Without a doubt, the most common question we are sent is some variation of:
My bearded dragon won’t eat their greens. What do I do?
Outside of illness, there is little that’s more upsetting to a pet owner than having a pet that won’t eat. It’s not the most common thing with cats and dogs, but it is fairly common in reptiles. Bearded dragons are no exception!
So, we know our beardies need to eat some salad a few times a week. We also know that many bearded dragons don’t like this idea. What to do?
We asked our readers, favorite vets, a few breeders, and a reptile store owner what they thought.
We combined their answers with our experience and compiled a list of 11 real-world tested ways to get your bearded dragon to eat their greens.
How Many Veggies Do Bearded Dragons Need To Eat?
An important point to clarify first is how many greens bearded dragons need to eat in the first place?
We’ve received more than a few emails from worried beardie parents, and it turns out their beardies were actually eating plenty of greens. The owners just had an unrealistic expectation of how many greens were needed in the first place.
Some websites and pet stores make greens recommendations for bearded dragons in the form of cups. For example, they say one cup of greens daily for an adult bearded dragon.
Unless you have the most voracious bearded dragon that loves its greens, they aren’t going to eat a cup a day. That’s way too much.
It’s better to look at the amount of greens as a percentage of their diet.
Babies may not eat many greens at all, and that’s fine.
With juveniles, shoot for a diet of 25% greens and 75% from live protein sources (roaches, crickets, worms, etc.).
For adult bearded dragons, aim to give them an evenly mixed diet of 50% greens and 50% live protein.
If you’d like to see more specifics on this topic, check out our complete bearded dragon feeding guide here.
How Often Should You Feed Your Bearded Dragon Greens?
In short, make fresh greens available to your bearded dragon every day.
As with humans, there’s no such thing as too many veggies for bearded dragons. Too much fruit, yes. But not too many veggies (see our complete bearded dragon food list here to see every possible option you can feed your bearded dragon)!
Making them available daily ensures you catch your beardie when they are hungry. Many times, if you miss that window, they won’t eat.
We recommend leaving out .5-1 cup of salad every day. Once you get a feel for how much they eat, modify that amount to match your beardie’s appetite. Odds are you’ll find that 1 cup is way too much most days.
11 Ways To Get Your Bearded Dragon To Eat Their Greens
This list isn’t in any particular order. If your bearded dragon doesn’t eat their greens, try these tips one at a time until you figure out which works for you and which doesn’t.
Too many changes all at once can stress your bearded dragon out, so don’t try a bunch of things all at once. A stressed beardie usually won’t eat anything, let alone veggies they might not already like!
Try Different Greens
We have a complete food list here with many different options. Beardies are notoriously picky eaters and simply will not eat things they don’t like.
But they are voracious eaters of things they do like.
Sometimes the solution is to find something they like, even if it’s harder to find or may not be carried at your usual grocery store.
We found that Bacardi loves prickly pear cactus pads. Prickly pear is a very healthy veggie that can be given daily. The problem was that we had to drive to Whole Foods to get it.
We’ve since found other alternatives, but we went to Whole Foods weekly to pick up cactus pads for a while.
Gut Load Their Insects
A young bearded dragon’s diet is typically 75% or more insects. They will gobble down an impressive number of them every feeding. And notice that your beardie is not nearly as picky about insects as they are salad!
That’s where “gut-loading” comes in.
Always feed your roaches or crickets healthy veggies or high-quality roach chow. If your insect feeders have little bellies full of healthy salad, it’s less important that your beardie eats a salad too!
Every time they wolf down a bug or worm, they get all the greens sitting in those critters’ bellies. For young beardies, it’s feasible to get to 25% greens with this method alone!
Mix Greens In With Treats
Our little Bacardi loves carrots and blueberries. If we chop those up into tiny pieces and mix them well with a healthy salad, she eats half the salad by accident just by trying to get all the carrot or blueberry bits.
Carrots are a great daily feeder, but blueberries are not. If a treat you use is listed on our food list as a treat only, it’s best not to use it daily. High-sugar foods like fruit are a great example of this.
The good news is that even a tiny amount mixed in with their salad can do the trick!
Try Hand Feeding
Beardies are attracted to motion. It’s one of the main reasons we feed them live insects, not dead.
When you put a wriggling, writhing worm in front of a bearded dragon, they almost can’t help themselves from pouncing on it. When you put a still green leaf in front of them, it’s far less tempting.
We’ve had luck using thin strips of green beans and wiggling them like worms. As soon as Bacardi sees the motion, bam! Rolled-up leaves can be used the same way.
Blend Their Food
Sometimes, we use a food processor to blend some salad into a kind of mush. If there are just a few bits of fruit, it makes the whole thing sweet, and Bacardi eats it right down.
We’ve also had good luck blending a couple of roaches or worms with some greens. Really, anything your beardie loves can be tried with this method.
