Bearded Dragon Diet in the Wild

Bearded Dragon Diet in the Wild

Most bearded dragon owners are concerned about the diet of their reptile pets. Can bearded dragons eat fruits? Can they eat meat? Can they eat bread? These are some common questions we get. As a bearded dragon owner, you may also want to know about the diet of a bearded dragon in the wild, so you can replicate the same diet in captivity. So, here are some important facts to know about bearded dragon diet in the wild.

Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning that they eat green plants as well as animals. In the wild, they usually prey on invertebrates, such as insects and beetles. They also eat fruits, flowers, and vegetables.  This constitutes a balanced diet for bearded dragons.

What vegetables can bearded dragons eat?

There is a long list of vegetation that they eat, including dandelions, clover, flowers, grasses, and Perennial Soybean. In addition, they also consume vegetables, such as sweet potato, broccoli, cabbage, beans, peas, bell pepper, kale, coriander, and parsley.

Which invertebrates do they prey on?

Beardies typically prey on invertebrates, such as ants, cockroaches, grasshoppers, and crickets. In addition, some bearded dragons also eat katydids, caterpillars, locusts, mosquitos, termites, bees, wasps, butter worms and silkworms, Phoenix worms, centipedes, and even spiders. Approximately 61% of the dry matter in their diet comes from nine arthropod orders.

Do you need to cook foods for your bearded dragon?

You don’t need to cook certain foods, such as pumpkin and squash, but some foods, such as sweet potato contains trypsin enzyme inhibitors. Cooking helps deactivate those inhibitors before your beardie eats them. Some other foods like chickpeas, legumes, soybeans contain trypsin inhibitors. So, you must cook them as well. Ideally, you can cook the foods for your bearded dragon in a microwave, oven or pot at 90 degrees Celsius or higher. Also, make sure you use only water for cooking. Avoid oil altogether.

Which fruits do they eat?

Bearded dragons eat a wide variety of fruits, including figs, dates, raisins, strawberries, grapes, peaches guava, apricot, papaya, plums, kiwi, pears, mango, melon, and apples. So, the next time you eat any of these fruits, make sure to share it with them!

Drinking water

A bearded dragon in captivity may drink from a dish but in the wild it is different. When it rains, a beardie would stand up on its rear limbs and lick the water as it runs down its body.

The frequency of food consumption

Since bearded dragons consume a wide variety of food in varying amounts, it is important to know the standard frequency of their food consumption. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a beardie should consume leafy greens daily, insects for six days per week, vegetables for four days per week, vitamins for three days per week and fruits for only once a week.

Vitamin supplements for bearded dragons

You should give your beardie vitamin supplements, such as Calcium and Vitamin D3 in powder form with the food. This ensures a nutritious diet for them. They get protein and fatty acids from their diet. The way to give vitamins is to give one vitamin today and then the other one tomorrow rather than mixing them. In most cases, Vitamin A, D, and E are taken through balanced diets.

Essential nutrients in their diet

The diet of a bearded dragon in the wild contains certain essential nutrients, such as Anthocyanin, Beta carotene, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, goitrogens, copper, and fiber. Of these, protein, carbohydrates fats/lipids and water make up the bulk of their diet. Each nutrient plays a significant role in their nutrition. Fiber, for instance, helps in producing bulky stool. On the other hand, goitrogens serve as anti-nutrients that you must provide in moderation because an overdose of it can disrupt the thyroid hormones. Foods like turnip, strawberries, Choy, broccoli, kale, soy, cabbage, peanuts have this anti-nutrient.

Calcium deficiency

Calcium deficiency can trigger serious health hazards in a bearded dragon. In the worst case, it can lead to metabolic bone disease. Sunlight is the key to calcium absorption. So, make sure your beardie gets enough sunlight exposure during the day and eat fresh plants and live insects.

