What Do Bearded Dragons Eat? The Complete Diet Plan

Bearded dragons are omnivores which means they eat both plants and animals. They can eat a wide range of food, from live mealworms, and crickets to veggies like sweet potato and pepper and greens such as parsley and kale. In moderation, you can also give them fruits.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of a bearded dragon’s diet, focusing on their nutritional needs and how to provide a balanced and healthy meal plan. We will share a number of insects, veggies, meat, greens, weeds, and fruits that can make up a bearded dragon’s diet.

Bearded Dragons’ Diet in the Wild

In the wild, they get a lot of exercise climbing bushes, running around scurrying across rocks and burrowing in the ground. So they tend to eat a lot, especially insects. They eat mostly insects, which account for roughly 75 to 80% of their diet including crickets, cockroaches, worms, and even small animals like mice. The remaining 20% to 25% of their diet is made up of greens, vegetables, and little fruit.

Domesticated beardies, on the other hand, tend to be more sedentary since they don’t exercise that much. It’s important for you to keep them on a healthy diet to prevent obesity.

Age-Specific Dietary Needs

The dietary needs of bearded dragons change as they grow, so it’s crucial to adjust their diet accordingly.

1. Hatchlings and juveniles (0-12 months): At this stage, your bearded dragon will have a higher protein requirement to support their rapid growth. Offer them small insects multiple times a day and gradually introduce plant-based foods. Aim for a diet comprising 80% animal-based and 20% plant-based foods.

2. Adults (12 months and older): As your bearded dragon matures, their dietary needs will shift towards a greater emphasis on plant-based foods. Gradually transition their diet to 80% plant-based and 20% animal-based foods. Feed them insects less frequently, approximately 2-3 times a week.

Insects and Animal-based Foods

bearded-dragon-eating-insects

Common Insects for Bearded Dragons

1. Crickets: Crickets are a staple in my bearded dragons’ diets. They’re easy to find, and my beardies seem to enjoy chasing them around their enclosure. Be sure to provide crickets that are appropriately sized for your dragon – they shouldn’t be larger than the space between your dragon’s eyes.

2. Dubia Roaches: Dubia roaches are another excellent feeder insect. They’re more nutritious than crickets, and they don’t jump or make noise. My bearded dragons love them, and I’ve found they’re easier to manage than crickets.

3. Mealworms: Although mealworms can be a good source of protein, they have a high-fat content and a hard exoskeleton, which can be challenging for bearded dragons to digest. I offer them occasionally as a treat but not as a staple food.

4. Superworms: Similar to mealworms, superworms are high in fat but can be a tasty treat for your bearded dragon. I recommend feeding them sparingly and monitoring your dragon’s weight to avoid obesity.

Occasional Insect Treats

1. Waxworms: Waxworms are like candy for bearded dragons – they absolutely love them! However, they’re high in fat and should only be offered occasionally as a special treat.

2. Hornworms: Hornworms are another favorite treat among bearded dragons. They’re high in moisture and can help with hydration. Just remember, moderation is key when offering these juicy morsels.

Feeding Frequency and Portion Sizes

The feeding frequency and portion sizes for your bearded dragon will depend on their age and size. Here’s a general guideline:

1. Baby dragons (0-4 months): Feed 3-4 times a day, as many insects as they can eat in a 10-15 minute period.

2. Juveniles (4-12 months): Feed twice a day, as many insects as they can eat in a 10-15 minute period.

3. Adults (12 months+): Feed insects every other day, about 10-20 appropriately-sized insects per feeding.

Preparing Insects for Food

To avoid potential problems, only feed insects that are smaller than the width between your dragon’s eyes. Failure to do so could result in intestinal blockages, seizures, or general malnourishment.

insect-size

Gut-loading and Dusting Insects

Gut-loading and dusting insects with supplements are crucial practices for providing additional nutrients to your bearded dragons.

1. Gut-loading: Before feeding insects to your dragon, provide the insects with nutritious food for 24-48 hours. This process ensures that the insects are packed with essential nutrients that will benefit your bearded dragon.

2. Dusting: I dust insects with calcium powder 4-5 times a week and with multivitamin powder once a week. Gently shake the insects in a plastic container with the supplement powder before offering them to your dragon. This practice helps ensure your bearded dragon gets the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal health.

