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What Can Bearded Dragons Eat? Exploring the Bearded Dragon Diet

Nourishing Your Scaly Friend: Unveiling the Bearded Dragon Diet

Bearded dragons are enchanting and popular pets, known for their unique appearance and docile nature. As a responsible owner, it’s essential to understand what foods are safe and appropriate for your bearded dragon. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about, what to feed bearded dragons, how often to feed them, and how to keep them hydrated.

Bearded Dragon Diet Basics:

When it comes to feeding bearded dragons, there are three main types of foods: vegetables, fruits, and insects. Each type of food offers different nutritional benefits, so it’s essential to provide a balanced diet that includes all three. In general, bearded dragons should eat a diet that is 80% vegetables, 20% fruits, and a small portion of insects.

A well-balanced diet for a bearded dragon typically consists of the following components:

  • Insects: Insects should make up the majority of a bearded dragon’s diet, especially for young dragons. Suitable options include crickets, roaches, mealworms, and silkworms. These insects provide essential protein and nutrients. Ensure that the insects are appropriately sized and gut-loaded (fed a nutritious diet) before offering them to your dragon.
  • Leafy Greens: Offer a variety of leafy greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, kale, and escarole. These greens are rich in vitamins and minerals. Aim for a mix of at least three different greens in your dragon’s diet.
  • Vegetables: Supplement your dragon’s diet with a selection of vegetables, including squash, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, and green beans. These vegetables provide additional nutrients and variety.
  • Fruits: Offer fruits as occasional treats, limiting them to around 10% of the diet. Safe fruit options include apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, and melons. Remember to remove any seeds or pits and cut the fruit into small, manageable pieces.
  • Calcium and Vitamin Supplements: Dust your dragon’s food with calcium powder and a multivitamin supplement designed for reptiles. This helps ensure they receive adequate calcium and other essential nutrients.

It’s important to note that the dietary requirements of bearded dragons change as they grow and age. Young dragons require more protein from insects, while adult dragons transition to a primarily plant-based diet. Additionally, consult with a reptile veterinarian or herpetologist to tailor the diet to your specific dragon’s needs and ensure their overall health and well-being.

What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat?

Bearded dragons thrive on a diet that includes a variety of vegetables. Here are some safe vegetables that you can offer to your bearded dragon:

  • Leafy greens: Collard greens, mustard greens, kale, dandelion greens, and turnip greens are excellent choices. These provide essential nutrients and should be a staple in their diet.
  • Squash: Butternut squash and acorn squash are nutritious options. Remove the seeds and cook the squash before offering it to your bearded dragon.
  • Bell peppers: Red, green, and yellow bell peppers are rich in vitamins and make a colorful addition to their diet. Ensure the peppers are chopped into small, manageable pieces.
  • Carrots: Carrots are a good source of vitamin A. Offer them in small, grated amounts to aid digestion.
  • Zucchini: Zucchini is a hydrating vegetable that can be shredded or diced and provided to your bearded dragon.
  • Cucumbers: Cucumbers are safe for bearded dragons and can be a refreshing addition to their diet. However, it’s important to note that cucumbers have a high water content and are relatively low in nutritional value compared to other vegetables. Therefore, cucumbers should be offered in moderation and not as a primary staple food.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: These cruciferous vegetables can be given occasionally. Offer them in moderation due to their calcium-binding properties.
  • Green beans: Cooked green beans are safe and can be offered as a part of a balanced diet.

It’s important to provide a varied and balanced selection of vegetables to ensure your bearded dragon receives all the necessary nutrients. Remember to wash the vegetables thoroughly and chop them into appropriate sizes for easy consumption. Always monitor your bearded dragon’s response to new foods and consult a reptile veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations.

What Vegetables Should Bearded Dragons Avoid?

