You go to check on your bearded dragon and you notice something is wrong… While their head and body are the vibrant color you are used to, their tail is starting to look pale, maybe even almost white.
So, why has my bearded dragon’s tail turned white?
It’s not always abnormal for a bearded dragon to have a pale tail, and it’s usually a sign that they’re about to shed. Bearded dragons will also appear pale when sleeping, or brumating. However, it can sometimes mean that your pet is falling ill, or that there’s something amiss with the temperature in their enclosure
In this article we will discuss why your bearded dragon’s tail is turning white, and if it’s something that requires intervention. While the causes are listed from the least-to-most perceived severity, these are just generalizations and may not be applicable to your specific animal. If you are concerned about your pet, always contact a veterinarian.
Reason 1: Shedding
The most likely reason your bearded dragon’s tail is turning white is that it is shedding. While adults usually shed a few times a year, younger dragons can shed as often as every few weeks.
During this time their skin may appear dull or pale, and when shedding begins it typically comes off in patches. During this time, you may notice your bearded dragon acting lethargic, eating less, and being more irritable overall.
The shedding period typically lasts 1-2 weeks if the humidity in the enclosure is appropriate. In order to mimic the environment in their natural habitat of inland Australia, humidity should be kept at around 35%-40%.
If the humidity is too low it can lead to overly dry air, negatively impacting your bearded dragon’s ability to shed properly, you may notice them rubbing their face or licking different areas to assist with shedding. Low humidity can also lead to serious conditions like dehydration and respiratory distress.
Conversely, high humidity levels can lead to bacterial or fungal growth on their skin and enclosures. If your enclosure is too dry you can try misting the enclosure a few days a week or place a water dish near the heat lamp.
If your bearded dragon seems to be having trouble shedding, or if they have stuck shed—typically seen around the toes and the tip of the tail— you can place them in a warm bath under close supervision.
Juvenile bearded dragons should be in water no more than an inch deep and adults in water no more than two inches deep. If the water is deeper than your bearded dragon’s knees, it is recommended that you provide them something to climb onto in order to get out of the water.
Another option is using a warm, damp cloth to gently rub the stuck shed off your bearded dragon. If you choose this option, make sure to only apply light pressure and rub gently in small, circular motions.
Reason 2: Sleeping
Bearded dragons can change colors throughout the day and, while the color change might not be dramatic, it is not unusual for them to turn a few shades lighter when they are asleep.
A 2014 study by scientists at the University of Exeter and the University of Melbourne found that the standard color changes seen in bearded dragons follow their circadian rhythms.
Almost every living organism on the planet—from bacteria to people—has a circadian rhythm. It helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycles and typically repeats every 24 hours. Bearded dragons have a diurnal circadian rhythm, meaning they are active during the day and sleep at night.
The researchers found that bearded dragons are darkest in the morning, likely to help them absorb more heat in order to help them reach an “active” body temperature, and lightened up throughout the day to combat the heat of the mid-afternoon Australian sun.
Even when kept in complete darkness, bearded dragons continued this cycle. This shows that color change is not always a response to external stimuli and is instead something that bearded dragons have evolved for Survival.
Reason 3: Temperature
While bearded dragons like basking in the heat, you must ensure that their enclosures are set to the proper temperatures. The cooler end of their enclosure should be shaded and range from 71ºF- 79ºF; the warmer end should range from 100ºF-107ºF and have appropriate spots for basking.
If your bearded dragon is feeling too warm in their enclosure, their skin may lighten as a response. This is a protective measure to help them cool down as light colors absorb less heat. Bearded dragons absorb heat through a process known as thigmothermy, meaning they absorb heat via direct contact with the warm substrate.
If your bearded dragon is hiding in the shaded areas of their enclosure and also has a white tint to their body or tail, it could mean that they are too hot. In this case, after checking the enclosure’s temperature, you can mist it, provide a shallow soaking dish for your bearded dragon, or turn off the basking lamp for a little bit to see if that brings them out of hiding.
Reason 4: Brumation
However, this can be tricky to determine as a bearded dragon turning pale, hiding, or acting lethargic can also be a sign of brumation. Brumation is a natural process where a bearded dragon’s digestive and circulatory systems slow down, and may appear to be in a deep sleep.
The primary signs that brumation is about to occur are frequent burrowing, loss of appetite, lethargy, aversion to being handled, and infrequent bowel movements.
Perhaps like in this video your bearded dragon is also hiding or preparing for brumation!
While brumation is natural, it is included near the bottom of this list as it can also be in response to a bearded dragon’s dietary or temperature needs not being met. This essentially but their bodies into “survival mode,” and they will slow way down in order to preserve vital organ function.
While it is normal to see brumation occur in late fall (or even in June, the beginning of Australia’s winter), it can still be concerning as these symptoms are common for a lot of other diseases and infections that may plague your bearded dragon.
Reason 5: Illness
As mentioned above, while turning pale, becoming lethargic, and refusing to eat are all signs of brumation, these are also symptoms associated with parasites, diseases, and impaction.
Two diseases to watch out for are scale rot and fungal infection. Scale rot usually appears as spots, rather than a uniform whitening, and is caused by an overly humid enclosure. This makes it impossible for the substrate to dry out, and the constant dampness can cause your bearded dragon’s scales to soften and decay.
Fungal diseases like the yellow fungus appear as small whitish or yellow lesions that turn brown with time, and is most common on the head, body, and legs; however, they can also be found on the tails. According to Brad Lock, DVM, “an early sign of YFD is a bad shed that leaves behind dull scales with a roughened appearance.”
While your bearded dragon could have caught YFD from another infected bearded dragon, it’s also important to note that such fungal diseases are often caused by poor hygiene and a wet, humid environment. Thus, it is very important that your bearded dragon’s enclosure is kept within the proper parameters.
You can prevent parasite infections by cleaning up your bearded dragon’s droppings as soon as you see them and only feeding them insects from reputable breeders.
Other diseases and infections can be prevented by ensuring that your pet is properly fed, the temperature and humidity are appropriate, and you are keeping their enclosure clean.
Impaction can be avoided by ensuring that all food items are appropriately sized for your bearded dragon (smaller than the space between their eyes) and that proper substrate is being used. Instead of sand or pellets, materials like ceramic tile, rubber shelf liner, newspaper, and paper towels are recommended.
In the event of a parasite, disease, or impaction, I would strongly suggest that medical intervention is crucial and most often required for a successful outcome.
Should I Be Worried If My Bearded Dragon’s Tail Has Turned White?
While all of these possibilities may sound worrisome, try to stay cool. The most common cause of a pale tail is a shed that is about to occur.
However, if your bearded dragon stays pale with no signs of shedding or if they start developing any other symptoms, it is always recommended that you take your pet to see a licensed veterinarian.
No matter how much you think you know about these animals, I would also advise you to ask for some care tips while you’re at the vet, especially if you’re a new lizard owner, or you’ve never owned a bearded dragon before.
Small changes to a bearded dragon’s enclosure or their diet can help them live a longer and happier life!
As you can see there are a few reasons why the tail of your bearded dragon looks white. Shedding might be the most probable, especially if you’re a new bearded dragon owner, who hasn’t seen your little friend shedding their skin before.
That being said, keeping an eye on your bearded dragon and their tail is important, especially when such changes occur, and to be on the side of caution make sure to contact a professional!