So now you’ve bought (or been given) your first bearded dragon, and now it raises one of its front legs as if to wave at you! Is she really waving? What do you do? Do you wave back, too? Heck, why is your bearded dragon waving, in the first place?
The most common reason why your bearded dragon is waving is to indicate its submission. No, it’s not saying hello to you, nor is it because she’s female, common anthropomorphic misconceptions about beardies waving.
When your bearded dragon waves at you as you approach it, it’s a sign that she recognizes your superiority and submits to you. But, there are also other reasons why your beardie is waving.
5 Reasons A Bearded Dragon Could Wave
Typically, bearded dragons are territorial loners; they need their own space and scope for movement. So, when they start waving or wave excessively, it’s a signal to you that they are feeling threatened in their environment. Here are five possible reasons for where those threats could be coming from:
1. Check its tank
Is it too small? It could make your beardie feel too enclosed and even trapped. Is it too big? It could make your beardie feel too open and vulnerable. Its tank should be just right for its non-negotiable needs: enough room to move, sufficient range of temperatures, items to climb, and areas to dig.
Daytime temperatures should be between 92 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank should also have a cool area of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime temperatures should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ideal tank size depends on your bearded dragon’s age. For a baby beardie of up to 10 inches long, the smallest tank size it should be placed in should be a 20-gallon tank that measures 24 x 12 x 16 inches, and the largest tank size for it should be a 40-gallon tank measuring 36 x 18 x 18 inches.
For a juvenile beardie of between 10 to 18 inches long, its smallest tank size should be a 55-gallon tank measuring 48 x 13 x 21 inches, and its largest tank size should be a 75-gallon tank measuring 48 x 18 x 21 inches.
For a mature adult and a geriatric adult beardie more than 18 inches long, its smallest tank size should be a 75-gallon tank measuring 48 x 18 x 21 inches, and its largest tank size should be a 120plus-gallon tank measuring 48 x 24 x 24 inches.
2. Cramping its style
Ideally, each bearded dragon should have its own separate tank. But if you house them together, they should not be more than 2 or 3 together. As already mentioned, they are territorial loners, and when they’re feeling cramped, they could exhibit a lot of stress waves. In this case, you’d need at least one 125-gallon tank for housing them together.
They should also be roughly the same size to prevent larger beardies from dominating the smaller ones. Also, never put more than one male in a tank. Given their already territorial nature, this could result in extreme aggression and injuries.
Females should be healthy and at least two years old (when they’re old enough to breed) to be housed with males.
Expert Tip: Younger, smaller, and unhealthy females housed with males could cause problems like egg binding, which is when a female is unable to expel an egg from her body. This can make the female critically ill.
3. Young and unsure
When in groups, juvenile bearded dragons tend to wave a lot even when there’s no sign of obvious dominance nor aggression. Usually, it’s smaller lizards waving at their bigger peers. Their waving style is also experimental or exaggerated, slowly rotating their arms in a circular motion while altering their body position, or switching their waving arms.
However, this could indicate the beginnings of territorial behavior among some of them and they should be watched for signs of dominance and aggression. If they start waving a lot. or more of them start waving, it would be best to separate them into their own tanks.
4. Too much to handle
Is its tank placed in an area where they could see out the window, with birds flying by or other animals like cats and dogs peeking into them? Is a lot of furniture currently being moved around its tank? Is the surface of its tank still too shiny that it sees its own reflection as a threat?
Are you reaching to feed it from the top? In the wild, most attacks come to them from above, so you’re approaching it from the top could be perceived as a threat. These all cause stress for them, either overstimulating them or warning them of impending predators. Try repositioning its tank without a window view.
Move it to another room while you’re moving furniture in the room its tank was previously in. If its tank causes mirror reflections for her, try repositioning the tank lamp or adding more foliage in the tank to break up the tank surface. Try approaching her from the side even with your hand on top. if the tank has no side door. Better yet. choose a tank with side doors.
