You probably don’t want to wait until your bearded dragon starts laying eggs or climbing the walls during mating season to know whether you have a male or a female beardie on your hands.
While both look very similar, there are a few simple ways to determine the gender of a bearded dragon. In this article, we’ll take you through all the things to check for when figuring out whether you have a male or a female bearded dragon.
As is the case with most species, it is much easier to tell the gender of an adult animal that has fully developed than a juvenile. But it is possible to tell the gender of a bearded dragon from between eight and 12 weeks old.
Before this time, it’s challenging both because the beardie is small and still developing, and because they may object to the handling necessary to make an identification.
If they struggle too much, you may injure them during an examination. Whenever possible, wait until they are about three months old to make an assessment.
Does beardie gender matter? Although it is not generally advisable, if you are planning on keeping more than one bearded dragon together, determining gender is vital, as keeping two males together, or even a male and a female, can have serious consequences.
At the end of the article, we’ll talk about keeping different gender combinations of bearded dragons together.
Is My Bearded Dragon Male Or Female?
There are a number of methods you can use to check whether your bearded dragon is male or female.
These methods apply to beardies of all ages but are more reliable as your bearded dragon grows and their sexual organs develop and hormones influence the development of their bodies.
Determining Gender: Hemipenal Bulges
The first way to determine gender is to take a look at your bearded dragon’s hemipenal bulges. Hemipenes are the internal sex organs, and bulges are visible under the skin where the hemipenes are located.
To see the bulges, you need to put your bearded dragon on their stomach, and then take their tail at the half a little closer to the base than the end so as not to damage the tail.
Take a look. Look at the base of the tail and not the base of the body. This is the most common mistake that people make.
On males, you should see two separate bulges on the tail extending down to the cloacal opening. On the female, there should be just one bulge in the middle, though it’s much smoother and less pronounced.
On older bearded dragons, these should be fairly visible in good lighting. You can also gently run your finger over the area and feel the bumps.
On younger beardies, where these bulges are less pronounced, you can do this examination in low light and use a flashlight to illuminate the area. These bulges should appear as shadows that are relatively easy to identify, even on young bearded dragons.
Determining Gender: Femoral Pores
Femoral pores are used to secrete pheromones for communication during breeding and social interactions. On a bearded dragon, they are located on the underside of the thighs and look like a line of dots across the thighs.
These femoral pores are much more pronounced on male than female beardies, so if you’re familiar with the lizard, this can be a quick and easy way to determine gender.
However, this can be misleading prior to the age of 12 months, as male pores may not yet have grown to their full size.
Determining Gender: Cloacal Opening
The Cloacal opening, also called the vent, is located on the underside of a bearded dragon between its hind legs. This opening is used for feces, urine, and egg-laying.
Considering the latter function, you may think that females would have a wider cloacal opening, but this is not the case. The opening is wider on males than females.
This method of identification only tends to be reliable after about 12 weeks of age.
Determining Gender: Body Shape
While male and female bearded dragons look pretty much the same, there are some slight differences in the formation of their bodies that can help you to determine gender.
First, females tend to have thinner tails. This is most notable at the base where the tail connects with the body.
As well as wider tails, males also tend to have wider necks, and this morphology can be used to make general assumptions about bearded dragon gender when they are babies.
Male beardies are also larger than females, but again, this is only obvious when they reach adulthood.
In the wild, male bearded dragons measure up to 24 inches long, while females will grow to around 22 inches. This size difference tends to be less pronounced in bearded dragons bred in captivity.
Male bearded dragons also tend to be slightly more exotic and vibrant in color than their female counterparts.
Determining Gender: Behavior
Many people will also mention behavior as a way of determining the gender of a beardie.
While there are behavioral differences between males and females, these are usually only very pronounced when they are adults, when you have probably already determined gender.
Moreover, life in captivity is not the same as life in the wild, and this can change standard behavior patterns and make them more difficult to read.
Nevertheless, males are more likely to demonstrate aggressive and dominant behavior. This may include hissing, stamping, and fluffing their beards.
But remember that both male and female bearded dragons have beards, called black beards. Males just tend to use theirs more.
Females do tend to be more submissive. In a juvenile, you might expect to see this in the form of waving. But young males can also wave to show submission to more dominant creatures, so this can be a challenging metric.
Baby Beardies And Gender
When you are adopting a baby bearded dragon to take home, this is exactly the time when you will be asking whether they are male or female. Unfortunately, this is also the hardest time to determine gender.
Before about three months of age, their tiny developing bodies don’t have the same pronounced gender indicators that will develop later.
In addition, the kind of handling required to get a good look can hurt your young beardie, especially if they aren’t accustomed to being handled and are struggling to get away.
But when you’re dealing with a baby beardie, the most reliable way to determine gender is to check for the hemipenal bulges, if you can do this without hurting them.
The other indicators to use are the size of the tail and the skull, as these morphological features may already be noticeable. But remember that if you do use these methods, you may be in for a different gender reveal surprise further down the line.
Does Bearded Dragon Gender Matter?
Does gender matter when choosing a beardie to take home? Well, it can. It might matter to you on a personal level if you feel a great affinity to a lizard of one gender, and it can also make a difference in terms of care.
