Updated: August 3, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
Bearded dragons swim for a number of reasons, such as to get from one place to another, cool down in the midday heat, and drink up their fill. In captivity, giving your bearded dragon a place to swim from time to time will benefit them in other ways.
Swimming in captivity provides mental stimulation, good exercise, and a fun new environment for your bearded dragon as well as bonding time with you!
However, letting your beardie swim around is not as simple as filling the bathtub with water and plopping them in. Careful thought and planning needs to go into setting up your bearded dragon’s swimming space.
Read on to find out all the things you need to know about why and how bearded dragons swim, how to set up their swimming area, and what to do when trouble arises!
What to Know Bearded Dragons Swimming
To know how best to help your little beardie bestie swim, it is important to know all the whys and hows in order to provide the best and safest environment for them.
Here are all the answers to your questions about your bearded dragon’s swimming ability and why swimming is so beneficial for these unique little lizards.
Can Bearded Dragons Swim in Australia?
Bearded dragons come from Australia. For an in-depth look at their natural history and their habitat, have a look at our article on beardie origins! Because these lizards live in such a dry environment, many people assume bearded dragons do not swim in the wild and thus don’t have any reason to swim in captivity, either.
However, even though they live in dry and wooded areas, bearded dragons do still come across the occasional fresh spring or pool of water.
When they come across these wells of life, they do not pass up the chance to soak up all that H₂0 and have a good swim.
They are always on the lookout for their many predators when they are in the water because they can come from above, like birds, as well as below, like crocodiles and large fish.
Despite being terrestrial lizards, they have excellent reflexes and can whip their tails sides to side or even deliver a painful bite to get themselves out of danger.
Is Bearded Dragon Swimming the Same as Bathing?
Bath time is a focused time for you and your bearded dragon. During this time, you should be giving them a good scrub and looking their bodies over for any signs of stuck shed, damaged toes, stress marks, old healing scabs, open sores, and any other thing that may be wrong with them.
Bath time with your bearded dragon is a very hands-on experience. Here’s a detailed guide on how to bathe your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons swimming on the other hand, is more about freedom and fun. Rather than attentively cleaning or scrubbing your beardie, you’ll sit back and allow them to swim around freely and explore.
Additionally, bath time will typically take place in a smaller container of water like a small tub or sink so you have better control over your beardie’s movements, while swimming time should take place in a larger kiddy pool or bath to give your beardie more room to roam. Your bearded dragon should never be left alone during swimming time; however, it should ideally be a more hands-off experience. Always supervise your bearded dragon!
Swimming can be completely separate from bath time and on a different schedule. Alternatively, swimming can happen at the end of alternating bath times where you let your bearded dragon move around and enjoy their swim freely now that they are all clean.
Why Is Swimming Beneficial for Bearded Dragons?
Humans adore swimming, and bearded dragons do, too! Swimming provides many benefits to humans, both physical as well as mental; the same applies to bearded dragons!
Physical Benefits of Swimming for Bearded Dragons
- Swimming is a great way for your bearded dragon to exercise because they are using their whole bodies to move around.
- Being in water also helps bearded dragons have more regular bowel movements. The warm water helps with constipation and mild impaction. If you want some reliable poop clues, check out our article!
- Hydration is an important part of your bearded dragon’s life, and getting enough water into them can sometimes be difficult. When bearded dragons swim around, they drink water, which helps keep them hydrated.
- When your bearded dragon is shedding, regular swims can help speed the process up and reduce the itchy, uncomfortable feeling they experience while shedding.
- You can also boost your beardie’s health when they swim by adding an electrolyte solution to the water.
Mental Benefits of Swimming for Bearded Dragons
- Swimming provides bearded dragons with an outlet for their pent-up energy! This reduces their stress levels and improves their overall quality of life.
- Swimming is mentally stimulating and enriching because it is a completely different environment than what they are used to, and they get to problem solve when navigating their pool!
Do All Bearded Dragons Enjoy Swimming?
