Why Does My Bearded Dragon Scratch at Walls?
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Scratch at Walls? Great question! Let's jump in. When a Bearded Dragon is frantically pawing or clawing at their glass walls, this is called "Glass Surfing." Glass surfing typically occurs when your beardie is stressed or bored. Let's learn more below:
They are Bored
If your dragon is bored, he or she may glass surf. Try taking them out of their enclosure, handling them, playing with them, and letting them run around and get exercise!
They See Their Reflection
Your bearded dragon may see his/her own reflection in the glass. This may be confusing or stressful for them. They might think their reflection is another beardie looking to take over their turf. Relief their stress by placing a background on your tank that wraps around the back and sidewalls.
Did something recently change in your beardie's habitat? Is there a new piece of decor, a change in diet, a new tank mate, or an animal in the house? All of these can contribute to environmental stress and can cause your beardie to glass surf.
They Can't Thermoregulate
Bearded Dragons do best in an environment with a "basking area" that reaches 95-110 degrees AND a cooler area that stays around 75-85 degrees. If the tank is too hot or temperatures are fluctuating (ie. a basking lamp breaks or overheats) your beardie may glass surf as a sign of stress.
Your Dragon Wants A Mate
If everything in your dragon's enclosure is good then the environment may not be the problem but hormones maybe. When dragons are hormonal they find a mate. However, pet beardies live in a small and confined habitat and hence they try to escape when they are in heat. That results in scratching.
This behavior will be most common during the breeding season that happens in early spring soon after the brumation process. Another indicator of this behavior will be your dragon's beard which will start to turn black in color. If both things happen at once, that means your beardie is looking for a mate.
Your Dragon Wants to Step Out
Another reason why your dragon may be scratching at the wall is that he or she wants to get outside the cage. All the animals including dragons like roaming outside their enclosures. This may not happen when your dragon is new. They may be uncomfortable and shy around you but as soon as they get to know you, they will want to get out and play alongside you. You will notice that your beardie is scratching the walls and is asking for attention. He or she probably wants to be taken out of the habitat and played with. Bearded dragons are similar to humans and love sightseeing. Some dragons love spending hours outside the cage while enjoying the views.
If your dragon likes to be outside the enclosure, then you can offer them a spot where they can relax and notice outside surroundings. Dragons require physical activity to be in their best health. If you do not offer your beardie proper physical activity then he or she will get bored. Some dragons can even become stressed if they are not played with often. When you notice your dragon scratching the walls, it could also mean that they have been unable to sleep properly. You can wrap them in a towel to make them feel more comfortable.
Your Dragon Could Be Scared
When you find your dragon scratching at walls, he or she could be terrified. This could happen because your dragon saw another dragon or another animal like a cat or dog. Beardies can smell another animal's scent and they will mostly know what that animal is. If it is a strong animal then your beardie may think of them as a threat and be scared and attempt to escape. You must keep your beardie away from other animals. Place them in a solitary spot that has a good temperature, lighting, and humidity.
Your Dragon Wants To Lay Her Eggs
If your bearded dragon is pregnant then they may be scratching the walls because they want to lay eggs. Sometimes pregnant dragons can be lethargic and nervous before they lay their eggs. They may roam and walk around the cage and scratch at walls as well. Such bearded dragons usually will lose their appetite until they lay the eggs. Sometimes, female dragons can also become pregnant without having mated with a male dragon. This may result in infertile eggs. Hence, scratching behavior can be unexpected from female dragons and you must always investigate as to what is causing it so it does not affect your dragon too much.
Your Dragon Is Stuck In A Tiny Tank
The size of the habitat or cage could be a factor behind your dragon's stress. The tank's size should satisfy the size and age of your bearded dragon. Baby and juvenile dragons require a minimum of 25-gallon tank. Your tank must be a minimum of 24 inches in length, only then will it be enough for a small dragon. Adult dragons require a minimum of a 55-gallon tank. Their habitat must be 18 inches in height and 36 inches in length. If they have a tank that is smaller than this then they may get stressed and scratch the walls.
