This feeding guide will help you navigate through the absolute myriad of Bearded dragon food choices so that you can provide the best, most appropriate, foods for your pet lizard. I'll also include some links to specific commercial Bearded dragon foods that you can purchase if you so choose. Regardless, enjoy the site, and come back often!
Introduction to Bearded Dragons
It's important that you understand the lizard itself in order to better understand the foods it eats. Bearded dragons are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. That said, animals comprise about 75% of their diet in the wild. We'll get into more detail on what types of plants and animals they prefer eating in a moment. So, now that you already know more about Bearded dragon eating habits than most reptile hobbyists, let's move on.
Feeding Bearded Dragons Fruits and Vegetables
Now, your Bearded dragon can be maintained on a diet comprised solely of animal matter, just so you're aware. But, as reptile hobbyists we should attempt to mimic its diet in the wild as closely as possible, so including select fruits and vegetables as 25% of the overall food mix is advisable.
Keep in mind, you don't want fruit to make up more than 10% of your Bearded dragon's diet (it has to do with the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio).
Some of the absolute best foods for your lizard, based on their excellent nutritional values, are:
Collard greens: Packed with nutrients, as well as vitamin C and immune system boosters. Tear the leaves into small pieces and watch your Bearded dragon eat every piece.
Dandelion greens: Off the charts nutritionally. Replete with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as a good source of calcium. Feed the leaves, not the flower, to your dragon. It's risky to pick wild-growing dandelions, because you never can truly be sure if they've been treated with chemicals. I mean, after all, they are weeds, albeit beneficial ones! Sometimes you can find these at the grocery store.
Endive: A member of the daisy family, this plant is notably rich in folate, and vitamins A and K. Tear the leaves up before letting your Bearded dragon eat them.
Carrots: Packed with minerals, antioxidants, and beta carotene. Don't feed these chopped-up, as they can be tough for your lizard to fully digest. Instead, mash them. Bearded dragons eat carrots eagerly, I suspect because of the inherent sweetness.
Bok Choy: Also called "Chinese cabbage," Bok Choy is full of vitamin A. Tear it up into little pieces before feeding your lizard.
Turnip greens: Not the turnip root, the greens. Very high in vitamin A, C, and K, as well as folate and a decent amount of calcium. Also high in lutein.
Alfalfa sprouts: A member of the pea family, these are full of a number of vitamins and minerals. However, they are slightly more difficult for Bearded dragons to eat, since they are not easy to swallow.
Strawberries: Slightly expensive, but hey, nothing's too good for your lizard, right? An excellent source of vitamin C. Cut strawberries up into small pieces for easier digestion. Bearded dragons feed on strawberries without hesitation.
Figs: Usually dried to the consistency of a prune, it's hard to find a plant with more calcium than what's in a fig. Cut these up before feeding to your lizard.
Blueberries: A good source of vitamin K and antioxidants, blueberries should be cut in half before your Bearded dragon eats them. This will aid in making digestion much easier, which allows the lizard to get the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to nutrient absorption.
Tomatoes: Plenty of vitamin A, as well as lycopene, tomatoes can help compliment your lizards diet, and provide some variety. Bearded dragons usually enjoy eating tomatoes.
Make sure you thoroughly wash each fruit and vegetable before feeding. This is because most are sprayed with dangerous pesticides.
Also, don't feed any of the above fruits or vegetables exclusively—this can quickly lead to deficiencies in one or many areas. It's always best to offer an assortment of foods for your Bearded dragon to eat.
These lizards tend to absolutely thrive on commercial Bearded dragon diets. It's uncanny. Not only do the lizards love it, but it's so much more convenient for the keeper, and quite inexpensive. They are made with many of the exact quality fruits and vegetables I listed above, and are supplemented with vitamins and minerals as well. In my opinion, commercial diets should make up a portion of every Bearded dragon food menu.
