If you are a reptile enthusiast, then you might be interested in breeding your bearded dragons. It can be difficult for a newbie to tell bearded dragon sex, as they don’t have much difference in appearance. In this article, we will teach you a couple of techniques to determine the gender of your exotic lizard.
Identifying the sex of your pet dragon would not be necessary if you are only keeping one specimen. However, when it comes to breeding these fascinating creatures you must know how to sex them. Mature dragons don’t usually cohabit with each other in the wild. You should be prepared to keep them in separate vivariums, especially if you have two male bearded dragons.
Mature males are highly territorial and would attack smaller males in their boundaries. Babies and juveniles tend to co-exist well until they reach adulthood. For an untrained eye, it can be tricky to tell the gender of babies. It is advisable to wait until they are older than 6 months old. After this age, there primary sexual characteristics would start developing. It is best to wait 1 year to properly tell whether it is a boy or a girl.
When you are keeping male and female dragons in the same vicinity, you should be mentally prepared to see eggs. Even if they are in separate tanks, the presence of a male can trigger a female to ovulate. Mature males would routinely release pheromones to induce females in heat to be in a state of ovulation. So, you should make the necessary preparations beforehand, rather than unknowingly ending up with eggs one day.
At what age can you sex bearded dragons?
There could many circumstances in which the keepers might want to be aware of the gender of their pets. Beardies are known for their sexual dimorphism that makes them visually different in terms of gender. You can usually sex them when they are at least seven months old. During this period, they would reach a length of around 25 to 30 cm.
If you haven’t had many clutches before, then you might be unsure of the sex of your pet dragons. It is always best to wait at least 12 weeks to be fully sure of their gender. Young beardies are highly energetic and hyper, which makes it very hard for them to stay still. It would be difficult to hold a wriggly dragon in your hands when he is too active.
By the time they become juvenile, they would naturally become more calm and gentle. You can take advantage of it by taking a peak for their sex. Your big boys would usually have bigger heads than their female counterparts. They would also have slender bodies that would look more athletic.
Female bearded dragons typically have smaller heads in proportion to their body size. They would also have a rounded figure and thinner tail bases.
Bearded dragon sexing
There are a number of ways to determine the gender of a bearded dragon. Despite the common perception, there is no noticeable difference in the structure and hues of both the gender. Although, the males would have a much more vividly colored beard that helps them ward off other males.
Once you place both genders side-by-side, their heads or body dimensions might not give away distinctive differences. The most surefire way to sex them is to locate their bulges. These protrusions can be found on the underside of beardies right below their tails. When you hold them in an upright position, you would be able to spot them right below their vents.
You would notice two distinctive oval-shaped bulges at the base of your male bearded dragon’s tail. These indentations are also known as hemi-penises, and they usually develop when the males become fully mature. You would notice that they would give the appearance of indented U or V shape. On the other hand, the females will only have one bulge in the center of the tail base.
How to know the sex of your bearded dragon?
There are several myths revolving around the sexing method of bearded dragons. Some people say that male bearded dragons are more inclined to display their beards than females. Similarly, people also think that female bearded dragons are more likely to wave their arms. Most of these are anecdotal methods, and you cannot expect to get accurate results from them.
There are a couple of methods that can help you reveal the gender of your pet lizard without any errors:
By looking at femoral pores
Most reptiles have femoral glands that help them secrete pheromones to mark their territories and attract mates. When your bearded dragons become adult, its femoral pores would start developing. These small holes are more noticeable in males, as they release a large amount of wax-like substance from these perforations during the breeding season.
You can locate these pores on the undersides of their thighs. They usually spread from one hind leg to another, forming a “V” shape around the anus. The radius of these holes would get bigger with age, but they would remain considerably small in female bearded dragons.
The dominant males would make several secretions during the mating season on different parts of their territory. When it comes to sexing your pet dragon, you would notice that the male specimens would have more pronounced holes. On the other hand, some females have so tiny pores that they cannot be noticed from a distance.
PRO TIP: The femoral pores can sometimes become clogged due to excessive overflow of pheromone secretions. You might notice that the holes would become red or swollen due to impaction. You can unclog the pores by soaking your dragon in a warm bath for about 10 minutes. Use a soft cotton swab to open up the blocked holes, and make sure to be gentle. If the infection seems to spread at a higher degree, then you should visit a vet.
