When you bring a pet reptile into your life, there’s no way you can be prepared for all the weird things you’re about to witness. Lizards, especially, have some peculiar habits that leave many owners scratching their heads. One of the most curious behaviors observed in lizards is their tendency to poop in water.
Whether you’re a seasoned herpetologist or a curious new owner, you’ve probably wondered about this aspect of their biology.
So, why do lizards poop in water?
Both wild and captive lizards sometimes choose to poop in water. While this behavior probably originated to help lizards mask their scent, lizards also poop in water because it stimulates them to defecate by offering extra hydration. Captive lizards tend to use water dishes as restrooms because they’re warm and placed in safe corners.
This comprehensive article will explore all of the reasons behind this odd pooping behavior.
5 Reasons Why Lizards Poop In The Water
It’s so important to understand why lizards poop in the water. Getting a little knowledge on this topic can help you figure out why your scaly friend seems to prefer a water dish as opposed to a litter box as a latrine. The reasons why wild lizards poop in the water and pet lizards poop in the water are slightly different.
Let’s talk about why lizards poop in the wild.
In The Wild
Wild lizards will sometimes defecate in water when the opportunity presents itself. Many wild lizards like bearded dragons, rarely encounter water in the wild and don’t have these natural instincts. Sometimes, desert-dwelling lizards, such as these, might even choose to poop in their food dishes rather than their water bowls.
Reason 1: To Help Camouflage Smell
The main reason why you might find lizards in the wild pooping in water is that it helps to camouflage their smell. Tons of wild animals are known to bury or disguise their feces as a stealthy technique.
Most lizards are prey for other animals. Even lizards that eat strictly carnivorous diets have predators. When a lizard defecates in the water, the feces dissolves, at least to some extent. This greatly helps to minimize the chances of attracting predators to the wild lizard. As the water moves away, the waste is diluted and dispersed.
Pooping in the water is a very ecologically friendly survival strategy that helps lizards to stay hidden.
Lizards in captivity don’t have the same survival needs as wild lizards do. Despite this, they probably poop in the water more than their wild counterparts! Here are some of the reasons why pet lizards sometimes tend to poop while they’re in the water.
Reason 2: Soaking May Stimulate The Urge to “Go”
Soaking is one of the best ways to relieve constipation in reptiles. As a matter of fact, when bearded dragons are constipated, soaking is the first technique to try as warm water encourages defecation in reptiles.
Warm water helps to relax muscles and gives ectotherms the boost of hydration they need to poop. If you notice that your pet reptile always poops during a bath, it could be a sign that they’re a little dehydrated and aren’t able to poop otherwise.
Or, your lizard might just enjoy the sensation of defecating in a warm bath!
Reason 3: The Water Dish Is Warm
If the water dish inside your reptile’s enclosure is warm, they’re more likely to poop in it.
Often, lizard enclosures are much warmer on the inside than on the outside. That means that the water dish in the enclosure is probably a little bit warm too. If your lizards, water dish is warm, don’t be surprised when they use it as a restroom. Warm water helps move things along and you can’t blame your pet for wanting to be a little more comfortable when they poop.
Reason 4: The Water Dish Is Placed In A Corner
Lizards are naturally very clean animals. They don’t usually emit a strong odor and can often be found grooming themselves and cleaning their bums.
Just like any other clean animal, they’ll want to keep their mess confined to a single area. If a lizard’s water dish is placed in the corner, they may have picked this area as their litter box area. Even though the water dish is there, they’re not concerned and just want to keep pooping in the same tidy spot.
Reason 5: They’re Spending All Of Their Time In The Water
The last reason why lizards poop in water in captivity is that they’re spending most of their day in the water dish.
Sometimes, pet reptiles can be found sitting in their water dishes all day. This can be a sign that your reptile is dehydrated and making up for the lack of hydration by spending their days in the water. This is pretty unnatural for terrestrial lizards. Obviously, if a lizard is sitting in their water dish all day, they’ll eventually poop in it.