There are countless brands of commercial food out there for Bearded dragons, and I've tried just about every one of them. They usually come in juvenile or adult blends. So, here are my best commercial Bearded dragon diet recommendations, based upon years of experience:
The above commercial Bearded dragon foods are going to make your life alot easier, and they're healthy for your Bearded dragon to eat, so everybody wins. Whether you purchase through the above links to support this site (if you do, thank you), or purchase somewhere else, you owe it to yourself to at least test them out—you'll be amazed at the results you'll see in your Bearded dragon. I've done the legwork over the years sorting through which brands are best (beware: there are many junk "filler" brands out there), so now you know.
In the rare occurrence a Bearded dragon doesn't immediately eat the commercial diet, try misting the food to moisten it. Also, you can try mixing the commercial lizard food with some vegetable greens or even fruits initially—I've never seen this not work, and chances are your lizard will eat the commercial diet without any hesitation.
Feeding Bearded Dragons Animals and Insects
The vast majority of your lizards's diet should be comprised of animal matter. So, what does "animal matter" include? Just about anything that moves, frankly. They are definitely not notoriously picky eaters. If you give these lizards enough heat, they're going to eat like wild hogs. Let's discuss the best animals to feed them.
Here are the best animal-based food items to feed your Bearded dragon:
Feeder crickets contain approximately 69% moisture, 1% ash, 21% protein, 6% fat, and 3% carbohydrate.
If you do decide to feed your Bearded dragon crickets, and it'll probably happen often, it's a good idea to "gut load" the insects first. This means, quite simply, allowing them to eat your throw-away fruits and vegetables. The crickets will devour just about any food item you put in their container. It's an easy way to improve the nutritional value of your dragon's future meal, since the cricket's stomach will be full of quality food, rather than the cardboard they usually chew on and ingest while waiting to be purchased at the pet store.
Another practice I encourage is dusting your crickets with a top quality calcium supplement or vitamin additive prior to feeding them to your Bearded dragon. Important: do not dust food items with both calcium and vitamin supplements at the same time, because they have a muting effect upon each other. Instead, dust with a calcium supplement one day, and a vitamin supplement the next day. Simple, easy, and effective. Here is the Bearded dragon calcium and vitamin supplements I recommend the most highly:
It's really easy to dust your crickets. Once you have the insects in a bag or small container, just sprinkle some of the supplement onto them, and shake gently for a few seconds. This will coat them nicely. Now you can feed them to your Bearded dragon.
Crickets can be bred, but trust me on this:
Let's do the math (stay with me, this tip is going to save you a lot of money). Let's say you buy four dozen feeder crickets each week for your Bearded dragon to eat, at a current average of 11-cents per cricket. That works out to be $5.28 weekly. Not to mention the cost of gas, wear-and-tear on your vehicle, and most importantly time.
Now, you could bulk order 500 crickets, delivered overnight to your door, for only $21. That works out to be exactly 4.2¢ per cricket, a immediate savings of 62%, plus you didn't have to drive anywhere—you ordered from the comfort of your own home. Those 500 crickets can be kept in a simple ventilated plastic storage bin in the garage, with a few egg crates to hide in, until they're all fed to your lizard. Up the order to 1,000 crickets, and the average price per cricket drops to just 2.6¢. That's 76% off the pet store price. This is an absolute no-brainer. Your Bearded dragon can eat to its heart's content, instead of being limited to how many crickets you have on hand.
The best place, in my opinion, to order live feeder crickets online is Backwater Reptiles. The adult crickets they provide are very large, and I haven't found a cheaper price anywhere. Order some of their live crickets for sale and experience the convenience and cost effectiveness for yourself.
Roaches contain approximately 61% moisture, 2% ash, 28% protein, 6% fat, and 3% carbohydrate.
Dubias can be bred fairly easily, and you can keep a colony of 1,000 feeders in a ventilated plastic bin without much hassle at all. Add some egg crate, and a heat mat under half the bin so that the inside air is about 90 degrees. They will automatically breed and reproduce. They mature slower than crickets (it takes three to four months to reach adult size), but live much longer (well over a year). They can be fed the same food scraps as crickets (they love dog food too), but be careful not to let too much moisture (rotting wet food) get into the bin—it can wipe them out entirely in a matter of days. Dubia also have live young, so no egg substrate to worry about.