It is essential to provide top-notch husbandry to ensure that their femoral pores remain unclogged. You should keep the tank properly cleansed in order to avoid any chances of bacterial contamination. As long as the humidity and temperature are controlled, the chances of inflammation would be reduced.
By looking at hemi-penal bulge
This is the most effective method to determine the sex of your pet lizard. This makes it clear whether you were raising a boy or a girl beardie. By examining these reproductive organs, you would be able to discern between your dragons.
As mentioned above, males have two round-shaped bulges near their anal area. It would create an hourglass indentation underneath the base of your male beardie’s tail. Females only possess one of these bulges situated right at the center of their tail base.
Fun fact: During the early development stages in the egg, female bearded dragons grow a pair of hemipenes. They lose these male reproductive organs before hatching but it is still something considered as “decidedly weird”. Female embryos would typically grow these reptilian penises and only ditch them once they are ready to hatch.
Male bearded dragons have these two penises in inverted positions near their vent. You can even gently massage the base of their tail, which would cause hemipenes to become inside out. These organs are highly susceptible to getting damaged, and it is advisable to let your vet to the examination.
So, male beardies, like most lizards and iguanas, have two penises near the cloaca region. If prolapse occurs to these reproductive organs of your male, then they would not be able to invert them again. In extreme cases, when these bulges become swollen, the doctor might even amputate the hemipenes. Therefore, you should never handle your pet dragon by holding their tails.
Sexing your beardie with a flashlight
This is a technique similar to the above sexing method, but this time you would perform the examination in a dark room.
You would need to shine light through the tail of your pet dragon to look for the silhouette of reproductive organs. You can either grab a torch or use the flashlight of your smartphone to execute this method. If it’s a boy, you would see testes glowing in the dark. If it’s a girl, you would only see a single bulge below the tail.
Unlike probing, in which you pull out the reproductive organs with tweezers, this is a minimally evasive method. You can perform the flashlight method within your home premises without needing supervision from a professional. If you aren’t able to spot the bulges, you might want to change the position of the flashlight.
Much like a cat that hisses when it feels threatened, a bearded dragon’s beard would get darker in color in various situations. A black beard is mostly acquired by dominant males as a warning signal or mating ritual. It can be a sign of distress when your dragon senses stressful triggers in its enclosure.
During springtime, your male beardie would routinely display their dark-colored and puffed up beards. This would be coupled with a head-bobbing behavior. These are classic signs that indicate the mating signals of your male bearded dragon.
Arm-waving is yet another behavior that is usually performed by female beardies. They usually signal it to alert other dragons of the presence of a potential predator in their territory. If you see your pet dragon waving at you regularly, then you might be able to tell that it’s a girl. She would be more prone to this odd gesture compared to her male counterparts.
If your male dragon is taken off guard, they would puff up and darker in color. This can be taken as a sign of anger and annoyance as well. So, you might want to stop whatever you are doing that’s apparently upsetting them.
Being an observant reptile owner, you would be able to distinguish the gender of your pets by these methods. The physiological techniques are more reliable than these behavioral indications. With experience, you would be able to make accurate guesses regarding the sex of your pet dragon.
Are male bearded dragons bigger than the females?
When raised in captivity, you would seldom see physiological differences between male and female dragons.
The main factors that can affect their growth rate include their food intake, UVB exposure, and genetics. You would notice that the females would have saggy bellies, which they use to carry eggs. When the female becomes gravid, she would put on more weight and would appear round-shaped.
Males usually have triangular-shaped heads, which are proportionally bigger compared to the rest of the body.
In their natural habitat, the males tend to outgrow their female counterparts. They tend to patrol their territories for greater distances and gain more muscle mass. So they might appear greater in length than the female bearded dragons.
Now that you are aware of the distinct differences in male and female bearded dragons, we hope it would help you out when you are setting up the husbandry.
For your upcoming breeding projects, these methods would come in handy to you. You would be able to maintain the desired proportion of both the genders depending upon the number of hatchlings you are capable of raising up.
Sexing the bearded dragon might also help you decide how many boys and girls you want to keep. Some novice reptile owners might get put off when they realize that their females would be laying eggs even when she doesn’t mate with a male. This might make them avoid getting females in their tank because they don’t have enough incubation facilities in the household.
Egg-laying would not be an issue as long as you make preparation in the vivarium beforehand. This way, you would not discriminate among the genders of your beardie and would be more willing to own them regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy.