Most reptiles have a growth cycle that is completely dependent on environmental factors such as space, diet and heat. Generally speaking a bearded dragon in nature will live on average for 5 years. In the wild, some species can grow up to 24 inches when there is no restraint on space.
There are a multitude of factors that will determine the lifespan and size of any bearded dragon. In nature a bearded dragon will have a shorter lifespan but will attain its optimum size in that time, whereas in captivity it may live for twice as long but only attain two thirds of its full size.
Bearded Dragon Lifespan and Size in the Wilderness
In the Australian outback, bearded dragons can eat freely throughout the day (whenever they can find food) and also have a full spectrum sunlight to bask in, which mean that they can put on weight much faster in the wild. However, in the harsh and competitive wilderness, a bearded dragon has to also contend with predators and climatic conditions that determine its life span.
From the time a bearded dragon hatches, it has to start hunting and surviving.
There may also be seasons during a bearded dragons life where adverse climatic conditions make living hard. For example, a season with a bad drought, limited water and minimal insects to feed on. A lean year like this sets back the growth and general well being of a bearded dragon and it will need to have a bountiful coming season to recover to full health again.
The Outback is a harsh and unforgiving place and on some occasions has very large fires that burn vast areas of land. These fires destroy any wildlife that can’t outrun the flames. Nature uses these fires to burn away old vegetation and the remaining ash and charcoal fuel the soil for the coming rains and new life.
Bearded Dragon Lifespan and Size in Captivity
A bearded dragon that is kept in captivity can live for much longer than it would in the wild. On average you can expect your beardie to live for 7 to 14 years in the right conditions. There are even some rare cases where bearded dragons have lived to 18 years of age!
The reason for this is purely that the captive bearded dragon is not exposed to the harsh realities of the wilderness and receives daily care and nutrition from its handler.
The size that a captive bearded dragon reaches will be determined by the size of its living environment and the quality of its diet. This may seem strange to you, but certain reptiles, fish and other animals cannot grow to their full size in a captive environment unless provided with an abundance of space.
If we keep a baby bearded dragon in a very small terrarium for an extended period it will start eating less to avoid outgrowing its environment, and eventually this might even lead to malnutrition and death, so it’s rather important to provide the bearded dragon with ample space as it grows.
Another factor that has a huge impact on the bearded dragons growth, is good nutrition. If your bearded dragon is not getting good food with the necessary minerals and vitamins, it will start getting problems such as metabolic bone disease from lack of minerals like calcium. Its growth will be stunted and will not reach a good age and won’t attain proper weight and size.