Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means a healthy diet needs to consist of a mix of insects, fruits, and vegetables.
But with so many options available, you must make sure what you provide is a healthy and safe option for your beardie.
Zucchini is a popular vegetable and is readily available at most grocery stores, but is it safe for your bearded dragon to eat?
As a general rule, it is safe for a bearded dragon to eat zucchini. However, due to its high amount of phosphorus and low amount of calcium, zucchini should be fed sparingly as a treat. Pair it with calcium-rich staple greens and nutrient-dense vegetables for a better nutritional profile.
We’ve only touched on this food’s role in a healthy beardie diet; keep reading to get the details and make sure you understand what this reptile needs.
Table of Contents
What Is The Nutritional Value Of Zucchini?
Zucchini is a summer squash, but it is typically available year-round at grocery stores due to its popularity.
This squash is loaded with many vitamins and minerals, including:
|About per 100g
Zucchini also contains a high amount of antioxidants and fiber.
Unfortunately, the high phosphorus level and the poor calcium amount make zucchini a poor food choice for your reptile.
Phosphorus binds to calcium and prevents it from being metabolized and absorbed in a bearded dragon’s body.
Over time, this leads to a calcium deficiency, and the body will start leaching its supply of calcium from the dragon’s bones.
If the deficiency is not corrected in time, metabolic bone disease will develop.
This disease is fatal to reptiles and leads to painful bone deformities such as shrunken bones and twisted limbs.
There is no cure for metabolic bone disease, and it often results in death.
Even though this disease is common in reptiles, it is easily avoided with nutritious food choices and vitamin powder supplements.
This high amount of phosphorus versus calcium in zucchini poses a health risk to your pet if consumed frequently.
Phosphorus binds with calcium and keeps it from being properly absorbed in a bearded dragon’s body, leading to calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease.
When the calcium to phosphorus ratio is higher than 2:1, it greatly increases disease risk to a bearded dragon.
How Often Should Bearded Dragon’s Eat Zucchini?
Despite the high amount of phosphorus, zucchini provides your beardie with various vitamins and minerals, but you should not give it regularly.
Many bearded dragon owners choose to avoid the risks associated with zucchini by simply not feeding it to their pets.
If you decided to give your beardie zucchini, remember to only offer it once a month.
Pairing the zucchini with calcium-rich foods such as alfalfa sprouts and turnip greens will provide more nutrition.
We have a post on feeding bearded dragons turnip greens if you want to learn more on that.
How to Prepare the Zucchini
Zucchini should be fed to your beardie raw, not cooked, to preserve the nutrients it provides.
There are a few steps to preparing the zucchini for your bearded dragon to make it easier to eat and ensure your pet’s safety.
The first thing you should do is thoroughly wash the zucchini, then completely peel it.
The waxy skin is difficult for your beardie to chew, and it presents a choking hazard.
Next, you should shred the zucchini with a cheese grater or use a food chopper to cut it up into very small pieces.
As a rule of thumb, you should never feed your bearded dragon any food larger than the space between its eyes.
Combine the zucchini shreds with other finely-chopped and calcium-rich greens and vegetables into a healthy salad for your bearded dragon.
What Other Foods Make Up a Bearded Dragon’s Diet?
Because they are omnivores, bearded dragons need various food in the form of live feeder insects, vegetables, greens, and fruits for a well-rounded diet.
You should also be sure to provide your pet with clean, fresh water daily.
Always remove any uneaten food from the enclosure twenty minutes after feeding your bearded dragon to avoid spoiled food.
This includes any uneaten insect feeders, who may bite your dragon or cause it to become stressed by constantly moving around.
In this section, we will take a closer look at the best foods to give your beardie and which ones to avoid.
This will take the guesswork out of feeding time and ensure you are providing your bearded dragon with the vital nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Insects For Beardies
There are a variety of healthy insects to provide in your bearded dragon’s diet.
Staple insects include:
- Small Grasshoppers
Other insects, such as waxworms and silkworms, should be fed in small amounts as a treat because of their high-fat content.
These insects are available in many pet stores, especially those specializing in reptiles, or you may decide to raise your feeder insect colony.
Insects are typically high in phosphorus and have a low calcium content, so no matter what type of insect you feed to your beardie, it is very important to gut-load them to offer the most nutrition.
Gut-loading involves feeding the insects with nutritious fruits and vegetables 12-24 hours before feeding them to your bearded dragon.
These insects will pass on these nutrients when digested by the dragon, which is healthier than insects with nothing in their stomachs.
Never feed your beardie fireflies or any other type of glowing insect because they are very toxic to reptiles and will make your dragon sick and possibly cause death.
Insects should make up between 25%-30% of a bearded dragon’s diet, with plant matter making up the other 70%-75%.
Fruits and Vegetables For Beardies
Choosing the most nutritious fruits and vegetables for your beardie is very important since plant matter makes up most of its diet.
By offering your pet a wide variety of greens and vegetables, you are providing them with the vital nutrients they need to thrive.
You may also feed some fruit to your bearded dragon, but it should make up only a small portion of its diet.
These are very similar to the effects of sugary foods on humans.
The most suitable greens for your beardie include dark leafy greens, such as:
- Mustard Greens
- Collard Greens
- Beet Greens
- Dandelion Leaves
While spinach may seem like a good choice, you should avoid it because it contains many oxalates.
These oxalates inhibit calcium absorption, which leads to metabolic bone disease.
Swiss chard is also high in oxalates and should be avoided as well.
The most nutritious veggies for bearded dragons to eat regularly include:
- Sweet Potato
- Green Beans
- Bell Pepper
- Spaghetti Squash
Avoid iceberg lettuce because it has very little nutritional value and may cause digestive issues because of its high water content.
Never give your lizard rhubarb or beet tops, as these are very toxic and will cause death.
Healthy fruits include:
Watermelon is also a good choice due to its high water content.
Just be sure to remove any seeds.
Like Swiss chard, star fruit is high in oxalates and should not be frequently eaten by bearded dragons.
Fruit should always be given sparingly as a treat due to its high amount of natural sugar.
Do not include citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, or limes because they are highly acidic and may cause damage to your beardie’s esophagus or stomach lining.
You should also avoid avocado because it is extremely toxic to bearded dragons.
Calcium and Vitamin D3 Supplements For Bearded Dragons
Sometimes, feeding your bearded dragon various food items such as healthy insects, fruits, and vegetables is still not enough to fulfill all of its nutritional needs.
Dietary calcium is the most important nutrient for a reptile, as it aids in bone development and helps maintain strong bones throughout the animal’s life.
Since your bearded dragon gets most of its calcium from plants, feeding it, high-calcium dark leafy greens will certainly help boost its calcium levels.
However, many insects are high in phosphorus, which inhibits calcium absorption.
This is why supplementation with calcium is essential to your beardie’s diet.
This light coating is enough to provide your bearded dragon with the calcium it needs to maintain healthy growth and development.
You should also add vitamin D3 if your bearded dragon does not get at least 12 hours of UVB light per day.
D3 allows the reptile’s body to metabolize calcium properly.
Calcium supplements are usually given 3 to 4 times per week, depending on how often you feed your bearded dragon.
With proper calcium supplementation, a lot of common health problems are preventable.