One of the most important responsibilities as a reptile keeper is understanding our reptiles! Reptiles are VERY good at hiding signs of stress because this is how the defend themselves in the wild, but because of this: us reptile keepers are also VERY good at noticing small changes in our reptiles! One of the most relevant topics to this time of the year in the U.S. is BRUMATION! We wanted to put together a guide on brumation for reptiles since there isn’t very much information about it out there, so let’s talk about it! →
What is brumation?
Brumation is much like hibernation in bears and other mammals EXCEPT for one differing factor: It pertains to cold blooded animals! Brumation is a state of inactivity or torpor our reptiles go through during the colder months to preserve energy and ensure their survival due to lack of vegetation and insects. Reptiles are ectothermic which requires heat to digest their food, due to colder months in the wild they are unable to digest their food properly.
Brumation is hardwired into many reptiles through evolution and years of survival instinct! With all of that being said, it makes things a little… interesting for us as keepers with our captive bred animals.
Brumation usually happens after the first year! How long they will brumate honestly varies greatly with each animal, some will brumate on and off for a couple of weeks, some will sleep for months! It’s our responsibility as keepers to monitor our animals and identify what our reptiles are telling us!
So now that we know a little bit about why and how brumation happens, let’s move along to recognizing the signs and symptoms!
Signs and Symptoms of a reptile preparing for brumation:
- Lethargic and sleepy
- Hiding a lot more in their hides
- Refusing to bask
- Slowing down from their daily routines
- Refusing to eat
The biggest sign is just your reptile STOPPING their normal routine and becoming more sluggish and tired. Please note, this could ALSO be a sign of parasites or symptoms. We advise doing a fecal sample for your reptiles especially if this is their first time brumating and this is unfamiliar territory for you. This way you can be 100% there is nothing wrong with your animal.
How to prepare your animal for brumation:
Once you recognize these signs and have come to the conclusion that your animal is indeed getting ready for brumation, it’s time to start preparing!
This is how we prepare our animals for brumation →
- We make sure our animals poop after they have stopped eating, or slowed down their eating. This ensures that while they sleep they will have no issues caused my improper digestion. You can induce a bowel movement with a warm bath and gently massaging their stomachs!
- If you don’t already have a quality hide, go and get one! They need a dark and small place to sleep and feel safe!
- We reduce lighting from 12 hours until lights are off. For example: Day one lights on for 10 hours, day 2-3 lights on for 8 hours, day 4 lights on for 6 hours, day 5 lights on for 4 hours, and from this point we do 2-4 hours or no lights at all depending on the animal. Like I said before, some brumate week on and week off, some go into full sleep mode.
- Most of our reptiles will not eat! However, for those that wake up for a couple days we offer food and restart the process over again once they get ready to go back to sleep.
- Monitor hydration! We place a small bowl of water in the enclosure, and a lot of times reptiles who have never drank from a bowl will sometimes come out in search of water. You can also hydrate using a small dropper to their mouths. Don’t force your animal to do anything they don’t want to do! They know their bodies better than we do!
What to expect after brumation:
Your reptile will brumate and wake up on their own time! Remember, this is a natural process for them and they will give you all the signs when they are ready to sleep and wake up! When they wake up, you can adjust your lighting schedule back to your normal day. Offer them food and water! Keep in mind, they may be groggy, and they may take a couple days to full adjust back into their normal routines. It’s also important to note the eating process may take some time as well, with lighting back on it will take a couple days for their digestion to be ready for full meals! Nothing to worry about.
Common questions about brumation:
Will my reptile lose weight?
- Your reptile should not be losing any drastic weight or body mass. We recommend taking them out every week or every other week to weigh them, then putting them back in their hides. This will not disturb your animal too much and can offer the peace of mind that your reptile is okay!
Will my reptile develop MBD?
- No! During brumation your reptile is not digesting food, therefore MBD will not develop.
Will my reptile eat?
- This varies! Some will wake up to eat every couple of weeks and go about their normal day for a few days.. then reenter brumation. Just keep an eye on your reptile! After the first year, you will know how your reptile bromates and this process will get much easier
Should I induce brumation?
- Brumation is natural for reptiles. Most animals will brumate on their own! There is no need to force your animal to do anything they aren’t ready to do.
When will my reptile wake up?
- This varies! Just keep an eye out and make sure your reptile is safe and sleeping. Like state before, sometimes they will wake up and go back to sleep! And sometimes they end their brumation within a couple of weeks.
Do I need to turn out the lights completely?
- Yes! And. No! If they have a dark hide, the little hours of light will not disturb them. Again, this depends on your level of comfort and monitoring your reptiles so they can safely brumate.
So there it is! We hope you find this brumation guide for reptiles helpful and that you now feel a little more prepared! Brumation is often scary for the first time, but we hope that this alleviates some of the stress from you and allows your reptile to brumate safely! As always if you have any questions about anything feel free to reach out and we can help!
If we don’t know the answer, we can point you in a direction of someone who may have the same experiences as you! We are here to help. Stay safe #BTDgang and happy brumating!