So you have just bought a bearded dragon for the first time in your life. You might be wondering what to feed it and how to feed it. Find out about the optimal bearded dragon diet in our guide.
Bearded dragons have been steadily growing popular as pets all over North America. Their mellow temperament and easy-going nature make them a perfect pet companion to keep in households. Despite their exotic nature they turn out to be highly docile and calm animals in an indoor environment. No matter where you go these days you will likely spot a captive-bred species of these mysterious lizards.
Beardies can come in different morphs, depending upon the climate conditions from which they originate. The most highly sought after species in the pets market is the Inland Bearded Dragon, also known as Pogona vitticeps. These types of beardies are mainly found in the arid and dry terrains of southeastern Australia.
Offering top-notch food is crucial to ensure that your beardie stays in good physical shape and has a long lifespan. Apart from providing them wholesome food you should also try to keep their daily diet well-balanced.
As a keen reptile lover, you should spice things up by introducing new food recipes to your beardie. Eating the same type of food throughout the month can be quite boring for your pet lizard. You can keep things interesting for them by mixing up various items, such as worms, veggies, and greens.
Even if you keep on feeding scrumptious crickets to your beardie daily, then this can create health complications. Most insects contain a high amount of iron and protein but they miss out on other essential nutrients.
Bearded dragon diet: What do they eat?
Beardies are omnivorous, which means that they can eat both meat and plants. During this early life stage, they mainly thrive on an insect-based diet. A hatchling can consume up to 80% insects and 20% vegetables as a daily diet. As they reach maturity, they prefer a plant-based diet that doesn’t contain a high amount of meat.
Bearded dragons originally belong to regions where food availability is not abundant. Due to this scarcity of food they have adapted to accept a diverse range of food items in their diet. Baby beardies are mainly carnivorous, as they need large quantities of protein for their growing bodies. If you own an adult beardie, then you should maintain a 20% meat-based and 80% plant-based diet.
When caring for your bearded dragon, make sure that you carefully pick protein sources for them. An adult beardie can even gulp down a small-sized mouse or newborn lizard. On the other hand, juvenile beardies prefer sticking to their insect-based eating routine. You can give them a wide variety of insects, which include cockroaches, locusts, earthworms, and goliath worms.
Over time, proper nutrition would not only strengthen the immune system of your beardie but also offer other benefits. You would see a sudden improvement in their overall activity levels and see them hopping around in their enclosure. Their skin coloring would also become more vibrant when they don’t suffer from any nutrient deficiency.
It is also necessary to add supplements to the daily diet of your mini dragon. There are various supplements that you can sprinkle over their food, such as calcium and vitamin D. You should consider some factors before designing their diet plans, such as age, weight, gender, and health.
Bearded dragon food list
From crunchy insects to green cruciferous veggies, bearded dragons food menu contains a diverse range of options. The meal you prepare for your beardie should be similar to that of what their wild counterparts consume in their habitat. Despite the fact that they aren’t getting much physical exertion like their wild cousins they still need protein.
The age of your pet dragon plays a key role in the dos and don’ts of their daily eating routine. As their body grows to its full potential it won’t require similar fuel to survive. Feeding them a large number of insects can even cause them to become overweight and obese.
When choosing food staples or protein bases for your beardie you should stay highly cautious and alert. Some food items can contain hazardous amounts of toxins and other harmful elements that can trigger an allergy.
What fruits can Bearded dragons eat?
Once your beardie turns one year old you should restrict meat quantity to about 20% of their daily diet. The plant-based diet mainly comprises greens and vegetables but it can also include a moderate amount of fruits. You should mostly use fruits as a top dressing because they are low in mineral density.
Most expert herpetologists recommend reducing the dosage of sugary fruits in your beard’s diet. Fruits with high sugar content can trigger a sudden formation of cavities in your beardie’s teeth. You should restrict the intake of soft and pulpy fruits to at most twice a month.
Some fruits that your pet lizard can eat include:
We recommend removing the seeds and peel the skin of fruits before providing them to your pet lizard. This would ensure that they don’t end up suffering from any choking hazards related to hard objects. You should also finely chop fruit pulp into small pieces so that they can easily chew it.
Some exotic fruits, like kiwi, contain elements that can bind calcium when it enters in your beardie’s body. So you should also consider these fruits like weekly snacks for your pet. Similarly, you should avoid giving highly citric fruits to your baby dragon. Fruits with high amounts of citrus can induce acid reflux in the stomach of your tiny lizard.
What veggies can Bearded Dragons eat?