Note: If you give your dragon live insects, make sure they don’t drown in its water dish. If they do, get rid of them as quickly as possible.

Vegetables, Fruits, and Plant-based Foods

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Vegetables and fruits provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that support their immune system, digestion, and growth.

Safe Vegetables for Bearded Dragons

When choosing vegetables for your bearded dragon, it’s crucial to select safe and nutritious options. Some excellent choices include:

  • Acorn squash
  • Artichoke Heart
  • Asparagus (Raw)
  • Bell Peppers (Raw)
  • Bok choy
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage (Raw)
  • Carrots
  • Okra (Raw)
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkins
  • Chicory
  • Cucumber (Peeled)
  • Lentils (Cooked)
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Yams (Raw)
  • Zucchini (Raw)
  • Radicchio

1. Bell peppers: High in vitamin C and low in oxalates, bell peppers are a colorful and nutritious addition to your bearded dragon’s diet.

2. Squash: Both butternut and acorn squash are great options. They provide essential vitamins like vitamin A and are easy for your bearded dragon to digest.

Offer a variety of vegetables daily, making up around 80% of their diet for adult bearded dragons, and around 20-30% for juveniles.

Safe Greens for Bearded Dragons

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Collard greens, dandelion greens, and mustard greens are all fantastic options for your bearded dragon. These greens are rich in calcium, which supports healthy bone development.

Beardie’s love to eat greens. Below is the list of greens that you can feed your dragons.

  • Collard greens
  • Spring greens
  • Floret mix
  • Lambs lettuce
  • Collards
  • Parsley
  • Clover
  • Dandelion greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Rocket
  • Coriander
  • Watercress
  • Turnip greens
  • Dandelion greens

Vegetables and greens should be fed daily, making up around 80% of their diet for adult bearded dragons, and around 20-30% for juveniles.

Safe Fruits for Bearded Dragons

You should feed your beardie fresh fruits on a regular basis. Just make sure that you don’t feed them acidic fruits such as lemons and oranges.

Below is the list of fruits that you can add to your bearded dragon’s diet.

  • Apples
  • Apricot
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Chayote
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Mangos
  • Melons
  • Nectarine
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Fruits should make up only 10% of the total food intake of your beardie.

Safe Weeds for Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons can eat the following weeds.

  • Dandelion
  • Catsear
  • Dead nettle
  • Plantain

You’ll need to peel some fruit and vegetables or cut them into bite-sized pieces. Remove all pips from your food as well.

Feeding Frequency and Portion Sizes

When it comes to feeding your bearded dragon vegetables and fruits, it’s important to find the right balance. Offer a variety of vegetables daily, making up around 80% of their diet for adult bearded dragons, and around 20-30% for juveniles. Fruits should be given as an occasional treat, making up no more than 10% of their overall diet. A good rule of thumb is to provide a portion of vegetables and fruits roughly the same size as your bearded dragon’s head.

In my own journey as a bearded dragon owner, I’ve discovered that my scaly friends have their own unique preferences when it comes to plant-based foods. My bearded dragon, Spike, absolutely loves munching on dandelion greens and red bell peppers, while Daisy prefers a mix of collard greens and butternut squash. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations to find out what your bearded dragon enjoys the most!

Food to Never Feed Your BeardeD Dragon

You should be alright if you stick to the food on the lists above, but there are a few foods that bearded dragons cannot consume.

Because dragons will eat anything you through in front of them, even if it is toxic, it is your responsibility to ensure that they don’t them in the first place.

Below is the list of foods that are bad for bearded dragons and should not be fed.

  • Boxelder Bugs
  • Mushrooms
  • Rhubarb
  • Beet Tops
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges
  • Lettuce: It lacks any real nutritional value. Lettuce contains a high proportion of water, feeding it to bearded dragons can cause different problems such as diarrhea.
  • Lemons: This citrus fruit will upset your dragon’s digestive system.
  • Spinach and beet tops: Spinach and beet green are high in oxalates that limit the absorption of calcium. Foods such as these increase the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease. It is advised to avoid these types of foods altogether just to be safe.
  • Wild-caught Insects: Wild insects may carry parasites that could seriously harm your beardie.
  • Fireflies: Any insects that glow are toxic and can kill your reptile. Even half a firefly can kill an adult bearded dragon because of the cardiotoxins.
  • Avocados: Chemicals in avocados are harmful to beardies. It should be avoided at all costs.
  • Rhubarb: High levels of oxalic acid in rhubarb are deadly for beardies

You should not feed your dragon fish or seafood such as prawns.

