Several lizards are kept as pets and the bearded dragon is perhaps the most commonly kept pet lizard.
Bearded dragons include all six species of the genus Pogona. The species most commonly kept as a pet is the central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Other species include – P. barbata (Eastern bearded dragon), P. henrylawsoni (Rankin’s dragon or dumpy dragon), P. microlepidota (Kimberley bearded dragon or Drysdale river bearded dragon), P. minor (Western bearded dragon), and P. nullarbor (Nullarbor bearded dragon).
So what do bearded dragons eat?
Well, these lizards eat almost everything. I advise that you feed them live food such as king worms, mealworms, crickets, and vegetables such as kale, sweet pepper, and sweet potatoes.
The Bearded Dragon Diet
What bearded dragons eat in the wild should inform us about how to feed your beardie. So what do bearded dragons eat in the wild?
In the wild, the beardie’s diet consists mostly of live animals such as small rodents such as mice, other smaller lizards, worms, crickets, and other insects. These make up about 75% of the diet. The remaining 25% consists of vegetation and other plant matter.
Likewise, when feeding your beardie, make sure that live insects and animals make up the majority of the diet. Also include a lot of greens, weeds, and vegetables.
Fruits should only be offered occasionally. This is because you want the bearded dragon’s diet to most closely mirror that of what the lizard eats in the wild.
The older the beaded dragon, the less meat/insects it eats. This is because captive dragons do not move and roam as much as wild bearded dragons would.
Insects to Offer Your Bearded Dragon
Here are some insects you can offer the reptile. Live food is the best choice as the moment of the insects will attract the lizard and ensure that the lizard feeds.
You can offer the following insects to your beardie – waxworms, superworms, silkworms, phoenix worms, Morio worms, mealworms, locusts, king worms, earthworms, dubia roaches, crickets, cockroaches, and butter worms.
Special consideration needs to be taken with the following insects:
- Morio worms contain a lot of fat and should be offered only occasionally as a treat.
- Waxworms should only be offered occasionally as a treat.
- Superworms are large in size and should be only offered to adults.
- Mealworms have hard outer skin and should only be offered to adults.
Vegetables to Offer Your Bearded Dragon
You can offer your dragon a wide variety of vegetables. These reptiles aren’t picky eaters and will accept almost every vegetable. That doesn’t mean you should offer it every vegetable in your kitchen. Later, we will look at some vegetables not to feed your bearded dragon.
Here are some vegetables to offer your bearded dragon – acorn squash, asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, carrots, courgette, green beans, kohlrabi, okra, pak choi, parsnip, peas, romaine lettuce, sweet potato, swiss chard, yellow squash, and zucchini.
You should only offer tiny bits of broccoli to the bearded dragon once a week.
Leafy Greens to Offer Your Bearded Dragon
Leafy greens are a great source of calcium and other essential nutrients. They are low in calories as well.
It is important to feed your bearded dragon sufficient leafy greens. As the reptile ages, you need to feed it more leafy greens.
Some leafy greens to feed the lizard includes clover, collards, coriander, dandelion greens, endive, floret mix, kale, lamb’s lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, rocket, spring greens, turnip greens, and watercress.
Fruits to Offer Your Bearded Dragon
As established, beardie will accept almost any food offered to them. These reptiles accept a wide variety of fruits.
However, you need to offer fruits sparingly. This is because fruits are high in sugar and will lead to obesity when offered frequently.
‘Frequently’ means more than once a week. Citrus fruits such as orange have high acidity levels and can cause tummy upset.
Soft fruits such as kiwi can also ferment and cause teeth problems. Offer soft fruits only once a month to avoid any negative health issues.
Fruits to offer the beaded dragon includes apples, apricots, apricots, blueberries, dates, figs, grapes, guava, kiwi, mango, papaya, peaches, pears, plums, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon.
Weeds to Offer Your Bearded Dragon
Beardies also eat weeds. These are low in calories but high in essential nutrients.
Some weeds to offer this lizard include plantain weed, dead nettle, catsear, and dandelion.
How to Offer Food to Your Bearded Dragon
Before offering any vegetable, fruit, or leafy green to the beardie, cut them into small bite-sized pieces. Remove the peel of fruits. Also, remove any pip in the fruit or vegetable.
Live insects need to be alive when offered to the dragon. The movement of the insect will attract the lizard to the food. If the insects drown in the reptile’s water dish, make sure to remove them as soon as you can.
Remove any uneaten food from the enclosure after feeding the lizard.
Foods to Avoid
Beardies aren’t finicky eaters. This behavior means that they will accept foods that are bad for them.
The effects of feeding these food items can be long-term or short-term. Foods to avoid feeding to your bearded dragon include onions, avocados, celery, chives, citrus fruits such as orange & lemon, spinach & beet tops, iceberg lettuce, mushrooms, rhubarb, wild insects, and fireflies.
Citrus fruits contain high levels of acidity which can cause tummy upsets. Iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value and should be avoided for this reason.
In large quantities, spinach and beet tops can lead to calcium deficiency as they contain chemicals that inhibit the absorption of calcium.
