Do lizards take baths?

Quick Answer

Most lizards do not actively take baths in water like humans do. However, some species will soak in water sources or clean themselves by rubbing against wet surfaces. The bathing behaviors of lizards depend on the habitat and lifestyle of each species.

Do lizards soak in water?

While most lizards do not take baths, some species do soak or swim in water for various reasons. Species like the marine iguana found in the Galapagos Islands will swim and dive underwater to feed on algae. Other lizards soak in water to rehydrate, regulate body temperature, remove dead skin, or avoid predators.

Some examples of lizards known to soak in water include:

  • Green iguanas – Often soak in pools or shallow water to regulate temperature and hydrate.
  • Desert iguanas – Absorb water through their skin by soaking in rain puddles.
  • Nile monitors – Powerful swimmers that often stay in water for long periods.
  • Water dragons – Spend most of their time in and around water.
  • Chuckwallas – Absorb water through their vent cloaca by sitting in small pools.

The duration and frequency that lizards soak depends on factors like habitat, activity level, and access to water sources. Species adapted to arid environments may soak less often but for longer periods when water is available. Active lizards may soak daily, while less active species only soak every few days.

Do lizards clean themselves in water?

Some lizards will rub and clean themselves in water even if they do not fully soak or swim. The moisture helps remove dead skin, parasites, and other debris from their scales.

Lizards like green iguanas often clean themselves after soaking by rubbing against wet rocks or vegetation. Species like the Australian water dragon have been observed using water to clean debris from their eyes and faces. Desert lizards may rub their bodies in droplets of rainwater to clean themselves when standing water is not available.

So while lizards do not intentionally bathe like humans, some species do take advantage of water to clean and hydrate their skin and scales when the opportunity arises. Their bathing habits depend greatly on the type of habitat and lifestyle of the lizard species.

Why don’t most lizards take baths?

There are a few key reasons why most lizard species do not actively soak or bathe in water:

  • Habitat – Most lizards live in dry environments without easy access to water for bathing.
  • Skin – A dry, scaly exterior makes bathing unnecessary for hydration or cleaning in many lizards.
  • Behavior – Bathing is not an instinctive behavior for lizards like it is for humans and some other animals.
  • Energy – Seeking out water sources and bathing expends precious energy and exposes them to predators.

Additionally, lizards need to control their body temperature by basking in the sun or finding shelter. Sitting immersed in water would cool their bodies too much and make thermoregulation difficult.

Their scaled skin also does not absorb water well on its own. Soaking for hydration is only helpful for specific species adapted to aquatic environments. For most lizards, the costs of bathing outweigh the benefits. Their instincts and adaptations simply lead them to conserve energy and moisture in other ways.

When do baby lizards start bathing?

Baby lizards, also called hatchlings, do not start bathing or soaking in water right away. Like adult lizards, most young lizards get the moisture they need from the food they eat rather than directly from external water sources.

Species that do soak as adults, like green iguanas, won’t start doing so until they are several weeks or months old. At birth, hatchlings are focused on finding food and shelter while avoiding predators. Instincts for bathing or soaking come later as the lizards mature.

Desert species may not soak at all until after rainfall, regardless of their age. During dry periods, even adult desert lizards survive solely on the internal water reserves in their bodies.

The exception is marine iguanas and other lizards that start swimming and soaking right after hatching. This allows young marine iguanas to forage for the algae they eat under water soon after birth.

Do pet lizards need baths?

For lizards being kept as pets, bathing is not necessary and can even be harmful in some cases. The main exception is aquatic turtles, which do require frequent access to water.

Most pet lizards get sufficient hydration from regular misting, a water dish, and a balanced diet. Additional soaking is unnecessary and may stress certain species that prefer dry environments.

Some tips for bathing pet lizards:

  • Only bathe species naturally adapted to water like green iguanas.
  • Use a shallow dish that the lizard can easily climb out of.
  • Use warm water and limit baths to 10-15 minutes.
  • Avoid soaking after feeding to prevent upsetting their digestion.
  • Do not bathe chameleons, geckos, bearded dragons, or other desert species.

