How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go Without Heat?
Beardies are natives of deserts and are made for the hot climate. Their bodies are powered by heat and function optimally when temperatures are high. They have a low tolerance for the cold. They are cold-blooded reptiles, so they can’t produce their own body heat. They regulate their temperature based on their environment and require external heat sources to keep going.
Wild bearded dragons rely on the sun for all their heat requirements, but when you raise them in captivity, you are tasked with ensuring they get sufficient heat at all times using whichever means are at your disposal. While we don’t advocate testing your beardie’s survival limit, it is important to know their survival capacity for emergency purposes.
The unanimous answer to how long a bearded dragon can go without heat from any source is up to 24 hours if the prevailing temperatures are at least 65˚ Fahrenheit. After this, they will become inactive, their digestion slows down significantly, and they will start developing health issues and even go into shock. The beardie might still develop heat-related complications within this period, so it is important to avoid this situation whenever you can.
However, there are ways to fine-tune your bearded dragon habitat to enhance your bearded dragon's chances of survival without heat. We have explored these throughout this article, so keep reading.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Need Heat?
To Power Their Bodies
Without a heat source, bearded dragons are not agile and normal activities like movement and hunting for food will be restricted. This results in lethargy, and in extreme cases, the diurnal pets won’t even wake up in the morning.
To Facilitate Digestion
Beardies can’t fully digest their meals when it’s cold; this can cause malnutrition and constipation. Food can also begin rotting inside their stomach, leading to more serious health issues.
Appropriate Temperatures for a Healthy Bearded Dragon
This section goes beyond basic survival to what your pet bearded dragon actually needs to thrive. The ideal temperatures vary as your dragon grows, as their needs also change.
Growing beardies (we’re talking from hatchling to around 18 months) require a basking area with a temperature range of between 95˚ and 110˚ Fahrenheit and a cooling section ranging from 80˚ to 90˚ Fahrenheit.
Once they attain adulthood, temperatures between 90˚ and 105˚ Fahrenheit are adequate for the basking area as their feeding portions for an adult bearded dragon are reduced. The cooling section doesn’t need to change because it serves the same purpose.
The nighttime temperature should be lower than daytime temperature and in line with the bearded dragon’s natural habitat. The ideal nighttime temperature for all ages of beardies ranges between 72˚ and 80˚ Fahrenheit. It isn’t advisable to turn off the heat lamp at night unless you are confident with the weather. Cooler temperatures might fall below 72˚ Fahrenheit. You might wake up to the same cold complications we are avoiding.
Thermometers placed at both the hot and cool ends of the bearded dragon tank can monitor heat levels and ambient temperature.
What Happens When Your Bearded Dragon Gets Too Cold?
Without heat in your bearded dragon enclosure, your beardie cannot go through everyday processes, and their bodily functions are restricted. Their movements are slowed down, and they sleep for long hours. Their ability to digest food is hampered, they stop defecating, and the food might start decomposing in their stomach, leading to long-term damages or even fatality.
You should seek your vet’s input if they have gone a while without heat and start exhibiting any of these symptoms.
Baby bearded dragons are even more sensitive to environmental changes and imbalances. Their growth spurts demand heat for digestion and activity. Prolonged periods of cold can send them into premature brumation. If a baby bearded dragon goes into brumation, it may not maximize its full growth potential. This state is not good for their growing period, and even if they recover, they will become stunted adult bearded dragons.
How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go Without Heat While Brumating?
Brumation is the reptile version of hibernation. It is part of the bearded dragon’s life cycle out in the wild. It enables them to survive the winter when temperatures are extremely low, and food is scarce (there are no insects and water is frozen). Beardies initiate it to conserve energy and remain inactive and stop eating, surviving off their internal nutritional reserves.
They can keep this up in the wild until winter passes, and it becomes warm again. The period varies from one dragon to another and can be anything from a few weeks to four months. It is advisable to turn off the heat until they wake up or become active again to mimic winter conditions in the tank during this period. Otherwise, they will overheat because they do not regulate their brumation temperature.
This is the longest your bearded dragon will go without heat continuously and not develop health issues, and it is worth mentioning in this article. It is how their generations have survived through the years. You should still check in on your pet regularly to confirm they are okay while brumating and provide fresh water for their consumption.
Bearded dragon brumation cannot be predicted with any certainty. While a good number will go through it, being an innate genetic feature for these lizards, not every beardie will undergo brumation in captivity. Your husbandry, if done properly, should take away the need.
Make sure you are not confusing your beardie’s health issues with brumation, and when in doubt, consult a reptile specialist vet.
Emergency Heat Sources for Your Bearded Dragon
What options do you have if your bearded dragon heat lamp burns out, there is a power interruption, or you need to move where there is no power? There are ways you can keep your pet warm in the absence of a heat lamp or help them to retain their heat for longer.
Here are a few tips we feel are useful during such emergencies.
Spare Heat Lamp
A spare bearded dragon heat lamp allows you to achieve a seamless transition when your current heat lamp burns down. Your beardie won’t have to endure the wait for a replacement lamp.
Heat Mats from Another Tank
It is good to have heat mats in your tanks. They provide heat from under the tank and spread it throughout the substrate. They also have shut-off systems that prevent overheating, guaranteeing the safety of your pets.
If you have any other reptile pet in the vicinity, you can get the heat mat from their tank and use it on your beardie’s tank as you sort out the problem.
These are filled with grains such as rice, buckwheat, or corn instead of fluff. They will hold heat for extended periods of time after the heat source stops emitting heat. You can microwave them at 30-second intervals until they reach your targeted heat level. Take care not to overheat them as this could burn your beardie.
Basking in the Sun
A heat lamp or basking bulb are used to replace the sunlight the beardies ancestors were using in the wild. You can keep your bearded dragon outside so they can bask in the actual sun or place your tank near a strategic window that receives sunlight most of the day. The idea is to keep their bodies warm after all.
Use a Hot Water Bottle
A hot water bottle or heat packs can prove to be viable heat sources for your bearded dragon tank when needed. Fill them up with hot water and lay your beardie on top of them so they can regulate their heat. Be careful they don’t get hot enough to burn your beardie; as a precaution, you can spread a towel over the bottle before laying your beardie on it. Keep reheating the bottles regularly, so they don’t get cold.
Give the Beardie a Warm Bath
This warms up their entire body fast. Just ensure to rub them down thoroughly afterward because there is a chance the body temperature will be lowered even further if the water cools on it, defeating the purpose.