Updated: September 26, 2021 by Jennifer Munsell
If you have noticed your bearded dragon’s skin is dull and flaky, there’s nothing to worry about! Beardies, like most other reptiles, shed their skin throughout their lifetimes. But while this is a normal process for your reptile friend, you’re probably still wondering: how often do bearded dragons shed, and is there anything you can do to help?
Scientifically known as ecdysis, shedding is a fascinating and completely natural process all bearded dragons go through. However, many first-time owners don’t know what to expect from bearded dragon shedding. As it turns out, that can be a huge problem!
Although most bearded dragons are more than capable of going through the shedding process alone, some may need help. That is when you, as an owner, come in to help and make the entire process more comfortable and easier for your pet reptile to go through.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about bearded dragon shedding, including how often it happens, how long it takes, and all the potential problems you should know about.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
Also referred to as molting, peeling, or sloughing, shedding is a natural process that happens when your bearded dragon sheds their old skin. After your pet reptile casts off its old skin, you’ll notice the new skin is vividly colored and looks much healthier than the old one.
When it comes to shedding, most bearded dragons shed for one of two reasons – growth or replacing damaged skin.
The skin of your bearded dragon is mainly made from keratinized scales, which make it rough and hard to stretch. This means while your beardie grows and gets larger, their skin stays the same size.
As a result, baby bearded dragons generally shed several times in their first year of life, as their bodies develop and grow rapidly during this time. However, as your bearded dragon grows and matures, you’ll notice they are shedding less and less often, depending on their growth rate.
Adult bearded dragons shed only for a handful of reasons, and they do so much less often than babies and juveniles. Adult beardies shed to replace old, damaged, scraped, and dirty skin for a new and healthy protective layer.
You are probably aware that we, as humans, are constantly shedding dead skin cells. However, unlike us, reptiles perform this entire process in one go. This is why you’ll see bearded dragons shedding entire sections of their skin at once.
Molting for bearded dragons most often starts with the skin flaking in several areas, or larger patches of skin being shed one after the next. Don’t expect to see your beardie shedding their entire skin in one neat, uniform piece like snakes shed.
Now that you know why do bearded dragons shed, let’s see how often the molting process happens!
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
How often bearded dragons shed mainly depends on their age, and the process varies from dragon to dragon. With that being said, shedding is closely related to growth rate, so hatchlings and juvenile bearded dragons will shed more frequently than adults.
Here’s what you can expect in terms of shedding depending on your beardie’s age:
Hatchlings – 0 to 6 Months
If you are wondering how often baby bearded dragons shed, the answer is almost every week! Hatchlings grow incredibly quickly during the first six months of their lives, and they also molt quite often.
While it might seem extreme, this type of shedding is completely normal and a sign your beardie is growing and developing properly.
As mentioned earlier, the skin of bearded dragons is made from a keratin-based protein that gives it a rough feel and lack of elasticity. Due to the rigidity of this protein, your beardie’s skin won’t grow with it and will rip and shed to make room for new skin that fits snugly over their body.
Think of it like this: hatchlings grow at such a rapid rate that they basically outgrow their own skin. Therefore, they need to change and shed it frequently to support steady growth and development.
Juveniles – 6 to 12 Months
Like people, bearded dragons grow and develop at different rates and will also stop growing completely at different times. By the six-month mark, your bearded dragon should be out of the rapid growth phase. Therefore, they won’t have to molt so often, and their shedding will become less frequent.
A six-month-old juvenile bearded dragon will most likely shed once every month or so. Bear in mind, as your beardie continues to grow during their juvenile stage, they will shed less frequently. With that being said, you can expect a 12-month old juvenile bearded dragon to shed once every other month.
Sub-Adults – 12 to 18 Months
At the one-year mark, some bearded dragons will simply stop growing. However, many beardies will grow an additional inch or two in length and around 50 grams of weight during this period.
At this stage, your bearded dragon won’t need to shed as frequently as before and will molt every few months. This drop in shedding frequency is mainly caused by the growth process slowing significantly. From this point on, your beardie will only shed even less often.
Adults – 18+ Months
Most bearded dragons reach adulthood and become fully grown when they are around one and a half years old. At this point, your beardie is finished growing, and they won’t be shedding much from here on out. Any type of shedding that happens from now on will serve as a skin refresher rather than a real necessity due to growth.
Expect your fully grown bearded dragon to shed only two to three times a year. However, while complete sheds are few and far between during adulthood, your beardie might have partial sheds every couple of months. During these times, your bearded dragon may only shed patches of skin from its tail or legs.
How Long Does It Take a Bearded Dragon to Shed?
Once again, age plays a major role in molting and has a huge effect on how long it takes for a bearded dragon to shed. Generally speaking, the older the bearded dragon is, the longer their shedding process is going to take. On the other hand, hatchlings and juvenile bearded dragons complete their sheds at a much faster rate.