Sometimes, certain species of lizards seem to enjoy being in the water. In the video below, you can see a young bearded dragon playing in its water dish. I wouldn’t be surprised if that bearded dragon pooped in the dish before it was done playing.
Can You Stop Lizards From Pooping In Water?
Even though you might now understand the reasons behind this interesting behavior, you’ll probably still find yourself wondering how to prevent your pet lizard from pooping in its water dish. When your lizard poops in it’s water dish, it can present health and cleanliness issues.
Here are some tips to help you discourage this behavior and maintain a cleaner and healthier environment for your pet.
Change The Location Of The Water
One thing you can try to discourage your lizard from pooping in the water is to change the location of the dish itself.
Lizards are clean creatures that prefer to poop in the same spot every day. If you move your lizard’s water dish, you might notice that they continue to poop in the same spot just without the water. This is a pretty clear indication that your lizard just wants to poop in that spot and doesn’t necessarily prefer the water.
If It’s During A Soak, Accept It
If your lizard has been pooping during soaks, there’s not much you can do about it.
We’ve already mentioned that warm water stimulates a reptile’s metabolism and gets things moving. There’s almost no way to avoid having a reptile poop in their bath if they’re full of food. Remember that lizards like bearded dragons don’t need regular baths despite what some people may say.
Create A Better Pooping Area
If you are set on keeping your lizard’s water dish where it is, try and create a more alluring poop area.
Lizards, like all animals want to feel safe when they have to engage in a vulnerable activity. You can try creating a secure spot for them to go when they poop. Try adding in a couple of new hides or boxes for your lizard.
You can even put a nice new substrate on the bottom that will stimulate their urge to go. This will help give your lizard a sense of safety and maybe eliminate the urge for them to poop in their open and exposed water dish.
Keep Humidity High Enough Within The Enclosure
Lizards have all different sorts of environmental requirements to thrive.
There’s no set humidity level for all lizards. But, if your lizard is sitting in its water dish, all day, it’s a good sign that the humidity is not high enough. Other signs that your lizard is slightly dehydrated are dry, wrinkly, skin, and sunken eyes.
To increase humidity in an enclosure, there are a few simple changes you can make. Regular misting can help raise humidity levels temporarily. Choosing a substrate like sphagnum moss can help maintain moisture in the ground of the enclosure. If you’re still struggling with low humidity issues, you might need to change out your lizard’s enclosure entirely.
For help with keeping the humidity up in a reptile enclosure, read our article all about it here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that we’ve discussed all of the details about why lizards poop in water, let’s answer a few more specific questions on the topic at hand.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Always Poop In The Bath?
Bearded dragons are lizards native to the desert of Australia where water is often scarce. In the wild, these spiny dragons, often poop in the sand, but, bearded dragons in captivity might poop in water dishes or even in warm water soaks!
This is even more likely if the substrate in a bearded dragon enclosure doesn’t closely mimic the dirt-like terrain that they prefer. If you don’t want your bearded dragon to poop in their water dish, maintain a clean habitat, and offer a sandy area where your bearded dragon can poop.
Why Does My Leopard Gecko Poop In Water?
Leopard geckos are small, crepuscular lizards, known for their docile nature and distinctive appearance.
In the wild, these geckos typically have minimal interaction with water as they inhabit dry, arid regions. However, in captivity, leopard geckos may occasionally defecate in the water dishes. This behavior is often linked to the need to maintain moisture and cleanliness.
Why Do Iguanas Poop In Water?
Iguanas are arboreal lizards that often defecate from trees in their natural habitat. Normally, this waste falls to the ground. In captivity, an iguana may poop in the water simply due to chance. They might be climbing up in their enclosure and poop just happens to land in their water dish.
One way to avoid this is to keep your iguana’s water dish far away from any climbing areas.
In conclusion, both wild and captive lizards may exhibit the behavior of pooping in water for various reasons. Understanding the factors behind this behavior, as well as how to manage it, is crucial for maintaining a healthy and clean environment for your pet lizard.
Keep in mind that every lizard species has its own unique habits and preferences. By providing the right conditions and attention, you can ensure that your pet lizard poops exactly where they like to and that they have a happy and healthy life.