Reptile lovers around the world keep bearded dragons as pets. With their docile nature, manageable size, and unique looks, these lizards make excellent additions to any herpetoculture collection. But an important question arises for keepers new and old: is a bearded dragon an amphibian?

The quick answer is no, bearded dragons are reptiles, not amphibians. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between these two types of ectothermic tetrapods, looking at traits like breathing, skin, eggs, and lifestyle to uncover why bearded dragons belong to the class Reptilia rather than Amphibia.

Amphibians vs. Reptiles: Key Differences


One major difference between amphibians and reptiles is how they breathe. Amphibians have moist skin that allows them to absorb oxygen from the air and water. This means they need to live near water sources or have moist environments.

Reptiles, on the other hand, breathe only through lungs and do not require an aquatic habitat. Reptiles have dry, scaly skin which prevents water loss in dryer environments that amphibians could not survive in.



Most amphibians and reptiles reproduce by laying eggs, but there are some key differences. Amphibian eggs lack shells and must be laid in water. Reptile eggs have leathery, calcified shells that allow gas exchange while preventing water loss.

This allows reptiles to lay eggs on land while amphibian eggs must remain moist. Another difference is that some reptiles give live birth rather than laying eggs.

Habitat and Lifestyle

As their name suggests, amphibians live a “double life” spending part of their life cycle in water and part on land. Amphibian larvae (tadpoles) live in water, breathing through gills. Adult amphibians develop lungs to breathe air but usually remain near water sources.

In contrast, reptiles live entirely on land once hatched. While some reptiles, like turtles, enjoy swimming, they never undergo a major habitat shift from water to land.

  • Amphibians have moist, permeable skin for breathing; reptiles have dry, scaly skin
  • Amphibians lay unshelled eggs in water; reptiles lay shelled eggs on land
  • Amphibians undergo a habitat shift from water to land during life cycle; reptiles remain terrestrial

Traits that Classify Bearded Dragons as Reptiles

Scaly Skin

One of the most obvious traits that classify bearded dragons as reptiles is their scaly skin. Reptiles are characterized by their tough, dry scales that protect their bodies. Bearded dragons have scales that can come in a variety of colors like tan, red, yellow, and white.

Their scales help retain moisture and prevent water loss. The scales are also essential protection from cuts, abrasions, and scratches. Some key facts about bearded dragon scales:

  • Their scales are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.
  • Young hatchlings have very fine, smooth scales while adult scales become thicker and more rough.
  • Their scales provide camouflage and allow them to blend into their environments.

Terrestrial Habitat

Another reptilian trait of bearded dragons is their terrestrial nature and habitat. Unlike frogs or salamanders, bearded dragons live exclusively on land. In the wild, they are found in dry, arid regions and scrublands of Australia.

They spend most of their time on the ground, basking on rocks, and hiding in low shrubs or grass. Some key facts about their ground-dwelling lifestyle:

  • They dig burrows in the dirt or sand to sleep and lay eggs.
  • Rocky outcroppings provide basking spots to regulate their body temperature.
  • Being terrestrial allows them to actively forage for food like insects, small mammals, flowers, and fruit.

Amniotic Eggs

Like all reptiles, bearded dragons reproduce by laying amniotic eggs rather than giving live birth. Amniotic eggs have membranes that prevent the embryo from drying out and provide protection. Female bearded dragons will dig nests in the sand or soil and lay 20-40 eggs per clutch.

The eggs incubate for 6-8 weeks before hatching. Key facts about bearded dragon eggs include:

  • Their leathery eggs allow gas exchange for the developing embryo.
  • Ideal incubation temperature is around 82°F.
  • Hatchlings are about 3 to 3.5 inches long when they emerge.
  • Bearded dragon eggs do not require parental care after being laid.

Lungs for Breathing

Lastly, like all reptiles, bearded dragons breathe air using lungs rather than gills. Their lungs have greater capacity than other reptiles and they use muscles to actively draw air in and out. Breathing with lungs allows them to live entirely on land. Interesting facts about their respiratory system:

  • They utilize both their nostrils and mouth to take in air.
  • The rate of respiration increases when they are more active.
  • As cold-blooded animals, their oxygen needs are lower than warm-blooded species.
  • They can expand their throat (beard) when upset as a warning display.

Why People Confuse Bearded Dragons for Amphibians

Despite their reptilian classification, several key factors lead some to erroneously associate bearded dragons with amphibians. Examining why this misconception persists can clarify the distinguishing traits of these fascinating creatures.

Association with Moist Environments

Many connect amphibians with moisture, envisioning frogs chilling out in damp terrain. Similarly, some mistakenly figure bearded dragons want high humidity since they come from Australia, picturing a steamy rainforest scene.

In reality, bearded dragons hail from hot, arid deserts, not tropical landscapes. Still, pet stores often house juvenile “beardies” in tanks with moist substrate, falsely implying they require such wet settings. However, damp cage materials can breed dangerous bacteria and fungus for captive dragons.

While moisture assists young dragons shedding skin, adults thrive in dry enclosures.

Early Life Stages

Certain life phases also spark fuzzy logic about bearded dragons. For example, some mix up lizards and amphibians when observing the aquatic phase of baby beardies. Experts believe this temporary semi-aquatic stint before moving terrestrial likely helped wild infant beardies survive inhospitable desert conditions.

Nonetheless, housing aquatic baby beardies beside frog tanks in pet shops understandably fuels some mistaken amphibian associations.

Likewise, a bearded dragon’s tadpole-esque infancy probably stokes assumptions. Freshly hatched beardies sport enlarged triangle-shaped heads and flattened bodies—vaguely resembling polliwog frogs. But miniature “polarity” dragons quickly morph as they grow legs and slim down.

Still, glimpsing their bizarre big-headed baby phase plants seeds of doubt about their reptilian status.

Amphibian Reptile
Baby Phase Tadpole Hatchling
Juvenile Phase Aquatic Semi-aquatic
Adult Phase Moist environments Arid environments

Morphological Misconceptions

Certain physical traits also wrongly suggest to some that beardies fit with amphibians. For example, unlike snakes and turtles, bearded dragons boast four sturdy limbs. Those casual observers failing to spot scaly skin may assume they’re instead dealing with an unusual four-legged frog once glimpsing these quadrupedal — but tailless — beasts.

They wrongly fill the anatomical blanks, amplifying bewilderment over what type creature they’re beholding.

Size misperceptions also mislead. Bearded dragon scales and spiked bodies help create un-frog-like formidable illusions. Reaching two feet long, a full-grown Australian “beastie” can perplex folks expecting anything “amphibious” to stay smallish.

Equally bamboozling are bearded dragon mannerisms—rapidly mouth gaping in perceived “threats” and furiously arm waving to communicate territorial dominance or courtship interests. Such confusing reptilian shenanigans absurdly resemble warped amphibian behaviors to the casual onlooker!


While they may share some superficial similarities with frogs, toads, and salamanders, bearded dragons are definitively reptiles, not amphibians. Their dry, tough skin, hard-shelled eggs, and lung-based breathing all point to their classification as members of class Reptilia.

By exploring the key differences between amphibians and reptiles, keepers can gain a deeper understanding of the biology and natural history of these unique lizards.

Similar Posts