The most important factor to keeping a bearded dragon happy and healthy is making sure that they are well fed, not just with the appropriate food, but at the correct times as well since underfeeding or feeding them too often can lead to issues in their weight along with potential illnesses that can commonly arise.
Bearded dragons are a little different from many other pets since they don’t stick with one specific diet for their entire lives.
Instead, they require a specific amount of certain foods at different stages of their lives to ensure they grow as they should and receive the necessary nutrients required for them to live a long and happy life.
It’s therefore extremely important for any owner to know when and how to feed their bearded dragon, so with that being said, here is all the information you need to know to ensure your reptile companion is always happy and fed.
How Often Should A Bearded Dragon Be Fed?
Depending on how old the dragon is will determine how many times it needs to be fed in a day.
This is extremely important since not only can this amount change within a few months of the dragon’s life span, but it is also necessary to make sure that baby and juvenile dragons receive the necessary nutrients and supplements so that they can grow without being stunted.
Here is how much you should feed your bearded dragon each day to ensure they gain the necessary nutrients that they require to keep them healthy:
|Babies 0-4 months||4 – 5 times a day (10 minute increments)|
|Juveniles 4-12 months||3 times a day|
|Sub-Adults 12-18 months||2 times a day|
|Adults 18+ months||Once a day|
How To Check Your Bearded Dragons’ Age?
Since it matters so much to their growth and development from a baby to a fully grown adult, it’s therefore important to know roughly how old your dragon is so that you can feed them the appropriate amount of food.
The best way to know is by measuring the length since this is a clear giveaway of how many months the dragon has been alive so that you can know how much you will need to feed them.
Here are the basic measurements to follow so that you can determine how old your bearded dragon is:
- 3-4 inches = 0-1 month-old
- 5-9 inches = 2 months old
- 8-11 inches = 3 months old
- 9-12 inches = 4 months old
- 11-16 inches = 5-6 months old
- 13-20 inches = 7-8 months old
- 16-22 inches = 9-2 months old
What Time Of The Day Should You Feed A Bearded Dragon?
Since they only require such a small amount of food each day with adults only requiring a single meal, it’s also important to know when the best time to feed a bearded dragon is so that you can be sure that they remain fully satisfied for the rest of the day without getting hungry soon after.
The thing to always remember is that bearded dragons essentially run off solar energy and require heat in order to function properly, and that includes digesting their food.
Therefore, it’s always important to make sure that your bearded dragon is warmed up sufficiently so that it will be able to consume the food you give them.
The general rule of thumb is that a bearded dragon should be allowed to reside under the heat lamp for at least 2 hours before eating anything since if the environment is too cold, this can slow down the chemical reactions between the food and hormones which can disrupt the digestion process.
After this two-hour period, you are free to feed the dragon whenever you like as long as it’s not too late in the evening or at night.
It’s usually best to feed the dragon either in the morning or in the afternoon so that they aren’t left starving for too long.
If your dragon is a juvenile or sub-adult and you need to feed them again, or if an adult is feeling a little more peckish than usual, feeding them 4 to 6 hours after the first meal is a good way to make sure they get their fill for the day.
As for baby bearded dragons who should be fed up to 4 times a day, try to leave around 2 hours between each meal or a bit longer if they seem satisfied with what they have eaten.
What To Feed Bearded Dragons?
As mentioned previously, the diet for a bearded dragon changes slightly as they get older because as their body develops, they will require different nutrients and supplements to keep them as healthy as possible.
This is incredibly important since a deficiency in one type of food or another can cause the dragon to develop an illness or infection which can sometimes end up being quite serious.
Here is a feeding chart that shows what types of food you should be feeding a bearded dragon depending on their age:
|Age||Feeder Insects||Vegetables||Meals a day|
|Babies 0-4 months old||80-90%||10-20%||4 to 5|
|Juveniles 4-12 months old||60-70%||30-40%||3|
|Adolescent 12-18 months||30%||70%||2|
|Adults 18 months+||10-20%||80-90%||1|
It should be noted that while there is a range of vegetables that can be fed to bearded dragons, owners should be a little more cautious when serving insects since some can be dangerous to eat, even though they might look small and seem appetizing to a dragon.
Insects that are completely safe to feed bearded dragons include Dubia roaches, grasshoppers, calcium-dusted crickets, mealworms, spiders, wax worms, tofu, moths, slugs and earthworms.
All these creatures contain decent levels of protein which would be required for younger dragons to grow and remain healthy.
While you can buy boxes of these feeders at most pet stores, you can also raise them yourself, however, you should never feed creatures that you find out in the wild to your reptilian pets since fertilizers and insecticides could still be present which can be toxic to bearded dragons.
Additionally, you should always avoid feeding fireflies to bearded dragons since they are toxic to lizards and while larger bearded dragons can sometimes eat small ‘fuzzy’ mice, it is usually not recommended since they can be hard to digest.
Number Of Insects To Feed A Bearded Dragon
While many bearded dragons can’t get enough of the crunchy texture and taste of some Dubia roaches, it is always useful to know exactly how much you should be feeding them with each meal so that they don’t get overfed and become obese.
For baby bearded dragons that are 4 months old or younger, aim to feed them around 10 to 15 Dubias for each of their 4 to 5 meals.
While this can seem like a lot, they will eat the insects incredibly fast and will need the protein and nutrients in order to grow.
When they reach the juvenile stage of their life at 4 months, lower the number of insects just a little bit by feeding them between 10 and 15 for 2 to 3 meals per day and slowly cut this down to twice a day when they turn a year old.
