Feeding bearded dragons is relatively easy compared to other lizards and reptiles.
Bearded Dragons are omnivorous lizards, which means they can eat food sources that are from both the animal and plant kingdoms giving you a wide variety of choice in what you feed them.
In the wild, they have been known to eat vegetables, fruit, insects and even small mammals such as baby mice (pinkies) and small lizards. However, in captivity, you should restrict their diet to mainly leafy green vegetables, fruit, and insects.
Mice and pinkies should be avoided because there is a risk that your bearded dragon may not be able to digest it properly, they are high in fat and, in some countries such as the UK, the feeding of live mice is illegal.
The age of your bearded dragon should be taken into account when choosing their diet.
Baby bearded dragons (12-18 months and younger) require a lot more protein than fully grown adults so should be fed a mix of around 75% insects (e.g., live crickets) and 25% vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to feed your beardie as many crickets as it can eat in 10 minutes:
- Three times a day from birth
- Twice a day from 3-4 months old
- Once a day from 7-8 months old
Adult beardies only need to be fed once every day.
When your bearded dragon reaches adulthood (between 12 and 18 months), it will not need as much protein, and its diet should switch to around 75% vegetables/fruit and 25% live food. It is recommended to wean them off the larger quantities of live food slowly over a period of weeks by gradually reducing how much they are fed. This is because many bearded dragons will not take kindly to their insect-intake being taken away overnight.
Some bearded dragons may be stubborn and refuse to eat vegetables, so you may find it useful to withhold their live foods until they eat their greens.
All types of food that you feed your bearded dragon should be small enough for it to digest properly. This means you will have to chop up the fruit and veg into small pieces and ensure any insects are not too big – a good rule of thumb is to avoid feeding your bearded dragon anything that is longer than the distance between its eyes.
Now, let’s take a look at the types of food from each food group that are a good source of nutrition for your bearded dragon.
Your bearded dragon’s primary food source should be a good mixture of vegetables, particularly leafy greens.
Collard greens are one of the best vegetables to feed your bearded dragon along with turnip greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens. If you have dandelions growing in your garden, dig them up, chop them up and feed them your beardie. They can also eat the dandelion’s flowers.
You can also mix in cabbage, squash, green beans, peas, parsnips, turnips, peppers, and carrots to give your bearded dragon a variety of flavors and texture.
One green to avoid is lettuce because the high water content can make your bearded dragon poorly (remember, bearded dragons come from the Australian deserts where water is scarce – I’ll be talking more about water in a later post).
The bearded dragon will also eat a variety of fruits including peeled apple, apricot, cherries, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, pear strawberries, and pineapple.
Again, these should be finely chopped and should be used to supplement the vegetables. This means only giving them around 10-20% fruit, with the rest of their food made up of vegetables.
You should avoid citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes which can be hazardous to a bearded dragon’s health. Also, avoid tomatoes.
Live crickets are perhaps the best live feed you can give your bearded dragon because as well as being nutritious and a great source of protein, they are also relatively cheap and easy to obtain.
Locusts, silkworms, and roaches are also a good source of nutrients.
Waxworms and superworms can also be fed to your bearded dragon. However they should be reserved for special treats (perhaps a few times a month) as they are high in fat.
It is generally not advisable to feed your beardie any insects that you have caught yourself, as they may be carrying pesticides or parasites that can cause harm.
Finally, I want to mention that calcium is a very important nutrient in your bearded dragon’s diet and it probably won’t get the amount of calcium it needs from its food alone.
For this reason, around twice a week you should dust your bearded dragon’s food with a calcium supplement.