Many bearded dragon owners experience their bearded dragons scratching at glass, which is also called glass surfing or glass dancing. Scratching behavior is very common in bearded dragons, and is caused by various reasons. In this post, we will discuss the reasons why your bearded dragon is scratching at glass/glass surfing.
What is glass surfing, or scratching at glass?
Glass surfing is when a bearded dragon gets up on its back legs and starts paddling its arms on the glass. Its belly will be touching the glass and it will be trying to escape the tank.
Some bearded dragons also run around the tank, which looks that it wants to escape badly. The behavior of scratching at glass is often stress related. This is also called glass dancing.
You can similarly see your bearded dragon scratching at walls. Scratching at the walls is also caused by similar reasons.
Why is my bearded dragon scratching at glass?
Reason number 1: Your bearded dragon wants to come out to find a mate
If everything is fine within the bearded dragon’s habitat, it might be hormones. During the breeding season, your bearded dragon might be scratching at glass to escape the tank and look for a potential mate.
Breeding behaviors in bearded dragons start around a month after the end of brumation, in early spring. If your bearded dragon’s beard is also black, this might indicate breeding interest.
Reason number 2: Your bearded dragon wants to spend some time outside
After your bearded dragon gets to know you, it will be enjoying spending time with you outside the tank. This includes sitting and climbing over you, roaming the room, spending time outside and so on.
If your bearded dragon wants attention, it can start scratching at the glass for you to take it out.
You can put a soft cushion near a window/on a windowsill and your dragon will enjoy the views. Some bearded dragon can spend hours looking out of the window.
You can play with your dragon, otherwise it can become stressed and bored. Find a list of fun activities and games in this post.
If your bearded dragon is scratching at the glass at night, you can slightly wrap your bearded dragon in a thin towel or tissue so it can be comfortable and sleep.
Reason number 3: Your bearded dragon is stressed
If your bearded dragon is scratching at glass, there might be a problem with a setup inside the tank. These could be issues with temperature, lighting, humidity and so on.
The temperature might be too high, or too low. If the temperatures are high, your bearded dragon will try to find a cool spot and will be panting. But with low temperatures, your bearded dragon will be acting lethargic and won’t be able to digest food.
Make sure to use a digital (and not analog) thermometer for accurate temperature readings. Place on thermometer in a cool spot and one in a hot spot. You can also use an infrared gun thermometer like this, which makes it easy to get the temperature in any point.
Ideal temperature in the hot spot (under the basking and UVB lights) should be 92-110 degrees F (33-43 C). In the cool part, it should be 75-85 F (23.8-29), and not more than that.
During the night – not lower than 65 F (18.3 C). If the temperatures are too high, your bearded dragon won’t be able to thermoregulate and will try to hide inside its hideout, dig and scratch the glass to get out.
There might be many other issues that can make your bearded dragon stressed. Lights might be too bright, or dark. Or maybe you are changing its tank setup too often?
Changing bearded dragon’s setup or even moving its location more than once in 3-4 months is not recommended because they have to get used to it. Please read this post, answer the questions and compare them to given answers to see what might be wrong with the setup.
If your bearded dragon’s beard also becomes black, this can be a sign of stress. Some bearded dragons also get stress marks on their bellies, which look like lines or ovals.
In this case, your bearded dragon might be cold, ready to mate etc. If you want to know more on why your bearded dragon is becoming black, read this post.
Reason number 4: It can see another animal/lizard and is scared
If your bearded dragon can see another bearded dragon, lizard or even a cat or dog, it might become stressed. Even if another bearded dragon isn’t in the same tank, your dragon can smell it or see it if it’s nearby.
If your bearded dragon can see another lizard, it can also bob its head or wave its arm. Make sure your bearded dragon can’t see other lizards in the tank.
Dogs and cats are less likely to cause stress if they don’t disturb your dragon. Other lizards and bearded dragons are more likely to cause interest or stress.
Reason number 5: Your bearded dragon can see its own reflection
If your bearded dragon can see its own reflection in the tank’s glass, it might think that it’s another bearded dragon. This can cause stress or interest, and it might be bobbing its head, waving its arm and so on.
If your bearded dragon keeps seeing its own reflection and reacting to it, you can place something on the sides to cover the sides of the terrarium.
Reason number 6: Your bearded dragon doesn’t understand that glass is a barrier
Some bearded dragons don’t seem to understand that glass is a barrier and try to pass it. Some do it to go and find food when hungry, or if they don’t have any space to hide.
If bearded dragons think that there is no barrier, they will try to move past it to explore. Most bearded dragons stop trying to pass the glass after some time.
Make sure that your bearded dragon has a hideout (at least 1 per bearded dragon) to hide when it needs to. Very high temperatures and no temperature gradient might also make your bearded dragon try escaping the tank.
Reason number 7: Your gravid bearded dragon is preparing to lay the eggs
Some gravid (pregnant) bearded dragons become anxious before laying the eggs. You might notice her walking around the tank, digging and trying to climb the glass. She might also refuse eating and become quite inactive at the end of the pregnancy.
Your female bearded dragon might become gravid without being with a male – in this case she will lay infertile eggs.
Most female bearded dragons become sexually mature by the age of 18-24 months. Make sure to prepare a lay box for her, or she might not lay the eggs and become egg-bound. Read about breeding and egg-laying in this post.
Reason number 8: Your bearded dragon’s tank is too small
Your bearded dragon might start stressing out if its terrarium is way too small. Please note that your baby-juvenile bearded dragon (0-6 months old) will need an at least 25 gallon terrarium (at least 24 inches long).
Adult bearded dragons need a terrarium that is at least 55 gallons. And it’s not only gallons that you need to look at – it should be at least 36 inches long, and at least 18 inches high.
If your bearded dragon’s tank is too small, you are very likely to see your dragon scratching at the glass. It will be trying to get out because there’s no enough room.
Reason number 9: Your baby bearded dragon has lots of energy
Most baby and juvenile bearded dragons have lots of energy. Many baby bearded dragons are climbing a lot, for example on a tank’s screen lid, jumping and so on.
If everything else is fine, scratching at glass might be the energy outbursts. Make a stimulating environment for your baby dragon, and let it roam around to keep it mentally and physically healthy.
To sum it up, it can be hard to tell why exactly your bearded dragon is glass surfing. Before making any changes, make sure it is what’s causing the problem.
If your bearded dragon just started scratching at the glass, then think about any recent changes. If your bearded dragon is not happy with any changes and keeps scratching at the glass, it is better to make everything as it was before.
Read this this post and answer all the questions to find out any possible reasons of your dragon surfing the glass. If your bearded dragon is also lethargic, not eating or pooping properly, you might need to see a vet.