How do you know which foods are best for your pet?
You’ve been considering getting a bearded dragon but are wondering about their nutritional needs.
As new beardie owners, you may be intimidated by the requirements of a reptilian pet from tanks to food.
What plants are good and bad for bearded dragons?
How do they get their protein?
Bearded Dragon Diet Sheet
To start feeding your bearded dragon a nutritionally complete diet, it is best to understand which plant and animal foods are best, which should be fed only occasionally, which should be avoided because of their toxicity. Adult beardies need mostly greens with some protein insects every other day.
The feeding frequency, and the percentage of plant matter to animal matter, may depend on your pet’s age and the time of year.
Babies will need to be fed more frequently than adult dragons.
In all cases, you should be serving a variety of fresh foods.
If you take care of a bearded dragon from the hatchling stage onward, it is best to offer them plants first, insects second.
If offered simultaneously, the hatchling may ignore the plants and go for just the crickets or roaches.
Dietary care and needs for any individual bearded dragon may depend on their overall health.
You will especially want to consult your veterinarian for nutritional advice if your pet is malnourished or has a diet-related condition like gout or metabolic bone disease.
Bearded Dragon Plant Matter
If you own an adult dragon, most of their diet should consist of plants.
The percentage of plant matter makeup should be 75% staple greens, 15% staple veggies, and fruits, with the remaining 10% containing occasional greens, veggies, and fruits.
Offering a beardie greens and veggies as early in their lives as possible will ensure they are not addicted to insects and will accept various plant matter.
Wash and chop up any plants very finely.
A food processor may help you with creating small enough pieces.
Keeping the vegetables and greens raw will ensure your pet gets its full nutritional value.
Make sure anything you feed is in pieces no bigger than the space between your beardie’s eyes.
Staple Greens (75% of the plant matter) include:
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens (not the flower)
- Mustard Greens
- Turnip Greens
Staple vegetables include:
- Acorn, yellow, and butternut squash
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Sweet potato
Occasional greens include:
- Bok choy
- Carrot tops
- Celery leaves
- Kohlrabi leaves
- Swiss chard
Occasional veggies include:
- Bell peppers
- Celery stalks
- Green peas
Occasional veggies and greens may either contain compounds which are dangerous in high amounts or not have much nutritional value for your pet.
Foods too high in phosphorous and oxalates may interfere with calcium absorption, potentially leading to metabolic bone disease caused by calcium deficiency.
Staple fruits for your beardie include:
- Prickly pear
Occasional treat fruits include:
- Honeydew melon
- Seedless watermelon
The occasional fruits may have phosphorous or oxalates or maybe too high in sugar.
This is part of the reason why they should make up the smallest part of your pet’s diet.
Plants which should either be fed very rarely or avoided include beet greens, lettuces, spinach, and tomatoes.
Citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and tangerines, are not recommended for these lizards.
They are too acidic and may cause digestive damage over time.
Though they have high amounts of vitamin C, they also have high amounts of sugar, a cause of obesity in pets.
Avoid any parts of avocados and rhubarb.
Both are extremely toxic to beardies.
Same with most mushrooms.
Bearded Dragon Protein
The amount of insects your bearded dragon should be eating depends on their dietary needs and their age.
Live feeder insects are the best possible option.
They are available for sale at most pet stores and are easy to breed and keep alive yourself with the proper research.
Make sure to gut load any feeder insects for 24 hours before offering them.
Gut loading will ensure your insects provide as much nutritional value as possible.
If you’re unsure how gut loading works we have a post on how to gut load crickets for bearded dragons to help you get started.
Feeder insects come in different sizes.
Crickets, for example, range from tiny babies, called “pinheads,” to adults fully grown at 1″ inch (2.5 cm) long.
Like with pieces of vegetables and fruit, do not feed a bearded dragon insects bigger than the space between their eyes to prevent digestive issues.
Staple insects for regular feedings include:
- Dubia Roaches
- Horn Worms
If your bearded dragon has gout, avoid crickets.
They are high in purine, which aggravates the disease and causes more crystals to form in your pet’s organs and tissues.
Occasional treat insects include:
- Butter worms
- Rinsed earthworms
- Phoenix worms
These occasional insects are generally very high in fat.
If you have a malnourished or underweight bearded dragon, these may be all right to feed more regularly.
Consult your veterinarian for more good foods for malnutrition.
Do not feed baby bearded dragons mealworms unless they are young mealworms or have recently molted.
Adults have chitin, which is too hard for baby beardies to chew and digest properly.
We do not recommend feeding your pet wild-caught insects.
While this may seem cheaper and easier, wild-caught insects are more likely to have come in contact with pesticides and insecticides which could gravely harm your pet.
NEVER feed your bearded dragon fireflies, elder bugs, glowworms, or any other insect which can produce its luminescence.
These insects have toxic chemicals in them which will harm your bearded dragon.
Bearded Dragon Mineral Supplements and Vitamins
Though a varied diet will give your bearded dragon a great number of essential nutrients, certain vitamins and compounds will need to be supplemented in their diet.
Vitamin supplements for reptiles usually come in powdered form, perfectly engineered to stick to food.
Your beardie will need powdered calcium and a powdered multivitamin.
Some calcium supplements include D3, and some do not.
If you have a working UVB light in the tanks, you may want to use the calcium and multivitamin, which do not contain D3.
A UVB light helps your bearded dragon produce vitamin D3 on its own.
