A nutritious, varied diet is the key to a bearded dragon’s health and longevity.
Many new bearded dragon owners struggle with feeding these reptiles and how much they should be eating.
Crickets are the go-to staple insect for most bearded dragon owners, but how many should you feed bearded dragons?
Bearded dragons should eat as many crickets as they can during a 15-minute period, usually between 10-20 for adults. Outside of crickets, the ratio of an adult bearded dragon’s diet consists of 20% insects and 80% leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
Crickets are usually the first food a baby bearded dragon will eat, and they are a good protein source and easy to obtain.
The jumping movements of crickets also stimulate a beardie’s hunting instinct.
Since a bearded dragon’s dietary needs change as it gets older, it may be difficult to know how many crickets you should be feeding your reptile.
Keep reading for more information on how many crickets your bearded dragon should have daily throughout its life stages.
We also include cricket feeding tips, details on why live crickets are a vital part of a beardie’s diet, and how to breed your crickets to avoid making so many trips to the pet store.
How Many Crickets Should You Feed Your Bearded Dragon Daily?
A bearded dragon should be allowed to eat as many crickets as it can within a 10-15 minute time period. For baby bearded dragons, this amounts to anywhere between 25-80 crickets per day, and for adults, the number is around 10-20 crickets daily.
A baby bearded dragon’s diet will include more insects than an adult’s diet due to their rapid growth.
As a bearded dragon grows into an adult, its diet will gradually shift to include more plant matter than insects.
As a general rule, the size of the crickets should be no larger than the space between a bearded dragon’s eyes.
If the crickets are too large for your beardie, this will result in a choking hazard as well as digestion issues.
It is imperative to remove any uneaten crickets from your beardie’s enclosure when feeding time is over.
Crickets left in the enclosure will cause stress to your beardie, as well as injuries from bites.
Feeding your beardie in a smaller, separate enclosure makes it easier to retrieve any uneaten insects and makes cleaning up after mealtime much easier.
The separate feeding enclosure only needs a simple paper towel substrate and a feeding dish and shallow water dish, so the live crickets have nowhere to hide.
Bearded Dragon Cricket Feeding Table (By Age)
The following table shows the typical amount of crickets a bearded dragon will eat, according to its age.
|Bearded Dragon Age||Crickets Consumed Daily|
|Baby Bearded Dragons (0-3 months old)||25-80|
|Juvenile Bearded Dragons (3-12 months old)||25-60|
|Adult Bearded Dragons (12+ months old)||10-20|
Baby bearded dragons should be fed up to 5 times per day for 5-10 minute increments.
For juvenile beardies, you will only need to feed them 2-3 times per day for 5-10 minutes at a time.
Since adult beardies will be eating more greens than insects at this life stage, they will eat fewer crickets.
An adult diet consists of 1-2 feedings per day in 10-15 minute feeding sessions, and you may offer them crickets all at once or spread them out during each meal.
Cricket Types & Size Table
As previously stated, it is vital to feed your beardie the correct size of crickets to avoid choking or digestion issues.
Crickets should be no larger than the space between a bearded dragon’s eyes.
There are several different crickets used as feeder insects, ranging in size from the tiny pinhead crickets to the larger adult crickets.
The following table illustrates the most common types of crickets along with their size ranges.
|Type of Cricket||Average Size of Cricket|
|Brown House Cricket||1/16” inch pinheads-1” inch adults|
|Banded Cricket||⅛” inch juveniles-1” inch adults|
|European Field Cricket||0.9” inches as adults|
|Jamaican Field Cricket||0.9” inches as adults|
These types of crickets are all readily available from your local pet store or online retailer, or you may choose to breed your own.
How To Feed Crickets To Baby Bearded Dragons
Since baby bearded dragons lack hunting experience, you may find it easier to hand-feed crickets to your lizard instead of giving them several crickets at once.
You may hand-feed your baby beardie by using your hands or feeding tongs.
Feeding tongs have a rubberized tip to minimize the chance of injury to your lizard.
Hand-feeding also allows you to have more control over how many crickets your baby dragon eats.
If you want your baby dragon to hunt, start small by placing one or two crickets in the enclosure.
This gives the young beardie a chance to hunt and catch their prey without being too overwhelmed with more crickets.
Pinhead crickets are an excellent choice for feeding baby beardies due to their small size.
How To Feed Crickets To Juvenile Bearded Dragons
Juvenile bearded dragons have likely honed their hunting skills enough to catch crickets, although you may still hand-feed them if you choose to.
Juvenile dragons are also able to eat slightly larger crickets, such as European or Jamaican Field crickets and young banded crickets.
Juvenile beardies are also more likely to eat their food from a bowl, although crickets’ feeding dish is futile because they can escape easily.
How To Feed Crickets To Adult Bearded Dragons
Once a bearded dragon becomes an adult, you will no longer have to hand-feed them, and they can hunt quite well.
