The most common food for bearded dragons are crickets and this often leads to owners having many questions regarding the crickets they are feeding their beardie.
For this reason, we have put together a straightforward and easy-to-follow guide that covers in detail the 23 common questions that owners have regarding feeding their bearded dragon crickets.
We will cover topics such as why your bearded dragon won’t eat crickets, what they can eat instead of crickets, where to source crickets for your bearded dragon, and much more.
You can use the table of contents below to jump to the question you are looking for…
Why Won’t My Bearded Dragon Eat Crickets?
Bearded Dragons with healthy appetites should happily take a cricket being offered. If they are not taking crickets it could be due to introducing a new food, they have been overfed crickets or the crickets are unsuitable in size.
Crickets are popular feeder insects for Bearded Dragons as they offer high levels of protein. In addition, they’re cheap and easy to source, care for, and breed.
Crickets are a natural food source for Bearded Dragons so it can be confusing when your beardie refuses to eat them.
A few causes for this include:
- They’re a new food – new food sources can be scary for any captive animal as they are highly used to a routine. If your beardie has never been fed a cricket before, it may be fearful of crickets or simply does not recognize them as food. Persistence is key – keep offering crickets and they will eventually eat them!
- Unsuitable size – a small Bearded Dragon will usually not try to eat anything it knows is much too large. Make sure you feeder insects a reasonable size. Never feed anything larger than the space between your lizard’s eyes.
- They’re sick of crickets – if you exclusively feed out crickets as your live food then your Bearded Dragon might be over them. They should eat them when they get hungry but may no longer be very stimulated or excited when they see them as they see them so often!
Can A Bearded Dragon Live Without Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can live without crickets. While crickets are a popular source of feeder insects it is not necessary for a healthy Bearded Dragon. There is a wide range of other insects that can be fed to meet their nutritional requirements.
Crickets are like the holy grail of insects for reptiles owners, they are talked about all over blog posts and forums so many owners can think they are vital for a Bearded Dragon. But it’s simply not true.
Crickets are popular because they are cheap and easy to care for, as well as provide a balanced range of nutrients.
There is a range of other insects that can be offered. Make sure you research the nutritional content of insects you feed out so you can balance the offerings of protein and fat.
What Can Bearded Dragons Eat Instead of Crickets?
In the absence of crickets, Bearded Dragons can eat a wide array of different insects. Some of the most common and most popular include dubia roaches and superworms. As long as the diet is varied and balanced and includes 80% vegetable content.
There is a huge range of insects that can be fed to your Bearded Dragon. The best choices are those that are easy for you to source and keep at home!
As long as you meet your beardie’s nutritional requirements then you don’t need to panic about what insects you can or cannot get your hands on.
Insects should make up 80% of a baby beardie’s diet and only 20% of an adult’s diet, with plant matter making up the rest.
Choosing which insects to feed and when to feed them involves knowledge about what each type of insect offers nutritionally.
The main things to consider are the ratios of protein, fat, and fiber. A good balance is key to a healthy beardie.
See the table below for the basic contents of some of the most common feeder insects…
Bearded Dragon Common Feeder Insects
|Soldier fly larvae||17%||11%||6%|
Why Will My Bearded Dragon Only Eat Crickets?
Bearded Dragons that will only eat crickets and nothing else often have never been properly introduced to new foods. A Bearded Dragon may also only eat crickets if it doesn’t like the other alternatives offered.
Many pet stores are not reptile experts and will offer their Bearded Dragons exclusively crickets! If a Bearded Dragon has only been fed one insect all its life then of course it’s going to take some time before it wants to try new things.
Slowly introduce new foods to your Bearded Dragon so that it always has the opportunity to eat a wide range of different insects. Consistently offer new things and one day your beardie may be brave enough to give one a go.
If your Bearded Dragon will not eat its vegetable portion of its diet, then that’s another story as this should be making up a majority of its daily diet. Getting them eating this should be a priority.
Encourage your Bearded Dragon to tuck into his greens with these sneaky tips:
- Put insects in the salad – the oldest and easiest trick in the book! Placing wriggly worms amongst the leafy greens means when your beardie goes for an insect they may get a mouthful of vegetables at the same time.
- Hand-feed – pick up a few pieces of veggies and wiggle them around, the movement may encourage your Bearded Dragon to go for it. You can also pop some greens into their mouth while they munch away on a big bug, they won’t even notice.
- Spray the salad – sprinkling some water on the veggies will create a movement that may stimulate your beardie to drink, while going for water they may take some fruit and veg.
Once your Bearded Dragon gets used to its salad, it will come naturally as this makes up an important part of their natural diet.
