If you’re considering getting a bearded dragon as a pet, you likely have a number of questions. These critters are a bit less common, so it’s only natural to wonder what you’re getting yourself into!
And out of all the questions we hear, “do bearded dragons smell?” is usually at the top of the list. This guide will explain everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- Do Bearded Dragons Smell?
- Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Smells Bad
- How To Prevent Your Bearded Dragon From Stinking
- Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Like Fish?
- Will They Smell When Shedding?
Do Bearded Dragons Smell?
Contrary to popular belief, bearded dragons do not smell. Because bearded dragons don’t have sweat glands like many other animals, they really don’t give off very much of their own odor. Also, while territorial, bearded dragons don’t mark their space with any type of scent.
So why do they have a reputation for being smelly? It’s probably because a bearded dragon’s skin tends to absorb any bad odors that are in the area, and the source of these bad smells is usually an unclean environment. If their enclosure is less than clean, then your beardie is going to smell just like its dirty environment.
Expert Tip: There are other factors that can contribute to a bearded dragon’s smell, such as illness, fungus, temperature, and inappropriate cage enhancements, but the main cause is usually an unsanitary environment.
Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Smells Bad
As we mentioned above, your bearded dragon won’t normally smell bad. You might notice a kind of reptile-like smell (which is hard to describe until you’ve smelled it), but this isn’t necessarily an unpleasant odor.
The reason that your beardie smells bad is usually that something in its environment is off. There are a number of factors that can make a bearded dragon stink. Not only is a smelly dragon less than desirable, this smell may be indicative of a much larger issue.
Let’s go over a few possibilities so you can get to the bottom of things!
Probably the most common reason why a bearded dragon smells bad is that its waste has been allowed to accumulate in the cage. A bearded dragon goes to the bathroom quite often, and if its feces and urine are allowed to fester in the enclosure, then the smell is going to transfer to the dragon’s skin.
If you’re new to the world of bearded dragon care, then you may be surprised to learn that a bearded dragon doesn’t urinate the same way that other pets do. Instead, they excrete something called urate. This is just uric acid that has crystallized and looks like a white powder. You’ll see it in the poop of a healthy bearded dragon.
Normal bearded dragon poop doesn’t usually have a strong odor, but if it’s left to fester in the cage, then it will certainly begin to smell. If you are careful about cleaning your dragon’s waste, and you still smell an odor, then this may mean that your dragon is suffering from parasites. Call your veterinarian if you’re concerned.
2. Their Tank Needs To Be Cleaned
We talked about how feces and urine left inside the enclosure can cause your beardie to stink, but a tank that hasn’t had a good general cleaning will cause them to have a foul odor as well.
Developing a consistent cleaning schedule for your bearded dragon’s enclosure is very important. Left over food, dirty water, a filthy reptile carpet or a dirty substrate will lead to an enclosure that smells. This in turn will cause your little pet to smell. Not only is a dirty tank unpleasant to look at and to smell, but it can lead to bacterial growth that may harm them in the future.
3. Your Beardie Is Sick
If your bearded dragon is giving off an unusually foul odor, it could be that your pet is sick. This is especially true if they seem lethargic, lose interest in food, have excess mucus, or are displaying obvious open-mouthed breathing.
Expert Tip: A dirty tank can cause a build up of bacteria and fungus, and this may lead to health issues such as tail rot, mouth rot, parasites, or respiratory infection. Call your vet right away if you think that your bearded dragon is sick.
4. The Type Of Substrate Should Be Changed
Many people don’t realize it, but the substrate in the tank could be the reason why your bearded dragon smells bad. A substrate that’s old or hasn’t been properly cleaned will develop a foul odor over time. Bacteria and fungus that develop in the substrate may cause it to smell and can even make your beardie sick.
However, it’s not only old or dirty substrate that might smell. New substrate that consists of chemically treated woodchips often has a very odd and unpleasant smell. Not only will this lower-quality substrate give off an odor that may be absorbed by your dragon’s skin, but it can also give off dangerous chemicals that can harm your pet.
How To Prevent Your Bearded Dragon From Stinking
In most cases, the solution to a pleasant-smelling bearded dragon is in your hands. There are many steps you can take to keep the environment around your dragon clean and healthy. Let’s go over a few easy things you can do to prevent your bearded dragon from stinking.
Clean The Enclosure
One of the most important steps you can take if you don’t want your bearded dragon to smell bad is to simply keep the enclosure as clean as possible. This means that the tank should be spot cleaned several times a day, thoroughly cleaned once a week, and deep cleaned once a month.
Remove your bearded dragon’s waste as soon as possible because leaving it in the enclosure, even for a few hours, will create a smelly situation.
Expert Tip: Remember to be careful when handling beardie poop because it often contains salmonella, a species of bacteria that can be dangerous to your dragon and to you. Always wear gloves when cleaning your beardie’s enclosure and make sure to wash your hands carefully after.
If you use reptile carpet in the tank, then you need to make sure to clean it very carefully. This type of carpeting traps dirt, waste and other odor causing materials. It might be a good idea to get rid of reptile carpet entirely if it continues to trap odors.
