How to Stop Glass Surfing in Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragon standing against the grass
Glass surfing is a sign of stress in bearded dragons.

Richard PJ Lambert/Getty Images

Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards with some unique behaviors including head bobbing, waving, and doing pushups. Despite common belief, not all of these behaviors indicate that a bearded dragon is happy, though. Glass surfing is one such behavior that may appear to be cute but is actually an indication that something is wrong and should be addressed.

What Is Glass Surfing in Bearded Dragons?

When a lizard is frantically trying to climb up the side of its enclosure it's said to be glass surfing. Glass surfing, also known as glass dancing, looks like it sounds - a lizard's belly is rubbing on the glass of its tank and its little legs are paddling as if it's body surfing on the glass. The bearded dragon will also be standing on its hind legs as though it's trying to climb out of the tank but it keeps slipping back down to the ground.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Glass Surf?

Reptile forums are often filled with pet owners who offer up theories as to why bearded dragons glass surf. While these thoughts vary greatly, there's one common thread - each is attributable to stress. Glass surfing is thought to be a result of stress and a bearded dragon may be stressed for several reasons:

  • An enclosure or tank that's too small for it can stress a bearded dragon out.
  • Another bearded dragon, even if they're not housed together, may be interpreted as competition for a bearded dragon and cause stress.
  • New decorations or rearrangement of the vivarium can cause stress.
  • Feeling threatened by its own reflection in the glass can cause stress.
  • Feeling bored or hungry can be stressful to a bearded dragon.
  • Suboptimal substrate, lighting, or temperature can be stressful to a bearded dragon.

Any one or a combination of these conditions may cause your bearded dragon to become stressed out, which, in turn, may prompt it to glass surf.

Glass surfing isn't exclusive to bearded dragons, though. Many pet reptiles and even fish glass surf when they're stressed because of many of the same reasons.

Stress in Bearded Dragons

Aside from glass surfing, if your bearded dragon's color darkens or turns black, it's probably stressed. This is most obviously noticable on the beard.

If a bearded dragon has a black beard, a recent change involving it may be the source of the stress, even if it was thought to be a good change. For instance, changing the location of the enclosure, moving the dragon to a new or larger tank, or adding a new bearded dragon within its line of sight can all potentially stress a bearded dragon. The source of stress could also be something as seemingly unlikely as the person who regularly cares for the bearded dragon leaving for a week's vacation.

Health Concerns and Glass Surfing

Other than the fact that the bearded dragon is probably stressed, there's no medical reason to be overly concerned about glass surfing. However, if the dragon isn't eating or shedding well, begins to act lethargic, or there are reasons to suspect it may be sick, veterinary attention should be sought.

How to Stop Glass Surfing

Since bearded dragons glass surf when they're stressed, it can be difficult to stop the behavior if the source of the stress is unknown. Unnecessary changes in a bearded dragon's environment that could cause more stress should be avoided. Some specific ways to help stop glass surfing include:

  • If a new item in the enclosure recently triggered the glass surfing behavior, the items should be put back to the way they were before the glass surfing started. This may mean removing a new decoration from the tank or making sure a bearded dragon can't see a new reptile that was introduced into the home..
  • If a tank is smaller than 55 gallons and it houses a full-grown bearded dragon, the tank may be too small. A larger tank should be considered because the small enclosure could be the reason behind the glass surfing.
  • If tanks are switched, the environment should be made so that it's as familiar as possible. Items should be placed in the same general location as they were in the original tank. Items may be more spread out but with as few changes as possible it may still convey a sense of home and familiarity to a bearded dragon.
  • A bearded dragon may just need more attention or stimulation if it's glass surfing. Plenty of daily enrichment should be provided to a bearded dragon. If it likes to be handled, this could mean more time outside the tank is needed.
  • A bearded dragon needs to have appropriate lighting, humidity, 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 contribute to stress in a bearded dragon.
photograph of a bearded dragon on the hand of a child
Your bearded dragon might just want some attention. Estersinhache fotografía / Getty Images
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.