Last updated on March 22nd, 2023 at 05:24 pm
One of the most important things about owning any animal is feeding it a healthy and appropriate diet. For cats and dogs, that’s pretty easy. When it comes to bearded dragons, it gets a little more complex. What’s better for your beardie, crickets, or roaches?
To see all the foods you can and can’t feed a bearded dragon, make sure and check out our complete bearded dragon food list with 237 different foods listed. We’ll show you what’s safe, what’s not, and what the healthiest food choices are for your beardie!!!
Dubia roaches are a better source of protein for bearded dragons and other insect-eating reptiles than crickets. Dubia roaches are easier to handle & store, have almost no odor, don’t bite, are less prone to parasites, and are overall safer for your bearded dragon or any other pet lizard.
How we found Dubia roaches
When we were first deciding on whether or not we wanted a bearded dragon as a pet, we watched a lot of YouTube videos with titles like “the ten worst things about beardies”. We wanted a clear picture of what we would be getting into.
What surprised us was that the number one worst thing listed by multiple people had nothing to do with the bearded dragons themselves. Instead, it had to do with their food.
Bearded dragon owners reported that the worst thing about having a bearded dragon is dealing with crickets.
That led us to question if crickets were even necessary. Surely there had to be an alternative insect food source that would be easier to manage than crickets. That’s when we found Dubia roaches.
Why do so many people use crickets?
The answer to this is simple— they are easier to get. You can go to almost any pet store and buy crickets. There’s a big bin of the noisy stinky things in any store that sells reptiles. They are, in many cases, the only choice.
While we find Dubia roaches very easy to get, it’s still easier for most people to just go to the store and buy crickets.
It’s also what people know. While feeding your dragon roaches isn’t new, it’s certainly newer than feeding them crickets. Traditional wisdom (and also several ebooks on the subject of raising beardies) says that the primary insect food should be crickets.
In many cases, there simply isn’t an alternative presented.
Dubia roaches vs. Cockroaches
Another reason people use crickets instead of roaches is that crickets aren’t “icky”. They are cute little bugs that try to help Pinnochio become a real boy. They are even considered lucky in some cultures.
Roaches, on the other hand, are “icky”. Many people simply refuse to handle them in any capacity. And that’s too bad because Dubia roaches are not the common household cockroach.
Cockroaches will breed and infest your house faster than crickets will (oh yeah, don’t let those crickets escape, or you will be living with them forever). Dubia roaches will not.
Cockroaches will bring disease and an awful smell into your home. Dubias do neither of those things.
Cockroaches can fly. (This even freaks us out!) Dubias cannot fly. At best, the males can glide. But in the end, they can’t take flight, escape their container, or fly around your house.
Cockroaches are deservedly reviled by anyone who has ever met one and many who haven’t.
Dubias are cute little critters and are basically harmless nuggets of protein and nutrition—they’re perfect for your bearded dragon!
Cricket pros and cons
So let’s break down the pros and cons of crickets and then do the same for roaches. As with most decisions, it always helps to make a list like this. This is an important step for those that hear the word roach and automatically scream “NO!”.
|Easy to get||Bad smell|
|Beardies like to eat them||Loud|
|Okay source of protein||Difficult to handle|
|Will breed in your house if they escape|
|They bite (you and your beardie)|
|Exoskeleton can cause impaction|
|Prone to parasites (source)|
Pros of crickets
- Crickets are easy to source.
- Bearded dragons enjoy them.
- They are a good source of protein.
Since we don’t breed our own Dubia roaches (something we do plan to do one day), we sometimes run out. Our lack of planning should not constitute a week of fasting for our beardie. So that means we still sometimes need to go to the local pet store and buy crickets. They are easy to find in a pinch.
When we buy them, my beardie likes them. She gobbles them up and crunches them down and is seemingly happy to have done so. That’s probably because they do make a good, protein-rich food source for your dragon.
Cons of crickets
- Crickets smell awful and are loud.
- They can be difficult to handle.
- If they get out, they’ll drive you nuts and will probably breed.
- Crickets bite. You and your beardie.
- They have a harder-to-digest exoskeleton.
