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What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
Bearded dragons are becoming more and more common as pets in recent years. It’s important to remember though that they are an exotic pet. This means a bearded dragon diet is also a little bit exotic. You can’t just feed them dog or cat food and expect them to thrive.
This article will go over the basics of bearded dragon diet and below are links to more specific aspects of how to feed a bearded dragon, when to feed a bearded dragon and in depth lists of the different vegetables they eat along with the live insects and worms they eat.
In another post at the bottom of the page we can also give you some advice if your bearded dragon isn’t eating properly or is off their food. Many baby bearded dragon owners have quite a struggle getting their juveniles to switch from a mostly insect based diet to a vegetable diet though.
Bearded dragons will eat just about anything that moves. That doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to though. Some insects are not good for them – and some are toxic. Any firefly is toxic to bearded dragons for example. Also, keepers need to be careful to make sure their bearded dragon doesn’t eat things they find while they’re out of the vivarium. Wild spiders, insects etc can contain parasites and/or chemicals that lead to your bearded dragon becoming sick.
Bearded Dragons Are Omnivores – What Does That Mean?
An omnivore is an animal that eats a combination of animal based products (carnivore) and plant based food products (herbivore).
Baby bearded dragons eat mostly animal based products – meat from insects. Adult bearded dragons should eat mostly plant based materials, with some insects or worms.
In this group of posts we talk about various different things relating to bearded dragon diet, from which foods can bearded dragons eat, which fruits and vegetables are safe for bearded dragons and which live foods (and how much) should bearded dragons be fed. We also look at what happens when they’re off their food and what could be causing this.
Bearded dragon dietary requirements are relatively simple, once you know what they need. To confuse matters though, a baby bearded dragon diet is different to an adult bearded dragon diet. In this section we give you the tips and tricks necessary to feed your bearded dragon at the right time, with the right food and the right amount.
Be Careful When Feeding
Bearded dragon tongues are quite sticky. When feeding them you’ll see them stick their tongue out and grab the insect from a distance. Their tongues aren’t as long as some monitor lizards or snakes for example, but still. This stickiness can cause a problem if they’re eating on a floor of sand for example. If they miss their prey (and they often do) they may end up with a tongue full of sand.
A bearded dragon with sand on its tongue has only one option. It has to take its tongue back into its mouth and swallow the sand. They don’t carry little waterbottles around to swish around their mouth and spit out.
Sand, particularly in babies can cause significant digestive problems. A small amount won’t hurt, but if it happens regularly the sand can build up in the bearded dragon intestines and cause impaction. Impaction occurs when indigestible compounds get stuck in the bowel and can’t be passed. Regular food builds up behind the obstruction and can’t get past. Ultimately the lizard will suffer pain, organ failure and potential rupturing of the intestines. This is something that is best avoided.
With this in mind, it is always best to feed your bearded dragon on a hard surface that can’t accidentally be eaten along with the food.
Bearded dragons require a high level of calcium in their diet to maintain good bone and heart health. A good calcium supplement is wise to help keep their levels up.
Tips for supplementation and much more are included in the various articles below.
Yes, and they should. But not just any old insect and particularly not wild insects that you find outside in the garden. There’s quite a long list of insects and worms that bearded dragons can eat – some are more suitable than others. Check Which Live Foods Can Bearded Dragons Eat for more details.
Yes and they should. Adults should eat mainly greens and vegetables, babies should eat more insects and worms. There’s a long list of leafy greens and vegetables that are suitable for bearded dragons. We have more information available at What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat which gives comprehensive details about what to feed regularly. It also details what should be fed only as a treat and which vegetables you should absolutely avoid.
Bearded dragons can eat fruit but they should only do so occasionally as most fruits contain too much sugar. Too much sugar has a number of side-effects including obesity and fermentation problems. Citrus fruit should be avoided as it’s too acidic. Rhubarb is highly toxic to bearded dragons. Don’t give bearded dragons any rhubarb. More information about which fruits can be fed to bearded dragons is available in Can Bearded Dragons Eat Fruit.
Absolutely. This can be fun both for your bearded dragon and you. It’s a good bonding experience and despite many people thinking that bearded dragons don’t bond with their keepers nothing could be further from the truth. Our bearded dragons positively light up when Claire walks in the room. She hand feeds them quite often and they know it!
No, except in very specific circumstances. If your vet has advised you to feed them with a syringe then it’s acceptable. Ask the vet to show you, explicitly, how to do it though. Feeding with a syringe is a skill that you will need to practise. If you have to syringe feed your bearded dragon do so very gently. Too much liquid food in their mouth at a time can end up in their lungs causing further problems. Also, be prepared for your bearded dragon to chomp down on the end of the syringe and break it off. Putting small amounts of syringed food on their noses for them to lick off is the safest way if possible.
Experienced keepers who’ve been shown how to syringe feed can of course ignore this advice!
Yes – you shouldn’t feed rhubarb or avocado to bearded dragons. Both are toxic – rhubarb especially so.
You shouldn’t feed fireflies or boxelder bugs to a bearded dragon as these are toxic. In fact, when it comes to insects assume they’re all toxic except the ones listed in our Which Live Foods Can Bearded Dragons Eat post.
Wild insects should also be avoided as they may contain parasites and chemicals that will damage your bearded dragons health.
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