As always, the key is persistence. Be more stubborn than a Bearded Dragon! It’s for their own good.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets Every Day?
It is okay for Bearded Dragons to eat crickets every day as they have sufficient protein and are low in fat. A variety of insects is ideal for the live food portion of a Bearded Dragons diet but crickets daily are better than missing out on feeds.
Bearded Dragons should eat live food every day. Babies eat multiple times a day, while adults are fine with a single feed. This is in addition to their daily vegetable portions.
If your Bearded Dragon never eats any other insects except crickets, it’s no big deal. Crickets are a well-balanced insect.
Ensure you are dusting them with reptile vitamins so they don’t miss out on any essential vitamins or minerals.
Reptile powders are important to ensure your beardie gets enough calcium and vitamin D to be able to metabolize properly to be active and healthy.
You should dust with a plain calcium powder 2-3 times a week and dust with a vitamin powder with D3 an additional 2 more times.
The powder we recommend is Rep-Cal. Check out the exact Rep-Cal product we recommend below…
- Rep-Cal Ultrafine Powder Is An Excellent Source Of Calcium For All Reptiles And Amphibians
- Scientifically Formulated From 100-Percent Natural Oyster Shell Phosphorous-Free Calcium Carbonate With Vitamin D3 To Aid In Absorption Of Calcium
Last update on 2022-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Throwing Up Crickets?
Bearded Dragons will throw up when they have a gastrointestinal upset. This can be caused by a wide range of things including eating too much, impaction, poor digestion, parasites, or bad bacteria on ingested food.
Throwing up is an instinctual reaction for many animals, including Bearded Dragons. Vomiting is a result of something upsetting the stomach, which sends a signal to the brain to basically evacuate the digestive system to rid the body of the irritant.
The range of things that can upset your beardies gut and cause it to throw up is pretty wide, where are some of the most common reasons to help you figure out what’s going on.
- Overate – Bearded Dragons are opportunistic feeders, not sure when they will get their next meal in the wild, they can sometimes overeat when offered a lot. If you give your beardie too many crickets in a short period of time he may gorge himself and cause him to throw up.
- Impaction – if there is something impacted in your Bearded Dragon’s gut then anything that goes down won’t be able to pass, if a beardie is still eating when impacted it may then throw the food up.
- Digestive issues – Bearded Dragons rely on heat and UV to be able to metabolize and digest properly. If your Bearded Dragon is throwing up fully formed crickets then you may not have the correct tank conditions to facilitate digestion.
- Parasites – It is natural for most animals to have some parasites living in their gut, but when this parasite burden becomes too high it can cause stomach upset resulting in vomiting and/or loose stools.
- Bacterial growth – bacteria can grow on decomposing food or due to poor hygiene. This bacteria can cause gastro upset in your Beardie. Keep the tank clean by regular servicing and removal of all feces. Make sure all food and water is fresh and remove any uneaten food.
When Can My Bearded Dragon Eat Large Crickets?
The size of crickets you feed to your Bearded Dragon should directly relate to their body size. Anything too large can become impacted in their gut. Large crickets pose a higher risk of impacting so should only be fed to large adults, or better yet only fed at a medium size.
The stages of a cricket’s life are broken up into “instars”. Each shed of the exoskeleton signals an instar and the crickets grow each time. You should be feeding out crickets in an instar size that matches the relative size of your Bearded Dragon.
Food fed out that is too large may not be able to be digested and cause a blockage in the digestive tract called impaction.
Head over to our easy-to-follow guide to find out all you need to know about bearded dragon impaction…
A common rule of thumb across reptiles keepers is to never feed anything that is larger than the space between your lizard’s eyes. While this may not be perfectly scientifically accurate, it gives a great guideline to hobby keepers to give suitable size food.
If in doubt, don’t feed it out! There’s no harm in providing smaller crickets, they just may need to be given more to satisfy them.
The largest of feeder crickets can get to about 2 inches so will be too large for many beardies. Large crickets should only be fed out to large, fully grown Bearded Dragons.
But be aware, the largest and oldest crickets also have denser exoskeletons and even if they are small enough to be consumed they still pose a higher impaction risk.
Crickets are best fed out to adults in a medium size to reduce this risk.
Many keepers like to feed out crickets before they get too large as large crickets are a pain to keep as soon as they get wings they begin to chirp, which can be pretty irritating.
Unless you plan to breed crickets it’s just overall better to feed out crickets before they reach full size.
