Have you wondered if it’s suitable to provide a vegetarian lifestyle for your bearded dragon?
Is it enough for them to live on?
Vegetarian diets may seem healthy, but you need to know exactly what one entails as a good owner.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help!
Table of Contents
Is a Vegetarian Diet Healthy for Bearded Dragons?
No, bearded dragons are an omnivorous species and need at least 20% of their diet to come from insects. While the reptiles require a significant amount of vegetables and greens in their diet, they cannot live off it alone.
A diet with a variety of foods is the best thing to offer your bearded dragon.
In addition, bearded dragon owners need to feel comfortable feeding live insects to their pet lizards.
If you aren’t, perhaps this isn’t the pet for you.
Why Bearded Dragons Need Protein
So, now you know your beardie needs animal protein in their diet, but why?
As babies, they need animal matter to help them grow and develop.
This is why the need for them decreases as they become adults.
In nature, wild bearded dragons hunt for their food, including crickets, worms, and cockroaches.
There is a range of insects you are able to give your bearded dragon to ensure they are getting the proper amount of protein.
As you are feeding the insects, be sure they are the correct size.
As a rule of thumb, don’t give your pet anything bigger than the space in between their eyes.
When you are feeding your beardie, make sure no insects drown in the water bowl.
You do not want your pet to eat dead insects.
Covers for water dishes are available to reduce the chance of this occurring.
Best Types of Insects for Feeding
Here’s a quick rundown of the best insects to feed to bearded dragons.
- dubia roaches
- super worms
I also recommend “gut-loading” the insects before feeding them to your beardie.
This allows you to provide a nutritious diet to the insects before your bearded dragon eats them.
Ideally, you will do this for a couple of weeks before feeding them to your beardie.
As a note, only feed mealworms and super worms to adult bearded dragons.
The hard outer shell can lead to impaction in your pet lizard.
They have higher fat content and can lead to obesity in your beardie.
Avoid giving them to both babies and juveniles.
Other types of animal matter suitable for beardies are pinky mice.
The problem with mice is their higher fat content.
Your beardie’s digestive system isn’t built to digest a large amount of fat at one time.
Make sure to only feed mice to bearded dragons over the age of 6 months.
My top choice for animal protein is the dubia roach.
It has no smell, is soft and easily digested, they don’t carry diseases, cannot climb glass, are quiet, and cannot fly.
Finally, they are high in calcium and protein and are the perfect food for your perfect pet.
Green Foods For Bearded Dragons
Vegetables and Leafy Greens
There is a wide variety of veggies and greens to offer to your beardie.
Fresh foods are ideal, but frozen vegetables and greens will work as well.
Frozen foods can sometimes lose nutrients during the freezing process.
However, frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables.
These nutritious foods provide the species with much-needed vitamins and minerals like calcium and Iron.
If your beardie is not getting enough healthy greens, they likely will need supplementation with calcium.
Making salads for your beardie is an excellent option to ensure they are getting a variety of foods.
Otherwise, they may start to have a preferred food item and turn up their nose to anything else.
Here is a list of some of the acceptable vegetables and plant material to offer your pet reptile:
- mustard greens
- collard greens
- flowers (be mindful not to give any wildflowers, as they may contain pesticides)
- beet greens
- bell peppers
Fruit should only ever be given as a treat due to its high sugar content.
Limit fruit intake to one or two times per week.
You should throw out leftover fruit so it doesn’t have the opportunity to rot inside their enclosure.
The following fruits are suitable to give on occasion: bananas, papaya, mango, star fruit, strawberries, figs, apricots, and melons.
Make sure you peel any fruit with the skin before offering it to your bearded dragon.
In addition, certain fruits are useful to help with constipation, including watermelon and apples.
If you don’t want to give your beardie insects, you may wonder if they can get protein through a commercial diet.
Most commercial diet foods are labeled as nutritiously complete, but it’s essential to incorporate them into a diet with fresh veggies and protein matter.
Bearded dragon pellets are available at pet stores.
Pelleted foods are fine, but they shouldn’t be the only source of food for lizards.
Dog food is even suitable to feed on occasion.
Remember, bearded dragons are not people.
Your beardie cannot eat foods you eat for protein, like lentils, nuts, and eggs.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Just as important as the best foods for your pet lizard are the foods you should never offer dragons.
Offering these foods to your pet can cause illness or even death.
- Fireflies or other wild insects (Anything with the ability to light up is a no-no)
- Iceberg lettuce (Iceberg contains a high amount of water and little nutritional value.)
- Spinach and beet tops (Spinach is okay in small amounts, but too much can cause a calcium deficiency.)
- Wild plants (You don’t know what type of pesticides or chemicals have been used on them
Avoid giving your dragon fish or other seafood because there is always the chance they contain parasites.
Age of Bearded Dragon Considerations
It’s important to note your beardie’s age and how much protein they should be consuming.
A dragon baby needs to eat a lot more insects than adult bearded dragons.
Baby dragons need to eat daily and can consume up to 60 crickets in a single day.
Juvenile bearded dragons will have more of a 50/50 diet when it comes to proteins and plant matter.
Adults do not eat as many insects because it can cause weight gain and lead to obesity.
Lizards in captivity don’t get as much exercise as they would in the wild, so it’s important to provide balanced nutrition to your pet.
As dragons grow, the percentage of insects needed in their diet goes down to 25-30%.
The Need for Supplements
Bearded dragons need the right balance of minerals and nutrients to live a healthy life.
Babies should receive supplements about twice a week, and juveniles and adults will receive them once a week.
To avoid a calcium deficiency, I suggest sprinkling a calcium powder over your beardie’s food.
Reptiles are at risk for metabolic bone disease (MBD) if they do not have a proper balance of calcium in their diet.
Calcium supplements help avoid the risk of your pet developing MBD, which is a severe bone disease.
To ensure your beardie is getting all the nutrients needed, consider giving separate calcium and multi-vitamin powders.
A reptile mineral supplement is typically available through reptile veterinarians or at your local pet store.
Advice on Bearded Dragon Vivariums
Lastly, I wanted to share some information about the proper way to set up your reptile’s enclosure.
While the diet of your beardie is essential, so is the house they live in.
Their habitat is just as critical as their diet.
When bearded dragons are in captivity, it’s important to mimic their natural habitat of Australia as much as possible.
In addition, their environment should maintain a proper temperature and humidity level.
Your beardie should have a basking spot to rest and several “hide spots.”
Using rocks or a hammock allows your pet to access their basking spot easily.
Feel free to offer a dish of water to keep them hydrated.
While they do get a large portion of their water intake from food, they also enjoy lying in their water bowl.
Ensure you are giving fresh water daily since your pet beardie may also use it to go to the bathroom.
To keep them hydrated, you may also use a plant mister and gently spray them with it.
Lastly, make sure you have an appropriate substrate, or bedding, for them.
Avoid anything small like gravel or calcium sand and stick with either a reptile carpet or sphagnum moss.
Since bearded dragons are omnivores, a diet with various food types will provide the best source of nutrition.
To avoid a potential health issue, they cannot live off one type of food alone.
While you may consider turning your bearded dragon into a vegetarian, it’s important to remember lizards need protein matter to live a healthy life.
When a bearded dragon is in captivity, it’s up to you, the owner, to provide them with the proper environment and diet.
Just like with humans, it’s all about balance for the bearded, spikey scaled animals we love so dearly.