Is it safe to feed tomatoes to your bearded dragon?
Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?
Why does this distinction matter when feeding a reptile such as a bearded dragon?
What are the health benefits associated with tomato consumption?
Are there any health risks of feeding this food to your beardie?
Let’s review the recommended diet for bearded dragons as both babies and adults, discuss the nutrition information of a tomato, determine whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, and highlight the key benefits and health risks associated with the consumption of tomatoes.
Table of Contents
Can A Bearded Dragon Eat Tomatoes?
A tomato is a fruit and is safe to feed to bearded dragons in small quantities. This fruit has several health benefits associated with it; however, it also poses health risks and is not a food to regularly be included in a bearded dragon’s diet.
While tomatoes are not the healthiest food out there to feed your bearded dragon, it has some health benefits that keep it off the “unsafe foods” list.
Although it has long been debated whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, the answer has been there all along.
Tomatoes are classified as fruits by botanists, but nutritionists consider them to be vegetables.
Tomatoes are technically fruits because of how they grow on the plant.
By definition, fruits are the ripened flower ovary which grow and contain seeds.
Tomatoes are traditionally used in main dishes or sides when cooking and are not known to be sweet.
Because of this, nutritionists and many people consider tomatoes a vegetable.
For the sake of this research, we will be referring to a tomato as a fruit with deficient levels of sugar.
Other than their low fructose levels, tomatoes also offer the benefit of high levels of vitamin A and low levels of oxalic acid.
They also have some negative aspects when associated with bearded dragon health, including their low levels of calcium and high phosphorus levels.
We will take an in-depth look into the nutrition of a tomato and the various benefits and drawbacks of adding them to your bearded dragon’s diet.
Tomato Nutrition Facts
Since we have now established tomatoes are considered fruits, let’s look further into their nutritional values.
The following table contains the relevant nutrition information of 100 g of tomato about a bearded dragon’s diet.
|Calcium (Ca)||5 mg|
|Phosphorus (P)||29 mg|
|Vitamin A||75 mcg|
|Vitamin C||16 mg|
|Vitamin D||0 mg|
|Vitamin K||7.9 mcg|
As bearded dragon owners, we will never be feeding our bearded dragons 100 g of tomato in one sitting.
However, observing the nutrition information in the format of 100 g of the food is the simplest way of explaining the nutrient content of said food.
If you happen to have a beardie who likes the taste of tomato, it is recommended to feed it one tomato quarter per month.
This should be an average-sized red tomato on the vine.
You will want to avoid feeding any unripe tomatoes or other parts of the tomato plant to your bearded dragon. Unripe tomatoes are green tomatoes, and they are harmful to your pet.
These green tomatoes and other parts of the tomato plant, including the tomato leaves and stems, contain a toxin known as solanine.
Solanine has adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system as well as neurologically.
Since bearded dragons are predisposed to many gastrointestinal issues, it is best to avoid this toxic compound altogether.
The first step to feeding your pet lizard a tomato is washing it thoroughly and ensuring it is organic and free of pesticides.
When preparing the tomato for the salad bowl, it is suggested to peel the fruit and remove the tomato seeds from the center.
Essentially you will only be feeding your dragon the “meat” of the fruit or the fleshy area between the tomato seeds and the skin.
Once you have peeled and gutted the tomato, cut off a slice of tomato approximately 1/4 of the total size.
The slice of tomato should be chopped into bite-sized pieces and should be spread throughout the salad.
If you are feeding your pet lizard the occasional piece of tomato, be sure only ever to provide them raw tomatoes which have been prepared correctly.
Fresh tomatoes are best.
Cooking this fruit will decrease the nutritional value it offers to your reptile.
Use this food as a salad topper once per month to treat your bearded dragon and entice it to dig into the nutrient-dense foods underneath.
Calcium & Phosphorus
Calcium is one of the vital nutrients reptiles like your dragon need to survive.
Feeding the dragon foods which contain the correct amounts of calcium will help avoid nutrition issues associated with calcium deficiency.
