Some bearded dragons are picky. Some aren’t. Some bearded dragons love eating. Some go long periods without wanting a bite. How confusing! Dr. Jess breaks down what bearded dragons actually can eat below:
What is a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons are funny little reptiles that are categorized into the desert lizard category – they like a warm environment.
They fall into the genus Pogona with eight different species falling under this grouping.
The eight species of bearded dragons, are distinguished from one another and named for the differences in their spines on their chins and necks.
Bearded dragons get their name from their armor of spiny scales, which include a “beard” of spikes under its chin and neck that puffs up depending on their mood, most commonly seen when puffed out when they are upset.
They do this to seem larger to whatever is upsetting them.
This may be paired with a erry ‘hiss’ when really upset.
They can live up to 10 years and can reach up to 24 inches long and weigh up to 18 ounces once full grown. They range in colors from brown, to orange, to yellow, to cream.
Beardies have a precise eye and good sense of smell.
Bearded dragons are often referred to as “beardies”, are one of the more popular reptilian pets because of their cool, interesting exterior and their popularity being of low maintenance pets.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
What do they eat? How do they eat it? Do bearded dragons have teeth? So many great questions to answer here!
Beardies commonly consume vegetables, fruits, and insects.
Bearded dragons are considered omnivorous, meaning they eat what both herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters).
Young, immature, growing bearded dragons tend to be mostly carnivores, and eat more meat, at most 80% animal and 20% plant material
Mature adults are usually the exact opposite when it comes to diet, they tend to eat more plants and be more on the herbivorous side of things. Some adult beardies can be more along the lines of 80% plant and 20% animal foods.
As a basic rule of thumb, a bearded dragon’s diet should be comprised of about foods that are in the basic ballpark of 50% animal-based and 50% plant-based.
As mentioned above, the age and maturity of each and every dragon should also come into play here, so it is a very good idea to discuss your dragon’s specific diet with your veterinarian.
Common Store-Bought Vegetables for Beardies:
- Acorn squash
- Asparagus, raw
- Bell Peppers, raw
- Bok choi
- Broccoli, small bits weekly
- Butternut squash
- Collard greens
- Cucumbers, peeled
- Green beans
- Spaghetti squash
- Sweet potato, cooked
- Yellow squash
- Zucchini, raw
Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before offering them to your pet.
Conduct a visual inspection of the food to make sure it is ripe and looks and smells normal.
Vegetables can be offered cooked or raw, so make sure you recognize the safest way to serve any of these foods before allowing your dragon to snack on them!
The more raw the fruit or vegetable is, the more nutrients are retained within it.
However, this does not mean that all raw foods are safest for your pet.
Also- thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.
Medical Concerns Regarding Vegetables:
OXALATES: Some vegetables are high in oxalic acid (oxalates) that can bind calcium and other trace minerals, preventing their absorption inside your bearded dragon’s gastrointestinal tract.
This decrease in calcium absorption can increase the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease and other health issues in your pet.
Diets composed of beet greens, spinach, and Swiss chard for example, can lead to calcium deficiencies because of these oxalates.
GOITROGENS: Other vegetables contain goitrogens (substances that suppress iodine uptake and therefore the thyroid gland), and excessive intake may lead to hypothyroidism in bearded dragons.
Some of these vegetables that can can contain goitrogens include cabbage, kale, and mustard greens. Caution should be exercised when feeding these foods to your dragon.
Avocados are toxic and should never be a part of a bearded dragon’s diet….ever.
Many experts say that lettuce, especially iceberg lettuce, should not be fed to bearded dragons because it contains a low level of true nutritional value.
Lettuce is made up of mostly water, and feeding it to bearded dragons can lead to diarrhea, stomach upset, and other digestive issues including changes in bearded dragon poop.
Common Store-Bought Fruits for Beardies:
Medical Concerns Regarding Fruits:
Tomatoes can be fed to bearded dragons every now and then in very small amounts.
However, tomatoes are extremely acidic and can be difficult on bearded dragon digestive systems.
This is why only a very small amount every blue moon (like once a month!) should be the norm with tomatoes and beardies.
This goes for other citric fruits.
Citric fruit is high in citric acid and can be difficult on a bearded dragon’s digestive system, just like tomatoes.
It’s best to avoid feeding any citric fruits, especially to young, growing bearded dragons.
Rhubarb is toxic and should never be given to your bearded dragon.
Common Edible Greens:
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Turnip Greens
Common Insects Purchased For Bearded Dragons:
Bearded dragons have teeth and strong jaws that clench and crush hard-shelled insects like mealworms and beetles.
- Butter worms
- Dubia roaches
- King worms
- Phoenix worms
- Wax worms
Medical Concerns Regarding Ingestion of Insects:
Owners should never feed their pet dragon any insects that they find in their home as these insects may be sick themselves, or may have been in contact with pesticides or other harmful chemicals that could make a bearded dragon sick.
Superworms and mealworms should only be fed to adult bearded dragons. These insects have hard outer skin and they can become impacted in young bearded dragons.
Fireflies and Boxelder bugs are extremely toxic to bearded dragons and should never be given to them.
How To Prepare Foods For Your Bearded Dragon?
First off, you should always purchase high-quality food for your lizard from a reliable source.
All fruits and vegetables will need to have a visual inspection done to make sure that you are giving your pet a ripe, healthy food to eat.
Next, you will need to peel, cut, slice, chop, or dice up the food so that your dragon can safely eat it.
They will need food in bite-sized pieces.
You may need to consider mixing the chopped fruits and vegetables up together to help discourage picking through their food bowl and eating only the preferred items in their dish.
Food should be presented in a shallow clean dish that is not easily tipped over.
Fresh water should always be available in a shallow dish that can’t be easily tipped over. This water dish should be washed and cleaned daily.
Any food left in your bearded dragon’s enclosure that is not eaten up will start to get old and become unsafe for your dragon to eat, if they will even touch it at all.
This could lead to some major health issues, as well as a smelly enclosure and a bug problem – things you definitely do not want to deal with.
So, it is very important to clean out any foods that your bearded dragon leaves behind in a timely manner.
How Much Food Should I Give My Bearded Dragon?
Contact with your local veterinarian for expert advice about your pet’s diet.
They will be able to help you decide how much food to give your beardie.
The amount of food you should give them will definitely depend on what foods you and your vet have decided are going to be a part of the pet’s diet.
As a rule of thumb, if your dragon is leaving food behind – then it may be that too much food is being offered to them.
How Often To Feed Bearded Dragon?
Most young bearded dragons eat once or twice daily, while older lizards can be fed once daily, depending upon each pet’s individual appetite.
Some bearded dragons will not eat for a period of time.
Read this article on why bearded dragons may not be eating daily.
Any Bearded Dragon Diet Supplements?
Bearded dragons have an increased need for calcium versus phosphorus in their diet.
This is especially true when they are young and their bones are growing.
Most veterinarians will likely recommend to sprinkle bearded dragon calcium powder over the food that you are offering your dragon.
This is usually done 2-3 times per week.
This calcium powder is made specifically as a supplement for bearded dragon diets, where the food sprinkled with the supplemental powder fed first to ensure that the bearded dragon consumes the supplement.
Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations about supplementing your dragon’s diet.
Bearded dragons can be fed quite a plethora of fruits, vegetables, and insects safely.
However, it is important to know how much, how often, and how to properly serve each and every food we give our pet before we allow them to ingest it.
For individual questions regarding your pet and their diet, contact your vet for specific dietary plans.