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The only bearded dragon feeding guide that you’ll ever need

By far, the single most Googled question about bearded dragons is “can they eat (insert food here)?” Google does a nice job of finding the answer for you, but the answers can vary wildly. Sometimes you get a nice, easy yes or no. Other times you get overwhelmed with calcium content numbers and ramblings about goitrogens.

Every site we’ve found has either not enough info or way too much. We just want to feed our bearded dragon the right way for crying out loud! So we thought we’d put together a straight forward guide to feeding your bearded dragon that will tell you what you need to know. No more, no less.

Make sure and check out the end of this article. We have put together some downloadable food guides that will make all this as easy as pie!

*But please don’t feed your beardie pie!

Bearded dragons should live on a diet that’s a mix of live protein sources, greens, and an occasional fruit treat. The exact mix of those things will change as the bearded dragon ages. Within those 3 categories, there are a variety of options as to what they should eat.

Should eat vs could eat

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!!!

Much like their human owners, bearded dragons have the capability to ingest a vast array of foods. Some are good for them, some are not, and some can be deadly.

Stay away from spinach

A common question is “can my bearded dragon eat (insert food here)?”. While the answer to that question might be yes, it’s a bad question to start with. The right question to ask is “should my bearded dragon eat (insert food here)?”.

A great example is spinach. Can a bearded dragon eat spinach? Yep, they sure can. Should a bearded dragon eat spinach? Probably not. At least not regularly.

It’s that last bit, the “at least not regularly” part, that bothers us. Sometimes it means that the food is toxic, but not in small amounts. Sometimes it means that it’s not an ideal regular food, but makes for a nice treat. It’s important to differentiate those two categories.

To us, if the food is toxic in larger amounts, then the answer should be a simple “no”. That’s why you won’t see us list spinach as a recommended food in this guide. Sure, a bearded dragon could eat it. But they shouldn’t!

There are a myriad of food options that are great for your bearded dragon. There is absolutely no reason to feed them a marginally okay food when there are so many better choices available.

In other words, move past the spinach and pick up one of the 20 other healthier options that are in the exact same section at the grocery store!

In this guide, our goal is to give you the go to, never fail, always a great option foods for your beardie. There is no need to deviate from the information provided here.

That said, if you are looking for a complete list of foods that you could feed your bearded dragon along with how often you could feed them, then the comprehensive list you can see here at Beautiful Dragons is a great resource!

Bearded dragons are not people

People love to anthropomorphize their pets. Bearded dragons are no exception.

They tend to assume that their little scaly friend has the same wants and needs as they do. They start to treat them like little people instead of captive wild animals.

While you or I would get bored eating the same thing every day, your bearded dragon does not. They are perfectly happy eating the same exact thing every single day.

Bacardi never every gets tired of roaches… Ever!

We aren’t saying that they don’t prefer certain foods over others. Bearded dragons are notoriously picky eaters. But once you find the healthy options that they like, you can stick with those options exclusively for the life of your bearded dragon.

There is no need to try to vary their diet by including non-ideal foods like spinach because you think they would enjoy a change.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t give them treats. You should as long as they are healthy. Your beardie will love them. But they will also love their staple greens day in and day out. They will never tire of them.

Another important point is that your beardie is an omnivore. It cannot be a vegetarian or vegan. Period, end of story. If you are not comfortable feeding your beardie live feeder insects then you should not have a bearded dragon.

Beardie’s need a live protein source several times a week. And yes, it needs to be live. Freeze-dried crickets and worms fall into that “can they eat it” category discussed above. Can they eat them? Yep. Should they? No way.

Get comfortable with the fact that multiple times a week your bearded dragon is going to be a carnivorous hunter. It will hunt down its prey and devour it. Chomping and crunching the life out of the feeder insect you’ve chosen to provide.

Feeding frequency

Greens

We like to give greens to our beardie every day. Does she eat them every day? Nope. But we make them available. Over the course of the time we’ve had her, we’ve discovered what she likes and we put a fresh salad out for her every morning.

We think that’s the right way to go about greens regardless of the age of your bearded dragon. Make them available every day. Know that the younger your beardie, the fewer greens they will eat in relation to the number of insects they eat.