To be fair, not all humans enjoy swimming, so why should all bearded dragons? Bearded dragons have unique personalities. Some beardies love to be cuddled frequently, and some do not. Some beardies love swimming, while others do not like water at all.
If you have a new bearded dragon and they hiss and puff up when they are introduced to water, do not worry. Slowly get them used to the water by keeping it very shallow, and do not have a lot of distracting toys inside of the swimming tub at first. Consistency is key!
If you have tried to get them used to water every second day for three weeks and they still do not like it, then you may simply have a bearded dragon that does not enjoy water and will not take to swimming.
Should Bearded Dragons of All Ages Swim?
Baby bearded dragons will love the fact that they can zip through the water very fast. They have a lot of built up energy that they do not know what to do with, and swimming will help them expend that. As long as the water is kept very shallow and you closely monitor your beardie the entire time, swimming is a safe and fun activity for babies and juveniles, too!
Older bearded dragons, on the other hand, will enjoy the fact that the water buoys them and takes weight off of their joints, which may be stiff and sore with age. They may simply stand or float and soak up the water during their swimming time.
Swimming is a great exercise and bonding activity for bearded dragons of all ages!
Setting Up Your Bearded Dragon’s Swimming Pool
Having a bearded dragon is a long-term commitment. Bearded dragons live for 15 years on average and will likely enjoy swimming for every single one of those years. So, it is important to know how to set up their swimming experience from the get-go.
Here’s what you should know when it comes to setting up the perfect swimming pool for your beardie.
Where Should My Bearded Dragon Swim?
You should have a dedicated tub for your bearded dragon’s swimming pool to prevent cross contamination. For example, a long, flat storage container is a perfect swimming tub for them. You can easily reach into the container, and there is plenty of space for them to move around.
It’s best to conduct your beardie’s swim sessions indoors in a safe, calm, temperature-controlled space. It can be a bit messy to bathe your bearded dragon and allow them to swim and splash around, so the kitchen or bathroom floor (with plenty of towels on standby) is a good place to set up their swimming tub.
Setting up outside comes with risks. Your bearded dragon may make a break for it, or a hungry neighborhood cat or crow may come looking for a quickie and easy meal. Being outdoors can also be overwhelming, unfamiliar, and stressful for many bearded dragons.
Is Water Quality Important?
Generally, warm tap water is perfectly fine to use in your bearded dragon’s swimming tub. However, depending on your area, you may have high levels of chlorine in the tap water, and so you may need to dechlorinate the water with a water conditioner that is safe for reptiles.
The water should have little to no chlorine, chloramines, nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia in it. This is especially important because bearded dragons drink the water while they are swimming around.
If the water is contaminated or of poor quality and your bearded dragon drinks it, they can suffer from diarrhea and vomiting, which will lead to dehydration and other malnutrition issues. As long as your bearded dragon hasn’t defecated in the water, it is safe for them to drink while they swim.
However, if they have messed in the water, then you should empty the bin out, sanitize it, and refill it with clean water and treat it again with the dechlorinator. To avoid this hassle, simply prepare two bins at the same time: one for bathing and one for swimming once bath time is over. It is very common for bearded dragons to poo in their water shortly after climbing into it because it soothes and stimulates their bowels.
What Is the Perfect Water Temperature?
Bearded dragons are reptiles. This means they are ectothermic, also known as “cold-blooded.” They do not generate their own body heat and rely on external sources of heat to keep them warm enough to function.
In their enclosure, they can move from the warm side to the cold side to regulate their body temperatures as needed. However, during swimming time, the water will not have the same kind of gentle temperature gradient.
This is why keeping an eye on the water temperature is essential. While your bearded dragon is swimming, keep the probe of a thermometer in the water so you can ensure the water is not getting too cold.
You can start the swimming water off at 88°F and allow it to drop to no lower than 84°F. As soon as the water drops to 84°F, you need to remove your bearded dragon, as this is too cold for them.
How Deep Should the Water Be?
Bearded dragons puff up their beards and air sacs in their chest and along the sides of their bodies which help them float in water in the wild when needed. However, this is exhausting work and completely unnecessary in captivity, since you can control the depth of the water in their bathtub.
