While the most common food-related questions we get here at BeardieBungalow.com revolve around what to feed your bearded dragon, we get a surprising number of new owners who ask us where they should be feeding them. With most pets, that’s a straightforward problem, but with bearded dragons, the answer depends on what you are feeding them in the first place.
Feed your bearded dragon daily greens from a dedicated bowl inside their tank. Live insects should be fed to them outside of their tank to prevent the insects from escaping and hiding. Loose insects inside your beardie’s tank pose a health threat in several ways. Clean all feeding surfaces regularly.
A quick note on cleanliness
It can be easy to fill your beardie’s bowl every day with their salad and never bother to clean it. As we’ll describe below, if you have a feeding bin or tank, it can be easy to forget to clean those too. We know because we are guilty on both counts.
But of all the things related to your bearded dragon, it’s these two that really should be kept the cleanest (outside of the obvious task of cleaning up their poop on a regular basis).
Because your beardie will walk across, over, and through the dish you use to feed them their greens, it’s not uncommon for bacteria or parasites that may be found in their feces to be left behind in their food bowl.
If we don’t clean that bowl daily, we risk those contaminants ending up in their food. This is a surefire way for our beardies to end up sick and at the vet.
The same goes for any dedicated feeding bin or tank you might be using. In these cases, we need to worry about what our beardies are leaving behind as well as what the insects we feed them are leaving.
In the end, we know this is common sense, but we wanted to give a gentle reminder as we know firsthand how easy it is to get lax about things like this. It’s only when our beardie ends up sick that we realize we haven’t cleaned their food dish, and that can be too late.
Where to feed your bearded dragon their daily greens
This can be done right inside their tank. We recommend a dedicated food bowl (like this one we bought on Amazon) for this. If your bearded dragon is anything like ours, they will walk through their salad no matter where you put this dish, but we recommend placing it out of their typical traffic pattern.
We also recommend placing this dish on the cool side of their enclosure. If your humidity and temperature levels are correct, greens will dry out quickly. Placing them on the cool side of the tank will allow them to retain moisture for a more extended period. Since our bearded dragons get much of their water from their food, the longer it stays hydrated, the better!
Greens are easy. It’s the insects that provide the most significant challenge, so we’ll address the three most common types of insects you’ll feed your beardie individually.
Where to feed your bearded dragon crickets
First, we can’t stress enough that we do not recommend crickets!!! You can see a full article that we wrote here that covers what we prefer (Dubia roaches) and why, but here’s the short version.
Crickets are a common source of parasites, particularly pinworms. Regardless of where you source your crickets, this is a possibility. Want to avoid parasites? Avoid crickets.
Crickets smell bad, are hard to handle, and they bite. That last point is the biggest reason we do NOT advise giving your bearded dragon crickets inside their tank.
Crickets are not only expert hiders, but at night, when the lights are out, they like to come out and bite your bearded dragon. Just a few loose crickets can cause serious problems. For this reason, if you do choose to feed your beardie crickets, don’t do it in their tank.
Instead, use an old aquarium. Something small works great. An aquarium will have high enough sides to prevent the crickets from escaping. It will provide a confined space with no hiding places so that your dragon can find and eat them all.
An aquarium is also very easy to clean. Simply spray it with a natural cleaner and wipe it down.
If you are going to use crickets as a primary feeder, keep them in a container and cricket feeder like this one. Those two things alone will make the crickets much easier to handle and keep contained. This is very important because crickets loose in your home can and do breed. Trust us. You don’t want this!
Where to feed your bearded dragon Dubia roaches
A much better staple insect to feed your beardie is Dubia roaches. With almost none of the drawbacks of crickets, they are an incredibly good insect to feed your bearded dragon.
One of their many advantages over crickets is that they don’t jump. This means that you do not need anything with high sides to act as a feeding bin/container.
While you certainly could still use an old aquarium, it’s not necessary. Any container with slick sides will work as the roaches cannot climb smooth surfaces. We use one of a couple of Sterilite bins.
For quick feedings, we have a small bin. Our beardie, Bacardi, barely fits in it anymore, but it keeps all the roaches close to her. It’s nice when we want her to eat quickly.
When we have more time, we use a much larger bin. This gives her the chance to hunt and chase them down. One of our goals in raising a happy and healthy beardie is to simulate her natural environment as much as possible. Since, in nature, she would have to hunt for her food, we give her this opportunity in our home too.
She seems to very much enjoy chasing the roaches around. In no time, she’s gobbled them all up, but it does take a little longer than using the smaller container.
Pro tip… Whether you are using an aquarium or a plastic bin, keep in mind that your beardie cannot gain traction on either of those surfaces. A great way to fix this so they can easily walk around inside your feeding container is to affix some bath grip strips (like these you can buy cheaply on Amazon) to the bottom of the aquarium or bin. This will give your beardie all the footing they need to hunt and catch their insect prey effectively!
Where to feed your bearded dragon worms
We include this one because while worms are typically not going to be a staple feeder (black soldier fly larva and silkworms can be exceptions – see our complete guide to worms here), they should be a regular part of it your beardie’s diet.
It’s important to vary your bearded dragon’s diet, and worms are a great way to do that. They are also a tasty treat that your beardie will love!!!
When feeding your bearded dragon worms, you can feed them singly by hand inside their tank. If you will be feeding them multiple worms at the same time, it’s best to do this in a separate feeding bin. Always be careful to make sure that no worms escape and hide inside your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
In other words, if the worms are simply a treat, give them to your beardie one at a time. You can do this anywhere, including in their tank.
With worms like black soldier fly larvae (aka soldier worms, phoenix worms, and calciworms), you’ll want to do this in a separate feeding bin. These worms are typically smaller in size, and if you are using them as a staple insect protein source, you’ll need to feed your dragon a large number of them at a time.
If you do like to feed your beardie multiple worms at once and want to do it inside their tank, we highly recommend an “escape proof” bowl like this one. Keep in mind that the worms will still end up outside of the bowl for a variety of reasons, but these little bowls are your best chance at keeping them contained.
Can you let your bearded dragon eat insects it finds outside?
It’s great fun to get out the leash and harness and take your bearded dragon outside for some fun in the sun (see our instructional article here on how to do this).
However, one important aspect of this is not to let them eat any vegetation or insects they come in contact with outside!
Vegetation and bugs found outside can easily be covered in pesticides and herbicides. Both of these are highly toxic to your bearded dragon. Since there’s really no way to ensure that the bugs or plants outside are clean, it’s not recommended to allow your bearded dragon to eat them.
Wild bugs also commonly carry parasites. Parasites are one of the most common causes of ailments among bearded dragons.
Lastly, some bugs can cause severe illness and even death. Eating even one lightning bug can cause a bearded dragon to die. So with all that in mind, skipping wild bugs and plants is a very good idea.
Bearded dragon food resources
Here at BeardieBungalow, we take caring for our beardies seriously. To that end, we’ve created several informative resources to help you keep your bearded dragon healthy and well-fed.
- Complete bearded dragon feeding guide
- Worm guide
- Complete food list for bearded dragons
- Can you feed your beardie freeze-dried crickets?