When it comes to your bearded dragon’s health, nothing is as important as their diet.
Sure, getting exercise, having a large enough vivarium to be interesting for them, and having the right amount of heat and UV lights installed are important. But all of that means nothing if your little scaly companion isn’t eating well enough.
So, feeding your baby bearded dragons the right kind of diet is critical, especially for early development. Generally speaking, younger bearded dragons (Check out What To Do If Your Beardie Isn’t Pooping?) will require a diet of insects to grow up healthy and strong.
However, that doesn’t mean that insects are the only things that they can eat, especially once they are old and large enough. There are several plant items that bearded dragons are also capable of digesting.
But what type of greens are the best for them?
You don’t just want to feed your beloved pet the same vegetable, day in and day out. That’s so boring! And, just as importantly, isn’t going to cover their dietary needs at all.
So, in this guide, we are not only going to show you what green foods your precious bearded dragon can eat, but we’re also going to explain what qualities you should be looking for when it comes to greenies for your little friend.
What Should A Good Green Have For A Bearded Dragon To Eat?
So, what exactly does good green food look like for lizards like bearded dragons? What qualities, or more specifically, what nutrients appropriate vegetables should have if you are thinking about feeding them to a bearded dragon?
High In Nutrients
This one goes without saying, but the vegetable in question needs to be high in nutrients for bearded dragons to be able to eat them.
Being naturally more insectivorous than keen to eat leafy greens, bearded dragon’s guts are usually more suited to processing insect meat and protein, rather than subsisting purely on a plant diet.
Not entirely, mind you, and bearded dragons are certainly better at processing plant matter than many other lizard species, but it is usually not their first choice of food.
Among many of the nutrients that a bearded dragon needs, the most important to look for will be water and calcium.
Water is obvious, as all animals need water to survive.
And considering that many lizard species that live in a desert or arid environments get their moisture and water from the food they eat, water content from vegetables will make up a pretty large portion of that much-needed moisture too.
Calcium on the other hand is a vital nutrient that bearded dragons need for promoting bone growth, an important aspect for many lizard species, which are continuously growing throughout their life.
So, finding vegetables that have plenty of calcium in them is crucial, especially if you’re looking to make your pet lizard’s diet more plant-based overall.
Little To No Phosphorus
This one might seem a little strange at first.
Well, not that strange. Phosphorus isn’t exactly the best nutrient for everyone to have in their diet.
Still, when looking for greens to feed bearded dragons, you should steer clear of vegetables and fruits that contain a large amount of phosphorus.
This is because phosphorus has the trait of stopping the body from absorbing calcium once it is inside the body.
And considering that calcium is pretty vital for your bearded dragon’s overall well-being and quality of life, this is the last thing that you want for your pet.
When in doubt, make sure that the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is a little over 1:1.
An equal balance of the two nutrients is usually okay, but you’ll likely want to find vegetables that have a slightly higher calcium content than they do, just to make sure that they are getting enough.
In a similar way to phosphorus, you also want to make sure that the greens that you are feeding to your bearded dragon are also relatively low in oxalate.
Like phosphorus, this particular chemical, when eaten in high enough quantities, can also result in difficulties for your bearded dragon in absorbing and processing calcium.
An excess of oxalate and oxalic acids can cause your bearded dragon to develop the metabolic bone disease over time, so make sure that you keep this nutrient low in your pet’s diet.
You should also be avoiding greens that contain a high amount of goitrogen in them.
In this case, too much goitrogen in your dragon’s diet can cause thyroid issues over time, which can mess with their metabolism.
This can lead to issues such as lethargy and swelling in their mouths, among a host of other issues as well. So keep this nutrient out of your pet’s diet whenever possible.
Best Greens For Bearded Dragons
So, with the basics out of the way, we can start discussing what types of vegetables and other greens are great foods for your bearded dragon to eat!
Generally speaking, we will be judging the following foods on the following criteria:
- Does it contain many of the vitamins and minerals that bearded dragons need to survive?
- Does it have a high amount of calcium, while also having low amounts of phosphorus, oxalate, or other harmful nutrients in them?
- How easy is it to find and buy for yourself? Because if you can’t find it, what will it matter anyway?
Starting with probably one of the best options for greens that you can feed your bearded dragon, we have collard greens, specifically leaving vegetables such as cabbage.