The water in your beardie’s swimming pool should be about up to their elbows and no higher. If you have a bearded dragon that is very nervous, very young, or very old, you can make the water even more shallow. The water does not need to be deeper than this. Your bearded dragon can still pull their legs up and swim around the tub using their tails.
However, if you feel your bearded dragon is strong enough and they really love swimming, you can make the water slightly deeper only IF you have placed a basking platform or several rocks in the water where your bearded dragon can safely lift itself out of the water. Always closely monitor your bearded dragon while they swim to prevent any mishaps.
Should the Water Have Toys or No Toys?
Bearded dragons are intelligent creatures and love playing around. Having toys during swimming time is a great way to keep them entertained, but for some dragons, toys can be a bit overwhelming at first.
Slowly introduce toys to their swimming time and be careful not to overwhelm them.
Your bearded dragon’s toys should be completely safe for them to use. They should not leach colorants, pain, or chemicals if they get wet. They should be non-toxic in case your bearded dragon licks or bites them, and finally, they should be too large to be swallowed.
Toys can also mentally stimulate your bearded dragon, especially if they are bright colors and behave in strange ways, such as float or bob along the surface of the water.
How Long Should My Dragon Swim for?
Even though your bearded dragon may love swimming, they are not semi-aquatic lizards and they should not be allowed to swim for long periods of time.
Swimming time should be kept to only around 10 to 15 minutes a day. Any more time than that, and your beardie may start to develop respiratory issues due to inhaling too much water.
Additionally, the water in their swimming tubs will have started to cool significantly while the clock has been ticking, and you do not want them to get cold. Most bearded dragons only enjoy swimming for fairly short periods of time anyway, as it is quite physically strenuous and tiring for them.
How Often Should My Bearded Dragon Swim?
Swimming should not be an everyday occurrence. Not only is it overkill for your bearded dragon, but it can get overwhelming for the owner, too. Swimming time is special and it is the perfect way to bond. Plus, if the owner becomes bored of it and inattentive, then mistakes are made.
Ideally, it’s best to keep your beardie’s swimming sessions to just once or twice a week at most.
Matching swimming up to bath time is a great way to incorporate it into your bearded dragon’s schedule. Every second or third bath time can have an extended swimming time after it! This means your bearded dragon will be able to expect swim time and become excited for it!
What Happens When They Poop in the Water?
Something about the warm water encourages bearded dragons to poop. It may be because it is soothing and stimulating to their bowels, it may be the weightless feeling they have in the water, or they may not even realize it is happening, but all reptile owners will agree: bath and swim time is also poop time for their beardies!
As soon as you notice your bearded dragon has pooped, swimming time is (at least temporarily) over. This is because of their propensity towards drinking their bath/swimming water. You do not want your bearded dragon to drink water it has just pooped in!
Hopefully, your bearded dragon will poop at the end of bath time so you can simply put them in a nice, clean tub of water where they can swim around for a while.
However, if they poo in the water at the beginning of bathtime, it may help to keep a designated “poo tub” and a “swim tub” to transfer your beardie from dirty to fresh, clean water. Just place your bearded dragon in the first tub of water, allow them to poo, clean them off, and then swap them to the second clean swim tub.
Dangers and Safety Precautions During Swim Time
While swimming is a lot of fun for both you and your beardie, things can go wrong, and you need to be prepared if they do. Here’s what you should know to keep your scaly friend safe and happy every time they go for a swim.
Can My Bearded Dragon Swim Fully Underwater?
Bearded dragons are really cool creatures and have the ability to hold their breath for several minutes at a time! They can hold their breath for 10 to 15 minutes underwater!
However, this is usually only done defensively in emergencies when they are avoiding predators in the wild. They don’t swim underwater willingly, and there isn’t much reason for them to do so in captivity or when they are not threatened.
If your bearded dragon goes underwater while swimming, monitor them very closely and ensure they promptly come back up to the surface. Ideally, the water should be too shallow for them to fully submerge themselves anyway.
