Glass terrariums are a great option for your bearded dragon, but sometimes they can see their reflection and mistake it for a challenging dragon. You can see them stressing themselves but what do you do to help your reptile and prevent the reflection? Here are your options.
So, how do you stop bearded dragons from seeing their reflection? There are a few options to help minimize your bearded dragon from seeing their reflection. These include covering up to 3 sides of the tank with background paper, experimenting with the lighting in and around the terrarium, adding plants and decorations to block/reduce the reflection, or creating distractions.
It can take some effort to figure out which option, or combination of options, will stop your bearded dragon from seeing their reflection or at least reacting to it.
Each reptile has their own personalities, so it can take a bit of time and patience to figure out what’s best for your reptile.
Besides some just work better than others – it comes down to context so a little experimentation will not go amiss.
With this in mind, let’s delve deeper into how you can really help your dragon.
How Do I Stop My Bearded Dragon From Seeing Their Reflection?
The best way to do this is to block the light’s ability to reflect by using background covers or experimenting with the lighting set up inside their enclosure. Stopping your beardie from seeing their reflection can be difficult to solve, but it can be done.
If you’ve noticed your beardie bobbing their head (along with waving), inflating their beard, scratching at the glass, or darkening their color while looking at the glass, they’re stressed by their reflection.
It also could get to the stage where they’ll try to attack the glass, which might lead to injury.
But why are they so concerned?
Well, your bearded dragon is simply mistaking their reflection with a rival bearded dragon.
One that is posing a challenge, or perhaps even a fight for dominance. They are solitary, quite lonely reptiles in the wild, after all.
Your bearded dragon might even be submitting to this ‘false rival’; waving with head bobbing, in particular, is a sign of such submission.
And if this goes on for too long, well it’s prolonged stress, and it’s tiring.
So it must be addressed, or otherwise, you can have a cycle of submission and dominance.
Here is what to do to prevent that:
Cover The Tank
You can choose to cover all three sides of the tank, leaving the front-facing side uncovered.
You can purchase different backgrounds from most pet stores which can help muffle your bearded dragon’s ability to see their reflection.
Plus, it can be a great aesthetic addition to the tank to complete the desert look.
- This southwestern United States scenic background is sized to wraparound 3 sides of our Carolina Custom Cages Terrarium, Large 36Lx18Wx18H.
- Measures 15.875”(H) x 70.75”(L). Printed on moisture resistant, UV resistant, PVC material.
- Simply attach to the outside of your terrarium with clear adhesive tape.
- This image is available for our terrariums 24Lx18Wx18H, 24Lx18Wx24H, 24Lx18Wx36H, 36Lx18Wx18H, 36Lx18Wx24H, 36Lx18Wx36H, 36Lx24Wx18H, 48Lx18Wx18H, 48Lx18Wx24H, 48Lx24Wx18H, 48Lx24Wx24H, 60Lx24Wx24H, 72Lx24Wx18H, 72Lx24Wx24H and 72Lx24Wx36H. This image is also available for standard 20L.
However, some backgrounds can still give off a shadow reflection which might cause your bearded dragon to track and follow it.
Though, this is a natural instinct in reptiles, so don’t worry if that happens.
Covering three sides of the tank could be the trick to calming your dragon down and stopping them from seeing their reflection, but it can negatively affect their visual stimuli exposure.
Beardies love to see as much as they can.
Anecdotally, some owners set up a viewing spot in front of a window and let their beardie enjoy the views for hours on end.
A resourceful trick is to add self-adhesive plastic covering on the most reflective spots of the tank.
This can greatly help stop your dragon from focusing on their reflective decoy and still leave large areas of exposed glass.
Only covering the most reflective areas will allow plenty of light to come in and leave a lot of room for you to monitor on your reptile, as well as giving them free rein to watch their surroundings.
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- 3-mil thick film is waterproof, scratchproof and UV resistant for 5+ years.
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Change The Lighting
Changing the lighting that enters the tanks and the internal lamps too may help reduce reflection.
This can be difficult to experiment with because their basking lamp will cast a reflection against the glass.
You also need to be careful with the angle of the lights.
Never put lights on the side of the tank because your beardie’s eyes are very sensitive to direct light.
If you’ve altered the lighting as much as possible while keeping your dragon happy, adding plants or decorations can provide enough stimuli to distract and block your reptile from seeing their own reflection.
Let’s now see how to use this approach.
What Plants and Decorations Can I Use?
