15 Bearded Dragon Behaviors And What They Mean

1. Waving

In the wild, bearded dragons also wave to other beardies and animals, while in captivity, they wave to their caregiver. A waving bearded dragon can be very intriguing when the pet lifts one of its front feet and waves. It literally seems like the lizard is saying ‘Hi,’ but is it?

These lizards wave to acknowledge your presence or show submission. This is why the habit is more familiar in baby and juvenile beardies than the mature ones. By showing compliance, they reduce the chances of predators or other beardies attacking them. It might reduce as the beardie matures and becomes more dominant than submissive.

2. Glass Surfing

Also known as glass dancing, this is one of the most common bearded dragon behaviors, and it’s often a sign of stress or agitation.

When glass surfing, the reptile appears to be attempting to climb up the sides of the enclosure, often with its belly against the glass and standing on its hind feet.

A glass surfing bearded dragon will also likely run up and down in the habitat or turn black. Figuring out what is triggering the reaction from the lizard will help eliminate the behavior or assure you that the reptile is okay.

Glass surfing in beardies is often a sign of stress. Some of the most common bearded dragon stress factors include keeping multiple beardies in the same enclosure, boredom, a small enclosure, scary accessories in the enclosure, poor lighting, and starvation. One or multiple of these factors can make your pet glass surf.

Seeing its reflection is a less harmful reason your bearded dragon might be climbing the glass. Besides stressing the animal, it often leaves your glass enclosure with scratch marks.

To stop this, use an appropriate background to wrap the sides of the tank.

Adjusting the conditions will be enough, but if the pet is also not eating and acts lethargic, you might need to contact an exotic vet for a medical examination.

3. Head Bobbing

Head bobbing is more common among male bearded dragons than females. Males often use it to attract females or show dominance to other male lizards in the wild. In captivity, your pet might exhibit this behavior during the mating season, show discomfort when you introduce a new beardie in the cage, or indicate stress.

When head bobbing is a sign of stress, it is often accompanied by puffing up. Major stress factors for these lizards include having a new beardie in the enclosure, live feeder insects that bite, or new tank accessories such as toys or hides.

In addition, if the bearded dragon is head bobbing while asleep, it might indicate that the light in the enclosure is too much. These lizards sleep best when their environment is completely dark, and light when sleeping can interfere with their sleep cycle.

Further, a short head bob from a bearded dragon might be to acknowledge a fellow beardie or human in their space.

4. Puffing Up

Bearded dragons puff up for both good and bad reasons.

Intimidation is one of the key reasons why beardies puff up. Puffing up makes them appear bigger in an attempt to scare prey. In addition, they might puff up to show dominance when another beardie is in their enclosure.

When the reptile puffs up during a bath, this might indicate that the water level is too high and the pet is stressed. It will puff up to try to float and avoid drowning. If your beardie does so, remove it from the water, and next time, ensure that the water level does not exceed its knees.

5. Digging

Beardie’s often dig right before brumation, which occurs as winter approaches. Even in captivity, your pet might still dig into the substrate due to the natural instincts to brumate.

In such a case, providing the pet with a conducive environment for brumation would be ideal. Reduce the daylight hours, lower the temperatures, provide fresh water and keep disturbance minimal.

If your pet is female, then it might also dig when gravid. A pregnant beardie will dig in preparation for a place to lay the eggs. You certainly don’t expect this to occur unless you have a male and female bearded dragon in the same habitat.

6. Hissing

A hissing beardie is angry, scared, or startled, and it is hissing to show aggression. It is never for a good reason. The lizard will hiss in the presence of another animal or you as a sign to show discomfort.

In captivity, the hissing as a sign of aggression might be due to overhandling, lack of hiding areas, incorrect tank temperature, or seeing their own reflection.

Whichever the case, you should leave a hissing bearded dragon alone or provide suitable habitat living conditions.

7. Changing Color

Beardies can change color in specific body parts because they have cells known as chromatophores. These cells have color pigments, and they reflect light that produces the color when they respond to their environment.

Color change over several months, with the colors getting brighter or darker, is normal in bearded dragons. It happens as they age. The brightening of the colors could also indicate that the reptile is in a good mood. A sudden color change is what you should worry about, and the most common is the bearded dragon turning black.

Temperature regulation is one of the key reasons why bearded dragons turn black. When the temperatures are low, they become darker to help them absorb more warmth to regulate their body temperature.