- They are prone to pinworms and other parasites (source)
Let’s start with the obvious. Crickets stink. Bad. It’s one of their biggest drawbacks. And not only do they smell, but they are also loud. So, any room you decide to keep them in won’t be a room you’ll want to spend any time in.
When you do go in that room to get some to feed your dragon, they will be difficult to handle and will often escape. Once out, crickets will continue to be noisy and drive you nuts. If you can’t find them, they’ll also breed.
Once that happens, you now have crickets in your house forever (source)—just not ones you can use to feed your beardie.
They not only make noise and breed, but crickets also bite. They bite when you handle them, and they’ll bite your beardie if you leave them in the enclosure with them. That means that any crickets your beardie doesn’t eat need to be removed from their home.
If you don’t do this, the crickets will bite your beardie. This can cause big problems. It will stress your beardie and is not something you want to happen. It’s also a pain because trying to catch the crickets once they are loose in the enclosure is not easy!
Lastly, even though they do make good food, they aren’t the best for your beardie. Crickets have very hard exoskeletons. This means that occasionally crickets can cause impactions in bearded dragons. (Not sure what an impaction is? See our full article here)
Lastly, crickets are prone to parasites. If you feed your bearded dragon parasite-infected crickets, your beardie now also has parasites (source). This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence with Dubia roaches.
So, while they might be easy to get, the list of cons far outweighs the list of pros. Now let’s take a look at Dubia roaches.
Dubia roach pros and cons
Now let’s look at the pluses and minuses of using Dubia roaches to feed your bearded dragon. There’s good and bad about them, but we think you’ll quickly see they are the far lesser of two evils! We’ll take a look at the cons first.
|Easy to handle||Not usually available locally|
|Easy to keep||Some people think they are “icky”|
|They don’t breed if they escape|
|They make no noise|
|They don’t smell|
|They don’t bite (you or your beardie)|
|They are higher in protein than crickets|
|They are easier to digest with a softer exoskeleton|
|They typically don’t get parasites|
Cons of Dubia roaches
- Dubia roaches aren’t as easy to get as crickets.
- They can creep some people out.
If you aren’t going to breed them (something that seems pretty easy, actually), you’ll most likely need to buy Dubias online. You can even subscribe to a regular shipment!
We aren’t affiliated with these guys, but the folks over at dubiaroaches.com have always given us great service and quality feeders for our bearded dragon!
We suggest ordering yours to be held for pickup at the post office. It usually takes no more than 3-4 days from placing our order to have 100 fresh roaches waiting for us to pick up.
Now let’s talk about the “icky” part for a minute…
Let’s face it. Some of you reading this take one look at a roach, and shivers run up your spine. We get it. If that’s your reaction, it can be hard to bring the little guys into your home. But trust me, you’ll grow to find them cute… Or at least you’ll tolerate them.
Pros of Dubia roaches
Unlike crickets, dubia roaches are easy to manage and even easier to breed. If you have even one insect-eating reptile to care for, a small colony of Dubias can pay for itself quickly. In the end, Dubias have many more pros than cons…
- They are very easy to handle and keep.
- Dubia roaches will not breed if they escape.
- They don’t smell, make noise, or bite.
- They won’t bite your beardie.
- They are much higher in protein and easier for your beardie to digest.
First off, Dubia roaches are very easy to maintain. They can’t climb the slick sides of a plastic container, and they don’t jump or fly. Nope! Dubias can’t fly. They can crawl kind of fast, but they aren’t hard to keep a hold of at all.
That being said, they will rarely escape into your home. But even if they do, they most likely won’t breed unless you live in a hot and humid environment, like Florida, where it is illegal to ship Dubia roaches. Otherwise, they will simply die. Dubias can’t survive long or breed in cooler, dry climates.
Dubias don’t smell or make noise. Their container will be silent, and you can keep it in any room without fear of odor. To us, this is one of the biggest advantages of Dubias over crickets.
Dubia roaches won’t bite you or your beardie!
This makes them much more fun to handle (even if it is a little weird at first to feel them crawling on your hand). It also means that if you happen to leave one or more in the enclosure with your dragon, they won’t bite or stress your beardie out!