It’s worth mentioning that, in order to start shedding again, a bearded dragon has to finish the previous shed completely. This way, your beardie won’t have to go through two sheds at the same time and end up losing both old and healthy skin.
Based on their age, expect your bearded dragon’s shedding to last:
- Hatchlings: 1 – 3 days
- Juveniles: 1 – 2 weeks
- Sub-Adults and Adults: Up to three weeks
Please note, if your bearded dragon is shedding portions of their skin as opposed to their whole body, they will probably need a week or so to complete the whole process.
Also, knowing how long it takes for your bearded dragon to shed completely can help you immensely in spotting incomplete sheds. Incomplete shedding, also known as “stuck shed,” can become a serious problem if left untreated and can make your beardie susceptible to infection and necrosis, particularly on extremities like their claws and tail.
Keep track of the frequency and length of your bearded dragon’s shedding. If you spot any signs of an incomplete, stuck shed or other issues, you can try to help the shedding along by soaking your beardie in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If this doesn’t work after a few days, though, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Signs of Bearded Dragon Shedding
While most shedding bearded dragons continue to act as they usually would, there are several subtle behavioral changes to look for. These behaviors are completely normal but are often a sign that a bearded dragon might be shedding soon.
Knowing when bearded dragons shed and what the signs are can be especially helpful with adult dragons that don’t shed so often. Keep an eye out for:
Lightened or Pale Skin Color
When bearded dragons are about to shed, their whole appearance changes. If your beardie is about to molt, you’ll notice patches of gray, loose, and dry skin begin to detach. The old skin is always dry, grayish, and brittle, while the new skin beneath is glossy and vividly colored.
Loss of Appetite
It’s not uncommon for bearded dragons to lose appetite when they start shedding. Furthermore, it’s completely normal for your beardie to refuse eating right before a shed and shortly after the whole process is completed.
While it might seem ghastly, some beardies will eat their shed to take back some of the nutrients they lost during this process. As long as the old skin is completely clean and not contaminated with fecal matter, you can let your pet reptile eat it.
However, if this is too much for you to handle, just remove and dispose of the old skin before your pet has a chance to eat it. Also, if the skin is dirty or contaminated, remove it from the tank to prevent health problems.
Remember, even if your beardie doesn’t seem interested in food, you should offer it either way. In case your bearded dragon regains its appetite, they should have access to food.
Eye bulging is also a telltale sign your beardie will start to shed soon. Don’t be alarmed by this behavior; it may be startling or even frightening at first glance, but it is completely normal. You may also notice your reptile’s eyes appear cloudy or duller than usual.
While it might seem strange, eye-bulging actually helps stretch and loosen the skin around your beardie’s eyes and head. This, in turn, makes the shedding process easier and lowers the chance of an incomplete shed.
Whether your bearded dragon is shedding in patches or removing old skin from its entire body, molting requires a lot of energy. Therefore, it is common for bearded dragons to act and appear lethargic before they start shedding and during the process.
When the shedding begins, most beardies will become a bit restless and rub their body against various surfaces within their tank or use their legs to peel off the old skin. All of this requires a lot of energy and can be extremely trying no matter how energetic and active a beardie is normally.
Keep track of your bearded dragon’s energy levels, since most will become noticeably less active in the days before and after a shed.
How to Help Your Bearded Dragon Shed Their Skin
Bearded dragons and many other reptile species have spent millions of years shedding their skin alone in the wild. However, there are still some things you can do to make the entire experience less taxing and more comfortable for your pet.
You won’t actually have to sit by the tank and peel your reptile’s skin. In fact, no matter how tempting it is, never attempt to directly peel or pull off the skin! Pulling the skin off prematurely can hurt your beardie, damage their scales, and cause skin infections later.
There are other, much better ways you can help your beardie during this process, such as setting up their tank in the right way. This is how you can help:
1. Provide a Correct Tank Setup
Having a correct enclosure setup with a variety of different textures and surfaces within the tank can help your beardie immensely. Providing access to rough surfaces will allow your beardie to rub against them to remove or loosen pieces of skin.
These surfaces need to be strong, but not so sharp that they can damage your beardie’s skin or injure themselves in any other way. In their natural habitat, bearded dragons use rocks and branches to help with the shedding process and gradually remove loose pieces of skin.
Try to add rocks, branches, and other decor to your bearded dragon’s tank to enrich their environment and help them dislodge loose skin.
2. Pay Attention to Diet and Hydration
Proper diet and hydration are extremely important for your reptile’s overall health and wellbeing, but they also play a huge role in the shedding process. Lack of essential nutrients from a balanced diet can affect molting and lead to an incomplete or “stuck” shed.
Without the right amount of calcium in their diet, bearded dragons can experience all sorts of shedding problems and also develop a painful disorder known as metabolic bone disease. Bearded dragons that experience consistent problems during shedding often suffer from calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies.
