a friend or neighbor
It’s always a great idea to have someone on call who can help in a pinch. Someone who can change a light or reset your thermostat or fix any number of other issues for you when you are gone.
These folks don’t need to give full-time care, but it’s nice to have them on standby in case of an emergency. Combine this with a webcam and you’ll have most of your “what if” bases covered.
If you can, get a neighbor or friend to check on them here and there when you are gone. This is not only a great way to make sure everything is okay, but it’s a great way to put your mind at ease while you are away!
There are a few dietary guidelines you’ll want to follow if you are going to leave your beardie home alone. These will help ensure that your little friend doesn’t get too hungry while you are away!
To see all the foods you can and can’t feed a bearded dragon, make sure and check out our complete bearded dragon food list with 237 different foods listed. We’ll show you what’s safe, what’s not, and what the healthiest food choices are for your beardie!!!
A good practice is to make sure your beardie is well-fed before you leave. A full belly will go a long way toward helping your bearded dragon through a several-day stretch without fresh food.
Do this by giving them a large meal of feeder insects the day before you leave. Give them plenty of crickets, roaches, or worms (Not sure which worms? Check out our full tutorial here!). Make it a nice, large meal. You may even want to feed them twice on this day.
Next, give them another batch of feeders the day you leave. Worms are nice here as you can leave them in the enclosure, and your beardie will get to them when they can.
This doesn’t work if you use a loose substrate, but for those of you using tile or carpet, it’s a great option! (And make sure to check out our full substrate guide here!)
Roaches will find a way to hide. Crickets should never be left unattended with your beardie. Crickets will actually bite and nibble at your beardie. Cricket bites have been known to quickly cause infections.
Not to mention, your beardie will be stressed enough as it is. Dealing with nasty little biting crickets is an added stress that should be avoided. We don’t use crickets ever, for any reason. You can see why in our article here.
Make sure the greens you put out are fresh and that you put them in as close to when you leave as possible. The hot, dry air of a bearded dragon enclosure will dry out a beardie salad pretty quickly. Waiting until the last minute to put it in will keep it fresh as long as possible.
We also like to mist the greens. That will give them at least a few more hours of life. Combined with putting them as far into the cool side of the enclosure as possible, it’s the only way we know of to keep the greens moist and edible for any length of time.
Intra trip food
Giving your beardie a good meal or three of feeders pre-trip and leaving them a good salad is the bulk of your nutrition plan for trips.
Some people will recommend leaving out a pile of freeze-dried mealworms or crickets as they won’t go bad or cause problems when left unattended. While that makes sense, it’s not a great idea.
Freeze-dried insects are almost all exoskeleton. That means they are made up mostly of stuff your beardie can’t digest. That presents two issues.
First, even though they are eating something, they really aren’t getting much nutrition from it.
Second, filing their bellies with indigestible material is a great way to set your beardie up for an impaction.
Bearded dragons can go for days in the wild with no food. They are evolutionarily set up to deal with short stints without nutrition. If you feed them well prior to leaving, a 2-4 day trip won’t present any issues nutritionally.
While your beardie will do just fine for a few days without food, that doesn’t mean they won’t be hungry when you get back.
It’s a good idea to get them a meal as soon as possible.
When you get back, assuming the lights are on and they are awake to eat, get a nice salad into their enclosure. Salad is easy to digest and that’s important after a stint without food. It will be easier on their stomachs.
Once they’ve had a chance to get some salad down, give them a meal of feeder insects. Be careful not to let them gorge themselves. A hungry beardie will eat much more than it should in one sitting if it hasn’t eaten in a few days.
To prevent stomach issues, impaction, or digestive problems, limit them to what would normally be considered a medium-sized meal. This should give them enough to ease their hunger while still being a healthy amount that won’t cause them problems.
If you get home in the morning and this first refeed is in the morning, it’s not a bad idea to get them a second meal in the afternoon. Again, nothing huge. But odds are they will be more than happy to eat twice the day you get back from your time away.
Important tips for when you get back
Your bearded dragon will need some TLC when you get home from your trip. It’s better to do this as soon as possible. Plus, they will be anxious to see you again!
