You would think that whether or not to give your pet water would have a pretty clear-cut answer. When it comes to bearded dragons, it does. The problem is that if you search that question online, you’ll see answers that range anywhere from no to yes and everywhere in between.
Since the whole point of this site is to try to weed through all the conflicting beardie information out there, we thought it was important to tackle this question head-on. So, should you leave water out for your bearded dragon in its enclosure?
For anyone that doesn’t live in an overly humid climate, it’s important to leave a regularly cleaned and refilled water dish out for your bearded dragon. Not doing so puts your bearded dragon at risk of dehydration.
As we mentioned above, there is actually a good amount of disagreement in the beardie community on this topic. And as usual, each side has their heels dug in and are unwilling to budge in their opinion.
We think both sides have valid points, and we’ll cover them here. But we also think that when you take into account both sides, it makes more sense to leave a water bowl out than not.
How Much Water Does a Bearded Dragon Need?
The super technical answer to this question is “enough”. As with all living things, this will vary from beardie to beardie.
The slightly less technical answer is “not very much”. And that’s where the question of hydration becomes significant. Beardies are built to survive in arid climates. They don’t need much water at all.
This causes potential problems in two ways for bearded dragons in captivity.
The first and most important is that there is very little room for error. If beardies drank a ton of water, then being off by a little in how much you gave them wouldn’t be a big deal.
Because they survive on very little, that means that being off by even a little bit is a huge deal. Because they will not seek out water regularly, that means that when they do actually need it, it needs to be there for them.
The second issue caused by their limited water intake is that it leads bearded dragon owners to think that because they don’t need much water, it’s not important to make a good amount of water available.
And this is why you hear beardie owners make statements like, “My beardie never drinks from a bowl, so I stopped leaving one out for her.”
That means that the one time that poor beardie does want or need that bowl of water, it’s not there for her!
How do Bearded Dragons Hydrate in the Wild?
Bearded dragons get their water in 4 primary ways in the wild.
The most common way is from condensation or dew that collects on the vegetation they eat. As bearded dragons eat vegetation in the mornings, they naturally intake some of this water.
They also get moisture from the vegetation itself. Plants store water internally, and this water is taken in along with the plant matter when the beardie eats it.
Even though they are from an arid climate, it does occasionally rain in their natural habitat. Mostly in the spring. Beardie’s heads are shaped in a way that falling rain is funneled toward their mouths. This allows them to easily drink the rain that falls on their heads.
Lastly, they drink from natural water sources. Puddles left behind by the rain, local streams, and watering holes are all common places for beardies to forage for water.
Between these four sources, bearded dragons in the wild can stay well hydrated. When we look at beardies in captivity, it’s also important to provide a variety of hydration methods.
How to Give Water to Bearded Dragons in Captivity
We need to give our beardies more than just enough water to survive. It’s important we give them enough water to thrive!
So yes, your bearded dragon does get water from the food it eats. If you feed it enough greens and fruits, it will even get enough to survive. But that’s not sufficient.
So many beardie owners out there think that this method is all that is needed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. “My bearded dragon hasn’t died” isn’t enough evidence that this is the only way your beardie should be offered water.
When we talked to our vet, he told us that a surprising number of sick bearded dragons he sees are dehydrated. If you’ve ever been dehydrated, you know how this feels. It’s not fun! Nope, you aren’t dead, but you sure do feel bad!
Don’t do this to your beardie! Make sure that in addition to feeding them greens regularly and fruit occasionally (check out our full nutrition guide here!), you do one or more of the following things as well.
We wrote an entire guide (with pictures!) on beardie bath time that you can read here. One of the main points is that you should be giving your bearded dragon regular baths.
This is something you will both come to enjoy, and it’s an important part of raising a healthy bearded dragon. Hydration is only one of the major benefits.
Our beardie drinks in the bath. Does she do it every time? Nope. But she does do it every so often. In fact, she recently came out of brumation, and in her first bath after waking up, she drank more than we’d ever seen her drink at one time. She was a thirsty girl!
Regular bathtime is important for keeping your bearded dragon at an optimal level of hydration.
This one is controversial. Our vet advises against it. Our breeder does this multiple times daily. Both have their reasons for their opinions.
