Bearded Dragon Morphs

Bearded Dragons are extremely variable, with eight different species and a huge range of morphs and colors to choose from. The most common species to find in the pet trade is the Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps), but they all look roughly the same in the wild – same size, same scales, same sandy/earthy colors. The wide range of beautiful Bearded Dragons we see now are entirely down to selective breeding, promoting desirable traits and suppressing unwanted characteristics.

Bearded Dragon

Photo by nick ta on Flickr

Despite only being introduced to the US as an exotic pet in the 1990s, Bearded Dragons have exploded in popularity. As demand rose, high-end reptile breeders began experimenting with selective breeding to produce animals that can look very different to their wild ancestors.

It’s important to point out that morphs and colors are different things. Bearded Dragon morphs have more to do with size and scale texture than color. Morphs have fixed names that are widely recognized by owners and breeders around the world, whereas many breeders use their own names to describe the color of their Bearded Dragons, often to make them sound more unusual than they really area.

For example, the name ‘Red Bearded Dragon’ tells you nothing about the animal’s morph, only its color. Whereas ‘Leatherback Bearded Dragon’ gives you the morph, but not the color. If either morph or color isn’t specified, you can generally assume that it’s normal.

Bearded Dragon

Photo by Korona Lacasse on Flickr

The Different Bearded Dragon Morphs

  • Normal/Classic/Standard – This is the Bearded Dragon morph that looks most like the species does in the wild. They have spiny scales and dark skin. These are the cheapest Bearded Dragons and the ones you’re most likely to find in a pet store.
  • Trans i.e. Translucent Bearded Dragons have translucent (slightly see-through) skin. Another common feature is very dark eyes that may appear solid black.
  • Hypo i.e. Hypomelanistic Bearded Dragons have been bred to have a much lighter appearance than would be found in the wild. Dark areas in the skin, nails and eyes will all be greatly reduced.
  • Hypo Trans – As you can probably guess, this refers to a Bearded Dragon that exhibits traits of both Trans and Hypo morphs.
  • Het Hypo Bearded Dragons do not appear to be Hypo morphs visually, but are known to carry Hypo morph genes.
  • Het Trans Bearded Dragons do not appear to be Trans morphs visually, but are known to carry Trans morph genes.
  • Bearded DragonDouble Het Bearded Dragons carry both Hypo and Trans morph genetics despite showing neither.
  • Trans Het Hypo Bearded Dragons display Trans characteristics but also carry unseen Hypo morph genes.
  • Hypo Het Trans Bearded Dragons display Hypo characteristics but also carry unseen Trans morph genes.
  • German Giant Bearded Dragons have been bred primarily for size. They are often around 50% bigger than Classic Beardies and require a correspondingly larger enclosure.
  • Leatherback Bearded Dragons have a mutated gene that produces much smaller scales than normal, giving these lizards a much smoother appearance and making them feel like leather. This also tends to give them more dramatic colors – Leatherbacks are some of the most attractive Bearded Dragons. There are actually two Leatherback morphs – Italian Leatherbacks and American Smoothies. They were developed independently but are virtually indistinguishable.
  • Silkback Bearded Dragons have no scales at all, and can be born when a pair of Leatherbacks mate (although not every clutch of eggs will include Silkbacks). Their lack of scales makes them feel as smooth as silk. Silkbacks tend to have more health problems than less ‘purebred’ Bearded Dragons.
  • Bearded DragonDunner Bearded Dragons were originally bred by Kevin Dunn. They are much rougher to the touch than other Beardies due to their conical scales that run in no particular direction. Dunners also have particularly large feet and unique tail patterns.
  • Zero Bearded Dragons have no color and no pattern whatsoever, yet their lack of complexity can be beautiful in its own right.
  • Leucistic Bearded Dragons lack pigmentation and are very rare. White Bearded Dragons are often missold as Leucistics.
  • Witblit Bearded Dragons are a relatively new development. They have no markings or patterns, but can be bred in a number of pale pastel colors.
  • Paradox Bearded Dragons are another new morph, created by too much inbreeding between Trans Bearded Dragons. They have random patches of translucent scales that may be blue, white or purple. They are the subject of some controversy in the reptile breeding world.

