The bearded dragon is a very popular pet. They look almost prehistoric, have a name that elicits visions of fire-breathing monsters from folklore, and they have some unique and quirky habits ranging from head bobbing to slow waving. With such an unusual and exotic pet, it can be difficult to determine what is a natural behavior and whether any of the actions of your little beardie mean that they are stressed, ill, or in distress. One such activity is digging.
Digging can seem like a natural thing for a reptile to do, but is it? Does it mean that your beardie is missing something or is ill? Below, we look at six reasons why your bearded dragon is digging, whether it’s a cause for concern, and what action you can take to help remedy the situation.
What Is Digging?
Bearded dragon digging is exactly as it sounds. They will scratch at the substrate and bedding to try and get underneath. The activity may occur during the day, or you may only hear it at night. It could be an occasional issue or an ongoing problem.
Do Beardies Like Digging?
In the wild, bearded dragons are natural diggers. They will dig out tunnels and caves in which to hide, and they can dig under the surface of sand and other substrates to hunt for insects and other natural meals. In captivity, they may enjoy digging, too, but if your reptile is digging too often, has suddenly taken to digging, or is causing themselves physical harm while digging, then it could be a sign of something negative and that you need to take action on quickly.
Alternative Reasons For Digging
If it isn’t for fun or enjoyment, here are the reasons your beardie could have started digging:
1. She’s Getting Ready To Lay
If your bearded dragon is 12 months old or older and female, she could be getting ready to lay eggs. Even if your female beardie has had no contact with a male, she can lay unfertilized eggs. Once laying season starts, she will want to find somewhere safe and warm for her eggs.
Even if you believe your beardie is a male, it may be worth double-checking. Many of these reptiles are sexed incorrectly, and even though you may think you have a male, you could, in fact, have a gravid female.
If this is the case, you can put down a lay box in the middle of the tank. If you do not provide a decent lay box, your female beardie could become egg-bound and can make her seriously unwell.
Do Bearded Dragons Need A Dig Box?
Not all bearded dragon tanks have a dig box area, but because your beardie would enjoy digging in the wild, you may want to include one in your terrarium. If you have a female, then you should provide a lay box or dig box so that she has somewhere to safely lay her eggs and prevent her from becoming egg-bound.
2. She’s Too Hot
There are many ways that you need to care for a bearded dragon, and providing the right temperature in a terrarium is one such way. Beardies like temperatures much higher than we do, but not too high. If the cage is too hot, your beardie could be digging to get cool. Holes that are dug below ground level tend to be cooler.
Your beardie wants a daytime temperature not higher than 92° – 110° Fahrenheit on the hot side of the tank. It will also want a cool area of around 80 °F and nighttime temperatures should be approximately 70 °F.
Bear in mind that panting is natural in a bearded dragon, and it offers a means of self-regulating temperature. If your beardie is sat in a basking spot and panting, this is likely a natural response, but if they are panting and digging to try and get away from the heat, it could be a sign that you have the temperatures too high and you need to look at ways to provide cool areas.
3. She’s Stressed
Stress can be a problem for this lizard, and digging is one potential sign. If your beardie suddenly starts digging erratically, try to look for triggers. It could be that the lights are too bright, there are sudden loud noises that occur at certain times, or maybe one of your other pets is visiting the cage and scaring your beardie. Stress can also be caused by other dragons living in the same enclosure, and you should consider separating them to ensure that they can both enjoy a happy and stress-free life.
4. She’s Hungry
Your dragon could be looking for food. It is possible that you simply aren’t feeding your reptile enough. In which case, they could be digging to look for other insects.
If you have fed a particular type of insect and then stopped, your little one could be looking for a source of this particular food type.
Some foods, like fatty worms, are addictive for bearded dragons. You should stop feeding them, but be prepared for your dragon to go off her food a little while to adjust.
- Related Read: Can Bearded Dragons Eat Grapes? What You Need to Know
5. She Doesn’t Have Enough Space
A beardie with a small tank can get agitated and bored. They will look for something to do, and they may dig to look for extra space and activity. The optimal size of tank for a single bearded dragon is around 60 gallons, and if you have space for a larger tank, it will serve your beardie better. If space is limited and your beardie has started scratching, consider increasing her living space.
6. She Is Preparing To Brumate
Brumation is similar to hibernation. Once your Dragon is over the age of around 12 months, he or she will eat very little and likely want to do nothing more than sleep. They are likely to start brumation during the colder months of the year and may dig to find a safe spot in which to brumate.
- Related Read: Reptile Brumation & Dormancy: What You Need to Know
Bearded Dragon Digging
Bearded dragons need the right conditions in which to thrive. This means that they need a decent size tank that has graduated heat so it includes hot spots and cool spots. If you have a female, she will need a dig box or lay box so that she has somewhere to safely lay eggs. You also need to provide a suitable diet, and while digging is perfectly natural in bearded dragons in the wild, it can be a sign that they need more space, require better heat management in their cage, or are stressed. Look for triggers, consider context, and ensure optimal conditions for your beardie.
Featured Image: Kevin Khoo, Shutterstock