Pro Tip: Just remember, if you aren’t 100% sure it’s safe for your pet, don’t give it to them.

Hydration and Water Needs

Hydration plays a crucial role in the overall health and well-being of bearded dragons. Adequate hydration supports their digestion, temperature regulation, and overall bodily functions. A dehydrated bearded dragon can become lethargic, suffer from loss of appetite, and even develop serious health issues.

Providing Water through Vegetables

One way to help keep your bearded dragon hydrated is by offering water-rich vegetables in their diet. Leafy greens like collard greens, dandelion greens, and mustard greens are excellent choices, as they contain a high water content. In addition, vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini can also provide a good source of hydration.

Using a Water Dish

Another method of providing water to your bearded dragon is by including a shallow water dish in their enclosure. Make sure the dish is easy for your bearded dragon to access and not too deep, as they can accidentally inhale water if it’s too deep. Regularly clean and refill the water dish to ensure a fresh water supply.

Signs of Dehydration to Monitor

As a responsible bearded dragon owner, it’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of dehydration. Common symptoms include sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, decreased activity, and a lack of appetite. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to address the issue immediately to prevent further complications.

Tips for Preventing Dehydration

To help your bearded dragon stay hydrated and healthy, follow these tips:

  • Maintain a consistent feeding schedule with a variety of water-rich vegetables and greens.
  • Ensure the water dish is clean and filled with fresh water at all times.
  • Monitor the humidity levels in the enclosure and adjust as necessary to create a comfortable environment for your bearded dragon.
  • Provide a regular misting of your bearded dragon’s enclosure to encourage drinking and maintain proper humidity. However, avoid over-misting, as it can lead to respiratory issues.
  • Regularly observe your bearded dragon for signs of dehydration and act promptly if any symptoms arise.

Supplements and Additional Nutrients

Bearded dragons, like other reptiles, require a proper balance of calcium and vitamin D3 for optimal health. Calcium plays a vital role in their bone development, muscle function, and overall well-being. Meanwhile, vitamin D3 is crucial for their bodies to absorb and utilize calcium effectively. Without these essential nutrients, bearded dragons can develop the metabolic bone disease (MBD), a debilitating condition that can lead to deformities, paralysis, and even death.

Recommended Supplement Brands and Products

Based on my experience and research, I’ve come across some trustworthy brands and products that cater to bearded dragons’ specific nutritional needs. These supplements have been tried and tested by both myself and fellow reptile enthusiasts:

1. Rep-Cal Calcium with Vitamin D3: This phosphorus-free calcium supplement also contains vitamin D3, making it an excellent choice for bearded dragons. The fine powder easily coats insects and can be sprinkled on vegetables as well.

2. Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3: Another popular choice, this product offers a fine powder that’s easy to apply to your bearded dragon’s food, ensuring they get the essential nutrients they need.

Proper Supplementation Frequency

Finding the right balance in supplement frequency is crucial to prevent under- or over-supplementation. Factors like your bearded dragon’s age, diet, health, and UVB exposure can all impact their supplementation needs.

Here’s a general guideline based on my experience and conversations with fellow bearded dragon owners:

1. Juvenile bearded dragons (under six months old): Dust their insects with calcium powder daily and use a multivitamin supplement once a week. Their rapid growth during this stage requires more frequent supplementation.

2. Sub-adult bearded dragons (six months to one year old): As their growth slows down, you can reduce calcium supplementation to every other day and continue providing a multivitamin supplement once a week.

3. Adult bearded dragons (over one year old): Dust their insects with calcium powder two to three times a week and provide a multivitamin supplement once a week.

What to do if a Bearded Dragon is not Eating?

The most common causes are an environment that is overly hot or cold as a result of incorrect setup, impaction due to eating loose substrate, parasites, or shedding.

Also, your Beardie could decrease its appetite due to brumation. Go to our article on bearded dragon brumation for additional information.

Losing in appetite doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong with your beardie. Adult dragons can stop eating for a day.  However, if they are losing weight, this indicates that something is wrong.

