What Bearded Dragon Food to Give to Keep Him Healthy and Happy?
Bearded dragon food is the number one factor when keeping a beardie. The health and happiness of your bearded dragon is directly proportional to the quality of its diet. You must give proper healthy, nutritious food. A beardie that eats well and gets the nutrition he needs can live up to 10 or even 12 years. if you feed your dragon a poor diet he becomes lethargic and cannot live to his full potential.
Most beardie lovers want the best for their buddy but often don’t have the knowledge to provide the nutrition he needs and deserves. So, memorize the information on this page and balance your beardie’s diet accordingly.
Bearded dragons are omnivorous—”eating both animal and plant foods”. So, give your beardie the nutrition he needs for great health. Bearded dragon food consists of a mixture of the following food.
Vegetables and Fruit
Vegetables and fruit are a staple of bearded dragon food. However, do not feed, in large amounts, any fruit or vegetable that is high in water content. So, for instance, iceberg lettuce, is 96 percent water. Do not feed this to your bearded dragon. If you do, you will have a mess – these types of food give your pet diarrhea.
Beardies can eat almost all vegetables. Vegetables are highest in nutrients when given raw. Almost all vegetables are given raw. Common favorites include asparagus, acorn squash, bok choy (provide more of the green leaves than the white stalk which is higher in water), carrots, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spaghetti squash, turnip greens, yams, yellow squash, and zucchini.
Most fruits have a high water content, so watch for diarrhea and adjust the amount of fruit given accordingly. Most are given occasionally, but prickly pears can be given daily, if you can find them. The following provides the water content in various fruits:
- 90 – 92 percent water – watermelon, cantaloupe melon, and strawberries (feed infrequently, as a treat)
- 85 – 87 percent water – raspberries, pineapple, plums, peaches, cranberries, apricots, and blueberries
- 81 – 84 percent – apples, cherries, grapes, and pears
- 74 percent – bananas (feed rarely; as a treat; can promote metabolic bone disorder [MBD])
Poisonous or Not Good to Feed Your Bearded Dragon
PLEASE NOTE: the fruits, vegetables, and plants that are poisonous to bearded dragons or simply not good for them:
- citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, grapefruits)
- fireflies (lightning bugs)
- iceberg lettuce
- spinach (calcium binds to it and makes it hard to digest)
- insects caught in the wild
- poisonous plants such as, Boxwood, Elderberry, Holly, Mistletoe, Ivy, Tobacco, etc.
When giving live food (this includes insects and small animals) you absolutely MUST follow this RULE “These must not be any longer than the distance measured between the eyes of your beardie.” This has to be followed to avoid many hazardous problems for your bearded dragon, including hind-end paralysis and even death.
NOTE: The question about freeze-dried insects is frequently asked. This is not ideal for your pet. You should only feed these in case of emergency – meaning only when you absolutely cannot find live insects! You buy these at pet stores and online. Again, use only when there is no alternative food.
Crickets are the staple insect for bearded dragon food. And like it or not, you need to keep live insects. Unless you live close to a pet store that has a large and continuous supply of crickets and “safe for beardies” bugs, then you need to have your own supply, in your house! This opens up a whole can of worms. Pun fully intended. The very idea of keeping bugs in the house makes some people, but not all, freak out.
Store your feeder insects in a secure location away from people. Feed your insects the same vegetables you feed your beardie so if your beardie does not like eating his veggies, he gets the same nutrition, just via the insects. You must feed your insects foods rich in vitamins and nutrients. This is called “gut-loading”. Keep your insects at the correct temperature. The ideal temperature range is between 70°-75° while avoiding temperatures above 80° and below 65° F. Cricket containers can be any good-sized object with a lid. Storage containers work well. Poke small holes in the lid to make sure they have oxygen. Never expose them to high humidity, direct sunlight, or cold drafts. Keep the container dry, and provide plenty of ventilation. The location where you store them must be airy. Insects are smelly, no two ways about it.
When feeding insects, give crickets most often. You can also feed roaches, moths, worms, locusts, and black soldier fly larvae, just to name some. Also, only some insects can be given to juveniles or adults, and sometimes both depending on how much. For a list of these insects, click here to receive A Beardie Quick Reference Guide. It is a quick reference pamphlet providing great material that you can easily keep with you or save on your portable devices.
Always buy your insects from a reputable pet store. Do NOT attempt to catch insects from the wild and feed them to your beardie. Wild insects often have parasites that make your bearded dragon SICK.
Mice. Yes, bearded dragons eat mice. But just pinkies—newborn baby mice with no fur. Pinkies are no longer than the space between an older juvenile’s or adult beard dragon’s eyes. Pinkies are low in fat (less than 5 percent) and are rich in calcium; the white part of a pinkie’s stomach is extremely high in calcium.
Never feed juvenile or adult mice. Only pinkies.
Mice are extremely easy to keep and breed, but as with insects, keep them in a well ventilated area due to the intense fumes. If you do not want to contend with the smell and upkeep, buy pinkies from a reputable pet store or breeder. Upon inspection the mice cages should be clean and not obnoxiously smelly.
