Have you ever wondered why Bearded Dragons dig inside their tank? Digging is a very common behaviour for Bearded Dragons so I decided to do some extensive research to find out exactly why they do this and this is what I found.
So why so Bearded Dragons dig? Bearded Dragons dig for two main reasons. The first reason is when their tank becomes too warm and they are struggling to regulate their body temperature. Digging low helps them to find cooler spots in the tank. The second reason is when Females dig to create a space to hide their eggs when they lay them.
Read on to find out other common situations where your Bearded Dragon might be digging, if it’s unhealthy for your Dragon and lots more.
What Is Bearded Dragon Digging?
Ok, so what actually is Bearded Dragon digging? You will often notice that your Dragon will dig holes and caves in its tank and this is classed a ‘digging’.
Generally, this is a perfectly natural behaviour and doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or you need to panic.
This is something that they would do in the wild for many reasons and they won’t stop just because they are in the captivity.
There are some situations where you may want the digging to stop for both you and your Dragons health and we will look at those in this article.
Is The temperature Too Hot?
While digging is a natural behaviour for your Bearded Dragon, if you notice that it is digging a lot more than usual then you might want to look for other reason why this is happening rather then just natural behaviour.
One of the most common reasons for digging is that the temperature in the tank is too hot and your Dragon just can’t regulate its body temperature.
They dig in an attempt to get lower as they are using the law of science that dictates that the lower you go the cooler the ground is.
It’s important for you to do two things. The first is to provide both a basking area and a cool spot and also the right temperature in both those areas.
If you’re not quite sure about the temperatures your Bearded Dragon needs then take a look at this post. It’s basically the ultimate temperature guide for Bearded Dragons.
Basking Area & Cool Spot
The basking area and cool spot are vital for your Bearded Dragon because once they reach their optimal temperature they will have times in the day where they need to cool down a little.
If the temperature is the same throughout the tank then they won’t be able to regulate their temperature and cool down and this can cause them to want to dig to find a cooler spot in the tank.
The Right Temperatures
Having the right temperature in the basking area and in the cool spot is just as vital.
Your Dragon needs the right amount of heat and light for important things like calcium absorption and food digestion to name but a few and having temperatures that are either too hot or cold isn’t good for your Dragon.
Below is a guide to the right temperatures you should have in your tank:
You should also turn off the basking bulb at night to keep the temperature stable across the whole tank and also allow your Bearded Dragon the time the rest and sleep.
Staying close to these temperatures should stop digging due to your Breaded Dragon getting too hot and not being able to regulate its body temperature.
Take a look at this temperature chart below.
Please Note: This chart should be used as a guide only and you should always consult your vet.
Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide
|Bearded Dragon Temperature Guide|
|Basking Area 95°-100°F|
|Cool Spot 75°-80°F|
Why Do females Dig?
Females can dig for all the same reasons that a male can dig, however, they will also dig when they are getting ready to lay eggs. The Spruce Pets also talk about this situation on their blog.
It doesn’t matter if they have been mating or not, from time to time females can still lay eggs.
You will notice your female Dragon scratching and digging in what often looks to be an erratic manner.
This is perfectly normal behaviour and you should let them dig as they please.
Using the right substrate is going going to make your Bearded Dragon a lot happier in these times as they will be able to dig neat little holes and caves and not get frustrated scratching at things like a newspaper.
I recommend using excavator clay for your substrate as your female will be able to dig in a natural way that is close to her natural habitat and this will make her happier.
If you want to know the exact substrate I highly recommend you use then you need to check this page out as it shares the best substrate for Bearded Dragons.
Ultimately it’s unto you what substrate you use but a would recommend using that is good quality and your female likes to dig in.
Digging Due to Brumation
If you’re not sure what brumation is, it’s the reptile form of hibernation. Bearded Dragons will generally go into brumation for short periods of time once they reach adulthood.
Brumation is a natural behaviour for your Dragon as in the winter they would sleep to conserve energy when in the wild.
Bearded Dragons are known to dig before they go into brumation to create a hole so they can sleep in. The research I’ve done here can be backed up by the beardeddragon.org who also talk about this in their post about bearded dragon behaviour
This helps them to regulate their body temperature while they are asleep.
Bearded Dragons still often want to brumate in captivity as this natural behaviour never leaves them.
Both males and females can brumate and there is little you can do to stop it from happening. You can only aid the process and make things as comfortable as possible for them.
If you want to learn everything you need to know about brumation my ultimate brumation guide is for you. It explains brumation is simple terms and gives you all the information you need as an owner.
Can Fear Or Intimidation Cause Your Bearded Dragon to Dig?
If your Bearded Dragon is feeling frightened or intimidated then they can express a number of behaviours.
Usually, they will bob their head, wave their arm or even puff up their beard in these kinds of situations, however, you can also sometimes see them dig out of fear and intimidation.
Let’s look at the different situation where your Dragon could feel the need to dig through fear and intimidation and how to stop it from happening.
Another Bearded Dragon
If you have more than one Bearded Dragon in the same tank then chances are that at some point you are going to get problems with the dragons trying to fight for dominance.
It’s very common for one of the dragons to become dominant other the other one and basically saying “I’m the boss”.
When this happens the other Dragon will often get stressed and start displaying behaviours such as digging, slow head bobbing and arm waving.
When this happens then you need to split them us as soon as possible as the weaker Dragon will often start to lose it’s appetite and will often also not be allowed to bask by the dominant Dragon.
These two things alone will make your Dragon very unhealthy and should be avoided.