Bearded Dragon Colors

Bearded DragonIn the wild, the color of a Bearded Dragon depends on its environment, so there is some variation. But they’re all brown, tan or sandy colors, sometimes with a hint of yellow or red. Generations of selective breeding has produced a range of brilliantly colored Bearded Dragons, from bright red to pure white and more besides.

There are now a huge number of color variations available, but many are very similar. The problem is that breeders often give their animals a new color name for marketing purposes, even if there’s nothing particularly special about their Beardies. This results in some entertaining and/or ridiculous names that are used to falsely drive up prices.

Another thing to note is that a Bearded Dragon’s color will change as it ages. Most youngsters have a white belly, but this will slowly turn to the animal’s base color as it gets older. Otherwise there’s no set pattern for how a Beardie’s colors will change – some will get brighter but others will get duller.

The Different Bearded Dragon Colors

All the Bearded Dragon colors that exist can be placed into a few categories, which helps to avoid the problem of breeders trying to carve a niche for themselves by marketing a new name. The color groups are as follows:

  • Brown/sandy/tan Bearded Dragons are closest in appearance to wild Beardies, and these are the cheapest and most common in the pet trade.
  • Bearded DragonRed Bearded Dragons include Red, Ruby Red and Blood Red Bearded Dragons. These are some of the most desirable colors.
  • Yellow Bearded Dragons such as Yellow, Gold, Sandfire Gold, Lemon Fire and Citrus Bearded Dragons.
  • Red/yellow mixes e.g. Sunburst, Citrus Tiger, Sandfire Red, Tangerine and Orange Bearded Dragons.
  • White Bearded Dragons, which include Snow Bearded Dragons.
  • Purple/Blue Bearded Dragons are a result of overbreeding Translucent Bearded Dragons. This has resulted in Beardies that are a purple or blue color all over, not just showing a much more common bluish tint on the belly. These colors are not normally kept into adulthood, and these Beardies have shorter lifespans and suffer from more frequent illness than others. Despite this, Blue Bearded Dragons are highly sought after, much in the same way that unhealthy purebred dogs are considered desirable.

Bearded DragonThe more saturated a Bearded Dragon’s colors are, the more expensive it will be. This doesn’t just mean color intensity, but also uniformity. A high quality Bearded Dragon will have no gaps or breaks in color.

Bearded Dragon Patterns

As well as different morphs and colors, Bearded Dragons may exhibit certain patterns. Some of these are characteristics of certain morphs (like the unique tails of Dunner Bearded Dragons), but others can be seen across morphs. The primary example is a Tiger pattern, referring to a series of dark stripes across the body. A Tiger Bearded Dragon’s value depends on how strong the dark bars are – faint bars are not worth as much.

Many other names for other patterns appear from time to time, but these are once again created by breeders to give them a marketing edge. None of these random names are standard across the trade.

What To Watch Out For

As I’ve mentioned several times in this article, some breeders will invent new descriptive names for their Bearded Dragons in order to sell them for a higher price. One of the most common examples is calling one of their animals a ‘Super’ Bearded Dragon (or Super Trans, Super Hypo and so on). You can expect to be ripped off by paying a higher price for a Beardie with the meaningless ‘Super’ label attached.

Bearded DragonBearded Dragons are also commonly referred to as being ‘Fancy’ Bearded Dragons, or a fancy morph. This has slightly more meaning than ‘Super’, but it still doesn’t say much. Normally a fancy morph is a Beardie that isn’t a standard/classic/normal morph, but the breeder isn’t sure of its genetics so it can’t be classed as anything else. Again, a breeder selling ‘Fancy’ Bearded Dragons will most likely expect more money for adding a pointless extra word.

It’s even easier to be duped when buying online. Lighting can make a huge difference to an animal’s appearance, and the same Beardie may look more or less impressive depending on whether the photos were taken inside, outside or under UV lamps. It’s also incredibly easy to photoshop the pictures by increasing the saturation, making a lower quality Bearded Dragon look more expensive. Always be careful when buying online, and make sure you know exactly who you’re buying from. Ask other enthusiasts about any breeder you haven’t heard of.

Bearded Dragon Care

If you want to find out more about buying, keeping and caring for Bearded Dragons, take a look at our Bearded Dragon care sheet. It has everything you’ll need to know to give your Beardies the best possible life.