Bearded dragon resting after glass surfing

Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing: Why They Do It

Seeing a bearded dragon glass surfing can be quite puzzling. In fact, questions about glass surfing are some of the most common ones we get from new owners!

So we made this guide to clear everything up.

You’ll learn what it is, if it’s cause for concern, and how to figure out why they’re doing it.

What Is Glass Surfing?

Bearded dragons, and some other reptiles, sometimes exhibit a curious behavior that many call “glass surfing” (or glass dancing).

Simply put, this is a name for when these lizards begin to run the length of their glass enclosed tanks trying to climb the tank glass sides.

You’ll typically see them pressing their bellies against the glass while standing on their hind legs. Typically, the beardie will have its arms and legs paddling frantically while making moves to climb out of their enclosures.

At first, these unusual and unexpected moves might cause observers to laugh at how silly the lizard looks. However, glass surfing is most often caused by stress that the bearded dragon is experiencing due to a number of factors.

Why Do They Do It?

Now, if bearded dragons could go to a psychologist for an in-depth analysis of the phenomenon of lizards engaged in glass surfing, it might shed light on exactly why the beardie is behaving this way. But we don’t have that luxury.

Instead, owners of bearded dragons can only come up with “best guess” theories on what causes these lizards to act this way and attempt to escape their tanks.

A bearded dragon scratching the glass

With that being said, the theories we have are pretty solid!

Reptile experts point to a number of potential causes that can lead a bearded dragon to literally climb the walls of their living quarters.

These reasons range from an enclosure that’s too large or too small, the addition of a new object or decoration to their tank, boredom, hunger, temperature extremes, or even the perceived threat of seeing another beardie.

When feeling threatened or otherwise extremely upset, the bearded dragon may change their color displaying a darkened neck that can appear quite black especially on the underside.

Other behaviors often seen when these reptiles are over stressed include head bobbing, running around the enclosure tank rapidly (with or without glass surfing), and arm waving motions.

Let’s dig into the possible causes one by one.

1. The Enclosure Is Too Small

Bearded dragons love a simple life where everything remains consistent on a daily basis. When changes do occur too suddenly, these lizards have a tendency to become stressed. This stress can cause them to exhibit certain behaviors such as glass surfing with telltale stress related arm and leg flailing or paddling.

The first thing to look at is whether your bearded dragon has grown too large for its original tank. This can result in serious alarm on the part of the small reptile that could affect how much the beardie eats or sleeps. Ongoing stress may also trigger an illness that can endanger your small friend.

If your bearded dragon is now a full grown adult, their tank should be at least 55 gallons (you can read more here). If they have to share a tank with a buddy, then the tank should be about 75 gallons to ensure enough room.

Expert Tip: Remember, some bearded dragons do not like to share space with another lizard or other creature. If you’re forced to do this, keep a close watch on how the reptiles react to each other.

2. They’ve Been Recently Introduced To A New Enclosure

Like some people, bearded dragons really are creatures of habit. In other words, these reptiles do not like change.

If you’ve recently moved them to a new enclosure, this could be the cause for their glass surfing. These reptiles simply aren’t used to their new home and are having some trouble adjusting.

Any change in their environment has the potential to result in increased stress for your little guy. If you are going to change tanks, add objects to the tank, or change the basking and cooling areas, be sure to do so very slowly. This will help the beardie get used to the changes at a slower pace.

3. They’re Feeling Cooped Up

Just like people when they get bored, bearded dragons can also become antsy if they haven’t had enough stimulation. In addition to glass surfing, they may seem a bit jittery and rush around the length of their enclosure repeatedly.

If you see this, there’s a good chance that these little reptiles simply just want a break from the monotony!

Bearded dragons will also get used to being handled by their owner. If the owner doesn’t give them enough attention, these lizards may start glass surfing and could even begin scratching on the glass to get your attention.

To prevent this from happening, always make time to play with your pet. Take them out so they can walk around, provide something for them to climb on to encourage exercise, and handle them as well. All of these can be a natural release for built-up tension due to boredom.

4. They Want To Eat

Although these lizards tend to be happy with their standard food supply, if they become hungry they might begin to flail their arms or scratch on the glass. These creatures are clever and could be trying to get your attention in order to remind you that it is meal time!

Expert Tip: This is especially true when your bearded dragon is young and going through a growth spurt. The amount of food (and namely crickets) they eat during this process is quite high!

