As anyone who’s had a leopard gecko before can tell you, there are a lot of things that these reptiles do that can be characterized as cute. One of them is glass surfing. But why do they do this?
Leopard geckos glass surf for a variety of reasons. For instance, they could be uncomfortable because their tank is too small or they have to share it with another pet. Alternatively, they could be stressed out because their tank is too cold.
What is glass surfing?
Since leopard geckos have narrow clawed toes and don’t have sticky toe pads, they’re not good at climbing. As such, they look like they’re surfing whenever they try to climb up glass surfaces. That’s why this common leopard gecko behavior is called glass surfing. It indicates that your leopard gecko is trying to get out of its tank and can be caused by a variety of reasons.
13 Reasons why your leopard gecko is glass surfing
Here are the top 13 reasons why your leopard gecko is glass surfing:
1. Tank size problems and overcrowding
The most common reason why leopard geckos glass surf is to try to get out of a small or overcrowded tank. So always ensure that your leopard gecko has a tank of at least 20 gallons and avoid housing it with other geckos. Even though leopard geckos can live in small colonies in the wild, it’s hard to recreate such conditions in a tank. As such, housing several leopard geckos together can cause stress and an impulse to flee, especially if the geckos are of different sizes.
2. New environment
When you first bring a leopard gecko home or change their tank, they can start glass surfing as a way to deal with the resulting stress.
3. Hunger or overfeeding
Hunger is one of the most common reasons why leopard geckos glass surf – it makes them willing to leave their tank in search of food. Interestingly, overfed leopard geckos can also get stressed enough to want to escape via glass surfing.
4. Inexperience and curiosity
When you bring an inexperienced leopard gecko home, they may be stunned by the transparent glass walls of their tank and try to go through them. Discovering that they can’t do this may even make them more curious and compel them to try climbing their way out of the tank. With time though, they’ll get used to the glass.
5. Confusing a reflection for a real gecko
When your leopard gecko catches a glimpse of its reflection in the wall of its tank, it can think it’s another gecko and become territorial. In a fit of aggression, it may try to climb the glass walls to get to its rival.
It’s common for leopard geckos to glass surf in an attempt to reach attractive objects that they see are located outside their tank. These could be flickering lights or even flies. As silly as it may seem, sometimes leopard geckos even glass surf out of boredom. This is particularly common during their most active hours – at dawn and dusk.
7. Extreme temperatures
Since leopard geckos are ectothermic, they depend on external temperatures to heat their bodies and make integral functions like digestion possible. So when temperatures are too high or too low in your gecko’s tank, they not only affect your gecko’s health but also its mood. They particularly lead to symptoms like panting, immunosuppression, rejection of food, and lethargy. This can lead to stress and compel your pet to try to escape their enclosure through glass surfing.
In case you use overhead lights to heat your leopard gecko’s tank, you may even notice it glass surfing its way to the lights.
8. Low tank humidity levels
If your leopard gecko is constantly exposed to low humidity levels, it will have shedding problems and end up stressed. This can easily encourage them to try climbing up the walls of their glass enclosure.
9. A shortage of hiding places
In the wild, leopard geckos always have spots to hide from predators and bright light. Such spots include burrows, tunnels, holes, spaces under trees, and areas under rocks. In the absence of similar sleeping and hiding areas in your leopard gecko’s tank, it may feel the need to climb out of the enclosure.
10. Wrong substrate choice
Using the wrong substrate in your leopard gecko’s tank can make it inhabitable for them, encouraging them to try to escape. For instance, some substrates contain harmful oils that can irritate your leopard gecko’s eyes and skin. On the other hand, others can introduce dust into the tank, causing breathing problems for your gecko. Ultimately, it’s best to avoid earthy, dusty, or grainy substrates like wood shavings or gravel. Instead, opt for flat coverings like paper towels, and newspapers.
11. For breeding purposes
Some leopard geckos will glass surf during their breeding season in an attempt to go look for a mate. Since the breeding season for leopard geckos is usually during spring, single female geckos will glass surf at least once during this season every year. However, male leopard geckos will only do this occasionally.
12. New decorations
Since leopard geckos don’t like change, even something as little as a new decoration can make them eager to escape their tanks. So waking up and buying a new hide or basking log for your gecko can cause more harm than good. If you want to make changes in your leopard gecko’s tank, it’s best to do it slowly over a long period.
13. Escape from mites
Mites not only climb all over your leopard gecko’s body but also bite them. This causes irritation, frustration, lethargy, and reactions like glass surfing, eye clawing, and body rubbing. So if you suspect that your gecko’s tank is infested with mites, use a magnifying glass to locate them. They particularly like to hang out on the skin folds and around the eyes of leopard geckos.
Learn how to catch your leopard gecko if it escapes
How can you keep your leopard gecko from glass surfing?
Depending on the reason behind your leopard gecko’s glass surfing, there are some things you can do to prevent it. These include:
1. Ensuring your leopard gecko is full
It’s important to always ensure that your leopard gecko is full. Feed them at least once every other day and ensure that their insects are gut loaded and dusted beforehand. If you’re worried about your gecko getting obese, concentrate on offering low-calorie insects – just ensure they have high calcium to phosphorus ratio.
To prevent overfeeding, offer your leopard gecko a few insects at a time. Also, always try to feed your leopard gecko when they’re most active – in the evening.
2. Ensure your leopard gecko’s tank is hot and humid enough
To keep your leopard gecko comfortable, it’s important to keep tank temperature and humidity levels optimum. Fortunately, this is easy to do. All you have to do is use heat mats, heat lamps, misting systems, a thermometer, and a hygrometer. As long as you keep the humidity at 30 to 40%, the daytime temperatures in the 80s degrees Fahrenheit range, and the nighttime temperatures in the 70s degrees Fahrenheit range, you should be fine.
3. Create a conducive basking spot
If your leopard gecko is constantly trying to glass surf its way to heat lamps, ensure that they have a conducive basking spot. Keep it elevated and ensure that it’s around 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Add interesting accessories to the tank
One of the best ways to keep your leopard gecko from wanting to escape its tank is by making it more interesting. You can do this by adding some climbing accessories, plants, sheds, and even ornaments. This will help stave off boredom and will keep them from getting distracted by things that are outside the tank. Just ensure to add these things slowly so that you don’t scare your pet.
5. Treat mite infestations
If your leopard gecko’s glass surfing behavior is being caused by a mite infestation, you need to deal with the infestation to stop the behavior. First of all, you’ll have to remove your gecko from its tank and clean it. Secondly, all the original substrate will have to be thrown out, your gecko’s items will have to be removed from the tank, and the enclosure will have to be vacuumed, paying special attention to corners and crevices. This is the most effective way to get rid of all mite eggs.
After you’re done vacuuming, you’ll have to wash the tank and all the accessories with soap and water. This will remove all dirt and drown any remaining termites. Beyond that, you’ll have to apply acaricides like pyrethrins and carbamates on all tank surfaces before putting everything back as it was on top of a new substrate.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to treat your leopard gecko separately and may even have to take them to the vet if the infestation was severe.
Ultimately, glass surfing is a common leopard gecko behavior and generally indicates that your pet is not comfortable. So as long as you ensure that your gecko is getting all they need from their habitat, it’s not usually something to worry about.