One of the first questions that both adults and children ask about a new pet is, “how long will it live?”. Adults often want to know the commitment level involved in bringing home and caring for another living being. Kids just want to know their new buddy is going to be around for a while.
Bearded dragons kept as pets will live to be between 8 and 12 years old. Males will usually live longer than females. Proper tank size, lighting, nutrition, and supplements can significantly impact a bearded dragon’s life span. Well-kept beardies have been known to live up to 15 years or even longer!
Average life spans
Depending on where and how they are kept, there are 4 basic age ranges that a bearded dragon may live to.
In the wild
Bearded dragons are indigenous to Australia. There they live in an arid, desert-like climate. They spend their days hunting insects, eating plants, and basking in the sun (source). They also spend a good deal of time avoiding natural predators.
In the wild, bearded dragons are hunted by several primary natural predators. Birds, especially, are something they are on the constant lookout for. This is why your beardie may get skittish if you come at them from above.
Fun fact… Bearded dragons have a kind of “third eye” on top of their head that can sense a change in light or shadow above them. This evolved specifically to warm them of birds of prey!
Because of the large number of predators they deal with, the average lifespan of bearded dragons in the wild is between 5 and 8 years old. A beardie that lives beyond 8 in their natural environment is probably both lucky and shrewd.
Poorly kept in captivity
Unfortunately, the world is full of poorly cared-for pets. Bearded dragons are no exception.
People either don’t know or don’t care when it comes to proper pet care. While bearded dragons are relatively easy to care for, they do have certain needs. From light to diet to supplements, there are a few things that beardie owners must get right for their little friends to live a long and healthy life.
Bearded dragons who do not get the things they need (see the list of things that impact bearded dragon lifespan below) often die much sooner than they have to. The lifespan of a bearded dragon that doesn’t receive proper care matches that of its brethren in the Australian outback.
These poorly cared for dragons will often only live in captivity for 5-8 years. Sometimes, in extreme cases, it can be much shorter than that. This should be all the reason any of us need to make sure our little friends are well cared for.
Well cared for in captivity
As I mentioned, bearded dragons are relatively easy to care for. Compared to a dog, they are a walk in the park (pun intended)! That said, they still need our care and attention!
If their owner provides adequate space, proper lighting, good nutrition, and proper supplements, bearded dragons can live to be 8-12 years old in captivity.
That’s a huge difference in lifespan simply from taking care of them! Just a few minutes a day can more than double the life of some bearded dragons.
This 8-12 year age range is also what you’ll often see quoted as the average lifespan of a bearded dragon. I think it’s really important to point out that this is directly related to how well they are cared for.
Extremely well cared for in captivity
Some owners are more attentive than others. It’s just the nature of human beings.
Oftentimes, those more attentive owners do things an average owner won’t do. They never miss bath time. They regularly go to the vet. They give their beardie the best possible diet, not just the most convenient. They have better lighting setups. They have larger vivariums. The list goes on.
I am, in no way, criticizing those that don’t go the extra mile in every area. This type of owner is rare. But they do exist. And their bearded dragons, on average, live even longer than the average of 8-12 years.
Given the best possible level of care, bearded dragons have been known to regularly live to be 12-14 years old. It’s not a guarantee, but it is possible!
Top-level care can often add several years to a bearded dragon’s life.
As with all living things, there will be outliers. There will be beardies who tragically pass much sooner than they really should. And there will also be those that live beyond the 14-year-old mark.
While this isn’t likely, it does occur. It’s probably a mix of genetics and level of care. If you have a beardie who lives past 14, count yourself lucky. It’s not a common occurrence, and you, indeed, have a very special little bearded dragon!
The oldest known bearded dragon lived to be 18 years old! (source)
Factors that impact bearded dragon lifespan
There are things both within our control and outside our control that will impact how long your beardie may live. Here is a rundown of the most common.
On the whole (but not always), male bearded dragons live longer than females. Males tend to be a little larger and more resilient. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it is an applicable average.
Part of this average is impacted by breeding. A female that has babies will not live as long as one that does not. I’m guessing that those of you that have kids can relate! Kids are often blamed for taking years off of the lives of their parents!
Reproduction is taxing on the body. Both for people and for beardies. This stress will almost assuredly shorten the life of most female beardies.
Size and species
The most common species of bearded dragon in captivity is the Pogona Vitticeps. One of the characteristics of this breed is size. The Pogona Vitticeps has the largest size potential of all 8 types of bearded dragon.
Larger bearded dragons tend to live longer than smaller ones. We’re guessing there are a lot of reasons for this, but we would imagine durability is one of them. Larger beardies just seem to be more resilient.
We wrote an entire bearded dragon nutrition guide that you can see here. Following that guide and ensuring that your beardie gets consistently proper nutrition will go a long way towards adding to the length of life your beardie enjoys.
Beardie’s food needs change as they age. Early on they need daily protein. Later in life, they need more greens and veggies. Providing what they need based on their age is important to proper growth, development, and age.
Another key part of nutrition is supplementation. There are a few critical supplements that bearded dragons need to be healthy. Calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E are just a few of the important ones. See our supplementation guide for specifics on what it takes to keep your beardie healthy and living as long as possible!
There are several key environmental factors that we, as bearded dragon owners, should provide to keep our beardies healthy and living as long as possible.
Proper space is where it all starts. Make sure your beardie has ample room to move around and is not cramped in a small, stressful space. Stress is a sure way to shorten their life.
Next comes lighting. Having the right temperatures to bask in, as well as providing a strong source of UVB, are essential to the health and longevity of bearded dragons. It’s also important to turn those lights off regularly! 12 hours on and 12 hours off is a good guideline.
Substrate is another important factor. Some types can be dangerous. Many others work well. Which you choose for you and your beardie is important. Make sure you look at our full review of all the pros and cons of every common substrate here before you make your choice!
I’ll also add something controversial here just for fun. I don’t believe that things like butcher paper or newspaper are the ideal substrate for a bearded dragon. Yes, you remove any possibility of impaction, but you also make them live on a surface that is not natural for them.
Beardies like to dig. They like to bury themselves occasionally. They can’t do this on a smooth surface. Giving your beardie a happy home means trying to closely replicate what they have genetically evolved to live in. That’s not on newspaper.
In our opinion, a happy beardie is more likely to live longer. It’s true for other animals and we really feel it’s true for them too!
When it comes to environment, strive to give your beardie a fun, engaging, and safe place to live. If they love their home, they’ll probably stick around and live in it longer!
Sources and Further Reading
Is there such a thing as “beardie years”?
Not really. Keep in mind that “dog years” is a made-up concept that simply divided the average lifespan of a dog into that of a human and came up with a 7 to 1 ratio. You could probably do that for beardies too, but we don’t see the purpose.
What are the signs of aging in a bearded dragon?
Activity levels will be the biggest sign. Older beardies will be less active. You also may see an increased occurrence of diseases like MBD (metabolic bone disease) if they haven’t been properly cared for.
Gray hair and wrinkles are pretty much just a human thing!
Will my bearded dragon change colors as they age?
As noted above, gray hair and wrinkles are reserved for humans. But yes, your beardie will change color over time. Lots of things influence this, and age is one of them. Every time they shed, their color will change. Sometimes it will be very subtle and sometimes, it will be very noticeable.
It’s not that they will go from orange to purple one day. It’s more that the shade and intensity of their color will vary with time. You can’t, however, tell a beardie’s age by what color they are.