As we see in our nutrition table above, tomatoes have very low calcium levels, with only 5 mg per 100 g of fruit.
With this information, we can understand this fruit does not fall into the category of calcium-rich foods.
It is possible to adjust this low level of the essential mineral with calcium supplements; however, tomatoes also have high phosphorus levels.
If these fruits had low calcium and phosphorus levels, the calcium ratio could be easily resolved with a supplement.
Since there are also high phosphorus levels, simply adding calcium powder to the top of the tomato is not enough.
The recommended calcium to phosphorus ratio for bearded dragon foods is 2:1.
This means there should be a minimum of two times as much calcium as phosphorus in any given food.
If we refer to our nutrition information above, we can see 29 mg of phosphorus per 100 g of raw tomato.
With only 5 mg of calcium and 29 mg of phosphorus, the Ca:P ratio of a tomato is 1:5.8.
A 1:5.8 ratio is a horrible calcium to phosphorus ratio, especially since the recommended ratio is 2:1.
Feeding your dragon foods with these poor phosphorus ratios to calcium will undoubtedly lead to health issues such as metabolic bone disease.
Low Oxalic Acid
One of the benefits tomatoes bring to the table is their low oxalic acid levels, also known as oxalates.
Since calcium binds to oxalates, this compound prevents the absorption of calcium in the body.
High levels of oxalic acid will lead to a lack of calcium in the body.
To avoid this issue, owners must supplement the diet with calcium powder.
Although there are low levels of this compound present in tomatoes, there is still a high amount of phosphorus and a low level of calcium.
It is best to supplement any meal where a tomato is given with calcium powder to make up for this poor nutrient makeup.
If you’re not already using a calcium supplement, we recommend this one.
This supplement is phosphorus-free and also contains vitamin D3, which is not found in tomatoes at all.
Vitamin D is another vital nutrient for these dragons, and it should be supplemented along with calcium if the animal is fed foods lacking in these areas.
Low Sugar Levels
One of the main benefits of tomatoes is their low level of sugar.
Usually, fruits are more concentrated with natural sugars than other forms of vegetation.
These high sugar levels are why fruits are only meant to account for approximately 10% of a dragon’s mainly veggie-based diet.
These low sugar levels help to qualify tomatoes as safe fruits for our dragons.
Even so, this fruit should only be given as a special treat to adult dragons on occasion.
Rich in Vitamins
The main benefit tomatoes bring to the table is their adequate essential nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
The highest vitamin content in this fruit is vitamin C.
According to our chart in the previous section, there is 16 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of raw tomato.
Appropriate levels of vitamin C in beardie foods are a positive aspect.
Our pet dragons need vitamin C to maintain a healthy immune system, healthy skin, and good bone health.
Without vitamin C, our reptilian friends would be more susceptible to infections such as scurvy, which affects the mouth and wounds’ healing process.
There is 75 mcg of vitamin A in our sample size of the fruit.
Notice this vitamin is measured in micrograms (mcg) as opposed to milligrams (mg).
The difference in these measurement units is drastic, with 1 milligram accounting for 1,000 micrograms.
If we were to compare the levels of vitamin A to vitamin C in micrograms, we would see 75 mcg: 16,000 mcg.
In other words, there is a significantly higher level of vitamin C than vitamin A.
Even so, the vitamin A present in this fruit is beneficial to beardies.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient which aids in eye health, overall organ health, and also supports a healthy immune system.
Too much vitamin A could lead to vitamin A toxicity or hypervitaminosis A.
Bearded dragons are sensitive to this health issue, but it is not something to worry yourself over regarding the level of vitamin A in a tomato serving.
As long as you avoid supplementing your beardie’s diet with vitamin A, you will most likely not run into the issue of vitamin A toxicity.
The final vitamin we will mention is vitamin K.
Vitamin K has the lowest levels of the three vital vitamins we have discussed, coming in at 7.9 mcg per 100 g.
