Bearded Dragon Diet

There is no denying the fact that there has been a huge mark of the american herpeteculture by the well-known and much loved Australian Bearded Dragon. Combine a docile large lizard, a variety of fancy colors, and a dragon-like look and you get one of the Beardies are quite an amazing animal. As one of the larger species in the lizard family, bearded dragons can reach up 2 feet. The largest and most common of all of these species is the Pogona Vitticeps. If you own a bearded dragon, or are thinking of getting one it is very likely that this is the species you have. These creatures are not just large and awesome looking, with their sides and mane lined with spikes, but these spiky little creatures make for great pets. This is due to the fact that a captive bearded dragon often is very docile, easy to handle, and a very basic list of care items.

Though this is all very true, if you want your beardie to have the happiest and healthiest life as possible, there is some information you are going to want to know about their diet and their eating habits. The most important thing is that you do not only want to offer your dragon the best foods for it’s health, but foods that vary in nutritional content.

Think about it like this. You, a human, are kept in captivity and for 1 year you were fed nothing but pizza, every day. Not only would you get very sick and tired of the pizza but your health would dramatically decrease. The most important part of keeping any animal alive is water, their environment, and a diversity of vitamins, minerals, and supplements to keep the body working correctly.

With this being said it is not okay to feed your bearded dragon only with crickets. This may work for a time, but down the line your beardie will start to develop problems with his or her health due to lack of certain vitamins and minerals. Dusting your crickets with a multivitamin supplement will still not give your lizard friend everything it needs to stay alive.

Most Common Bearded Dragon Foods

Crickets

Crickets are well-known for being a staple food for many of the reptile species, and that is not any different for bearded dragons. These crickets contain very high proteins and very high fibers. Be careful not to only feed your beardie crickets though, as this cannot be the only form of nutrition.
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Dubia Roaches

Dubia Roaches are a very balanced option for a diet of a bearded dragon. These insects carry tons of protein but also contain just the right amount of fats and fibers as well. A bit pricier but are definitely worth the price. Buying them online is the best option as they are much cheaper than in store.
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Mealworms

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Baby Bearded Dragon Diet

As a bearded dragon, the infant and adolescent stage diet is critical for the animals health and growth as it grows older. Since the little guy is still growing crickets and super worms are a great source of protein to endorse the spiky lizard grows strong and big. As babies, they do not eat too many vegetables and fruit. Though you still need to vary their diet, and give them these things every once in a while, it is best to stick to small crickets and other insects. As a general rule of thumb, see how many crickets your beardie can eat in a 5 minute period. Then feed your baby that amount of crickets 3 times a day. Do not forget supplementation and gut-loading.

Young Bearded Dragon Diet

Young beardies need a diet very much in between the adults and the adolescents. Since they are still growing, they are still going to need a constant supply of crickets and other insects to keep up with their body’s needs. On the other hand, as they grow older, they can easily be overfed. A more balanced diet starts to become much more important than feeding them as many crickets as they can eat 3 times a day. Overfeeding starts to become a concern. You need to start mixing their intake of crickets more thoroughly with the likes of kale, collard greens, dandelions, and low-sugar fruits such as papaya.

Adult Bearded Dragon Diet

Adult beardies need to start slowing down their intake of insects in general. Overfeeding you bearded dragon, at this stage of their life, is very easy to do if you are not armed with the right information. Since these lizard’s metabolism starts to slow down, and their growth is complete, there is no need to feed your dragon 3 times a day. Once a day will do just fine. Remember as many crickets as the bearded dragon can eat in a 5-15 minute period will do just fine. Every couple days you need to change out the crickets with roaches, worms, grasshopppers, locusts, etc. Let your little friend snack on vegetables later in the day if it would like a snack. Check out our list of foods to see what vegetables and fruit would be a good choice for your bearded dragon.

Safe Bearded Dragon Insects

This section is going to go over all of the insects that you should be using as a variety for your beardies every day diet. Here are some insects that are good and healthy for your bearded dragon to munch on. More so, you will learn how not just to keep your dragon healthy, but how to also keep your insects nutritious for your pet.

Storing your insects

If you want to go big there is a really easy and cheap way to keep and store your crickets, which will be the main source of nutrition for your bearded dragon. You are going to want to setup 3 different cages. 2 larger ones. The first to keep your crickets that are not being bred. The second would be a breeding terrarium. Then a third, where you will keep your crickets your are planning on feeding to your reptile. Check out this page for cricket tanks and cages