Plants and décor are a big part of your dragon’s vivarium, so it’s vital to pick plants and decorations that are non-toxic to your reptile. Ideally, they would be edible, as most bearded dragons like to chew or lick everything new in their enclosure.
If you’re choosing plants, it is best to use living plants.
Although fake plants offer the convenience of no upkeep and always look good, they may not be the best choice for your dragon.
Some can be toxic and, if there are small parts, could be dangerous if ingested.
Nasturtium plants not only look pretty but can be given to your dragon as a snack every couple of days as part of a salad.
If you’re placing it into the tank, be mindful of how much they snack on it.
When it comes to edible herbs, there’s a lot to choose from.
You can use dill, thyme, peppermint, rosemary, and oregano. But avoid chives (potentially toxic) and parsley (high in oxalates).
The perks of edible herbs are that they’re inexpensive, smell good, and are easily replaced.
So, what about stones or platforms?
Beardies are semi-arboreal and like to climb things, so adding in big stones and branches, especially under the basking lamp, will keep your dragon calm.
Avoid overfilling the tank with these decorations, as your dragon needs around 70% of free space to roam around.
To create the most natural-looking terrarium for your dragon, have at least one branch and platform/rock.
Make sure to judge the size of the branch correctly so that your reptile can get close enough to the basking lamp.
Dragon-free commercially bought branches include those from fruit trees, willow, oak, and maple. Avoid toxic branches such as pine, redwood, cedar, and yew.
No matter if you’ve bought a branch or collected one from your backyard, make sure to sanitize it thoroughly.
Bought ones should be baked for about 50 minutes at 230°F before placing them in the tank. With collected branches, strip the bark to remove bugs and dirt and sanitize in a bleach solution.
An ideal platform or rock would be tall enough to allow for an excellent basking spot but also provide a good spot underneath to hide and rest.
It’s not advised to use collected rocks/stones as they tend to have sharp edges and cannot be sanitized thoroughly enough (may explode if baked).
Is It Bad For Bearded Dragons To See Their Reflection?
Bearded dragons being able to see their reflection is most likely to be stressful for them. Prolonged stress signs include refusing food, dark coloration, not basking, and lethargy.
Essentially, it depends on the dragon.
Some take their reflection as a territorial challenge, and others notice it but don’t care.
If your dragon is stressed because of their reflection, they can exhibit similar symptoms of sickness.
If your reptile isn’t basking or eating/drinking for more than a week, they are extremely vulnerable to vitamin D3 deficiency diseases.
Just like humans, a lack of vitamin D can be dangerous. It’s responsible for maintaining strong bones and keeping calcium in the blood.
Deficiencies of vitamin D in dragons include weakness in their limbs, difficulty in standing up, soft bones, and swollen limbs.
Adult bearded dragons can maintain longer periods of stress than baby dragons, so if your dragon is under three months old and isn’t eating for more than a week, take them to a vet immediately.
Do Bearded Dragons Get Used To Their Reflection?
Although they are intelligent reptiles, bearded dragons do not get used to their reflection, just like most animals. They don’t possess the self-awareness to understand it’s them they see. Each time they catch a glimpse, they will assume it’s a threat to their wellbeing and safety.
For beardies that become stressed by their reflection, it will still be seen as a threat to themselves and their habitat no matter how many times they see it.
Although they don’t get used to it, some bearded owners have noticed their dragon eventually getting bored of the reflection, but this could take weeks or months.
This is too long to leave your dragon stressed.
Instead of trying to adjust your dragon to their reflection, other than stop the reflection altogether or entirely, you can try to promote some play and stimulating activities for them as a distraction.
It’s a great interim solution, or can work simultaneously.
A hamster ball is a great little toy for your dragon to play with.
You can fill it with crickets and insects to incentivize your beardie to play even more.
Don’t let the play go on for more than 15 or so minutes without giving your reptile their much-deserved treat from the ball.
Make sure to buy a big ball that doesn’t have small parts in case of choking hazards.
Another option is to let your dragon out of the tank for a while, either free-roaming in the room/house or in an outdoor playpen.
In both cases, make sure the area they’re moving around in is cleared of potential lizard hazards like exposed lamps, cables, and other animals.
Stopping your dragon from seeing their reflection can be difficult.
It will take some trial and error to find what suits your beardie the best.
If adding background designs doesn’t do the trick, adding plants or encouraging playtime just might.
Thankfully you will get there, and you have several options at least, to try.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.