The best thing to do is to split them up into separate tanks. You might also have to move them into separate rooms because if they can still see each other the problems can still persist.
Other Pets In The Home
It’s also common for other pets in the home such as cats and dogs to scare your Bearded Dragon.
This can cause them to dig out of fear and intimidation. Dogs that are giddy or cats that prowl close to the tank can be scary characters to a small Bearded Dragon.
If you notice this behaviour only happening once in a while when there isn’t too much cause for concern.
It might just have been that your pet startled your Dragon and they were scared and then settled down shortly after, however, if you noticed this behaviour happening every time your pet is coming into the room then you might want to consider taking some action.
There is only two things that you can really do. The first is to keep your pet out of the room that you Bearded Dragon is housed in. This can sometimes be a real pain especially if your Dragon is housed in the living room.
This option can feel like you are isolating your pet when it hasn’t really done anything wrong.
The second thing you can do is to move your Bearded Dragon to another room in the house where your pet can gain as much access to.
Again, this can feel like you are isolating your Bearded Dragon when it hasn’t done anything wrong but spitting them up it the best option at least until your Dragon has a chance to lower it’s stress levels for a while.
Toys & Small Objects
This always seems a weird one when i first mention it but stay with me and i will explain why this can be an issue.
Simple everyday objects like children’s toys, socks and ornaments that look harmless to me and you can easily look like a predator to your Bearded Dragon.
These items can instantly scare your Dragon and they can be found digging out of fear and intimidation.
Usually, these items such as toys and the odd sock laying around aren’t going to be a huge problem because they will be removed the same day so your Dragon won’t be stressed for a long period of time.
The only things you need to keep an eye on are the objects that take a permanent fixture in the house such as an ornament.
If you place an ornament close to your Bearded Dragons tank and it starts digging through fear because it mistakes it for a predator you might find that in a short period of time this behaviour settles down.
On the other hand, this behaviour could continue or even get worse. This is when you will want to think about moving the object that is causing the problem as the stress levels caused to your Dragon aren’t good for long periods.
Placing Your Bearded Dragons Tank Near The Window
I’m a big fan of placing your Bearded Dragon near the window if it’s in the right environment and situation.
I think this can be a wonderful experience your Dragon to be able to see the clouds, trees and everything else the outside has to offer.
This really helps to stimulate your Bearded Dragon and stops them from getting bored, however, there are times when they can get frightened and intimidated from what they see outside.
Birds and cats can be a huge cause for concern to your Dragon and sometimes it’s just not a good idea.
If you notice your Dragon digging through fear from something they have seen on the outside then you will have to judge if this is a one-off or if this is something that is happening daily.
If it’s happening daily then i would suggest moving them away from the window as it’s clearly not an experience that they are enjoying.
Can Having a Tank With Hides Can Stop Your Bearded Dragon Digging?
If you notice that your Bearded Dragon is frightened and intimidated and displaying any behaviours that indicate this such as digging, arm waving slow head bobbing and so on then having a tank with lots of hides can really help.
If you give your Dragon a tank that is close to its natural habitat with lots of plants, rocks, climbs and hides then you will instantly make it feel safe and comfortable.
The hides you provide will give your Bearded Dragon a safe place to escape to if ever they feel threatened or unsure of something.
If they don’t have hides to retreat to then they can often resort to digging to create their own hide.
I’ve created a list of the tunnels, hides and tank decor that I personally use to keep my Bearded Dragons happy and stress-free, you can check it out here
Do Baby Bearded Dragons Dig?
Baby Bearded Dragons are just as prone to digging as adults apart from they won’t lay eggs yet.
When you first bring a baby Bearded Dragon home you may find that it is digging quite a lot due to being unsettled in its new home.
This is quite a big change for them and everything is new. Things, like having a new tank and getting used to other pets, can all have a big impact on how fast they settle.
The main thing is to monitor the situation and look for all the things we have already talked about and of course, make sure that your tank temperatures are correct.
if you have everything in place then they should settle pretty quickly.
Is Digging Unhealthy to Your Bearded Dragon?
Digging is a natural behaviour for your Bearded Dragon and it is something they will do at some point, and probably multiple times over the course of their life.
Although there are certain situations where you will want to monitor the reasons for their digging and see if you need to take action.
Applying the correct temperature is their tank and making sure they aren’t getting intimidated constantly are two things that you will need to be aware of.
In most cases, if your Dragon feels it needs to dig then you should allow it to dig especially females that are looking to lay eggs.
What Substrate Should You Use?
There a whole host of different substrates that you can use for your Bearded Dragon.
Some are high quality and some you need to stay away from.
If you really want to give your Dragon the best environment to both live in and dig then i suggest using excavation clay.
This is the closest thing to their natural habitat and you can mould it into hills and valleys you will basically have the ability to make some amazing terrains for your Bearded Dragon to explore.
Your Dragon will be able to dig and make caves with ease and you won’t have to worry about the chance of impaction through ingesting small particles when digging and feeding. Here I share why I highly recommend you use it too and the best place to get hold of it.
There are other substrates that can work but i would think long and hard about using things like a newspaper when your Bearded Dragon wants to dig as this will only lead to frustration.
I hope you now know exactly why Bearded Dragons dig. I have tried to cover all the situations you need to be aware of and how to deal with them.
Remember that this is a natural behaviour for your Bearded Dragon so they will more than likely dig at some point.
Just make sure you are monitoring the reasons why they are digging and taking the appropriate action if you need to as well as providing them with a suitable high-quality substrate.
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