Besides being gentle with people, they breed easily in captivity. However, determining the sex of a beardie can be difficult.
How Do I Tell the Sex of a Bearded Dragon?
It is easiest to tell a bearded dragon’s sex when it’s at least 12 weeks old. Lift the tail and look above the beardie’s vent at the tail base. Males have two bumps called hemipenal bulges. Females lack these bulges. Males often are longer and have bigger heads than females at about eighteen months.
A Note on Handling Bearded Dragons
In order to determine whether a beardie has hemipenal bulges or hemipines, it has to be handled and the tail lifted. Beardies do not like their tails lifted and may bite or struggle.
Although beardies cannot drop their tails like most other lizards, they can still become injured from struggling when they are handled. Falls from your hands can also injure or kill a beardie.
Handle the beardie over a table or your lap so if it jumps out of your hands, it will not hurt itself in a long fall.
If your beardie is new, wait at least a week before doing any kind of handling. When about to handle the beardie, try to make sure the bearded dragon is relaxed.
Beardies tend to relax in the evening. Do not handle them when they turn their beards black. Both sexes can do this.
Do not pick up a sleeping beardie. This frightens them.
If using the flashlight method, turn off all the lights in a room to help relax the beardie. Make sure the room is quiet.
Looking for Hemipenal Bulges
Small beardies can be held with one hand while you lift the tail with the other. Larger beardies may need to rest on your arm while you hold the chest from underneath.
Either way, you need to lift the tail to look for signs of two bulges at the base of the tail above the vent. The bulges will be next to each other.
Females lack these bulges.
The vent, sometimes known as the cloaca, is the long horizontal line under the tail. Unlike people, beardies, like most other lizards and birds, have only one opening where waste or eggs come out.
In females, this is also the opening where the male needs to place one of his penises, called hemipenes. It’s the hemipenes that are making the bulges.
Looking for Hemipenes with a Flashlight
You may need a helper for this. The helper can use the flashlight. With practice, you will be able to do this by yourself.
You need to turn all of the lights out in the room, lift your beardie’s tail, and shine a flashlight, even the flashlight on a phone, at the top of the base of the tail.
The light will reveal shadows of the hemipenes. The shadow looks like the top of a Doberman pincher’s head, with two long, pointed (actually, cropped) ears poking up from the top of the head.
Females lack these “ears”.
Some females will look like they have very small hemipenes. Although not common, this is normal.
Just as all human genitalia is not shaped alike, so all bearded dragon genitalia are not shaped alike. It’s much easier to see hemipenes in older beardies than in babies.
Other Physical Differences
No matter what the species, male beardies tend to have larger and thicker heads than females.
The problem with using this method to try and determine the sex of a beardie is that you have to compare your beardie with another beardie that you defiantly know the gender of. You also have to make sure both beardies are the same species.
As females get older, they tend to have bigger, rounder bellies. Their abdomens can get distended from having clutches of eggs, whether they lay them or reabsorb them.
Females do tend to be smaller and shorter in overall length than males. However, young males will be ready and willing to breed a much larger, older female, so do not rely on size alone to determine the sex of a beardie.
Behavior Differences Between Sexes
Although there are some general behavior differences between the sexes, there will be exceptions. Although males are usually more aggressive, some females are so aggressive that they will attack males.
Both sexes will bob their heads, but males tend to do it more often. Females wave their arms more often than males as a sign of submission, but males, particularly baby males, will wave their arms.
Beardies will wave their arms at their owners.
Females will dig when they are getting ready to breed. They dig to make good places for their eggs.
They will try to frantically dig through solid floors. It calms the female down by placing her in a separate container filled with sand or fresh, clean dirt so she can dig.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Tell the Sex of a Bearded Dragon
Are Male Bearded Dragons Bigger Than Females?
In the wild, males are usually longer than females when full grown. The general size is about the same for both genders, although the heads can be bigger. Males can take up to eighteen months to become full-grown but will be sexually mature as young as eight months old.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Lonely?
Many pet species, like rabbits, guinea pigs, and dogs, get lonely and need companionship in order to stay healthy. Bearded dragons are different in that they usually don’t like mingling with other bearded dragons. Both in the wild and in captivity, they can live by themselves and suffer no ill effects.
Do Male Bearded Dragons Make Better Pets Than Females?
Both males and females have positives and negatives in terms of being a good pet. Males become hyper and aggressive during the breeding season. Females are generally calmer.
The Least You Need to Know
Having a vet determine the sex of your bearded dragon is the best way to identify it. However, if you wait until the beardie is at least twelve weeks old, you can do the sexing yourself.
Lift the tail and look for twin lumps above the vent at the tail’s base. You can also shine a light onto the top of the tail base to look for shadows of hemipenes.