If you’ve noticed your bearded dragon pressing themselves against the glass walls of their enclosure, this behavior likely has an underlying cause that’s important to understand. Glass surfing, as it’s commonly called, can signal anything from boredom to illness in bearded dragons when exhibited frequently or for prolonged periods.
– Glass surfing may indicate stress, poor husbandry, lack of stimulation, or health issues in bearded dragons
– Improving enclosure size, layout, temperature, UVB access, substrate, enrichment and diet can curb glass surfing
– Bearded dragons may glass surf when seeking heat, light, or just exploring their environment
– Attempting to interact with owners or reflectivity of glass can also cause the behavior
– If not resolved through habitat and husbandry improvements, vet visit is recommended
What Exactly is Glass Surfing in Bearded Dragons?
Glass surfing describes when a bearded dragon repeatedly scrambles up the glass walls of their enclosure, often clinging to the sides before sliding back down over and over again. This behavior may occur on just one or multiple walls of the tank.
While many reptiles will explore and climb their enclosures to an extent, bearded dragons that start obsessively and continually running up and down the glass are exhibiting signs of stress or dissatisfaction with their habitat.
Reasons for Glass Surfing
There are a number of possible reasons why your bearded dragon may start glass surfing. Determining the most likely cause can allow you to take appropriate action to resolve the behavior.
Glass surfing may be a signal that your bearded dragon is feeling stressed by some element of their environment or care. Stressors can include:
- Small tank size
- Lack of appropriate UVB lighting
- Incorrect temperatures
- Insufficient or poor quality nutrition
- Over-handling and frequent disturbance
- Excess noise vibrations, or high traffic areas
- Aggression from cagemates if housed communally
Chronic stress can negatively impact bearded dragons’ health and wellbeing over time if the underlying causes are not addressed.
An enclosure that lacks enriching elements and opportunities for mental stimulation can lead to bored, under-stimulated bearded dragons. Glass surfing may provide an outlet for their restless energy and curiosity.
Lack of exercise
Too small of an enclosure also restricts the physical activity bearded dragons require to stay fit and content. Thefrequent climbing and roaming of glass surfing allows for more movement.
Particularly for younger, active dragons, glass surfing may reflect a natural inclination to explore their surroundings. Their climbing attempts allow them to engage with their environment.
Glass surfing may indicate your bearded dragon is trying to gain access to an essential habitat resource they are lacking, such as:
- Heat – If the warm basking area is too far from the glass walls, they may repeatedly cling to the sides seeking warmth.
- UVB exposure – Trying to get closer to UVB overhead lights not centered optimally in the tank.
- More space – Attempting to find an escape from a tank too small for their needs.
Interact with owners
Bearded dragons are intelligent and can recognize their owners. If their enclosure is located in a high foot traffic area, they may glass surf excitedly trying to get closer to their owners as they walk by.
Bearded dragons may misinterpret their reflection and believe they are encountering another dragon. Trying to interact with their reflection can manifest as glass surfing.
While less likely than the reasons above, certain medical conditions can prompt glass surfing, such as:
- Metabolic bone disease from poor diet or lack of UVB
- Respiratory infections
- Pain or discomfort
A vet visit can diagnose and treat any underlying illness.
When Glass Surfing Becomes a Problem
While some glass surfing now and then may not raise cause for concern, frequent or prolonged bouts of the behavior can become problematic. Warning signs include:
- Surfing along most or all enclosure walls
- Climbing for 30 minutes or more at a time
- Surfing multiple times daily
- Restlessness, pacing when not surfing
- Rubbing nose or body against glass
- Ignoring food to continue surfing
At this degree, glass surfing is likely connected to chronic stress, inadequate habitat, or unmet needs that require intervention. Otherwise, potential long-term impacts include:
- Injuries from frequent falls and climbing
- Nose rubbing leading to raw, infected snouts
- Weight loss from lack of appetite
- Increased stress hormones
- Decline in energy and activity levels
- Excessive claw wear
- Higher disease susceptibility
Stopping Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing
If your bearded dragon exhibits frequent glass surfing behavior, there are a number of improvements to their care and enclosure you can implement to resolve the underlying cause and curb the behavior.
Ensure Proper Tank Size
Enclosures smaller than the recommended minimums for adult and juvenile beardies can restrict their movement and stimulate glass surfing. Standard guidelines include:
- Baby bearded dragons: 30-40 gallon tank
- Juvenile to adult: minimum 75-120 gallon tank
- Adult females: minimum 120 gallon tank
- Adult males: minimum 75 gallon tank
If your bearded dragon’s current tank is under these sizes, upgrading their habitat to provide more space could greatly reduce their glass surfing urges.