These feeder roaches attain an adult size of 1 1/2 to 2 inches, and they're considerably heavier bodied than crickets. Here's the big negative: it's almost impossible to find these feeders at pet shops, unless they really specialize in reptiles. So, the only practical option is starting a colony, otherwise it's just not cost effective buying roaches locally to feed your Bearded dragon. They are usually considerably more expensive than crickets.
Baby Bearded dragons can be fed newborn dubia roaches, which are very small and easily digestible due to their soft exoskeleton. Adult Beardies can eat adult dubia roaches quite easily.
Mealworms contain approximately 63% moisture, 19% protein, 1% ash, 14% fat, and 3% carbohydrate.
The second most popular lizard food of the past few decades has certainly been the prolific mealworm. Bearded dragons eat mealworms with delight. They come in a variety of sizes, from as small as a grain of rice, to nearly 2-inches long, and are a good source of protein. They also cannot climb.
There is a myth that has been floating around for years that mealworms can, at times, chew their way out of a lizard's stomach. Well, it's just that, a myth. Don't believe it.
Mealworms can be kept in one of two ways: at room temperature (this will allow them to grow, feed, and morph into beetles), or in a refrigerator (this will cause them to go into a type of temporary dormancy).
Depending on your preference, if you decide to keep them active, just put them in a small container of uncooked oatmeal or wheat bran, with a few very small pieces of apple or celery as a source of water. I would only recommend this if they will be fed to your lizard within a week or two.
If you put them in the refrigerator, they'll last for months, and you don't need to add any oatmeal or wheat bran, since they won't be eating it anyway. Easy and convenient.
It's a good idea to dust feeder mealworms with the supplements discussed before, but it doesn't stick to their smooth bodies as well. I only feed my Bearded dragons mealworms when they are hatchlings, because as adults they can be slightly tougher to digest due to their thicker exoskeleton. I prefer small superworms, but they are not always available.
Breeding mealworms is effortless, as you simply keep them between 65F and 90F degrees, feed them, and watch them reproduce. It doesn't happen quickly, however.
The so called "giant mealworms" are simply regular mealworms treated with a hormone to prevent them from morphing into a beetle. For this reason, if you need larger mealworms to feed your growing Bearded dragon, use superworms instead.
Superworms contain approximately 59% moisture, 1% ash, 19% protein, 15% fat, and 6% carbohydrate.
Superworm adults are larger than giant mealworms by about 1/2". They also supposedly have less chitin (a thinner exoskeleton, making them easier to digest). One main difference between superworms and mealworms: you do not refrigerate feeder superworms—it will kill them.
Keep superworms in wheat bran or uncooked oatmeal, with a slice of potato for moisture. A temperature of between 65 and 80 degrees is ideal.
Superworms have certain advantages over mealworms, and I recommend them for larger Bearded dragon meals. Watch your fingers, though, as they can pinch you. They are also very sensitive to smoke.
Breeding superworms can be a pain, as they are cannibalistic if food is scarce. This means separating the ones that are morphing into a beetle, as the other will eat them. It's more trouble than it's worth, in my opinion.
Bearded dragons will eat both mealworms and superworms, so feed them appropriately sized insects and watch them flourish. Superworms should be used as the lizard matures into adulthood.
You can easily and affordably buy live feeder mealworms for sale online.
Let's debunk a myth. Many reptile enthusiasts wrongly claim that pinkie mice (newborn mice) are extremely high in fat, and very low in calcium. They will tell you it's equivalent to feeding your lizard "a stick of butter." This line of thinking is regurgitated folklore and absolutely without merit.
Did you know that a pinkie mouse is comprised of less than 5% crude fat? Not only that, but the fat content actually increases to 14% as the mouse matures to a "fuzzy" size, so pinkies are actually on the lower end of the spectrum as far as fat percentage. Also, have you ever seen the white part of a pinkie's stomach? That's a calcium gold mine!
The fact of the matter is, if your husbandry is within acceptable guidelines, you can feed your adult Bearded dragon mice on a regular basis.