Sometimes, glass surfing, especially when combined with other potential stress related behaviors like digging, can mean that your beardie is going to lay eggs. Keep watch for this if your reptile is a female and is about 2 years of age. This event could occur as young as 18 months for some!

5. They See Their Own Reflection

In their natural habitats, bearded dragons are known to be very territorial. These reptiles will sometimes exhibit frantic and energetic behaviors when they spot another bearded dragon or even other creatures somewhere in their line of vision.

One bearded dragon with its reflection behind it

In some cases, these reptiles will even notice their own reflection off the glass. This can sometimes startle and confuse your little pet. Many times, they will believe their reflection is another beardie that’s getting too close for comfort.

6. Something Has Changed In Their Habitat

While we’ve hinted at this before, it really can’t be overstated. Bearded dragons truly prefer their days to be fairly predictable.

When something has been changed in their habitat (even if it doesn’t seem significant), they may react with glass surfing and other possible stress motions and behaviors.

To minimize the chance of this response, only change one thing at a time. Give your pet time to get used to a new decoration, hiding spot, or other tank addition.

7. They’re Too Hot Or Too Cold

It is essential to properly maintain the right temperature and humidity levels inside of their tank. Bearded dragons need to effectively thermoregulate in order to stay healthy and happy. This means that the basking area should be fairly warm at 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep the cooling area of the tank around 85 degrees. This should ensure a proper temperature gradient inside the enclosure.

Can Glass Surfing Hurt Them?

In general, when bearded dragons are glass surfing there really isn’t anything significant to worry about in terms of their potential to injure themselves. 

However, this behavior does indicate possible increased stress levels which means there might be other suboptimal conditions that could be impacting their health.

If your bearded dragon is glass surfing but is otherwise acting normal, there is likely not a serious cause for concern.

Expert Tip: However, if your beardie begins to act listless or lethargic, stops eating, or appears to be shedding less than normal, it is a good idea to get your pet checked out at the vet’s office just to be sure your little friend isn’t ill!

How To Stop Bearded Dragons From Glass Surfing

It should be noted that continued stress over a longer period of time will take a toll on your pet’s overall health and well-being. For this reason, if the glass dancing behavior continues for a while, take steps to stop them from doing this using the following tips as a guide.

Here’s a checklist to help your bearded dragon stop glass surfing:

1. Get a bigger tank if they’ve outgrown their current one.

2. See if you need to adjust the intensity of the lighting (both regular and UVB), and ensure proper in-tank temperature control. Remember to provide the appropriate temperature gradient between the warmer basking area and other cooler regions inside the enclosure.

3. Give your bearded dragon more out-of-the-tank time for playing, exploring, and generally initiating more contact via handling in case your pet is running short on enrichment.

Bearded dragon resting after glass surfing

4. Add items to the tank slowly, and limit the changes to one at a time if possible. If moving your reptile to a bigger tank, set the new habitat up in the same manner as the old one. This helps give these reptiles some sense of familiarity and that at home feeling that all bearded dragons need and deserve.

5. If your bearded dragon continues to glass surf for quite a while after making environmental changes, test reverting back to their old setup to see if that’s the cause.

6. Make sure that your lizard cannot see another reptile (or any other pet) from within its enclosure. If your beardie becomes stressed by seeing its reflection in the glass, add a background border or otherwise adjust lighting to reduce glare and reflections. You can also try switching to another enclosure without glass.

7. Clean up any poop that’s littered around the enclosure. These lizards need a clean habitat, and they won’t do the cleaning themselves!

8. Make sure that your little one isn’t hungry.

9. Watch for signs of readiness to lay eggs.

10. Give your bearded dragon enriching and exciting things to do like adding a climbing platform or a shady hiding spot.

11. Add backgrounds to glass sides if they appear to be having trouble understanding the presence of the glass barrier.

12. Calm your beardie by removing recent furnishing changes, stroking them gently on the head or giving them a bath.

At the end of the day, bearded dragons need time to adjust to changes in their environments. We recommend giving them 1 to 2 weeks when adding new items. If glass surfing gets worse, take the last item out. As always, contact a vet if they exhibit concerning symptoms that indicate some kind of illness.

Time To Figure It Out

Now that you have the tools to figure out why your bearded dragon is constantly glass surfing, it’s time to put your detective hat on and figure it out!

As you can see, there are a number of common reasons for this behavior. All you have to do is spend a little time to figure out what your pet is trying to tell you.