Yep, this looks just as it sounds. Gaping is when your pet sits with his mouth wide open. If you’re peering into your enclosure and notice your pal with his mouth agape, and you aren’t sure how that translates, there is no need to worry.
This is typically a very normal bearded dragon behavior.
Ever notice that specifically while your beardie is resting in his happy little basking spot, he or she might prop their mouth open? Good news! This isn’t a sign of caution or an alert that something may be wrong. In fact, it is very much the opposite.
When your bearded dragon has its mouth open it is taking in that glorious heat, there is no need to worry yourself. This process is actually called gaping and is incredibly common and natural in bearded dragons.
When bearded dragons sit with their mouths agape they’re actually regulating their temperature. This means they’ve reached their optimal internal temperature and want to dissipate extra body heat.
I realize it seems a bit strange, but beardies don’t sweat to regulate their body temperatures like we do. Instead, when they have reached their ideal body temperature, which sits between approximately 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, a dragon will prop his mouth open as to not get any hotter. You’ll see this frequently when they’re basking under a heat lamp.
This is a sign that you’re keeping your dragon at its ideal temperature, so props to you!
However, do make sure that you’re keeping your lamp on only one side of the tank. That way your dragon can escape the heat when they’re ready to cool its temperature. Having a thermal gradient within the habitat so that your lizards can move to a cooler location if they desire, is vital.
If your hand or food is nearby, sitting with their mouth open is eagerness for food. No need to worry over this either. You’ll soon see them pounce with their tongues exposed, too.
If you notice that your beardie is exhibiting this behavior at times that don’t seem appropriate, you may want to consider the below possibilities.
If your pal is agape while not basking, check your enclosure’s thermostat to make sure that it’s sitting at the appropriate temperature. Though gaping is most common during basking and is a happy sign, it can also be a signal of an off temperature in your enclosure if your lizard is displaying this behavior while away from the heat lamp.
Also, a bearded dragon opening its mouth and “smiling” excessively may indicate that the tank is too hot.
If their mouth is open, they’re baring teeth and you see a dark beard, this is a sign of aggression. Remove the problem or leave them be.
A less common, but potentially serious problem associated with gaping is a respiratory disease. This means that the dragon has to breathe with its mouth open. This is a bit more common and serious in other reptiles, like snakes, but if you notice this behavior frequently, perhaps it is time to take your pal in for a check-up.