Whenever a Bearded Dragons diet is being discussed one of the main focuses is their need to consume calcium. This can often cause a lot of confusion and ultimately raise more questions than answers.
I’ve decided to put all the information you need about calcium as a Bearded Dragon owner on this page in a straightforward and easy to understand way.
So why do Bearded Dragons need calcium? Bearded Dragons need calcium because it’s essential to grow and develop bones. It’s also important for females to form their eggs properly. Bearded Dragons that don’t get enough calcium can suffer from serious health conditions such as metabolic bone disease.
Read on to find out more about why Bearded Dragons need calcium, how to tell if they are lacking calcium, what the best calcium supplements are, how much calcium your Bearded Dragons needs and much more.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Need Calcium (A Closer Look)
Calcium is so important to Bearded Dragons as they need it to grow, develop and maintain their bones.
A Bearded Dragon that has the correct lighting setup and a balanced diet that contains the required levels of calcium will have every chance of growing happy and healthy.
A Bearded Dragon that has both the correct lighting setup and balanced diet but doesn’t have the right amount of calcium in their diet will struggle to grow and will ultimately have a high chance of major health problems.
If the amount of calcium in a Bearded Dragons system drops below the required level then their body is forced to recycle calcium from the bones and reuse it. This is backed up by pethelpful who also quote this as a major concern with lack of calcium with Bearded Dragons.
This will often lead to serious health issues such as metabolic bone disease.
What Is Metabolic Bone Disease?
Metabolic bone disease or MBD is a disease that affects the health of the bones of a Bearded Dragons bones through a lack of calcium.
Affected Bearded Dragon can often be in a lot of pain and struggle to perform even the simplest of tasks.
They can struggle to stand up straight, walk or climb. In fact, a Bearded Dragon that has severe MBD can spend most of their day laying of their stomack as they will often be too weak to hold up their body.
It’s most common in Bearded Dragons under the age of 2 years old and can be caused by 3 main reasons.
The 3 reasons are the basking temperature being too cold which won’t allow the Dragon to digest food correctly, lack of exposure to UVB light but most commonly a lack of calcium in the Bearded Dragons diet.
How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon Is Low On Calcium
If your Bearded Dragon is low on calcium then the best way to tell for sure will be to get a blood test done for your local vet.
That being said, there are some signs you should look out for that point towards low calcium intake or even the early signs of metabolic bone disease.
Here are the signs to look out for
- Swelling of the jaw
- Softening of the jaw or legs (rubber jaw)
- Tremors (shaking legs when trying to walk)
- Lack of appetite
- Stunted Growth
When doing our research we found that VCAHospitals also talk about most of these symptoms as signs of a calcium deficiency or MBD in Bearded Dragons.
Why Is Vitamin D3 Important For Calcium Absorption?
One thing that is often overlooked is the vital role that vitamin D3 plays in the absorption of calcium in a Bearded Dragons body.
Bearded Dragons need vitamin D3 to allow the calcium they consume to be absorbed and digested.
A Bearded Dragon could get the required daily amount of calcium it needs but if they are lacking in vitamin D3 then the calcium is basically useless.
How Can You Make Sure Your Bearded Dragon Is Getting Vitamin D3?
The easiest and most painless way to ensure your Bearded Dragon is getting the required daily amount of vitamin D3 is to use a vitamin D3 supplement. This way you can be sure their vitamin D3 levels are consistent and they will be at the correct level to help the calcium be absorbed.
Important: You also need to make sure that your UVB light is set up correctly, and giving off the required UVB rays to help the vitamin D3 be processed.
All 3 of these elements are essential to each other
- High-quality UVB light
- Vitamin D3
If anyone of these 3 factors is missing then your Dragon will likely suffer health problems.
Note: the only time where you wouldn’t need to supplement with vitamin D3 is if you either use a mercury vapour bulb to supply your Dragon with UVB or if your Dragon lives outside as both scenarios would result in your Bearded Dragon getting enough high-quality UVB rays to process all the vitamin D3 they needed without the need for supplementation.
If you need help to set up the lighting in your tank and understand where to place the UVB light then take a look at this post right here.
If you want to know the best and only UVB light I would recommend then take a look at this lighting equipment post here.
Why Calcium Supplementation Is Essential
Now we’ve established why calcium is so important to Bearded Dragons let’s now take a look at why it’s vital that you use a calcium supplement rather than just relying on the calcium in your Dragon natural diet to keep them healthy.
There are some natural foods contain calcium that most Bearded Dragons enjoy, however, these foods would need to be eaten in huge amounts to on a daily basis to reach the daily calcium requirement for healthy a Bearded Dragon.
Below is a guide that shows the % of calcium content for popular foods that are given to Bearded Dragons. (thanks to ‘The Bearded Dragon Manual’ for sharing these detailed statistics)
Bearded Dragon | Foods With Calcium %
As you can see your Bearded Dragon would have to consume unrealistic amounts of these foods to hit their daily goal.
For this reason, supplementation is not only recommended but essential. Having a regular supplementation routine of both calcium and vitamin D3 will give you the confidence that your Dragon is getting the nutrients it needs to grow and stay healthy throughout its life.
