Bearded Dragon Insects

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets?

About 6 min reading time

Are crickets for bearded dragons OK? Can bearded dragons eat crickets? Yes, bearded dragons can eat crickets regularly. Baby bearded dragons can also eat appropriately sized crickets. Crickets are quite nutritious and provide some entertainment for bearded dragons too.

What Are Crickets for Bearded Dragons?

can bearded dragons eat crickets picture
Cricket in a field
Image by Filip Kruchlik from Pixabay

Crickets are an insect, distantly related to locusts, with round heads and bodies and strong back legs that give them the ability to jump considerable distances when disturbed.

Crickets are found all around the world, except for above the latitude of 55 degrees. They have the greatest diversity in the tropics and can often be heard in the warmer areas of the world at night, chirping to attract each other. They are, of course, mainly nocturnal creatures.

Crickets can be found in South Asia being sold and eaten as human food, where they’re often deep fried. Some people keep them as pets themselves.

Crickets seem to feature in various folklore and works of fiction throughout the world, with even Charles Dickens writing about the Cricket on the Hearth which was a guardian angel for a family[1]. Of course they also feature in everyday language to reference the absence of sound or feedback. “The crew were asked what they thought, but….. crickets”.

Crickets are also kept as food sources for other predatory animals such as reptiles, birds and spiders. And it is in this context that we’re looking at Crickets today.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets?

Bearded dragons certainly can eat crickets and they are a staple foodstuff of many happy and healthy bearded dragons. They provide a good moisture content without being overly hydrating. The calcium levels are acceptable in adults, though less so in the nymph stage of their growth. But even with a lower calcium level than some insects, they’re very easy to gutload and/or dust with supplement.

The have a reasonable fat profile and a good protein amount too. All in all they provide much of the nutritional requirements of all the bearded dragon insects and are easy to come by and relatively cheap.

However, they’re not popular with everyone. They can be smelly if you don’t regularly clean their container. Which of course you should anyway. But other insects are less demanding of your cleaning time than crickets can be. They produce a lot of droppings if you’re feeding them on good green vegetables. And be warned that they will cannibalise each other if no food is available or they are in too close proximity.

They are absolutely excellent escape artists too – being able to both hop and fly short distances can be the disadvantage you don’t want when dealing with them. This, coupled with the fact that even the so called silent crickets can make a chirping noise when they feel like it, means that keeping crickets can drive you absolutely bonkers if they escape and start living under the couch.

Advantages of Crickets For Bearded Dragons

  • Good nutritional values
  • Quite hardy and relatively easy to feed
  • Readily available in most countries, even from pet shops
  • Can be fun for more active bearded dragons to hunt

Disadvantages of Crickets For Bearded Dragons

  • Noisy
  • Can be smelly
  • Will cannibalise each other if allowed
  • Can, and will, bite bearded dragons if left too long unattended
  • Can be difficult to contain – good escape artists
  • Can be too quick for older more sedate dragons
  • Require careful size matching for babies

How Should I Feed Crickets To A Bearded Dragon?

Crickets are fast moving, with the ability to jump and even fly short distances. This can make them a difficult target for some bearded dragons, particularly the older more sedate bearded dragon. The risk of crickets escaping often leads many people to hand feed them to their bearded dragon, which can be easier and more of a bonding experience for you and your dragon.

If you can’t handle the idea of handling crickets you can use tongs to catch them (though this is a challenge in itself) and then use the tongs to feed your dragon.

Another alternative is to have a feeder box which you place your bearded dragon into. It’s best to have some form of lid on this box but obviously ensure there are adequate air ventilation gaps in the sides and top. Adequate meaning big enough to let in enough air but small enough to contain the crickets sufficiently.

Once your bearded dragon is in the box you can add crickets, a couple at a time and let your bearded dragon catch and eat them. This can be stimulating for your bearded dragon and enjoyable for you to watch – so long as you’re not too squeamish of course.

Crickets can be fed directly in the vivarium but we don’t necessarily recommend this for the reasons of escaping and depending on your substrate they can become covered in loose substrate which your dragon will then ingest. If you do feed in the vivarium we recommend adding no more crickets than your bearded dragon will eat, and perhaps add them just one at a time. Do not leave crickets in the vivarium after your dragon has finished eating and definitely never leave crickets in the tank overnight. Crickets can and will bite and injure bearded dragons if left overnight. If you’re feeding crickets to a Gecko it’s even worse. We’ve seen Geckos be eaten alive by an orchestra of crickets.

