Out of all the reptiles kept as pets none are more charming or famous than the bearded dragon. These lizards are from Australia and are well known, fun, docile and have simple care needs.
But how long do they live?
The oldest bearded dragon ever lived to be nearly 19 years old. But this lifespan is not typical!
Many factors play into how long bearded dragons live. Their diet, genetics, setup and housing all have a part to play. Beardies are hardy lizards with few health problems. However, it is important to know what can be done to maximize their lifespan, as well as what harmful mistakes to avoid.
Interested to learn about the lifespan of a bearded dragon? We will cover the basics of a beardie’s lifespan, what affects it, and what you can do to extend it.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Live?
As pets the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) usually has a lifespan of between 8 and 15 years. Most individuals will fall somewhere in the middle of that range, usually closer to 10 years.
With a bit of effort and planning a responsible owner will have little trouble keeping a bearded dragon happy and healthy for its full lifespan. Part of their appeal is that they are hardy and relatively low maintenance in terms of care.
However their hardiness does not mean that all individuals will live to their 15th birthday. 8 to 15 years is the typical bearded dragon lifespan.
Diet, husbandry, gender, care and breeding all factor into a bearded dragon’s lifespan.
Males tend to have slightly longer lifespans than females, leaning more towards 12 to 15 years. It is not clear why males often live longer than females, but current research suggests it may be connected to the differences in reproduction.
Females are more likely to live for between 8 and 12 years, especially if used for breeding. Non-breeding females have a greater chance of living for longer because they do not undergo the stress of developing and laying eggs.
The difference in lifespan between male and females is not guaranteed. Remember these lifespans are a range based on the lifespan of many bearded dragons. Males as a whole have a slightly higher probability of living longer than females, though individual females may live longer than some males!
A pet can live for as long as 15 years, but wild species are not as fortunate.
In their native Australian range bearded dragons typically live for between 5 and 8 years.
Wild individuals are hunted by hawks, snakes, dingoes and monitor lizards. Most are caught and eaten as vulnerable hatchlings. Adult Beardies must also survive the harsh desert climate, droughts and competition with other animals for food and territory.
Finally, as with any wild lizard, the insects that make up their diet often carry parasites. Parasites weaken their hosts’ immune systems and carry diseases that can shorten the lifespan of a bearded dragon.
While pets do not need to worry about predators or extreme drought, their lifespan is highly dependent on the care they receive. This means it is extremely important to understand the best ways to keep your beardie in good health throughout its lifespan.
Bearded Dragon Lifespan Explained
Bearded dragons live for a surprisingly long time. The longest recorded lifespan belongs to a male beardie named Sebastian who lived in the United Kingdom. Sebastian was born on June 1st, 1997, and died on January 24th, 2016, making him a whopping 18 years and 237 days old!
While it is not uncommon for exceptionally well-cared-for bearded dragons to reach 15 years, Sebastian broke all previous records and still holds the title today.
For an individual to reach 15 years old it needs an attentive owner, good genetics and a healthy dose of luck. It will almost certainly need to be the Pogona vitticeps subspecies too.
There are eight subspecies of bearded dragon which all belong to different parts of Australia. The central subspecies (Pogona vitticeps) is the subspecies with the longest known life expectancy. It is also the most common subspecies kept as a pet.
Some of the rarer subspecies have unknown lifespans, but it is likely that they have shorter expectancies based on their smaller size and wild status.
|Central (Pogona vitticeps)
|Rankin’s (Pogona henrylawsoni)
|Eastern (Pogona barbata)
|Western (Pogona minor minor)
|Dwarf (Pogona minor minima)
|Drysdale River (Pogona microlepidota)
|Mitchell’s (Pogona minor mitchelli)
Pet bearded dragons that are taken care of properly live an average of 8 to 15 years. This lifespan is much longer than that of wild beardies because of the care they receive as pets and the stable, risk-free environment they live in.
Factors such as predators or extreme drought are non-existent for pet species.
Most pet individuals enjoy stable, year-round temperatures, plenty of high-quality food and water and routine veterinary care. A good level of care and the absence of predators means they can often live twice as long as wild lizards.
Bearded dragons are also one of the most popular pet lizards and have been bred in captivity for decades. Hatchlings sold by breeders are captive bred which greatly decreases their chances of having parasites. Parasites can weaken their immune system and shorten their lifespan.
Their popularity also means there is lots of information available on how best to feed, house, and care for one.
Wild bearded dragons do not enjoy the same living conditions as pets. The combination of predators, parasites, and harsh weather in their natural environment greatly shortens their expected lifespan to between 5 and 8 years. Most wild individuals do not survive past their hatchling years because they are especially vulnerable to disease and predatory animals like hawks, snakes and larger lizards.
- The aging process in reptiles is much slower than in mammals. While this doesn’t mean bearded dragons live longer than mammals, it does mean that they show fewer signs of aging for a greater proportion of their lives. They may not develop age-related health problems until the final year or even months of their life.
