What Causes Bearded Dragons To Not Eat Crickets?

As fellow bearded dragon owners, we know feeding our pets sometimes proves to be complicated. 

These animals are notoriously picky eaters and occasionally refuse food they have otherwise enjoyed in the past. 

One of the biggest concerns for a reptile keeper is when a pet refuses to eat crickets.

As a general rule, if your bearded dragon suddenly refuses to eat crickets, there is likely an underlying illness. However, some bearded dragons wean themselves off of foods due to personal preference. It is essential to find the cause of a cricket strike to appropriately amend the situation.

Before assuming your pet is refusing crickets due to an unidentified illness, let’s discuss some less severe reasoning as to why it no longer wants to eat these feeder insects.

bearded dragon not eating crickets

Why Bearded Dragons Won’t Eat Crickets 

Picky Eaters

Beardies are amazing reptiles to keep as companions, and there are very few downsides to owning one. 

One of the most common setbacks experienced by pet owners is difficulty with feeding.

Beardies are known to be picky eaters and often have a specific food preference. 

Even a lifelong reptile owner will run into issues with feeding their pets.

One of the most common reasons for a beardie refusing a particular food such as crickets is its exposure to something it finds more appetizing. 

For instance, common worms such as butter worms and wax worms are often preferred by beardies.

Although these worms are delicious, they are not as nutritious as crickets. 

Because of this, worms are only meant to be given as an occasional treat. 

This is done by feeding bits of worm to adult beardies. 

You should avoid feeding any form of worms to babies to prevent a liking of less nutritious food sources at a young age.

Many owners opt to stay away from mealworms entirely. 

The insect body has a hard outer shell, increasing the risk of impaction, especially in young dragons. 

Another reason to avoid these specific worms is their addiction factor. 

Some beardies become addicted to mealworms and refuse other food items.

In some cases, a bearded dragon owner may feed worms to a beardie too frequently. 

This is usually the result of misinformation or a general lack of knowledge surrounding a balanced diet.

If you feel as though you are feeding worms to your pet too often, you probably are. 

Do your best to stick to more nutritious insects to avoid an addiction to these unhealthy alternatives.

In cases where you are feeding your pet all the right foods and you are still dealing with a dragon refusing crickets, it may be bored of its meals. 

Although some owners luck out in having beardies who love a consistent diet, most pets enjoy a variety in their diet.

Protein is vital for babies and juveniles and also plays an essential role in adult diets. 

If your pet is refusing crickets and is not sick, the best thing to do is to stay consistent. 

Giving up after a few attempts will teach your pet it has control over what it eats.

Improper Lighting

Lighting plays a significant role in the overall health of your pet dragon. 

Both the heat lamps and UVB light you keep in your pet’s enclosure will directly influence its appetite.

These cold-blooded creatures rely on the lighting we provide to regulate their body temperatures. 

Keeping your tank temperatures too low will suppress your beardie’s appetite. 

A lack of appetite for insect feeders and other foods is a possible warning sign of improper tank temperatures.

UVB lighting is essential for a dragon to survive. One of the reasons this type of lighting is necessary for our pets is its aid in digestion. 

A lack of UVB light will prevent proper digestion in reptiles. 

This will lead to a lack of appetite and impaction, potentially life-threatening if not handled appropriately.

Activity in reptiles like beardies is directly affected by UVB lighting. 

You will need a linear UVB bulb at the top of your enclosure which measures between 2/3 and 3/4 of the length of the tank. 

This light will need to be on for 10 to 12 hours each day.

Here’s our article on how much UVB light bearded dragons need if you believe lighting could be what is causing your issues.

Since proper lighting directly impacts digestion in reptiles, it is essential to feed your pets at the right time. You should avoid feeding your beardie right before bed.

Since they need several hours to digest their food, the lights need to remain on after mealtime. 

Turning off the tank lights right after feeding will prevent digestion and may have your pet refusing food the following day.

Frightened Babies

Baby and juvenile beardies tend to be pickier eaters than adults. 

If you own a juvenile dragon and refuse to eat crickets, you may need to take a new approach.

Since young beardies require approximately 70% of their diets to be made up of insect protein, they need to eat crickets or dubia roaches. 

Crickets are often the primary protein source, thanks to their widespread availability and low price.

In some cases, a baby dragon is afraid of its live prey. 

When too many crickets are placed in the tank at once, your beardie may become frightened by the excessive movement in its home.

If you notice your pet is cowering during mealtime, you may have a scared dragon on your hands. We advise placing only a couple of crickets in the enclosure at a time. 

This will allow the animal to feel dominant and easily capture and eat its prey.

Another solution to this problem is removing your pet from its enclosure and placing it in a dedicated feeding bin. 

This will minimize distraction and will allow the reptile to focus on catching its prey.

This method makes it easier for the reptile keeper to track the food and spot dead insects. 

Remember, you should never feed your dragon dead insects.

The size of the crickets may also deter your pet from eating them. 

Large insects are intimidating. 

Crickets and dubia roaches should be no larger than the space between your beardie’s eyes.

Illness

Underlying illnesses may cause beardies to suddenly refuse food without explanation. 

Impaction is one of the most common health issues among these reptiles.

When a dragon is impacted, it is unable to pass food through its digestive system. 

When caught early, you may alleviate impaction with a warm bath and gentle massage. 

If this does not work, you must see a reptile vet immediately.

Parasites are another common ailment among these creatures. 

Almost every beardie will suffer from parasites at least once in its life. 

Since unnoticed parasites are life-threatening, ignoring a sudden lack of appetite is a bad idea.

Mouth rot is another possible reason your beardie is refusing crickets. 

If it is suffering from mouth sores, hard foods may be challenging to eat and become unappetizing.

An experienced reptile veterinarian quickly treats mouth rot. 

If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of this condition, your best option is to seek professional advice.

If you suspect any one of these significant reasons for refusing crickets, you must take your bearded dragon to your reptile vet straight away.

And check out our article on how to tell if your bearded dragon is sick for additional help.

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