What should I feed my bearded dragon and how often?

Bearded dragons are one of the most popular pet lizards, and for good reason. They are docile, interactive, and relatively easy to care for. However, to keep your bearded dragon healthy and happy, it’s important to feed them a nutritious and varied diet. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about feeding bearded dragons, including dietary guidelines, appropriate foods, feeding schedules for juveniles and adults, supplements, and more.

Dietary Guidelines For Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, bearded dragons have been observed eating insects, small rodents and mammals, fruits, flowers, and greens. As pets, their diet should aim to mimic their natural diet as much as possible. Here are some key dietary guidelines to follow:

  • 50-80% of the diet should consist of leafy greens and vegetables
  • 20-30% of the diet should be protein from feeder insects like crickets, roaches, worms, etc.
  • 5-10% can be fruits
  • Calcium-rich foods are essential
  • Variety is important – rotate different staple veggies, leafy greens, veggies, fruits, and proteins
  • Water should always be available

Following these percentages will ensure your bearded dragon receives proper nutrition. Leafy greens provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Insects offer protein for growth and proper muscle development. Fruits add beneficial vitamins and nutrients. Calcium supports bone health. Variety makes sure they obtain well-rounded nutrition.

Best Vegetables & Leafy Greens For Bearded Dragons

Here are some of the top vegetables and leafy greens to feed your bearded dragon:

Leafy Greens

  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Kale
  • Arugula
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Endive
  • Escarole

Leafy greens like collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and arugula are excellent staple foods. They are high in vitamins A, C, K, calcium, and folate. Collard and mustard greens are especially good sources of calcium. Leafy greens should make up around 25% of the vegetable portion of their diet. Romaine, endive, and escarole are lower in oxalic acid, allowing for better calcium absorption.


  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Snap peas
  • Okra
  • Cactus pads

These vegetables provide important vitamins A, C, B6, and folate. Sweet potato and butternut squash offer beneficial beta carotene. Bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C. Broccoli and okra contain calcium. Green beans and snap peas provide vitamin K. Cactus pads mimic moisture-rich foods bearded dragons eat in the wild.

Best Fruit Options For Bearded Dragons

Fruit can be given occasionally and in moderation to bearded dragons as part of a balanced diet. Here are some good fruit choices:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Melon
  • Mango
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Papaya

Berries like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries provide antioxidants. Melon, mango, and papaya are good low sugar fruits. Apples and bananas offer potassium. Only feed fruit 1-2 times per week, and avoid high sugar fruits like grapes.

Best Protein Sources For Bearded Dragons

Crickets, roaches, worms, and other feeder insects make up an important part of a bearded dragon’s diet. Here are some of the top insect feeders:

  • Crickets
  • Roaches
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Mealworms
  • Superworms
  • Silkworms
  • Hornworms

Crickets and roaches are staple feeders that can be given daily. Black soldier fly larvae, or calciworms, are excellent sources of calcium. Worms like mealworms and superworms should be more limited but make good treat feeders. Silkworms and hornworms also make great occasional treats.

It’s important to properly gutload your insects and coat with supplements to increase their nutritional value. Feeders should be sized appropriately – no bigger than the space between the bearded dragon’s eyes.

Key Supplements For Bearded Dragons

Supplementing your bearded dragon’s diet is crucial to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The two main supplements to use are:

  • Calcium – supports bone health and growth; use calcium powder without D3
  • Multivitamin – provides trace nutrients including vitamins A, D3 K; use a reptile multivitamin

Lightly dust insects with calcium at every feeding for juveniles. For adults, use calcium 2-3 times per week. Provide a multivitamin 1-2 times per week for juveniles and adults. Speak to your exotic vet if you have questions about appropriate supplement schedules.

Proper UVB lighting is also critical for bearded dragons to synthesize vitamin D3 for calcium absorption.

