When it comes to feeding these pets, you need to know what to find them and how to feed them. Only feed them safe foods and in their right proportion and size.
What do bearded dragons eat in the wild?
Bearded dragons are omnivorous, meaning they feed on both animals and plants. Some of their foods while in the wild include:
- Invertebrates, especially live insects such as ants, beetles, as well as slugs, snails, among other invertebrates.
- They will prey for vertebrates like smaller lizards they can catch, hatchling birds, and dead animals.
- They will eat various plant materials, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, as well as safe plants and flowers.
They also drink water from the mist, dew, rain, or any standing water. When drinking rainwater, beardies stand up on their rear limb while slopping their torso and head down to allow rainwater to run forward over their body, head and snout before they drink it.
How do they eat?
When they locate their prey or edible plant materials, they open their mouth very fast and lounge their sticky tongue, which traps their food before they pull it back into their mouth.
Once in the mouth, it is held by their teeth and powerful jaws, which will quickly kill, crush, or cuts the food before they can swallow it. They do not chew it.
Their powerful jaws can crush invertebrates exoskeletons or hard shells such as those of beetles.
Before we look at various food lists, it is good to know how to feed your baby, juvenile, and adult bearded dragons properly.
Feeding your baby beardie
Unlike adults, young beardies require more proteins. The right proportion should be 80% feeder insects and 20% veggies for the first 0-4 months. Some herp vets may recommend a ratio of 65% live feed and 35% plant material.
Feed them two to three times or more, but not more than five times a day. While feeding them, ensure they get feeder insects 2-3 times in a day.
Their live food should be small in size, with the most recommended ones being small-sized immature insects or immediately after they have molted. They should not be larger than the space between their eyes.
Large-sized live food will cause impaction and pressure on their spinal cords that are still very fragile. Furthermore, impaction will cause malnourishment, digestive problems, and even death.
Typical ones should be half an inch or small crickets, roaches, locusts, and grasshoppers as well as fruit flies, tiniest silkworms. Avoid hard-shelled insects such as mealworms.
For the greens and veggies, chop or grate them into small pieces to make eating easy. Mixing several of the vegetables will give them more nutritional benefits and give them veggies 3-4 times a week.
For these young lizards to meet their vitamin and mineral requirements, their food (live food and plants) should be dusted with calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins.
Dust their food with calcium, including those with calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate for five days in a week and vitamin D3 and multivitamins two times a week, or as directed by their manufacturers to avoid excessive amounts.
To avoid overfeeding them, reduce their portion if they do not finish them, especially when it is their favorite foods. What they eat for 10-15 minutes is enough.
For instance, they can eat up to 30-80 small insects, and if they stop, they are full. If they are not eating, they may be picking, unwell, or due to other reasons.
Finally, if housed together and not given enough food, baby bearded dragons may nip each other’s toes, particularly in the event of extreme starvation.
Feeding juvenile bearded dragons
When it comes to juvenile bearded dragons, you should reduce the amount of live food and increase the quantity of plant material. Keep the ratio at 60% feeder insects and 40% veggies, and they should eat 2-3 times a day.
Since juveniles are anything from 4-18 months, you need to gradually increase veggies as you reduce on feeder insects or bugs they eat so that by the time they are 18 months, the ratio should be 20 feeder insects and 80% veggies.
Again, their food size should be proportional to their size, not broader than the space between their eyes.
Do not forget to dust their food with calcium, vitamin D3, and other multivitamins. Dust calcium once a day for 3-5 days and vitamin D3 and multivitamins do it 1-2 times a week, depending on their exact age.
You can also follow the manufacturer’s instructions while dusting their food.
For instance, if below a year, dust calcium five times a week and multivitamins twice a week, and if they are more than a year, reduce to 3-4 times for calcium and once for multivitamins including vitamin D3.
Finally, feeding them like baby beardies may result in obesity and other health problem. Also, broaden their foods to include mealworms once they are at least six months.
Feed your adult bearded dragons once or twice a day. Their diets will consist of about 80% plants and 20% feeder insects. Do not forget to dust their food with calcium at least 3-4 times in a week and multivitamins once a week on alternating the days.
