The bearded dragons are a popular pet reptile choice all over the world due to their laidback nature, and interesting demeanor. Also, because caring for them is easy, they make ideal pets for beginners.
One important aspect of bearded dragons husbandry is getting their diet right. As omnivores, they eat vegetables, fruits, insects and even small rodents.
They aren’t fussy eaters, and readily accept any food given them. It is your responsibility as their keeper to ensure they are fed right. Also always remember that variety is key. Here are the best foods for bearded dragons.
Best Foods for Bearded Dragons Comparison
The first food we will look at is mealworm. Since bearded dragons are not choosy, feeding them a slow-moving prey isn’t a deterrent unlike with other lizards such as geckos who prefer fast-moving prey. Mealworms are not real worms.
They are actually the larvae of the darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor). Their slow and quiet nature makes them an ideal food source to farm. (Crickets are noisy, and quick which can be a challenge.) You can also acquire mealworms of the internet or at your nearest pet shop.
The advantages to farming mealworms include lower cost, higher quality (you will feed your mealworms better than commercially farmed mealworms are fed), and availability. Regardless of how you acquire them, they are the best protein-based food to feed your bearded dragon.
The typical mealworm is composed of about 21-23% protein, 13% fat, 2% fiber, 2% ash, and 62% moisture. As you can see, the protein level of this food is very high.
Mealworms are high in nutrients, quiet (unlike crickets) and live long. Much longer than other insects. In fact, they can remain in larval form for as long as 6 months if their body temperature is kept very low.
Crickets are another popular food choice when it comes to feeding lizards. Crickets are easy to find and as nutritious as mealworms are. They are also easy to gut load and feed to bearded dragons (who readily eat them).
They are however noisy and keen on escaping. An escaped chirping cricket can be disturbing to both the keeper and neighbors. The nutritional value of crickets is just as impressive. They are composed of about 21% protein, 6% fat, 3% fiber, 2% ash, and 70% water.
As with mealworms, crickets contain as much protein as beef does. Apart from live crickets, bearded dragons will also accept dried crickets. These are easier to store and do not make noise which is a huge plus. You can acquire crickets online (at places such as Amazon), and at pet shops. You can also breed crickets. This cuts down costs.
The advantages of crickets include their high protein content, low-fat content, and affordability. Since it’s a good idea to vary the foods fed to your lizard, you can have both crickets and mealworms in the same diet.
3. Pinky Mice
Bearded dragons also enjoy eating mice. This food is particularly enjoyable since it is high in fat (as compared to crickets) and protein. Because pinky mice are high in protein and calcium, it is a good idea to include this food in the diet. Feed them whole pinky mice, and not just pieces of meat. This way they can get the most out of the mice.
Unlike crickets and mealworms, feeder mice are more expensive. As such, you should feed the bearded dragons pinky mice as a treat and not as their staple food. To reduce cost, you can breed pinkie mice. This isn’t difficult.
All you need is a couple of adult mice (male and female), aspen bedding, a 10-gallon tank, a mice water bottle, food dish, and a hiding spot. Mice reproduce every 25 to 28 days and produce a litter of 8 to 15 pinkies. Breeding mice guarantees a steady supply at a low price.
However, do not feed bearded dragons live mice (with teeth and claws). Thawed frozen mice are best since they cannot fight back. Pinky mice do not have teeth or claws and can be fed live to the lizard since they can’t harm the reptile.
Waxworms are the caterpillar stage of the wax moth so technically they are not worms. Waxworms are high in fat. They contain about four times more fat than crickets do. Because of the high-fat content, bearded dragons find them very delicious.
As they are high in fat, they should be given as a treat and not as a staple food. When refrigerated, they can last up to a few months. They are also very affordable and easy to acquire. All of which are good characteristics of a feeder insect.
Nutritionally, wax worms are also high in protein, and high in calcium. This is great as bearded dragons need both nutrients to be healthy and happy.