Feeding Schedule For Juvenile Bearded Dragons

A juvenile bearded dragon is under 18 months old. Here are juvenile feeding guidelines:

  • Feed 2-3 times per day
  • Unlimited access to fresh greens
  • 2-3 feedings of insects daily; feed as many insects as they can eat in a 10-15 minute period
  • Staple insects like small crickets, roach nymphs, small mealworms
  • Occasional treats like waxworms, butterworms, silkworms
  • Lightly coat insects in calcium powder at every feeding
  • Multivitamins 1-2 times weekly
  • Chopped veggies and fruit as treats a couple times a week
  • Always access to fresh, clean water

Growing juveniles need a lot of animal protein for proper growth and development. Feeder insects at every meal provide this. Leafy greens and veggies provide fiber and key nutrients. Calcium and vitamins support bone growth and health. Fruits help provide beneficial nutrients. Water aids hydration and digestion.

Feeding Schedule For Adult Bearded Dragons

An adult bearded dragon diet may look like this:

  • Feed 1-2 times per day
  • Unlimited access to fresh salad mix of leafy greens and chopped veggies
  • 1-2 feedings of insects daily
  • 3-5 appropriately sized insects per feeding
  • Use staple feeders like crickets, worms, roaches
  • Treat insects like hornworms, waxworms, butterworms 2-3 times a week
  • Lightly dust insects with calcium 2-3 times a week
  • Multivitamins 1-2 times weekly
  • Fruit treats 1-2 times a week
  • Access to fresh water at all times

The adult diet contains more vegetables and greens than juvenile diets. Insects become more of a supplement instead of the focus. Calcium and vitamins are still needed but less frequently. Variety, moderation, and hydration are key.

Other Important Feeding Tips

Here are some other important feeding tips for bearded dragons:

  • Always monitor eating and look for signs of over- or under-eating
  • Observe bowel movements to ensure proper digestion
  • Provide food in small shallow dishes, not piles
  • Never feed insects straight from the refrigerated container – allow them to warm up
  • Remove uneaten insects within 15 minutes
  • Wash all produce before serving
  • Supply clean, fresh water daily
  • Adjust diet from juvenile to adult around 12-18 months old

Following these tips will help maintain a safe, hygienic, and healthy feeding routine for your bearded dragon.

Foods To Avoid Feeding Bearded Dragons

There are also some foods that should be avoided or limited in a bearded dragon’s diet:

  • Iceberg lettuce – low in nutrients
  • Spinach and chard – may impact calcium absorption due to oxalates
  • Avocado – may contain toxins
  • Dried fruits – high in sugar
  • Onions, garlic, leeks – may cause anemia
  • Citrus fruits – difficult to digest
  • Rhubarb – contains oxalates
  • Potatoes – high in starch
  • Insect prey over appropriate size – choking hazard

Being aware of these foods to avoid or limit will help prevent potential health issues in your bearded dragon.

Signs Of Malnutrition In Bearded Dragons

If your bearded dragon’s diet is not meeting its nutritional needs, you may see some of these signs of malnutrition:

  • Lethargy
  • Sluggishness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Difficulty shedding
  • Bone deformities
  • Hindlimb paralysis
  • Twitches
  • Respiratory infections

Catching malnutrition early and correcting the diet is essential. If you notice any of these symptoms, make a vet appointment right away for evaluation and treatment.

Common Health Issues Related To Diet

There are several common health issues that can arise in bearded dragons fed an improper diet:

  • Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) – caused by deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D3, and/or phosphorus; leads to fragile and deformed bones
  • Gout – excess uric acid buildup often from feeding too many high protein bugs; causes swollen joints
  • Obesity – overfeeding and lack of exercise leads to excessive weight gain
  • Intestinal parasites – occur from ingesting contaminated insects or produce
  • Nutrient deficiencies – improper ratios of nutrients causes deficiencies in vitamins A, E, K, B, calcium, etc.
  • Impaction – dehydration or diet too high in indigestible matter causes blockages

Ensuring proper diet, hydration, supplements, and variety will help avoid these issues that can seriously impact health and quality of life.


Providing proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of caring for a bearded dragon. Following the dietary guidelines outlined here will set your bearded dragon up for a long, happy, and healthy life. Feed a varied diet with plenty of leafy greens and vegetables along with moderate insects and fruits. Use supplements to prevent deficiencies. Tailor the diet to the bearded dragon’s age. With the right diet, your bearded dragon can thrive for years to come!

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