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What Vegetables Can a Bearded Dragon Eat?
Table of Contents
Bearded Dragons, like humans, do best on a varied and sensible diet, because they are omnivorous. Juveniles having slightly different dietary demands than adults. Young dragons need a diet that is about 50% vegetable and 50% insects. Adults need slightly less protein. Certain flowers, leaves, vegetables, fruits, and insects are great for your beardie. But they do need to a varied diet.
Flowers & Greens
Let’s start with flowers and leaves from plants that may or may not be found in the grocery store or in your garden.
- Alfalfa flowers
- Baby's Tears
- Basil (leaves and flowers)
- Chinese Lantern (flowers)
- Carnations (petals)
- Chamomile, English
- Dahlia (flowerhead)
- Dandelion (leaves, flowerhead)
- Day Lilies (flowers)
- *Dracaena (cornplant)
- *Ficus (leaves)
- Geranium (flowers, leaves)
- Johnny-Jump-Up (flowers)
- Hibiscus, Tropical & Blue (flowers, leaves)
- *Hollyhock (leaves, flowers) can cause dermatitis in pets and people
- Hens and Chicks
- *Maple (leaves)
- Mesquite (leaves)
- Mulberry (leaves)
- Nasturtium (flowers, leaves)
- Pansies (flowers)
- Pea, Green Bean (leaves, pods)
- Pinks (petals)
- Rose (petals)
- Rose of Sharon (a hibiscus in the mallow family)
- Rosemary (leaves, flowers)
- Sage (leaves, flowers)
- *Spider Plant (leaves, sap may be a skin irritant)
- *Split-Leaf Philodendron (leaves)
- Squash / Zucchini (flowers)
- Thyme (leaves, flowers)
- True Violets (Not African Violets)
- *Wandering Jew (leaves, sap may be a skin irritant)
- Yucca (flowers)
*Some of the above plants are rated as approved by many keepers, but I personally would not use them. For instance, many lists include split leaf Philodendron, which is highly toxic to cats and dogs (and people). This plant contains high concentrations of oxalates that may not kill your beardie, but over time may contribute to metabolic bone disease. My rule in general for house plants is that if I wouldn’t want to put it on my salad, I don’t give it to my herps. I stick with clean, organic dandelions (and lots of them), anything in the rose family, things I am sure of in the mallow family such as Rose of Sharon, culinary herbs in small amounts, nasturtiums, violets, and squash blossoms.
There are great food items to be found at your local grocery store. It must be noted that just because a vegetable is good for you, it is not a great vegetable for bearded dragons. Don’t assume, because even highly touted human super foods can be toxic to your herp. Know what is recommended and what is taboo, and what is somewhere in between.
The Does and Don’ts of leafy green vegetables
Not everything considered a super food for people is good for your beardie. Many ‘health food’ greens contain sufficient oxalic acid to impact your pet in a very short time. While not necessarily poisonous in the strictest sense, they contain such high amounts of oxalic acid, which binds calcium making it unavailable for metabolic use, that your pet will develop metabolic bone disease if fed these greens continuously. For instance, Swiss Chard contains 645 mg of oxalates per 100 grams of leaf matter, Mustard Greens contain 7.7 mg of oxalates per 100 grams of leaf matter. The clear winner here is….Mustard Greens.
Do not feed these vegetables:
- Swiss Chard
- Beet Tops
- Collard Greens
Feed these vegetables occasionally:
- Mustard Greens
- Dandelion greens
- Bok Choy
Feed these vegetables daily:
- turnip greens
The items on the feed daily list don’t have to be fed daily, but it will not hurt them if you do. The benefit of these daily vegetables is that they are rich in the nutrients that bearded dragons thrive on. You can switch them up for items on the occasionally list, for a change of pace. The items on both the daily and occasionally list have a favorable calcium to phosphorus ratio and not enough oxalates to bind the calcium at a rate that makes it unavailable for use for those beardie bones.