You will want to be careful not to overdo it with the supplements.
Follow amount instructions on the packaging and schedule out when you coat their food in supplements.
Over supplementation of some vitamins, especially D3, may be toxic and harmful for your pet.
Powder insects for protein and plant matter with a calcium supplement 2-3 times per week.
Only give a multivitamin, if using it, one feeding per week.
A few available devices, like the cricket shaker cup or the cricket rock, make it easier to coat insects with powdered supplements.
Simply put the live insects and the powdered supplement in the cup or rock and shake.
This cricket rock is a great choice.
Bearded Dragon Water
Your bearded dragon should always have a clean source of freshwater available.
Your pet may want to soak rather than drink, so a shallow bowl big enough for them to soak in without tipping over is ideal.
Make sure you clean their water bowls regularly, every day if possible.
Also, ensure your water is dechlorinated.
Regular tap water has often been treated with chlorine.
Bottled water is usually safe for bearded dragons.
Otherwise, use tap water which has been conditioned with a dechlorinator for the water conditioner.
Baths in lukewarm water also provide hydration for beardies.
We recommend baths at least once a week.
They can not only absorb water through their skin but through their vents as well.
A bath is especially beneficial if your beardie is constipated.
Another way to make sure your beardie stays hydrated is to mist their plant food with water before offering it.
You could also mist their habitats occasionally to mimic a rainfall event.
Don’t do this overmuch as beardies are desert creatures.
You want to be careful with misting environments and with running water in a fountain if this is your water source.
Moisture in the habitat, added to the heat, causes a rise in humidity levels.
This may lead to problems with your beardie, including upper respiratory infections.
Bearded Dragon Diet By Age
Below is a table of percentages of insect feedings and plant feedings, and their daily frequencies, based on your bearded dragon’s age.
Males and females have no significant diet difference, even though females are often smaller.
|Type||Age||% Insect Matter||% Plant Matter||Frequency of Feedings|
|Hatchlings||Birth-5 months||60-80||20-40||5 times a day|
|Juveniles||5 months-18 months||50||50||1-3 times a day|
|Adult Bearded Dragons||18 months and older||25-30||70-75||1 day plant, 1 day protein, 1 day off|
And if you happen to be a first time pet owner trying to decide between a male or female dragon we have a post to help you decide between owning the male or female bearded dragon.
How To Feed Bearded Dragons
People either feed their bearded dragon through hand feeding or with a food bowl.
If you have time to hand feed, it is a great way to bond with your bearded dragon and establish trust through offering food.
Hold out a worm or insect in your hands, offering it so your bearded dragon can see it in its cage.
Feed them in tanks or outside of tanks; it doesn’t matter.
Our advice is you may find more success at leaving them in their tanks at first.
This allows them to feel more comfortable.
Hold it firmly enough to keep it in place but not so firm as to kill it.
Once your bearded dragon notices the worm wiggling, it will reach out for it with its tongue.
Let go of the worm so your pet can eat it and not bite you with its mouth.
People are often scared of bites, but they’re not serious.
You may also offer a diet of insects and plant matter with tongs.
Hand-feeding on its own comes with the downside of your pet accidentally biting a finger or your hand.
If you are using tongs, use bamboo or plastic ones, or cover the ends of metal tongs with plastic tips.
If you are feeding using a bowl, make sure to use one shallow enough for the bearded dragon to notice the food inside it but deep enough so live insects will not escape it and wander the cage.
What About Other Bearded Dragon Foods?
You may wonder whether you should serve your bearded dragon other foods, like popcorn, hard-boiled eggs, meat, or fish.
Any meat prepared for human consumption is higher in phosphorous than calcium.
Even cooked meats, like ground beef or lunchmeat, should not be fed to a bearded dragon despite their nutrients.
Fish, though they are offered live to other pet lizards, are not suitable for bearded dragons.
They would not eat many in the wild.
Too much fish consumption may also lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Hard-boiled eggs are okay on a once a week basis.
You may feed them more frequently if your beardie is malnourished or a baby.
While eggs provide a great source of protein, they are also high in fat.
If eaten too often, the fat content may result in health conditions like obesity and fatty liver disease.
Human snacks like popcorn are not suitable for bearded dragon consumption.
Popcorn especially may cause problems if an unpopped kernel is accidentally eaten.
A completely popped kernel will most likely get fully digested, but monitor your bearded dragon’s poop just in case.
Many snack foods for humans are loaded with additives and salt, which are not suitable for a beardie.
Consider before feeding your bearded dragon anything if it is something they would eat in the wild.
Research whether the specific food is toxic to beardies or should only be fed occasionally before offering it.
A wide variety of foods is essential to your pet’s health, but you will want to do your research on whether they are safe first.
How Do I Keep Track Of This?
We highly recommend keeping a feeding schedule and bearded dragon care sheet by your pet’s tanks.
Also, keep a list of their favorite plants and insects.
A complete calendar will also help you in odd times like their brumation, when they stop eating regularly and shedding.
If you track how often they eat, you will also catch a lack of appetite.
Feeding a bearded dragon a nutritionally complete diet may seem intimidating at first.
However, if you know the basics and keep track of when you feed them staples and occasional treats, along with supplements, you are well on your way to giving your pet a long and healthy life.
Keep in mind which foods are toxic and avoid those completely.
If you have a baby, make sure to feed it greens to get used to them as it grows.