Can A Cricket Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Crickets can pose a risk to Bearded Dragons by biting them. They can also be a choking or impaction risk. Only in very extreme cases can this be fatal and with good reptile husbandry, you should not need to be concerned about crickets harming your Bearded Dragon.
Crickets tend to be quite aggressive. If your Bearded Dragon eats them straight away they are not at risk of being attacked but crickets left uneaten in an enclosure can bite at your Bearded Dragon and actually cause wounds.
Any wounds are open to being infected and untreated infections can potentially become be fatal. This may be more of a risk to immunocompromised beardies such as elderly, baby or sick Bearded Dragons.
This is easily avoided by removing all uneaten crickets from the enclosure after feeding. Some keepers will move their lizards to special feeding boxes for mealtimes to avoid any crickets getting away and hiding in unreachable places.
Crickets (as well as any food presented) can also be an impaction or choking risk, with may result in death. This is also easily mitigated by any good keeper. Keep food to a suitable size for your Bearded Dragon to reduce this risk.
Recommended Reading: Can You Leave Crickets In Your Bearded Dragon’s Tank? (Answered)
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Dead Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat dead crickets as long as they are still fresh. If the cricket has very recently died or has been preserved by canning, drying, or freezing it is okay to feed. If a cricket has been left dead for a while it can gather bacteria for decomposition that can be harmful.
Bacteria that gather to decompose dead insects do a great job of recycling their bodies but can cause issues if ingested. This bacteria can cause upsets and infections in your Bearded Dragons digestive tract.
If you find a dead cricket in your collection it is best to throw it out as you can’t be sure how long it has been sitting there.
Remove any dead crickets as soon as you can as other crickets may also start consuming their body and carry that bacteria with them.
Live food is ideal to encourage natural hunting behaviors but you can feed out dead crickets that have been safely preserved by canning, drying, or freezing. Each of these has its pros and cons which we will discuss further in this article.
Do Bearded Dragons Need Live Crickets?
Bearded Dragons do not need live food but it is the best for them. Preserved dead insects can also be offered to cover their protein requirements but live food has the best nutritional value and also encourages natural behaviors.
While you can still meet the nutritional requirements of a Bearded Dragon without live food, live food is important for their general welfare as it stimulates a range of natural behaviors.
Some of the pros of live crickets over preserved insects are:
- Improved appetite – Bearded Dragons are highly visual and respond to the movement of live food. The motion of live crickets will send important signals to the brain and encourage a healthy appetite.
- Exercise – captive Bearded Dragons tend to have a much lower level of activity than their wild counterparts and can be more prone to obesity and organ diseases. Live food moves around and your beardie can get some vital exercise at feeding times.
- Natural behaviors – the welfare of captive animals is a very dynamic thing. Providing them with vital provisions and nutrition is absolutely very important but their natural feeding behaviors have a huge influence also. You should aim to support these natural behaviors as much as possible.
- Gut loading – the perks of live food is you can feed them before they are fed out! Whatever they consume immediately before being eaten will be carried over to your beardie so you can control what nutrients your Bearded Dragon gets.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets From Outside?
Bearded Dragons should not eat crickets or any other insects that are found outside. Wild insects consume a range of things that may be dangerous for your Bearded Dragon including poisonous baits or fertilizers. Wild insects also carry more parasites.
It can feel like such a drag to be ordering expensive bugs from bug breeders and pet stores when there’s plenty of insects running around in your garden, right?
It can be tempting to feed insects you find outside to your Bearded Dragon. But you should avoid this at all costs.
Crickets and other insects outside eat all sorts of things to sustain themselves and often their bodies will contain pesticides, fertilizers, and god knows what other unnatural chemicals. These will all be passed into your beardie’s bodies and can be fatal.
It may cause an immediate sickness or may build up over time and increase the risk of cancers and disorders in the long term.
If you want to reduce your insect bill you can always look into breeding your own insects. That way you know exactly what your Bearded Dragon is consuming.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Crickets From A Bait Shop?
Crickets from bait shops should not be fed to Bearded Dragons. These crickets carry more parasites and diseases than reptile crickets and can cause your Bearded Dragon to become sick. Purchase crickets from breeders intended for reptiles or breed your own.
Crickets aren’t just a tasty meal for Bearded Dragons, they are also used commonly for fishing. Crickets are a natural food source for fish that feed on insects falling on the top of the water, so make great baits and lures for fishermen.
Many bait stores will stock crickets for this reason. It can be tempting to purchase these for your Bearded Dragon as they are often cheaper than pet stores, but this is for good reason!
Bait store crickets carry higher levels of parasites and potential diseases than insects specially bred for reptiles.