Feeder mice can be expensive, though, so breeding them makes sense for some. You can purchase one male, and four to five females for one ten-gallon tank. You can find mature breeder mice for around $1.50 each from local breeders. Add some aspen bedding (never cedar, it's toxic), a water bottle (not a dish as they will fill it with wood chips), a hide spot, and a food dish (dog food is perfect). That's it. Literally.
Keep the temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees, and the mice will have babies every 25-28 days or so, so you'll have consistent Bearded dragon food. The litters are usually between 8 and 15. Its a good way to save money, because feeder mice range anywhere from $1 to $3 each. The only downside is, they stink of ammonia if you don't keep the cage clean.
These worms make excellent feeder foods for Bearded dragons, although not as a staple because they are a bit higher in fat. This means they're good for fattening up thinner lizards. Fortunately, they are also high in calcium. When you purchase either species of worm, they usually come in a small plastic container filled with bran, which is used to minimize humidity (not as food), as these worms are both very sensitive to wet air.
One advantage as a Bearded dragon food item is that both worms are in a stage of life where they will not eat at all. Don't even try to feed them, because a piece of apple alone can raise the humidity to lethal levels. This also means, the longer you wait to feed them to your Bearded dragon, the thinner the worms will get, as they are solely living off fat reserves. Caution: waxworms can climb smooth vertical surfaces.
Keep feeder waxworms at room temperature and they should last for a little over a month. Remove the ones that turn black. Keep your feeder butterworms in a warmer section of your refrigerator and they should last several months. Unless you're really into these worms, breeding them is not worth the hassle it requires. Cost-wise, they're a little less expensive than crickets.
Bearded dragons eat waxworms and butterworms eagerly, but the worms should not make up a substantial percentage of the lizard's diet due to their higher fat content. Instead, include the worms as part of a varied diet.
Since we've spent some time talking about Bearded dragon diets and overall food requirements, it makes sense to briefly mention the lizards themselves. If you're looking to purchase a Bearded dragon baby, juvenile, or adult, buy from an established company with a history of top notch customer satisfaction. If you're ready to try your hand at keeping one or more of these amazing reptiles, or if you're considering adding to to your existing colony, I personally recommend Backwater Reptiles. They have a huge selection of live reptiles for sale online, including hatchling and adult Bearded dragons, with a live arrival guarantee. They also have a great article on how to tame a lizard. You can read more about Backwater Reptiles here.
Never feed your Bearded dragon partial meat pieces, such as beef hearts, gizzards, turkey, chicken, or livers. Many reptile hobbyists mistakenly think this is a good way to feed lizards inexpensively. While it may not cost much, there is very little nutritional value using this method, and it can quickly lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Always focus on feeding your lizard whole food items such as insects and mice, instead of adhering to a piecemeal approach.
Never feed your Bearded dragon fish. Fish deplete niacin levels within a lizard's body, and can also carry heavy parasite loads. A few feeder fish here and there usually don't cause much damage, but why risk it?
Never feed Bearded dragons insects collected from the wild. These insects can contain trace pesticides that can, believe it or not, kill your lizard.
Never feed Bearded dragons lizards such as anoles or geckos. While dragons will gladly devour them (I've seen it happen), it's just not a good idea due to the internal parasite loads of wild caught feeder lizards. All U.S. Beardies are captive bred, so there's no sense in contaminating them with a potentially dangerous meal.
Never feed your Bearded dragon iceberg lettuce. It's got just about zero nutritional value. Use romaine instead.
Never feed your Bearded dragon a live juvenile or adult mouse. This is because mice will often times fight back via furious biting. They can cause some serious injuries to lizards, so only use frozen mice as food. Pinkie mice are fine to feed live as they do not have teeth or claws.
Feeding frequency is one of those reptile subjects that doesn't get discussed very often, mainly because everyone thinks they know the answer. Most don't. I can't tell you how often I've read lizard hobbyists who say, "Feed your lizard ten crickets every three days" or something similar, as if all lizards can be pigeonholed into some all-encompassing feeding formula. It's actually ridiculous.
