If you’ve ever noticed your leopard gecko attempting to run up the walls of its enclosure, you were likely understandably either amused or bewildered by the behavior at first.
However, it’s essential to understand why leopard geckos glass surf, as some are benign, while others are indicative of potential health or enclosure setup issues.
There are several main reasons why leopard geckos glass surf in their enclosures, including boredom, Incorrect enclosure temperature/humidity, distraction, a desire to escape, hunger, feeling cramped, and shedding.
Read on to learn more about the possible reasons why your leopard gecko is glass surfing, when to be concerned, and what to do to address the more serious reasons behind your gecko’s wall-climbing activity.
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What is “Glass Surfing?”
The term “glass surfing” (sometimes also known as wall surfing or glass dancing) has become a common term used in reptile-keeping communities in recent years to refer to any animal (usually lizards) climbing the walls of its enclosure.
Most reptile enclosures have smooth, transparent glass walls, and lizards aren’t physically equipped to climb vertical glass surfaces very efficiently.
Additionally, lizards like leopard geckos become a bit confused when they encounter glass and don’t completely understand why they aren’t able to climb it or walk beyond its invisible barriers.
As a result, from time to time, many leopard gecko owners notice their scaly companions running frantically along the sides of their enclosures, seemingly attempting to run up the walls.
The behavior almost makes your gecko look like it’s skating or surfing along the walls of its enclosure–hence the term “glass surfing.”
But why do leopard geckos engage in such a bizarre activity?
Is glass surfing behavior in geckos ever normal, or should you be worried?
It depends on the root cause of the glass surfing–some causes are completely normal, while others indicate an issue with your gecko’s enclosure setup or even their health.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Glass Surf?
If you know exactly why your gecko is glass surfing, you’ll be able to determine if and when to intervene and make adjustments to their care or enclosure setup.
Fortunately, not all the reasons behind glass surfing require your intervention, and the more problematic ones typically only require straightforward fixes!
The most common reason why leopard geckos glass surf is plain boredom.
Even if the enclosure setup is perfect and your gecko is perfectly healthy, it’s normal for these hardy animals in captivity to become a bit bored from time to time and want to test the boundaries of their enclosures.
If you are unable to find any issues with your gecko’s enclosure size or setup, health, or the environment surrounding their enclosure, boredom is likely the reason for their glass surfing.
In most cases, leopard geckos who only rarely glass surf out of boredom don’t show any other signs of stress and don’t need any intervention or adjustments made to their enclosure or care.
However, adding more enriching decor to the enclosure is a great way to reduce the behavior if it becomes excessive and has no other discernible causes.
Incorrect Enclosure Temperature/Humidity
Another fairly common cause of glass surfing, especially excessive glass surfing, is improper enclosure temperature and/or humidity.
If your leopard gecko is too hot, cold, humid, or dry in their tank, it will experience stress and understandably become quite antsy and uncomfortable.
As a result, to ease their discomfort, your gecko will run up the glass wall of its enclosure to adjust its body temperature and escape to more comfortable conditions.
To prevent your gecko from glass surfing, for this reason, check their enclosure temperature range and humidity daily.
We recommend a digital dual thermometer/hygrometer like this one from Amazon.
For more details on proper leopard gecko temperature, check out our article at the link.
Distractions Outside the Enclosure
Your leopard gecko’s surroundings have a huge impact on its behavior.
This includes the environment outside the gecko enclosure and the inside of the tank itself.
It is common for leopard geckos to become distracted by whatever they see happening outside of their enclosures.
For example, if your gecko is upset by bright lights in the room, notices the TV is on or spots another pet in the home lurking near their tank, they will likely respond to the distraction by glass surfing.
Many geckos do this to escape a perceived threat or run closer to something they find interesting.
If your gecko is upset or frightened by some kind of distraction in the room where its enclosure is located, consider removing the distraction or adjusting the enclosure, so your gecko cannot see whatever is bothering them.
Escaping a Threat Inside the Enclosure
As we touched on above, your gecko’s enclosure setup greatly influences their behavior.
If your leopard gecko is afraid of or upset by something inside of its tank, it will understandably make every effort to escape the perceived threat by glass surfing.
Of course, the “threat” doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual danger to your gecko.
In many cases, the culprit is a leftover feeder insect or two.
Many feeder insects will climb and gnaw on leopard geckos if left in the enclosure for too long.
As a gecko owner, always check your gecko’s enclosure for any leftover feeder insects after every meal.
Do not allow any of your other pets to access the enclosure.
Keep the tank clean and check it for mites often.
If possible, don’t let your geckos have tank mates; keep only one gecko per enclosure to minimize cohabitation stress.
Leopard geckos are surprisingly intelligent animals and even pick up on their owners’ routines.
If your gecko knows when to expect their feeding times, there’s a chance they’ll excitedly glass surf to get your attention and demand their dinner.
Generally, this reason for glass surfing won’t necessitate any concern or intervention from you.
It’s just another adorable way your gecko interacts with you!
Improper Enclosure Size
Nobody likes living in a cramped environment, including leopard geckos!
If your gecko’s enclosure lacks enough floor space or the tank setup is too cluttered to move around and seek shelter freely, they will become uncomfortable, stressed, and irritated.
In turn, your lizard will glass surf in hopes of escaping.
For baby and juvenile leopard geckos, a 20-gallon tank is sufficient.
However, an adult leopard gecko should live in a larger glass tank, at least 30 to 40 gallons in size.
Cut down on unnecessary clutter and provide your gecko’s terrarium with plenty of space to move around and a hide or two to enjoy some privacy.
Check out our complete leopard gecko enclosure setup guide for more details about your pet’s needs.
Although shedding isn’t exactly painful for reptiles, it is often uncomfortable and annoying.
Lizards like leopard geckos shed in “patchwork” pieces which gradually fall off as they become loosened and the new skin layer underneath develops.
It is common for shedding leopard geckos to be more active, irritable, and anxious than usual.
This often results in glass surfing while they struggle to remove their shedding skin, which is normal for your gecko to do.