Bearded dragons are very popular pet lizards and they have some unique behaviors such as head bobbing, waving and doing push-ups that people often find endearing. But these behaviors don't all indicate that your bearded dragon is happy. Sometimes the behaviors that appear to be cute are in fact a sign of stress. Glass surfing is one of those behaviors.
What is Glass Surfing?
When a lizard is trying to frantically run 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. Your lizard will also be standing on their hind legs as though they are trying to climb out of the tank but keep slipping.
Why is Your Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing?
Many reptile forums have offered up theories as to why bearded dragons glass surf. But the truth is it can be attributed to many things that all cause stress in your reptile.
Reasons why your bearded dragon may be glass surfing includes their tank being too small, there is a new bearded dragon that was added to the vivarium, new decorations were added to the enclosure, they feel threatened from seeing their own reflection in the glass or another bearded dragon nearby, or they may simply want to get out of their tank. All of these aforementioned reasons can cause your bearded dragon to be stressed and in response to stress, they may glass surf.
Do Other Kinds of Pets Glass Surf?
Yes, many pet reptiles and even fish will glass surf or glass dance when stressed because of many of the same reasons.
How Do You Know if Your Bearded Dragon is Stressed?
Aside from glass surfing or dancing, if your bearded dragon's color darkens or turns black (usually most obviously seen on their 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. A cage location change, a new tank, a new bearded dragon that he can see, or even if the person who regularly cares for him leaves for a week, can all cause stress for your pet.
Does it Mean Your Bearded Dragon is Sick if They Glass Surf?
Other than the fact that your bearded dragon is probably stressed, there is no medical reason to be overly concerned about them if they are glass surfing. If they aren't eating, acting lethargic, are not shedding well, or you suspect they may be sick for another reason, you should seek help from your exotics vet.
What Can You Do to Make Your Bearded Dragon 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 but you do want to make changes that may decrease or reverse the stress. If something new recently triggered the glass surfing behavior in your bearded dragon, do your best to put things back to the way they were before the glass surfing 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 and you might need to get him a larger tank. The small enclosure could be the reason for his undue stress and glass surfing.
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 or if they like to be handled, time outside their tank.
Lastly, make sure your bearded dragon has appropriate lighting and ambient temperatures to keep him 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.