The habitat for both the colony that is not breeding, and the cage to hold your feeder crickets should be setup in the same way. This glass terrarium with a screen lid, will need lots of hiding places. Make sure to include newspapers, or egg crates so the crickets can hide. Do not include any flooring or a substrate. Make sure you live in a climate that is pretty moderate or else you will need to buy a 40 watt bulb for a 5-10 gallon tank. Both tanks should be kept between 70 and 90 degrees farenheit.
The habitat for both the colony that is not breeding, and the cage to hold your feeder crickets should be setup in the same way. This glass terrarium with a screen lid, will need lots of hiding places. Make sure to include newspapers, or egg crates so the crickets can hide. Do not include any flooring or a substrate. Make sure you live in a climate that is pretty moderate or else you will need to buy a 40 watt bulb for a 5-10 gallon tank. Both tanks should be kept between 70 and 90 degrees farenheit.
If you are looking to breed your own crickets to ensure that your bearded dragon and any other reptiles you might have obtain the best possible nutrition, then breeding is the way to go. Not only is it more nutritional if you treat the crickets right, it is a very cheap way to keep all of your crickets fed and healthy. The only difference in the breeding enclosure is the substrate. The way that crickets breed is that they use some sort of soil for the female to lay it’s eggs. The best kind of substrate is just a damp soil that needs to be misted every other day. Be sure to still include the egg carton, newspaper, or paper towel for hiding purposes. Check out our breeding crickets page for even more information.

Bearded Dragon Nutrition & Diet

The best way to determine a healthy diet, is to take a look at a Bearded Dragon diet needs. Once you are able to establish what the reptile needs, then you are able to meet those needs by knowledge of the different types of foods that they may eat. Bearded Dragon’s first need is a good source of calcium. The second is high protein, yet a relatively low fat content. They need fibers and a steady source of carbs, which they will readily get from many of the insects that you may feed them. Lets take a further look into the different elements of a healthy bearded dragon diet.

Insect Fat

So we all know the difference between saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are known, study after study, to be a very unhealthy fat found mostly in processed foods but also found in mammals and birds. Insects are known to only contain unsaturated fats. Although, not unhealthy, these fats can be dangerous if fed to your beardie in higher quantities. If too much fat is introduced to your pet’s diet, it can lead to obesity, fatty liver disease, and other complications. Fatty acids, though, are a nutritional necessity for most reptiles. This helps in the absorption of all Vitamins. It acts as a wharehouse for stored energies, maintaining body temperatures. Insects can provide from 5% up to 45% fat levels.

Insect Protein

Protein is a chemical compound of amino acids, that then get released off of the chain of protein to be used for growth and other functions. These loose amino acids are a necessity for a reptile to grow. Therefore especially at a young age, bearded dragons need lots of proteins in order to grow strong and healthy. When they get older and they cease to grow, high amounts of proteins are not needed therefore straying away from strict protein diets, and leaning towards greens and other vegetables is a smart choice. Insect protein levels vary from 35% to 75% of their total body mass. At the same point, some of the insects that are higher in protein such as crickets or silkworms, are a great source of rehabilitation for an injured pet. These proteins not only work to grow the little animal, but are also very useful in repairing the muscles and broken down tissues.

Insect Fiber

Most insects are invertebrates. These insects do not contain bones, but instead are held together by a hard chitin shell that is a modified composite carbohydrate. Some reptiles produce chitinase, which is a much needed enzyme that works to break down these hard shells. Bearded dragons are one of these insectivores. Most reptiles are needed to be fed early in the morning, just like they would in the wild. With bearded dragons, their highly adapted digestive system allows for them to feed throughout most of the day. Though this is true it is still advised not to feed your beardie too late at night. As it may upset its sleep.

Insect Ash

Insect ash is just the leftover part of the insect that is not either carbohydrate, protein, fat, or carbon. This ashe material is usually a combination of copper, leads, iron, zinc, salts, minerals, and vitamins.

Here we are going to take a look at some of the most important aspects of different species of insect feeders to compare nutritional value to your pet. What this chart shows is insect by dry weight and ratios of both calcium to phosphorous, protein, and fat ratios as it pertains to body mass:

as provided by “geckotime.com”

**As you can see here. You are able to make reasonable assumptions as to the most and least nutritious insects to use as feeders.**

Gut Loading

A great way to ensure that your bearded dragon diet is in tip top shape is gutloading your insect feeders. You may ask, what is gut loading? Gut loading is the act of feeding the crickets and other insects that you feed to your bearded dragon with vegetables, fruits, or any other vitamins and nutritional foods to ensure that the same vitamins are fed to your bearded dragon in a healthy way. Some of the most popular gut loading items are tropical fish flakes, leafy greens, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, apples, alfalfa, baby rice cereal, and dry cat food. Most of these foods have a wide variety of nutritional content and is a great thing to pack into an insects belly before your beardie gobbles it up.

Lets get into a little more complicated and technical matters of gut loading. Most insects have a very high amount of phosphorous. Bearded Dragons need an equal amount of calcium to phosphorous, in order to break down these elements. Your average domestic cricket has upwards of a 1:9 calcium to phosphorous ratio. So if you are not gut loading or dusting your crickets or other insect species correctly, it will be completely deficient in the calcium department. Therefore, it will have a difficult time breaking down the large amounts of phosphorous is is getting from it’s insect diet. You are going to need even more than a 1:1 ratio calcium to phosphorous to keep your bearded dragon healthy. Your pet also uses leftover calcium to help in building bone formation. It is recommended to have a calcium to phosphorous ratio that exceeds 1:1.75.

