Juvenile bearded dragons require protein-heavy diets to stimulate growth and enhance their overall well-being. Mealworms are a popular insect in the reptile feed industry and many owners can’t help but wonder whether younger beardies could enjoy them without problems.
This article provides answers to the question “Can Juvenile Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?” by discussing the pros and cons of bearded dragons consuming mealworms before reaching adulthood to determine whether they may be a good fit for the domesticated lizards.
Can Juvenile Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
Juvenile bearded dragons should not eat mealworms because of the excessive chitin and fat content leading to impaction, nutritional deficiency, and obesity. Bearded dragons may eat mealworms as an occasional treat but only after reaching adulthood.
It is no secret that reptiles love the taste of mealworms and would happily gorge on them all day without fail. However, mealies are not exactly the epitome of good nutrition so caution must be taken when offering them to domesticated reptiles, particularly during infancy.
Reasons Why Juvenile Bearded Dragons Cannot Eat Mealworms
Here are the top reasons why juvenile bearded dragons should not eat mealworms until they reach adulthood.
Mealworms contain high concentrations of calories which offer benefits including a boost in cellular integrity and functionality while laying down the building blocks to minimize inflammation.
Dietary fats also enable the beardie to absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K which offer numerous positives to the reptile’s body.
However, since captive beardies engage in limited physical activity, the remaining energy is converted into fat. This increases the risks of obesity in bearded dragons which can result in mobility issues and health complications such as fatty liver disease and death from liver failure.
Delicate Digestive Systems
Juvenile bearded dragons have delicate digestive systems that struggle to absorb sophisticated nutrients like excess fats and chitin derived from the hard exoskeletons of mealworms. High amounts of chitin in the beardie’s digestive tract bind minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium resulting in blockages.
Beardies with blocked intestines experience impaction, a potentially fatal condition that requires urgent veterinary attention. Breathing becomes a struggle once impaction strikes and they often lie down in discomfort for several days.
Impaction is one of the most common causes of death in captive reptiles so care must be taken to ensure minimal exposure to chitin. Bearded dragons lose interest in food and their surrounding environment when stricken with the condition.
Mealies can have a similar effect on juvenile bearded dragons as fast food does on kids. The tasty and fatty nature means it is only a matter of time before your domesticated juveniles become addicted.
This can affect the chances of warming up to the taste of healthy foods such as kale, collard greens, and fresh green beans. Beardies may come to expect mealies daily and attempts at offering alternatives could lead to rejection of the food.
If you’re hellbent on feeding mealworms to bearded dragons, waiting until they reach adulthood can minimize the risks of addiction and related side effects.
How Old Is A Juvenile Bearded Dragon?
Juvenile bearded dragons are 6 to 12 months old. They serve as the intermediate age between baby and adult beardies. At the juvenile stage, bearded dragons continue to experience physical, mental, and emotional growth.
Their internal organs are still delicate making them susceptible to diseases, infections, and other complications. Beardies should be treated with care at the juvenile age via round-the-clock observation especially when signs of discomfort are spotted. (Source)
How Many Times A Day Should I Feed My Juvenile Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons often eat three times a day which is a decline from the 5 meals eaten during the baby stage. However, 3 meals per day can be enormous compared to the standard solitary meal offered to adult bearded dragons.
Juvenile diets should be rich in insects because they require high protein quantities to achieve the necessary physical growth.
How Fast Do Juvenile Baby Dragons Grow?
Juvenile bearded dragons grow quickly at a rate of up to 3 inches per month. Their weight also gets a significant boost from months 6 to 12 to ensure a high chance of reaching their maximum size at the onset of adulthood.
Proper nutrition comprising healthy insect diets supplemented by plant nutrients is essential to stimulating and maintaining this quick growth rate. Also, avoid keeping juveniles in pairs because the competition for food may lead to stunted growth and related problems.
How Many Mealworms To Feed A Baby Bearded Dragon?
Avoid feeding mealworms to baby bearded dragons because their digestive systems could be too weak to break down the insects. Mealworms also contain hard exoskeletons that can cause choking hazards for juvenile bearded dragons.
Wait until beardies reach adulthood before feeding mealworms to ensure maximum benefits with a low risk of complications.
What Insects Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat?
Baby mealworms may eat nutritious live insects with minimal fat content and relatively soft exoskeletons including:
- Dubya roaches
- Wax worms
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets?
Crickets are a solid choice for baby bearded dragons due to the low-fat content and mild skeletons containing small amounts of chitin. The high protein content stimulates physical growth while enabling muscle mass development and enhanced energy for the fast-growing baby bearded dragon.
Serving the right numbers of crickets enables baby bearded dragons to reach healthy sizes at the juvenile age which sets the stage for maximum growth and health by the time they become adults.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms every day?
Mealworms should be offered as an occasional treat for adult bearded dragons. Avoid serving it daily because it can increase the beardie’s exposure to obesity and complications like fatty liver disease. We recommend feeding mealworms once per week to bearded dragons for minimal problems and maximum benefits.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Dried Mealworms?
Adult bearded dragons can eat dried mealworms in moderation. Beardies love the taste of mealies and it could serve as a welcome change from staple diets like crickets, green leafy vegetables, and fruits. Dried mealies should be offered to adult beardies no more than once per week.
However, baby and juvenile beardies should not eat mealworms of any kind because of the excessive fat content and extremely hard exoskeletons.
How Many Crickets Should A Juvenile Bearded Dragon Eat?
Juvenile bearded dragons may eat up to 60 crickets per day depending on their current growth rate and how far away from their desired weight and lengths. Juveniles should enjoy a minimum of 25 crickets per day to maintain good health and vitality as they approach adulthood.
Conclusion: Can Juvenile Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
Juvenile bearded dragons can eat insects like crickets, Dubya roaches, wax worms, and grasshoppers but mealworms should be avoided for their own good. Mealworms contain high amounts of calories that may increase the risks of obesity and fatty liver disease.
Besides, the hard mealworm skeletons could pose chewing difficulties for juveniles while increasing the risk of choking on mealworms during consumption. The hard exoskeletons also contain chitin which binds multiple minerals in the beardie’s gut to cause impaction.
Beardies can die from impaction when treatment is delayed which is why an emergency vet appointment should be booked when you recognize signs of the condition. It is not uncommon for beardies to also suffer tummy upsets from eating mealworms.