Bearded dragons are a popular choice for first time and experienced reptile owners alike. They are incredibly friendly, docile, and easy to care for. Also known as ‘beardies’, these little lizards are a treat to care for, providing owners with plenty of entertainment thank to their vivacious personalities.
Bearded dragons are diurnal, meaning that they keep the same schedule as humans, active during the day and sleeping at night, This gives you plenty of opportunities to bond with and enjoy your new pet. Beardies are very playful active during their waking hours, making them a treat to observe.
With the proper care and a well balanced diet, you can expect to enjoy six to ten years with your new friend, though some beardies live even longer, with the oldest recorded domesticated beardie living to just shy of 19 years. One of the best ways to extended the longevity of your bearded dragon is to pay extra attention and care to their diet. Poor diet is a major risk factor for many of the illnesses bearded dragons are most susceptible to.
Diet and Nutrition
Bearded dragons are omnivorous lizards, meaning that much like people they enjoy a diet of both plants and animal based proteins. The diet of a juvenile beardie should be an 80/20 split, with 80% of their intake coming from bugs and 20% from various plant matter, like fruits and vegetables.
Some owners find that it can be difficult to get their beardies to intake any fruits of vegetables while they are young, which is why it is important to proceed with patience and make time to train them, introducing them to new foods in small doses, frequently through hand feeding if your beardie is comfortable with you.
The diet of full grown bearded dragons is the opposite of their juvenile counterparts, consisting of 80% fruits and vegetables and only 20% insect protein. Of the 80% of their diet that consists of fruits and vegetables, fruit should account for 10% or less due to its high sugar and water content.
Too much fruit can act as a laxative for your beardie, causing digestive issues and discomfort, as well as increasing their risk of dehydration. With that said, fruit is a favorite of many bearded dragons and makes an excellent treat. It is also ideal to use to bond with your beardie, as an ideal food for hand feeding.
What Fruits Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
Here are some of the fruits you can prepare for your bearded dragon:
- Cactus Fruit (aka Prickly Pear)
Fruits to avoid include all types of citrus, such as grapefruits, lemons, limes, and oranges, as well as rhubarb, which are all highly toxic to bearded dragons. The high acidity of these fruits can cause diarrhea. More importantly, these fruits can disrupt your beardies dietary Ca:P ratio. Ca:P ratio is especially important in bearded dragons, for every gram of phosphorus they eat they must also eat a gram of calcium to prevent calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency in bearded dragons may lead to serious bone loss and chronic health conditions.
This list is not exhaustive, any questions you may have should be directed to a professional or your veterinarian. Keep in mind that while all of the above fruits are safe to offer your bearded dragon, each lizard will have their own preferences, just like humans! Even if you’ve previously owned a bearded dragon who loved pears, you may find your new friend shows no interest in them at all but goes crazy for mangos. Many owners report discovering their beardies taste preferences to be very enjoyable and an excellent bonding experience.
Introducing New Foods to Your Bearded Dragon
You may find that it takes some time to get your beardie to accept new fruits into their diet, this is normal, just be patient! Fruits that are especially soft or wet may take some additional time a coaxing as your beardie can have a difficult time grabbing onto these with their soft tongue, which may discourage them.
You can help ease them into new fruits by properly preparing them, fruits should be sliced, or when appropriate, shredded, into small bite sized pieces. Seeds, stems, and any difficult to eat skin or outer coatings should be removed. Soft and wet fruits should be hand fed to your bearded dragon, though this may result in an occasionally nip as they struggle to grasp a particularly slippery piece.
If this is a problem, you can assist your beardie by gently coaxing the fruit forward into their mouth while they try to grasp it. Some fruits, such as strawberries, serve well as a puree to your lizard, though you need to be mindful of spoilage and remove the liquid before it can negatively impact the cleanliness of your bearded dragons habitat.
Food Training Your Bearded Dragon
If you are fortunate enough to adopt your bearded dragon as a baby, you can ease them into their proper diet by introducing them to fruits and vegetable right at the start. Experts suggest starting their morning with a fresh variety of fruit and vegetables ensuring it is the only food source they have access to at the start of each day.
Keep watch to see if your beardie shows interest in the mixture, if they inspect the food but do not eat any of it, consider trying to hand feed it to them. Start by placing a bite sized portion in your hand and offer it to them. If you and your beardie are already bonded and comfortable together, this should be very effective. If not, don’t worry! Keep trying each morning and make time outside of feedings to bond and play with your beardie.
Things to Remember While Food Training Your Bearded Dragon
The point of this exercise is to try and get your beardie to eat some fruits or vegetables before they fill up on insect protein, when they get hungry, they will likely help themselves to the fruits and vegetables provided they are still fresh. It is important to get your lizard accustomed to eating fruits and vegetables, but you shouldn’t withhold other foods for too long in hopes that they will eat it.
If it reaches the afternoon and your beardie has still not eaten the fruit and vegetable mixture, remove it from their cage so it does not spoil and dirty their habitat, and offer them some foods that they like. Food training often takes time, so don’t get discouraged! The most important thing is to take your time and keep your beardies best interests in mind, don’t let them go hungry if they don’t show an interest in fruits and vegetables right away.
Once your beardie is regularly enjoying plant matter as part of their diet, you can begin to use small pieces of fruit as training tools. Bearded dragons can be ‘litter trained’, for example, to go to the bathroom in one location in their vivarium. You can also use it to help them get comfortable with leash training if you wish to take them on walks, or even to introduce them to playing with ping pong balls, an activity many bearded dragons enjoy. Much like cats and dogs, bearded dragons can be very effectively motivated by treats.