Bearded dragons are very popular pet lizards with some unique behaviors such as head bobbing, waving, and doing push-ups that people often find endearing. Not all of these behaviors indicate that the reptile is happy.
In the case of a behavior called "glass surfing," it's not cute at all. Instead, this is a common sign of stress. Fortunately, if you can discover the source of your reptile's stress, you can change something in an attempt to stop the behavior.
What Is Glass Surfing in Bearded Dragons?
When a lizard is trying to frantically climb up the side of their glass tank over and over again they are said to be glass surfing (also known as glass dancing). Glass surfing looks like it sounds—your lizard's belly is rubbing on the glass walls and their little arms are paddling like they are body surfing on the glass. You will also notice that the lizard will be standing on their hind legs as though they are trying to climb out of the tank but keep they slipping.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Glass Surf?
Many reptile forums are filled with pet owners who offer up theories as to why bearded dragons glass surf. While these vary greatly, there is one common thread: each can be attributed to the many things that cause stress in pet reptiles.
Stress can come in many forms. It might be because their tank is too small or a new bearded dragon or decorations were added to the vivarium. Your bearded dragon may feel threatened by their own reflection in the glass or another bearded dragon nearby. Then again, they may simply want to get out of the tank. All of these reasons can cause your bearded dragon to be stressed and in response to stress, they may glass surf.
Many pet reptiles and even fish will glass surf when stressed because of many of the same reasons.
Aside from glass surfing, if your bearded dragon's color darkens or turns black (typically most obvious on the beard), they are probably stressed out. If you notice that your bearded dragon has a black beard, try and think back to any recent changes that would have involved them.
Even if you thought something would improve your pet's life, it may have had the opposite effect. For instance, changing the location of the cage, moving to a new tank, or a new bearded dragon that he can see can all cause stress for your pet.
It could even be something as uncontrollable as the person who regularly cares for the bearded dragon leaving for a week. If you dismiss it as necessary or insignificant, your bearded dragon may see it as a monumental change that it doesn't know how to deal with. The outlet for their frustration is glass surfing.
Other than the fact that your bearded dragon is probably stressed, there is no medical reason to be overly concerned about glass surfing. However, if they aren't eating or shedding well, begin to act lethargic, or you suspect they may be sick for any other reason, you should seek help from your exotics vet.
How to Stop Glass Surfing
Since bearded dragons glass surf when they are stressed, it can be difficult to stop the behavior if you don't know what is causing the stress in the first place. You don't want to make any unnecessary changes in their environment to cause more stress. At the same time, you do want to make changes that may decrease or reverse the stress. It's a tricky business, so think carefully over your approach before taking action.
If something new recently triggered the glass surfing behavior, do your best to put things back to the way they were before it started. This may mean removing a new decoration in the tank or making sure your bearded dragon can't see that new reptile you bought at the reptile show.
If your tank is smaller than a 55-gallon tank and you have a full-grown bearded dragon in it, it may be too small. You might need to get a larger tank because the small enclosure could be the reason for the undue stress and glass surfing.
When switching tanks, however, do your best to move the environment so it's as familiar as possible. Place things in the same general location as they were in the original tank. It may be more spread out, but with as few changes as possible, it will still have a sense of home to your bearded dragon.
Your bearded dragon may also just need more attention or enrichment if they are glass surfing. Make sure you provide plenty of daily enrichment for your pet. If they like to be handled, this could include more time outside their tank, for example.
Lastly, make sure your bearded dragon has appropriate lighting and ambient temperatures to keep it happy and healthy. Inappropriate day and night cycles, incorrect temperatures, and environments that are too humid or dry can all attribute to stress in bearded dragons as well.