Beardies make great pets, are easy to care for, and can be very entertaining to watch. They also tend to have a lot of little quirks and odd habits. One of the most common is “glass surfing”.
What Is Glass Surfing?
Glass surfing is when your bearded dragon frantically tries to climb the glass sides of their enclosure. This is a common behavior in beardies and is usually nothing to be concerned with. There are several easy solutions to this behavior if it’s excessive, and a vet consultation is rarely needed.
If you are a new beardie owner, you probably didn’t Google “glass surfing”. Here are some other common terms that refer to the same behavior:
- Glass Surfing
- Glass Dancing
- Climbing the Walls
- Climbing the Cage
- Scratching the Glass
No matter what term you use to describe it, there’s a really good chance that your beardie does this on an almost daily basis!
Why Do Bearded Dragons Glass Surf?
Bearded dragons glass surf because they do not know what glass is. Basically, the beardie encounters an invisible barrier that they can’t get past. As semi-arboreal animals, their first instinct is to climb, and they are usually not smart enough to know they can’t climb the glass.
There are other reasons that this behavior can occur, but the most common reason by far is they simply don’t get the concept of clear glass. It’s just not something they have seen in their natural habitat.
6 Reasons Your Beardie is Climbing the Glass Walls in Its Tank
They Don’t Know What Glass Is
We already touched on this, but it belongs at the top of this list! How do we know this? We asked the experts at Chicago Exotics (our vet). They said this is a very common question, and people forget that bearded dragons are not nearly as intelligent as dogs, cats, or people. They simply aren’t smart enough to figure out that they can’t climb the glass!
Since bearded dragons are semi-arboreal animals (they like to climb bushes and trees in the wild), it’s a natural instinct for them to climb. Since they don’t know they can’t climb the glass, they keep trying anyway!
One of the best ways to limit glass surfing is to make sure there is plenty to climb on in their enclosure. We’ve had great luck adding a cork background to some bearded dragons’ tanks. They love climbing on it and it seems to significantly reduce glass surfing!
Their Tank is too Small
In order to stay active and use up their energy, bearded dragons need to have a tank that is large enough for them to run around, climb, and dig as well. If their tank is too small, then they are going to try and get out so that they have more space. Make sure that the tank they are placed in is large enough and that it also has objects in it for the dragons to climb on.
We have a complete guide on proper tank size that you can see here. We’ve also addressed the very common question of whether or not you can use a standard aquarium here.
Below is a bearded dragon age, growth, and tank size chart.
|0-1 months (baby)
|2 months (baby)
|3 months (baby)
|0-1 month (baby)
|4 months (baby)
|5 months (baby)
|6 months (juvenile)
|8 months (juvenile)
|12+ months (adult)
Their Environment Changed
A common cause of glass surfing is if you rearrange their habitat too often. The most frequently you should rearrange their tank is once every 4 months, but even then, it is recommended that you wait longer so your beardy can adjust.
It is the same for adding or removing any items, it will take time for it to grow accustomed to having new items in their tank, so be patient.
Another environmental change is having the tank be at the proper temperature. If not set within the proper temperature range, then your dragon can overheat or not get enough heat in its system.
|Warm Spot (Baking Spot)
They See Their Reflection or Another Lizard
In nature, bearded dragons are known to be very territorial, and they somewhat keep up this habit as pets. So if they are in a tank with another lizard or bearded dragon (NOT recommended!!!), then they are going to have a lot of stress and may even fight.
If they are in separate tanks but can see each other, then this may result in the dragon’s glass surfing to try and get to the other and defend their territory.
This also applies to their reflection. If the bearded dragon sees its reflection, it will think that it is another dragon and try to fight it, causing the dragon a lot of stress and resulting in glass surfing. To stop this, it is best to cover the sides of its tank and stop it from creating a reflection. (Source)
We like to use tank background images like this you can see on Amazon. We love the way it makes Bacardi’s tank look, and it greatly cut down the amount of glass surfing she was doing.
They Are Bored Or Have Too Much Energy
Just as we sometimes get bored and have to go for walks or do some activity to prevent boredom, beardies are the same way. While they can remain in their tank for the majority of the time, it is good for them to be taken out of their tank for 10-15 minutes each day.
During this time, you will want to have the room they will be in set up to allow them to run freely, and this is an important time for the dragons to get their energy out. And while it is recommended that the dragons are let out for 10-15 minutes each day, you can let them out for much more if you have the time to make sure that they are still safe.
During this time that they are out of their tank, it is also a good time for you to build a connection and trust with your lizards. One way to do this is to allow them to climb on you and also to give them small snacks like insects or other leafy greens.
For those that want to take their bearded dragons outside, we have put together 2 very important resources for you. One is everything you need to know to safely bring your bearded dragon outside. The other gives full instructions on using a leash and harness with your beardie, a practice we highly recommend if going outside!
They Are Hungry
This is another of the more common reasons that bearded dragons may be glass surfing. Depending on the stage of life that they are in (see chart above for age and growth), the dragon will need more food. Often the dragon will let you know that it needs more food by scratching on the glass to get your attention.
In other words, if they can’t find food in their enclosure, they are naturally going to try to explore further to find food!
Health Concerns with Glass Surfing
While glass surfing itself isn’t harmful to the beardie, it could potentially lead to harmful effects on the dragon if not addressed. The main effect that glass surfing is going to result in will just be stress, which while not good for the dragon, doesn’t directly cause any health concerns. (Source)
If glass surfing is the only unusual action, then there isn’t much need for worry. However, if it begins to stop eating or begins to shed less, then taking it to the vet is highly recommended.
How To Prevent Glass Surfing in Bearded Dragons
First, you don’t really need to. It won’t hurt them, and if it’s simply a matter of them not knowing what to do with glass, it’s no big deal at all!
That said, there are a couple of things you can (and should) do for your bearded dragon that may limit glass surfing. These are things that we recommend even for folks not dealing with glass surfing, but they do help here too.
The first is to use tank images as recommended above.
The second is to line at least one wall of your beardie’s tank with a climbable surface. It’s fun for them. It plays to their natural climbing instincts. And it’s really fun to watch! The background you see here came with our enclosure, but if yours didn’t, get yourself some of this flat cork tank liner and line at least one wall of their enclosure with it.