Can My Bearded Dragon Drown?
Despite being strong swimmers, bearded dragons can drown. In the wild, they usually drown because they become exhausted from holding their bodies up and will simply give up.
To mitigate this, make sure you have placed a lot of rocks, perches, opr platforms around the swimming area so they can sit down and take a break from swimming every couple of minutes. Monitor them very closely to ensure they don’t struggle or get stuck underwater.
How Do I Help My Drowning Bearded Dragon?
If you notice your bearded dragon wheezing, coughing, and bubbling but still breathing, take it straight to its basking spot and hold it at a 45-degree angle with its head down. This should bring up any water in the lungs.
However, if your bearded dragon is not breathing, rush to the vet immediately.
FAQs About Beardies Swimming
Can I turn my bearded dragon’s enclosure semi-aquatic so they always have access to a pool?
Bearded dragons need constant supervision while they are swimming. This means they should not be allowed permanent access to a water source large enough for them to swim in as it is dangerous.
What’s more, a semi-aquatic habitat is simply not suitable for a terrestrial lizard. The excess water needed for a swimming pool in the enclosure can interfere with humidity levels, and your bearded dragon will not enjoy the setup in general.
Can my bearded dragon swim in the bathtub?
Filling your bathtub with a little water seems like the ideal and easy solution to the perfect bearded dragon swimming pool! However, you will have to thoroughly and carefully sanitize the bathtub before your bearded dragon swims in it.
In addition, you will have to scrub it down carefully and sanitize it again afterwards. Bearded dragons often poop while they are swimming, and this will contaminate your bathtub with salmonella. Salmonella will make you incredibly ill.
It is best to have a designated tub for your bearded dragon to swim in rather than using the bath tub in your home.
Can my bearded dragon swim in our chlorinated pool?
High concentrations of chlorine are very bad for bearded dragons, so they should never swim in chlorinated swimming pools. Chlorine will dehydrate their skin, cause eye irritation, and will lead to diarrhea and possibly toxic levels of chlorine in their system because they often drink while they swim.
In addition to them suffering from the chlorine, you can end up contaminating your pool with salmonella!
Can my bearded dragon swim in our saltwater pool?
Bearded dragons may come across saltwater in the wild, so why not let them swim in your salt water pool? Unfortunately, salt water pools have high concentrations of salt, which is very unhealthy for your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons drink while they swim, and drinking so much salt water will lead to severe intestinal distress and dehydration. Salt water will also damage their skin and cause eye irritation. Once again, there is also the salmonella issue to consider here, too.
What should I do after my bearded dragon has finished swimming?
The first thing you should do is wrap them up in a warm, clean towel. Quickly towel dry off as much water as you can while being very gentle, especially if they are shedding. Do not pull on any shedding skin after a swim, as you may end up pulling off skin that isn’t quite ready to be removed yet. This can damage the new skin underneath.
Once you’ve given your beardie a quick towel dry, move them to their enclosure as quickly as you can. Set them down in their basking spot so any remaining water can evaporate off of their bodies without them cooling down too much.
Once they are sitting in their basking spot, you can go and clean up the pool area. It is important to dispose of the water in an outdoor drain and not in your kitchen sink, bathroom basin, or bathtub.
Santize the swimming tub and any toys and allow them to dry completely before packing them away to prevent mold from growing on them.
Swimming Away Now
Bearded dragons can swim!
It’s a completely natural activity for wild beardies, and they actually enjoy it a lot in captivity, too!
Bearded dragons swim occasionally in the wild when they need to get from one point to another, cool off, get a drink, or soothe their bowels. They also may do it just for fun and exercise!
Creating a safe swimming space for your bearded dragon is very important to your and your bearded dragon’s safety. Ensuring they have their own swimming tub, toys, rocks, and swimming towel is essential to minimize cross-contamination.
Maintaining a careful eye, a steady schedule, and a healthy environment for your beardie’s swimming sessions can lead to a healthier and happier bearded dragon, and it can strengthen the bond between beardie and owner, too!