Once they reach 18 months old and are fully grown, they won’t need as much protein so you will only need to feed them 10 to 15 insects for one meal a day, though this can be lower if you’re a little worried about their weight and want them to get slimmer.
Vegetables That Bearded Dragons Will Enjoy
Alongside crunchy insects, vegetables are another crucial part of a bearded dragon’s diet, especially as they grow older and require necessary nutrients and vitamins to fend off any potential diseases or illnesses that could arise.
These are some examples of vegetables and other greens that can be used to make up a high percentage of a bearded dragons diet:
- Collard greens
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Red or green cabbage
- Bell peppers
While these can be used as the main foods on the veggie side of the diet, there are a few other healthy options that won’t be as fulfilling but that you can still incorporate as a tasty treat which can make up a lesser percentage of the diet.
Some of these options include:
- Cooked sweet potato
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Fruit Too?
While you can feed bearded dragons fruit and while they will enjoy munching on them, they should never be used as a substitute for the vegetables as part of their diet and should only be handed to the reptiles on rare occasions rather than as a regular treat.
The reason for this is that fruits are generally mineral-poor and don’t supply much of any nutritional value to the dragons, and since they don’t eat too much as it is, it’s better to give them the food they actually need rather than wasting their appetite.
Why Do Bearded Dragons’ Diet Change As They Get Older?
While bearded dragons require a good amount of protein when they’re young in order for them to grow and become stronger, once they are fully grown they don’t require as much with it being more important to feed them nutritious vegetables so that they can receive antioxidants to improve their immune system and fight off illnesses and disease which can commonly affect mature dragons.
In contrast, younger bearded dragons do still require a few vegetables to ensure their organs remain healthy, however, protein is more essential since it contains decent amounts of fats that are essential for the dragon to grow and stay healthy.
If a young dragon was to eat too little protein, or if an adult ate too much, this can quickly lead to weight and health complications which can easily be avoided by adjusting the diet, so it’s always a crucial factor to keep in mind when taking care of a bearded dragon.
Food That Should Be Avoided
Along with making sure that they get the right amount of protein and veg, it’s also important to make sure that you don’t spoil the bearded dragon too much with soft treats such as fruit or soft-bodied insects since this can quickly lead to tooth decay and gum problems.
This is also the case with any sugary food which should always be left out of a dragon’s diet entirely, even if it’s just a small treat.
A few other types of food that can be harmful to a bearded dragon’s body when consumed include citrus fruit, avocado, fish, and fireflies along with wild-caught insects that could be carrying harmful bacteria and parasites.
The worm and cricket-based protein meals along with a few vegetables are more than enough for a bearded dragon to be fully fed and satisfied after every meal, it’s just important to always strike the perfect balance between veg and protein so that the dragons can be as healthy as possible and consume all the necessary nutrients and vitamins that they need for that stage of their life.
How To Avoid Bearded Dragons Becoming Overweight?
Just like us humans, it’s very easy for bearded dragons to become overweight if they eat too much which can lead to some unpleasant health issues down the line.
Since younger dragons require fats to grow and for their bodies to develop, obesity is usually more common in adults and especially those who eat too many insects and not enough veggies.
There are a few health issues that can come from a dragon being overweight including dystocia which involves egg retention and binding, organ dysfunction which can result in diarrhea and vomiting, and an overall shortened lifespan.
If you do find that your reptile companion is a little on the plump side, there are a few different ways to help them slim down so that they remain as healthy as possible.
For one, rather than stacking all the food on top of each other in one small bowl, try spreading out the food across a larger plate or surface, or instead, feed them with one piece of food at a time rather than all at once.
The reason for this is that bearded dragons will chow down their meals in little to no time, so forcing them to take a bit longer can help them to not pick up as much weight in the future.
Additionally, you can cut down on the number of feeders that you are giving to your bearded dragon since they are still full of fat and can put on the pounds easily if they are consuming too much.
If you find you are feeding a little too many bugs, try adding more leafy greens and even miss out a day of feeding them insects entirely to avoid them putting on weight too fast.
Finally, make sure your cage has enough space for the dragon to move and stretch its limbs so that it can work off any weight.
While they don’t exercise much, having a few branches or obstacles that they can easily navigate is enough to keep a dragon active throughout the day so that they can avoid putting on too many calories.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Tell If My Bearded Dragon Is Overweight?
While it can happen very easily if a dragon has been consuming a little too much protein throughout the days, it can sometimes be a little difficult to tell when they are actually overweight since their stretched-out bodies are already naturally wide, especially when they’re lying down as they often are in a cage.
The easiest way to tell is by checking on certain parts of the dragon’s body and specifically noticing if the tail is thick at the base, the spine and ribs cannot be felt and if the distended jowl is a lot more noticeable.
Additionally, it is worth checking behind the arms for any fat pockets since these can be a dead giveaway that the dragon is a little overweight.
What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Is Not Eating?
Since they eat so few meals a day, bearded dragons will always be eager to eat each meal you give them, which is why if you notice that there are still a few bugs roaming around the cage that the dragon still hasn’t eaten after a few hours, it’s always worth contacting a vet since this could be from an illness such as mouth rot or gut impaction.
Just like a lot of pets, bearded dragons require a very particular diet that changes as they get older in order for them to receive all the essential nutrients that they need to live a long, happy and well-fed life, just always remember not to go overboard with the feeding since this can quickly lead them to become overweight which could call for a trip to the veterinary.