To add essential nutrients to your pet dragon’s diet you can feed them plant material, which includes vegetables and flowers. You should always remove high-fiber veggies, like iceberg and lettuce, from their diet. These vegetables contain a large amount of fiber and water content that can affect the health of your pet. Usually, the dark green leaves are the most nutritious part of a plant for a bearded dragons.
Some of the vegetables that are safe to consume for your exotic lizard are:
- Collard greens
- Green beans
You can provide the above-mentioned vegetables in cooked or raw form to your adorable dragon. Cooking at a high temperature can burn off important nutrients from the food. It is better to give them veggies in raw form so that they can maximum health benefits.
Make sure to restrict the dosage of vegetables, such as cabbage and kale, as they contain goitrogens. Thyroid auto-immunity can be triggered once the amount of goitrogens reaches a particular level in the body. These foods interfere with the iodine uptake of your beardie’s thyroid gland, which can affect their hormonal health.
What bugs and insects can Bearded Dragons eat?
Your exotic lizard would devour anything that moves in front of them. The onus is on you to provide them with safe bugs that don’t contain any harmful toxins. You can feed insects to your juvenile or baby dragon without any limitations related to quantity. Just allow them to gulp down on their favorite bugs within a 15-minute time window. Once that period passes, you should take out the insects from the enclosure of your bearded dragon.
The following live food list contains some of the most favorite insects:
- Wax worms
We recommend dusting live insects with supplement powders before throwing them in your beardie’s tank. Make sure that you add vitamin and calcium supplements on separate days because these elements interfere negatively. It is also wise to “gut load” your bugs before the feeding time so that your pet can pull out a maximum amount of nutrients.
You can order bulk amounts of roaches to your house rather than visiting a nearby pet store every day. This would not only help you save your monthly costs on pet food but you would also not have to go through the hassle of driving up to the pet shop in your neighborhood every time your beardie gets hungry.
Some insects, like mealworms, contain tougher exoskeleton that can make them hard to chew. You should only feed such bugs to your adult beardie. Similarly, you might want to look for meatier insects to fulfill the hunger for protein in your baby dragon.
What do Bearded Dragon eat in the wild
In the wild, beardies tend to be highly opportunistic hunters. They would take on almost any small creature that they can swallow, and that mainly consists of insects. They are expert foragers and would forage vast terrains for a diverse range of food sources. Due to the scarcity of prey in their habitat they have adapted to survive without food for several days. They would lie dormant in a spot for several hours until they detect a small bug in their close vicinity.
Once they come face to face with a preferable prey the mouth opens rapidly allowing the long tongue to stick out – which has a sticky end to it that gets hold of an insect instantly. They have strong jaw muscles and teeth that allow them to chew considerably hard food items.
Because of their origination from dry regions they have adapted to get most of their hydration from their diet. They have a preference for freshwater and would quickly take small sips whenever they run into a shallow tray.
They also love soaking themselves up in free-standing waters, as that helps them moisturize their skin. These random baths are vital for their hydration and it also improves their digestion. Once their body is fully submerged into the water they might also empty their bowels. This can be a nuisance for reptile owners, as they would have another chore to deal with.
When beardies aren’t able to get the necessary amount of moisture out of their food they look for external sources. You might seem them standing with their rear feet bent in rain to get water droplets into their mouth. You can try misting your pet dragon by placing water drops on their nose. They would sip it by sticking their tongue out if they are thirsty at that moment.
What do Baby Bearded Dragons eat?
During the rapid growth phase of their life, baby beardies might appear perpetually hungry all the time. In order to fulfill their never-ending hunger, you should feed them at least thrice a day. You should also not restrict the number of insects and veggies you add in their tank for about 10 minutes, and after that, you can simply remove the feeding bowls placed in front of them
They would be interested to bite on any veggies most of the time, as they would highly prefer animal-based diets. You can just keep the vegetables and greens in their tank so that they get accustomed to their stale taste. Introducing a plant-based diet from an early age would help develop their taste buds for different cuisine variety.
A healthy beardie would consume about 60 insects in a day, which includes a diverse type of creepy crawlies. Their gut can get full within 10 to 15 minutes, and after that, they would move away from the food.
As a general rule of thumb, the length of the insects you feed your baby bearded dragon should be more than the width between their eyes. Anything longer than that can cause impaction, which can be fatal most of the time.
Gut-loading of the feeder insects can make a difference when meeting the nutritional requirements of your baby dragon. Make sure to gut load the bugs a day before the feeding day. This would ensure that your pet reptile gets all the essential nutrients in their diet. Because of the long bellies of locusts, they can quickly gain weight within a day.
Baby beardies experience stress if you handle them daily. In order to ensure that stay healthy, you should resist your handling temptations until they grow 1 year old.
