Crickets are a staple food for bearded dragons, providing them with protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, crickets on their own are not a complete diet and need to be “dusted” or “gutloaded” to boost their nutritional value. Dusting crickets involves coating them with calcium, vitamin, and mineral supplements just before feeding them to your bearded dragon. This helps ensure your bearded dragon is getting all the nutrients they need.
How often should you dust crickets?
The frequency of dusting crickets depends on the age and health of your bearded dragon:
- Baby bearded dragons (under 4 months old): Dust every feeding
- Juvenile bearded dragons (4-18 months old): Dust every other feeding
- Adult bearded dragons: Dust 2-3 times per week
- Breeding/gravid female bearded dragons: Dust every feeding
- Bearded dragons with health issues like metabolic bone disease: Dust every feeding
Baby and juvenile dragons need more frequent dusting to support rapid growth and bone development. Gravid females need extra calcium for developing eggs. Sick dragons may need supplementation to correct deficiencies causing health issues.
What supplements should you use?
The best supplements to dust crickets with are:
- Calcium – supports bone growth and muscle function
- Calcium with vitamin D3 – aids calcium absorption
- Multivitamin – provides comprehensive vitamin nutrition
Use calcium at 1-2 feedings per day, calcium with D3 at 1 feeding per day, and a multivitamin 1-2 times per week. Never give D3 and multivitamin together. Rotate supplements to provide balance.
How to dust crickets
Dusting crickets is easy:
- Place crickets in a plastic bag, small container, or vial
- Add a small amount of supplement powder and shake to lightly coat crickets
- Feed dusted crickets to your bearded dragon right away
Avoid supplement clumps on crickets. Use just enough powder to lightly coat them. Throw away any uneaten dusted crickets after 24 hours.
Why properly dusting crickets is important
Dusting crickets with supplements is critical for your beardie’s health because:
- Crickets lack calcium and vitamins needed for proper growth and development
- Supplements provide balanced nutrition bearded dragons don’t get otherwise
- Prevents nutritional deficiencies that can cause metabolic bone disease, organ failure, seizures, and death
- Supports strong bones, muscles, appetite, immunity, digestion, and energy levels
- Promotes proper growth, weight gain, activity, and shedding
- Allows proper egg development and hatching in breeding females
Well-balanced nutrition through proper cricket dusting prevents many health issues in bearded dragons.
Signs your bearded dragon needs better cricket dusting
Look for these signs your bearded dragon’s diet may be deficient and need improved dusting practices:
- Weak, brittle bones
- Bent limbs
- Bumps or swelling of bones/joints
- Twitching or seizures
- Poor growth
- Weakness, lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Egg binding in females
- Irregular sheds
- Skin, eye issues
If you notice any of these symptoms, increase calcium dusting, provide UVB light, and consult an exotic vet. Metabolic bone disease is highly preventable with proper nutrition and husbandry.
Common mistakes when dusting crickets
Avoid these mistakes when dusting your beardie’s food:
- Not dusting often enough for your dragon’s age/health
- Feeding old, unused supplements
- Using supplements that expired
- Letting vitamin powder clump on crickets
- Only dusting with calcium, not vitamins
- Forgetting to dust crickets altogether
- Not gutloading crickets before dusting
- Usingwrong supplement ratios or schedules
Always check supplement labels for expiration dates, storage instructions, and dosing guidelines. Variety is important, so rotate different quality brand supplements.
Best practices for cricket dusting
Follow these best practices for properly dusting crickets:
- Know proper dusting frequency for your beardie’s age
- Use fresh, in-date supplements stored correctly
- Lightly coat to prevent clumping
- Always gutload crickets first for 24 hours minimum
- Use both calcium and vitamins
- Alternate calcium-only and multivitamin dustings
- Never use D3 and vitamin supplements together
- Throw out uneaten dusted crickets promptly
- Talk to your vet if unsure about proper supplementation
Following these methods will cover all your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs for optimal health.
Is it okay to feed an adult bearded dragon undusted crickets?
No, even adult bearded dragons need dusted crickets for proper nutrition. Without supplementation, they are at risk of calcium and vitamin deficiencies over time leading to health issues.
What if my bearded dragon won’t eat dusted crickets?
Try lightly dusting just a portion of the crickets at first. Make sure powder coats evenly without clumping. Some beardies dislike the taste or texture at first. You can also try different supplement brands. Getting them accustomed young helps.
Can I use vitamins meant for other animals?
No, only use supplements formulated specifically for reptiles, ideally bearded dragons. Human or other animal vitamins are unsafe and can cause vitamin overdoses in beardies.
Is dusting necessary if I gutload crickets?
Yes, gutloading only enriches crickets to an extent. Dusting is still required to fully meet your bearded dragon’s nutritional requirements and prevent deficiencies.
Can I use calcium without D3 long-term?
No, plain calcium lacks vitamin D3 needed to properly metabolize and absorb calcium. Alternate between calcium and calcium + D3 supplements to provide both adequately.
How do I know if my supplements are fresh?
Always check expiration dates and store supplements according to label directions, as heat and humidity degrade vitamins over time. If they smell odd or look discolored, discard and replace them.
Properly dusting feeder insects with nutritional supplements is a key part of caring for a healthy bearded dragon. Dust crickets at every feeding for juveniles and babies, and 2-3 times weekly for adults, using a proper rotation of calcium and multivitamins. Observe manufacturer storage instructions, expiration dates, dosing guidelines, and your dragon’s unique needs. With the right cricket dusting regimen, you can prevent nutrient deficiencies and keep your beardie thriving.