You have likely noticed your Bearded Dragon has a lot of interesting and unique behaviors. But what does it mean when they scratch at the glass, specifically? Is it something to be concerned with & how is it best to respond? Here is all you need to know.
Bearded dragons scratch at the glass because of stress. The causes of stress can be multifactorial, ranging from an inadequate enclosure, an insufficient environment/care all the way through to abrupt changes in their habitat, or even boredom. Generally, something isn’t quite right and needs addressing.
This behavior is also known as “glass surfing”, by the way. Perhaps you have seen it referenced on an online forum, elsewhere online, and perhaps your vet has even mentioned it in passing.
Either way, it is a trait that is commonly observed in beardies. But, pinpointing the underlying cause exactly is naturally a little challenging.
So, let’s dive in deeper and see what’s going on.
What Is Glass Surfing In Bearded Dragons?
Glass surfing, or glass dancing, is when a bearded dragon rests on their hind legs, presses its bellies up against the glass & paddles its arms frantically. Sometimes this behavior happens along with running up and down their tank, in a reactive stress-response kind of way.
Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Glass Surf:
Bearded dragons glass surf as a means of trying to escape their tank. It’s not for fun – this is their attempt at trying to flee from an environment that is not meeting their needs. In turn, they are attempting to depart from the stress.
Some reasons why bearded dragons get stressed include boredom, a need to find a mate, being unable to thermoregulatory, or being just plain hungry.
Each bearded dragon will be dependent on different circumstances, so you’ll need to look for clues in their environment or in your beardie to find out which one it is:
Enclosures need to be of sufficient size relative to the size of your bearded dragon. Generally, the average adult beardie’s tank should be housed in a tank of around 125 gallons (0.47 m³).
At the same time, as cold-blooded reptiles that naturally rely on the sun upon the wild to keep warm, your bearded dragon is entirely reliant on the temperature of the tank to keep sufficiently warm.
And they need to stay within a particular range, too, so you must have a couple of different temperature spots. The tank itself should stay between 80-84 °F to keep your cold-blooded compare happy.
A basking spot with a heat lamp at one end of the tank with a range up to 95 °F, so they can keep nice and toasty. They have a cool dark spot at the other end, so they can chill off and help their thermoregulation!
Your beardie might be hungry or even bored with their food! While they need to consume insects and vegetables to remain healthy and happy, they do need variety too.
If you stick to the same foods at the same times, your bearded dragon can go off eating altogether – which can result in a whole host of issues.
So, keep meals exciting by changing them up and providing enticing treats now and again, like some meal worms or other dragon-friendly foods!
If you have the option, choose a glass tank instead of a solid trough enclosure.
Beardies love visual stimuli, so preventing them from seeing their surroundings or people’s approach can be a stressful situation.
Bearded dragons can scare themselves. Have you ever seen those videos of dogs walking past a mirror and catching their reflection, so they start barking?
That’s what your dragon is doing! They have caught their reflection in the glass, mistaken it for a rival beardie, and are trying their best to square up against their imaginary foe.
It might be worth looking at changing the lighting and using background paper to help dampen the reflective rivalry. Ultimately, preventing them from seeing their reflection is advised.
Abrupt Changes To Their Environment:
Sometimes, it can be because of new decorations or a tank rearrangement that’s gotten your beardie in a fret. Even though changing the layout up or adding more fun-looking things to your friend’s habitat can be a good idea, watch for glass surfing afterward.
Try taking out new decorations/keeping some placements the same to see how your reptile reacts to the changes!
If your pet is showing other signs of stress besides glass surfing, taking them to an exotic vet to get them checked out might be the right call.
Other stress signs include refusing food/skipping a meal, appearing lifeless or moving very slowly, or their necks appearing darker. Your beardie is not feeling good if they’re showing you these signs!
How Do I Stop My Bearded Dragon from Scratching the Glass?
Identifying the source of the stress is key to finding the right remedy to stop glass surfing. Stopping glass dancing can be easily done with a little observation and experimentation with your dragon and its terrarium.
Optimize Enclosure Layout:
However, if you notice that they’re still glass surfing after the tank upgrade, have a look at the layout of the new enclosure. It’s worth taking a picture of how the old enclosure looked.
Although the new one is bigger, try to copy the decoration placement and layout of the old tank. Doing this will help ease your bearded dragon into its new home with some of its familiarizes.
Investigate Habitat Conditions:
If these tips are not helping, it might have something to do with the habitat conditions. Has the lighting changed recently, or have the day/night cycles gone wonky on the thermostat?
Has the basking lamp faltered and stopped giving the same heat output?
What about the substrate you are using? Have you changed from bark to sand recently?
Changes like these can upset your beardie’s behavior. Stopping your beardie from glass surfing can be an easy fix if you have found the cause.
If you have not been able to, or you have changed everything for your bearded dragon’s benefit, it might be time to bring them to a vet to make sure they’re alright.
How Can I Calm My Stressed-Out Bearded Dragon?
You can calm a stressed bearded dragon with a range of different techniques. Bathing, reducing sensory overload, feeding from your hand, and minimizing handling are all useful approaches.
After finding out the cause of the glass surfing stress, giving your beardie the time and care to calm down is important. Nobody likes being stressed out and deserves a bit of love when they are calming down.
Bearded dragons are no different!
Because of each dragon’s distinct personality, not all of these may work as well., Or it could take a combo, so don’t give up if you don’t discover it right away. It may take a little trial and error, but you must commit to the process.
Bearded dragons can swim, They are very capable swimmers.
So, you can fill up a bath with just an inch or two of warm water (90-93 °F) and let your beardie rest and soak in the warmth.
Rubbing their belly, back, and tail gently will help that warm water soothe your beardie even more.
Make sure the water is never higher than their nose or mouth.
These reptiles are not used to huge amounts of water in the wild, and your pet is no different.
Reducing Sensory Overload:
When your dragon is stressed out, every sense can be heightened and easily overloaded. It happens to all of us! To help your reptile recharge, cover their tank with a blanket and keep the space they are in as quiet as possible to help them relax.
Make sure to keep the tank temperature normal & you may need to switch off the heat lamp while the tank is covered, so keep an eye on the thermostat throughout.
Feeding From Your Hand:
Increase the bond between you and your beardie by feeding them from your hand. The more often you put your hand in to give food or treats, the better the impression they will have of you.
They will learn your natural scent and begin to associate it with safety and security, allowing them to recognize you as a means of food and associate you with positive interactions. This may not work with a highly stressed dragon, so be cautious if they are. Going in with a treat during these times might help, but be prepared for some dragon bites too!
Consider handling your bearded dragon less while they’re trying to calm down, especially if it’s after a tank relocation or tank layout change. Leave them alone, so they can have the time they need to adjust to the new surrounding and smells. Each lizard is unique (that’s why they make such epic additions to your home!).
With that uniqueness comes their preference for handling. Some like 5 minutes every day, others like 25 minutes every other day. If you are familiar with their tolerance, just shorten it or distance the time between handling, so your dragon can relax comfortably.
If your bearded dragon is scratching at the glass, or even appears to be mounting & ‘surfing’, chances are something is wrong. While this behavior is commonly experienced by bearded dragon owners, that does not mean it is normal nor should be accepted.
Instead, it is investigation time. You need to find out the underlying cause of stress. Try to identify when this behavior came on, and what could be prompting their desire to escape.
It may require some fundamental changes to their enclosure, habitat, or your care, but get it right and your beardie will be a much more relaxed and happy one. Failing this, if you are struggling to identify the issue, or you notice any other negative symptoms, behaviors, and developments, do contact a vet.
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