Glass surfing in bearded dragons is a problem that many owners of these lizards have to deal with. It’s not uncommon for the lizards to spend hours at a time scratching and trying to climb up on the glass walls of their enclosure.
One reason they do this is that they are looking for more space, but it can also be caused by stress or boredom. In order to solve this issue, there are some things you can do, such as giving your lizard more room or providing them with things that will keep them occupied.
Why is my bearded dragon scratching at the glass?
When your bearded dragon scratches at the glass, it’s called glass surfing and it’s one of the many behaviors in lizards which can be mistaken for happiness yet they indicate something is wrong.
The dragon would put its front legs and on the glass and appear to be surfing on it like it is on water. The bearded dragon would actually be climbing the glass and failing to do so given the slippery nature of the glass.
Bearded dragons climbing the glass can be caused a host of issues as shall be seen below.
Why is my bearded dragon glass surfing?
There are several reasons why bearded dragons glass surf including the following:
The enclosure is too small
When the enclosure is too small, for your bearded dragon to walk, it would start glass surfing. This is because the dragon cannot find a place where he can climb up and down which causes them to try anything like climbing on the walls of its enclosure.
Glass surfers are often seen as happy lizards but they may be exhibiting signs that their living space is too small.
Small enclosures for bearded dragons include tanks less than 30 gallons in size for one adult beardie and an enclosure with any height including shelves shorter than about 4 inches (or 10 cm) tall will not work. The minimum tank volume required per individual lizard should be at least 45 gallons.
A change in the environment
Bearded dragons scratching glass can be caused by a change in their environment. Bearded dragons are territorial creatures and need consistency to feel secure, so it is important for their enclosure to remain the same as much as possible while they get used to their new surroundings.
Bearded dragons are naturally curious animals that will often explore any changes surrounding them, resulting in glass surfing on an object like a window or TV screen if it offers easy access. As long-term residents of deserts and tropical forests with no natural predators other than snakes, bearded dragons have a little experience with safety hazards such as windows.
This type of behavior can be corrected by gradually introducing objects into the habitat that would create a slow change in the surroundings.
A stressed bearded dragon can also engage in glass surfing. Bearded dragons are very sensitive to their environment and glass surfing can be triggered by a lack of attention, an interruption in the bearded dragon’s routine, or stress.
Besides glass surfing, a stressed bearded dragon will also be more likely to engage in other behaviors that are considered abnormal. Other signs of stress in bearded dragons include lethargy, lack of appetite and a reluctance to interact with their owners.
The best way to manage stress in bearded dragons is by providing them with plenty of enrichment opportunities for playtime. Bearded dragons love it when you provide them with things they can climb on or explore around the cage.
Give your bearded dragon interesting objects like clean rocks or logs that will allow him to feel safe enough off the ground but still be exploring something new. Also, try not to interrupt his routine too much as this may cause increased stress levels in the dragons.
Bearded dragon glass surfing can also be caused by aggression. When a bearded dragon feels threatened or is feeling aggressive it might start to scratch at the glass and slide its claws down it, causing what people call “glass surfing.”
Beardeds often do this kind of thing when competing with other beardies for territory in the terrarium, especially if there are females that are present. Bearded dragons can also be territorial about certain spots on your furniture too like your couch armrests and end tables.
If you notice any unwanted scratching habits from your bearded dragon then it’s time to take action as soon as possible before any serious damage occurs.
Some of the things which can stress bearded dragons are:
- Lack of privacy (not enough hiding spots in the terrarium).
- Too much human handling or contact with your bearded dragon.
- Moving homes too often can cause stress for a bearded dragon. Bearded dragons like to feel safe and secure where they live so if you move them around too much it will make them more anxious.
Any sudden changes around them may make them aggressive too.
How to stop glass surfing in bearded dragons
As seen above, glass surfing in your bearded dragons isn’t an indication of anything good. As a matter of fact, you should stop it as soon as you can using the following strategies:
Remove anything new in the dragon’s enclosure
You can stop the glass surfing by removing anything new that you’ve added to the bearded dragon’s enclosure. If it was something they’re not used to and gave them an unfamiliar sensation, this might be a cause of their aggression towards the glass walls in their habitat.
You should also remove anything old that is no longer needed or has been replaced with another item. This will prevent any confusion about what things are allowed in your bearded dragon’s territory and which aren’t. Be sure not to put back any items after removing them.
Think about how humans behave when they enter someone else’s home: we don’t start putting our belongings around unless after asking for permission first because we know other people feel uncomfortable doing so without being invited (unless it feels like “our” home). You can apply the same principle to your bearded dragon’s habitat: invite them to explore and reclaim their space.
Be patient with your pet when they start exploring but avoid interfering too much or it might make the aggression worse in the long run. Talking softly will reassure them that everything is alright too.
Be aware though that dragons are capable of understanding more than just verbal cues through body language so be mindful not only about what you say but how you behave around him/her.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should also help decrease irritability levels. This includes providing proper lighting cycles (12 hours on 12 hours off), enough fresh water at all times, nutritious food every day.
Use a familiar design in the new enclosure
If you’re switching enclosures for your bearded dragon, try and use one with a similar design to the enclosure they’re used to. For example, if your bearded dragon is used to their seeing out of the glass at eye level, try placing them on a tabletop or other surface where they can see out from above.
If you’re moving them into an opaque tank that’s completely closed off (sealed) without any openings for ventilation or light, try placing them in something like a terrarium before putting them inside the new enclosure so that they will feel more comfortable
Use familiar materials too. Many bearded dragons enjoy scratching surfaces as part of their natural behavior which helps keep beards healthy by removing dead scales and preventing infection through bacteria growth due to moisture buildup. Scratching also provides exercise that aids them in shedding.
Bearded dragons are usually more attracted to surfaces that feel similar to their natural environments like aquarium gravel or sand and will be less likely to scratch through the glass when they can see out of it.
Provide a variety of scratching materials as well. Offer different textures, shapes, colors, etc., so your bearded dragon has the opportunity to choose what texture they prefer in order for them not just use up all their energy on one surface
Place items directly against the window. Sometimes having an item right next to the glass might help serve as something else for bearded dragons to focus on instead of attacking/scratching at the window itself. Items may include plants or branches/toys hanging from above which allow those inside a chance at some exercise.
Provide the right living conditions
The right living conditions for your bearded dragons will help prevent aggressive behaviors such as glass surfing. The right living conditions, in this case, include enough space for the bearded dragon to move around, providing perches and hiding spots that are within reach of a head-height ground surface as well as safe plants for your bearded dragon tank.
When these conditions are not met in captivity, your beardie may feel uneasy or threatened which could lead them to glass surfing as an outlet for their stress.
It is important to note that there have been some instances where bearded dragons will also use this behavior just because they enjoy it.
Provide a larger enclosure
Given that a small enclosure is among the reasons why your bearded dragon may be scratching the glass, providing it with a larger enclosure might solve the problem.
This, of course, is not an issue when your bearded dragon has been in its home for some time and no longer feels confined. But if it’s new to you or just recently relocated into your care, then this may be necessary based on how much space it needs during most periods.
A 20-gallon tank that measures 36″ x 18″ x 12″ should suffice as a starter kit with additional room for a hideaway or basking area so they can rest away from the light without feeling exposed.
Bearded dragons are attention-seeking pets and, at times, they might scratch the glass just to have your attention especially when they’re bored. As long as you can identify the cause of their glass surfing, you can easily provide the solution.