Last updated on May 10th, 2021 at 12:50 pm
When we went to visit our rescue beardie, Bacardi, for the first time, there were several other bearded dragons there as well. Bacardi was sharing a small enclosure with another rather aggressive beardie. She was and still is, very small for her age.
Across the room was Pancake. Pancake was a beast of a male bearded dragon with sole ownership of a much larger enclosure. It was hard to believe the Pancake and Bacardi were the same species!
A healthy bearded dragon kept as a pet will grow to be 18 to 24 inches long. As an adult, they can weigh between .75 and 1.25 lbs. While roughly half their length is made up of their tail, much more than half of their weight will come from their body. They usually reach full size at one year of age.
This was my first exposure to the potential size ranges of bearded dragons. On the small side is our sweet little girl, Bacardi. She is stunted and will probably never get much bigger than the 11” head to tail that she measures now. On the large side was Pancake. Very close to 24” long and a plump 24” at that!
When people ask how big a bearded dragon can get, these two beardies are good examples of the extremes.
When do bearded dragons grow?
Beardies grow very fast in the first several months of their lives. The most common captive breed of bearded dragon will do most of its growing in the first 6 months of its life.
This is why it is recommended that juvenile bearded dragons are fed feeder insects daily instead of the 3 times a week recommended for adults (see our full nutrition and feeding guide here). It’s also why basking temps should be higher for younger dragons than older (see our full guide on basking temperatures here).
Bearded Dragon Growth Chart
If you have the most common breed of beardie (pogona vitticeps), here is a good guideline to average size by age. Keep in mind that this chart assumes a healthy bearded dragon who is receiving ample food and is being well kept in a proper size enclosure.
*These are averages and not hard and fast rules. There are a lot of factors (see below) that can impact the size of your bearded dragon. Don’t panic if your beardie deviates from this chart!
Factors that impact bearded dragon size
There are many factors that will determine just how big your bearded dragon will get. Some are within our control like food and habitat. Others are out of our control like the specific species your dragon is. Here is a rundown of the major factors that can affect bearded dragon size.
Species and breed
There are 8 different species of bearded dragons. Within those species, creative breeders have bred many different variants. These subtle genetic differences have a big impact on potential size.
Most bearded dragons in captivity are classified as pogona vitticeps. There is a high likelihood that this is what your beardie is. The other 7 are much rarer and together they make up only a fraction of all of the bearded dragons being kept as pets.
That said, here’s what you can expect for size potential based on the specific species of beardie you may have:
- Pogona Vitticeps – 24 inches (61 cm)
- Pogona Barbata – 24 inches (61 cm)
- Pogona Minor Mitchelli – 18 inches (46 cm)
- Pogona Minor Minor – 18 inches (46 cm)
- Pogona Nullarbor – 14 inches (36 cm)
- Pogona Henrylawsoni (rankin’s dragon) – 12 inches (31 cm)
- Pogona Minor Minima – 12 inches (31 cm)
- Pogona Microlepidota – 4 to 6 inches (7-15 cm)
Size of parents
A major genetic factor in beardie size will be the size of their parents. An overly large breeding pair will create overly large offspring. A smaller than usual will, you guessed it, create smaller than usual babies.
This refers mostly to length, not weight. If given room to be active, a healthy diet, and proper light, a bearded dragon will naturally regulate to a healthy weight. If kept in a vivarium that is too small and hand-fed too many fatty worms, beardies can grow to be overweight and lazy.
It’s the length that parents pass on, not the overweight and lazy part.
Speaking of vivariums, simply being in captivity will cause them not to grow to their fullest potential. There just isn’t any substitute for real sunlight; unlimited room to roam, dig, and climb; and a widely varied, natural diet.
Bearded dragons in the wild will commonly grow to be at least 10% larger than their captive brethren.
The size of the vivarium you use can be a factor as well. While it’s a myth that your beardie will simply grow to the size of their enclosure, enclosure size does make a difference. See our full tutorial on picking the right enclosure size here!
A vivarium that is too small can impact the size of your beardie in two ways. First, if they can’t move around and get some exercise, they may easily become overweight. Second, if the space is too small, this could stress them out. This could potentially cause stunted growth.