Supplementation

Not dusting your beardie’s insects with a calcium supplement is not the end of the world. But, if you go several days without dusting your spiky friend’s crickets, this loss of much needed calcium can turn into MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). This disease is nothing to be messed with and is contracted from two things. The first being a lack of calcium in your reptile’s diet, and the second from a lack of UVB lighting.

Calcium

Calcium is the most important supplementation that your bearded dragon needs to receive. Calcium, as discussed is a vital role in preventing poor digestion of phosphorous, and more so, the prevention of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Calcium dusting is necessary every day in order to prevent these serious health risks.

Vitamin D3

This being said, Vitamin D3 is a vital role in keeping your bearded dragon alive and well. Calcium is not absorbed without Vitamin D3. Wild reptiles receive their Vitamin D3 from an element of natural sunlight called UVB. So the amount of this supplementation that your beardie requires is entirely based off of the amount of natural sunlight that they receive. Remember UVB lighting does not travel through glass, so it needs to be direct sunlight. If you cannot provide this direct natural sunlight to your dragon, then D3 is necessary.

Multi-Vitamin

A multi vitamin is not necessarily a necessity when it comes to bearded dragons. Since the foods that beardies eat are fairly diverse, they get most of their vitamins and minerals through various types of vegetables, fruit, and insects of course. Even with a varying diet, it is still a good idea to supplement your pets food with a multi-vitamin every other week to make up for missed vitamins.

**not taking natural sunlight into account**

Adolescent Bearded Dragon-Daily Calcium/Vitamin D3. Multi-Vitamin once a week.

Juvenile Bearded Dragon- Calcium every day dusted on feeders.Vitamin D3 supplement 4-5 times per week. Multi-Vitamin once every other week.

Adult Bearded Dragon- Calcium every day dusted on feeders. Vitamin D3 3-4 times a week. Multi-vitamin 1-2 times per month.

Choosing A Staple Feeder

It is not a bad thing to have a certain insect that you feed often as part of you Bearded Dragon’s diet. With this in mind, most people prefer to use crickets as their staple feeder. Crickets are easy to keep, high in protein, simple to breed, and they are cheap! On the down side these jumpy little critters may get away as you try to transfer them to your beardie’s cage. Catching a cricket is most definitely not the easiest task in the world. They also make a lot of noise. And probably the worst of all, they smell really bad if you keep many crickets at a time.

Though this is true they are the most readily available feeder at almost any local pets store. They are even cheaper if you buy them in bulk online! They are also very nutritious if you are consistent with gut loading and dusting your crickets.

Another very good choice of feeder is a Dubia roach. I know, I know roaches are gross and disgusting and carry diseases and stuff. In fact roaches are some of the cleanest insects, almost never carrying such diseases. Roaches just get a bad name, and it continues to carry on. These specific Dubia roaches have a much higher calcium to phosphorous ratio of .30:1. This ratio is almost triple that of the domestic cricket’s of 1:9. Along with this, Dubia roaches do not smell bad, make no noise, and you can feed one good sized Dubia roach to every 5-15 crickets. If you were thinking of breeding your feeders Dubia roaches would be the perfect choice. Otherwise they are a bit pricey.

Wild Insects as a Diet

Feeding your bearded dragon wild-caught bugs is a risk to say the least. The biggest problem with wild feeders is that they may contain parasites or toxins. These insects can be affected from even your neighbor spraying weed killer, runnof, herbicides, and exhaust. A lot of these bugs are contaminated and could cause huge health risks to your spiky lizard friend.

Though there are many different foods that you can feed directly to your crickets, they may not encompass all the different avenues of nutrition that you are looking for to feed your reptile. There are many cricket feeders, such as Flukers. Check this out here to see different cricket feeders.

Multi-Vitamin

A multi vitamin is not necessarily a necessity when it comes to bearded dragons. Since the foods that beardies eat are fairly diverse, they get most of their vitamins and minerals through various types of vegetables, fruit, and insects of course. Even with a varying diet, it is still a good idea to supplement your pets food with a multi-vitamin every other week to make up for missed vitamins.

**not taking natural sunlight into account**

Adolescent Bearded Dragon- Daily Calcium/Vitamin D3. Multi-Vitamin once a week.

Juvenile Bearded Dragon- Calcium every day dusted on feeders.Vitamin D3 supplement 4-5 times per week. Multi-Vitamin once every other week.

Adult Bearded Dragon- Calcium every day dusted on feeders. Vitamin D3 3-4 times a week. Multi-vitamin 1-2 times per month.

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