Laid-back, easy to handle, and hardy, bearded dragons make great pets for both new and experienced reptile owners. Affectionately referred to as beardies, these little lizards have big personalities. Since they roam during the day and sleep at night, you'll have plenty of opportunities to watch and enjoy your dragon's antics rather than sleeping through them as do people who own nocturnal lizards. With good care and a proper bearded dragon diet, you can expect your lizard friend to live six-to-10 years. Some live even longer.
Feed your bearded dragon veggies
Like many human children, baby bearded dragons don't eat many veggies. Young dragons eat a diet consisting of around 80-percent insects and 20-percent fruits and vegetables. These numbers reverse in adulthood, with adult dragons consuming 80-percent veggies and only 20-percent insects. Bearded dragons need lots of green, leafy vegetables, so give yours plenty of collards, mustard, and turnip greens. You can also provide her with peeled cucumbers, cabbage, squash, pumpkin, carrots, bell peppers, and kale. She'll enjoy green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, too.
Although it's green and leafy, never feed your dragon spinach. Spinach binds firmly with calcium and may prevent your lizard's body from absorbing enough of it. Avocados are toxic to lizards and you should never give your dragon rhubarb. Avoid pale vegetables that lack nutrients, as well, such as iceberg lettuce and celery. Beet greens make a good snack but feed them sparingly.
Offer your bearded dragon fruit
Fruits should comprise the smallest portion of your beardie's diet but do include them. He'll happily munch on papayas, peeled bananas, apples, raspberries, plums, peaches, and pears. Dragons also like watermelon, pineapples, cherries, and grapes. When offering fruit, remember that some fruits are quite delicate and begin to rot quickly. Check the fruit frequently and remove it as soon as it starts to turn. Bearded dragons need a clean habitat. Never feed citrus fruits as these could upset your pet's stomach.
Provide proteins and supplements
Vegetables and fruits make up the majority of an adult beardie's diet, but bearded dragons are omnivores and do need some meat protein. Feed your dragon two-to-three meals a day, giving adults one insect meal and juveniles two insect meals or more. Always feed gut-loaded insects. A gut-loaded insect is one that was fed a very high-nutrient diet before itself becoming food for your dragon. Lightly dust these insect meals with calcium powder for an extra boost. Bearded dragons eat crickets, earthworms, dubia roaches, and black soldier fly larvae.
Butterworms, waxworms, and mealworms are high in fat. Offer them only as occasional treats so your dragon doesn't gain weight or become obese. Never feed your beardie insects that you've rounded up yourself. The insects in and around your home likely contain at least small amounts of pesticides that could harm your reptile friend. Lightening bugs and other glowing insects are also toxic to lizards, so avoid feeding them as well.
When offering insects to your beardie, leave them in the enclosure with her for about 15 minutes. After that, remove any uneaten critters from the cage and check the water dish for drowning victims. Insects don't stay where you put them and often hide in the substrate at the bottom of the cage. Because of this, some beardie owners feed their dragon in a separate enclosure. This makes after-dinner cleanup much easier and prevents an overzealous eater from accidentally ingesting substrate when grabbing a tasty insect.
The mysterious water dish
In the wild, bearded dragons ingest the dew and rainwater that collect in plant leaves and flowers. When confronted with a water dish, some beardies simply don't have a clue what to do with it. To entice yours to drink from a bowl, try adding a touch of fruit juice to the water to make it more appealing. Until he gets the hang of the dish, lightly mist his cage with water once a day to make sure he gets enough to drink. He'll happily lick water droplets from the side of his aquarium until he figures out the whole water dish thing.
- Reptiles Magazine: Bearded Dragon Care Sheet
- The Bearded Dragon: What Do Bearded Dragons Eat
- Bearded Dragon Care 101: Gut Loading Insect Feeders for a Bearded Dragon
- The Bearded Dragon: Bearded Dragon Diet, Food, & Nutrition
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Bearded Dragon Diet Requirements
- Reptiles Magazine: Bearded Dragon Won’t Drink