Since adult beardies have fewer feeding sessions in a day, you may offer them more crickets at once during mealtime.
There is nothing wrong with hand-feeding an adult dragon, and it also gives you a chance to bond with your pet.
However, these animals enjoy hunting, so it is best to reduce hand-feeding to a minimum to continue honing their skills.
Adult dragons will also have fewer insects and more plant matter in their diet, so it is good to provide them with various leafy greens and other vegetables at each meal.
Crickets are low in fat and an excellent source of protein, but you will need to vary an adult beardie’s diet to prevent them from becoming a picky eater.
Cricket Feeding Tips For A Healthy Diet
Never feed your beardie wild-caught crickets or other wild insects.
Wild crickets are more likely to be infested with parasites.
Fireflies and other glowing insects are toxic to bearded dragons, so you should avoid them as well.
Purchase your feeder crickets from a local pet store or a reputable online source.
It’s also possible to breed your crickets to avoid running out of them.
While crickets are high in protein and low in fat, they lack essential nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D3.
To make crickets healthier for your beardie, you will need to ensure they are gut-loaded.
Gut loading crickets involves feeding them a nutritious diet of leafy greens and vegetables and making sure they are fed within 24-48 hours of feeding your beardie.
Gut loading the crickets before feeding your beardie ensures they are full of nutrients to pass on to your lizard.
Here’s a link to our guide on gut loading crickets for bearded dragons if you don’t yet know how this is done.
To add calcium and multivitamin supplements to your bearded dragon’s diet, you will need to dust the crickets with the supplement powder right before mealtime.
To properly dust the crickets, you will place them in a small plastic container.
Add a small amount of the calcium or multivitamin supplement powder and lightly shake the container to coat the crickets.
Be careful not to use too much supplement powder.
Too much supplement powder will make the crickets less palatable to your beardie, and it may refuse to eat.
For baby bearded dragons, you may dust their food with calcium powder 4-5 times per week and only once a day.
You may give multivitamin supplements to baby beardies 2-3 times per week.
Adult bearded dragons should have calcium powder three times a week, and you may use a multivitamin supplement once per week.
Always be sure to remove any uneaten crickets from your beardie’s enclosure.
Crickets are known to bite and injure bearded dragons, and their erratic movements and noises will cause stress to your lizard.
Read more on the question of leaving crickets in your bearded dragon cage.
The Importance Of Using Live Crickets
Never feed your bearded dragon dead or freeze-dried crickets.
The jumpy movements of the crickets stimulate your beardie’s hunting instincts as well as their appetite.
If the crickets are not moving, your beardie will not only have a hard time finding their prey, but they will likely be uninterested in eating them.
Avoid feeding your beardie any dead crickets you may find in a container of live crickets.
The cricket may have died from a parasitic infection or another disease it may pass on to your beardie.
Decomposing crickets will also make your beardie ill if they ingest them, much in the same way a human will get sick from eating spoiled meat.
Not only do these decomposing crickets contain harmful bacteria, but they are much harder to digest since their body has lost a great deal of moisture.
When the feeding session is over, you should remove all uneaten insects, greens, and vegetables from your dragon’s enclosure.
This keeps your beardie from ingesting anything which may contain harmful bacteria.
Why Crickets Are Important in the Bearded Dragon Diet
Because crickets can quickly jump from place to place, they are a challenge for your beardie to hunt.
This provides your bearded dragon with a lot of exercise and adds enrichment to their daily life.
Crickets contain a high amount of protein, and they are low in fat, making them safe to be used as staple feeder insects.
Crickets are also readily available and less expensive than other feeder insects, such as Dubia roaches.
Some bearded dragon owners are also fearful of Dubia roaches, so handling crickets is much easier.
Crickets are more prone to having more parasites than Dubia roaches, but as long as you are aware of this fact and take your beardie to regular vet check-ups, there is no reason to worry.
How To Breed Your Own Crickets At Home
Breeding your crickets is a great way to cut down on your beardie’s food expenses.
It also ensures you will have plenty of crickets in a variety of sizes.
The main thing to consider when breeding crickets is the noise they make.
Some people find cricket chirping to be soothing, and for others, it is less tolerable.
If the noise will bother you or someone else in your household, it is wise to place the crickets in a seldom-used room.
In this section, we will go over how to breed your feeder crickets step by step.
#1 Choosing a Container
Crickets need plenty of room to move around and breathe properly.
If there is not enough space for the number of crickets in the container, they may begin to eat each other as they compete for resources.
This is not ideal and something you want to avoid.
It is best to have three large containers.
One container will house the breeding colony, the second container will be the incubator, and the third will house newly hatched crickets.
A clear plastic storage tote with a lid is most commonly used for cricket breeding.
These plastic containers are easy to clean, and their smooth sides help prevent any crickets from escaping.
