Diet

When it comes to raising a hearty and healthy bearded dragon, diet is an important factor that varies with age. On one hand, baby bearded dragons mostly eat meaty foods like insects. On the other hand, adult bearded dragons should eat just as many veggies as they do meats. Additionally, we recommend keeping the diet complex. It wouldn’t be good for a human to eat the same dish for every meal. The same goes for bearded dragons. 

Feeding Schedule 

FOR BABIES AND JUVENILES:

At Cliffhanger Reptiles, we regularly feed three types of insects. Our babies and juveniles are on the same schedule each day. About thirty minutes after they awake, we offer leafy greens. Babies generally eat most, if not all, of these portions. Fifteen to thirty minutes later, they get a round of crickets. If they eat all of them in under (roughly) ten minutes, they may have some more. About an hour later, they get a round or two of superworms. Subsequently, they have the opportunity to eat some dubia roaches. This routine generally ends about four hours into the day. We may offer another round of crickets or superworms in the afternoon/evening. We never feed within 2-3 hours of lights out.

This is a system designed for us. You may need to adjust it to fit your schedule. We keep multiple babies per bin, so it is essential to supply food often to prevent nips. Your dragon may not want to eat this much when alone. Don’t worry. Keep in mind that you should feed various kinds of insects multiple times throughout the day.

FOR ADULTS:

Adults are offered greens (and, if these greens dry out, we replace them with fresh ones) twice a day every day. We feed our non-breeding adults live insects every other day, following the aforementioned babies/juvenile process. Naturally, breeding adults may require more food for proper nourishment. Remember that bearded dragons do not need to eat every day as many mammals do. In the wild, bearded dragons may go for weeks without food. Besides, most captive bearded dragons are overweight. Don’t worry if your adult bearded dragon isn’t eating unless the situation goes on for an extended period (more than a week or so).

One can tell if a bearded dragon is underweight based on the hip-like bones near the base of the tail. If these bones are visible, the dragon is underweight, and the owner should contact Cliffhanger Reptiles and/or a veterinarian. 

Greens/Salad

Bearded dragons require vegetables to stay healthy. Therefore, owners should offer greens. Simple chopped collard greens are sufficient. Nevertheless, it is also a good idea to add things such as carrots, red peppers, and other leafy greens. Remember to stay away from kale and spinach. These greens draw calcium away from the bearded dragons' systems. If you are wondering what is beneficial or harmful for a salad (excluding the items on the following list), keep it simple. The USDA website has tons of information about what reptiles can and cannot eat. Either way, contact Cliffhanger Reptiles or a veterinarian if you are unsure. 

  • A good salad will alternate between leafy greens, such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, chicory, chard, escarole, and endive. Always cut out the stems. 
  • No kale. No spinach. No iceberg lettuce. 
  • One may add supplements such as broccoli (the flowery parts), radish tops, parsley, shredded carrots, bell peppers, red peppers, red cabbage, cactus leaves, and peas.
  • Spaghetti squash, blueberries, or bananas can be provided infrequently (each once or twice monthly) as a special treat. Fruits are always a treat.

*Bolded items are those we regularly use and highly recommend.*

Good Vegetables  Good Fruits Good Greens

Broccoli

Alfalfa Chow/Hay

Green Beans

Dandelion 

Carrots

Acorn Squash 

Spaghetti Squash

Yellow Squash 

Sweet Potato 

Asparagus

Yams

Pumpkins

Artichoke Heart

Bell Peppers

Zucchini 

Celery

Cucumber

Radicchio

Papayas

Apples

Figs

Pears

Apricots

Dates

Bananas  

Raspberries

Strawberries

Mangoes

Grapes

Star Fruit

Raisins

Peaches

Tomatoes 

Guava

Kiwis

Melons

Collard Greens

Beet Greens

Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens

Bok Choy

Parsley

Swiss Chard

Watercress

Clover 

Endive

Red/Green Cabbage

Cilantro

Dandelion Greens

Mustard Greens

Turnip Greens

Kohlrabi

Escarole

Green Sprouts

Live Food

Bearded dragons' diets necessitate live food, in addition to various leafy greens, and potential owners should know it is impossible to raise a bearded dragon without live food. Our research and experience show that pellet food cannot serve as a complete substitute, and that bearded dragons need some sort of live component to their diets throughout their whole lives. This may be a turning point for some people. If you are not comfortable feeding live insects, bearded dragons may not be for you. However, we notice that most become accustomed to this feeding process with time. 

In a previous section, the feeding schedule for bearded dragons was shown. With regards to live food, it is still important to note what to feed and what not to feed to bearded dragons. The following lists may help you provide your bearded dragon(s) with a well-rounded diet. 

GOOD STAPLE FOODS

GOOD TREATS

BAD IDEAS 

Crickets

Dubia Roaches

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Superworms

Hornworms

Silkworms

Mealworms

Earthworms

Butterworms

Waxworms 

Butterworms

Locusts (illegal in U.S.)

House-caught Insects

Glowing Insects (i.e. Fireflies)

Venomous Insects (i.e. Bees)

 Fish

 

Crickets-​​​​​​​ Every bearded dragon should have a significant amount of crickets in their diet; this is especially true while they are young. While crickets can be difficult to keep at home, the nutritional value is incomparable to any other live food option. At Cliffhanger Reptiles, we feed banded crickets. Many others opt to feed brown crickets, the far more popular option. Whichever species of cricket you choose for your bearded dragon, please ensure that the cricket breeder has a good reputation (e.g. disease-free crickets). Additionally, we generally do not recommend pet store crickets. Besides, it is much easier and cheaper to order 500 crickets a month than to go to the pet store multiple times per week. Note: Never leave the crickets in the cage with bearded dragons for longer than 15 minutes, as crickets are aggressive insects that can harm the bearded dragon.

