Whether or not bearded dragons can swim is a curiosity for many. For relatively large lizards that live in hot, sparse environments in the wild, naturally, you would think that they are unable to, or be completely ineffective swimmers. They sporadically drink water, so it would make sense for them to struggle in this way. But do they? Here is what you’ll be surprised to know.
So, can bearded dragons swim? Bearded dragons are capable swimmers; they are able to inhale air, float on the water and hold their breathe for a couple of minutes should they go underwater. However, a bearded dragon can drown if they are in deep water for too long (10-15 minutes+) and are too exhausted to remain afloat.
While beardies do not typically encounter large bodies of water in their natural habitat, they are surprisingly good at swimming!
In fact, they have a very interesting means of keeping their heads above the water, as we shall shortly be taking a look at.
But does this mean we should let our beardies swim? Is there anything we have to bear in mind and consider?
Let’s find out!
How Do Bearded Dragons Swim?
Bearded dragons will inhale a bit of air that allows them to float – a bit like a pool toy. Once they have inhaled enough air, they will rise to the top of the water and wave their little limbs around in order to move and navigate around.
In many ways, their movements in the water are comparable to that of a crocodile.
They tend to move quickly fast in the water and will keep their head and bearded neck above the water.
The rest of their body will naturally submerge.
Should I Let My Bearded Dragon Swim?
Swimming isn’t something that you really need to provide if you aren’t comfortable with it. Bearded dragons aren’t a species that naturally needs to swim in order to survive. It is not something that a dragon will be “missing out of” if it’s not experiencing it.
That being said, it is a fun activity you may want to consider doing with your dragon.
It can be a fun, recreational event that will help keep them in shape and entertained.
Keep in mind that not all dragons enjoy swimming. Like any other animal, they have preferences. Some really love getting out in the water and others don’t.
Try to be respectful of your dragon if they do not seem excited about some fun in the water.
It is never a good idea to force your pets into unnecessary activates they are uncomfortable with.
It will only make them stressed out which can then make them more likely to contract diseases or other problems.
Therefore if you do want to let your Beardie swim, you should remain close and monitor their behavior.
Look for any signs of immediate distress and take them out if you notice any.
Beyond this, watch out for signs of stress in the hours following a swim. The most common in bearded dragons are:
- Loss of appetite
- Lower activity levels
- Darker Coloration
- Not basking
- Chewing at their terrarium
- Stress marks
If you begin to notice these then you’ll need to reconsider if swimming is an activity that you let your pet partake in.
How Should I Let My Bearded Dragon Swim?
As you can imagine, you cannot just drop your dragon into the nearest pool. You need to be very particular with the body of water, the temperature, and any potential hazards. This will ensure that your dragon has a safe and enjoyable experience.
First, keep in mind that bearded dragons are cold-blooded. While they are pretty hardy, you should refrain from putting them in freezing water.
This can lead them to get a little too cold too fast and can make them sick.
Try to keep their water lukewarm at the coldest. This means that if you are taking it directly from a faucet, try to use warm water.
Exercise extra caution when you are using water coming directly from the hose as you don’t have much control over the temperature of the water.
You can try to fill up a sink or your bathtub with water for your reptile to swim in. Your dragon should only swim for about 15 to 20 minutes (as it will get a bit tired afterward).
If you have a small kiddie pool or large bowl, this could also work.
Make sure to keep them clear of pools that are treated with chlorine as this can be irritating to the eyes of your dragon.
They may also attempt to drink the water and this can cause health problems.
Although lakes or ponds seem like a nice place to offer your bearded dragon a quick dip, be cautious as you may accidentally lose them, they could escape from the water and there could be a potential predator that may go for your dragon.
In order to prepare them for a little dip, hold them in your hands. While supporting their bellies, gently submerge them in the water.
If they are excited about swimming, they will break free from your hands on their own accord.
Be sure to stand close by and offer your hands for them to swim back f they want.
NEVER leave your dragons unattended.
Be sure to thoroughly disinfect the pools or tubs after they have been used by the dragon.
It is possible that the dragon had an accident while swimming, and you want to make sure that it is safe for people later.