What do Adult Bearded Dragons eat?
Your beardie would start giving more preference to a plant-based diet as they enter into adulthood. Some might even start ditching their prior meat diet as soon as they reach 6 months of age. Keep fresh plant sources, such as carrots and turnip greens, within their close vicinity. This would encourage them to try out more veggies as they become fully mature.
Depending upon the species you own, you might want to maintain a diet that contains 80% plants and 20% meat. You should try your best to introduce new vegetation to them every month. They don’t need high dosages of bugs at this life stage because they become more inactive when they grow old. They are highly susceptible to become obese if their diet mainly comprises insects.
In the wild, an adult bearded dragon gets to take part in physical activities that help them burn calories. This is the reason they might not ditch their insect-based even after reaching adulthood.
You might face difficulty while introducing this new plant-dominated diet to your bearded dragon. Rather than suddenly removing bugs from their daily regiment, you should make changes in a gradual manner. Try adding fresh leafy veggies in their enclosure daily.
Overfeeding insects and bugs to your adult beardie can make them fall sick easily. They might also become overweight quickly because they don’t exert enough calories to maintain a lean body.
You can make things interesting by hand-feeding your pet. This would not only make it easier for them to gulp down on vegetables but would also provide you with an opportunity of bonding with your adorable pet reptile.
Adult bearded dragons tend to suffer from metabolic bone diseases if they don’t get the required nutrients in their diet. You strive to provide them with a well-balanced diet.
Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
Feeding frequency and timing is one of the most debated topics among reptile enthusiasts. Many hobbyists claim to have a specific formula for feeding a beardie, but it mostly is not applicable. Rather than pigeonholing the feeding schedule of these exotic lizards, it is best to have a subjective approach.
Some reptile experts rely on their gut instincts while coming up with a feeding routine for their pet dragon. They tend to calculate the number of crickets their beardie requires according to its overall size and weight.
The best thing to do is to allow your pet dragon to eat as much as they want. Once their belly is full they would stop gulping down bugs down their throats. They would also stop chasing roaches in their tank once their hunger is fulfilled. You should look for all these subtle indicators while estimating the dietary requirements of your pet.
Baby Bearded Dragon feeding schedule
Baby beardies tend to have a large appetite for live insects, as it helps them cater to their protein requirements. From Dubia roaches to fly larvae, you can feed a huge quantity of bugs to your baby pet without affecting their health. They need amino acids and iron from lean meat for the formation of their muscles and bones.
Babies, who come under the age bracket of 0 to 2 months, can be fed all insects they want. During a 10-minute time window, they would quickly chomp down on a large number of roaches or locusts. You should feed them at least 3 to 4 times a day to support their growth at this life stage.
These cheeky little lizards are known for their feeding frenzy, as they would eat anything that crawls in front of them. You should also feed calcium supplements to your growing beardie, as they might not be able to pull out all the essential vitamins and minerals from meat.
PRO TIP: when feeding live crickets to your beardie, make sure to remove them from the tank once your pet is done feeding on them, as they are known to bite. If you notice any open wounds on your exotic lizard, then treat it with a topical ointment as soon as possible.
Adult Bearded Dragon feeding schedule
An adult beardie would normally consume about 20 to 30 insects in a day. Their food intake depends on some factors, such as their age and weight. Rather than catching hoppers from your backyard, you should purchase feeder insects from a trustworthy feeder insect supplier in your neighborhood.
PRO TIP: No matter how tempted you are to feed live insects from the outside, you should never even do it for once. These insects contain a high amount of fertilizers and deadly poisons that can instantly kill your exotic lizard.
At this age bracket, they are at a high risk of suffering from obesity. You should only feed them when they seem hungry. A fully satiated dragon would resort to its preferable basking spot, as that would aid his digestion.
Once they get older than 12 months of age you can only feed them once a day. You can even sometimes skip a day without feeding them any insects. This would help them maintain their metabolism and reduce the chances of any potential diseases.
How to train your bearded Dragon to eat veggies?
Beardies are highly picky when it comes to their food preferences. You should be aware of their eating habits, as sometimes they might uninterested in a particular meal. Transitioning them to a new diet can be tricky for beginner bearded dragon owners.
During their early life stage, they have a tendency of shunning all the veggies offered to them. You should not be offended if they don’t seem excited about some vegetables. Getting them to eat plant matter is always a stressful phase. It is always better to start introducing new vegetables from an early age. This way they would get familiar with the taste and aroma of various leafy veggies.
If you own a baby bearded dragon, then you should take this opportunity of adding plants in their feeding bowl. Their diet should mainly comprise meat, as they need it to develop muscles and fat reserves. But you should add finely chopped plant material in their diet regiment.
