Native to the land down under it’s your new favorite reptile… The bearded dragon!!
These fascinating and deeply affectionate companions have quickly become household favorites to pet owners across the world.
I’m assuming you landed here because you’re interested in learning about the diet for your new (or soon to be new!) beareded dragon. If that’s the case than you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve built this reference article as your guide post for the exact diet your new lizard friend will need.
Below is a table of contents to quickly get to the sections you’ll need.
Be sure to bookmark this page. I promise you’ll come back to it later on!
Let’s get started with the foundational stuff you’ll need to know.
Bearded Dragon Digestive System: The Basics
If there’s 1 piece of advice I want you to know it’s this: Your bearded dragon is built to survive a desert climate.
Originating in Australia, the bearded dragon is a unique creature because it’s a true omnivore, it eats both plants and vegetables.
Now I say say all this because while a bearded dragon is a great first reptile for beginners, proper diet and nutrition will be the biggest hurdle for care-taking. They’re very sensitive to the foods they can eat.
Most foods you feed your bearded dragon should be somewhat natural to their home region!
If you are caring for a Bearded Dragon or considering bringing one into your home then there are a number of dietary guidelines you can follow to keep your new beardie happy and healthy.
How Does Their System Work?
The digestive system of a bearded dragon is composed of an esophagus, a stomach, a small intestine, a cecum, and a colon.
The esophagus connects the throat to the stomach allowing food to enter into their digestive tract.
The stomach releases acids and enzymes that assist in breaking the food down. As it is dissolved it moves into the small intestine of the body to absorb the nutrients and minerals.
Once passed the small intestines, it enters the large intestine which is made up of the cecum and colon. The cecum mixes the left over fluid and salt together and the colon pushes the fecal matter out of the anal hole.
What Are Digestive Issues To Watch Out For?
It’s important for you to know this: Gastrointestinal disorders are very common, IF not fed the appropriate foods their bodies can break down.
Various causes for gastrointestinal disorders in bearded dragons include:
- Metabolic Bone Disease
- Impaction (i.e Indigestible plant material, such as fiber, skins and seeds, trapped in their digestive tract)
- Foreign bodies obstructing passage
What Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Bearded Dragons are omnivores and need a diverse meal plan to ensure they receive all of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary to sustain health.
They should be fed 1 to 5 times daily depending on their age; their diet should consist of insects, vegetables, and occasionally fruit.
It is important to note that bearded dragons will eat almost any plant or insect you put in front of them, however, not all insects and vegetables are good for them.
Insects are critical to your beardies health as they provide essential proteins and have the added benefit of getting them engaged in physical activity.
In the first 16 months of a bearded dragon’s life their meals should come from insects 70% of the time. Once they reach adulthood, you will want to lessen their insect intake to about 20%.
While crickets are used most commonly for bearded dragons, Dubia Roaches are likely to be safer than crickets.
Crickets can hold bacteria and parasites that can harm your bearded dragon. Dubia Roaches aren’t known to carry any of these parasites; they are also protein-rich and very easy to digest.
Another great option are Phoenix worms because they will come calcium packed for your beardie bud. You won’t even need to buy the additional calcium supplement. Although, they do come at a higher cost than most other feeders.
Pro Tip: If you decide to use crickets (they are usually the easiest to source and priced well) then there is an extra step you can take to ensure they are getting their full nutritional value. Gut load your crickets with cricket food, carrots, or potato slices to make sure they bring enough protein to satisfy your bearded dragon. Also, double check there are no left over crickets at the end of meal time. They tend to harass the bearded dragons at night.
Here’s a list of animal protein your bearded dragon should eat:
- Dubia roaches
- Phoenix worms
*Note: These worms should only be fed to adult Bearded Dragons. They are too large or have hard outer skin that could cause impaction in baby bearded dragons.
Insects your bearded dragon should NEVER eat:
- Insect that glow (i.e fireflies)
- Elder Bugs
- Venomous insects (i.e. bees, wasps or scorpions)
- Insects found inside or outside of your home. These could have parasites or could have been exposed to pest control chemicals that can kill your beardie.
- Insects sold as bait for fishing
Vegetables and flowers will fill roughly 40% of the Bearded Dragons diet in the first 16 months and 80% of their diet once they reach adult age.
Top choices include dark, leafy green vegetables as they can provide the most nutrition; avoiding light green vegetables like celery or lettuce which are rich in fiber, but poor in vitamins.
If your beardie is having trouble eating any hard vegetables, it is ok to lightly cook and cool vegetables to assist them. Please allow vegetables to reach room temperature before offering to your Bearded Dragon.
To avoid bacteria or mold build up, remove any remaining vegetables from their cage before their next meal. It is fine to leave the vegetable in their cage for snacking in between meals.
Here is a list of some vegetable options for your Bearded Dragon:
- Acorn Squash
- Alfalfa Hay or Chow
- Beet Greens***
- Bell Peppers (red, yellow, or green)
- Bok Choi
- Butternut Squash*
- Cabbage (red or green)***
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
- Mustard Greens***
- Sweet Potato (Cooked)*
- Swiss Chard***
- Turnip Greens
- Yellow squash
Always avoid rhubarb and avocado as these are toxic to bearded dragons.