- Their life expectancy lengthens considerably once they become an adult. Hatchlings and juveniles are at a greater risk of death from predators, accidents and disease. If they survive past their juvenile stage the probability of living out their entire lifespan increases due to their larger size.
- There is a huge variation in the average lifespan of pet reptiles. The uromastyx is a close relative of the bearded dragon and both species are in the family Agamidae. Though closely related these two lizards do not share the same life expectancy. Uromastyx can live for twice as long, reaching 30 years of age or older when given good care. The oldest recorded uromastyx lived to be 46 years old.
- They do not start showing territorial aggression until maturity. In pet stores and the wild it is common to see many juveniles living together. However once they reach 8 to 18 months they will start to establish a dominance hierarchy. This hierarchy is enforced through behaviors like head-bobbing, arm waving, hissing, and color changing.
- The best way to extend a bearded dragon’s lifespan is to prevent illnesses and injuries. At all life stages they should have regular vet exams to ensure they are in good health. These exams will help to catch any potential health issues before they become serious.
Why Do Some Live Longer Than Others?
Most bearded dragons live for 8 to 15 years, but this range is only the average. It does not guarantee that every pet beardie will live for at least 8 years. It also does not mean that none will live longer than 15 years. From enclosure to diet to genetics, there are many factors that determine how long bearded dragons live.
Feeding the wrong type of diet or balance of food can lead to nutrient and vitamin deficiencies which will shorten a beardie’s lifespan.
Bearded dragons are opportunistic omnivores and need a diet with a lot of variety. In the wild they feed on insects like dragonflies, locusts, termites and spiders. They also feed on plant material such as shrubs, leaves and grasses.
Babies should eat a ratio of three quarters meat and insects to one quarter plants and vegetables. Feeding a baby just plants and vegetables will quickly shorten their lifespan.
As they age their dietary needs change from a protein-based diet to a plant-based diet. Pet adults should be fed plenty of salads made from vegetables and plants. This will help them to get the nutrients they need for a long and healthy lifespan.
Adults should be kept in at least a 120-gallon tank with an appropriate substrate, temperature and lighting. Getting these setup factors right from the start is important for keeping your Beardie healthy.
The temperature of the enclosure should be a gradient with a warm end of 85°F and a cool end of 80°F. The basking spot should be closer to 100°F and can go higher for babies. Temperatures that are too cold can cause respiratory illnesses, refusal to eat and stunted growth.
Bearded dragons are prone to metabolic bone disease without a proper lighting setup. Bearded dragons need a UVB bulb in their setup so their bodies convert vitamin D to vitamin D3, which is used to absorb calcium.
Finally loose substrates can be accidentally eaten by your lizard and cause gut impaction. Gut impaction is another potentially fatal condition. To avoid this beginners should always use a solid substrate like reptile carpet or ceramic tiles.
There are eight subspecies of bearded dragons which all have different genetics and lifespans. The central subspecies has the longest lifespan of between 8 and 15 years. This is also one of the largest bearded dragons. Smaller subspecies normally have shorter life expectancies. A good example is the Rankins dragon which generally have shorter lifespans of 8 to 10 years.
The gender of your bearded dragon will also have an impact on its lifespan.
Males lean more towards a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, while females are more likely to live for between 8 and 12 years. The reason for this difference is thought to do with size and the stress that producing eggs has on females.
Males are slightly bigger and in reptiles a larger size often correlates with a higher resilience to illness and disease.
Breeding a female bearded dragon will often shorten her lifespan. It puts significant strain on her as developing eggs takes up a lot of energy and nutrients. Laying eggs is also a risky process no matter how healthy the female is. It is best to only breed a female once per year and only after she reaches 18 months old. Females older than 5 should not be bred because of the increased strain on their bodies.
Disease also plays a role in how long do bearded dragons live, but this is more for wild beardies. Wild bearded dragons have much shorter lifespans of 5 to 8 years. As long as pet individuals are well looked after and have proper husbandry they rarely develop health problems.
Most diseases are caused by neglect, inadequate housing or feeding wild prey. Tail rot is one of the most common illnesses and is caused by a combination of dirty substrate and cool temperatures.
It is extremely important as a keeper to keep a close eye on your bearded dragon’s health. Most diseases can be cured if caught early enough.
The life of these lizards is full of interesting developments, including behavioral and physical changes. These bearded dragon growth stages and developments are fascinating for any keeper to watch and observe.
Bearded dragons go through five primary life stages after hatching. These growth stages are determined by their age, size and length. To remain happy and healthy during each stage your bearded dragon requires slightly different husbandry, diet and housing.
They need proper care through every one of their life stages to live out their maximum lifespan of 15 years.
Even before hatching the lifespan of a bearded dragon can be impacted by its environment. Mothers subjected to high levels of stress are more likely to have unhealthy offspring. Incubation temperatures are known to influence the behavior of beardies once they are born.