5. Nowhere to hide
In the wild, bearded dragons are natural diggers. So, in captivity, they likely enjoy digging, too. Does your beardie have enough digging space? When they’re stressed, they dig to find comfort. When they can’t, they will wave to let you know they’re stressed. Usually, female beardies also dig when they’re getting ready to lay.
Expert Tip: In general, beardies also dig when they’re too hot (indicated by their gaping, or opened mouths), hungry, don’t have enough space, or are preparing to brumate (hibernate). So, provide enough and proper digging space or a dig box for your beardie.
What to Do When Your Bearded Dragon Waves
Don’t wave back. It won’t help your beardie, and it will only make you look silly. You might also be moved to take and post a video of her waving online, as it looks cute. Well, she’s far from feeling cute. Instead, try these guidelines for alleviating your beardie’s stress, and making her feel more safe and secure.
1. Address the probable reasons
Go over the 5 reasons previously listed and discussed here. Ensure that its tank environment is just right, and your beardie is not too cramped, nor too exposed. If she’s a young beardie housed with other beardies in one tank, you might want to separate her if she’s waving too much.
Protect her from overstimulation or perceived threats. Provide her with adequate digging space to work her stress off.
2. Make your beardie’s home as close to its natural habitat as possible
In their natural habitat, bearded dragons live in heathlands. coastal dunes, woodlands, tropical savannahs, and deserts. In the wild, they have over 12 hours of intense sunlight every day. creating an environment that’s hot and dry. at low humidity.
They are also semi-arboreal, so they are not extreme climbers. Therefore, in captivity, you must provide an environment that is rich for climbing and hiding, and mimic the intense sun with low humidity.
The recommended dragon setup is one with a 75-gallon tank, with temperatures in the range of 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (high) and at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (low), between 30% to 40% humidity. UVB tube light, and 75w UVA basking light, a reptile carpet for substrate, and branches, hammocks, half-logs, plants, hides, and bath dishes for decoration.
3. In the mood for love
If your beardie is female, is frequently waving, as well as head bobbing and circling her tank, she might just be ready to mate. At this point, you will have to decide whether you want to breed more dragons or not. If you want to breed her, make sure she is at least 18 months old and more than 350gms.
You will also have to find a suitable male dragon for her that’s of equal size and weight. Their habitat should be at optimum condition, with a temperature gradient of 77 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit and basking spot temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with enough room for the two beardies to temporarily live together.
The beardies should have a balanced diet, too with enough calcium. For optimum fertility, provide gradually decreased temperature and daylight hours, for a brumation period of from two to four weeks to two to three months.
If this sounds like too much trouble for you and you’re not ready for the responsibility yet or you simply don’t want to breed her you can just let her be and additionally provide her with enough distracting decorations and digging space to release her pent-up mating energy Female bearded dragons will still lay eggs without a male, but their eggs would be infertile.
When this happens you simply remove the infertile eggs from the enclosure, so they do not spoil and affect her health.
4. Take her to the vet
If you’ve checked for all the probable reasons and addressed them, ensured that your beardie’s habitat is as close to natural as possible, and crossed out mating possibilities, but your beardie still keeps on excessively waving then take her to the vet for a professional checkup.
There are at least four times you should take your beardie to the vet anyway: within the first week of new ownership, for annual checkups, for a parasite check before brumation. and when you suspect any health issue. Occasional waving by your beardie would be not much concern, but too frequent waving might signal more serious issues.
Expert Tip: It’s always better to be safe than sorry and it’s best to take her to a herpetologist or a help vet.
Bearded dragon behavior – from digging to tail waving
In the 1960s, Australia (the main country in which bearded dragons are found in the wild) prohibited the export of these reptiles. Despite this, since they have been bred in the US for years now, they have become a reasonably common pet. As far as we know, there are eight recognized species of bearded dragons or “pogona”.
They might not offer the comfort or company a dog provides, yet there’s a charm in the wave they behave or interact with us. Perhaps it is only because they look like, you know, dragons. With the increase in popularity, a lot of worried owners started to ask questions regarding the behavior of their newly acquired pet.
Here are some of the most conventional ones and the meaning behind them:
- Head bobbing: if your pogona moves its head up and down repeatedly, it is presumably because it’s trying to mate or assert dominance.