We mist Bacardi every once in a while, but not daily or multiple times a day. If she is shedding we do it more often than if she is not.
The argument for misting is that it simulates getting rained on like they would in the wild. For beardies who won’t drink in other ways, misting can be a good way to get them water.
The argument against misting is that it adds unwanted humidity to their enclosure. This can lead to bacterial growth and mold. In most cases, we don’t feel that this is an issue.
In most climates, the heat from your basking lamp is going to create a warm, dry environment. That simulated arid environment is going to quickly dry out any excess water left over from misting.
In other words, the water used to mist your beardie will evaporate quickly and won’t stick around long enough to cause a problem. But as we said, that’s in most climates.
If you live in a humid climate, then this quick evaporation won’t take place. In that specific case, it’s not a good idea to regularly mist your beardie inside their enclosure.
Instead, you’ll want to take them out to do it. For us, if you are already taking them out, you might as well give them a bath instead. That’s a much more effective way to hydrate them, and it has many other benefits not found with misting.
Leaving a bowl of water out
This, in our opinion, is a must. Yes, they’ll get some moisture from their food. Yes, they’ll get some from their baths. Yes, they’ll get some if you mist them. But those three methods all have one thing in common.
They all happen only when you make them available.
The nice thing about leaving a bowl out is that it’s always available to them. That means that it’s there when they need it.
The phrase “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” is very appropriate here.
Sure, you may never see your beardie drink. They may ignore it for days, weeks, or even months. But when they do want or need it, it should be there for them!
There are some people out there that will tell you that beardies simply don’t drink from water bowls. We can tell you with 100% certainty that they are wrong. Our little Bacardi does it in the morning several times a week.
So, should you leave a water bowl out for your bearded dragon? Yes, with two exceptions…
The 2 Times NOT to leave a water bowl out for your bearded dragon
If you live in a humid climate, it’s probably a good idea not to leave a bowl of water out in their enclosure. In this instance, you do risk mold and bacteria growth.
That said, it’s important that you are regularly using all of the other hydration methods we listed if you are not leaving them a bowl.
If your beardie is young it’s also not a good idea to leave a bowl of water out. Beardies are, well, kind of dumb. Sorry, they just are.
That means that younger beardies may end up face down in their water bowl, unable to escape. They are not big enough to escape that bowl and also haven’t learned the skills to do so yet.
With younger beardies, better safe than sorry. And just like those in humid climates, make sure you are bathing, misting, and feeding fresh greens regularly (see our bathing guide here and our nutrition guide here)
So, in short, make sure your beardie has access to water. Just like in the wild, they should have several different sources to draw from.
Unless you have a baby beardie or live in a highly humid climate, one of those sources should be a water bowl in their vivarium!
Sources and Further Reading
Is tap water safe?
In most cases, yes. However, this all depends on the water quality where you live. We give our beardie the same filtered water that we drink. But we have a reverse osmosis filtration system that creates extremely clean water. We dive deep into this topic in our article here.
If you are concerned about your water quality, we recommend a product called “ReptiSafe” by ZooMed. It’s an easy-to-use water additive that will make most tap water safe for your beardie to drink. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. Check out more details about it here on Amazon!
What if my beardie won’t drink out of a bowl?
First of all, don’t assume that just because you don’t see them they aren’t doing it. Our beardie, Bacardi, is a great example. She doesn’t like us to see her eat or drink.
When we are in the same room with her, she rarely does either. But as soon as we leave, she does both all the time! We have a webcam set up and have seen her do this repeatedly.
Also, just because they don’t drink now doesn’t mean they won’t need to at some point down the road. Don’t take away the opportunity for them to drink from the bowl just because you haven’t seen them do it yet.
My beardie likes to splash around in her water bowl, is that okay?
Yes! It’s very common for bearded dragons to enjoy getting wet and playing in water. Most of them love bath time, and many will splash around in their bowls too.
An important note here is to make sure you are cleaning their bowl regularly. We like to empty ours and rinse it out daily. It gets a good cleaning about once a week.
How much water should I leave out for my beardie?
Use a bowl the diameter of a coffee cup. Fill it up with about half to three-quarters of an inch of water. Clean and refill daily.