Bearded Dragon Nutrition
Proper nutrition is a very important part of caring for your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they eat a combination of both prey items and plants. Studies in Australia of wild adult bearded dragons show the eat approximately 90% plants and only 10% prey items and juveniles each equal amounts of each. Similar percentages should be attempted in pet bearded dragons using this feeding guide.
In order to replicate their native diet, start by feeding a mix of leafy greens and fresh vegetables every day. Baby bearded dragons (< 4 months old) should be offered feeder insects one to two times daily. As they grow, juvenile dragons need to be fed less insects, only feeding them 3-4 times weekly. This will encourage them to start to eat more of their greens. Adults (> 12 months old) should only be given insects 2-3 times a week at most, sometimes less frequently in those that have problems with being overweight.
It is important to incorporate variety in your bearded dragons diet, both when selection greens and insects. Variety is important to provide them with a balanced diet, so make sure you aren't offering the same food items every day. What works well for many bearded dragon owners is to feed a salad based off a leafy green mix, such as a Spring Mix or a Field Green mix. Avoid Spinach based mixes. Add in a small amount of an item from the list below as a salad topping. Add variety by changing up the topping every week or so.
Dandelion greens, Collard greens, Endive, Escarole, Mustard Greens, Squash (acorn, butternut, hubbard, scallop, spaghetti, summer), and Turnip greens. Also Shrubs/Cultivated plants (hibiscus, cape honeysuckle blossums, mulberry, strawberry bush, grape leaves, viola, violet, pansies, poppy, petunia, geraniums, etc.), Alfalfa (plants), Cactus pad/leaf (prickly pear), and Lettuce (red leaf, romaine).
Other fruits and vegetables can be offered to a bearded dragon as treats, but it is important to keep these minimally to prevent obesity and digestive problems. Here is a list of items that can be fed as treats.
Treats (Feed rarely):
Alfalfa sprouts, Apples (remove seeds), Apricots (fresh, pit removed), Banana, Cooked Beans (garbanzo, green, kidney, lima, pinto), Beet greens, Beets, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Corn, Kiwi, Bell peppers, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cabbage (red), Cantaloupe, Carrots (raw), Celery, Cherries (no pit), Cilantro, Clover, Cranberries (fresh), Cucumbers, Kale, Spinach, Parsley, Peas, Pomegranate, Grapefruit (remove seeds), Grapes (seedless), Honeydew melons, Nectarines, Oranges, Pea sprouts, Peaches (pit removed), Pears, Pineapple, Pumpkin (raw), Radish, Raspberries, Kelp, Strawberries, Swiss chard, Tomato, Watermelon, Wheat grass ("pet grass"), and Yams (raw).
Bearded dragons don't chew their food. All produce should be cut up into bite sized pieces or smaller.
As stated above, variety is important so make sure to mix it up a bit when choosing insects to feed your bearded dragon. For more information on the variety of feeder insects available, please click here. To prevent problems, never feed a bearded dragon prey that is larger than the distance between their eyes. Unless confined to a dish, it is important to remove uneaten live insects from your reptiles cage after a few hours. Insects left in the cage can chew and bite at your pet causing serious injury and infection to the skin.
Supplements. Even the best, most balanced, most varied diet is not going to perfectly meet a bearded dragon's needs. Bearded dragons need more a calcium and a multivitamin supplement. For more information on our supplement recommendations click here.
What can you do if your bearded dragon just doesn't seem to want to eat their greens and vegetables?
Whatever you do, don't give up! Some bearded dragons are picky and it takes patience to get them to try new things. Remember, you are doing this for their own good.
- Let them get hungry - make sure your bearded dragon is hungry and use some tough love. If your bearded dragon is always filling up on insects, they won't be hungry enough to try that "boring salad" that is no fun to hunt and chase. Cut back on the number or frequency of insects you are feeding. Hold off on feeding insects until your dragon has time to try eating their salad first.
- Hand feed the greens - often you can get them to try greens if you alternate between hand feeding them an insect and then a small bite sized piece of greens.
- Foraging - try bite sized pieces of greens sprinkled across their favorite basking spot.
- Mix feeder worms into the salad - often this will entice a picky dragon to try it when they see the greens moving.
Raiti, P. 2012. Husbandry, Diseases, and Veterinary Care of the Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery. 22(3-4): 117-131.