Some people say they prefer females because they are less aggressive. However, if you have just one beardie in their own habitat, aggression shouldn’t be a problem.
This is something that would only manifest when they are in competition for dominance with another animal.
The truth is, with a single male in captivity, you can expect them to climb the walls for a week or so during mating season, but you should not experience any issues beyond that.
Other people say they prefer males because they don’t want to deal with the egg laying process. Females will lay their first clutch of eggs somewhere between 10 and 12 months of age, and then lay them three times a year after that.
While this is a lot of work for your beardie, this is not much more work for you.
All you need to do is ensure there is burrowing space in her habitat for her to bury her eggs, and make sure her diet has enough calcium, as egg laying is a resource-intensive process.
It is true that complications to laying clutches of unfertilized eggs might mean that your female beardie needs a few additional trips to the vet, and therefore could cost you more in the long run. However, complications aren’t common, so this concern can be overstated.
Mixing Beardie Genders
You may also be quite concerned about the gender of the bearded dragon you’re adopting if you’re planning on keeping more than one beardie in a tank together.
As a caveat, it’s worth mentioning that this is not advised in general. Bearded dragons are solitary creatures in the wild and generally only come together to mate. This is why they prefer to have their tank to themselves. And, no, they don’t get lonely in there.
Moreover, some of the “cute” behaviors that might look like your two beardies bonding are actually unhealthy dominance behaviors.
For example, if you see one bearded dragon lying on top of the other, they aren’t having a cuddle. One bearded dragon is literally soaking up all the sun for themselves and blocking the other from getting the nutrients they need.
It is never advisable to keep two males together in the same tank. You can expect toxic dominance behavior like this and one of your beardies is more than likely to injure the other or at least stop them from getting the food and other resources they need.
Two females can be kept together in a habitat without the same concerns about aggression. However, if you have two egg-laying females, they can cause egg binding in one another.
This is when they are unable to lay their eggs, and this blockage is a big risk to their health and can result in death.
A male and a female bearded dragon will get along well most of the time. But if you aren’t a breeder, it is not generally advisable.
Bearded dragon mating can be quite aggressive and can result in your female getting hurt when mating season comes along. It can also be a bit traumatizing for onlookers. So, if you aren’t breeding, best not to keep them together.
Bearded Dragon Gender FAQs
Can bearded dragons change their gender?
You may have heard that beardies can change their gender, but this is a bit of a myth. Once your bearded dragon is born, their gender is set. But bearded dragon embryos can change gender during development.
The sex chromosomes of the developing lizard can change genders as the result of hot temperatures, which has led some scientists to attribute this phenomenon to global warming. In hotter temperatures, male beardie embryos will become female.
Can beardies lay eggs with males?
Yes, female bearded dragons will lay their clutches of eggs three times a year even if they have never seen a male. Of course, since the eggs have not been fertilized, they will not result in baby beardies.
Laying unfertilized eggs can be a health risk for female beardies over time. Their eggs may become bound and they are unable to pass them out of their system. This blockage can cause major health problems and result in death.
Are female bearded dragons nicer than males?
Male bearded dragons are known for their aggression, a requirement for getting on in the wild, while females are more submissive.
But this behavior is not as noticeable in captivity, where they aren’t competing for food or attention. You should only expect your male beardie to show aggressive behavior when in the vicinity of another bearded dragon.
Do female bearded dragons puff?
Both male and female beardies have the distinctive beard that gives the lizard their name. Both genders will also puff their beard in certain circumstances, such as when they are afraid.
But males will puff much more often as they also use it to express dominance over other lizards and to let the ladies know he’s ready to mate.
Are female bearded dragons bigger than males?
No, male bearded dragons are larger than females. In the wild, male beardies grow to about 24 inches long, while females will reach up to 22 inches. This difference is size is less pronounced among bearded dragons bred in captivity.
How old do bearded dragons have to be to mate?
While female bearded dragons may lay their first eggs at around 10 months of age, they are not yet in their prime mating season.
Ideally, females should be at least 24 months old and weigh at least 350 grams before mating. Males should be 18 months old before being introduced into mating pools.
Gendering Your Beardie
If you’re looking for a single bearded dragon companion to be your new reptile best friend, either a male or a female beardie makes a great pet.
They look almost identical, and in captivity, there is little difference in their behavior. While you need to keep an eye on females while they are laying, there’s little difference between caring for a male or a female beardie.
Your choice will probably come down to what is available and personal preference.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to know, right? Gender can be useful when choosing a name and when setting up your terrarium. Males might enjoy a few more things to climb on while females need a place to lay their eggs.
You can determine the gender of a bearded dragon pretty easily by looking at the hemipenal bulges at the base of the tail. Males should have two and females should have one in the center.
These are present from a young age and are the most reliable indicator of gender.
There are other signs to look out for, such as tail width, head size, and the size of femoral pores, but all of these methods are less reliable.
But these can help when you are dealing with a baby beardie, less than three months old, who might not let you handle them to get a good look at the base of their tail.
Whatever gender of beardie you adopt, make sure you give them the best start in life by feeding them the healthiest and most nourishing food. Read our guide to the healthiest food for your bearded dragon.