*Note: These foods should be eaten by your bearded dragons in less frequency to avoid gastrointestinal problems.
**Note: Flowers can be offered as a treat.
***Note: These vegetables should be fed to your bearded dragon sparingly as they can negatively affect their bodies ability to absorb minerals.
Fruits can make a great snack or end-of-day treat for your beardie. They typically love them!
It is recommended to feed your Bearded Dragon soft fruit once a month. Excessive fruit in their diet can cause teeth problems. In general, fruit is mineral-poor and should be fed sparingly.
Also, beware of citrus fruits. They will hurt your beardies stomach due to their high acidity.
Here are a list of fruits that are safe for your Bearded Dragon to enjoy:
- Bananas (with skin)*
- Star Fruit*
*Note: Offer these fruits less frequently
It is important to give your Bearded Dragon enough dietary calcium for their bone health. Veterinarians typically recommend sprinkling food items with a calcium supplement, and offering a multivitamin supplement once per week.
Lightly dusting food with calcium powder and Vitamin D3 about 2-3 times per week then additionally dusting calcium powder (without the Vitamin D3) another 2-3 times per week.
Make sure to feed these dusted foods to your beardie first to ensure it is ingested.
Check with your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your bearded dragons diet.
A popular supplement for bearded dragons is Herptivite, made by Rep-cal.
Although bearded dragons are from the desert and have learned to live without much water they can still suffer from dehydration. (It is actually more common that you would think)
To avoid this, supply your bearded dragon with a clean bowl of fresh water daily. They like to use their water bowl for their bowel movements so it is important to disinfect weekly.
In the wild, they typically source water from the rain or morning dew. If they don’t notice the water from the bowl, try misting their plant food.
Pro Tip: You can also try misting them directly with a spray bottle, 2-3 times per week. They use the arch in their back to pour the water into their mouth.
Quick Tips For Feeding Your Bearded Dragon
A bearded dragon needs to be warm in order to properly digest their food; after all they are cold-blooded creatures!
In the morning, give them a little time to heat up with the lamp before bringing in the good stuff. And keep the light on for an hour or so after their last meal.
Also, Bearded Dragons thrive in a routine setting. Try feeding them at the same time each day to keep them stress-free and full.
Types of feeding methods:
Hand-fed – Ruffle the fresh greens in the cage to catch the bearded dragons attention and let them eat the food directly from your hand. This approach will allow you to connect with your beardie on a more nurturing level. They will begin to see you as friendly and safe rather than a predator.
Mixed – Dump insects directly into your Bearded Dragons greens dish. This will catch their attention and get them chowing down on both their protein and vitamins!
Separated – Sprinkle in the insects separate from the fresh greens dish. In the dish, you can organize the vegetables into their color groups which will attract your Bearded Dragon. This will also help you identify which fruits and vegetables your beardie actually likes!
Bearded Dragon Diets Based on Age
Food costs overall will diminish as your Bearded Dragon gets older, because its diet switches from mostly bugs to mostly greens.
Baby Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded dragons are considered baby’s or hatchlings between 0-5 months old and they are much more sensitive to their diet than their adult counterparts.
It is important to be well-researched and prepared before taking a baby bearded dragon home.
They are a relatively fast growing reptile with a large appetite to match their quick metabolism. To meet their nutrition needs and keep them growing, it is best to feed hatchlings three to five times daily consisting of small insects and fresh greens.
Introduce the fresh greens and fruits as early as possible.
0-3 Months – Provide 10-20 small calcium-dusted Dubia roaches (or as many as they will eat in 15 minutes) and finely chopped collard greens 4 to 5 times daily.
4-5 Months – Provide 30-60 small calcium-dusted Dubia Roaches and bits of kale about 3 to 4 times daily.
If your schedule is restrictive, feeding your bearded dragon two times daily will still offer the essential nutrients to grow as long as you stick to the balanced diet.
Daily Feeding Schedule:
Insects – Feed your bearded dragon as many insects it can consume in a 15 minute period.
- Offer a variety of insects to ensure a balanced diet: Crickets, Roaches, Silkworms, and Phoenix Worms are good options.
- A general rule of thumb is to only give your Bearded Dragon food that is smaller than the space between their eyes.
- NEVER feed your hatchling mealworms or superworms.
Vegetables – Make sure to leave fresh greens in their cage at all times.
- Although they may not eat any vegetables for the first few weeks, you should introduce fresh greens to the bearded dragons cage as soon as possible to ensure they eat them later on.
- A specific bacteria needs to form in their stomach to help digest the vegetables. They will start to build this special bacteria when eating crickets, or even their own feces.
- Consider starting them off with finely chopped collard greens before adding any other varieties.
Supplements – A dietary calcium supplement along with proper heat and light will be vital for a hatchling’s bone growth and metabolic health.
- Dust all insects and vegetables with a calcium/D3 supplement once a day. Make sure you always give enough Vitamin D3 with calcium as it helps absorb it into their body.
