Updated: April 20, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
Watching your bearded dragon go about its business every day is fascinating! However, they do have some strange behaviors that can take some time to unpack and understand fully. For example, if you’ve ever seen your beardie seemingly trying to climb the walls of its enclosure, you may be curious about the reasons behind your bearded dragon glass surfing.
Glass surfing is an indication that your bearded dragon is stressed. Identifying where that stress is coming from, fixing the problem, and then observing the behavior is something every bearded dragon owner should know how to do.
Bearded dragons can get stressed for several reasons. Sometimes, they may just be uncomfortable because they have grown up and need a bigger enclosure. In other cases, it can be a little more confusing because they do not understand the concept of glass!
Glass surfing can be an isolated behavior or it can be combined with other behaviors. As you watch your bearded dragon go about its daily routine, you will be able to pick up on what behavior is normal and what behavior indicates something is wrong, and when they need your care.
Read on to find out what could be stressing your bearded dragon and causing it to engage in this strange wall-climbing behavior.
What Is Glass Surfing?
“Glass surfing” can be summed up as any consistent contact between your bearded dragon and the glass. You may notice it when your bearded dragon stands up on its hind legs and scratches at the glass, or it takes a run-up to the glass and skates over it. This can make your beardie look as if they’re trying to attack their reflection or climb the walls of the enclosure.
Whichever way it happens, it can appear rather funny to watch. Unfortunately, the reason for them glass surfing excessively is always related to stress.
Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing Demystified
The core reason your bearded dragon is glass surfing is that they are stressed, usually by something it can see either inside or outside of its enclosure. Now, stress for bearded dragons is not always easy to identify. There are many reasons why your bearded dragon could be stressed, and it is up to you to identify and address those reasons promptly.
1. Glass… What Is Glass?
Bearded dragons, in all of their adorable cuteness, do not really understand their reflections or what glass is. They do not understand the glass walls of their enclosure are the end of the road for them. They cannot pass through it, they cannot climb over it, and they cannot dig through it, but they will try!
If this is the reason your bearded dragon is glass surfing, then you can try and change the angle of lighting around the enclosure. This can be a bit difficult to do.
You could also try applying some stickers on the outside of the enclosure. These stickers should be bold enough that your bearded dragon can see them and understand that they represent a border they cannot pass but not distracting enough that they are alarming or look like food.
The stickers should prevent your bearded dragon from glass surfing because they can now see the extent of their enclosure.
2. Your Bearded Dragon Does Not Like Its Neighbors
Bearded dragons are solitary creatures by nature and only come together in the wild to mate. Males and females can be very territorial, and being forced together can be a cause for stress, especially in a less dominant dragon.
Therefore, keeping multiple bearded dragons in the same enclosure can cause issues. If you do need to keep multiple bearded dragons in the same enclosure, they should all be female, of the same size or weight, and the enclosure should be at least 70 gallons with multiple hides, water sources, and food bowls.
Bearded dragons can suffer from this dominant/submissive stress even if they are in separate enclosures but can see another bearded dragon across a room! If you have multiple lizards, ensure they cannot see each other, as this will cause them stress.
Bearded dragons do not like the sight of other lizards so much that they can even confuse their own reflection for another bearded dragon! If you notice your beardie staring at its reflection and then glass surfing or scratching at it, then you will need to make some changes.
These are the same changes that you would make if your beardie is not quite understand that glass is a solid structure.
3. It Is Time to Size Up the Enclosure
Adult bearded dragons need to be in an enclosure that is at least 50 gallons to be completely comfortable and at no risk of glass surfing.
If your juvenile bearded dragon is constantly glass surfing and you have not upsized their enclosure, then it is time to put them in an adult-appropriate enclosure.
As this is an expensive step to take, check that all of the other settings in the enclosure are right, and re-measure and weigh your bearded dragon to check the enclosure is the right size for them.
However, the opposite could be true if you have put a hatchling bearded dragon in an adult-sized enclosure. The size of the enclosure is very important, and the enclosure needs to grow with the bearded dragon. If they are in an enclosure that is too big, they can feel very vulnerable.
4. Incorrect Temperature Settings
The temperature in your bearded dragon’s enclosure is very important. If they are not in the Goldilocks range of ‘just right,’ then it can cause your bearded dragon serious stress.
The cool side of their enclosure should sit at about 75°F, and the warm side should be at about 85°F. Their basking spot should be between 90°F and 95°F.
If any of these temperature settings are off, then your bearded dragon could be too cold or too hot. This means they are not able to thermoregulate properly.
Thermoregulation controls their metabolism. As reptiles, they do not create their own heat and need to move from cool to warm places in their enclosure to maintain their bodily functions.
5. “I Want to Break Free!”
Bearded dragons are active lizards that need a significant amount of physical and mental exercise. If your bearded dragon is being understimulated in its enclosure, it could be incredibly bored and wanting to get out!
They may also be wanting more time with you! Bearded dragons love to be handled and bond with their owners.
Try taking your bearded dragon out of its enclosure every day for at least 15 minutes of handling time and see if this corrects the glass surfing issue.
You can also think about adding some more enrichment to the enclosure in the form of extra hides, colorful food, and new logs and rocks for them to climb. However, be careful not to overdo the accessories, because too many new things can lead to glass surfing, too.
6. Dancing for Their Food
If your bearded dragon is starting to glass surf at the same time every day and this time happens to be a couple of hours before you usually bring them their food, then this could mean your bearded dragon is hungry!
If you think this is the reason they are glass surfing, then increase the number of crickets or other insects you are feeding them if they are babies or juveniles or increase the amount of starchy, fibrous veggies if they are adults to keep them fuller for longer.