Any of these greens can be frozen for future use, but bear in mind that when freezing leafy greens, the thiamine (vitamin B1) will leach out. When frozen greens are fed over a long period of time and no provision is made for adding the thiamine back into the diet, a deficiency called hypothiaminosis will occur. This causes tremors and twitches, in a manner resembling true MBD. Fresh is therefore best whenever possible, but frozen is OK occasionally as well.
Never Ever feed these to your Bearded Dragon:
- Seafood of any kind, including shrimp and shell fish
- Rhubarb leaves: these are poisonous for all animals except certain insects.
- Certain Flowers: Know your plants, both wild and cultivated. If you aren’t sure what is in your garden and you let your beardie stroll with you occasionally, make sure you know what’s planted there. For instance, those lovely fox-gloves in your garden are full of digitalis, which will stop your beardie’s heart (and yours) if eaten. Bracken ferns, buttercups, crocus, daffodil, holly, horse chestnut, and poppies are all toxic. This is not a comprehensive list, so investigate the plants in your particular environs.
- Insects captured in the wild: Wild insects may have diseases and parasites in them harmful to beardies. Always buy crickets from a reputable insect grower.
- Fireflies: Never feed Bearded Dragons, or any other reptile, fireflies. Any insects that glow are toxic and can kill reptiles.
- Avocados: Chemicals in avocados are toxic for beardies. A small amount will make your reptile ill and a large portion can be fatal. Note this superfood is really bad for cats and dogs as well. Go figure.
Limit Fruit Consumption
When it comes to fruits, feed these as you would dessert. Only 10% of an adult beardies diet should be comprised of fruits.
Although beardies tolerate grapes and raisins well, these items are toxic to dogs, so don’t toss the extras to Fido as your way of making him feel included. Bearded dragons love blue berries, but only provided those that are fresh and thoroughly washed. Some keepers have had very bad experiences with frozen blueberries that they assumed were well-washed, but in reality were soaking in pesticides (something for the human consumer to be aware of as well). My policy is to only feed fresh berries that I have washed myself and to cut them up into small pieces (even the blueberries get cut in half). Do not feed chilled fruit under any circumstances, room temperature only.
Insects for food
Beardies are usually pretty good eaters and feeding them invertebrates is kind of fun. However, they have an extremely short digestive tract, and for that reason some food items suitable for some reptiles will not work for beardies. Do not, not, not, feed mealworms, for this very reason. They are not particularly high in protein, are fatty and are comprised mainly of hard exoskeleton segments. These indigestible bits rob your beardie of nutrients and may even lead to impaction of the gut. Black soldier fly larva are an ideal substitute for mealworms, as are dubia roaches and the occasional cricket. Feed these items on a rotating basis twice per day for an adult, and 4 times per day for a juvenile. Properly chopped greens, vegetables and fruits can be left in the enclosure for in between meal snacks, taking care to clean up any uneaten soft and sticky fruits within an hour or two. Vegetables can stay in there a while longer.
Squash and Cucumbers
In my book, nothing beats the convenience of food items from the cucurbit family. Summer squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and cucumbers are just of few of the selections in that family that your pet will love. Add the occasional serving of finely chopped carrots and green bell peppers and your dragon will thrive. These foods can be provided daily and left in the enclosure all day with no problem, although I always remove the uneaten bits the next day for sure.
Supplements and Pelleted Food
There are some dandy pelleted foods for BD consumption, most of which contain 20% protein or higher. They also come with vitamins and minerals built in. For instance, Zoo Med Bearded Dragon Food is reasonably priced, 24% protein, well balanced with calcium and other nutrients, and is generally highly palatable to most beardies. I prefer providing fresh foods on a daily basis when home, but when traveling I will certainly but some of these out so a pet sitter doesn’t have to fool with a complicated feeding regimen. Just be aware that if you do feed these on a regular basis, do not add supplements to your beardie’s other foods. Some additives that are critical for proper nutrition in small amounts can be toxic when overdone. It is wise to get to know which supplements are harmless to overdo, such as Vitamin C, and which, like Vitamin A and D3,can become toxic quite quickly.
Frequent rotation of foods and knowledge of the basics of adequate nutrition and safety considerations are among the top 3 ways for keeping your dragon happy and healthy (along with proper environmental conditions and sanitation).