There is now good evidence in several taxa that animal coloration positively reflects an individual's antioxidant capacity. However, even though telomeres, a marker of ageing, are known to be vulnerable to reactive oxygen species (ROS) attacks, no studies have ever assessed whether colour fading reflects the rate of biological ageing in any taxa. Here, we measured colour fading, telomere erosion (a measure of biological ageing) and ROS levels in painted dragons. We show that individuals that were better at maintaining their coloration during the three months of the study suffered a higher cost in terms of telomere erosion, but overall ROS levels measured at the start of the study were not significantly related to colour maintenance and telomere shortening. We therefore suggest that colour maintenance is a costly phenomenon in terms of telomere erosion, and that overall ROS levels do not seem to be a crucial component linking ornamental coloration and telomere erosion in our study system.