Lastly, Dubia roaches are a better food source. Not only do they contain almost double the protein of crickets, but they also have a much softer exoskeleton. This makes them easier for your beardie to digest. In turn, there is less of a chance of impaction with Dubias than with crickets.
Furthermore, Dubias are higher in calcium (source). This mineral is important for your beardie’s health. Overall, they are simply more nutritious and easier to digest. It seems like a win-win to us!
If you couldn’t already tell, our preference for a feeder insect for our bearded dragon is Dubia roaches. They are superior to crickets in almost every way. If you can get over the stigma of roaches in general, you should definitely consider Dubia roaches as a primary protein source for your beloved bearded dragon!
Sources and Further Reading
Investigation of the effects of cricket ingestion on plasma uric acid concentration in inland bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps)
A Preliminary Feeding Study in Bearded Dragon Lizards, Pogona vitticeps
Vitamin A deficiency in insectivorous lizards
Should I breed Dubia roaches instead of buying them?
While we haven’t started breeding Dubia roaches yet, we plan to soon. We’ve done a ton of research, and YouTube is full of quality tutorials on how to do this. If you have a place to keep the bin, it seems like a no-brainer to us.
Where to buy Dubia roaches?
If you don’t want to breed them, you’ll have to buy them. We’ve found the best place to buy is online. There are a few sites we like, but our top two are dubiaroaches.com and Josh’s Frogs. We’ve gotten quality Dubias and great service from both.
What size Dubia roaches should we buy?
Always keep in mind that you should never feed your beardie any insect that is bigger than the space between their eyes. We like to err on the smaller side of this space just for safety. You’ll be able to pick your roach size when ordering, so keep this in mind.
We wrote a complete guide to correct food sizing for your beardie that you can see here, and it’s definitely worth a read if you’ve been wondering about this.
12 thoughts on “Crickets vs. Dubia Roaches – Finding the Best Feeder Insect For Your Bearded Dragon”
What about worms or prepackaged food? We really don’t want live insects in our home, especially ones that can crawl away where we can’t find them!
We wrote an entire article about worms. You can search that on the site. The short answer if there are a couple types of worms that could be used as regular feeders. As for the packaged food, we do not recommend it. It’s the same thing as the unhealthy processed food that people eat. Not good for you, especially when there is what their bodies naturally thrive on available in live insects.
Our kids want a bearded dragon, but we absolutely do not want roaches OR crickets in our house. Is there a compromise?
You could feed them superworms or black fly larvae. Honestly, both of those are more of a pain than Dubia roaches. But yes, live insects are a part of the deal. You get used to it very quickly.
Why not both? Wouldn’t they like a little variety in their diet? And wouldn’t that be better for them?
You could certainly do that, but you are placing your need for variation onto your beardie. They are more than happy to eat the same thing every day. Varying their greens is a good idea as the nutrient content varies. But protein is protein. Might as well use the one that’s the best and stick with that. And that is roaches!
Don’t the roaches bite or smell or anything? I picked one up and it grabbed my finger so I flicked it off. I didn’t like it and they kind of scare me.
Yup, it’s creepy at first! Especially when you feel them grab on to you with their little legs. We totally agree that it’s weird and not what most people are used to. That said, you get used to it right away. We have even grown to like the little roaches. We almost feel bad feeding them to our little girl…. almost!
You would think that there would be a way to do this without live insects. It’s a deal breaker for us.
Reptiles eat live food (except maybe turtles?). It’s part of the deal. If you can’t do the insects, then you shouldn’t do a bearded dragon.
We’ve had several people tell us to feed the roaches fresh veggies so that they have nutrients in them when they get eaten. But the roaches never eat all of it and it gets really gross. Any ideas?
Yes, you want your insect feeders to be gut-loaded. Meaning that what they eat is what your beardie eats, so you can “sneak” in some greens in the bellies of the little insects you feed your beardie. But yes, it’s gross and a pain. THere are two solutions… First, change out the greens daily when you feed your beardie. Just feed the beardie and the bugs at the same time and always take out old food and give fresh. The other solution, and what we prefer, is to use high-quality roach chow. That has all the nutrients you need and can be left in with the roaches with no bad effects.