At the beginning of each day, only offer leafy vegetables to them. If they are hungry they might be tempted to taste new food items. You can get the addition of your beardie by placing greens on your palms. This interactive session would encourage feeding behavior, and you would also get to handle your adorable dragon.
PRO TIP: We recommend sprinkling calcium supplements over the veggies you offer to your beardie. This would help improve their bone density and maintain optimal health in the long run.
Top reasons why your bearded dragon is not eating?
When an adorable pet desists from eating food, then this can cause the owners to be in a state of panic. You might start imagining the worst-case scenario, and it can be a stressful time.
Many times the reason behind this sudden lack of appetite might not be due to anything serious. It might even go away on its own, as long as you give some space to your beardie.
If your enigmatic pet is no more taking part in any physical activity and is refusing to eat any food, then there might be a serious underlying issue causing this problem
One of the most common causes of this disinterest in food is brumation. As soon as the temperature drops in the winter season, your beardie would start showing signs of hibernation. The change in photoperiod causes their metabolism to slow down, as they no more have excess to getting adequate sunlight at their favorite basking spot.
Just give your exotic pet some time to get used to the sudden change in the temperature in the environment. Once they enter into this annual deep-sleep cycle, they might even go without food for up to a month.
If you have placed your bearded dragon in a poorly equipped tank, then this might also be an issue. Beardies are highly sensitive to their environmental changes and would stop eating if they don’t have a preferable habitat. From solid substrate to appealing feeding bowls, many things can make them abandon their food.
We all know that bearded dragons are not fond of eating greens and veggies, especially when they are young. If you give up on coming up with interesting ideas to get them to eat their vegetables, then this can also affect their appetite.
Foods to avoid feeding your bearded dragon
Many newbie reptile enthusiasts might end up feeding foods to their bearded dragons that might cause them to become ill. Some of these items might trigger an allergic response while others might transfer toxins to their body.
Never feed glowing insects, such as fireflies to your dragon, as they contain toxic chemicals. They contain a poisonous compound, which is called lucibufagins, that can instantly kill a small amphibian or reptile. These insects contain these self-defense toxins that help them against prowling predators. Similarly, you should also refrain from feeding avocados to your exotic lizard, as it might cause toxicity in their body.
Another mistake that most first-time beardie owners make is they give partial meat pieces and organs to their pets. Small meat pieces, such as gizzards, liver, or hearts, contain minimal nutrition. We recommend providing whole foods, such as locusts and roaches, to your pet.
You might be tempted to feed fishes to your pet lizards, such as salmon and tuna, but it would not be a good idea. Despite their benefits to human beings, fishes can cause niacin depletion in the blood levels of lizards. In order to ensure that your bearded dragon doesn’t develop any vitamin deficiency, you should avoid feeding them any fish. You can randomly provide them feeder fishes only once a month.
You should always avoid feeding wild-caught bugs to your pet dragon, as they might be highly toxic. These insects thrive in crop farms that are infused with high amounts of pesticides and insect repellents. These chemicals get cling onto the body of wild insects. Upon ingesting these insects, your bearded dragon can even die due to excessive toxicity.
Similarly, your beardie would also try gobbling down on small domestic lizards, such as geckos. You should never let them do it, as they contain parasites.
Warnings about feeding your pet reptile
Bearded dragons are highly susceptible to swallowing their substrate particles while they are catching bugs from their tank. When they are fully covered with a loose substrate, they can end up ingesting sand and pebbles in their digestive tract.
When a beardie gulps down on unwanted solid particles, then this can cause them to suffer from impaction. Impaction refers to a severe blockage in the intestinal tract of a bearded dragon. Not only would they completely abandon their daily eating routine but might also show other symptoms of impaction. You might also notice an irregular bulge on their belly, which can indicate the point of impaction in their digestive system.
As soon as you notice that your little dragon isn’t pooping for some days, then you should take some immediate measures. If the basking zone of the enclosure isn’t warm enough, then your bearded dragon will have difficulty with digestion.
You can also try soaking them up in warm water, which would make it easier for them to excrete feces. Many bearded dragons tend to defecate in warm waters, as that helps trigger their natural bowel movements.
A gentle massage can also do the trick, as that would trigger a sense of relaxation. Try stroking their head and other body matter gently for a few minutes.
These majestic lizards have a well-balanced disposition and friendly demeanor that makes them perfect household pets. Whether this is your first time owning a bearded dragon or you have previously owned one, this guide would help maintain the health and wellbeing of your adorable pet.
We hope that you have been able to glean on some handy tips and guidelines on how to cater to the nutritional needs and requirements of your pet reptile.