These pets require proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, as well as water and the following:
1. Calcium and vitamin D3
Your bearded dragon requires calcium and vitamin D3. Calcium is essential in ensuring healthy teeth, bones and has many critical physiological functions, including muscle function.
On the other hand, vitamin D3 helps in the absorption and assimilation of calcium, and both these two and proper UV light and temperature will help avert chances of metabolic bone disease.
Some of the best brands to buy include the following brands.
- Royal Pet Supplies Inc Zoo Med Reptile Calcium with Vitamin D3
- Exo Terra Reptile Calcium with vitamin D3
- Zilla Vitamin Supplement with Beta Carotene
- Exo Terra Multi Vitamin Powder Reptiles/Amphibians Supplement
If you want those that do not have vitamin D3, best brands you should buy include the following:
- Zilla Calcium Supplement Reptile Food Spray
- Fluker’s Reptile-Calcium Supplement Without Vitamin
- HERPTIVITE Multivitamin for reptiles and amphibians
These pets require beta-carotene for vibrant skin and proper coloration. Otherwise, their skin will look dull and faded. Most supplements have it. Try brands such as:
- Zilla Vitamin Supplement with Beta Carotene
- Fluker’s Repta Vitamin Reptile Supplement
- Zilla Vitamin Supplement Food Spray
- Rep-Cal Herptivite Beta Carotene Multivitamins
- Exo Terra Multi Vitamin Powder Reptiles/Amphibians Supplement
3. Vitamin A
While it is essential, excessive amounts will lead to toxicity. Instead, opt for brands with beta-carotene such as HERPTIVITE Multivitamin for reptiles and amphibians.
If their diets have plentiful of leafy veggies, you don’t have to supplement vitamin A including beta-carotene.
Iron supports proper growth and development. Only supplement it in young beardies as older ones will get enough amount from their vegetable portion.
While it is vital, keep the calcium to phosphorus ratio between 1.5:1 and 2:1. Excessive amounts will affect calcium absorption. Don’t supplement it.
Bearded dragon food list
The food list has feeder insects, veggies, plants and flowers, and fruit treats. We have covered other foods like bread, eggs, and so on and whether they are safe or not to these pets elsewhere.
1. Insects and other bugs
There are many prey foods, including feeder insects, to give your reptiles, as staple foods or occasional diets. Staple ones that can be part of your bearded dragon’s diet include:
- Roaches especially Dubia roaches
- Black soldier fly larvae BSFL- Phoenix or Calci-worms.
- Hornworms (Manduca sexta)
Occasional feeder insects and arthropods
- Butterworms (semi-stable)
- Superworms (kingworms)
- Fruit flies especially the flightless
- Pinky mice (can be a staple)
- Tomato hornworms
- Fall armyworm
Also, they can eat ants, termites, Katydids, and beetle. For the caterpillar, it depends on which one since these are only a larval stage of various insects.
2. Commercial foods (adult and juvenile formula)
Commercial diets are nutritionally balanced to meet your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs. You need to know if the food is for adults, young or for baby beardies.
Give them these pellets once a day or as directed by their manufacturers, and they can be treats, part of their diet, or entire food. Some users note that they cannot match feeding your pet’s salads and insects.
- Zilla Munchies Mealworms Reptile Food, Vegetable Mix Treat and Fortified daily food
- Rep-Cal Adult Bearded Dragon Pet Food (SRP00815) – Maintenance and for juveniles
- Exo Terra Soft Adult Bearded Dragon Food
- Josh’s Frogs Exo Terra Bearded Dragon Juvenile Soft Pellets
- Royal Pet Supplies Inc Zoo Med Bearded Dragon Food
- Zoo Med Juvenile, Gourmet, Can O’ Mini Size Crickets and Can O’ Mini Mealies
- Fluker’s Medley treats Gourmet Canned Food, Cricket Diet, Buffet Blend, and so on.
- Repashy Grub Pie, Veggie burger, Savory stew, Superhorn, and so on
- Nature Zone Bites for Bearded Dragons
3. Veggies and Greens
Depending on the specific types, greens and vegetables are rich in vitamins, including vitamins A and C, folate, minerals such as phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, dietary fiber, iron, and antioxidants.