Your Dragon Is Very Energetic
Many animals engage in different behavior when they feel energetic, bearded dragons are the same. When they feel good and are full of energy, they may scratch the walls. If they have a lot of energy they would want to participate in physical activity. If everything is good and they are scratching the wall for no reason, then you do not have anything to worry about. Bearded dragons love to play and sometimes the scratching is nothing but a little bit of enjoyment for them.
Your Dragon Does Not Understand the Concept of Glass
Sometimes your dragon may fail to realize that the glass is a barrier and will scratch and attempt to break out because they may see their own reflection. If they do not have a lot of locations to hide in the tank like tunnels and caves then they may want to break the glass and break out to hide. Dragons do not like being in the open for long. They could also be searching for food and hence may scratch at the glass.
Your Dragon May Be Hungry
This scenario is uncommon but like dogs and cats sometimes a dragon may scratch because they are hungry and they are signaling you to give them food.
Your Dragon May Have Defecated and Wants You To Clean the Cage
Some dragons often glass surf after pooing to signal their owner to clean the cage.
Your Dragon is Stressed
A main reason why your dragon may be scratching the walls can be stress. The problem could be the humidity or lighting or temperature inside their tank that may be causing them stress. The temperature of the tank could be too high or too low. Dragons need the right temperature hence scratching could be a way to signal their discomfort. There are three kinds of temperatures when you consider bearded dragons. There is the ambient or standard temperature which should be around 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking spot is a warmer area and is warmer than the overall tank. Ideally, the basking area's temperature should be around 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool spot should have the coolest temperature which should be around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your dragon is exposed to a high temperature then they may try finding a cool area. Hence you may also see them panting. If your dragon is feeling cold then they have may have digestive issues and become lethargic. If the humidity is too high or low then that can cause the dragon stress as well. The level of humidity in the dragon's cage should be around 35 to 40 percent.
Light can cause some problems as well especially if the light is too bright. If the light is dark that could be an issue as well. If there are any new changes in the cage then the dragon can get stressed as well. Hence, you should only make any changes every 3 or 4 months. If your dragon's beard is black then that means they are stressed. You can also check their bellies to see if they are stressed, if they have lines or ovals on their belly then that means they are stressed.
How You Can Stop Your Dragon From Glass Surfing
This behavior usually indicates stress and hence you should try to address the reason why your dragon is stressed. Consider what may be causing your dragon stress and then make appropriate and tiny changes. Other adjustments and changes that you can make as are as follows.
Buy A Larger Tank
As your dragon becomes an adult, they need more space than a juvenile dragon was happy in. You should offer them enough space so they are happy and healthy.
Provide Appropriate Lighting
It is important to have the right lighting cycles, set up and temperature to keep your dragon healthy and happy. You should use accurate and good devices to measure the temperature and humidity of the enclosure.
Offer Proper Enrichment
If your dragon is glass surfing because he or she is bored then you should entertain them. You can take your dragon out of the cage and spend some time with them by playing games or just interacting. Giving them attention and introducing them to new activities and toys can be a good form of interaction. You can also take them for a walk. If you cannot offer them a lot of time then you should at least take them out of their cage and handle them with care for a little while.
If you see your dragon scratching the glass, it does not mean your dragon will be forever stressed. However, it can indicate that your dragon is bored. You can also check other signs to see if your dragon is stressed such as a darker color or stress marks, reduced activity levels, or appetite loss. If you can decipher your dragon's behavior then you can determine what is troubling them before the problem gets worse. If you cannot resolve their behavior on your own, then you should visit a doctor to get them examined.
These are some of the main reasons why a bearded dragon may claw at the walls aka "glass surf." As always, if you're concerned about the health of your dragon be sure to contact a licensed veterinarian.