Bearded dragons require specific care and diet in order to live a healthy and happy life. As their owners, its our responsibility to understand their dietary needs.
Nutritional Needs of Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means they require a balanced diet of both protein and vegetables. The ideal ratio of protein to vegetables should be roughly 60/40.
The most important aspect of a bearded dragon’s diet is variety. A beardie’s diet should consist of insects, veggies and fruits.
Protein is necessary for the growth and maintenance of bearded dragons’ muscles and tissues.
Vegetables and fruits provide necessary fiber and vitamins for bearded dragons.
It is important to avoid feeding processed or sugary foods to bearded dragons, as these can lead to health problems.
Additionally, it is essential to gut load insects before feeding them to bearded dragons, which means feeding the insects a nutritious diet beforehand in order to provide maximum nutritional value to the reptile. Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3 may also be necessary in order to ensure adequate levels of these important nutrients.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat 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.
The diet varies in different stages of their lives. Baby and juvenile dragons should be fed 80% insects and 20% plants because they need the extra protein to build up muscles and bones.
For adult bearded dragons, however, you don’t feed them too many insects. A well-balanced diet for an adult dragon typically means 80% plant matter and 20% insects.
What Insects Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Below is the list of food you can safely feed your bearded dragon.
- Crickets: Crickets are, without a doubt, the most preferred protein- and calcium-rich appetizer for bearded dragons. They are readily available at pet stores. Bear in mind crickets could be a bit noisy.
- Dubia Roaches. Roaches are a favorite food of beardies. The Dubia roach is the best roach to feed your dragon. Dubia roaches are low in fat and high in protein, providing at least five times the nutritional value of other live insects. Furthermore, the Dubia roach makes life a little simpler for you by being very quiet, unable to climb or fly away (and if they do, they will not infest your home), and not biting or stinking.
- Butterworms: This worm, which is high in calcium and protein, is an excellent food supplement for your dragon’s primary feeder insects.
- Earthworms: These crawlers, while not as popular as other worms, provide calcium and moisture to your pet. Before giving them to your dragon, make sure they’re clean and free of debris attached to their slimy surface.
- Mealworms: A favorite food for an adult bearded dragon (five or six per day), but never offer a mealworm to a younger beardie. Mealworms have a thick shell that an adult dragon can manage in tiny doses, but it can cause gut impaction in small baby dragons extremely quickly.
- Phoenix Worms: These worms are high in calcium and protein, making them a good supplement or feeder insect. Keep in mind that because these worms are so little, using them as a snack rather than as the main dish will save you money if you have a huge adult dragon.
- Silkworms: This worm is high in protein, moisture, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, therefore it’s a great snack for your dragon.
- Wax Worms: Due to their high-fat content, wax worms are undoubtedly dessert worms. You can feed an adult dragon five to six wax worms a day.
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.
Gut Loading Insects
It is important to properly gut load insects before feeding them to your bearded dragon. Gut loading is the process of feeding the insects a nutritious diet before offering them to your reptile. This ensures that the insects provide the necessary nutrients for your bearded dragon.
As bearded dragons need a lot of calcium, therefore feeder insects should be coated with calcium supplements 3 to 5 times per week for adults; every day for baby bearded dragons.
The best way to feed insects to your bearded dragon is by placing them in a small bowl. Once the feeding time is over, make sure no insect remains in the cage as it could foul the water supply.
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.
What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Fresh vegetables should also be fed daily. Your dragon can eat virtually any type of veggies that you would eat.
You can add the following vegetables to your bearded dragon diet.
- Acorn squash
- Artichoke Heart
- Asparagus (Raw)
- Bell Peppers (Raw)
- Bok choy
- Butternut squash
- Cabbage (Raw)
- Okra (Raw)
- Cucumber (Peeled)
- Lentils (Cooked)
- Spaghetti squash
- Yams (Raw)
- Zucchini (Raw)
What Greens can a Bearded Dragon Eat?
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
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Turnip greens
- Dandelion greens
What Fruits Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
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.
What Weeds Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Bearded dragons can eat the following weeds.
- Dead nettle
You’ll need to peel some fruit and vegetables or cut them into bite-sized pieces. Remove all pips from your food as well.