One last tip is not to blend things too much. We aim for the same consistency as cole slaw.
Check Your Temps
Bearded dragons are “exothermic.” That means they draw heat from their environment and do not create it internally.
One of the most vital functions external heat plays in a beardie’s life is that of digestion. The basking spot you create in your bearded dragon’s enclosure is most used for digesting food.
If the temps are too low, your bearded dragon cannot digest things correctly. If they know they can’t digest well, they won’t eat in the first place.
Try raising your temps about 5 degrees at a time to see if that makes a difference. You can see our complete guide to basking temps here for more specific guidelines.
A big thank you to one of our readers, Desiree, for sending us this tip. It helped her beardie, and it might help yours!
Change Your Feeding Time
Some bearded dragons wake up hungry every day. Others, like our Bacardi, are a little sluggish in the morning. There isn’t one set time of day that all bearded dragons like to eat.
Often, all it takes is changing the time of day you give your beardie their salad. Beardies who turn their nose up at greens in the morning may devour them in the afternoon.
One of the breeders we work with feeds her bearded dragons in the early afternoon. She said that’s when they tend to eat the most and the fastest.
She also said that letting their hunger develop a little bit over the morning instead of providing food as soon as they rose was probably a contributing factor too. The hungrier they are, the less picky they tend to be.
I can relate!
Give Them Salad Daily
We talk to some bearded dragon owners who give their beardies insects on M, W, and Fri and then greens on Tu, Th, and Sat.
If your bearded dragon eats their greens reliably, that can work. For the rest of us, it doesn’t.
While you do want to restrict live protein to only what they should be eating, it’s best to offer salad daily.
Like water, it’s best to ensure that greens are there when your bearded dragon decides they want them. They won’t last all day; veggies tend to dry out very quickly inside a bearded dragon tank with the right humidity levels.
One tip we got from the breeder we work with is to always leave the veggies out on the cool side of the tank. They’ll last a lot longer there than on the hot side!
When I was a kid, I hated vegetables. Now, 52 years later, I can tolerate them. I even like Asparagus!
Bearded dragons are the same. Their taste buds will develop over time. What they don’t like today, they may love tomorrow.
Bacardi hated mustard greens when she was small but eats them right down now.
If it’s been some time, retry some of the greens you didn’t have good luck with. You might be surprised.
Don’t Dust Supplements On Greens
This one came from our vet. They’ve found that some bearded dragon owners sprinkle their beardie’s supplements over their salad. The multivitamin powder and calcium don’t smell or taste like food.
Imagine if someone dumped powdery supplements all over your food! You wouldn’t be interested either.
It’s best to dust your insect feeders with supplements, not greens and veggies.
If your bearded dragon isn’t eating their veggies, don’t make it harder on them by making them taste worse!
Get Your Beardie’s Yearly Checkup
I’m always surprised at how few bearded dragon owners take their beardie to the vet once a year.
When we reached out to vets to get an answer to the question of how to get bearded dragons to eat their greens, more than one of them cited a sick beardie as a possible cause. When I asked how to deal with this, they all said the same thing.
Get yearly checkups.
In a yearly checkup, your bearded dragon will be tested for parasites. They will also be checked for many other common ailments. All of which can result in a loss of appetite.
One of the best things about keeping reptiles as pets is their resilience. That’s also a weakness.
Reptiles simply won’t let you know they feel bad or something is wrong until it’s too late. By the time we, as owners, have noticed a problem, that problem has been in place for a very long time.
It’s crucial to take your beardie for yearly checkups.
We haven’t met any bearded dragon owners who haven’t had this issue at least once in their beardie’s lives. It’s nothing to panic about and relatively simple to fix.
While it can be frustrating, hang in there and keep trying. One thing we remind all bearded dragon owners is that they will not let themselves starve to death if they are healthy.
They will eat eventually! And bearded dragons that hated greens often become total salad addicts when they are older.
How long can a bearded dragon go without greens before we should see a vet?
Most vets will take a call for free, so it never hurts to reach out if you are concerned. We gut load our feeder insects, so unless it’s been weeks, we don’t usually worry too much about how much salad our beardie eats.
If they’ve stopped eating completely, it may be brumation time or time to see the vet. It’s never normal for them to stop eating altogether unless they are getting ready to brumate.
Our bearded dragon eats fruit but not veggies. Can we use them interchangeably?
No. Fruit is high in sugar, and veggies are not. While fruit is an excellent treat, it does not make a healthy daily feeder. You are always better off finding a way to get them to eat their vegetable instead.
Would cooking my bearded dragon’s veggies help?
While that does make them more palatable for humans, it also removes many of their nutrients. The goal is to get as many of those nutrients into your beardie as possible. Cooking their greens would mean they need to eat even more, and that’s typically not something that’s easy to get them to do.