You’ve just gotten your first bearded dragon, and you spent so much time and effort getting their enclosure all nicely set up so you could bring them home. You picked out the tank, all of the different accessories, and set it up in just the right spot in your space. You were so excited to put them down in their enclosure for the first time but something seems to be a little wrong.
Your bearded dragon seems to be glass surfing a lot and you can’t seem to figure out why. Everything was supposed to be taken care of, but if they are doing it a lot it can be a big sign that something isn’t right in their environment.
But what is glass surfing in the first place? What causes it and how can it be prevented? Don’t worry, we’ll break it all down for you so you can get your beardie back to enjoying life right away.
What is Glass Surfing?
It doesn’t just happen to beardies, but can be common in a lot of different lizards when they feel uncomfortable in their terrariums. Glass surfing is when your bearded dragon gets up on their hind legs and starts rubbing their body against the glass with their little feet scrambling up the sides. They are essentially trying to climb their way out of their tank, but don’t have the leverage to be able to do so on the smooth glass.
Bearded dragon and other lizards may also dig around in their substrate in between glass surfing as a way to find any route out of the tank that they can. It may look a little alarming, especially if you’ve tried to make their tank as inviting as possible. Don’t be too distressed though, it is something that can be easily rectified if you know the reasons behind it.
Why Do Glass Surf?
This is similar to how dogs might paw at the door to be let out, or if you see your bird flapping at their cage bars. Many pets have their versions of this behavior and it usually connotes that they are distressed by something out of their control. Because they are attempting to get out of their tank, you can assume that there is something in their immediate environment that is making them uncomfortable.
Any of these things can be off in some way and they can lead to significant stress on your little buddy. How do all of these things lead to stress and how can they be rectified? As long as you pay attention, it typically shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
In their natural habitats, they aren’t accustomed to things like glass. They don’t have an understanding of what glass is and how it works. This can make them uncomfortable and often confused if they realize they are enclosed or can see themselves in the glass reflection.
Glass is a foreign concept, so they may see it and be unsure how it works or if they can get out of it. They may start sliding against it to test if it is something they can escape. When they realize it is solid they may scramble a little bit more because they are confused and uncomfortable with the fact that they can’t get out.
This just means they need a little more time to adjust to their environment. It can take a little while, but eventually, they’ll become accustomed to it and hopefully stop surfing. Much like when you’d get adjusted to a new apartment or house, your little one needs to get comfortable and make the space theirs as well.
They might also be confused by their reflection in the glass, thinking there is another beardie in their environment. They also don’t like uninvited guests and they can feel intimidated and uncomfortable if they think that another dragon is in their space. The best way to combat this is to put up terrarium backgrounds that minimize reflectiveness, as well as placing their tank in an area where the glass might not catch a reflection as easily.
Beardies need a specific temperature in their terrariums to ensure maximum comfort. They live in warm dry climates, so if the temperature gets too extreme in either direction it can be disastrous. Too hot and your little guy will feel stifled, but too cold and they can get sick.
If your little guy can’t thermoregulate correctly they will feel uncomfortable and be unable to manage. It is important to have both a basking area and a cool-down area in their tank so they can move from one to the other at will. They may try to get a little bit higher if they feel they can get closer to light, but because the glass is smooth they won’t be able to get any traction.
Other animals tend to scratch or paw at their food bowls when they are hungry and bearded dragons tend to do the same. They just show it off in different ways. If they are hungry they may glass surf because it is their only way to alert you that their food bowl is empty.
They hope that by showing up against the glass and scratching that you will take it as a sign to feed them. It is a good idea to schedule feedings so that they are on a specific routine. By keeping them on a routine feeding schedule, you’ll be able to minimize or completely get rid of their glass surfing habits.
Honestly, your beardie may end up feeling uneasy if they are left alone in their tank for too long. They could be sliding up against the glass because they want you to let them out to play with you. Their terrarium is only so big and it can get a bit boring going from one place to the next without much other stimulation.
They probably just want the space to explore a different environment for a little while and enjoy your company. You are the main person in their life so they want to spend time with the person who makes them feel the most comfortable. They might also enjoy it if you take them out of the tank to feed them by hand.
They will have their hunger and their boredom taken care of all at once if you schedule some time to feed them separate from their terrarium.
There are may things that can go wrong in your beardie’s environment. If they are new to it they might not feel comfortable with the different plants, decorations, and accessories as they are new to them. Any little thing could throw them off and they could try and flee their terrarium because it is making them uncomfortable.
It could also be likely that they are seeing something outside of their terrarium that is making them uneasy. Like a bird outside the window, or your dog that has come in the room. They may think it is a predator and feel like escaping way from it.
Your beardie may even have made a mess, like pooping or shedding and be uncomfortable having it in their space. Them scratching at the glass and trying to climb it could be their way of telling you that you need to clean it up!
As long as you keep an eye on the cleanliness of their environment and place their tank where it might have the best chance of being comfortable for them, they shouldn’t be scratching for very long.
To Wrap Up
Bearded dragons are very intuitive creatures, so they know when something is a little bit off in their space. Much like we do in our rooms and other spaces in our homes, beardies notice immediately when something is different or uncomfortable in their tanks. They count on you to pay attention as well so you can help meet their needs and maximize their comfort.
If your bearded dragon continues glass surfing and you are taking good care of them and their environment, and have removed things that make them feel threatened, they might have a deeper issue they are battling with. At that time it might be best to consult your vet to see if there’s something else you could be doing. Keep them on a feeding schedule to ensure they don’t get hungry and claw at the glass to get your attention, and schedule some time out of their tanks so they can stretch their legs and see something different for awhile.
As long as you are keeping a good eye on the state of their terrarium and making sure they have their needs taken care of, you shouldn’t have to worry about this behavior for very long. Being diligent and paying attention to your beardie’s signals is the best way to keep their surfing to a minimum. Read more about beardie conduct here.