Below we will list the greens that are good for daily feeding, also known as “staple greens”. Find which of these your beardie likes and prepare those daily for your little scaly friend.

Protein

Staple protein frequency

Baby beardies (up to about 6 months in age) should get live feeder insects one to three times per day, every day. This is when they are growing the fastest (for a detailed review of just how big your beardie will get, see our article here). Therefore, this is when they need the most protein.

Our staple protein of choice, dubia roaches

Juveniles (6-12 months in age) should get live feeders once a day four to six days a week. They are still growing quickly so they need the building blocks that protein provides regularly.

There is some debate about how often to feed adults. The primary guideline is that you don’t want an overweight beardie. It’s unhealthy for them to carry around extra fat. Too many feeder insects can quickly lead to excess fat.

Some say to let them gorge for ten to fifteen minutes once a week. Some say to feed them two to three times a week in the same manner. We take a different approach.

We recommend feeding your adult beardie a limited amount of feeder insects three times a week. For our beardie, Bacardi, that comes out to eight to ten Dubia roaches three times per week.

We like this approach as it’s easier on her digestive system. She isn’t filling to capacity once a week and therefore risking an impaction. A limited number of roaches, but fed more frequently, limits the stress on her body.

This also gives her the chance to hunt more often, just as she would in the wild. In their native Australia, bearded dragons don’t hunt once a week, find unlimited food, and then stop looking for 6 days.

In the wild, they hunt every day. Some days they find a lot of food, some days they find none. We think that our 3 day a week feeding schedule more closely mimics her natural instincts. It also keeps her at a very healthy weight and a lot more active!

Protein Treats

There’s a myriad of worms you can pick from to serve as treats your bearded dragon. We wrote an entire guide on the subject that you can see here.

Bacardi getting a wormy treat!

As far as frequency goes, we’d stick to 1-2 times a week. We would also limit the number of worms you treat your beardie with to just a few at a time.

Many worm varieties are high in fat. Excessive use of worms as treats can lead to your bearded dragon gaining an unhealthy amount of weight.

Fruit

Fruit will serve two purposes in the diet of your beardie. Those purposes will dictate the frequency at which you feed your beardie fruit.

The first purpose that fruit will serve is as a treat. Do they need treats? Nope. Do they love them? They sure do! So every once in a while, once a week or so, it’s okay to give your beardie a small serving of fruit.

The second purpose of fruit is as a digestive aid. A constipated or mildly impacted bearded dragon will benefit greatly from a serving of fruit. You can see our full guide to impaction here, but for now, just know that fruit helps things “move along” a lot faster than they would without it.

Pro tip… Watermelon will work best for this purpose. You’ll read a lot about applesauce and pumpkin baby food, and those do work well. But watermelon greases the chute better than any other!

So, if you feed them fruit at all (you surely don’t have to and they’ll never miss it if you don’t), stick to once a week tops.

Water

It might sound weird to some to have to mention water, but we do. There are a lot of sites and forums out there that will tell you that your beardie gets all the water it needs from its food.

This is simply not the case.

Bacardi’s water dish

Just because a bearded dragon’s native climate is arid does not mean they don’t need water! It should always be available to them. Even if you never see them drink from their bowl, a bowl of water should always be there.

The key is the size of the bowl. Stick to a small one and keep the water shallow and changed daily. This will prevent baby dragons from drowning. It will also prevent the bowl of water from adding too much humidity to the enclosure.

Where to feed your dragon

You have two choices here. Inside their enclosure and outside of their enclosure. The type of food should determine where this happens.

Greens, fruit, and water should be served in a bowl or container (one that can’t be knocked over) inside your beardie’s home. Your dragon will eat these when and if they feel like it.

Change this salad out daily. Old greens can rot quickly. Mold and decay are not good for your bearded dragon. More often than this, the salad will dry out and shrivel up in the hot, arid climate inside your beardie’s home.

Insect feeders should be given outside the enclosure in a feeder bin or container. This serves several purposes.