For daily spot cleaning, remove your bearded dragon’s waste as soon as you find it. Take out any food that hasn’t been eaten, remove and replace any newspaper or paper towels, and sift and scoop loose substrate.
Every week, all surfaces should be wiped down with a safe disinfectant cleaner, and all substrates and areas inside the enclosure should be thoroughly cleaned.
For your monthly cleaning, remove and clean all tank enhancements, deep clean the substrate and clean all surfaces with hot, soapy water. Make sure to let everything dry completely before putting it back.
Don’t Let Food Sit In The Enclosure
This next step goes along with the one mentioned above. In the same way that it’s important to remove your bearded dragon’s waste from the enclosure as soon as possible, it’s equally important to take out any leftover food items.
Leftover greens are a huge contributor to a tank’s foul odor (which makes your bearded dragon smell bad), as are crickets and other live prey left in the enclosure. All kinds of food items should be taken out of the enclosure as soon as the dragon is done eating. In fact, the standard rule of thumb is that all food should be removed after 15 minutes. Not only will leftover food start to rot and smell bad, but live crickets left in the tank may bite and harm your dragon.
What happens if you remove all food items as soon as possible, but the enclosure still smells? If this is the case, then you may want to change the type of live prey you’re using. Crickets are known to give off a foul smell, so try switching to something else. Waxworms, cockroaches, mealworms, and locusts are other live prey options you may want to try.
Maintain A Consistent Humidity Level And Temperature
A dirty enclosure and waste left to fester are both pretty obvious reasons why your bearded dragon might stink. But did you know that an improper level of humidity or an incorrect temperature within the tank can also cause them to smell bad?
Native to dry areas of Australia, bearded dragons humidity levels don’t need to be very high. In fact, we suggest keeping your beardie’s enclosure between 35 and 40 percent humidity at all times. At levels higher than this, your pet runs the risk of developing a fungal infection, and bacteria and fungus may begin to grow out of control inside the tank. Too much bacteria or fungus may lead to a smelly enclosure, and your beardie’s skin will absorb the odor.
If the temperature within the enclosure is too high, this can also promote the growth of bacteria and fungus. Investing in a good thermometer and hygrometer will help to ensure that the conditions in the tank stay at appropriate levels.
Expert Tip: While your dragon does need to be misted every day, it’s very important to let the enclosure dry completely between misting sessions.
Pay Attention To Tank Enhancements And Substrates
Not all substrates and enclosure enhancements are created equal. As we discussed above, cheaper brands of substrate are often coated in harsh chemicals that give off an unpleasant odor. Some substrates have the tendency to trap moisture, thus creating a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. Other substrates are difficult to clean or hard to remove during a monthly, deep cleaning.
There are various opinions concerning the type of substrate that will cause your bearded dragon to smell bad. Some people use paper towels or newspapers because these items are inexpensive and easily removed. These tank liners should be removed and replaced daily.
If you decide to go with gravel as a substrate, you will need to sift it every day to remove waste and food particles. To keep it fresh and clean, replace gravel as needed and give it a thorough cleaning every month. Never let your gravel substrate get too wet, or bacteria and fungus will begin to grow.
Other owners opt for reptile carpet. While this looks nice, it tends to develop an odor quickly due to bacterial build-up. Reptile carpet should be taken out and washed once a week to keep it fresh and clean. Replace damaged carpet right away.
Treat Your Dragon To A Spa Day
If your bearded dragon is smelling funky, then you could try giving it a bath. This is something that many bearded dragons enjoy, and it’s a good idea to do this a few times a month.
You don’t need any elaborate equipment, and a tub filled with warm water will do. Let your beardie play in the water while you gently clean it with a soft brush. Pat them down dry with a soft towel when the bath is over, and your beardie should be smelling fresh and clean. Remember that bathing only works for preventing a stink if they have a clean tank to return to. A dirty tank will always lead to a smelly bearded dragon.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Like Fish?
If you begin to notice that your bearded dragon gives off a fishy smell, then it’s time to take a really good look at the conditions inside the enclosure. Your beardie is not going to smell like fish on its own, so this is an indication that something is very wrong with the environment inside its enclosure.
If things have progressed to the fishy stage, then enclosure conditions have likely gone seriously downhill. Food left to rot in the enclosure, a buildup of fungus or bacteria, or dragon waste that’s not cleaned up right away will quickly cause a fishy smell that will be absorbed by your pet’s skin.
Spot cleaning and sticking to a consistent cleaning schedule will pretty much eliminate the chances of your bearded dragon smelling like fish.
Will They Smell When Shedding?
One common question is if bearded dragons give off any type of odor when they are shedding, and the answer is no.
You may notice lethargy, a loss of appetite, a darkened beard, or even crankiness just before and during shedding, but you won’t notice a bad smell.
The skin that comes off during shedding is dead skin, and it does not have any kind of odor.
Bearded dragons don’t smell, but they will smell like their enclosure. That means if their tank stinks, so will they!
We hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any questions feel free to ask us!