Let’s compare all three vitamins in micrograms below:
|Vitamin K||7.9 mcg|
|Vitamin A||75 mcg|
|Vitamin C||16,000 mcg|
There are minuscule amounts of vitamin K when compared to vitamin C.
Even will a smaller level than the other nutrients, vitamin K is still present in tomatoes.
This vitamin is vital for bone health, blood clotting, and the healing of wounds.
Tomatoes & Baby Bearded Dragons
Baby bearded dragons are dragons younger than one year of age.
Beardies do most of their growth within this first year, and their diets vary significantly from the diet they will have for the rest of their life.
Baby bearded dragons require a diet made up of 70% insect protein and 30% plant-based material.
They start their life eating anywhere from three to five times per day, with the frequency of meals gradually reducing within their first year of life.
By the time they are one year old, bearded dragons will be eating one meal per day, with fasting days regularly worked into their feeding schedule.
Since baby bearded dragons need to consume high protein levels and should be eating mainly nutrient-dense foods, it is not recommended to feed the tomatoes.
Although it is not unsafe to feed this fruit to your beardie, it is not the most beneficial fruit for them to eat.
If you decide to feed them bits of tomato to introduce it to their diet, do so sparingly and in small quantities.
The following is a list of beneficial fruits to feed your growing dragon.
While this listing of fruits is not an all-inclusive list of acceptable fruits for bearded dragons, it is best to refrain from feeding growing dragons many fruits at all.
If you feed them fruit as an occasional treat every couple of weeks, the best fruit choice is a dried fig.
Dried figs are higher in calcium than any other dried fruit and are also rich in antioxidants.
Tomatoes & Adult Bearded Dragons
Tomatoes are more acceptably fed to adult beardies than baby beardies.
This is for several reasons.
The main reason is adult bearded dragons consume an utterly different diet once they are older than one year.
An adult dragon will need to maintain a diet made up of 70% plant-based material and 30% insect protein.
Adults will also eat much less frequently than babies.
It is recommended to feed your adult bearded dragon on a three-day feeding cycle.
This feeding cycle is made up of three specific days, during which either one meal is given, or only water is provided to the animal.
The first day of the three-day cycle should consist of a large salad.
The second day’s meal should be made up of 50% of the required live insects per week.
This is usually around 25 insects per meal, depending on the size of the dragon.
The third day in the cycle is the fasting day. On this day, the adult dragon should be provided with water, but no solid food matter.
This will allow for ample digestion time and will keep you from accidentally overfeeding your reptile.
If we look deeper into the types of vegetation which make up 70% of the adult’s diet, we will see approximately 60% of the diet should be dark leafy greens and vegetables, and the remaining 10% should consist of fruits.
Since only 10% of the whole diet is made up of fruit, and a tomato is not even the healthiest fruit option for this type of lizard, it should only be provided on rare occasions.
Most veterinary advice states a small amount of fresh, raw tomato should be used as a salad topper no more than once per month.
Since all owners are different in their choices of how and what to feed their pets, it is advised you seek professional advice before attempting to alter this prescribed amount of fruit in any way.
Be sure the plant material you are providing your lizard is as nutrient-dense as possible.
Some superfoods which should be included in a bearded dragon diet include figs, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens.
As far as insect consumption goes, sticking to live crickets no larger than the space between the dragon’s eyes is the best way to maintain a healthy diet.
You should feed bearded dragons a nutrient-dense diet with naturally high levels of calcium and vitamins and low phosphorus and oxalic acid levels.
Tomatoes are a fruit safe to feed adult bearded dragons, but only on occasion.
Since tomatoes are low in calcium and high in phosphorus, they are not recommended to be given to beardies regularly.
Besides, tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit, which should only make up 10% of a fully grown bearded dragon’s diet.
Why waste the 10% on a fruit lacking the essential nutrient for reptiles?
If you decide to add fresh tomato to your dragon’s diet on occasion, be sure to wash it thoroughly and remove the skin, seeds, stems, and leaves.
Remember, only raw tomatoes should be provided as the occasional salad topper and accompanied by a high-quality calcium supplement.