Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded dragons are omnivorous lizards, which means they need a balanced diet of animal and vegetable matter to live a healthy life. Baby dragons eat mostly insects. About 80% of their diet consists of animal matters and 20% vegetable matters. But as they grow and become adults they will start to eat more vegetables. Adult bearded dragon need 80% plant protein and 20% animals matter to live a healthy life.
If you feed your beardie nothing but insects for weeks and weeks, he/she may begin to develop a deficiency in many of the needed minerals and vitamins not contained in insects. If you begin to introduce a proper mixed diet that includes insects, fruits, and vegetables, your bearded dragon’s overall nutrient intake will vastly improve.
Feeding too much animal protein in the diet is very dangerous for your bearded dragon’s health. It’s hard for these bearded dragons to break down a lot of these proteins. Too much animal protein creates a lot of byproducts such as uric acid that becomes the reason for different diseases such as kidney issues and liver issues.
Baby Bearded Dragon Diet
Juvenile bearded dragons need more animal protein than adults. This means that you need to feed them more insects as compared to adult bearded dragons. The diet of a baby dragon (2-4 months of age) will consist of approximately 80% insects and 20% vegetables and fruits.
Baby bearded dragons should be fed 2-3 times daily. You can feed them as many insects as they can eat during their feeding times which should be 10 to 15 minutes. However, once the feeding time is over, you should take the remaining insects out of the tank. A typical baby dragon or juvenile dragons can eat anywhere from 20 to 60 insects per day.
Adult Bearded Dragon Protein Diet
Adult bearded dragons do not need as much animal protein as baby bearded dragons. The diet of an adult bearded dragon will consist of approximately 80% vegetables and fruits and 20% animal/insect matter. Overfeeding a lot of animal matter can cause some serious problems. You should feed them insects only once a day. You can give them as many insects as they can eat within 10 to 15 minutes feeding time. Once the feeding time is over, remove all the remaining insects.
Best Food for Bearded Dragons
There are many insects that you can add to your bearded dragon diet. The important thing to note here is that you should never feed your bearded dragon insects that you have caught yourself because it can contain parasites and pesticides that could be very dangerous for your dragon’s health.
Insects are an important part of the bearded dragon diet. 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.
You can feed your beardie insects like cockroaches, mealworms, and crickets. Wax worms are very high in fat, so you don’t need to feed them too much. Since silkworms have hard exoskeletons, you should only feed them to adults. It’s best that you feed the insects foods that are full of nutrients and vitamins before giving them to your dragon. This is known as “gut-loading.”
For staple insects, you can use:
- Dubia Roaches (Blaptica dubia)
- Phoenix/Repti Worms
- Silk Worms
- Horn Worms
- Butter worms
- Earthworms (rinsed)
- Phoenix Worms
- Wax Worms
Insects to Never Feed
- Fireflies (lightning bugs)
- Boxelder Bugs
- Wild-caught Insects
Boxelder and Fireflies insects are highly toxic and should never be fed to bearded dragons. It is also advised not to feed wild caught insects to your dragons as they could be dangerous if they have been in contact with chemicals. Mealworms should be fed only occasionally. They are hard to digest because of its hard outer shells and contains low nutrients.
The largest portion of your bearded dragon diet should consist of staple insects. The occasional insects can occasionally be offered as a seldom treat.
While crickets are a popular choice for staple insect, they are not as nutritional as roaches. Only feed crickets if you have no other choice.
Beside roaches, hornworms, silkworms and butter worms also make fantastic treats for all ages of bearded dragons.
Preparing insects for food
As bearded dragons need a lot of calcium, therefore feeder insects should be coated with calcium supplement 3 to 5 times per week for adults; every day for baby bearded dragons. Make sure the insects you are feeding your beardie are fed nutritious and vitamin-rich foods. Good foods to feed the insects include corn meal, ground legumes, mustard green, sweet potatoes, spinach, carrot, collard green, rolled oats, apples cereal and oranges.
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.
Food particle size
When feeding insects to your dragon, make sure the size of the food is proportional to the size of the dragon. Problems such as intestinal blockages and seizure can occur if you feed your beardie insects that are larger for them to digest or capture.
Plant matter in the bearded dragon diet should make up approximately 20% of the diet for juvenile and 80% for adults. The diet should consist mainly of vegetables, fruits, and greens.
Fruits should make up only a small portion of your dragon’s diet. The vegetables, greens, and fruits should be cut into small pieces for the dragon to eat.
Fresh vegetables should also be fed daily. Your dragon can eat virtually any type of vegetable that you would eat. This includes carrots, squash, green beans, broccoli, and cabbage. Other suitable vegetables are collard greens, peas, and dandelion greens. These lizards love iceberg lettuce. However, you should avoid feeding it regularly because it has very little nutrients.
There are a number of vegetables that bearded dragons can 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)
- Cucumber (Peeled)
- Lentils (Cooked)
- Mustard greens
- Okra (Raw)
- Spaghetti squash
- Turnip greens
- Yams (Raw)
- Zucchini (Raw)
The salad that you feed your bearded dragon should always consist of veggies and greens. Below is the list of greens that are safe for dragons.
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Mustard greens
- Dandelion greens
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. Suitable fruits include melon, strawberries, peaches, apples and pears. You can also feed him a mango, apricots, raspberries, and cantaloupe.
Below is the list of fruits that you can add to your bearded dragon’s diet.
Foods to Avoid
The most important thing is to make sure that you don't feed your dragon something that they cannot have. Below is the list of foods that are bad for bearded dragons.
- 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 and many other problems. It is advised to avoid these type of foods all together just to be safe. Avocados and rhubarb are toxic and should not be a part of your bearded dragon diet.
It is also advised not to feed lettuce to your bearded dragon because it lacks any real nutritional value. Lettuce contains a high proportion of water, feeding it to bearded dragon can cause different problems such as diarrhea.
You can feed your bearded dragon tomatoes only once every six months. Tomatoes are acidic and can create problems for the digestive system.
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
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 diet needs.
The diet of a bearded dragon hatchling should consist of mainly meat in the form of small insects. 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:
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.
Sub adult: 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 superworms, 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 much greens as they want. A small amount 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.
If your lizard has an adequate UVB bulb and you vary it’s 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. 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.
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 it’s 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 minimise 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
It depends on the age, size and condition of the Pogona. For new born 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 to much keener to eat leaves and vegetables 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 couple of hours before the lights go out as they will need time to metabolise their meal properly by sitting under the UVB and basking in the heat.
- Kaplan, M. Dragons Down Under: Inland Bearded Dragons [On-line] http://www.anapsid.org/bearded.html. 2002
- Tosney, KW. Caring for an Australian Bearded Dragon. http://www.biology.lsa.umich.edu/research/labs/ktosney/file/BDcare.html
- Underwood, E. Inland Bearded Dragon: A Colorado Herpetological Society Care Sheet. The Cold Blooded News, Vol 24:3, March, 1997