Does a bearded dragon recognize its reflection?
You know your bearded dragon needs sources of mental activity, and you’re wondering if a mirror around its enclosure could provide it.
You may have seen videos of bearded dragons waving at their reflections.
Is this just cute, or is there something else behind the waving?
Are there other ways to mentally and physically engage your pet?
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Would My Bearded Dragon Like A Mirror?
Like many other animals, bearded dragons do not recognize their reflections as themselves. Most likely, they will probably think their reflection is another bearded dragon. Unfortunately, this may cause problems since bearded dragons are solitary and territorial animals.
This is part of the reason why most experts recommend against cohabitating these lizards in a bearded dragon habitat.
Bearded dragon owners who have experimented with mirrors in or just outside the tank notice their pets waving at the reflection.
Most often, we interpret a bearded dragon wave as a cute hello.
This is giving human motivation to an action, which, in dragons, is submissive behavior.
It is more likely your pet is stressed out by seeing its reflection since it thinks another beardie is invading its space and is adopting a submissive posture to ward off any fights or violence from the intruder.
In worst-case scenarios, owners have reported their dragons running at the tank’s glass to get at the mirrors, going on the offensive against the intruding animal.
This reaction could cause grave injury.
To prevent this sort of stress, it is best not to add a mirror inside or outside your pet’s tank.
What About Home Mirrors Around My Space?
You may now be worried about any mirrors you currently use around your house, especially if you let your beardie roam around your space.
These should not be as much of a problem.
If your bearded dragon cannot see the mirror from where they live, they should not think another lizard invades its space.
As long as your pet is not reacting with aggression towards any dressing or bathroom mirrors when it encounters them, don’t worry about taking them down.
If your pet does react aggressively, one solution may be to cover the mirrors with cloths when you let your beardie out of its home and into yours.
What Is Bearded Dragon Glass Surfing?
Even without a mirror, your bearded dragon may frantically scratch or climb up the glass of their tank.
While this may be from seeing their reflection in the glass, there are many potential causes for this behavior, commonly referred to as glass surfing.
This may include them running back and forth along the side of the tank.
Glass surfing could be a sign of stress or boredom.
Captive bearded dragons are especially susceptible to boredom and depression.
Mental stimulation and regular physical activity are recommended to combat stress and boredom-related behavior.
If your beardie can see its reflection in the glass, we recommend putting a suitable background around three sides of the habitat.
Your pet may also be attempting to get through the clear glass, not recognizing it’s a solid barrier.
It may not have enough places to hide in its tank, or it may be searching for food.
Beardies may glass surf because something in their habitats is off, causing stress.
This could be caused by anything from inadequate temperatures and lighting to seeing a bigger and more threatening animal outside their tanks.
If you are keeping multiple beardies close to each other and seeing each other, this may also be causing stress.
Make sure to put a visual barrier between tanks.
If a female bearded dragon is ready to lay her eggs, she may be scratching at the glass because she can’t find a suitable place to lay them.
It is essential to address this cause as soon as possible since egg-binding may cause severe complications for your pet.
A separate egg-laying box with several inches of dirt should help her feel comfortable enough to lay her eggs.
If not, and your pet goes several days without laying eggs, contact your veterinarian.
Bearded Dragon Toys And Activities
While mirrors are not recommended, other toys and items are.
Mental stimulation and physical activity are both crucial for your pet’s quality of life.
Without them, dragons easily get bored and depressed.
In the wild, a bearded dragon would hunt and forage throughout the day, engaging in both mental and physical activity.
In a standard enclosure, this constant activity is much harder to achieve.
This is part of why giving them safe time outside of their enclosures is extremely beneficial for these pets.
Adding certain items to their habitats, like hammocks or beds, will also increase mental and physical activity.
Bearded Dragon Ball
While these plastic balls were originally created with hamsters and gerbils in mind, they work for a hunting activity for your bearded dragon.
Put crickets, roaches, or other live insects inside the ball.
When you have your beardie outside their habitat, put down the ball.
From there, watch them push the ball around to get their insect goodies.
Something as simple as a plastic ball may provide a wonderful opportunity for hunting behavior and movement.
You will want to make sure your bearded dragon doesn’t overexert themselves during this activity.
Also, make sure you clean up any insects which get “left behind” after your bearded dragon is done with this game.
You don’t want a roach or cricket infestation in your home!
Swing Or Hammock
A hammock or swing provides a great opportunity for your bearded dragon to activate its muscles.
As long as the hammock is sturdy enough to support your pet’s weight and it is easy to clean, it’s a great addition to a basking spot.
After installation, you may catch your bearded dragon sleeping in it!
If you feel crafty, a bearded dragon hammock is easy to create on your own!
Here are our picks for the best bearded dragon beds available.
Leash For Walks
The idea of a bearded dragon leash may seem like a weird suggestion, but many bearded dragons like going outside on walks.
Exposure to direct sunlight is great for them, and the experiences and outside mental stimulation go a long way in preventing depression.
If you plan on taking your beardie for a walk, make sure the temperature outside is ok for them.
Snowy winter walks are out of the question for an ectothermic animal.
One potential danger with walks is if your dragon hunts and eats wild insects outside.
Wild-caught insects are more likely to have come in contact with pesticides and insecticides, which could harm your pet.
Make sure you are visiting your vet regularly if your bearded dragon is regularly eating wild insects.
Your bearded dragon may also like being outside in the rain.
They may, however, get distracted by it and attempt to escape.
If you have them on a leash, this should not be as much of a problem.
However, you should still proceed with caution.
Long Tweezers And Clear Insect Containers
Another item which may be used to encourage hunting behavior is a pair of long tweezers.
Take a live insect in the tweezers, moving it above your beardie’s head to play chase.
They will usually go for it, but be careful, as with the plastic ball game, not to overdo it.
Like a plastic ball, putting moving insects in a clear container or box also encourages hunting behavior.
You may see your beardie scrabble at the box to get the treats inside.
Along with walking, one surprising activity a bearded dragon may enjoy is swimming!
Swimming provides great exercise and is especially helpful if you have an outdoor pond or a suitable bathtub.
We do not recommend letting your pet swim in highly chlorinated water.
While swimming, they may drink it and absorb it through their vent.
Chlorine, if consumed, may cause internal damage.
It may also dry out their skin, just like it does with humans.
This is also a reason why you should dechlorinate their drinking water.
Warning! Make sure the water isn’t too deep, and the bearded dragon has plenty of spaces to rest and float.
Excavator Clay Kit
In the wild, bearded dragons love to burrow, dig and explore.
Using an excavator clay kit for their tank will help you create built-in hides and caves.
The clay texture makes it unlikely this substrate will cause impaction concerns, and other loose substrates may be layered on top of it.
Any caves and formations you create will also more accurately mimic your pet’s natural habitat.
Mirrors are not generally recommended close to a bearded dragon’s habitat.
Since a bearded dragon does not recognize their reflection, they will more likely think it is a rival dragon, come to invade their territory.
This causes stress.
Other stressors may lead to a behavior called glass surfing.
If you see glass surfing, be sure to address the potential causes as soon as possible.
While mirrors are not an appropriate source of mental stimulation, you should still provide your pet with activities and toys that promote mental and physical activity.
There are many low-cost and fun options for you and your pet.