What Are The Best Calcium & Vitamin D3 Supplements?
There are two stand-out calcium supplements that you should consider giving your Dragon.
Which supplement you choose will depend on the kind of UVB bulb you are using.
If you are using a normal UVB bulb such as a T5 10.0 then you should really be using calcium with added vitamin D3. The best and most trusted product is Rep-Cal, I’ve written a post here that shares the exact product and the best place to get it from.
If you are using a mercury vapour bulb then the UVB output of these bulbs is far greater and this will help to process vitamin D3 naturally so supplementation of D3 isn’t strictly needed.
For this reason, the best option is to use the same trusted brand Rel-Cal but use the calcium only option. Again you can take a look at this post here that shows the exact product and where you can get it from at the best price.
How Much Calcium Do Bearded Dragons Need Each Day?
While calcium is vital for Bearded Dragons of all ages, they will generally need to consume for when they are younger and as they grow the number of supplementation decreases into adulthood.
Here’s a guide to help you understand the amount of supplementation needed at various points in your Bearded Dragons life. Please use as a guide only. (if you are ever in doubt you should consult your vet)
Thanks to – Lizards101 For The Source of information
Bearded Dragon | Calcium Supplementation Guide
|Age||Times Per Week|
|24 Months +||3|
|(Gravid Female)||6-7 (During & 1 Months After Laying)|
How to Feed Bearded Dragons Calcium Supplements (Step By Step)
Now that you know what the best calcium supplements are and how often your Dragon needs to consume them, the next thing you need to know is the best way to actually add them to your Dragons diet.
Something I would never recommend is adding the calcium supplement to your Bearded Dragons water bowl as this often only get half-drunk at best and Bearded Dragons can sometimes defecate in the bowl and it will need cleaning.
All in all, this isn’t an efficient way to ensure your Dragon is getting the calcium supplement.
Another method I would avoid is dusting the fruit and veg in your Dragons tank.
This can be effective sometimes but it also comes with a lot of problems such as most Bearded Dragon won’t eat all the fruit or vet in one sitting so the calcium powder will get wet from the moisture of the fruit/veg and turn clumpy and end up either in the bottom of the bowl or laying on the substrate.
Again, most of the powder won’t be consumed and you won’t know if your Dragon is getting the amount of calcium they vitally need.
The best way to give your Bearded Dragon calcium powder by far is to dust insects.
As you know, Bearded Dragons love insects and they will gobble the portion you put in front of them in minutes.
Dusting insects is the only way to ensure you can get them to consume the full dosage of calcium powder required.
Here’s how to dust insects with calcium powder ready for your Bearded Dragon to eat.
Step 1 – Add the insects to a shaker. Any shaker will work, however, you can get a specially designed cricket shaker for dusting insects.
Step 2 – Add the required dosage of calcium powder to the shaker.
Step 3 – Gently shake until all the insects are covered in the powder.
Step 4 – Feed to insects to your Bearded Dragon. It’s important that you dust the insects just before mealtime so that the powder doesn’t brush off the insects over time.
Can Bearded Dragons Get too Much Calcium?
Bearded Dragons can actually get too much calcium. I know we have talked about the importance of calcium and why it’s vital for your Bearded Dragon but it’s actually not healthy for them to get too much either.
It’s far less common for a Bearded Dragon to suffer from an overdose of calcium compared to a lack of calcium, however, this can sometimes occur when owners get scared about a lack of calcium and then give copious amounts to their Dragon thinking that more is always better.
For your Dragon to experience any problems there will usually need to be a high level of vitamin D3 in the system as well to allow the copious amounts of calcium to be digested and processed.
If you follow the dosage guidelines and have a good supplementation routine there is no reason to think that your Dragon will even end up with too much calcium or vitamin D3 in their system.
Just remember that the dosage is something you need to respect as it can cause major health problems such as the calcification of muscles and this can leave them seriously ill and even lead to death.
How to Treat Calcium Deficiency In Bearded Dragons?
If your Bearded Dragon has a calcium deficiency or is possibly in the early stages of metabolic bone disease then you have no option to take them to your vet.
The vet will do advanced checked, usually including blood tests and depending on the result of the blood test they will often administer oral injections of calcium and vitamin D.
You should never try and treat your Dragon at home without the opinion and advise of your vet.
I know vet bills can be expensive so I decided to do some research on reptile insurance options for the Us and UK. I’ve written a post here that shares my finding, the best policies and other alternatives that you may not have thought of.
These other options might help spread the cost of vet bills for some owners.
How do Bearded Dragons get calcium in the wild? In the wild, Bearded Dragons get their calcium from the food they eat such as vegetation, however, this will generally be in a much smaller dosage then they would get in captivity through supplementation.
How do Bearded Dragons get vitamin D3 in the wild? In the wild, a Bearded Dragon would readily absorb D3 from the suns powerful rays. The sun is generally much more powerful and gives off better quality UVB than the lighting in a Bearded Dragons tank with the exception of the mercury vapour bulb.
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