Additionally, legumes have a considerable amount of proteins, while others have carbohydrates, among other nutrients.
The best way to serve the greens and vegetables is to slice them into small of a vegetable mix, i.e., having various types. Also, keep varying the vegetable and greens mix. For instance, prepare a combination of 2-3 leafy greens and 1-2 non-leafy vegetables.
Furthermore, begin introducing them early, put them in grubs or insects so as they eat them, they will see salads as grubs since the insects will make them appear as they are moving.
Besides, if they don’t want to eat greens, cut on live feeder insects, or let them eat insects after they have had veggies. Also, be patient, hand-feed them, put them on the basking spot.
Good options are dark green and leafy vegetables. Those red, yellow, and orange colored ones can be part of their diet as they also have some nutrients that these pets require.
Idea veggies and greens for bearded dragons should:
- Have high calcium to phosphorus ratio. Ideal Ca:P be 1.5:1 or 2:1
- Avoid those high in oxalic acid (oxalates). They bind with calcium and can result in a deficiency that will lead to metabolic bone disease.
- They should not be highly fibrous, contain a lot of water, or have little nutrients to offer to these pets.
a). Daily green and vegetables
While they can eat the below daily, making a salad mix will ensure they benefit maximally from the various nutrients that the below staple vegetables have.
- Alfalfa plant (not sprout)
- Cactus leaf
- Cactus pear – prickly pear
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Squash including acorn, scallop, spaghetti, summer squash, butternut, and Hubbard
- Turnip greens
- Kale (does not have high oxalates like thought initially.
b). Occasional greens and veggies
Do not avoid these vegetables and greens. However, given them occasionally.
- Alfalfa sprout
- Beans (lima, pinto, kidney, green beans, etc.)
- Bell pepper
- Bok choy
- Cabbage – green and red cabbage
- Carrot tops
- Cilantro or coriander
- Hibiscus leaves
- Mustard greens
- Pea sprout
- Peas (pod and pea)
- Peeled cucumber
- Seaweed or kelp
c). Greens and veggies to be given rarely
- Beet greens
- Red leaf
- Brussel sprouts
- Broccoli (small amount)
- Cooked potatoes
- Cooked sweet potatoes
4. Safe wild plants
- Rosella leaves
- Hibiscus leaves
The list is endless, if you want to know, see safe pants and flowers for bearded dragons.
5.Fruits and flowers
They should account for 5% – 10% of their diet as a treat. You can offer them about once or twice a week and keep varying your fruit and flower choice.
Some fruits require peeling and removal of pits or seeds. Also, cut them into small bite-size to make munching much easier. Some of the safe fruits include:
- Apples (peeled
- Peeled banana
- Berries (strawberry, blue, black, raspberries, cranberries
- Dates and raisins
- Peeled kiwifruit
- Melons especially watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe
- Peeled Pears
- Peeled pineapple
- Plums and prunes
- Prickly pear
Avoid citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, Yuzu, citron, and so on.
Finally, note that fruits that are soft and sugary may result in dental problems. They, therefore, should be given as a snack once in a while.
They should have them as a treat. Some of the safe flowers include
Those to avoid include wild daffodil, water hemlock, oak, tobacco, rhododendron, ivy, poison oak, tulip, poinsettia, boxwood, elderberry, buttercup, holly, poison oak, poison sumac, iris, among many others.
Harmful foods to avoid
- Avoid head lettuce, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, and celery. They have a lot of fiber and water but with little nutrients and may benefit your pets minimally. The high water will cause diarrhea. Give a small amount in case of constipation. Excessive amounts will worsen constipation, and peeled cucumber may help.
- Wild-caught insects and invertebrates unless you are 100% sure they don’t have remnant by insecticides, pesticides or any other harmful chemicals or have parasites.
- Rhubarb, swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens – While you will find some sources that will list them as safe in small quantities or occasionally, they have oxalates.
- Any greens or vegetables that are high in oxalic acid. Oxalic acid will bind with calcium, affecting its absorption.