With most pet lizards, set up proper habitat heating and humidity instead.Provide an adequate dish of clean water. Then let the lizard soak on its own if desired, rather than forcing the issue with unnecessary bathing.

Do wild lizards ever need baths?

Wild lizards are well-adapted to life without bathing or soaking. They have natural behaviors and bodily functions to keep themselves hydrated, regulate temperature, remove dead skin, and eliminate parasites.

Some specific cases where wild lizards may seek water include:

  • During droughts when standing water is limited
  • After brumating through a cold winter
  • To lay eggs if the species reproduces near water
  • When infected by parasites like ticks
  • After shedding skin and needing moisture to loosen the next layer

However, healthy wild lizards are rarely observed actively bathing or soaking for extended periods. They prefer to spend their time and energy focused on basking, feeding, avoiding predators, and finding mates when breeding season arrives.

Hydration, temperature regulation, cleaning, and parasite removal happen passively as they go about their daily activities. Excessive bathing could actually unnecessarily expend energy reserves needed for survival.

Do lizards benefit from baths?

For some species adapted to aquatic or very humid environments, bathing and soaking can provide benefits. The moisture aids with:

  • Hydration through their vent cloaca or porous skin
  • Shedding old skin
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Removing ectoparasites like ticks and mites
  • Cleaning debris from scales

Examples of lizards that benefit from occasional bathing include:

  • Iguanas
  • Chameleons
  • Anoles
  • Skinks
  • Monitors
  • Water dragons

However, most desert-dwelling lizards do not benefit from bathing and some species can even be harmed by excessive moisture. Leopard geckos and bearded dragons, for example, originate from very arid regions.

Owners of pet lizards should research their particular species’ needs. Providing an occasional shallow water dish is enough for bathing and soaking in the majority of pet lizards. Active bathing should be avoided except for rare aquatic species.

Do lizards sweat to cool off?

Lizards do not have sweat glands in their skin so they cannot cool themselves through sweating like humans. However, some lizards do exhibit a behavior that provides a similar function called gaping.

Gaping involves a lizard opening its mouth wide to increase air flow over the moist tissues in its mouth and throat. As moisture evaporates from these surfaces, it has a cooling effect just like sweating.

Species like bearded dragons, iguanas, and chuckwallas will gap to prevent overheating. It allows them to dump excess heat before their bodies reach dangerous temperatures.

While gaping provides a type of evaporative cooling, lizards still lack sweat glands. The only moist surfaces involved are the tissues inside their mouths. Their scaly outer skin does not sweat at all.

After gaping, increased blood flow to these moist areas allows the tissues to re-hydrate. This allows the process to start over again, cooling the lizard as needed until temperatures become safe.

Do cold-blooded lizards need to bathe?

Cold-blooded lizards rarely need bathing because they do not expend energy regulating internal body heat like warm-blooded animals.

Bathing would actually make thermoregulation more difficult for most cold-blooded lizards. Sitting in water too long would over-cool their bodies since they cannot internally generate more heat.

Lizards instead rely on external heat sources like the sun, heating rocks, and warm ground surfaces to reach their preferred body temperatures. Basking under heat lamps or in sunny spots is far more important than bathing for a cold-blooded lizard.

The exceptions are cold-blooded marine iguanas and other lizards specifically adapted for aquatic life. Their frequent swimming and diving makes bathing necessary to keep their skin and scales in good condition for underwater activities.

But for desert species and others found primarily on land, bathing is unnecessary and avoided in most cases. Proper access to heat, not moisture, is the key factor impacting health and survival.


In summary, most lizard species do not take intentional baths in water or engage in long soaking sessions. Their scaly skin and instinctive behaviors are designed to conserve moisture and regulate body temperature without bathing.

However, some lizards will take advantage of water sources in their environments to rehydrate, clean themselves, cool down, lay eggs, or avoid predators as needed. Aquatic species depend on frequent swimming and diving to survive as well.

Pet lizards only require bathing in rare cases; proper habitat setup is far more important. Wild lizards are also well equipped by nature to stay healthy and clean without actively bathing or soaking for long periods.

So while lizards may enjoy an occasional dip, their bathing habits are primarily driven by specific survival needs rather than recreation. Their unique adaptations allow most species to thrive with only minimal contact with water.

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