Have you noticed your bearded dragon digging? Do you have concerns about this behavior?
When bearded dragons dig, it can be a little alarming, particularly if you’ve never seen your pet do it before. Many new bearded dragon owners find themselves asking why is my bearded dragon digging?
There are many reasons for digging behavior in bearded dragons. Commonly when you notice digging behavior in your bearded dragon, it can mean that he is trying to make his basking spot more comfortable. If she’s a female bearded dragon, she might be trying to prepare a nest. Or it could be a sign of impending brumation.
In this article, we’ll look into this natural behavior and all of the reasons you might be seeing it.
Is It Normal to See a Dragon Digging?
Yes. It is quite normal to see a bearded dragon dig. There are many ok reasons why a bearded dragon digs, but there are also reasons why you might be concerned.
Though digging behavior can be caused by many reasons that you don’t need to worry about, it can also be caused by stress or other health issues.
If you rule out negative reasons, you need to facilitate your dragon digging by using an appropriate substrate.
This is because a bearded dragon digging on the wrong surface can cause problems. With the right substrate, you prevent your beardie from causing harm.
Even though this can be normal behavior, there are still reasons for it. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why bearded dragons dig.
What Does Digging Behavior Look Like?
If you’re seeing new behavior and you’re not sure if it’s digging or something else here is some information about what it looks like when a bearded dragon digs.
You will see the bearded dragon’s legs push the substrate away and create holes. This is especially obvious in a loose substrate.
Top Reasons for Digging in Bearded Dragons
We mentioned a few reasons why your beardie might be digging above. However, there are lots of reasons for this behavior.
Your bearded dragon might dig because:
- She is a female preparing to lay eggs
- The temperature of the enclosure is too high
- He/she is stressed
- He/she is searching for food
- He/she is trying to create space (if there is not enough space in the tank)
- He/she is preparing for brumation
- He/she is trying to find a hiding spot
Let’s look at these in more detail:
Female Bearded Dragons Preparing to Lay Eggs
If you have a male bearded dragon, obviously this won’t be an issue! But female bearded dragons will likely dig before she is ready to lay eggs. You’ll see this for the first time around the age of eight months to twelve months.
The bearded dragon breeding season begins towards the end of winter when bearded dragons become more active after brumation.
Just like any other egg-laying species, bearded dragons can lay eggs without mating. They will, however, be unfertilized eggs.
One of the biggest challenges in bearded dragons is being able to determine their sex correctly. Many bearded dragons are sexed incorrectly and then all of a sudden, you’ll see a clutch of eggs appear!
Owners of a female bearded dragon will need to provide appropriate equipment for her to lay eggs. This includes a lay box. Digging is a sure sign she is getting ready to lay.
If there is no lay box, they might not lay their eggs. This means that the eggs remain inside, which is commonly known as being egg-bound.
When this happens, bearded dragons often require surgery to remove their stuck eggs.
However, going through an invasive operation like this will be dangerous to her health. Thus, it’s always better to provide her with everything she needs to be able to lay eggs.
Bearded Dragons Dig when The Tank’s Temperature Is Too High
High tank temperatures might also be a reason why your bearded dragon is digging. They do this in search of a cooler spot. If this is the reason why bearded dragon digging is happening, you’ll also notice your pet trying to hide in cool spots like under logs, rocks, or under the substrate.
Also, like in dogs, panting is a sign of excessive temperatures – though this can also be normal behavior. As an owner, you need to work out if panting is caused by a hot environment or typical behavior.
Your enclosure temperature shouldn’t be above 46 degrees C. If it goes anywhere above this, your bearded dragon might die because of dehydration or a stroke.
If your enclosure is large, it’s a good idea to have a temperature gradient. This means your bearded dragon can move in between hotter and cooler areas. A temperature of around 23 to 29 degrees C is ideal for hiding when temperatures are high.
This won’t be possible in a smaller enclosure, though. It is always best to choose a larger tank and have a dedicated basking area as well as areas to hide.
Stress in Your Dragon
Bearded dragons experiencing stress will often dig excessively. This behavior shows that they’re trying to escape or hide.
