Among all the pets in the reptile word, the bearded dragon is often regarded as one of the easiest to take care of. These “beginner lizards” have been so widely domesticated that crucial tasks, such as preparing a bearded dragon diet, have been made extremely simple.
Seriously, any local pet store, along with your nearest grocery, will have all the necessary ingredients for a proper beardie diet. The hardest part may be finding accurate information on feeding your bearded dragon in order to maintain a healthy and happy lizard. All of which, I will cover extensively in this guide.
Types of Food Bearded Dragons Eat
A common misconception is that all reptiles are herbivores, meaning they strictly eat greens (think fruits and vegetables). While it’s true that most pet reptiles are herbivores, the bearded dragon is not. In fact, they are omnivores, which means that they’ll be more than happy to munch on fruits and vegetables in addition to protein (such as insects). With that being said, a bearded dragon’s diet should be comprised of vegetables, certain insects and (non-citrus) fruits.
A Baby Bearded Dragon’s Diet
A baby bearded dragon, also known as a “Hatchling” in the beardie circle, should not have the same diet of an older beardie. Let me first clarify that a hatchling is a baby dragon that’s less than 2 months old.
This rule should be no surprise because a larger reptile will, without doubt, eat more than a smaller reptile. However, the difference in their diets is not just the quantity of food, but also the ratio for types of food given to them. Let me elaborate.
A hatchling should be given approximately 5% – 10% plant matter (fruits and veggies) and 90% – 95% protein (insects). If you were to apply this same diet plan for your adult bearded dragon, they will certainly have intestinal impaction in a matter of hours. Bearded dragon impaction is no joke, as it can cause serious health issues and in several cases even death.
But don’t worry about your hatchling. They can handle the high percentage of protein if you follow the proper feeding guidelines.
The Juvenile Bearded Dragon Diet
A juvenile bearded dragon is a young “teenage” dragon and classified as at least 2 months old. It’s recommended that you feed them insects about 3/8 of an inch in size. And as far as food ratios, I would keep it around 20% to 30% plant matter (vegetables) and 70% to 80% protein matter (insects). As a juvenile dragon gets older, slightly increase their intake of vegetables and decrease their intake of insects.
Adult Bearded Dragon’s Diet
The adult beardies do not and should not eat as many insects as their younger counterparts. If you’ve gradually added vegetables to a juvenile’s diet, then they should be used to eating little protein as a full-grown adult bearded dragon.
You really only need to feed them insects once per day. The maximum number of insects your adult dragon should be eating is 50 to 60 insects. Many owners think it’s time consuming to count how many insects they’ve eaten, but it’s not. Just don’t put in more than 60 insects into the cage when feeding them. And, if you’re worried about them eating too little: count how many insects are going in and subtract that by how many are left (post meal) to get the number of insects they’ve eaten.
If your adult bearded dragon is eating less than 20 insects per day, something may be wrong. It could be because of impaction of even an illness. Regardless of what it is, consult a veterinarian with experience in dragon care.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores that can eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and insects. Here are some ideas for foods to feed your dragon. If you’re ever unsure about whether they can eat something, make sure to look it up beforehand.
Fruits & Vegetables For Your Dragon
After your baby dragon has grown into a full sized adult, they will start to eat much more fruits and vegetables than insects. In fact, plant matter will make up the majority of their diet. This is why it’s important to find nutritious greens that are safe for your bearded dragon to eat.
Here are some beardie vegetable favorites:
- Bok Choy
- Turnip Greens
- Collard Greens
- Raw Cabbage
- Acorn Squash
- Sweet Potatoes
And here are some favorite fruits for your dragon:
Don’t forget to wash these fruits and vegetables thoroughly before cutting them up and feeding it to them. If pesticide is present on them, the toxins will certainly affect them sooner than later. Because beardies are such small reptiles, their bodies will react much more severely to toxins than humans will.
Insects For Your Bearded Dragon
There are a number of insects that provide a great source of protein for your beardie. Most of the time, you can find live insects anywhere you can find bearded dragons for sale, such as a local pet store. I’ve heard of a lot of beardie enthusiasts that have actually raised insects themselves to provide their pet with “organic” insects. It may be a good idea if time permits, but not everyone has the time or will. And, it is by no means necessary.
Here is the list of safe worms for your dragon:
- Meal Worms
- Wax Worms
- Phoenix Worms
- Silk Worms
- Butter Worms
- Red Worms
- Earth Worms
- Super Worms
I want to note that worms should only be given as treats, and not as a main source of their diet. These worms, especially silk worms, are considered to be very fatty. Having your pet reptile take in a lot of fat is never a healthy choice. Instead, insects should be the staple of your dragon’s diet.
Here are some safe insects for your dragon’s diet:
- Deathhead Roach
- Lobster Roach
- Discoid Roach
- Dubias Roach
Can I Feed My Beardie Insects I Catch?
The short answer is “no,” I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you’re living in a cabin in the wild somewhere, do not catch insects for your bearded dragon. In a residential area, there’s a good chance that any insects wandering around have already been exposed to toxins. And, like I’ve mentioned before, your dragons are extremely sensitive to toxins.
Sure, you can make the argument that wild beardies eat insects that are in the wild. And although that’s true, the natural habitat of this particular reptile is not in a residential neighborhood.
Gut Loading Your Insects
An important step when it comes to your bearded dragon’s diet is gut loading. This refers to the process of feeding the insects before you let your dragons eat them. Although it does require some time and a little more money, I do highly recommend it.
Just like how humans like to eat animals that have been fed well (think Kobe Beef), so do your bearded dragons. This ensures they receive high nutritious insects in their diet, which will lead to better overall health.
You can mash up vegetables that are safe for your dragon (refer to the vegetables list) and feed them to the insects/worms. Do this roughly 24 hours before you plan on feeding the insects to your reptile.