Are earthworms for bearded dragons OK? Can bearded dragons eat earthworms? The answer to this question is contentious and depends on who you ask. But if you want to know our answer, read on!
What Are Earthworms For Bearded Dragons?
Almost everyone will have seen an earthworm at some point in their lives. Indeed, many people may well have even eaten an earthworm or two as a kid. Does that still happen or am I showing my age here? Anyway – the earthworm is a commonly found invertebrate (meaning it has no backbone) found the world over.
They are a segmented creature on the outside with similar internal segmentation. The segmentations are covered with Setae or small hairs that help the earthworm to grip and propel itself forward. They feed on organic matter such as that found in the soil.
Its digestive system runs the entire length of its body, and it breathes through its skin. It is quite a simple creature in terms of biology, with two small ganglia, one on each side of its mouth forming a rudimentary brain. A ventral nerve cord makes up the equivalent of a spinal cord in Vertebrates.
Earthworms have no eyes, but they can sense light through their skins, with the photoreceptors being concentrated on the sides and top of the worm. They also have olfactory and gustatory (smell and taste) receptors in their mouths. Their intestines are a straight pipe from their mouth to their anus. They have a circulatory system which, although it doesn’t involve a heart, does involve a blood system containing haemoglobin.
Earthworms can regenerate lost segments of their bodies, such as when they have been only half eaten, or for example when birds attempt to pull them from their underground holes.
Perhaps far more interestingly, earthworms are sometimes called “Nightcrawlers” – so the question of whether bearded dragons can eat Nightcrawlers is also answered by this article.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Earthworms?
Bearded dragons can eat earthworms. They’re surprisingly nutritious and their moisture content means that they’re good for hydration too. They have a decent level of calcium compared to some of the other insects and a fairly good calcium to phosphorus ratio too. They’re not massively fatty and contain a moderate amount of protein. Be a little bit careful with the number of earthworms you feed though, their high moisture content could potentially lead to over-hydration and diarrhoea.
As a result of being soft bodied, earthworms or nightcrawlers make a good alternative food for baby bearded dragons to mix up their diet somewhat.
There are some caveats though. You should only buy your earthworms from a reptile feed stockist. If you buy from an Angling bait store there is a risk that the earthworms have been dyed to create a greater attraction for fish that anglers are trying to catch. We couldn’t find any solid evidence either way as to whether this would be bad for your bearded dragon but we suspect most people would agree the risk is not worth taking if alternatives are available.
You can easily catch your own earthworms and can (and should) cultivate them yourselves in the right conditions. If you’re going to collect your own earthworms you should ensure you collect from an area that is free from pesticides and herbicides. You can generally find earthworms under large stones, fallen trees or in compost heaps. If you’re sure the area is free of pesticides and herbicides you’re pretty much good to collect.
Many people on the internet are of the opinion that wild caught insects (or worms in this case) are fraught with danger from parasites. However, the latest research seems to indicate that parasites are in fact likely to be a larger problem in farm grown insects that wild ones. This does actually stand to reason, since the wild caught insects have acres up acres of land upon which to graze, whereas factory raised insects share their space with thousands of others of the same species – and their potential parasites. Can bearded dragons eat earthworms then? We definitely think so.
The risk of parasites and toxins can be reduced by ensuring you keep your earthworms for your bearded dragon for a few days or even weeks before you feed them to your bearded dragon. After capturing the worms from the garden or the wild, put them into a large container of damp sterile soil with some sterile compost material. Keep this nice and damp, as earthworms require a damp skin in order to breathe and they will die if they dry out. The earthworms should eat your sterile topsoil / compost mix and flush through any parasites or toxins after a day or two. Put the contents out onto the garden once you’ve fed all the worms to your bearded dragon and use new sterile soil when you start a fresh colony.
Advantages Of Earthworms For Bearded Dragons
Disadvantages Of Earthworms For Bearded Dragons
How Should I Feed Earthworms To A Bearded Dragon
Earthworms can be fed easily to a bearded dragon. They’re relative slow, nice and wiggly and stimulate your bearded dragons feeding response nicely. Their colour will contrast nicely with light flooring tiles or light coloured food bowls.
If you substrate is loose (such as play sand or sterile topsoil/playsand mix) then do not feed earthworms directly in the vivarium. The skin of the earthworm is moist and will attract the sand / soil particles to stick to it. Your bearded dragon could do without ingesting large amounts of sand or soil along with its worms.
Wash any excess soil, compost or sand off the outside of the worm before giving to your bearded dragon. Small amounts of soil won’t hurt too much, but it’s probably nicer not to feed soil to your bearded dragon.
Place the earthworms in a light coloured bowl instead. You can place some vegetable leaves in with them to give the worms some shelter from the light and heat and to entice your bearded dragon to eat some of the vegetation as well – particularly if it wiggles.
How Many Earthworms Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?
Earthworms should only be fed once a week to an adult bearded dragon, perhaps twice at a push. Smaller earthworms can be fed more regularly to baby bearded dragons as the extra protein won’t be a problem for them. However, Dubia Roaches and Calciworms are a better staple diet option than earthworms.
Nevertheless, as a treat or part of a balanced diet, earthworms are great. We’d generally recommend feeding as many insect feeders as your bearded dragon wants in a roughly 10 – 15 minute setting. Adults should be once, perhaps twice per week. Babies and adolescents should be a sliding scale of 3 times per day for babies through to once a day for adolescents. The key rule though is to make sure they’re thriving without getting fat.
In the case of earthworms we’d recommend one or two (depending on size) at each sitting if you want to – and then mix the meal up with other insects too.
Can I Feed Dried Earthworms To My Bearded Dragon?
The likelihood of getting your bearded dragon to eat dried earthworms is quite slim, since the wiggling of the food is part of the attraction of hunting and eating. Some dried earthworm formula comes as a powder and we couldn’t think of anything worse than powdered earthworm for dinner. Having said that if your bearded dragon is some kind of weirdo and will only each vegetables and you’re concerned about their fat and protein intake then perhaps dried earthworm could work.
Bear in mind that dried insects have no hydration value at all, so you’ll need to ensure your bearded dragon remains hydrated somehow. Hydrating vegetables can help with this if you can get them to eat them. Drops of water on the nose can help.
But live insects are by far the best.
Nutritional Data For Earthworms For Bearded Dragons
|Calcium (mg/kg)||444 (0.044%)|
|Phosphorus (mg/kg)||1590 (0.159%)|
|Potassium (mg/kg)||1820 (0.182%)|
In answering the question of “Can bearded dragons eat earthworms?” we’ve looked at the nutritional details and other aspects and decided that Earthworms are a reasonable “insect” for bearded dragons to be fed for a variety of reasons.
For this reason, we consider Earthworms to be an occasional insect suitable for babies and adults alike.
1: Including Earthworms in Organic Poultry Diets. Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky. https://eorganic.org/node/8103 Visited: 18:30 GMT 28 January 2021