While bearded dragons can consume a wide range of vegetables, there are a few vegetables that should be avoided or given sparingly due to potential health risks or their unsuitability for a bearded dragon’s digestive system. Here are some vegetables that are not recommended for bearded dragons:

  • Spinach: While spinach contains beneficial nutrients, it also contains high levels of oxalates, which can bind to calcium and inhibit its absorption. Regular consumption of spinach can lead to calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons.
  • Kale (in large amounts): Kale is high in oxalates, similar to spinach. While small amounts of kale can be included in their diet, excessive intake can cause calcium-related health problems.
  • Rhubarb leaves: Rhubarb leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and can be toxic to bearded dragons. Avoid feeding them rhubarb or its leaves.
  • Iceberg lettuce: Iceberg lettuce has minimal nutritional value and is primarily composed of water. It lacks the necessary vitamins and minerals that bearded dragons require. It can also cause digestive issues and diarrhea due to its high water content.
  • Cabbage and Brussels sprouts: These vegetables can cause gas and digestive problems in bearded dragons, especially when consumed in large amounts. While small amounts may be tolerated, it’s best to offer other vegetables as primary choices.
  • Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic can be harmful to bearded dragons as they contain substances that can be toxic and cause digestive issues.

Remember to provide a varied diet consisting of safe and nutritious vegetables and consult with a reptile veterinarian or herpetologist for specific dietary recommendations based on your bearded dragon’s individual needs.

Which Fruits Can Bearded Dragons Eat?

Bearded dragons can eat a variety of fruits as part of their diet. However, it’s important to remember that fruits should be given in moderation as treats and not as the main component of their diet. Here are some fruits that are generally safe for bearded dragons to consume:

  • Apples (remove seeds and core)
  • Bananas
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
  • Grapes (cut into small pieces)
  • Mangoes
  • Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)
  • Papaya
  • Pears
  • Pineapple (in small amounts)
  • Plums (remove pit)
  • Oranges (in moderation)

When offering fruits to your bearded dragon, ensure that they are cut into small, bite-sized pieces to prevent choking. It’s also crucial to thoroughly wash the fruits to remove any pesticides or other residues.

Remember that a bearded dragon’s diet should primarily consist of insects, such as crickets and roaches, as well as leafy greens and vegetables. Fruits should be offered sparingly and should not exceed 10% of their overall diet. Consulting a reptile veterinarian or herpetologist for specific dietary recommendations is always a good idea to ensure the health and well-being of your bearded dragon.

Which Fruits are Toxic to Bearded Dragons?

While most fruits are generally safe for bearded dragons to consume in moderation, there are a few fruits that are known to be toxic to them. It’s crucial to avoid feeding these fruits to bearded dragons as they can cause serious health issues. Here are some fruits that are toxic to bearded dragons:

  • Avocado: Avocado contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to many animals, including bearded dragons. Ingesting avocado can lead to respiratory distress, fluid accumulation around the heart, and even death.
  • Rhubarb: Rhubarb and its leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can be toxic to bearded dragons. Ingesting rhubarb can result in kidney problems and other serious health issues.
  • Citrus fruits: While small amounts of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons may not cause immediate harm, they contain high levels of citric acid, which can cause digestive problems and lead to issues like diarrhea and stomach upset in bearded dragons.
  • Grapes and raisins: Grapes and raisins are known to be toxic to dogs and some other animals. While there isn’t much evidence of their direct toxicity to bearded dragons, it’s best to avoid feeding them these fruits as a precaution.

It’s important to remember that bearded dragons have specific dietary requirements, and their diet should primarily consist of insects, leafy greens, and vegetables. Fruits should only be given as occasional treats, and it’s always recommended to consult with a reptile veterinarian or herpetologist for a comprehensive list of fruits to avoid and to ensure the best care for your bearded dragon.

Insects for Bearded Dragon

Insects are a crucial part of a bearded dragon’s diet as they provide protein and other essential nutrients. Some of the best insects to feed your bearded dragon include crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches. 

Avoid feeding wild-caught insects, as they may contain harmful pesticides or parasites. Instead, purchase insects from a reputable supplier or raise your own.

Best Practices for Feeding Bearded Dragons:

When providing a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, and insects, there are several best practices to follow when feeding your bearded dragon. Firstly, it’s important to avoid toxic and harmful foods, as mentioned earlier. 

Feeding appropriate portion sizes is also crucial, as overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health issues. You should also monitor your bearded dragon’s weight and health regularly, and adjust their diet as necessary.

 Finally, providing variety in your bearded dragon’s diet can help ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Supplements for Bearded Dragons:

In addition to a balanced diet, bearded dragons also require supplements to stay healthy. Calcium and vitamin D3 are two essential supplements that can help prevent metabolic bone disease, a common condition in bearded dragons. 

