A lot has been written about hydrating your bearded dragon (we’ve written a lot ourselves here on Beardie Bungalow!). How to do it, when to do it, and how often it needs to be done are common topics.
But what about what kind of water to give your beardie? Does it matter? Can they drink water from your tap? Or should they be given purified, filtered, or bottled water instead?
Bearded dragons can safely drink tap water in cities that have a quality water treatment system. In those areas, the level of contaminants is too low to cause any meaningful health issues. If water quality is low, use filtered or bottled water. Water can also be treated with reptile specific water conditioners if needed.
We’ll be the first to point out that many people out there don’t trust their drinking water. The multi-billion dollar bottled water industry is all the evidence you need of that.
If you are someone who distrusts your tap water, by all means, give your beardie bottled water. It certainly won’t do any harm.
But if we are being honest and looking objectively at the water quality in most modern, first world countries, tap water is safe to drink for both humans and bearded dragons.
Isn’t tap water dangerous, even for humans?
We think it’s important to address this question head-on. And the answer, in most cases, is no. Are there trace elements of lots of scary sounding things in the water? Yes. Are those things there in an amount that can harm you or your beardie? No.
The fact of the matter is that your municipality most likely does a surprisingly good job at treating your drinking water. If it meets EPA standards, it meets the same criteria applied to purity for bottled water.
How good of a job do they do, you ask? You can actually look it up. Most modern cities and municipalities post regular water quality reports online for you to see. You can see exactly what is in your water if you simply Google it!
Are there areas with bad water? Absolutely! Is it a good idea for you or your bearded dragon to drink the tap water in those areas? No!
How about folks with well water? In those cases, you should be testing your own water. You should know exactly what is in it. Personally, we won’t drink well water. And we wouldn’t give it to our beardie either. Not without some sort of filtration system in place.
So a good rule of thumb is that if you are okay drinking your water, your beardie should be too. If you are concerned about giving your water to your bearded dragon, you should also probably be concerned about giving it to yourself too!
How do bearded dragons get hydrated?
We need to start here by dispelling a couple of myths.
First, your beardie cannot “soak up” water through their skin. They also cannot absorb water through their cloaca. They can only get water one way; by somehow getting it into that hole in their face that we call their mouth.
Second, bearded dragons absolutely do not get all the water they need from their food! This myth is rampant and couldn’t be further from the truth. Bearded dragons in captivity need to be given several other opportunities to drink aside from being given food.
The most important of those opportunities is regular baths. As we pointed out in myth number one above, bearded dragons do not absorb water through their skin (their skin is waterproof!). So baths do not hydrate them in this way.
What’s essential about baths, when it comes to hydration, is that it gives your beardie the opportunity to drink if they want to. Will they do it in every bath? Probably not. But they will do it occasionally, and giving them that opportunity is what’s important.
The next most important hydration opportunity to give your beardie is to make fresh greens available every day. While they do not get all of their hydration from their food, they certainly do get some of it there.
Fresh greens are one of the best sources of this moisture.
Misting is yet another way to give your beardie an opportunity to drink. But again, it’s not because they absorb the water being sprayed on them.
An interesting fact about bearded dragons is that their head is shaped to funnel rain, dew, and mist towards their mouths. Misting your beardie allows water to collect on their heads and run to their mouths so they can drink.
With misting, be careful not to soak the enclosure. High humidity levels can be an issue, and misting carelessly or too much can cause problems.
Water bowls are another highly controversial way to give your beardie water. Many bearded dragon owners fiercely proclaim that a water bowl isn’t needed. Our view is that unless you are in a high humidity climate, it doesn’t hurt anything, so why not?
We wrote an entire article addressing this controversy that you can read here. For now, just know that a water bowl is yet another way to give your beardie an opportunity to hydrate.
Alternatives to tap water for hydrating your bearded dragon
Now that we have a handle on exactly how a bearded dragon gets its water, let’s take a closer look at the water itself.
If you decide that you want to give the benefit of the doubt to your beardie over your water, there is no harm in using something other than your tap water.
But keep in mind that that means you’ll need to use that alternate water in all hydration scenarios, from baths to misting to their bowls.
In other words, it doesn’t make sense to use bottled water in their bowl and then bath them in tap water. It’s either all or nothing if you really think the type of water makes a difference.
So let’s take a quick look at your options if you’ve decided that tap water isn’t something you want to give your bearded dragon.
First, please understand that most bottled water is just high-quality tap water. Despite the marketing, there’s nothing inherently more pure about it than most tap water.
If you have well water or live in an area known to have water issues (you have regular boil orders, etc.), bottled water will be the better choice. If you are buying bottled water for your bearded dragon, get the cheapest you can. There is no reason to spend anything more than that.
In-home water purification
Most people don’t do this for their beardie. They do it for themselves. But if you have one of these in place, why not also use that water for your beardie?
This is what we do. While our tap water is just fine (we drink it sometimes and often fill up our beardie’s bath with it), we prefer the taste of the water from the filtration system we use.
It’s a reverse osmosis system that also adds back certain minerals for flavor. We love it, and since we have it for ourselves, we use it to fill our beardie’s bowl, mister, and sometimes bath.
If we had poor water quality, we’d use our filtered water for everything, but we don’t, so it’s not an all the time thing. You can see the system we use here (it wasn’t that expensive, it was super easy to install, and our water tastes great!).
A less expensive route to go than using bottled water (which costs more per gallon than gas!) is to use a reptile specific water conditioner. There are a few options for this, but we like this one by Zoo Med that you can get pretty inexpensively over on Amazon.
Using a few drops of this in their drinking water and bath, you can ensure that any substances in the water that may be toxic to your beardie are neutralized.
This does not mean, however, that you can use any water you come across. This type of additive will do little to help highly contaminated water. It works great for suspicious tap water, though.
Not to worry
Even though some people make a deal out of this subject online, it’s really nothing to stress about. As we’ve mentioned twice already, the EPA standards for drinking water purity are the same as the standards applied to bottled water.
While this doesn’t mean that every single tap in existence has pristine water, it does mean that in most areas in highly developed first world countries, the tap water isn’t toxic to you or your beardie.
If you want to play it safe, we’ve presented a few options for you, and none of them is expensive or time-consuming. But if you’re going to worry about what goes into your beardie’s mouth, we’d rather see more people pay much closer attention to food choices for their bearded dragon than where the water comes from.
How do I know if my beardie is well hydrated?
Look at their stool when they poop. Is it moist? That’s a good sign. You also want to see some white chunks at the end of the stool. This is called “urate”, and is the waste product from their kidneys. If they are not hydrated, there will be little to no urate in their stool.
My bearded dragon doesn’t drink from their bowl. Do they really need one?
We think the answer to that is yes, but some will disagree. Unless you live in a high humidity climate, we believe that having a bowl out is smart to do even if you never happen to see them using it.
There’s a little more to it than that, and if you’re interested, we wrote a complete article specifically about water bowls that you can read here.
Can my bearded dragon have flavored water or soda?
Ummmm, no. Your beardie is not a person or a child (although we certainly think of ours as one of our “kids”!). They do not need flavor or sweetness or anything beyond good ole fashioned plain water. The same goes for humans, but we won’t get into that here!