They do not gut load well since they are at a stage of their life cycle when they do not feed. As they grow older, they become leaner and lose fat. They are composed of about 16% protein, 22% fat, 8% fiber, 1% ash, and 62% water.
Breeding waxworms is not worth the trouble. Since they are affordable enough (cheaper than crickets), just buy them. You can acquire them at most pet shops and on the internet.
5. Packaged Bearded Dragon Food
We have already mentioned some commercially produced bearded dragon foods such as Zilla Reptile Food Munchies Mealworm which is dehydrated mealworms and Fluker’s Freeze-Dried Crickets which is dried crickets. The main advantage of packaged food is the ease of storage.
Since packaged food isn’t alive, storing them is simple and stress-free. Bearded dragons readily accept packaged food, so feeding them that should be no problem. Regardless, it is a good idea to feed bearded dragons live food occasionally even if the packaged food is the staple food fed the reptile.
Here are the commercially produced packaged foods for bearded dragons.
Fluker’s Bearded Dragon Medley Treat Food – This is a mix of freeze-dried crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers. This food is high in protein and low in fat.
Fluker’s Freeze-Dried Crickets – This contains freeze-dried crickets as the name suggests. This food takes the hassle out of maintaining live noisy crickets.
Hatortempt Dried Mealworms – This brand comes in a resealable zip lock bag. Simply, dried mealworms are easier to store and handle.
Zilla Reptile Munchies Mix Treat – This comes in three varieties including fruit mix, omnivore mix (contains insects, vegetables and fruits), and vegetable mix. It is easy to prepare and store.
How to Feed Your Bearded Dragon
As already mentioned, variety is key when it comes to healthy feeding. A mix of plants and insects should be fed the dragon. For adults, provide 70% plants (vegetables and fruits), and 30 percent animal matter (insects and pinky mice). For juveniles, provide 50% plants (vegetables and fruits), and 50 percent animal matter (insects only). Ensure the plants fed them are cut into small manageable pieces.
Feed babies as much as they can eat in about 12 minutes thrice a day. Adults eat less. Feed adults as much as they can eat in about 12 minutes once a day.
Plants to feed them include fruits of all kinds such as mango, banana, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, and blueberries; and vegetables such as carrots, dandelion greens, zucchini, endive, romaine lettuce, bok choy (Chinese cabbage), mustard, turnip greens, alfalfa sprouts, and collard greens. You can also feed them chopped up pieces of figs.
It is important to gut load insects before you feed them to the lizard. This involves feeding insects a nutritious diet for at least 48 hours before feeding them to the pet.
If you breed your own insects, then you must be feeding them nutritious diets of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Commercial cricket diets such as Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet and Fluker’s Cricket Quencher are excellent ways to gut load the insects before feeding them to your lizard.
Additionally, dust the insects with supplement powder before feeding them to the lizard.
Foods to Avoid
Although bearded lizards are not picky eaters, here are some foods to avoid.
- Iceberg Lettuce – They do not provide nutrition. Instead, try romaine lettuce. These are nutritious and tasty.
- Anoles or Geckos – These can contain parasites that can then be transferred to the beardie. Captive-bred geckos are too expensive to be fed to beardies.
- Wild Insects – Do not feed beardies or any captive-bred lizard, insects caught in the wild or around the house. These may contain pesticides that are dangerous to the beardie’s health and wellbeing.
- Fish – Fish depletes the lizard’s niacin levels.
- Pieces of Meat – While feeding them pieces of meat such as pieces of chicken, gizzard, or liver is inexpensive, beardies cannot acquire enough nutrition this way. If you want to feed them animal protein, feed them whole prey such as an entire pinky mouse or entire insects.
What do you do if your bearded dragon isn’t eating?
Taking good care of your bearded dragon is not a difficult task. The simplicity of keeping a bearded dragon is one of the main reasons why they are such beloved pets. As with all aspects of their care, feeding is simple and straightforward.
This species will eat any food fed them however ensure you feed them a mix of plants, insects and pinky mice. Dust their food with supplement powder and provide them with clean drinking water. If you have any comments, we would love to hear them.