If you use a loose substrate (see our full guide to substrate selection here), insect feeders can easily hide. This means that they will die and rot eventually and this is not good to have inside your beardie’s home.

Even if you don’t have places for them to hide, it’s still not a good idea to leave your feeder insects in with your beardie unattended. This is especially true with crickets that tend to bite and cause harm to bearded dragons.

A bin allows you to completely control what your beardie eats as their protein source. It’s also a great window into their current mood and behavior.

Bacardi hunting in her feeding bin

One of the quickest ways to know that there may be something wrong with your beardie is a reduced appetite. A bearded dragon who ignores live feeders may need to see a vet (or could be entering brumation – see our full guide here).

Feeding your beardie in a feeding bin will allow you to observe them at an important time in their week, feeding time. Plus, it’s fun to watch them hunt!

A note to those of you that use crickets as you staple insect food source. You’re going to need a bin with sides high enough to prevent the crickets from jumping out. We hate crickets and never use them. This is just one of the many reasons.

Consider switching to Dubia roaches. They are a better staple insect in every respect, and you don’t need to worry about them escaping a bin with low sides.

How much to feed?

Our last thing to cover before we get to the list of recommended foods is how much should you feed your beardie of each food type?

For greens, you can’t really give too much. Bearded dragons will eat them as much as they feel like and no more. Just make sure that they are available fresh daily.

For fruit, keep the servings small. For our little Bacardi, we go with 2 blueberries, a half a strawberry, or a couple small sliced of frozen mango. She measure 17 inches long at the time we are writing this. If your dragon is bigger, maybe give a little more.

For protein, start by making sure it’s the right size. We wrote a complete article addressing food size that you can see here.

For babies up to 6 months, let them eat as many as they want in a ten minute period. Do this two to three times per day. You might be surprised at how many this ends up being! Baby beardies are hungry little critters!

For juveniles, go to once a day and five to six times per week. Stick to the same “as many as they want within a ten minute period” guideline.

We give our beardie 10 appropriately sized roaches 3 times a week

For adults aged twelve to eighteen months and above, feed them 2-3 times per week. Depending on their size, limit them to eight to twelve properly sized insects per feeding (if you want to skip our food size article, “properly sized” means equal to the space between their eyes).

Bearded dragon food recommendations

What they absolutely should not eat

We need to start with a quick list of things you should never, ever give your bearded dragon to eat.

  • Anything you, as a human, can’t or shouldn’t eat – If it’s not good for you, it’s not good for your beardie.
  • Fireflies, aka lighting bugs – These are poisonous to your bearded dragon.
  • Wild-caught insects – Anything you find living in your yard or house should be avoided. These insects have often ingested large amounts of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxic substances.
  • Wildflowers and plants – Same as the insects you might find in the wild, these are often covered in herbicide. It’s best to avoid them.
  • Avocado – Deadly to birds and considered the same for bearded dragons.
  • Rhubarb – The leaves of this plant contain .5% oxalic acid, which is toxic.
  • Processed human food – Outside of pureed apple or pumpkin baby food, stay away from anything that comes in a can, box, or jar. Stick to fresh produce, fruits, and live feeder insects.
  • Lettuce – This includes iceberg, loose-leaf, green, butter, and red. Lettuce, on the whole, is almost devoid of nutrients. If your beardie fills up on lettuce, they will not get the nutrients they need to be healthy. Choose more nutrient-dense and healthier greens.
  • Mushrooms – Specifically portabella mushrooms, but all of them are a bad idea. Some can be very toxic to bearded dragons and it’s just not worth taking the chance.

Protein

You’ll want to decide on a staple feeder insect that you feed your beardie regularly. This will be your go-to protein source.

Most likely, you’ll end up choosing one of the big three. Crickets, dubia roaches, or black soldier fly larvae are by far the most common choices of primarty feeder insects for bearded dragons.

Between crickets and roaches, we strongly prefer roaches (you can see why here in our comparison article). Like, really strongly. Please, just skip the crickets!