To ensure shedding goes smoothly, consider adding a calcium supplement with vitamin D3 to your beardie’s diet. Making sure your bearded dragon is receiving a proper dose of all essential vitamins and minerals will aid their body from the inside and support the shedding process.
In addition to a proper diet, make sure your reptile is properly hydrated and has access to fresh and clean water at all times. Although beardies are desert-dwelling animals, they still need plenty of water to survive, and staying hydrated will make molting much easier.
3. Create an Ideal Environment: Temperature and Humidity
The last thing you can do to make your bearded dragon more comfortable during the shedding process is to create ideal conditions within their environment. This means you’ll need to always maintain proper lighting, humidity, and temperature inside your beardie’s tank.
Make sure your tank is set up with the correct UVB light to mimic the sunlight in your beardie’s natural environment. Don’t forget to add a correct heat source and keep humidity levels between 30% and 40%. You can monitor these settings by setting up a dual thermometer and hygrometer within their enclosure.
4. Mist Your Reptile and Their Environment
Although it might seem like dry skin peels faster, you’d be surprised how much even a small amount of additional moisture can help with the process of shedding. Misting your bearded dragon and their tank with cool, fresh water more often than usual will actually benefit them greatly.
The additional moisture will help the skin to flake and peel faster and will also keep your beardie hydrated and comfortable. Although misting can be helpful, don’t go overboard, since that will lead to increased humidity levels within the tank.
If your beardie doesn’t object, mist them two times a day using a spray bottle and make sure the tank’s humidity always stays within 30 to 40%.
FAQs on Bearded Dragon Shedding
What should you do when your bearded dragon is shedding?
Bearded dragons are more than capable of shedding on their own without human assistance. While you shouldn’t pull off or peel your beardie’s skin, there are other ways you can make the shedding process more comfortable for your pet. Having a correct tank setup with a variety of rocks, branches, and correct substrate can help with molting.
You can also mist or bathe your bearded dragon to help loosen the skin and support normal shedding, but keep an eye on their enclosure’s humidity levels. If you think your bearded dragon can benefit from using a shedding aid, you can try applying a product like Zilla’s Shed Ease for an easier shed.
Can you hold a bearded dragon while they are shedding?
You can hold a bearded dragon while they are shedding, but it’s best to keep handling to a minimum during this time. Even if your beardie doesn’t object to being held, you should only handle them when absolutely necessary. Since shedding requires a lot of energy and can be stressful, handling them too much can be uncomfortable for your beardie and even cause a painful injury if you accidentally peel off their skin prematurely.
Is shedding uncomfortable for bearded dragons?
Shedding is very uncomfortable for bearded dragons and can affect their day-to-day activities. Although it is a natural process every beardie needs to go through, shedding makes bearded dragons very itchy. Furthermore, many bearded dragons feel stressed out and annoyed due to the loss of appetite and lack of energy that usually accompany the shedding process.
Do bearded dragons get stressed when shedding?
Shedding can be stressful for bearded dragons and can even make them uncomfortable and angry. This process can also be painful, making your beardie irritable and unwilling to be held and handled. Luckily, as soon as they’re done shedding, your bearded dragon won’t feel stressed out and will start acting normal again.
Do beardies eat less when shedding?
It is common for bearded dragons to eat less or stop eating completely right before and during the process of shedding. Molting and growing new skin is a complicated process that can make your beardie not interested in food. However, you should continue to offer fresh and nutritious meals to your bearded dragon for when their appetite comes back.
Do bearded dragons eat their shed?
Eating shed skin is a completely normal thing for bearded dragons, so don’t be shocked if you catch your pet in the act. While eating dry skin might seem gross to us, it’s actually a very clever survival tactic.
The shed contains valuable nutrients, and by eating it, your beardie is replenishing their energy reserves that have been depleted by the molting process. This is completely normal and safe, but only if the dead skin isn’t contaminated with fecal matter or other debris. If that is the case, you should remove and dispose of the shed before your beardie develops health problems from eating it.
Keeping your dragon’s enclosure clean at all times will prevent their skin from becoming dirty or otherwise contaminated.
A Final Word on Shedding
Shedding is a natural process for bearded dragons, and it will happen many times throughout your pet reptile’s life. It is up to you as a pet owner to understand this process and know what to expect when your bearded dragon starts to shed.
The most important thing to remember is how often your bearded dragon will shed depends solely on their age. The younger your beardie is, the more often they are going to go through a whole-body shed to accommodate their rapidly growing body.
- For hatchlings, shedding is an almost weekly occurrence that can take up to three days to complete. Juvenile bearded dragons usually shed once every four to six weeks, while older sub-adults shed approximately every other month.
- After they become one year old, most beardies only shed once every few months. When they reach adulthood at 18 months of age, bearded dragons stop growing and will shed only two to three times a year for the rest of their lives.
Armed with all this information, you can help keep your bearded dragon comfortable while shedding and ensure they are healthy and have everything they need to molt successfully every time.