Owners uncomfortable with offering insects to their pets due to ethical or other reasons might wonder whether bearded dragons can be vegetarian. Serving animal-based proteins to their pet lizards may come off as hypocritical among vegan owners in particular.
This article answers the question “Can Bearded Dragons Be Vegetarian?” by discussing whether bearded dragons could thrive off solely on plant-based diets. We also uncover the best sources of plant nutrition for these adorable pet lizards.
Can Bearded Dragons Be Vegetarian?
Bearded dragons in captivity are omnivorous creatures that require plant nutrients and insect-based proteins like crickets, roaches, and worms to meet their nutritional needs. The absence of protein diets leads to growth issues and exposure to diseases and infections.
Green leafy vegetables can be a great source of nutrition for bearded dragons as they age but protein remains critical to their growth and overall well-being. It is not uncommon for some folks to feel uncomfortable offering insects or feeder animals like pinky mice to their pets due to personal or religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, that stance could prove problematic for raising healthy bearded dragons since their nutritional base must incorporate animal protein sources.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat In Their Natural Habitat?
Bearded dragons have strong teeth and jaws that make hard-shelled insects such as beetles and crickets a favorite in their natural habitats. These omnivores enjoy a variety of flowers, leaves, and fruits that grow in the Australian deserts and grasslands.
Bearded dragons also consume non-insect prey like mice or even small-sized lizards from other species. It is not uncommon to find wild beardies that eat a higher quantity of animal-based proteins compared to plants.
Benefits of Proteins For Bearded Dragons
Proteins are critical to the well-being of cold-blooded reptiles like bearded dragons because it aids in growth and development. The powerful nutrient is essential in infants yet to reach their maximum growth potential.
Adult beardies require relatively smaller amounts of proteins because they’ve already reached maximum size. No wonder wild bearded dragons actively hunt for insects like beetles, crickets, roaches, and worms to meet their nutritional needs.
Bearded dragons in captivity need to be offered access to the right animal proteins at correct portion sizes to minimize detrimental side effects that could arise from ingesting excessive quantities. Live insects should always be provided because they can be a source of excitement as the beardie chases them up and down.
As previously stated, younger bearded dragons require more protein than adults. Here are the requirements for beardies at each stage of life.
- Baby Bearded Dragons (0-4 months) – up to 80 percent proteins
- Juveniles (4-7 months) – up to 70 percent proteins
- Sub-adults (12-18 months)- up to 30 percent protein
- Adults (18+ Months)- up to 20 percent protein
What Are The Best Insects For Feeding Bearded Dragons?
Bearded dragons enjoy a wide variety of insects when in captivity and owners should have no problems finding different options for their beloved lizards. The most popular varieties on the market include:
- Dubya roaches
Raising these insects at home may be the key to fast bearded dragon growth since owners are able to offer nutritious diets passed onto the pet lizards after consumption. Known as gut loading, the process makes a huge difference in the physical development of beardies during the Baby and Juvenile stages as they approach adulthood.
However, waiting until bearded dragons reach the adult stage before feeding mealworms and super worms is recommended. These insects feature hard outer shells that could result in bearded dragon impaction after consumption.
Besides, the fat content in mealworms and super worms can be enormous resulting in an increased risk of obesity and related effects. Bearded dragon digestive tracts struggle to break down significant amounts of protein which is another reason why rodents like pinky mice should only be fed with caution.
Dubya roaches and crickets are solid options for younger beardies due to their moderate fat content and relatively mild outer shell texture. Dubya roaches, in particular, are popular among beardie owners as a result of their neutral scents and inability to fly out of the pet lizard’s tank.
Crickets also have a preference for hopping or crawling despite the presence of full wings that enable flying. The high protein and calcium content make crickets and Dubya roaches a good choice for bearded dragons of all ages.
What Plant-Based Diets Are Suitable for Bearded Dragons?
Bearded dragons enjoy plant-based diets which play active roles in their nutritional base especially as they grow older. Let’s delve into the best types of plants for consumption and what each brings to the table.
Fruits can be a great source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber for bearded dragons but the high sugar content means they should be offered in limited amounts. We recommend a weekly serving to limit the amount of sugar in the beardie’s bloodstream.