Hatchling (0-3 months)
Baby bearded dragons hatch out of their eggs at three to four inches in length. At this stage they are skittish, fast, and need a high amount of protein to develop their muscles. Babies grow at the fastest rate of all the growth stages. During this stage hatchlings are voracious eaters and gain about two inches in length and 10 to 50 grams in weight every month!
A good diet at this stage is critical to their lifespan.
The hatchling stage is also the time in a bearded dragon’s life where it sheds the most frequently. Hatchling beardies will shed almost weekly.
Juvenile (3-12 months)
Once a bearded dragon hits three months old or over seven inches long it is regarded as a juvenile (also called a subadult). Juveniles grow at a slightly slower rate than hatchlings at closer to 1.5 inches per month. This also means they shed less frequently and normally shed once a month.
Juveniles can be moved into a larger enclosure that is 75-gallons to accommodate their larger size.
Individuals remain in the juvenile stage until they reach 12 months.
Young Adult (1-3 years)
Bearded dragons are considered young adults from one year of age. At this stage most bearded dragons will be at or near their final adult length. Growth will switch to primarily an increase in weight instead of length.
This can be a very exciting time in your bearded dragon’s life.
During the young adult stage they develop the coloration they will keep into adulthood. You will finally get to see what colors it will be as an adult.
Young adults should start to eat a greater proportion of greens to insects. It is also the growth stage when bearded dragons become sexually mature and are able to breed. If housed with other individuals they will also start to display signals for dominance, aggression and submission.
Adult (3-7 years)
A bearded dragon is an adult when it is between three and seven years old.
Adult beardies are at the healthiest point in their lifespan. Their immune systems are fully developed and they are not yet susceptible to age-related health problems. They also grow very little and do not require many changes in diet, housing or care.
The length of an adult bearded dragon’s lifespan is dependent on genetics, quality of care and diet. A well-kept bearded dragon will remain a healthy adult longer than a poorly-kept one. Beardies that do not receive good quality care are more likely to reach senior status at a younger age.
Senior (7+ years)
The fifth and final stage of a bearded dragon’s life is seniority. Senior beardies are either over seven years old or they start to show signs of advanced aging. These signs can include reduced appetite, slower movements and lethargy.
Seniors should be monitored closely for their health and may need additional vitamin supplements or dietary changes to keep them as healthy as possible. They often remain healthy until the very end of their lives, though they have less energy than they did in their younger years.
How Old Is My Bearded Dragon?
Now that you know more about a bearded dragon’s lifespan and growth stages you may be wondering how to tell the age of your bearded dragon. There is no foolproof way to determine their exact age, but there are three methods that may be used to estimate their age.
These methods can provide a reasonable guess for the age of a hatchling, juvenile or young adult.
If your bearded dragon was purchased from a pet store or another place where the breeder is unknown you can use its length to estimate its age. For best results make sure to measure your Beardie in a straight line from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail:
|1 to 7 inches long
|1 to 3 months old
|7 to 12 inches long
|3 to 12 months old
|12+ inches in length
|1 to 15 years old
|Adult or Senior
Unfortunately there is no size measurement that can separate seniors and adults. Both are over 12 inches in length, but seniors are 8+ years and generally look more weathered and less vibrant.
Another way to tell the age of a bearded dragon is by checking for sexual maturity.
Bearded dragons reach sexual maturity between 8 and 18 months of age.
You can tell if your dragon is maturing by checking for the presence of pronounced bulges under their tail. Males have two side-by-side bulges, while females only have one. If you notice your dragon is just beginning to develop their reproductive organs you can narrow its age down to between 8 and 18 months.
Size and maturity are both just estimations for how old a bearded dragon is. They are not concrete measures of age!
Aside from knowing the exact date of hatching, the most accurate way to know a beardie’s age is to speak with the breeder. A breeder should have records of the day, month, and year each clutch of bearded dragons hatched. If you know who bred your lizard reach out to them to ask.
Bearded dragons live on average for 8 to 15 years, though the oldest beardie reached the ripe old age of 18 years and 237 days! In the wild bearded dragons have an average lifespan of just 5 to 8 years. This is mostly due to the threats of disease, predation and droughts.
Factors such as diet, housing, temperature and breeding all influence a bearded dragon’s lifespan.
Males are generally larger and tend to have a slightly higher probability of living longer. They have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, while females are more likely to live for between 8 and 12 years. Producing and laying eggs puts a lot of stress on females and reduces their lifespan.
To ensure your bearded dragon lives a healthy life make sure you research the best practices for keeping this species. It is your responsibility to provide the correct food, diet, habitat, and tank setup.
Remember these lizards are potentially a 15-year commitment. Regular visits to a reptile vet and knowledge of the signs of a sick bearded dragon are crucial to catching health issues early.
What do you do to help your beardie live its best possible life?
Let us know by leaving a comment below.