Cricket Care: Prepare a bin for your crickets to reside in. For 500 crickets or fewer, use a five-gallon bucket. Place packing tape around the inner part of the top rim of the bucket. Sand the sides of the bucket from the bottom to half-way up with high-quality sandpaper. Open the box of crickets over a large bin. Remember, crickets can jump. Thus, a larger bin will always result in fewer escapees. Place the egg crate (this generally ships with the crickets) in the bucket. Do not allow the egg crate to surpass the half-way or 3/4 mark on the bucket. Once again, this will prevent escapees. To gut load (explained in a later paragraph on this page) your crickets, you should mix the cricket food (purchased from the supplier from whom you buy your crickets) with calcium. A 1:4 ratio of calcium to cricket chow is best. Place the food in the bucket, perhaps on a paper plate. Use water jelly crystals (sodium polyacrylate) or a cricket watering trough to hydrate the crickets. Water crystals can be purchased at your local home and garden store. As a bonus, feel free to place some potatoes, carrots, and tangerines in the bucket. You're all set! Do not place a lid on the bucket. Crickets are scavengers and they only jump when stimulated. Plus, the packing tape works as an escape barrier. If you are still afraid of escaping crickets, place the bucket in a larger bin. Also, if you are using more than 500 crickets at a time, use a bin with the same concept (sanding edges, packing tape, etc.). Each cricket breeder will have different guides on how to care for crickets. From our experience, this setup works well for our customers.  

Dubia Roaches- Dubia roaches are the second-best live feed option for bearded dragons. They are highly nutritious, and on top of that, they are easy to keep at home since they don't smell or make noise. However, there are some downsides to dubia roaches. For example, feeding solely dubia roaches will increase the animals' susceptibility to gout. Furthermore, dragons can easily become addicted to dubia roaches; if they eat enough, they may not want to go back to eating crickets. Roaches also lack the hydration benefit that crickets have. Generally, dubia roaches are best when used as a supplement to crickets (even though they can be a full-time staple).  

Black Soldier Fly Larvae- Also known as phoenix worms, B.S.F.L. make a great feeder staple for bearded dragons. Statistically, bearded dragons grow faster when B.S.F.L. are part of their diet. However, these larvae are small and rather pricey. They are generally kept within coconut fiber when shipped. They should be kept under room temperature and cooled for long-term storage (not refrigerated). Be cautious and avoid escapees as they will pupate and turn into flies. The pupae are a dark brown color. Adult Black Soldier Flies are harmless. When you are ready to feed, separate the B.S.F.L. from the coconut fiber and gently rinse them off with lukewarm water. Please note that, due to the high calcium content in the larva, there is no need to dust them with calcium. Shelf life is 2-4 weeks (or until pupated).

Superworms- These worms are a great alternative to mealworms. Many experts agree that mealworms (which should only be fed to adults) have a tough exoskeleton, and this proves difficult to digest. Superworms, however, are much easier on the animals' digestive systems, and the risk of impaction (harmful buildup inside the bearded dragons' intestines) is greatly reduced.

Also, superworms are very hardy feeders with a long shelf life, and they are offered in small, medium, and large. Oftentimes, pet stores only sell them in the large variation, while online breeders offer all three sizes. It is important to feed small superworms to smaller bearded dragons. Never feed anything too large to your dragon.  

Hornworms- These make some excellent feeders for all juvenile and adult bearded dragons. Found both in pet stores and online, hornworms are raised easily and grow quickly. These blue worms make a great feeder when used in moderation. Also, if a female has just laid eggs, they are a great recovery option. Although they can be a bit pricey, the size of the worm compensates for the cost. 

Silkworms- While these worms seem to be a smaller white version of the hornworm, they are known to be even more nutritious. They are very low in fat, provide a substantial source of essential vitamins, and have a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio. However, they are pricey, hard to keep, and prone to infectious disease. With care, silkworms may make a great feeder.   

GUT LOADING

Gut loading is a topic that can generally be applied to all feeder insects, and it is a timely reminder that feeder insects require just as much care as the bearded dragon does.

Essentially, gut loading is raising feeders (i.e. crickets) on special nutrients that can be passed on to the bearded dragon. For instance, providing feed with calcium, high-quality grains, and/or vegetables to your insects will improve their nutritional value (and ultimately keep your bearded dragon hearty and healthy). As a general rule of thumb, anything appropriate to feed the bearded dragon is likely safe for the insect. It is important to avoid ingredients with oxalic acid since it binds to calcium.

Hydration

Bearded dragons get some (but not sufficient amounts) of their hydration through crickets. Surprisingly, a water bowl is not needed (or even recommended) in a bearded dragon enclosure due to humidity issues. Therefore, it is important to bathe bearded dragons twice weekly.  

Bathing Bearded Dragons at Cliffhanger Reptiles

Most owners bathe their bearded dragon in a stationary tub or plastic bin. Since bearded dragons tend to defecate in their bathwater, it is important to have a container that is easy to clean. Bearded dragons' scales are also kept healthy via bathing, so one should add one to two drops of olive oil to the biweekly baths. Here at CR, we use Made-for-Reptile shedding conditioners, which can be found in pet stores and added to the bathwater. 

Misting bearded dragons is not always necessary. Bearded dragons only need to be misted as hatchlings, and dragons will never be sold this young at Cliffhanger Reptiles.

Bathing Directions: Please note that bathwater should be no more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and this can be checked with an infrared thermometer. Place the bearded dragon in water that reaches up to their shoulders. The dragon will often drink from the bathwater. It may be necessary to stir the water to attract the dragon to drink (don't worry if they do not). Always dry off your bearded dragon to prevent upper respiratory infections (URIs).