Optimize Tank Layout
Bearded dragons are semi-arboreal lizards that appreciate climbing opportunities. Providing more horizontal and vertical elements they can climb on safely can satisfy some of that urge to scale the glass. Ideas include:
- Driftwood, cork rounds, and textured branches
- Rock piles or slate ramps
- Climbable reptile hammocks or platforms
- Artificial vines and foliage
- Securely mounted terracotta pots
- Natural or artificial background affixed to one wall
These elements give more enriching ways to climb while keeping them away from the glass walls.
Maintain Proper Temperatures
Bearded dragons require a thermal gradient in their enclosure with a warm basking zone and cooler area. Improper temperatures lead to discomfort. Ensure their tank provides:
- Basking spot temperature: 95-105°F
- Cool side temperature: 80-85°F
- Nighttime temperature drop to 75-80°F
Use under tank heat mats, ceramic heat emitters, and overhead basking bulbs to achieve this temperature range in different areas.
Provide Sufficient UVB
UVB light is critical for bearded dragons to synthesize vitamin D3 for bone health and calcium metabolism. Poor UVB exposure can cause glass surfing. Provide:
- Linear UVB fluorescent or mercury vapor bulb
- 12-14 hours per day exposure
- Bulb positioned 6-12 inches from basking area
- Bulb replaced every 6 months minimum
Adjust fixtures to ensure proper overlap of UVB and basking zone heat.
Enrich Their Environment
In addition to climbable elements noted above, providing ample enrichment in their enclosure can ease boredom and encourage more natural behaviors. Offer:
- Branches or shelves for climbing
- Plastic foliage and artificial plants for hiding
- Dig boxes with reptile-safe sand
- Rock piles or log hideaways
- Driftwood, sticks, leaves to explore
- Natural wood bark or slate to file claws
Rotate new items weekly to provide novelty and mental stimulation.
Allow Time Outside Enclosure
Regular playtime outside their tank allows crucial exercise time and extra space to explore. Try:
- 30-60 minutes supervised playtime outside tank 2-3 times weekly
- Let them roam a reptile-safe room or exercise pen
- Offer toys and objects to climb on and hide under
- Monitor for safety and do not unattended
The change of scenery and extra activity can reduce glass surfing urges.
Loose, particulate substrates allow for natural digging behaviors. Swap any calci-sand or reptile carpet for a better substrate like:
- Organic topsoil
- Play sand mixes
- Coconut coir fiber
- Slate or tile substrates
6-8 inches of substrate supports burrowing enrichment.
Ensure their diet contains optimal:
- Protein sources – live insects, rodent meat
- Vegetables – leafy greens, squash, beans
- Fruit – berries, melon, figs
- Calcium from dusted feeders and calcium supplement
- Multivitamin supplement
- Hydration from water bowl and misting
Malnutrition can cause glass surfing. Correct any imbalances in nutrition.
Excess disturbances like loud noise, frequent handling, or high traffic near the tank can stress bearded dragons. Try to:
- Keep enclosure away from high noise or activity
- Refrain handling for 1-2 days to allow adjustment if recently rehomed
- Gradually build up handling to avoid overstressing
- Provide hiding places to retreat from stressors
Reflective glass walls can confuse bearded dragons. Reduce reflections by:
- Placing tank against a wall or background
- Keeping room lights low around the enclosure
- Applying a non-reflective background to the outside of tank
- Placing decorative vinyl on sides to break up reflections
If all other interventions fail to stop glass surfing, take your bearded dragon for a veterinary exam to check for underlying illness. Blood tests and fecal tests can uncover issues like parasites, infections, and organ problems.
With treatment prescribed for any medical condition, their glass surfing should subside as their health is restored.
Preventing Glass Surfing
While glass surfing may be unavoidable at times, the following preventative measures can help minimize its frequency and intensity when it does occur:
- Provide largest possible adult size enclosure
- Maintain exact temperature and humidity requirements
- Keep UVB light within proper distance range
- Frequently replace worn or ineffective UVB bulbs
- Feed balanced, vitamin-rich staple diets
- Supplement insects and salads with calcium and vitamins
- Vary diet with novel protein and vegetable sources
- Use textured, loose substrates for digging
- Provide branches, rocks, platforms and hides for climbing and mental stimulation
- Limit handling to 30 minutes maximum per day
- Play calming music and avoid abrupt loud noises around habitat
- Keep enclosure away from high traffic areas
- Never tap on glass walls
- Schedule annual wellness exams with an exotic vet
While captive life can never perfectly replicate their complex wild habitat, meeting all their biological and psychological needs is key to preventing problematic behaviors like glass surfing as much as possible.
Glass surfing in bearded dragons generally indicates there is some unmet need or source of stress in their environment. While occasional climbing along walls may be expected, excessive or obsessive glass surfing requires attention. By identifying the root cause and making appropriate enhancements to their habitat, enrichment, and care routine, glass surfing can usually be resolved or minimized significantly. If not, veterinary guidance may be needed to diagnose any underlying medical issues contributing to the behavior.
With a commitment to understanding your bearded dragon’s needs and signals, their natural behaviors and health can flourish in captivity.