7. I Do Not Like Change!
Bearded dragons are creatures of habit, and they can only handle so much change at any given time. This is why keeping to a strict routine is necessary in terms of their care, feeding them, bathing schedules, and enclosure cleaning.
If your bearded dragon is faced with many changes, an unpredictable schedule, lots of new additions to their enclosure, or their enclosure has been moved or upgraded, then they could be suffering from anxiety, which causes them to glass surf in an attempt to escape.
Stick to a schedule when it comes to caring for your bearded dragon. It will help keep them calm and reduce any extra stress they may experience.
8. Something Smells in Here!
Bearded dragons produce very smelly poops! If their enclosure is not spot cleaned daily and all of the poops and old food are removed routinely, the enclosure will start to stink up badly.
Your bearded dragon is sensitive to harsh smells, and they may be glass surfing in an effort to get away from the stench!
Be diligent in spot-cleaning the enclosure daily. If you notice your bearded dragon’s enclosure is not smelling fresh even after a spot clean, then there may be a bacterial build-up, and it is time for a deep clean!
How to Stop Your Bearded Dragon From Glass Surfing
Addressing each of the reasons for stress is your first port of call. Go through the list and figure out what is bothering them and rectify it. If the first thing you try does not work, try addressing another thing on the list, and if that does not work, try the next!
This will be an exercise in patience and fortitude on your part. Changing everything in the enclosure at once will not tell you what was wrong in the first place, and the issue may persist or arise at a later stage.
Keep a written record of what you have tried so you can go back and see what worked for you if your bearded dragon starts glass surfing again in the future.
Other Behaviors to Watch Out for
Glass surfing is an indication of stress; however, it is not the only indication. Look out for other signs of stress that take the form of these strange behaviors.
Darkening of Skin
Bearded dragons are named for the spiky skin flaps, or “beards” under their chins. When they are stressed or feeling vulnerable, they can darken the color of their beards.
In the wild, this is a visual cue to other bearded dragons that they are not in the mood to be messed with.
Although you are likely not the intended target of this behavior, it is usually a cue for you that there is something going on with your bearded dragon.
When your bearded dragon feels threatened or defensive then they will puff up their beards and pockets around their bodies by inflating themselves. This is to make themselves look larger and more intimidating in response to a potential threat.
If you notice this behavior in conjunction with glass surfing, then it is time to split up the colony if you have multiple dragons in the same enclosure or keep other pets away from the enclosure glass.
Head bobbing is usually a way for bearded dragons to display their dominance. Males will generally bob their heads if they can see other bearded dragons and they feel the need to assert dominance.
If you notice this behavior in conjunction with glass surfing, then try and eliminate other bearded dragons and lizards from your beardies’ line of sight.
For a more in-depth look at head bobbing and what other causes of it may be, have a look at this article.
Depending on the context in which it occurs, arm-waving is either a sign of submission or stress. For a more detailed look at what arm waving in bearded dragons means, check out this article.
Your bearded dragon could be in a place where it can see other bearded dragons, other pets, or in a busy part of the home. If you notice arm waving in concurrence with glass surfing, then the cause of the glass surfing has been unearthed!
If you are housing multiple bearded dragons in the same enclosure, then it is time to split them up. If you are housing multiple bearded dragons or other reptiles in the same room, then you will need to find a way to prevent them from seeing each other.
If your bearded dragon’s enclosure is in a busy part of the house or they are next to a window where they can see dogs, cats, or birds, then their enclosure should be moved.
Gaping is a sign that your bearded dragon is too hot. For an in-depth look at why bearded dragons open their mouths, check out this article.
If you notice this behavior in conjunction with glass surfing, it may give you a clue as to why they are glass surfing!
Their enclosure could be too hot for them, and as a result, they are not able to cool down properly. Thankfully, this is an easy fix! Double-check that your thermometer probes are working and that your heating element is not losing power or getting old.
FAQs About Glass Surfing
Can my bearded dragon injure itself by glass surfing?
Your bearded dragon will not really be able to physically hurt itself by glass surfing. The surface of the glass is smooth, so there is no chance its nails will catch on anything and rip out.
The main cause for concern is the mental health of your bearded dragon, as glass surfing is an indication of severe stress.
Can I use a wooden enclosure instead of a glass or plexiglass one to avoid stress surrounding the glass issue?
A wooden enclosure would eliminate the issue of glass surfing because your bearded dragon is confused over what glass is or they are seeing their reflection.
However, the problem with a wooden enclosure is the humidity will end up causing mold to grow. Additionally, in an all-wood enclosure, there is no way for you to watch your bearded dragon or for them to watch the outside world, both of which are very important to do.
I would not recommend getting an all-wood enclosure for a bearded dragon.
Can glass surfing mean my bearded dragon is sick?
Glass surfing alone is not an indication of illness.
However, if your bearded dragon becomes tired and lethargic, stops eating or drinking, stops shedding or won’t stop shedding, their poops change in color or consistency, or you suspect they may be impacted in congruence with glass surfing, then a trip to the vet is necessary.
At the Tail End of Things…
There is no single reason why your bearded dragon is glass surfing. It takes time to figure out what is the precise stressor that is causing this behavior in your beardie pet.
The key stressors are related to enclosure size, boredom, incorrect enclosure settings, seeing other bearded dragons, confusing their own reflection for another bearded dragon, not understanding what glass is, being hungry, or being in a dirty enclosure.
Through a process of elimination, you should be able to identify what is stressing your bearded dragon out, rectify it, and monitor your beardie for any behavioral changes.
It is important to keep track of your bearded dragon’s behaviors, so it is a good idea to keep a diary near their enclosure where you can record things that you have changed or improved on and see what works for your beardie and what does not.