As for the black soldier fly larvae (also known as Phoenix worms, Calci worms, Calci grubs, Repti worms, along with several other brand names), many people swear by them as staple feeders.

black soldier fly larvae
Black soldier fly larvae

We tried them and they just didn’t work for us. They didn’t attract our beardie’s attention as much as a scurrying dubia roach. They also didn’t trigger the hunting instincts that the more mobile roaches do.

All that said, you can raise a healthy bearded dragon on any or all of those three choices. The more important thing is that they are “gut loaded”.

In simple terms, your beardie eats what its food eats. A big part of feeding our bearded dragons live insects is that it’s a great way to get them another serving of healthy greens.

Crickets, dubia roaches, and black soldier fly larvae can all be fed greens. The other option is a high quality roach or cricket chow. Either option will properly gut load your feeder insects so that they indirectly supply your bearded dragon with a good dose of healthy food!

Staple greens

Some greens are better than others. They have a better nutritional profile. That makes them ideal daily feeders. Strive to make up your beardie’s daily diet from items from this list and your very healthy bearded dragon will thank you!

Turnip, collard, and mustard greens

You can find any and all of these at most major grocery stores. Because of the small size of bearded dragons, we recommend buying organic if you can. Even the smallest amount of pesticide could cause problems for your beardie.

If organic isn’t an option, make sure to wash your produce well before serving it to your bearded dragon.

  • Acorn squash
  • Alfalfa leaves – The leaves and plant body only, not sprouts.
  • Butternut squash
  • Cactus (prickly pear)
  • Chicory
  • Collard Greens
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Mustard Greens
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Summer squash
  • Turnip Greens
  • Watercress
  • Winter squash

Working with this list, you’ll find that your bearded dragon likes some of these options and despises others. We recommend trying a little of each to find out.

Keep in mind that your beardie may not want any greens on a particular day. Try the foods above several times before ruling one out.

Once you know 3-4 that your beardie loves, stick to those. Shred up a little salad for them every day and you are done.

Non-staple greens

So what about the myriad of veggies that aren’t on the staple greens list? What about carrots and cucumbers and peas? How about spinach and kale?

The answer is that it depends. Some of the veggies not listed as staples are just fine to feed your bearded dragon. Others are not (like the spinach we mentioned at the beginning of this article).

To find out which is which, we want to refer you back to the food list on Beautiful Dragons. It’s by far the best resource out there when it comes to looking at these secondary food sources.

Non-staple greens can be divided into two groups. One is the never feed it group. Spinach, kale, eggplant, chives, and onions are all on this list. There’s virtually no benefit to feeding these foods to your dragon and some of them are even harmful.

The other group is what we call garnish. It’s totally fine for your beardie to eat it. It’s just not high enough in nutrients to be a good staple feeder.

Garnish can be important if your beardie is a picky eater. Our Bacardi is just that. While she does eat her escarole, endive, and turnip greens, she always eats more if there are carrots mixed in there. She loves carrots!

Bacardi always eats more greens if she also gets carrots

So if you find yourself with a picky beardie on your hands and they don’t really go for any of the staples listed above, try mixing in some garnish.

Our favorite garnish veggies are:

  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Snap peas and pods
  • Raw asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Clover
  • Cucumber
  • Radicchio
  • Seaweed
  • Yams

Try mixing a little bit of these into your daily beardie salad and see if your bearded dragon gets a little less picky.

Fruit

We already mentioned that fruit should be reserved for a once a week treat. That or to aid a constipated beardie (and again, can’t recommend watermelon highly enough!).

While most fruits are okay to feed a bearded dragon, we’ve narrowed our shopping list to the following. These seem to provide the most nutritional value while still being a tasty treat for our beardie.

  • Raisins
  • Blueberries
  • Apple
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Pear
  • Papaya
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Mango
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes (seedless!)

Of all of those, we like raisins and papaya the best. But find what your beardie loves and give them a little treat every so often!

Putting it all together

Wow, that’s a lot of information for a fairly simple topic! So let’s try and make this easy for you. Below, we’ve created two guides. One is a feeding guide that summarizes everything we discussed in this article.

The other is a grocery list that you can take to the store to remind you of what foods are good for your beardie. Just stick to that list and you’ll never go wrong!

You can also download these for free in .pdf form by clicking the buttons below!

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