Insects caught in the wild can contain parasites. It is always best to either farm the insects yourself or acquire them from a pet shop. They can also be obtained through online stores like Amazon. Fireflies and other insects that glow are toxic to reptiles.
Avocado is toxic for bearded dragons. In large amounts, they can kill the reptile. Similarly, rhubarb is toxic for beardies and can be fatal.
Apart from food, other plants around the home can be toxic to this lizard. A few of these plants include poppy, oak, ivy, horse chestnut, holly, daffodil, crocus, buttercup, and bracken fern.
As a rule of thumb, only offer plants and foods you are sure are safe for your beardie. If you are unsure that the food is safe, do not offer it to your lizard.
Proteins to feed bearded dragons include live insects. Ensure that these insects are gut-loaded. This is the process by which the insects are fed high-quality food about 48 hours before being offered to the lizards. This ensures that the insects fed to the dragons are highly nutritional.
Offer adult beardies live insects once every two days. Insects should make up about 50% of an adult beardie’s diet.
Offer young beardies live insects daily. Insects should make up about 75% of a young beardie’s diet.
Leafy Greens and Vegetables
This should make up about 50% of an adult bearded dragon’s diet and about 25% of a young bearded dragon’s diet. Shred vegetables and leafy greens so that the reptile can easily ingest them.
Offer calcium supplements twice a week. Do this by dusting the live insects with a calcium supplement. These supplements come in powdered form. These supplements ensure that the lizard has enough calcium in its diet.
Commercially packaged bearded dragon diets are a good way to provide these reptiles with a variety of nutrients. There are usually different formulas for adults and young lizards respectively. Young lizard formulas contain more protein while adult lizard formulas contain less protein.
Provide the lizard with clean water at all times. The water dish needs to be sturdy so the lizard doesn’t easily tip it over. The water in the dish needs to be changed daily. Sometimes, bearded dragons may decide not to drink from the water dis. If this happens, mist the vegetables and fruits offered to the reptile.
Fruits need to be offered sparingly. Fruits are high in sugar and as such offering them frequently will cause obesity. Soft fruits can also cause teeth problems. Offer a piece of fruits once a week or once every two weeks. Soft fruits such as kiwi should be offered just once a month.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why isn’t my bearded dragon eating and what can I do?
There are many reasons why your pet isn’t eating. Some reasons for this include shedding of skin, stress, parasites, impaction, and an incorrect setup (temperatures that are too low or too high). When temperatures are too low, a bearded dragon’s metabolism falls and this can cause the turtle to lose interest in food as it prepares to brumate.
Sometimes, a bearded dragon may refuse food on some days as it isn’t hungry. Refusal to eat is only an issue when the reptile starts to lose weight.
If the reptile isn’t eating first of all check the temperatures within the enclosure. The basking spot should have temperatures of about 100 degrees Fahrenheit while the cool end of the enclosure should have temperatures of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Impaction is another reason why bearded dragons may refuse to eat. This usually happens when the dragon ingests substrate in the enclosure. Make sure that the dragon isn’t ingesting the substrate.
UV light provides the lizard with the necessary radiation it needs to synthesize vitamin D3. Additionally, the UVA part of the UV radiation makes sure that the reptile is active during the day. Weak UV radiation can prevent the lizard from eating. Ensure that the UV light within the enclosure is working properly. You may need to change the UV light within the enclosure if it is old.
Also, reptiles that are shedding may refuse to eat. This may be the reason why your beardie refuses to eat. If your beardie is shedding and thus refusing to eat, there is little need to worry.
Illness is also a reason why your bearded dragon may refuse to eat. Symptoms of ill health include lethargy, swollen and/or droopy eyes, and throwing up. If you have any reason to believe that your bearded dragon is unwell, see a vet.
What are the best live insects to offer my bearded dragon?
There is a wide variety of insects to feed your bearded dragon. The most commonly provided insect is however crickets. Chasing down crickets provides the dragon with good exercise. The activity of hunting the crickets is also stimulating for the dragon.
When offering crickets to the reptile, ensure that the reptile can easily ingest the cricket. The cricket should be no bigger than the space between the beardie’s eyes.
Dust the crickets with calcium powder so they provide the reptile with extra nutrition.
Gut loading is another excellent way to improve the nutritional value of crickets.
Another popular insect choice is mealworms. Unlike crickets, mealworms are slower and easier to store. They can be easily stored in a refrigerator. When stored at low temperatures, they become dormant and last longer.
What is gut-loading?
Gut loading is the process by which you feed the insects nutrient-rich foods. You can offer the insects fresh vegetables and fruits. The peels of these foods work well, alternatively, you can offer a commercial cricket/insect diet designed for gut loading your insects.
Bearded dragons are also known as beardies are quite popular lizards kept as pets all over the wild.
These lizards have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and are relatively easy to keep for a reptile. They live long and therefore require commitment.
You need to be well-informed before you even start to any exotic animal as a pet. Correct information on their care and the setup of the enclosure is essential. You also need to know what to feed them.
Thankfully, beardies are easy to feed. They accept most foods offered to them.
These lizards accept insects, vegetables, and fruits.
If you have any questions or additional information, kindly leave a comment. Thank you.