Crickets only have a moderate amount of calcium in their bodies naturally, which can fluctuate depending on what they themselves have been fed on. Crickets are great to gutload with high calcium rich vegetables if possible and in any case should be dusted with calcium supplement before being fed to a bearded dragon. A light dusting is all that’s needed though to provide enough calcium to your bearded dragon diet.

How Many Crickets Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon?

Crickets can be fed as a staple food item to bearded dragons. This means you can feed them as the main part of their insect diet if you so choose. We recommend feeding an adult once or twice a week, with as many as they would like to eat in a 10 to 15 minute session.

Baby bearded dragons should have insects fed to them every single day, twice or three times a day with the same sort of rule of thumb being as many as they’ll eat in a 10 to 15 minute session. Of course, when it comes to crickets it’s absolutely imperative that you choose size appropriate crickets otherwise there is a high risk of choking and/or impaction leading to paralysis or death.

For baby and adolescent bearded dragons, choose crickets who are no wider than the gap between your baby bearded dragon’s eyes. They should be able to swallow this and deal with it appropriately. Some places dispute this measuring system but it seems reasonable to us. Smaller food has less choking and impaction risk for babies so why risk larger at a delicate time in your dragon’s life.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Dead Crickets?

This is a question we hear occasionally and we’d say categorically no, absolutely not. With one exception, bearded dragons can eat commercially store bought dried crickets. But in the context of the question we’re assuming most people are referring to crickets that have died in their container whilst waiting to be fed.

Don’t feed dead crickets to your bearded dragon. The nutrient content has already started to drop once the cricket is dead, and the moisture content will have dropped as well. A dead cricket is dead for a reason. It may be that the cricket had a parasite load which killed it. It may be that they have some sort of disease. It may be that they simply starved to death. Whatever the cause, none of them will be beneficial to your bearded dragon.

If you have dead crickets in the food container you should clean them away immediately. Remove them and throw them in the bin. Or on the fire. Crickets will cannibalise each other and will eat dead relatives in the bottom of the food bin. If the dead crickets have died because of disease or parasites then the other crickets feeding on them will only serve to pass on the pathogens. Cannibalism can lead to all sorts of horrible issues, so it’s best to keep the container clean and remove dead crickets as soon as you can.

Can I Feed Dried Crickets To My Bearded Dragon?

Commercially available dried crickets are the only form of dead cricket that you can feed to your bearded dragon. Though we don’t recommend dried food of any kind for a bearded dragon, there is a place for dried crickets at times. Only you will know when it’s an absolute must.

Many bearded dragons won’t even look at dried crickets. If it doesn’t move, it’s not considered food in a bearded dragon’s mind.

Dried crickets will not have the moisture content that a live cricket would have, which means that feeding dried insects will result in a dehydrated bearded dragon, or one that has to be hydrated through other means.

Nutritional Data For Adult Crickets For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Moisture (%)69.2
Fat (%)6.80
Protein (%)20.5
Ash (%)1.1
Calcium (mg/kg)407 (0.041%)
Phosphorus (mg/kg)2950 (0.29%)
Potassium (mg/kg)Unknown at present
Nutritional Data For Adult Crickets For Bearded Dragons [2]

Nutritional Data For Cricket Nymphs For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Moisture (%)77.1
Fat (%)3.3
Protein (%)15.4
Ash (%)1.1
Calcium (mg/kg)275 (0.028%)
Phosphorus (mg/kg)2520 (0.25%)
Potassium (mg/kg)Unknown at present
Nutritional Data For Cricket Nymphs For Bearded Dragons [2]

Summary

Can bearded dragons eat crickets? We’ve shown that they can, both baby and adult bearded dragons can eat crickets. We’ve shown that they’re a good nutritional source for bearded dragons and we’ve highlighted some of the advantages and disadvantages to crickets for bearded dragons.

We do believe there are better alternatives than crickets for bearded dragons, such as Dubia Roaches if you can get them, but crickets aren’t a terrible feeder insect for bearded dragons nevertheless.

Frequency: Babies – staple, regularly (twice daily). Adults – staple, regularly (once or twice a week).

References / Credits

1: Kitton, Frederic G. (1900). The Minor Writings of Charles Dickens. London: Elliot Stock. p. 48.

2: The Worm Lady Canada – Live feeder nutrition facts and Exotics nutrition info (thewormlady.ca)

Featured Image by Aryok Mateus from Pixabay

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