Give them a bath!
Hydration is important. While it’s not a concern for your beardie to go without food for a few days, hydration is another matter. All animals can go longer without food than water and bearded dragons are no exception.
The best way to rehydrate your bearded dragon is with a bath. Give them a nice, long, warm soak when you get back. They’ll most likely love it and it will be great for them too! Didn’t know that bearded dragons need baths? Check out our beardie bathtime article here for a complete step-by-step guide with pictures!
Spend time with them
Your beardie missed you! Your bearded dragon very quickly gets accustomed to seeing the people in your home on a regular basis. When you suddenly stop showing up, it is stressful for them. Luckily, beardies are solitary creatures and prefer being alone. It’s really not that big a deal if they don’t see you for a few days!
Once you get them fed and bathed, take some time to hold them and hang out with them. Watch some tv or a movie with them on your shoulder. Hold them and stroke their heads and under their chins.
When you get back, make sure to get some quality time in with your scaly little friend. It’s important!
Clean their habitat
Take a moment to do a thorough cleaning of their vivarium. Cleaning out any feces should be priority number one. Getting out uneaten food, dried greens, or other organic matter should be a close second.
Closely inspect the vivarium. Check for anything out of the ordinary. Freshen their water bowl. Wipe down and disinfect anything that was under, touching, or near their feces.
Many vets recommend changing out the substrate at this time as well. See our full guide to substrate choice and care here for all the details you’ll need.
If you don’t want to read the full guide and just want to use what we use (vet and breeder recommended!), go with ReptiChips. Because there are several products that go by that name and only one that is what you should use, follow this link to the exact substrate we recommend and use ourselves!
Boarding your bearded dragon
If you are leaving for an extended period or are simply worried about any time alone, you only really have three other options.
The first option is to take them with you. It’s not as hard as you might think, and it could very well be a viable option for you. For complete instructions on how to travel with your beardie, check out our article here!
The second option is having a friend or family member care for them. If you have someone who can reliably do this, great! If you don’t, that leaves option 3.
The third option is boarding your beardie. Believe it or not, you may actually have several places to choose from.
First, check with any local reptile stores. This is where we board our beardie, Bacardi. They do a great job! They give her baths, cut her nails, play with her, and really take amazing care of our little girl when we are gone.
You can also check with local pet stores (preferably exotic pet stores) or breeders. Those are two more places where it’s not unheard of to find boarding services. Other places to look are local reptile rescues and even some larger PetSmart locations.
Another great place to ask is your local exotics vet. Your vet may either be able to board your dragon for you or will know of someone who will. They are also your best choice if you happen to need to board a sick beardie.
If all of those have you coming up empty, check out some of the bearded dragon message boards online. They are full of loving beardie owners and one of them may live near you or know of someone near you who can help.
Lastly, there are several pet sitter apps available. While bearded dragons are not the focus of these, you can find folks on there who are versed in the care of bearded dragons. They will come to your home when you are gone and care for your dragon in your absence.
Pricing for boarding varies wildly. The reptile store we love and use charges $10 per day. It’s a very reasonable price and makes it worth the 90-minute drive to get there.
Our vet charges $65 per day. We’ve never used them for boarding because of the price, but it’s nice to know we have that option if it’s needed.
Do some calling around and checking online. With a little effort, most people can find a person or place that will care for their bearded dragon while they are gone.
Being a responsible pet owner
If you’ve made it this far in this article, odds are you really care about your bearded dragon. You want to do right by them and give them the care they need and deserve. This is a big part of taking on the responsibility of pet ownership.
Knowing what you’ll do with your pet when you invariably have to leave for extended periods is an important part of being a pet owner.
In the end, if you can’t find a way to get your animal care while you are away, you are not yet ready to own a pet.
While that might sound harsh, it’s the truth. If, by chance, you are reading this article in preparation for getting a bearded dragon, please keep the above information in mind! There will come a time when you have to leave. Have a plan in place for what you’ll do.
And please. Never leave your beardie home alone and unattended for long periods of time!