Pro Tip: If your beardie isn’t eating, check the temperature and make sure that it is between 95°F – 110°F on the basking spot with a cooler side of 80°F – 90°F.

Like some other reptiles, bearded dragons may not eat if their food is too huge. Good advice is to keep to small insects that are the distance between the Bearded Dragon’s eyes.

It is also important to ensure that your dragons’ UV is working fine. It typically lasts 12 months, you will find this information on the box. Make sure that the heat lamp is placed far enough away from the basking site, and that you utilize a reflector.

Make sure your setup and food are fine before looking to see if your Bearded Dragon is shedding. During the shedding process, your beardie will stop eating altogether. 

If your bearded dragon appears to be unhealthy, there are a few symptoms that you should be aware of. These include diarrhea, lack of energy, and drooping or bulging eyes.

See a vet or call a vet as soon as possible if you are concerned about your Bearded Dragon. 

Some bearded dragons refuse food because of several possible reasons, and diagnosing the cause or condition without the help of a vet is sometimes difficult.

Best food for a Bearded Dragon that is ill

You should always follow the advice of your veterinarian, as they could be able to provide particular dietary suggestions based on your pet’s medical condition. Find a vet that specializes in exotic pets. 

For specific conditions, there are techniques of feeding your dragon that can help. If your beardie is dehydrated. Until they have recovered from their dehydration, avoid giving them solid foods and use a syringe to provide an electrolyte solution at or near their mouth.

Pro Tip: However, if you want to change your pet’s food, be sure to consult with a vet beforehand.

Bearded Dragon Feeding Tips

For new dragons, to get them used to you, try hand-feeding – a locust will normally sit on your hand and await its impending demise and the Dragons normally are very gentle feeders.

To encourage exercise and enrichment of their captivity, I also let them roam the living room and chase after insects – Beardies can be astonishingly fast when they want to be.

I also try to encourage some climbing and jumping as well when they are being fed – basically putting the locusts at different heights etc…

Also be careful that if you do feed them outside the vivarium/ terrarium, then there is nothing else around for them to try and eat, things such as long hair, crumbs, dirt, etc…

Also, you’ll find from this that your lizards then begin to more actively stalk their prey, and nine times out of ten, they will always find out where you keep the insects and will spot the one cricket that got away – the Bearded Dragons eyesight is phenomenal.

If you feed in the enclosure they will always eat part of the substrate as they lunge for the food, but it’s never normally an issue unless you’re using Calci-sand.

To minimize the risk of impaction from eating too much of the substrate ensure there are plenty of branches, stones, plants, and pieces of bark for the insects to hide and sit on, rather than just sit on the vivarium floor.

After feeding, never leave leftover live food in the tank with them as it will stress them out, also for juveniles the insects can bite and cause infection, nipped tails, etc…

Conclusion

As a bearded dragon owner and enthusiast, I can’t stress enough the importance of providing your beloved pet with a well-balanced and varied diet. To recap, bearded dragons need a mix of insects, vegetables, and fruits to thrive. Young bearded dragons require a higher percentage of protein from insects, while adults need more plant-based food sources. Always offer a wide variety of safe options to keep your bearded dragon interested and well-nourished.

A well-balanced diet directly impacts the health, longevity, and happiness of your bearded dragon. Ensuring they receive the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals will help prevent common health issues, support proper growth, and contribute to a more active and engaging pet. As you continue to learn about bearded dragon care, your passion for these fascinating creatures will only grow.

I encourage you to continually seek out more information on bearded dragon diet and care, as well as consult with a reptile specialist if you have concerns or need expert advice. Remember that every bearded dragon is unique, and understanding their individual needs will go a long way in ensuring a happy and healthy life for your scaly friend. Keep engaging with the bearded dragon community, share your experiences, and never stop learning. Your bearded dragon will thank you!

As Editor-in-Chief at MyPetReptiles.com, I bring a decade's worth of experience as a reptile enthusiast and breeder. From nurturing bearded dragons to understanding the nuances of chameleons, I'm deeply passionate about sharing my journey and expertise. My mission is to empower fellow reptile lovers, providing them with valuable insights to ensure the best care for their captivating pets. Here at MyPetReptiles.com, we believe in transforming knowledge into shared joy for our global community of reptile owners.

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