- Trying to climb the glass wall: when these species undergo stress or their cage is too small, it’s usual to see them trying to climb (and failing repeatedly at it) the glass wall that separates them from you. If they show this behaviour repeatedly, It might be a good time for an upgrade.
- Digging: creating holes is frequently related to laying eggs or stress, so you might want to look after both possibilities to ensure the wellbeing of your pocket dragon.
- Arm waving: as they develop the sense of hierarchy during their early phase, it’s not strange for young bearded dragons to arm wave as a way to show respect or submission.
- Tail waving: this isn’t listed as a usual trait when it comes to the behaviour of any pogona species. However, they do hold their tails up when feeling alert or hunting. Related to this conduct, some owners affirm tail wagging or tail waving is a clear indicator that their bearded dragon is enjoying its food.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Waiving Its Arms?
Arms waving is common to the bearded dragon so we have nothing to worry about. Though we find the arms waiving quite confusing but adorable at the same time, we have to understand that other reasons and it may vary from one bearded dragon to another.
While arms waiving is generally a common sign of being submissive, docile, and domesticated that is pleasing to know, it can also be a sign of stress, intimidation, and anxiousness. It usually happens when two bearded dragons share the same tank as being territorial creatures as well. Sharing a place can lead to negative feelings like anger.
Other pets in the house also contribute anxiety to the bearded dragons as sometimes, they perceived this animal as an immense threat. And believe it or not, even toys and ornaments can cause fear and alarm because of their size and colors. Having said that, it is important that we slowly and gradually introduce our bearded dragons to this environment so they can adjust, adapt and cope up.
An occasional waiving of arms for a bearded dragon is perfectly fine but a repetitive behavior is a trigger to set the alarm that something is wrong and that has something has to be done. Yes, there are many reasons why is my bearded dragon waving its arms. But one thing is absolute and precise.
That it’s my relationship with my bearded dragon that will define it and will surely make a big difference. I treat my bearded dragon as a living creature that deserves respect and deeper understanding and not just a pet to play and keep. And hope we are all on the same page.
Expert Tip: So the next time we see our bearded dragon waive its arms to us, just smile and say “Hi” because we already know why and what to do!
So, Why Is Your Bearded Dragon Waving?
When your bearded dragon waves, it feels inferior, threatened, scared, or stressed. Therefore, it submits to whoever it’s waving to, and/or exhibits more stressed behavior. It is always a cause for concern when your beardie waves a lot. So, make sure that you take away the things in her environment that’s stressing her and put in what she needs to make her feel more secure and safe.
When your beardie is feeling comfortable in her space, you will get to see and enjoy more of her unique and adorable traits, which are sure to come out and shine as she feels more safe and secure in your care.
Why Bearded Dragons Bob and Wave
In the wild, pogonas or bearded dragons have a social hierarchy among themselves. High-ranking or dominant lizards take the best basking spots. When a lower-ranking lizard attempts to take one of these spots, a superior lizard will strongly bob its head as a sign of dominance, challenge, and aggression.
When a lower-ranking lizard wants to take on this challenge, it will strongly bob back, or simply stay in its place but not wave. When it decides not to take on the challenge, it waves. Both male and female bearded dragons also start bobbing their heads when they’re ready to mate.
Usually, the male will vigorously bob his head to a female to show its dominance and perform a mating display to initiate courtship. The female will bob her head as well, but slower and more subtly, to show acceptance. It will also start waving to indicate her receptivity to being mated.
Your beardie might also strongly bob its head at you to show you that it’s not afraid of you or bob its head weakly at you with accompanying arm-waving motions to show submission to you.
In time, as your beardie learns to trust you, these will lessen or disappear. If they don’t there might be other causes that you need to investigate further. In general, your beardie’s bobbing and waving behaviors are their ways of communicating with you how they’re feeling. It’s best to understand all their possible meanings so you can take better care of your bearded dragon.
Comment below your own experiences with your beardie, or if you have more questions about your beardie’s behaviors.