As a proud bearded dragon owner, you know that a healthy diet is essential for your scaly friend’s well-being. Understanding the best food options for your pet is the key to keeping them active and happy.
From insects to fruits and vegetables, the diet options for bearded dragons are diverse and fascinating. In our ultimate guide, we will dive into the various food choices suitable for your pet, helping you create a well-rounded diet for your beloved reptile.
- Bearded dragons eat a varied diet consisting of insects, vegetables, and fruits.
- Insects should make up 70-80% of a juvenile’s diet and 20-30% of an adult’s diet.
- Offer a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits to your bearded dragon daily.
- Avoid feeding insects caught in the wild and choose gut-loaded or calcium-dusted insects.
- Proper supplementation, especially calcium and vitamins, is crucial for a healthy bearded dragon.
- Hydration is essential, provide water through regular baths or misting the enclosure.
- Observe feeding habits to ensure a balanced diet and monitor the weight of your pet.
Essential staple foods for bearded dragons’ main course
While many foods can be offered to your bearded dragon, certain items comprise the heart of their diet. To keep our beardies hale and hearty, it’s crucial to have a good grasp on their basic nutritional needs.
Remember the golden rule: variety is king.
Here’s a rundown of the primary macronutrients that must be part of your bearded dragon’s mealtimes:
- Protein: The staple of any healthy bearded dragon diet. It’s mainly supplied through insect feeders and to a lesser extent, plant-based sources.
- Fiber: This nutrient helps regulate their digestive system. Bearded dragons get fiber from varied sources such as leafy greens, veggies, and even some insects.
- Carbohydrates: These provide energy and are found in most vegetables and fruits. Too many carbs, though, can lead to obesity, which we aim to avoid!
- Fats: Moderate amounts of healthy fats support growth and maintenance; rich sources include insects, seeds, and nuts.
Essential food categories: A healthy mix
Striking the right balance of insects, vegetables, and fruits is essential for ensuring your bearded dragon gets the necessary nutrients.
Let’s dive into each food category and explore its importance:
- Crickets: A beardie’s best friend! Great staple insect
- Dubia roaches: Nutritious, least odor; banned in some states
- Mealworms: Occasional treats, high in fat and phosphorus
- Superworms: Great for larger bearded dragons; not suitable for juveniles
- Waxworms: Use sparingly as a treat; high-fat content
- Hornworms: Hydrating and low in fat; provides large amounts of calcium
Make sure you gut load live insects, meaning you feed them healthy food prior to feeding them to your bearded dragon. Gut loading boosts the insects’ nutritional value for your precious pet.
Vegetables and greens
Diversify your bearded dragon’s veggies and leafy greens! Aim for a colorful assortment to ensure they get all necessary nutrients. Rotate through options like…
- Collard greens: High in nutrients, low in harmful compounds
- Bok choy: Rich source of vitamins A, C, and K; avoid overfeeding, though
- Butternut squash: A good option for picky eaters; nutritious and soft
- Dandelion greens: High in nutrients and an excellent calcium source
- Endive: A nutritional home-run, full of fiber
Keep spinach, lettuce, and cabbage to a minimum, as they are high in oxalates and may interfere with calcium absorption.
For more information read our detailed guide on the bearded dragon vegetable diet.
Fruits: Sweet treats with caution
Fruits act as supplementary treats for bearded dragons. They are scrumptious and provide hydration but should only be fed occasionally.
Some fruits that are safe to include:
- Blueberries: Antioxidant-rich and hydrating
- Raspberries: Low in oxalates; high in fiber
- Figs: Rich in calcium, potassium, and fiber
- Apples: Easy to find and safe to feed in moderation
- Papaya: High in vitamins A and C; gut health booster
Remember never to feed your beardie citrus fruits, as they can be harmful to their digestive system.
For more information read our detailed guide on the bearded dragon fruit diet.
Importance of variety to keep the diet fresh
There’s a reason that the tired phrase, “Variety is the spice of life,” has been passed down through the ages. Just as it’s true for us humans, it definitely rings true for bearded dragons too.
Your beardie needs a varied diet to stay in tip-top shape, as it helps to ensure they consume a balanced blend of vitamins and nutrients.
Here are some quick tips for keeping mealtime interesting:
- Rotate your menu: Regularly introduce new insects, vegetables, and fruits (but make sure it’s a safe choice!).
- Play with proportions: Try different ratios of insects, vegetables, and fruits within the recommended guidelines.
- Experiment with presentation: Offer food chopped, grated or in chunks, and serve insects in different ways, such as loose or in a dish.
The forbidden foods list: What not to feed your bearded dragon?
Not all that glitters is gold, and the same applies to feeding your bearded dragon. Just as there are plenty of beneficial foods, there are others that should never find their way onto your pet’s plate.
Here’s the infamous list every bearded dragon parent should know:
- Fireflies: These insects contain a deadly toxin called lucibufagin, which can be fatal for your bearded dragon. Keep an eye out for these pests!