Collard greens have quite a variety of nutrients stored in their leaves, from vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as folate, a great selection of healthy nutrients for your bearded dragon, already set it apart from other vegetables.
However, when you combine that with the high amount of calcium that collards tend to have, and a low amount of harmful phosphorus, you have all the calcium that your pet could need from these vegetables, with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of around 14.5:1.
Plus, collard greens like cabbage are also some of the easiest greens to find, as they can be bought from pretty much any greengrocer or supermarket that sells vegetables.
So, these are healthy food that you can easily find that also won’t break the bank to source them too. They’re a perfect fit for your baby bearded dragon!
Cactus Pad/Prickly Pears
This one might seem like a somewhat stranger treat to offer your pet lizard, but you’ll find that cactus pads, also sometimes known as prickly pears, are also a very good source of nutrients for them.
With a high amount of nutrients found in this succulent plant, as well as a low amount of phosphorus to calcium (around 2.3:1), cactus pads are a pretty good way of adding plant foods with different textures to your dragon’s diet.
Of course, these greens do need a little more preparation done for them before they can be given to a bearded dragon.
The outer layer is covered in spines and is exceedingly tough, so that will need to be removed before giving it to your lizard friend.
They can also be quite hard to source for a lot of people, which can make it a somewhat difficult option.
While technically not a green per se, mustard greens are another popular food to give to your bearded dragon, at least in the right amount.
They contain that high calcium, and low phosphorus that you should be looking for in a good dragon salad piece, with a 2.4:1, plus plenty of nutrients.
However, they do also contain high amounts of oxalate, so you should make sure that mustard greens do not make up the bulk of your bearded dragon’s plant food.
You may be surprised to learn that these humble little weeds also make for pretty good bearded dragon food. At least in small quantities.
They are very similar to mustard greens, in that they do contain low amounts of phosphorus and high amounts of calcium, alongside plenty of nutrients to boot.
However, with a relatively high amount of oxalate, they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your pet’s food.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should I Prepare My Greens For My Bearded Dragon?
So, you now have your list of greens that are safe for your bearded dragon to eat, at least in measured quantities.
However, you will also need to prepare many of these foods correctly for your bearded dragon to out.
Like dogs, bearded dragons don’t chew their food that much, at least not in the same way that animals like cows, rodents, and even humans do.
This means that they tend to swallow their food in chunks as soon as they fit into their mouths, which can sometimes be a choking hazard for them, especially when presented with large and often chunky vegetables that can get stuck in their throat.
This isn’t an issue that appears often. But if you want your bearded dragon to safely eat these greens that we have shared with you, make sure that you chop or dice your greens into smaller sizes, so that your bearded dragon will have no issue eating.
This is also alongside any other preparation you need to be aware of, such as removing a prickly pear’s outer layer or breaking apart pea sprouts.
How Many Greens Should My Bearded Dragon Be Eating?
This will largely depend on the stage of development that your bearded dragon is at.
For newly hatched and juvenile bearded dragons, they shouldn’t be eating that many green veggies and fruits.
At this age, they need plenty of protein to help gain weight and size, which is why it is recommended for baby bearded dragons to be fed insects primarily.
However, they do still need enough calcium to support bone growth alongside this protein, which is why insects fed to them are coated in calcium.
At this age, the general split should be around 75-80% insect protein, with around 20-25% greens rich in calcium.
As they get older and into adulthood, this ratio can be changed somewhat, with a more even split of around 55-60% insect protein and 40-45% green plant matter.
If you have the right plants and nutrients for them, they may even be able to eat as much as 65-70% plant matter!
How Do Bearded Dragons See Vegetables?
This may sound like a strange question, but many people often believe that a bearded dragon’s vision when it comes to food is based on movement, like how we used to think T-Rex’s eyes worked.
However, this is not true, as bearded dragons have excellent color vision that allows them to see bright colors, such as those that vegetables often have with their greens, yellows, and reds.
What bearded dragons do struggle with are darker colors, meaning that small brown insects that bearded dragons eat, such as cricket, mealworms, and locusts are harder for them to see, which is probably where this idea originally came from.
So, there you have it!
While it might feel like a somewhat frustrating and annoying task to find your bearded dragon the right veggies at first, over time this will become as easy as buying any other pet food you may need.
If nothing else, vegetable food is certainly a quieter pet food to keep around the house than cricket and locusts, that’s for sure!