Never offer fruits without peeling the skin if possible to minimize the risk of choking and enhance the digestion process. A few popular fruits bearded dragons enjoy are listed below:
Fruits may be susceptible to rot when left uneaten for more than 8 hours in the beardie’s tank. Avoid leaving leftover fruits overnight to eliminate the risk of breeding bacteria and other disease-causing organisms in the vivarium.
Green leafy vegetables should play a significant role in the beardie’s nutrition due to the presence of essential nutrients like minerals and vitamins to boost growth, stave off diseases, and promote proper organ functionality.
Vegetables are best served fresh to retain maximum nutrients but cooked or frozen options could be a good choice too. The following green leafy veggies offer maximum benefits for beardies.
- Beet greens
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Additional vegetables that can be beneficial to the overall health of the amazing pet lizards include:
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
Vegetables may be served independently or via salads to ensure maximum nutrients at a go while eliminating the risk of addiction to a particular vegetable. Calcium supplements could come in handy when beardies are robbed of the right quantities of green vegetables.
Bearded Dragon Pellets
Packaged bearded dragon pellets can be found in pet stores and supermarkets that stock reptile food. These pellets may also be purchased online but ditching fruits and vegetables in favor of commercial pellets could be a mistake.
Pellets should be fed alongside insects and fresh vegetables to guarantee healthy nutrition for the bearded dragon. They may also be served on occasion just like dog food and other pet foods to provide variety for the beardie’s digestive system.
Avoid feeding popular human snacks and meat products like eggs because they can lead to negative side effects.
What Foods Are Toxic To Bearded Dragons?
The last thing any pet owner wants is to feed hazardous food to their beloved animals and knowing what to avoid could be critical to the well-being of beardies. The following options can be potentially life-threatening and should be eliminated from the bearded dragon’s food bowl.
- Iceberg lettuce
- Flowers and leaves in the wild
Are Mineral Supplements Necessary For Bearded Dragons?
Animals require a healthy dose of minerals and nutrients to survive and bearded dragons are no exception. Reptiles, in particular, may be vulnerable to metabolic bone disease when the right amounts of calcium are missing from their diets.
Calcium supplements can be sprinkled on the beardie’s food twice per week during their baby stages and weekly after reaching the Juvenile stage. Vitamin supplements should also be introduced to enhance the beardie’s growth prospects and minimize susceptibility to diseases.
Owners should always seek recommendations from their vets on what supplements to offer these pet lizards for maximum health benefits.
Creating The Perfect Bearded Dragon Vivarium Environment
Bearded dragons are cold-blooded reptiles susceptible to temperature fluctuations in their tank environments. Failure to provide a habitat close to the conditions in their native Australian deserts and grasslands could make them more susceptible to diseases and infections.
The beardie’s vivarium should offer the right temperature gradient to ensure maximum comfort from the right heating and lighting sources. Bearded dragons also require specific humidity levels to guarantee healthy breathing which should be well taken care of.
Additionally, the reptile’s enclosure must feature multiple hiding spots as well as a basking spot to ramp up their internal temperatures when need be. These spots may have rocks or hammocks to enable easy access to the basking spot.
Besides, the beardie’s tank should contain a large swimmable water bowl serving as a hydration source after eating to ease up digestion and enhance their overall functionality. Do not hesitate to refill water bowls daily because bearded dragons may poop in them.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cat Food?
Bearded dragons should not eat wet or dry cat food because of the excessive protein, phosphorus, and fat content. This could increase the risk of complications like obesity and metabolic bone disease.
Conclusion: Can Bearded Dragons Be Vegetarian?
Bearded dragons cannot eat vegetarian diets because they require proteins at every stage of their lives for proper growth and well-being. Infant beardies may require as much as 80 percent protein content while adults thrive on 20 percent protein diets.
Vegetarian diets could lead to stunted growth and vulnerability to numerous diseases and infections for bearded dragons. Vegan owners may desire to offer vegetarian-only diets but the results can be catastrophic.
Owners should stick to the recommended bearded dragon diets comprising veggies and insects supplemented with fruits for maximum growth and well-being.