Bearded dragons are omnivorous reptiles, and their diet in the wild consists primarily of insects and plants. It's possible to simulate this diet for captive beardies with a mix of safe vegetables and commercial insects. However, these pets also need regular supplements to avoid illness. Use this bearded dragon diet guide to keep your beardie strong and healthy.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
A bearded dragon's diet should be made of about 50 percent insect-based protein and 50 percent plant sources. These plant materials should be primarily fresh vegetables, although fruits can be offered in moderation or as an occasional snack. The best diet for these lizards is a varied diet; offering a wide range of foods will help prevent nutritional deficiencies.
However, when feeding a bearded dragon, you have to consider the lizard's age, because nutritional needs change as they grow. Baby and juvenile (6 to 12 months old) bearded dragons require more protein in their diets, so they should eat approximately 75 percent protein-based food and 25 percent vegetables.
Bearded Dragon Diet List
If you've never owned a beardie before, it can be overwhelming to know which foods are safe and which should be avoided. This comprehensive list includes safe insects, vegetables, and fruits your bearded dragon can eat. Wash and chop all produce thoroughly before offering it to your pet, and never feed them moldy or spoiled food.
- Crickets (Young crickets known as pinhead crickets are right for juveniles)
- Dubia roaches
- King worms
- "Pinky" mice (safe for larger bearded dragons as an occasional treat)
- Wax worms (High in fat, so use as an occasional treat)
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Grated carrots
- Green beans
- Mustard greens
- Sweet potato
- Turnip greens
- Bananas (flesh and peel)
Foods to Avoid
In an effort to keep your beardie well-fed, you may go out and catch insects, but always check to be sure the food you feed your pet is safe. For instance, fireflies may be great fun to catch, but these seemingly harmless bugs are poisonous to bearded dragons. Some vegetables can also be harmful to your beardie. Avoid the following food items.
- Avocado (very toxic)
- Beet tops (contains compounds that interfere with calcium absorption)
- Citrus (very acidic)
- Fireflies (very toxic)
- Green onion (very acidic)
- Iceberg lettuce (lacks nutritional value, so not toxic but not recommended)
- Mushrooms (contains compounds that interfere with calcium absorption)
- Onion (very acidic)
- Rhubarb (very toxic)
- Spinach (contains compounds that interfere with calcium absorption)
- Swiss chard (contains compounds that interfere with calcium absorption)
Commercial Bearded Dragon Food
Commercial bearded dragon foods like pellets are also available and can be used to supplement your pet's diet. Many contain both plant and animal ingredients, plus supplements reptiles require for proper growth. Even so, it's important these products do not make up your pet's entire diet; they still need fresh foods. Consult with the manufacturers feeding directions or your veterinarian to determine how much your beardie should eat.
If you decide to try a commercial food, pick one especially designed for bearded dragons. Baby bearded dragons (under 12 months old) should eat a special juvenile formula. Keep in mind, some beardies do not find these dry alternatives appetizing, so you may need to moisten them.
While researching bearded dragon diets, you may have come across the phrase "dusted with calcium" or some variation of this term. Why is calcium so important for bearded dragons? They need this mineral in order to develop correctly. Without enough calcium, your beardie can suffer from metabolic bone disease, which causes deformities, tremors, weakness, and limb swelling.
Get a high-quality reptile calcium supplement that does not contain phosphorus. Follow the manufacturer's directions based on the age of your beardie. Most dragons need a light dusting of calcium powder on their food a few times each week. However, avoid feeding them too much calcium as this can also have negative health effects.
UVB light is an important piece of this puzzle. Bearded dragons need UVB light to produce vitamin D3, which is necessary to absorb calcium. Without the correct lighting, your calcium supplementation won't be effective and your beardie can still suffer from bone problems.
Along with a varied diet, your beardie needs fresh water daily. Most often, water is placed in a shallow bowl within the cage. However, some bearded dragons are a little persnickety and won't drink from a bowl. If this is the case, mist greens with water before serving. Another trick is to stick the tip of your finger in the water and move it to create ripples. Sometimes the movement draws the bearded dragon to sample the water in the dish.
Raising Bearded Dragon Food
Insects fed to your bearded dragon can be wild caught or store bought, but juvenile beardies can keep you running to the pet store almost every day to buy enough protein in crickets or mealworms. Another consideration is the option of raising your own supply.
Raising your own ensures a steady supply of young, smaller insects, which will be just the right size for a juvenile. Another benefit to raising your own insects is that it allows control over the diet for these feeder insects. When fed a vitamin rich diet, home-raised insects become a nutritious meal for your beardie.
Bearded Dragon Feeding Tips
Along with knowing which foods are safe for your bearded dragon, these feeding tips can help.
- Feed an adult beardie as many insects as they can eat within 5 to 10 minutes.
- Adults should be fed every other day while babies and juveniles should eat every day.
- Baby bearded dragons can eat as many as 20 to 60 crickets per day.
- Spray greens with water to keep your pet hydrated, plus it helps the greens stay fresh longer.
- Gauge the size of the food. Don't feed your beardie insects any bigger than the space between their eyes. Doing so can lead to health issues such as impaction or even hind-leg paralysis.
- Feed freshly molted insects, as these are easier for your pet to digest.
Plenty of Food Options
Between fresh foods, commercial diets, and live foods, you can certainly feed your bearded dragon a healthy and varied diet. Ensuring your beardie has the nutrients they need will help you avoid painful and life-threatening illnesses. Feeding times can also be a great way for you to bond with your reptile friend.