What are good staple greens for your bearded dragon?
You want your bearded dragon to get the best diet possible.
You may have heard of watercress as a good staple option for salads.
However, you have also seen contradictory information, some of which puts it into the occasional category.
Why this discrepancy?
What is watercress, anyway?
What are oxalates?
We’ve got you covered on this topic in today’s article.
Table of Contents
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Watercress?
Yes, bearded dragons can eat watercress. Due to its oxalate content, we recommend it only as an occasional green.
Oxalates are chemical compounds which bind to calcium in the body.
In a bearded dragon, any interference with calcium absorption levels may lead to a calcium deficiency and progress to metabolic bone disease, or MBD.
When compared with spinach and kale, watercress has lower oxalate levels.
Therefore, it does not interfere with calcium absorption, but you should still be careful with it.
Watercress also has a high acid content, which may harm a beardie’s sensitive digestive system.
It has also caused kidney issues if fed too often.
Though it is often recommended as a staple green for bearded dragons, these problems put it into the occasional green category for us.
The benefits of watercress in a bearded dragon’s diet are its low amount of sugar, high amount of dietary fiber, a range of minerals and vitamins, a higher ratio of calcium to phosphorus, and good water content in watercress stalks.
Even if your beardie is obsessed with a particular green or veggie, you should be feeding them various safe plants.
What Is Watercress?
Watercress is an aquatic plant in the cabbage family.
It grows quickly and is a perennial. It has hollow stems which lead up to rounded, medium-sized green leaves.
Watercress plants also grow small flowers, but these are rarely eaten.
The leaves have a tangy, peppery flavor.
Watercress is in the same family as mustard greens, radishes, and wasabi.
One disadvantage to buying watercress from the store is it doesn’t last very long.
It also tends to dry out and look unappetizing in the warmth of a bearded dragon enclosure.
Its higher price at grocery stores makes growing it at home a more appealing option.
Luckily, watercress is easy to grow at home, and it’s a hardy plant.
It grows best in slightly alkaline water.
Make sure to completely submerge its roots.
Keep in mind there is a higher risk of bacterial contact with any plant grown in a wet environment.
Make sure to wash any green thoroughly before serving it, either in your salads or in your beardie’s.
Washing will also take care of pesticide and herbicide left on any plant.
Watercress may also draw spider mites, though this is more likely in an outside garden than an indoor container garden.
A simple mixture of natural soap and water makes a good, safe insect repellent.
Tear, don’t cut, watercress into smaller pieces before offering them to your bearded dragon.
Cutting the leaves with a knife can make them go brown more quickly.
What Other Foods Are High In Oxalates?
Many leafy greens have high calcium-binding oxalate levels.
- Cabbage, red and green
- Beet greens
These should be fed sparingly, once or twice a month, if at all.
What Other Foods Should Bearded Dragons Avoid?
We know higher phosphorus ratios to calcium in a bearded dragon’s foods will interfere with calcium absorption.
This is part of why you should only be feeding bananas once a month or so.
Other vegetables with higher phosphorus content include:
It should be noted a cucumber is a good option if your bearded dragon is severely dehydrated, as it has very high water content.
It also makes a good feeder for your insect populations.
You may have heard of goitrogens, another intimidating chemical compound.
These reportedly cause problems with thyroid function.
However, we will note the research on goitrogens, their effects, and how many are present in certain vegetables seems to be scanty.
Until more research comes to light, we recommend high-goitrogen foods occasionally for bearded dragons.
Vegetables with goitrogenic effects include:
- Bok choy
- Mustard Greens
Vegetables and fruits with a high acid content should be avoided or fed in limited amounts.
High amounts of acid in a bearded dragon’s diet may cause digestive damage.
This is part of the reason why most experts recommend against offering citrus fruits.
Lettuce, though it does not have high oxalate or phosphorous content, has minimal vitamin amounts, a too high water content, and if fed too often, may cause diarrhea.
Iceberg lettuce especially has these negative effects.
Since lettuces are fiber-rich, nutrient-poor, and vitamin-deficient light green vegetables, we recommend against feeding lettuces.
What Are Good Regular Greens For Bearded Dragons?
You know your bearded dragon needs a regular supply of leafy greens for the best possible health and nutritional balance.
However, all of these compounds may be confusing and intimidating and make your choice harder.
Great regular, staple greens for a bearded dragon include:
- Dandelion greens (and dandelion flowers!)
- Collard Greens
- Turnip Greens
The truth is, a mix of greens is best for your beardie.
There are also plenty of benefits to even occasional greens, including high calcium contents, good water content, and good vitamin A and vitamin C levels.
Even the occasional treat of wilted flowers will provide benefits.
Just make sure you are rotating through occasional and staple greens, giving your bearded dragon a varied diet.
How Do I Make Sure My Bearded Dragon Has Enough Calcium?
You should be providing calcium supplementation, either through powdered dietary calcium supplements or administering oral calcium gluconate gel two to three times a week.
Dust prey insects or greens with calcium powder.
Feeding your bearded dragon vegetables, greens, and fruits as a calcium source also contributes to good health.
Turnip greens and dandelion greens are great sources of calcium and make good staples for bearded dragons.
Make sure they have a large dish of water, preventing dehydration.
Make sure your UVB lighting setup provides enough radiation across the enclosure.
Replace bulbs every six months since their efficacy tends to wear out over time.
Not only will they provide vitamin D3 for your beardie, but they also help with metabolism and immune resistance.
Vitamin D3 is essential for the proper absorption of calcium.
Feed plants with high levels of oxalates, or a higher phosphorus ratio, only occasionally.
Keeping a list and schedule by your bearded dragon’s enclosure will help you keep them on a balanced diet.
Watercress is an okay green for your bearded dragon as an occasional salad addition.
It provides great amounts of dietary fiber, necessary vitamins, and minerals and has high water content.
However, it does contain higher levels of oxalates, which bind to calcium and interfere with its absorption.
Proper care for bearded dragons involves paying close attention to their diets, limiting amounts of calcium-binding elements while rotating greens and veggies enough to get a variety.
Make sure you also have proper calcium supplementation.
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