- Sprinkle in a multivitamin supplement five times per week. You can decrease the frequency of multivitamins if they are eating a good portion of their vegetables.
Pellets – These can be a great addition to your Bearded Dragons diet as they add essential nutrients and vitamins, however, it should not be their only food source.
- You can begin adding dried pellets to their diet while they are babys. Bearded Dragons are more likely to accept pellets if presented at a young age.
- Find pellets made for young Bearded Dragons and follow the direction listed.
Water – It may come as a surprise to learn dehydration is a leading cause of death for baby bearded dragons. Although they originated in desert like environments, their natural instinct is to get water from droplets on leaves or from rain.
- Keep a bowl of fresh water in their cage at all times. They will eventually learn to drink from it.
- Use a plant mister to mist your bearded dragon several times a day. You can also mist their vegetables with water.
- Provide 15 minutes baths once to twice weekly in warm water. Bathroom sinks are usually recommended with dechlorinated water that is half an inch high. Supervise closely as they can drown very easily.
Juvenile Bearded Dragon Diet
At 5 months your Bearded Dragon should be at least 11 inches in length and considered a Juvenile. As they age, their growth rate will decline and in effect so will their appetite.
The feedings will be less frequent, but you will still want to keep a regular schedule. Keeping a consistent feeding schedule will help keep both you and your beardie in a routine. Training them on appropriate eating times and keeping them relaxed.
Providing a 50/50 split of insects and vegetables.
5-12 Months – Provide about 20 small calcium-dusted crickets (or try 10-15 Dubia roaches) and finely chopped vegetables 2 times daily.
12-16 Months – Once they reach 1 year, decrease their insect feeding to one time a day of 10-20 calcium-dusted crickets. Adding more variety of vegetables and fruit.
Daily Feeding Schedule:
Insects – Feed your bearded dragon as many insects it can consume in a 10 minute period.
- Offer a variety of insects to ensure a balanced diet: Crickets, Roaches, Silkworms, and Phoenix Worms are still good options.
- Continue to offer insects that are smaller than the space between your bearded dragons eyes.
- You can start offering small or baby superworms to your juvenile Bearded Dragon on occasion. Don’t offer too much as they have a high fat content and not much nutritional value.
Vegetables – Continue to leave fresh greens in their cage at all times.
- Start diversifying the vegetables given and try the different feeding techniques mentioned earlier in this post to see what approach works best for your Bearded Dragon.
Supplements – Keep up with the necessary supplements during feeding times.
- Continue to dust all insects and vegetables with a calcium/D3 supplement 4-5 times per week. Use the calcium supplements with no phosphorus, if possible. They get enough of that in their diet as is.
- Sprinkle in a multivitamin supplement 3-4 times per week. Your Bearded Dragon should be eating more vegetables at this point which will give them most of their vitamins.
Pellets – If your bearded dragon has been eating pellets already then it should be fine to keep it up!
- Start using pellets made for juvenile Bearded Dragons and follow the direction listed.
Water – The bearded dragon should be accustomed to drinking from a water bowl by now. Change the water often to ensure it is fresh and clean for them to drink.
- If they still aren’t drinking enough from the bowl, continue to use the plant mister several times a day on their back and their vegetables.
- Continue to let them soak in 15 minute baths twice weekly.
Adult Bearded Dragon Diet
An adult bearded dragon is 18 months and older, typically growing anywhere from 18 to 25 inches in length.
They will only need to eat once a day and will need more nutrients from vegetables to maintain their health than they will need protein from insects to grow. Adult Bearded Dragons can become obese if overfed insects which will negatively effect their health.
At this stage, flip the diet to roughly 25% insects and 75% plant food.
18+ Months – Maintain a variety of vegetables in their bowl throughout the day. Offering 10-20 Dubia roaches only 1 to 3 times per week, or 10 crickets per day.
Daily Feeding Schedule:
Insects – The frequency of feeding will depend on the insect being offered. For instance, one Dubias roach is the equivalent of 5 crickets.
- Crickets or Silkworms: 10 crickets or silkworms per day.
- Phoenix Worms: 10 Phoenix worms per day. These come packed with calcium so you won’t need to dust them first either.
- Dubias Roaches: 10-20 dubias roaches one to three times per week.
- Superworms: 7-10 superworms every other day
- Mealworms: They should not be the only insect offered to your bearded dragon and should be given only on special occasions.
Vegetables – Continue to provide fresh salad throughout the day time.
- Adult Bearded Dragons are known to be fond of collard greens, dandelions, escarole, grape leaves, mustard greens, turnip greens, and watercress.
Supplements – Adult bearded dragons only need added supplements once to twice per week.
- If they live outdoors, you can offer supplements every one to two weeks because they are also receiving the Vitamin D3 from the sun.
Pellets – If your Bearded Dragon has been eating pellets already then it should be fine to keep it up!
- Start using pellets made for Adult Bearded Dragons and follow the direction listed.
Water – Keep monitoring and changing the water often to ensure it is clean for them to drink.
- You can continue to use the plant mister throughout the day.
- Continue to let them soak in 15 minute baths twice weekly.