- Rhubarb: High in oxalic acid, rhubarb can cause calcium absorption problems and renal issues if consumed by your beloved beardie.
- Iceberg lettuce: It may seem harmless, but this lowly lettuce type offers little to no nutritional value and can cause diarrhea.
- Avocado: Though it might seem like a tasty treat, avocados contain persin, a toxin dangerous to reptiles.
When in doubt, consult a reptile veterinarian before offering a new food item to your bearded dragon.
Supercharge your beardie’s diet with supplements and vitamins
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep your bearded dragon’s health in check by supplementing their diet with essential vitamins and minerals.
There’s a wide array of supplements available, but let’s just focus on the most important ones:
- Calcium: Your bearded dragon needs calcium for strong bones and proper muscle function. Lightly dust their insects with calcium powder 3-5 times a week for hatchlings and 2-3 times a week for adults.
- Multivitamins: Make sure your beardie gets plenty of vitamins A, B complex, D3, and E by providing a high-quality multivitamin. Dust their insects 1-2 times a week, depending on age.
- UVB Lighting: Okay, so technically this isn’t a supplement, but it’s crucial for helping beardies synthesize calcium and vitamin D3 through their skin. Ensure their enclosure has a reliable, high-quality UVB light source.
Consult with a reptile veterinarian about the proper dosage of supplements for your bearded dragon, as their requirements can vary depending on age and health status.
A feeding schedule fit for a king (or queen)
Here’s an easy-to-follow feeding schedule to have your scaly royals dining in no time:
|Hatchlings (0-4 months)||3x/day||Available at all times||Calcium 3-5x/week; Multivitamins 1x/week|
|Juveniles (4-12 months)||2x/day||Available at all times||Calcium 2-3x/week; Multivitamins 1x/week|
|Adults (12+ months)||3-4x/week||Available daily||Calcium 2-3x/week; Multivitamins 1-2x/week|
Supplements should be provided as recommended for each age group.
For a more convenient routine, consider setting a regular time for feeding, making it easier for both you and your pet.
Can I feed wild insects to my bearded dragon?
Avoid feeding wild insects as they can carry parasites or consume toxic materials, potentially causing harm to your bearded dragon.
What greens should I avoid feeding my bearded dragon?
Steer clear of lettuce and spinach as primary greens. Lettuce has less nutritional value, while spinach contains compounds that hinder calcium absorption.
My bearded dragon isn’t eating. What should I do?
Monitor closely for any signs of illness and consult a veterinarian specializing in reptiles. Factors such as stress, the environment, or improper lighting may also contribute to a decline in appetite.
Is it normal for my bearded dragon to bask after eating?
Yes! Basking helps them to digest their food and reach ideal body temperatures. In fact, maintaining basking temperature is essential to digestion and overall health.
Additional resources for bearded dragon diets
Check out these useful resources to build upon your knowledge:
- Books: “The Bearded Dragon Manual” by Philippe de Vosjoli, Robert Mailloux, Susan Donoghue, and Roger Klingenberg, and “Bearded Dragons: A Complete Guide to Pogona Vitticeps” by Philip Purser are excellent choices for expanding your bearded dragon knowledge.
- Online Forums: Websites like BeardedDragon.org, Bearded Dragon Forum, and Reddit’s r/BeardedDragons community are full of experienced bearded dragon parents who can offer advice and support.
- YouTube Channels: Look for reputable YouTubers who specialize in bearded dragons and reptile care. Some popular choices include GoHerping, Clint’s Reptiles, and Wickens Wicked Reptiles.
- Veterinary Consultation: Remember that your reptile veterinarian is an invaluable resource for specific information about your own bearded dragon. Establish a relationship early and don’t hesitate to ask for advice.
I hope you now feel more confident in keeping your pet happy and healthy. Remember, a well-balanced diet is essential to your bearded dragon’s overall well-being. By providing a diverse mix of insects, vegetables, fruits, and properly dosed supplements, you’re setting them up for a long, thriving life.
I hope this guide has whet your appetite for further learning and helped to strengthen the bond between you and your scaly companion.
Keep up the fantastic work, and remember to live by the wise words, “Variety is the spice of life!”
Cheers to a lifetime of happy, healthy bearded dragons!
- Rich, Gregory, et al. “Bearded Dragons – Feeding.” VCA Animal Hospitals, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bearded-dragons-feeding. Accessed 5 June 2023.
- Oonincx, D G A B et al. “The diet of free-roaming Australian Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps).” Zoo biology vol. 34,3 (2015): 271-7. doi:10.1002/zoo.21209
- Broughton, Clark, and Kyle Lauren Webb. “Diagnostic Clinical Pathology of the Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps).” The veterinary clinics of North America. Exotic animal practice vol. 25,3 (2022): 713-734. doi:10.1016/j.cvex.2022.06.002
- Doneley, Bob. “Caring for the bearded dragon.” North American Veterinary Conference, 2006.
- Rowland, Mark. “Veterinary care of bearded dragons.” In Practice 31.10 (2009): 506-511.