What can’t Bearded Dragons Eat?
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
- Beet Tops
- 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.
Bearded Dragons Water Requirement
Beardies get most of their water from the foods they eat. However, you still need to make sure your lizard has access to fresh drinking water. It’s best to put the water in a very shallow bowl in the enclosure. This will help keep him from tipping it over.
Bearded Dragon Diet in Different Stages of their Lives
There are many reasons why some bearded dragon owners do not provide a consistent and healthy bearded dragon diet. These reasons range from an inability to locate or afford some types of plant matter to an unwillingness to handle live prey, to a lack of understanding regarding what a bearded dragon’s diet should consist of at any given stage of development.
This is especially evident with new dragon owners who decide to purchase hatchlings. During this stage of development, bearded dragons have very specific dietary needs.
The diet of a bearded dragon hatchling should consist of mainly meat in the form of small insects (about 75 to 80%). Those whose bearded dragon diet does not consist of primarily meat will suffer from stunted growth, malnutrition, and possibly even death from starvation.
There have also been reports of these baby beardies resorting to cannibalism by nipping off the tails of other babies housed with them.
In addition to understanding what your bearded dragon needs to eat, you should also understand how they should be fed, how much they should be fed, and how often they should be fed.
Underfeeding your bearded dragon can have deadly consequences but overfeeding them can be just as dangerous. Even the size of the prey, fruit, and plant matter in your bearded dragon diet is an important consideration.
The following general guidelines are your first steps to understanding what your bearded dragon diet should consist of at the various stages of development:
What do Baby Bearded Dragons Eat?
Hatchlings: 0-2 months. The hatchling bearded dragon diet should consist of appropriately sized crickets 2-3 times daily. Also, introduce hatchlings to a variety of chopped-up greens.
Juveniles: 2-4 months. The juvenile bearded dragon diet should consist of crickets twice a day. They should also be fed a variety of different greens and fruits.
Subadult and Adult Bearded Dragon Diets
Subadult: 4-18 months. The sub-adult bearded dragon diet should consist of crickets once or twice daily, however, greens should be given more often. You can also introduce other food like super worms, fruits, and commercial bearded dragon food in moderation.
Adult: 18 months +. The adult bearded dragon diet should consist of an offering of greens and crickets every day or every other day. Allow them to eat as many greens as they want. A small number of fruits can also be offered.
In addition to their regular diet, commercial bearded dragon food can be used. Adult dragons may also enjoy the occasional (every 4-6 weeks) pinky mouse. For further details read our other post on how to feed baby bearded dragons.
Vitamins and Calcium in your Bearded Dragons Diet
Lack of adequate calcium intake may lead to metabolic bone disease in reptiles.
If your lizard has an adequate UVB bulb and you vary its diet and gut load the live food, you won’t need to supplement their diet too much with additional calcium and vitamins.
Instead get some dusting powder and dust a few insects every other feeding, alternating between calcium and a multivitamin. Younger Dragons will require more vitamins and minerals frequently to ensure that they develop good healthy bones.
You should dust their food with calcium a few times each week.
Breeding/ egg-laying females should be supplemented daily to ensure good egg production and that they won’t lose any calcium from their bones during this time.
What to do if a Bearded Dragon is not Eating?
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…
How Often to Feed Your Bearded Dragon
It depends on the age, size, and condition of the Pogona. For newborns and young it should be around twice a day with a mixture of greens, insects, and worms – but in small portions.
As they get older they can eat larger amounts but less frequently – I still feed daily for the interaction, for instance, the adults will eat around 6-8 large locusts daily and some vegetation – some days they don’t eat as much and the female that I have won’t stop eating when she has eggs, there seems to be no end to the amount she wants to eat.
Typically though vegetation is offered every other day for adults.
Juveniles seem too much keener to eat leaves and veggies than the adults – except the pregnant female who just eats anything.
If you look at the width of the Beardies tail it will give you an idea of the fat reserves it has – some can go for weeks without eating, also it will show you if you’re overfeeding or not.
You should also feed them at least a couple of hours before the lights go out as they will need time to metabolize their meal properly by sitting under the UVB and basking in the heat.