A 14- gallon container is a great size, and it will house a colony of more than 500 crickets.
#2 Adding Ventilation
Cut two holes around 6″ inches in diameter in the lid to allow for proper ventilation.
Glue a screen to the lid to prevent the crickets from escaping.
A metal screen works best, as crickets can chew through nylon.
#3 Add a Substrate
Place a layer of vermiculite approximately 1-3″ inches deep in the bottom of the container.
Vermiculite will not only help to keep the container dry but will also reduce odors.
According to the size of your cricket colony, you will need to replace the vermiculite layer every 1-6 months to maintain cleanliness.
#4 Add an Egg-Laying Container
Use a small plastic container to create an egg-laying box for the females.
Fill the container with slightly damp soil.
Make sure the soil does not contain any harmful pesticides or fertilizers.
Place a screen on the top of the soil to prevent the crickets from digging in the box and eating the eggs.
The females will still be able to lay their eggs through the screen.
#5 Add the Crickets
You will need between 30-50 crickets to get your breeding colony started.
It is best to have more female crickets than males to increase your chances of having more eggs.
You will be able to tell male and female crickets apart by looking at their rear end.
A female will have three spikes on their rear, and they will also grow fully-developed wings.
A male will only have two spikes coming from his rear, and his wings will be much smaller.
#6 Feed the Cricket Colony
Place a shallow dish in the container, and fill it with commercial cricket food.
You may also feed your crickets fresh foods, such as fruits, leafy greens, and vegetables, for even more nutrition.
Remove any uneaten fresh foods before they start to rot to avoid any harmful bacteria in the container.
You will also need to add a water source to the container.
A reptile water dispenser with a sponge in it will work well, and the sponge will prevent the crickets from drowning.
A water-gel known as polyacrylamide is also a good source of hydration the crickets will not drown in.
#7 Add a Heat Source to the Cricket Container
You may use a heat lamp or heat mat to provide warmth for the crickets.
Crickets need warm temperatures to incubate their eggs.
A temperature range between 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) is ideal for crickets.
#8 Allow Your Crickets Time to Breed
The crickets will begin to breed after around two weeks.
After this time, you will begin to see very tiny oblong eggs in the egg-laying container.
It is crucial to periodically mist the soil in the egg-laying container to prevent the heat from drying it out.
The eggs will not survive in a dry environment.
#9 Incubate the Eggs
Remove the egg-laying container from the primary breeding box and place it in the incubator box.
Be sure to add another egg-laying box to the breeding colony so the crickets will have somewhere to lay their eggs at all times.
The incubating container should be sealed tightly and kept at a temperature between 85-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
After two weeks, the eggs will begin hatching, and you will be able to see very tiny crickets in the incubator.
#10 Place the Baby Crickets in the Hatchling Container
Carefully remove the baby crickets and put them in the hatchling container.
The hatchling container will have the same setup as the breeding container without the egg-laying box.
Provide the baby crickets with plenty of food and water so they will have healthy growth.
Use a heat mat to keep the temperature of the hatchling container in a range of 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C).
After 7-10 days, the baby crickets should be large enough to introduce them to the rest of the colony.
Repeat these steps to keep your cricket colony going.
Always provide the crickets with adequate heat, food, and water to keep them healthy.
Remove any dead crickets you may find in the containers to prevent any harmful bacteria from forming.
Monitor the size of your cricket colony to ensure there is enough space for the number of crickets you have.
Commonly Asked Questions
Is it possible to overfeed a bearded dragon?
If you feed your adult bearded dragon too many fatty insects such as wax worms or hornworms, your beardie will become overweight.
To prevent this, feed your beardie plenty of fresh greens and vegetables, and avoid feeding too many high-fat insects.
Are there any reasons not to feed crickets to a bearded dragon?
Crickets are more prone to parasites than other insects, so you will want to make sure your crickets come from a reputable source.
Some bearded dragon owners prefer to feed their lizards Dubia roaches, which are slightly larger than crickets and contain more protein.
However, Dubia roaches are more difficult to acquire, and they are even illegal in some areas.
Crickets are also very noisy, and they will develop a smell over time.
There is not much you will be able to do about the noise the crickets make, but if you want to avoid the foul smell, it is best to only buy as many crickets as your beardie will eat within 1-2 weeks.
Buying smaller amounts of crickets will also ensure they do not grow too large for your beardie to eat safely.
What if your bearded dragon refuses to eat?
If your beardie suddenly refuses to eat, it may be a sign of illness.
Monitor your beardie’s behavior, and if it seems sluggish and does not move around much, in addition to not eating, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible to check for illness.
If your bearded dragon refuses to eat but otherwise seems healthy, it may just be bored with its food.
Beardies are known to be picky eaters if there is not enough variety in their diet.
Switch up their feeder insects and greens to get them to eat again.