Other supplements, such as multivitamins and probiotics, may also be beneficial. It’s important to administer supplements correctly, as too much or too little can be harmful to your bearded dragon.

Common Mistakes When Feeding Bearded Dragons:

There are several common mistakes that bearded dragon owners make when feeding their pets. Overfeeding is a common issue that can lead to obesity and other health problems. 

Feeding inappropriate foods, such as high-fat or low-nutrient foods, can also be harmful to your bearded dragon. Neglecting to provide enough water or supplementation can also lead to health issues.

What not to feed bearded dragons

Several types of food should not be fed to bearded dragons. These include:

1. Insects that are too large: Bearded dragons should not be fed insects that are too large for them to consume. This can cause choking or digestive problems.

2. Wild-caught insects: Wild-caught insects may have been exposed to pesticides and other harmful chemicals. It is best to purchase insects from a reputable supplier.

3. Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are high in acid and can cause digestive problems.

4. Avocado: Avocado is toxic to bearded dragons and should not be fed to them.

5. Iceberg lettuce: Iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value and can cause digestive problems.

Tips for Picky Eaters:

If your bearded dragon is a picky eater, there are several tricks you can try to encourage them to eat. Hiding vegetables and supplements in their favourite foods can help ensure they get the nutrients they need. 

Adjusting their diet based on personal preferences can also help. For example, if your bearded dragon prefers certain types of insects or fruits, you can incorporate those into its diet more frequently.

Tips for feeding bearded dragons

Here are some tips for feeding bearded dragons a balanced and nutritious diet:

  1. Offer a variety of insects, vegetables, and fruits to ensure that the bearded dragon receives all the necessary nutrients.
  2. Gut-load insects before feeding them to the bearded dragon to ensure optimal nutrition.
  3. Dust live insects with calcium powder before feeding them to the bearded dragon.
  4. Offer vegetables daily and fruits in moderation.
  5. Offer commercial diets as a supplement to live insects and vegetables.
  6. Provide calcium and vitamin supplements to maintain healthy bones and overall health.
  7. Do not feed bearded dragons insects that are too large or wild-caught.
  8. Avoid feeding bearded dragons citrus fruits.
  9. Do not feed bearded dragons foods that are high in oxalates, such as spinach and Swiss chard, as they can interfere with calcium absorption.
  10. Offer fresh water daily. Bearded dragons may not drink water from a dish, so it is important to mist them with water or provide a shallow dish of water to soak in.
  11. Feed juvenile bearded dragons more insects than vegetables, as they require more protein for growth.
  12. Monitor the bearded dragon’s weight and adjust its diet accordingly. Bearded dragons should be neither too thin nor too overweight.

Bearded Dragon Nutrition FAQs

Finally, let’s address some common questions about bearded dragon nutrition. Can bearded dragons eat meat? While bearded dragons are primarily herbivorous, they can also eat some types of meat, such as cooked chicken or turkey. 

Can bearded dragons eat insects caught in the wild? No, wild-caught insects may contain harmful pesticides or parasites, so it’s best to purchase insects from a reputable supplier or raise your own. 

How often should I feed my bearded dragon? Bearded dragons should be fed once or twice a day, depending on their age and size. Younger dragons may require more frequent feedings, while older dragons may eat less often. 

What is the best way to provide supplements to my bearded dragon? Supplements can be provided in several ways, including dusting insects with powdered supplements or adding them to food. It’s important to follow dosage guidelines and not to over-supplement, as this can be harmful to your bearded dragon.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, and insects is essential for the health and well-being of your bearded dragon. Avoid toxic and harmful foods, provide appropriate portion sizes, and monitor your bearded dragon’s weight and health regularly. In addition to a balanced diet, supplements such as calcium and vitamin D3 are crucial for preventing metabolic bone disease. With proper nutrition and care, your bearded dragon can live a long and healthy life.

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson is an expert in dog behavior with more than a decade of experience who is also passionate about working with cats and birds. Besides contributing pet content to The petdogplanet.com, she's a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Brenda received her Bachelor of Science from Colorado College in 2014. She has taken classes on writing and remote animal behavior consulting in addition to classes on how to deal with aggressive dogs and problems with litter boxes. In 2016, she got her dog behavior consulting certification and joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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