When bearded dragons refuse to eat, and their skin appears much darker than usual, it’s often due to high-stress levels.
It could be a result of improper temperature in the enclosure, feeling stressed out in a new home, or potentially being sick.
It can be scary when your bearded dragon refuses to eat, especially if you’re new to owning a reptile.
Fortunately, bearded dragons usually start eating again once they’ve become comfortable with their new surroundings.
On the other hand, it can be challenging to spot the specific reason for this abnormal behavior if your beardie hasn’t had any recent stressed-inducing experiences.
Fortunately, there are certain behaviors that your dragon may present to you to help determine the potential problem.
Read on for more reasons why your dragon may be turning black and refusing to eat, including the possible accommodating behaviors that often signify another problem.
Six Reasons why your bearded dragon is not eating and turning black
Oftentimes, the reason for a bearded dragon to avoid eating or turning black is that they are stressed. This behavior is usually due to being in a new environment or experiencing a significant change.
Your bearded dragon is in a new environment.
It will take a few days for them to adjust to this new lifestyle. Also, keep in mind that an older dragon may not react to a new environment as well as a baby dragon might.
Therefore, when getting a dragon, it’s essential to recognize their age to accommodate their living situation when bringing them into your home and know how to interact and expose them to a new enclosure.
Exposing your bearded dragon slowly to its new surroundings and creating a pleasant experience can help alleviate their anxiety.
When presenting your bearded dragon to a new person or you’ve recently moved them into a new place, they may feel anxious. This can also happen when you move objects around within their enclosure.
When cleaning the tank, make sure to remove your dragon before rapidly changing its environment.
The temperature of the tank may be too hot or too cold.
Bearded dragons often turn black when they’re trying to absorb heat. This is normal, and you’ll notice that their beards will turn black while they’re under a heat lamp.
Though if you find that most of your bearded dragon’s skin is black and it lingers for an extended period, there may be a problem with the tank’s temperature.
If the tank is too hot, you may find your bearded dragon hanging out as far away from the lamp as they can get to cool down.
Their enclosure is too small.
Bearded dragons, at the very least, need a tank that is double their size.
When there isn’t enough space for your dragon to move around, your bearded dragon may experience stress, especially more energetic dragons.
Some bearded dragons are particular about their living space and will react to changes negatively. Others couldn’t care less about what you have with their home as long as they’re fed.
If your bearded dragon hasn’t eaten in a while, this may be the reason for their skin turning black.
You may find that they are acting ravenous when fed and will likely calm down once satiated and basking on their rock.
They will likely remain dark to absorb heat to help them digest their food. When they’re done basking, their color should revert back to normal.
They see another bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons are highly territorial and will become stressed out if there is another bearded dragon.
Even if your dragons are in separate tanks in different parts of the room, the visual alone can trigger their aggression. Never house two or more bearded dragons together.
You’ll find that in addition to their skin turning black, their beard may expand and look puffed up, and they’ll stand taller to make themselves look bigger and more intimidating.
This is usually in addition to seemingly strange behavior as they will bob their heads up and down aggressively before going on the offense.
When a bearded dragon is sick, its skin may darken, turn pale, or it’ll feel very lethargic.
You may also find that their bones may also be visible in certain areas on their skin, and the stress on their body along with how they feel is being presented outwards, hence why their skin darkens.
Additional signs of an illness include sunken eyes, lethargy, secretion of liquids from eyes, mouth, and nose, and a decreased appetite.
Ways to help relieve your bearded dragon’s stress
- Keep any other pets away from them. Sometimes other pets can make a bearded dragon feel threatened. It is also safer to keep them separated in case one pet injures the other. Once in a while, bearded dragons will get along with other pets, but this is rare and should be monitored at all times during any interactions.
- Give them a bath. Most bearded dragons love to soak in warm water. It helps their digestive system, keeps them hydrated (especially important if they are refusing to eat), and helps their skin.
- Try hand-feeding them. This is a bonding experience for both of you. If they see you as a potential threat, giving them food can make them feel more comfortable around you and learn that you aren’t a predator.
- Try an assortment of foods. Some bearded dragons are picky and when they’re feeling hungry (as mentioned previously), they can become stressed. If you already know what your bearded dragon’s favorite snack is, give it to them.
- Keep a calm and low voice. Bearded dragons find loud noises alarming; therefore, speaking in a calm tone can help them feel more at ease.
- Try petting them and letting them sit on your hand when in the tank (or outside of the tank if they’re already comfortable with you). This is another way to bond with your bearded dragon and help them associate you and your smell with comfort and protection.
- Keep a steady routine and don’t update their environment too much or too fast. This will give them a sense of security and comfort because they will know what to expect. Fortunately, many dragons enjoy going on adventures and sitting on their owner’s shoulders during an evening walk with new sights and smell when they’ve built trust.
- Provide them with proper care to keep them healthy. Keep their enclosure clean and at the correct temperature. In addition, feed them the right amount of food and calcium for their age and size.
Signs that their dark skin and lack of appetite may be a result of a sickness.
- They’re lethargic. Bearded dragons generally aren’t extremely active, but next to no activity and constantly sleeping can be a symptom of an illness (except during brumation and when laying eggs).
- Their bodies are thin and frail. This is a very dangerous symptom of a sick bearded dragon (unless they’ve just laid eggs, though it can still sometimes be dangerous). They could have a disease or parasite that’s causing their body to respond this way.
- You find liquid secretions coming from their eyes, nose, and mouth. You may find that their bathroom habits are also irregular and appear differently than usual with blood or more runny than usual.
- When they’re shedding, you find that some of the old skin is stuck in one section and making the limb look shriveled up and/or black (such as the end of its tail or toes). This is often a sign of tail rot, though this is something that happens over a period and not suddenly.
- They show signs of respiratory issues such as unusual breathing patterns that are normally supposed to be quiet and unnoticeable. There may be an issue with their respiratory system, and they might be struggling to breathe.
- Their appetite decreased, and they’re refusing their favorite foods. While bearded dragons can go for periods of time without eating (such as during brumation), it’s essential to take them to a vet to be checked to rule out any potential illnesses.
- They’re being aggressive. If your dragon suddenly acts scared and/or runs from you when you try to pick them up, they may be experiencing physical pain. Sometimes they will even bite and become aggressive with their owners.
- Their bones appear too malleable; they bend in an unusual way and feel soft. It is also sometimes accompanied by swollen limbs.
- This is a symptom of calcium deficiency and can damage their body permanently if not taken care of.
When a bearded dragon is refusing to eat, and their skin is turning black, it’s often an issue that resolves itself within a few days if under proper care and supervision.
New environments and other stressors, including a new pet or family member, can result in stress and abnormal behaviors.
Helping your bearded dragon feel comfortable and safe is an important step to relieving the stress they might be feeling and presenting to you.
Keeping a quiet and calm demeanor when exposing your dragon in stressful situations can help them associate you with being safe and trustworthy.
Suppose your bearded dragon is experiencing additional concerning symptoms, prolonged refusal to eat or interact, or you’re just feeling unsure of your bearded dragon’s health.
In that case, a vet visit is the most essential step to take in new and potentially concerning situations.