- Avoid avocadoes as they are poisonous to these pets. Also, most of the mushroom types are toxic.
- Avoid boxelder bugs and any insects that glow or glowing worms, including lighting bugs, fireflies, and so on. They are poisonous not only to these reptiles but also to any other reptile, bird, or amphibians.
- Avoid fish or seafood, including sardines, salmons, tuna, crabs, lobsters, and so on as they carry parasites, and some may deplete niacin in these pet’s bodies.
- Insects sold as bait for fish, wasps, bees, scorpions, Eldersburg, mosquitos, dragonflies,
- Avoid garlic, onions, eggplants, chives, and shallots – They are potentially poisonous to these pets.
- More foods you should avoid for either not tested, having high phosphorus, protein, hard to digest, and so on include beef, bread, cheerios, chicken, pork chops, salmon, sardine, tofu, spaghetti, and yogurt.
Signs your pet has eaten poisonous or harmful foods
In case they eat plant or animals that are toxic, toxicity signs you expect to include
- Dry heaving and vomiting
- Reduce activity
- Rubbing their mouth including with their limbs or on objects as well as face scratching
- Diarrhea or abnormal feces
- Breathing problems – labored, shallow, fast or slow breathing
How to feed bearded dragons
Knowing which foods to give them is not enough; you need to ensure you know how to feed them. Here are essential tips on feeding these reptiles.
1. Give the right portion
Given them the right amount ns depending on which food they are having. Remember, these pets often binge-eat live feeder insects, do not give them excessive amounts as it can result in weight gain and obesity.
2. Get a feeding bowl
If you use a loose substrate like sand, ensure you have a feeding bowl to avoid these lizards ingesting some sand that might cause blockages and impaction. The dishes should allow your pets to access their food quickly, prevent escape, and so on.
If you have time, you can feed them by hands or using a long tong or tweezer
3. Give the right food size
Ensure the correctly sized food, i.e., since they do not chew, big pieces may cause impaction. Food should be about the size of their mouth or the distance between their eyes.
4. Vary their food
Keep varying the foods you give them, especially the plant materials, as you have a long list of plants they can eat. You also have a long list of feeder insects.
5. Feed them when they have an optimum body temperature
Since they are ectotherms, you need to feed them after they have achieved their average body temperature. Otherwise, they will have digestion problems.
For instance, when feeding them in the morning, first allow them to bask for a while, and in the evening, keep the heat source on for two hours after they have eaten to give them a chance to digest their food.
6. Be consistent
Have a consistent routine on when you feed them so as they get used to the feeding schedule.
Keep varying the foods to know what he or she wants, especially the leafy and non-leafy foods, to help determine the favorite foods your pet likes.
9. Remove any uneaten foo
Remove any food, including live feeder insects like crickets from their vivarium. Besides decomposing due to high temperatures, some insects may bite these pets at night, especially crickets.
10. Pelleted diets
Commercial diets are suitable for these pets. However, it is a good idea to give them these diets only once a day and feed them with other foods.
11. Drinking water
Besides giving them food, these pets need drinking water to stay hydrated. Otherwise, they may end up being dehydration characterized by sunken eyes and wrinkly skin.
While they will get moisture from liver feeder insects and fresh plant materials, fill their shallow water bowl with clean water conditioned by ReptiSafe and replace the water daily or if soiled.
Also, misting and baths may help keep these pets hydrated while baths will help in case of constipation.
12. Gut-load live foods
A day or two before feeding live prey foods to your pet, feed and hydrate them with highly nutritious diets like pulverized legumes, carrots, collard greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, mustard greens, apples, spinach, oranges, cornmeal, rolled oats and other cereals.
Also, you may consider various gut-loading commercial foods available depending on which feeder insects you are using.
Doing so will ensure they transfer the various nutrients in the foods you use to gut-load them to your reptiles.
13. Dusting their food
For live food, put them in a well-ventilated plastic container, add your supplements, and sway it to ensure they are coated with these products lightly. You can also spray them if you have the spray type.
For vegetables, both leafy greens and non-leafy vegetables, sprinkle the various supplements once you have grated or chopped them into small edible pieces.