It is recommended that you DO NOT use a bowl as a pool unless this bowl is to be kept strictly for the dragon.
You should not serve food in the bowl after it has been used as a makeshift pool.
Can Bearded Dragons Drown?
Bearded dragons can drown. Any animal that needs air to live can drown.
In fact, a marine animal like a dolphin or seal can drown. Even a fish can drown!
Like other living animals, a bearded dragon needs oxygen.
Animals in which air-breathing lungs need to get this oxygen from the air.
Unfortunately, while there is oxygen in water, our bodies (humans, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, etc) are not able to process it properly as those water-born with gills can.
What ends up happening is that if a bearded dragon tries to breathe in the water, the water will begin to fill its lungs.
When their lungs are filled, they will slowly die.
This unfortunate death can be avoided by closely monitoring your bearded dragon’s swimming time.
Remember, some bearded dragons are better at swimming than others and you should not gauge the skills of one dragon on another.
If you are going to allow your dragon to swim in water, make sure to supervise them the entire time.
It may seem a little intense, but it only takes a couple of minutes out of sight for anything to drown.
Another good idea to limit the chances of an accident is to offer them some sort of platform they can utilize.
While it is possible to drown in any amount of water that can fill their lungs, it is much easier to avoid this death when they can easily stand and hold their head above water.
Even if they are physically capable of it, exhaustion is something that would prevent a dragon from being able to keep its head held high for too long.
Consider your dragon’s energy level when you decide to let them go for a little dip. Bearded dragons are not known for their boundless energy.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is underwater for too long and looks like it has stopped moving/become bloated, you should contact your veterinarian promptly.
The best thing to do is to avoid a situation where they run the risk of drowning – which thankfully is relatively easy to do when you consider how long they can hold their breath.
How Long Can A Bearded Dragon Stay Underwater?
Bearded dragons can hold their breath longer than humans. Normally for a couple of minutes.
While this shouldn’t be something you test when your lizard is heading underwater, this is something important to keep in mind and serves as a nice fallback to ease your mind.
Because they can hold their breath for so long, it can sometimes be worrisome and appear that a beardie is dying when they are actually safe and well.
It can also cause problems for vets who need to anesthetize dragons before a procedure.
With all this being said, testing or seeing how long your dragon can hold its breath is not something to ever try or test.
Never submerge your bearded dragon, but be rest assured that if they are to go under the water for a period of time, they should be safe!
Bearded dragons can swim, as counter-intuitive as that may sound.
In the wild, they live in the arid and subtropical woodlands, scrublands, savannas, shore areas, and into the great interior deserts.
It, therefore, comes as a surprise to learn that they are naturally able to swim when water in their traditional environment is so sparse.
Nonetheless, they have in-built ways to manage in pools of water – weather by floating or holding their breath underwater.
For this reason, if you are a bearded dragon owner, you may consider letting them have a swim from time to time as a fun activity. Just remain vigilant, and careful at all times.
Be sensible and monitor your beardie at all times for any signs of distress. Be quick to remove them and stay close to give them a supportive hand if required.
It is perfectly safe to put a bearded dragon in water. However, the water needs to be at a sufficient temperature (lukewarm and not too hot/cold, fresh without any chlorine or additives and not be too deep. You should remain close to your beardie at all times, looking out for signs of distress. You should also not let your dragon swim for too long as they can exhaust and drown then becomes a potential concern.
Bearded dragons do breathe through their noses. Similarly, these lizards have two nostrils which they use to acquire the oxygen they need. Nostril(s) can become blocked, and bearded dragons then may attempt to breathe through their mouths. Blockage can happen due to respiratory infections, mucus, or other elements. Sometimes a vet is required.
The average bearded dragon will enjoy bathing in water. In fact, it is recommended to let your bearded dragon swim in moderately warm freshwater 1-2x per week. Bathing can help support the hygiene of your dragon as it helps them to shed their old skin and scales. Just be sure not to add any soaps/shampoos or products designed for humans as these can cause health issues in your dragon.
Bearded dragons should be bathed around 1-2x per week. In the winter months, once should suffice. However, in the summer months, you can look to bathe them twice per week.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.