Can Bearded Dragons Eat Iceberg Lettuce?

Bearded dragons shouldn’t eat Iceberg lettuce and this post explains why. Romaine lettuce is a little, but not much, better.

can bearded dragons have iceberg lettuce featured image

They Can, But They Really Shouldn't

About 8 min reading time

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Iceberg Lettuce?

Everywhere you read, you’ll see that adult bearded dragons diet should consist of roughly 80% vegetation and 20% insects. And most sites, including this one, state that most of the 80% of vegetables should be of the leafy green type. Which will inevitably lead you to ask the question, Can bearded dragons eat iceberg lettuce?

Iceberg lettuce is green. It’s easily available in most supermarkets and relatively cheap. Unfortunately it’s pretty much nutritionally useless for bearded dragons. Romaine lettuce is a better option of the lettuces if you really want to feed lettuce to your bearded dragon but even that is nutritionally limited.

The problem isn’t so much about the feeding of lettuce, but rather, if you’re feeding lettuces to your bearded dragon you’re probably not feeding them the other vegetables that are far far better for them such as Collard Greens, or Kale. Basically, for 100grams of iceberg lettuce your bearded dragon is going to get a mere 18mg of Calcium. That’s slightly more than Cucumber (at 16mg) but significantly less than Collard Greens at 232mg. Not only that but the Phosphorous ratio in Iceberg Lettuce is pretty much 1:1 by weight, whereas Collards are around 10:1 (calcium to phosphorous by weight).

Too much Iceberg lettuce, like too much cucumber, will likely lead to diarrhea and that’s just messy and ironically leads to dehydration (not because of lack of water, but because essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and even calcium get flushed through too quickly before they can be properly absorbed).

You may have heard that Romaine lettuce is much better for bearded dragons than Iceberg. The truth is that whilst it is a little bit better, it’s still not great. The calcium:phosphorous ratio is still roughly 1:1 – although admittedly with twice as much of each as you find in Iceberg lettuce.

However, if you really want to feed some lettuce to your bearded dragon, perhaps to maintain hydration or bulk out a salad, use Romaine and don’t give too much of it.

Advantages Of Lettuce For Bearded Dragons

  • Good for re-hydration therapy
  • Long lasting in the fridge
  • Readily available in pretty much all supermarkets

Disadvantages Of Lettuce For Bearded Dragons

  • Low in calcium
  • Calcium to phosphorous ratio is poor at 1:1 by weight
  • Too much can lead to diarrhea. Messy and ironically dehydrating.

How Should I Feed Lettuce To A Bearded Dragon?

Putting aside our objections of “you shouldn’t feed lettuce to a bearded dragon”, if you insist then make sure it’s thoroughly washed and excess water is shaken off. It already has plenty of water, it doesn’t need extra. You can then seperate the leaves away using your fingers or a small vegetable knife.

Shred an individual leaf into small pieces, length isn’t all that important and can be a couple of inches if you like, but make the width less than half an inch. You can then add this to a salad dish, spread out across the dish and add some shredded carrot and other vegetables and leaves to the dish.

You may want to consider dusting the lettuce leaves with some good quality calcium powder before adding the other vegetables to the dish, in this way you increase the calcium your bearded dragon will get by eating the lettuce – but bear in mind, a better answer is to choose vegetables that are higher in calcium in the first place (since even these should be dusted once or twice a week).

How Much Lettuce Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?

You should try to feed a minimal amount of lettuce to your bearded dragon because it’s nutritionally pretty much void of anything your dragon needs and there are far better alternatives available. However, if your bearded dragon is dehydrated and you’re looking to rehydrate it through vegetables then it can have its place here. In which case one shredded leaf per day until your dragon is rehydrated might help.

Alternatively, for a dehydrated dragon you could consider giving them a bath and trying to coax them to drink the water (noting that the process of bathing a bearded dragon does nothing to rehydrate them unless they drink). If your dragon is dehydrated enough that you’re in need of these options you may want a veterinary consultation to find out why and see if there’s any other issues happening too.

Nutritional Data For Iceberg Lettuce For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Water Content (%)95.6
Fat (%)0.14
Protein (%)0.9
Dietary Fibre (%)1.2
Calcium (mg/100g)18 (0.018%)
Potassium (mg/100g)141 (0.141%)
Phosphorous (mg/100g)20 (0.020%)
Vitamin A (ug/100g)25
Vitamin C (ug/100g)2.8
Oxalates (mg/100g)Low – Moderate
Nutritional Data For Iceberg For Bearded Dragons [1][2]

Nutritional Data For Romaine Lettuce For Bearded Dragons

Nutritional ItemContent
Water Content (%)94.7
Fat (%)0.26
Protein (%)1.24
Dietary Fibre (%)1.8
Calcium (mg/100g)35 (0.035%)
Potassium (mg/100g)253 (0.253%)
Phosphorous (mg/100g)30 (0.030%)
Vitamin A (ug/100g)436
Vitamin C (ug/100g)4.6
Oxalates (mg/100g)Low – Moderate
Nutritional Data For Romaine Lettuce For Bearded Dragons [1][2]

You can see from the tables above, compared to Romaine Lettuce, Iceberg has almost no Vitamin A or C, significantly less potassium and calcium and more water. Iceberg is definitely worth avoiding and Romaine the preferred choice for rehydrating a dehydrated bearded dragon if no other options are available.

Summary

So, can bearded dragons eat lettuce and is lettuce good for bearded dragons?

We discovered that the answer to this is ‘No, not really’. Iceberg lettuce is nutritionally useless to bearded dragons and may cause diarrhea which will flush out any essential electrolytes before they can be absorbed, resulting in further dehydration problems. Romaine lettuce is somewhat better and would be a better choice for rehydrating a dehydrated bearded dragon.

We would say that Iceberg lettuce should be completely avoided in a bearded dragons diet, and Romaine lettuce could be given occasionally in small portions to help boost hydration and to provide some variety if needed, but even then, there’s many other preferable options available.

Frequency: Iceberg – NEVER, Romaine – OCCASIONAL.

For more information on other vegetables that Bearded Dragons can eat, please see our larger category at ‘What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat?’

References

1: US Department of Agriculture, FoodCentral Data. Source from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169248/nutrients (Iceberg) on 28 February 2022.

2: Oxalate Data sourced from https://oxalate.org on 28 February 2022.

Featured Image by Lebensmittelfotos from Pixabay