Bacardi, our bearded dragon, is very small. She’s only 11 inches at 18 months old. This is, we think, due to stress. She was kept in a vivarium that was too small and had to share it with another more aggressive beardie. This constant stress probably kept her from growing as she should have.
Proper lighting (see our full guide here – article coming soon) is critical to the health of your bearded dragon. Improper lighting setups can cause a myriad of problems including stunted growth.
If the basking area is not hot enough, your beardie cannot digest its food. If it cannot digest, it cannot grow. The younger your beardie, the more they eat and the hotter that basking area needs to be. Not sure what proper basking temps are? Click here and we’ve got you covered!
UVB light plays a crucial role as well. Your bearded dragon needs a good source of UVB light to mimic the sun. This light is what allows their body to use the calcium you supplement their food with. Giving them supplemental vitamin D is no substitute for a proper UVB light source.
If they can’t convert their calcium to a useable form, this means their bones can’t grow properly. This could result in a very common bearded dragon ailment, metabolic bone disease (MBD). This will directly impact their growth and overall health.
I mentioned Bacardi’s obnoxious roommate already, but any kind of stress could cause your bearded dragon not to grow.
Common, easily avoidable, causes of bearded dragon stress:
- Low temperatures
- Loud noises (don’t put your tank next to the TV or stereo!)
- Poor diet
- Rough handling (teach your kids proper handling techniques! – see our article on the right way to pick up your beardie here)
- Too much handling (they like us, but in small doses please!)
- Sharing their home with another dragon (beardies like to live alone)
- Too much light (it needs to be dark for them at night so they can sleep)
- No room to move around
- Dirty vivarium (pick up their poop as soon as it happens!)
Keeping your bearded dragon stress free is a good step towards allowing them to grow to their full potential.
While it’s generally true that males are larger than females, it is not a hard and fast rule. Females have been known to grow just as big as males. There are also many cases of males ending up on the smaller side.
Sex alone does not determine the size of a bearded dragon.
If you decide to get a certain sex hoping that that will determine your dragon’s potential size, you could be in for a surprise. Be prepared for the girls to get just as big as the boys!
In order to grow, beardies need proper nutrition (see our complete nutrition guide here). There’s simply no way around that!
Younger beardies will need more protein than older beardies and that’s related directly to their growth curve. As your beardie moves from growing to maintaining their size, their diet should shift from more protein-rich to more veggie and green centric.
Not feeding young beardies an appropriate amount of protein daily could result in them not growing as they should. Make sure that you are always giving your beardie the fuel they need to be happy, healthy, and growing members of your family!
Size isn’t everything
While it’s nice to know how big your bearded dragon might get, it’s not really all that important in the grand scheme of bearded dragon ownership. What’s far more important is keeping them healthy.
A healthy beardie will grow to its potential, whatever that potential happens to be. It’s up to us as responsible beardie parents to allow this to happen.
My best recommendation is to start with the proper size enclosure (see our explanation of vivarium size here) and go from there. If you prepare for a healthy and large adult bearded dragon, you have your bases covered no matter what happens.
Well, it’s been almost a year since we wrote this article and we are happy to report that our little girl, Bacardi, has grown quite nicely! It took a year of proper feeding, quite a bit of veterinary care (including a month of twice a day injections we had to do ourselves!), and a whole lot of love.
It was all worth it, though. We though Bacardi would be stunted in size yet she has grown to a very healthy 16 inches long! We aren’t sure she’ll reach the top end range of 24″, but she sure is bigger than she used to be!
It just goes to show that proper care, habitat, and nutrition are the biggest factors when it comes to bearded dragon size.
My beardie isn’t growing, should I take them to a vet?
First, make sure you’ve covered all the bases noted above. Then make sure they’ve had their regular vet visits like they are supposed to. If they don’t show any signs of being sick and are just a little small, there is no cause for alarm.
What’s the best type of food to help them grow?
We spent a ton of time putting together a complete bearded dragon nutrition guide you can see here! For a primary protein source, we strongly encourage you to feed your beardie Dubia roaches. They are far superior to crickets for many reasons (see our comparison here).
Is my beardie fat?
While there is no guideline for a “healthy weight” for bearded dragons, beardies can grow to be overweight. Consult your vet during your yearly checkup to see if this is the case for you.