It also reduces the lizard’s duration to attain its ideal body temperature. Thus, it is common for beardies to have a black color in the morning and the intensity reduces as the day progresses.

Feeling threatened, aggressive, territorial, lonely, uncomfortable, or sick are other reasons for sudden color changes in bearded dragons.

If the lizard has been in brumation, your beardie might turn black when adjusting to longer daylights and higher temperatures. Worry not; the dark color will fade as the reptile transitions.

8. Mouth Gaping

This is another mechanism through which bearded dragons regulate their body temperature and is often evident when the reptile is basking. Although it is often a sign of trouble with other animals, indicating an underlying respiratory problem, it is normal behavior in these lizards.

Bearded dragons do not sweat. When the enclosure is too hot, they open their mouths to cool down, thus regulating their body temperature. It is beneficial, especially in the wild, where they experience extreme temperature changes.

If your bearded dragon is often gaping, the enclosure might be too hot, and you should adjust the position of the basking lamp.

Place it in an area that only covers half the enclosure and leaves a cooler side for the beardie to cool down when not basking.

Although rare, gaping in male bearded dragons can also be a show of dominance.

9. Tail Twitching

Bearded dragons’ tails twitch when looking for food, and they do so in the same manner a dog does as a show of excitement. Although your pet will not be hunting in captivity, it might still tail twitch when chasing after live feeder insects in the tank.

They might also do so due to overhandling or discomfort with being held.

Tail twitching in bearded dragons might also indicate that they suffer from metabolic bone disease, an illness associated with calcium deficiency. In such a case, the twitching is involuntary and often arises due to muscle spasms.

10. Pancaking

Flattening out in bearded dragons, also known as pancaking, often occurs when the reptile attempts to regulate its body temperature. The behavior helps increase the surface area that can absorb heat.

Pancaking is more common in the morning, but if you notice your beardie doing so throughout the day, then the enclosure’s temperature might be lower than ideal.

On average, the beardie’s tank temperature must be between 75 – and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. To correct low enclosure temperatures, you might need to get a bulb with a higher wattage.

11. Black Beard

Male bearded dragons turn their beard black during mating. In captivity, a black beard in the lizard is only a sign of mating if you have a female and male in the same enclosure.

Another reason your bearded dragon’s beard might have turned black is being aggressive, scared, or showing dominance. It might also happen as the pet adjusts to changing enclosure conditions after brumation.

12. Eye Bulging

Yet another intriguing bearded dragon behavior, we have eye bulging. The eyes of these reptiles are on the sides of the heads, and they have excellent colored peripheral vision.

It is entirely normal when your pet beardie bulges its eyes when shedding or after. In addition, short-term eye bulging, which does not exceed an hour, is also okay.

However, extended eye bulging is a point of concern and could indicate sore eyes or swollen which might be caused by sand getting into their eyes.

Examine the eyes for foreign objects and use reptile-specific eye drops to remove them.

If there are no foreign objects, the pet might suffer from a bacterial infection often accompanied by discharge. Contact an exotic vet if the pet still bulges the eyes after using eye drops.

13. Closing One Eye

While some of the reasons why bearded dragons close one eye are not to worry about, others indicate a serious problem. Your beardie might close one eye to get a clear focus of prey or anything else you should not worry about.

However, the pet might close the eye due to an infection, mite, or parasites. If the behavior is prolonged, you should immediately contact a pet for diagnosis.

14. Lying On Each Other

While bearded dragons lying on each other might seem to be friends, this behavior signifies the opposite.

Bearded dragons lay on each other as a sign of dominance. The dominant one is often on top and receives more UV radiation than the other.

UV rays are vital for these pets as it aids Vitamin D synthesis, essential for calcium absorption and other benefits.

15. Lethargy

Lethargy is one of the most common problems with bearded dragons and is often accompanied by poor appetite and sluggish or minimal movement. When prolonged, you should take the pet for medical assistance immediately.

Some primary causes of lethargy in bearded dragons include sickness, lack of UVA radiation, poor heating, bad diet, overfeeding, dehydration, parasitic infections, stress, and poor husbandry. The lizard might also be lethargic in winter and it is brumating or hypoglycemia which often occurs after brumation.

Do not confuse lethargy with laziness. A lazy beardie will have minimal activity for about two days, then resume normal activeness.

However, a lethargic bearded dragon will not move around even after a few days but instead remain sluggish, staying in one place without moving a lot.

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