If you are the proud owner of a bearded dragon – or are thinking of getting one – you probably have a lot of questions. These are not your usual pet reptiles, after all!
One of the most common questions asked by bearded dragon owners is regarding their smell, i.e. do they smell bad?
Bearded dragons smelling bad is, in fact, a misconception. They have no sweat glands, meaning they don’t really have a natural odor.
While they are territorial reptiles, they also don’t mark their territory with any scent.
So where has this misconception come from? Well, it may be due to the fact that a bearded dragon has highly absorbent skin and it can in fact absorb unpleasant scents surrounding it, namely, from a dirty environment.
If their enclosure is not clean, then that will be reflected in your bearded dragon’s smell.
Now let’s take a closer look at why your bearded dragon might smell bad and how you can prevent it.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Smell Bad?
While your bearded dragon won’t inherently smell bad, you may notice they have a certain smell that is unusual but isn’t exactly a ‘bad’ odor. Your bearded dragon may smell bad due to environmental factors.
There are a few factors that can lead your beard dragons to smell bad. Not only is a stinky dragon off-putting but it may be the symptom of a bigger problem you’ll need to address.
Let’s look at a few reasons why your bearded dragon may smell bad so you can solve the problem.
Possibly the biggest reason that a bearded dragon is foul-smelling is that their waste has been left to build up in their tank.
Bearded dragons go to the bathroom regularly, and if its urine and feces are left to fester in their tank, then your beardie is going to absorb that smell.
If you’re the proud new owner of a bearded dragon, then it might surprise you to learn that a bearded dragon urinates in a unique way when compared to other pets.
Rather, they excrete a bodily fluid called urate. This is basically crystallized uric acid and resembles a white powder. It is common to see this in the feces of a healthy bearded dragon.
Regular bearded dragon feces tends to not have a powerful odor, but if it festers in a tank, then it will definitely start to smell.
If you regularly clean your bearded dragon’s waste but you can still smell it, then this may indicate that your beardie has parasites. If you’re worried about this, contact your vet.
Their Tank Needs To Be Cleaned
A tank that also hasn’t had a thorough cleaning in a while will lead to your bearded dragon absorbing this unpleasant odor.
Establishing a regular cleaning schedule for your bearded dragon’s tank is crucial.
Dirty substrate, dirty water, a dirty reptile carpet, and leftover food will contribute to a foul-smelling bearded dragon enclosure, and beardie!
Not only is a dirty enclosure smelly and not nice to look at, it’s not nice for your bearded dragon to live in.
Especially because it contributes to bacterial growth that can eventually harm your bearded dragon.
They Are Sick
If your bearded dragon is smelling unusually bad, it may be that your beardie isn’t feeling very well.
This is particularly the case if they are breathing with their mouths open, have too much mucus, lose their appetite, or they appear lethargic.
A dirty tank can lead to fungus and bacteria building up, and this in turn can lead to health problems like mouth rot, parasites, respiratory infection, or tail rot.
Contact your vet immediately if you believe your bearded dragon is unwell.
You Need To Change The Substrate
A lot of people don’t know this, but the substrate in an enclosure may lead to your bearded dragon smelling bad. Old substrate or a substrate that hasn’t been cleaned properly will create a foul smell over time.
Fungus and bacteria that grow in the substrate may lead to foul smells and can even cause health problems for your bearded dragon.
Still, it’s not just dirty or old substrate that may smell. New substrate that is made up of chemically treated wood chips tends to have an unusual and foul smell.
Not only does this poor substrate emit a smell that your beardie may absorb, but it can also emit poisonous chemicals that can be dangerous to your pet.
How To Avoid Your Bearded Dragon From Smelling Bad
Clean Your Beardie’s Enclosure
One of the most crucial steps you can take to avoid your bearded dragon from smelling bad is just to keep their tank as clean as you can.
This means you should spot clean the tank a couple of times a day, clean it thoroughly once a week, and clean it deeply every month.
Take waste out of your bearded dragon’s enclosure as soon as you can, as leaving it in the tank will lead to foul smells – even if it’s just for a couple of hours.
You should be mindful when removing bearded dragon feces as it tends to contain salmonella. This is a bacteria species that isn’t just dangerous to your dragon, but humans too!
You should wear gloves whenever you clean out your bearded dragon’s enclosure and carefully wash your hands.
If your tank has a reptile carpet then you should make sure you carefully clean the carpet. Dirt, waste, and other materials that cause odor can get trapped in your carpet.
If your reptile carpet keeps trapping these odors, then it may just be easier to remove it completely.
When doing your daily spot cleaning, take out the waste straight away. You should also remove any leftover food, take out and replace any paper towels or newspaper, and sift and scoop loose substrate.
Every surface should be wiped down every week with an appropriate disinfectant cleaner, and all areas and substrates in the tank should be cleaned thoroughly.
When cleaning your tank every month, take out and clean all accessories in the tank, deep clean the substrate and clean every surface with soapy, hot water.
Before you put everything back, ensure everything is totally dry.
Don’t Leave Food In The Enclosure
Just like it’s important to take out bearded dragon waste from their tank as soon as you can, it’s just as important to remove any leftover food.
Leftover greens play a huge part in making a tank smell bad (which then leads your bearded dragon to smell bad). Crickets and other live prey can also be problematic when left in the tank.
All food should be removed as soon as your beardie is full. In fact, the general rule is that all leftover food should be taken out of the tank after 15 minutes.
Leftover food won’t just begin to rot and smell foul, but live, leftover crickets in the enclosure may bite your beardie and do other physical harm.
But what about if you remove the food as soon as you can, but your tank still smells bad? If this happens, then you may want to rethink what live prey you use.
Crickets are notorious for smelling bad, so switch them out for something else. Cockroaches, locusts, mealworms and waxworms are suitable alternatives to crickets.
We hope our article has helped to bust some myths about bearded dragon scent, and provided some handy tips on how to keep bearded dragons healthy, happy, and smelling fresh in their tanks!