Staples of bearded dragon food consists of vegetables and plants. Vegetables are full of vitamins and if you are already giving your beardie vitamins you don’t want to accidentally poison him with a vitamin overdose. Be aware of the pitfalls you can encounter and how to avoid them. Memorize the following information and balance your beardie’s diet accordingly. The following supplements must be provided for your bearded dragon:
Bearded dragons also need vitamin A; they usually get enough of this from the plants and vegetables in their diet. Vegetables contain beta carotene which the bearded dragon converts to Vitamin A when needed. If it is not needed, it is simply excreted.
Even though your beardie is getting enough Vitamin A via vegetables, it is a good idea to give a supplement containing natural Vitamin A. Do NOT give him synthetic Vitamin A. Bearded dragons cannot excrete synthetic vitamin A. Therefore, it can poison your beardie, possibly leading to death. Always buy a vitamin supplement containing natural Vitamin A.
Recommended: HERPTIVITE Multivitamin for reptiles and amphibians. It supplies your beardie with vitamin A without the risk of overdosing or making your pet ill.
Now there is a warning here, that sounds contradictory to what I have just written. Do NOT give your dragon too much vitamin A. Too much can cause vitamin A toxicity, even the natural. If a bearded dragon gets vitamin A poisoning, generally its cause was not overdosing on vegetables. But…you just said bearded dragons excrete what is not needed. Yes, they do. They can excrete what is not needed when the amounts being given are not at a mega-overdose level. You can give a beardie too much. When given such a high dosage he cannot excrete enough, hence he becomes toxic. Too much Vitamin A has accumulated in his system.
So, be careful and follow the directions on the container. If you do this, the amounts being given are handled by the bearded dragon without fear of toxicity.
Vitamin D3 and Calcium
These are two of the most important vitamins and minerals you give to your beardie. These help with the development of bones, helping prevent Metabolic Bone Disease (MBA). This is important for growing babies and juveniles, as well as maintenance for adults.
Ensure the calcium to phosphorous ratio is minimally 2:1. Better is 3:1. The higher the first number (calcium) is and the lower the second number (phosphorous) is, the better the supplement is for your bearded dragon. You do not want your dragon to have too much phosphorus.
Recommended: Rep-Cal Reptile Calcium Powder with D3.
You must give your bearded dragon Vitamin D3 and Calcium at the same time, since bearded dragons cannot absorb calcium without vitamin D3.
If your beardie is frequently outside in the sunlight or in his cage for most of the day, he is exposed to full spectrum lighting via the sun or the Zoo Med ReptiSun® 10.0 High Output UVB Fluorescent Bulb. In this case, you can reduce the dosage you give by half. Sunlight and full spectrum lighting provide a good percentage of the daily required dosage.
Give your bearded dragon the following amounts of Vitamin D3 and Calcium, based on age:
- Baby Dragons – Must provide a daily dose to stay healthy during development (bone support, preventing MBD).
- Juvenile Dragons – Supplement with a meal 3-4 times per week.
- Adult Dragons – Supplement with a meal once per week.
Recommended: Rep-Cal Reptile Calcium Powder with D3. It is phosphorous free, so you do not have to worry about the calcium to phosphorous ratio being correct.
Iron is more important for baby bearded dragons than adults. If you have a baby bearded dragon, give him Iron supplements sporadically because too much Iron can cause health problems. Generally, enough Iron is provided via vegetables and plants you feed him.
You need to be careful that your beardie does not get too much iron, since it can cause health problems.
Caution – Too Much of a Good Thing
What many beardie owners do not know is that you can actually make your beardie a picky eater. These little dragons love eating locusts and certain worms. Very often these insects are more expensive. But since eating these insects makes your beloved pet happy, you may indulge him despite the cost. Resist this urge. If you constantly feed your beardie locusts and other rich food he loves, he stops eating vegetables, fruit, and crickets. You do NOT want this to happen.
If your bearded dragon does become a fussy eater, the only way to fix this is to place the crickets in the tank and walk off. When your beardie sees that you are not around, he has no choice but to eat the crickets. Do not worry about your beardie starving. When he is really hungry, he willingly eats the food he dismissed earlier.
Once you have spent some time with your new bearded dragon, you know what food he prefers. Always bear in mind to keep the diet balanced and do not over-indulge him with the “finer” foods. Remember what bearded dragon food is good for him.
The right diet makes sure that your beardie is happy and healthy. This is the key to having your little friend live to his full potential.
There are many other tips and finer points about feeding your pet dragon. You need to get a great bearded dragon guide and learn what to feed your beardie. There are several excellent guides available online. They’ll make a great investment for both you and your pet. Two of the best detailed guides I use are:
|eBook – PDF||The Bearded Dragon Guide|
|The Bearded Dragon Manual provides the essential information all devoted bearded dragon owners need to meet the demands of these beautiful, naturally tame reptiles. Since reptiles are cold-blooded creatures, most humans don’t instinctively understand their requirements the way they understand the needs of a cat or dog. Herp expert Philippe de Vosjoli and his team of veterinarians and authors seek to make keepers confident in their ability to properly care for their bearded dragons through this most informative book. Easy to understand with many colorful pictures to illustrate what they are talking about.|
As a quick reference (24 pages) and another point of view, check out the Bearded Dragons : A Guide From A Veterinarian On Caring For Your Bearded Dragon How To Make Your Dragon Live For 12 Years Or More. If you are looking for detailed information about Bearded Dragons, then consider one of the above choices.