Bearded dragons are opportunist omnivores meaning they have evolved to rely on a diet of both meat and greens and will eat a broad range of both. The meat is made up mostly of insects although they can when adults eat small mice and birds, and their greens are made up of a wide range of plant matter, vegetables, flowers, and fruits.
It is important that your lizard gets a good range of different insects to stimulate its interest in food and to allow it to get the goodness from different types. Some insects like waxworms are high in fat and should really only be considered a treat, while Crickets, on the other hand, are the bedrock of the dragon’s meat diet.
Most good pet stores or specialist reptile shops will stock feeder insects of all types and all sizes, in varying supply of course. An alternative is to create your own cultures and breed your insects at home, but due to the very low price of feeder insects these days it’s sometimes not worth the extra work and hassle. Whatever works best for you. The one benefit of breeding yourself is that, if your good at it, and your maintenance and cleaning is well controlled then you are guaranteeing the best possible quality bugs which should be disease-free, but of course the catch is you have to get good at it and know what you’re doing.
Staple Feeder Insects
– Locusts – Not available in the US but very accessible in the UK.
Occasional Treat Insects
Gut Loading – You may have heard about gut loading, this is an important process to get the most out of your money when buying feeder insects and should be done 24-48 hours in advance of feeding. Some insects have far less nutritional value if they themselves have not been given a good diet. You can use the leftovers of your beardies salad and fruit, this gives the insects both a source of food and moisture. Another good alternative is fish food or bug grub for the diet and bug gel for hydration. Bug Gel is exactly that and has been created as a source of water that the feeder insects cannot drown in.
Wild Bugs – These should be avoided, bugs you find outside can come from a field covered in pesticides or be carrying germs or parasites themselves. Even if the bugs were 100% clean, feeding your dragon a source of insect which you can not guarantee in constant supply is dangerous because the lizard may take a liking to this new type of bug and simply not want to eat the plentiful nutritious feeder crickets.
A large list of different vegetable and fruit matter can be eaten and enjoyed by your dragon. The following I feed George (my dragon) regularly and rotate to keep it interesting. You should supply greens like parsley or kale daily and treat sugary fruits as a treat every few days or once a week. Believe it or not lizards and particularly bearded dragons can get cavities like you and me.
The more variety you can offer the better, and it is quite easy to grow some of these foods on your window sill or in your garden. Offer up a mix of a few leafy greens with a few different vegetables. For instance, you could try finely diced parsley and kale, and then mix that with some carrot and peppers. A lot of people would expect lettuce to be a great stable for a bearded dragon’s salad diet but on the contrary, its nutritional value is pretty much immeasurable and can be high in oxalates and cause diarrhea. Oxalates remove calcium from calcium-rich foods and can also prevent the animal from absorbing the calcium needed. You can supplement as much as you like but if the diet you are feeding your animal is working against the grain you could wonder how your dragon developed a case of MBD despite having a large intake of Calcium.
– Parsley, Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens,
– Apple, Banana, Strawberry
– Hibiscus, Rose (petals),
Supplements / Dusting
This is the process of dusting feeder insects and salads with a supplement. A calcium supplement should be used daily to ensure your dragon grows with healthy bones and does not have a sufficiency which can cause metabolic bone disease or MBD. It is also advised to add a vitamin supplement like Nutrobol into the mix every few days also. This gives your beardie that little extra to help him or her live long and prosper.
Hydration / Drinking
Bearded dragons absorb the majority of their necessary moisture from bugs and their greens and therefore you will seldom see them drinking from their water bowl. That said you should always provide a bowl of freshwater (changed daily) in case they do wish to drink. People forget that when you are out at work they are going about their day to day routines and explorations of their habitat and what we see of them is just a glimpse of their daily life. I also highly recommend using bottled mineral water over tap water because this way we can avoid letting the beardie drink traces of chlorine, fluoride and any other chemicals. Bottled water is cheap and considering the liquid consumption of these animals really shouldn’t put a dent in your wallet.
To hydrate my beardie I mist him twice or thrice a day, once in the morning and once at about 6 pm. They seem to enjoy this cool-down and are generally not squeamish and can be seen closing their eyes and sticking their heads up in the hair. The only time I miss a mist is if it is bath night. Misting is done with a water spray bottle, just like the one you use in your garden.
Avoid the following:
Spinach, Lettuce, Rhubarb, Avocado, Beets, Chives.