The most common reasons for bearded dragons’ stress are high temperatures (as discussed), bright lights, noise, and cage mates.
In order to keep your dragon healthy, you need to prevent stress. If you do have a cage mate, it’s a good idea to separate them into their own enclosures.
Keeping more than one bearded dragon in the same enclosure – or even the same room – can cause stress.
Bearded Dragons Are Looking for Food
If your bearded dragon is hungry, he might dig. This behavior will most likely occur in beardies who are underfed or who have just eaten a meal that didn’t satisfy them.
Ensure you’re feeding your bearded dragon adequately and give as many live bugs as they need.
As with any diet, you mustn’t overfeed your bearded dragon a certain type of food. Fatty worms, for example, are quite addictive.
If you feed these too often, you might find your pet refusing other bugs or foods in the hope they’ll get more fatty worms!
If you notice your bearded dragon doing this, it is possible to fix it. The only thing you can do, though, is waiting it out.
An adult bearded dragon is more than capable of not eating for up to two months without losing weight. If young bearded dragons do this though, they could die.
There Isn’t Enough Space
If your bearded dragon doesn’t have adequate space in his enclosure, he could be motivated to dig. Just like other pets, bearded dragons like to walk around as they would in their natural habitat.
If they don’t have enough space, they might start digging.
For an adult bearded dragon, you need a tank that is at least 40 gallons. The bigger the better, of course.
Many bearded dragon owners choose tanks of between 60 and 70 gallons to house bearded dragons. This is especially important if you have extra accessories.
A larger enclosure obviously comes at an extra cost, but it provides a much more natural way for your dragon to live.
Bearded Dragons Dig when They’re Preparing for Brumation
Your bearded dragon might also be digging excessively if he is preparing for brumation. This is a common phenomenon for the colder months.
The brumation bearded dragons go through can last three or four months.
When a bearded dragon brumates, he will only eat a tiny amount of food – or nothing at all. You’ll notice him sleeping all the time.
For pets not of a young age who start digging, you could well be seeing the brumation preparation going on – especially if the weather is on the cooler side!
They’re Looking for A Hide
Bearded dragons love to hide. If you see that he has started digging, it could be that he wants to hide or find a cool spot when the temperature is high.
You can prevent digging for this reason by creating a temperature gradient with a hot side or hot spot for a basking area and a cool spot that is hidden by branches or accessories.
Remember a dragon can’t control its own body temperature so it needs a basking spot as well as somewhere cooler.
Some owners also provide a piece of soft fabric or a blanket for their pet to lay in for comfort.
There are lots of other stressors that could cause your beardie to dig. If he feels too crowded – whether that’s because of a tank mate or because of space, he might dig to try and create space.
Noise is also a big consideration. If there are noises that he perceives as threatening (even if they are outside of his enclosure), he might try to find hiding spots.
Another factor that might encourage your bearded dragon to dig is if it sees its reflection in the glass or in a mirror in the room.
If he sees his reflection, you will perhaps see a dominant behavior with him trying to exert dominance of his reflection. You might also see glass surfing in your dragon’s tank if this is the case.
Finally, small objects in the enclosure might prompt him to dig. Some bearded dragons like to have their enclosure with the bare minimum in there otherwise they get stressed.
As we’ve seen, bearded dragons dig for many different reasons. At first, it might seem alarming, and you could wrongly believe that your beardie has a health issue.
However, as long as you check for health issues, it’s likely that your pet is just exhibiting typical bearded dragon behavior!
This normal digging behavior would also prevent you from having to trim your Beardie’s nails, provided of course that you have a suitable substrate.
Whether it’s a female beardie laying eggs or being ready to lay eggs, a problem with loud noises, or space preparing, it’s important to find out the cause of the reason why your bearded dragon is digging.
When you know the cause, you can make changes to the bearded dragon’s tank, as necessary. This might mean creating more space, preparing a laying box for a female who’s getting ready to lay, or creating a temperature gradient with a basking spot.
Once you’ve ticked all the boxes and made sure your beardie is happy, you can leave your dragon to dig away!