Vitamin requirements

Baby beardies under the age of six months should consume vitamin supplements daily. From the age of 6 months to 1 year, you can give them vitamin supplements every other day. As they cross the age of one year, give them calcium after every two or three days, while at the same time limit the frequency of their vitamin consumption to twice a week.

What foods they should not eat

It is equally important to know about the types of food your bearded dragon should not eat. Of the foods harmful to bearded dragons, avoid giving them Iceberg lettuce, spinach, fireflies, avocados, and rhubarb at all costs. Fireflies, for instance, are toxic and can even kill them. Avocados can make them ill. While your bearded dragon can eat spinach, make sure not to give them a large amount of spinach. Some types of spinach contain the chemical called oxalates that can trigger calcium deficiency and other health problems in your beardie.

The eating mechanism

How they take in the food is another important thing to know. Typically, when these lizards subdue the prey, they open the mouth quickly and the sticky tongue pulls the food and holds it between their teeth. The jaw muscles are strong enough to quickly kill and break up the food item to make it easier to swallow.

The size of food

A rule of thumb is to never feed the bearded dragon food that is larger than the space between their eyes. Interestingly, ingesting large pieces can cause serious problems such as paralysis, loss of motor control and other hazards. So, make sure you chop the plants and vegetables in small pieces, so as to make it easier for your beardie to digest them.

How much food is too much?

Deciding on the correct amount of food for a bearded dragon often gets tricky. That’s mainly because different experts suggest a different amount for each food. However, one easy solution to this is to let your beardie eat till it’s full. Unlike humans, a bearded dragon will stop eating once they are full. So, if they stop eating, move the food away. interestingly, a general rule is that you should feed them approximately 10% of their ideal body weight. If, however, they are eating much lesser than this measure, it means that there is a loss of appetite.

When to feed

Typically, you should feed your bearded dragon during the basking time. That’s because the temperature plays a crucial role in helping your beardie digest the food.

The diet of baby bearded dragons

Ideally, you should feed baby Beardies (neonates) more frequently than adults. Feeding them thrice a day, for instance, is a good de-facto standard.  The quantity of their food intake, however, depends on their age. Their diet predominantly includes insects rather than vegetables.

The diet of juvenile beardies

Their diet consists of a 1:1 ratio of vegetables and insects. This essentially means that their diet should contain 50% insects and 50% vegetables and fruits. Remember, juvenile bearded dragons are more susceptible to metabolic bone diseases due to calcium deficiency.

The diet of adult bearded dragons

As a bearded dragon in captivity ages, it should eat fewer insects and more greens.  That’s because bearded dragons don’t get to make a lot of free movements in captivity. So, if they consume a lot of insects, they can easily get overweight. In the wild, however, bearded dragons do enough movements to burn any extra calories from fatty foods.  

Why do beardies stop eating?

There could be many reasons for this. If the temperature is too hot or too cold, it can lead to a loss of appetite. However, a loss of appetite does not qualify for an alarming situation. If the loss of appetite is coupled with weight loss, lethargy, bloating, or injuries, it is a matter of concern. And you must consult a vet.

Feeding an ill beardie

Symptoms of illness can include diarrhea, droopy eyes and a lack of energy. The first thing is to find a veterinarian who is a specialist in this breed. At this time, stop giving them solid foods. Instead, give them watery foods. If necessary, use a syringe to feed them. However, it’s always good to follow professional advice.

What do bearded dragons eat during the brumation period?

Brumation is a hibernation-like state that most cold-blooded animals experience. This is to survive the cold months when there is lesser food available. They will sleep in burrow and depend on their internal reserves for nutrition. During the brumation period, your bearded dragon may eat less. But don’t worry about that. It is a natural process for them.

The diet of a pregnant bearded dragon

A pregnant or gravid bearded dragon needs special attention especially when it comes to diet. For instance, increase their calcium intake. Give them vegetables that contain high levels of calcium, such as squash, cranberries, kelp, papayas, and alfalfa. Also, consider giving them calcium supplements five times a week and multivitamins every other day.