Other well-meaning reptile keepers rely on their gut instincts, such as, "My juvenile Bearded dragon couldn't possibly eat more than six adult crickets—I mean, look how little it is." This again is seriously flawed logic.
Would you like to know the answer to this lizard feeding conundrum? Feed your Bearded dragon as much food as it will eat, especially when they are young. Also, feed them every single day. Twice a day would be even better. It's really that simple. When they stop chasing prey (or eating vegetables), they are full. This indicator determines when you can stop feeding them. They aren't going to eat until their stomachs burst. Giving your lizard enough food allows it to achieve maximum size and health.
If you don't feed your Bearded dragon enough food, its natural growth curve will in effect be stunted. This can lead to severe problems. Also, feeding your Bearded dragon a minimal diet will cause it to bask less and lessen activity levels. This is because heat (basking) increases its metabolism (uses more energy), but since the lizard doesn't know when its next meal will come, it conserves calories by utilizing less energy. It's called survival instinct. There are some instances of adult dragons becoming somewhat obese, as their metabolisms slow, but it's quite rare.
While this website offers in depth insight into what are the best Bearded dragon foods, it's a good idea to round out your knowledge of these lizards by learning about their caging and other captive requirements.
There have been a plethora of books written about Bearded dragons over the years, and if you want to know the truth, most all of them are severely outdated. I always prefer reading reptile books written by reptile enthusiasts who have experienced great success, not only at successfully keeping and rearing the reptile in question, but also at breeding the species. For example, it's not all that difficult to raise a Bearded dragon to adult size. If you do, does that make you an expert on Pogona vitticeps? No, of course not.
Now, if you've raised hundreds of them, and have successfully bred them many, many times, you definitely know what you're doing. That's the person whose book I'll read, and the reason I highly recommend you purchased The Bearded Dragon Manual. The authors, Philippe de Vosjoli and Robert Mailloux, combined their extensive Bearded dragon knowledge to compile this book, and you will not find a better one out there:
Over the years, I've learned some helpful tips on feeding these majestic lizards. The below tip is the single most helpful item in my entire reptile toolbax. It literally made my life easier overnight. If you never buy another lizard product again, buy this stuff. First, let me give you a little background.
Crickets and roaches are great Bearded dragon foods, but many hobbyists collectively lose hundreds of thousands of these feeder insects each year due to simply drowning in water dishes. Fortunately, this is totally preventable. And no, not with one of those gimmicky plastic trinkets that pet stores sell (they supposedly allow crickets to climb out of the water dish).
The answer lies within one of the greatest inventions for reptile hobbyists ever. Polymer crystals. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, right? Well, they're so awesome that sometimes I wonder if they are from the future, sent back by a considerate reptile enthusiast.
The inert polymer crystals look like clear grains of sand, but a bit larger. You scoop out a teaspoon of these crystals, and pour them into a regular glass or plastic jar. Then, you add about a cup of water. In a matter of minutes, they absorb 200-times their weight in water. That means they swell to about 1/3" to 1/2" in diameter.
Here's why they are so special. Now you just drop several of the water cubes into a dish for your crickets or roaches, and they'll get all their water needs met, without the risk of drowning. It works flawlessly, and they're 100% safe (no chemicals or additive). It's like a clear gelatin, without the mess. They don't evaporate quickly, and your feeder insects will utilize them immediately. This means you'll save money by avoiding cricket drownings, and thus more Bearded dragon food.
The product is called Soil Moist, and it was originally invented to feed water slowly to plant roots. Fortunately, it's even more useful to reptile keepers. Unfortunately, it's more than a little tough to find in stores, so alternatively you can purchase the cubes pre-made (it's admittedly a bit cleaner to purchase the final product anyway). The orange jar below is filled with cricket water cubes, and will make you wonder how you ever managed without it:
Hopefully you've been able to glean some useful information on how to correctly feed your Bearded dragon foods that promote health, as well as the proper technique and frequency of feedings. If you have any thoughts or concerns, don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail—I always enjoy hearing from site visitors.
Here's to successfully feeding your Bearded dragon food with nutritious value!