Your Bearded Dragon will likely be highly sensitive to these issues and may fall ill if it eats too many bait store crickets.
Crickets bred for reptile consumption will be fed higher quality food and have better care to ensure they are healthy and nutritious for pet reptiles.
Head over to our guide that shares our favorite online suppliers for crickets and other insects…
Can You Overfeed A Bearded Dragon Crickets?
Bearded Dragons will mostly self-regulate their feeding so rarely overeat on crickets. There are some exceptions including baby Bearded Dragons or particularly gluttonous individuals. For the most part, you should provide as many as they want to eat.
Bearded Dragons are driven by simple things, they will eat when hungry and stop when they are satisfied.
You should be careful in trying to limit how many crickets you feed out in the case you might underfeed them and cause malnutrition issues.
Baby Bearded Dragons need a heck of a lot of food but may overheat if left to their own devices, so some restrictions are needed here. They need to be fed 5 times a day and left for 5-10 minutes to eat as many crickets as they please.
Adult Bearded Dragons will usually eat as many as they require, this is usually around 10 crickets a day but can differ based on age, size, and size of the crickets. Take note of how many they eat and adjust from there.
Sometimes Bearded Dragons being fed a lot of crickets can get sick of them and become disinterested. You should vary the insects you feed out to keep your beardie stimulated and engaged at feeding time.
Recommended Reading: How Often to Feed a Bearded Dragon (Any Age)
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Banded Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat banded crickets. In fact, banded crickets make a great choice of feeder insect. They are more palatable than some other crickets, have a softer exoskeleton, immune to a common cricket virus, and live longer.
Feeder crickets come in all sorts of different species with varying attributes. Banded crickets are a common choice for reptile owners to feed to their Bearded Dragons.
Banded crickets make great choices for Bearded Dragons because they have relatively soft exoskeletons in comparison to some other species of cricket, meaning they pose a lower risk of impaction and can be digested easier.
Other benefits of banded crickets include:
- They live longer – meaning less wasted insects, saving you money.
- Easier to keep – these wee guys are more resilient to change so are more likely to survive if you’re no expert in keeping bugs.
- Quieter – banded crickets are not as noisy so less irritating to keep in the home.
- Immune to CrPV – Cricket Paralysis Virus is a common cricket disease that can wipe out massive stocks of crickets. While we could not find any evidence of this virus affecting Bearded Dragons who consume infected crickets, this virus will limit cricket availability. Banded crickets are easier to source as they cannot get this virus.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Camel Crickets?
Camel crickets aren’t bred as feeder insects for Bearded Dragons but can be found naturally. They should not be fed out as they can be contaminated by chemicals in the environment such as pesticides.
Camel crickets are found often as a problem pest in and around the home. They are invasive in some areas.
While if bred in captivity a camel cricket may be safe to eat, this species is not bred as feeder insects so there are no safe sources to feed out.
There are plenty of other cricket species that are bred safely especially to feed insects.
If you bring these into the home with the purpose of breeding them as feeder insects you may run the risk of creating a pest issue in your home and surrounding area. Best to avoid them.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Canned Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat canned crickets. They have a lower nutritional value than live crickets so should not be used as a replacement for live feeders but are helpful to keep as a protein source for emergencies.
Canned crickets are perfectly safe to feed to your Bearded Dragon but should not be a replacement for live crickets. Live crickets provide the best nutritional range, are easiest to digest, and stimulate natural hunting behaviors.
Canned crickets are handy to keep in the event you are unable to get and live food for whatever reason. It pays to have an alternative source of protein so your Bearded Dragon won’t be lacking in vital nutrients.
Your beardie may not be as keen on canned crickets as it may be with live food but you can hand feed these crickets to make them appear alive or invest in a moving feed bowl that keeps food moving to attract your Bearded Dragon to “hunt” dead food.
Canned crickets are convenient, long-lasted, and have a strong smell to attract your Bearded Dragon.
Be aware they are prone to spoilage once the can is open and they do little to stimulate a Bearded Dragon.
Here are the caned crickets we recommend for your bearded dragon…
- 4 Pack Of Zoo Med Laboratories Can O Crickets Pet Food, 1.2 Ounces Per Can
- Perfect for reptiles, birds, and amphibians, it makes feeding easy.
Last update on 2022-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Dried Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat dried crickets. Dried crickets offer little nutritional value so should be used as a convenient treat or temporary backup food source and not the main part of a Bearded Dragons diet.
A majority of the nutritional goodness a cricket contains is embedding the “juicy” parts of the cricket. When a cricket is dried a lot of these nutrients are evaporated with moisture.
Dried crickets can also contribute to dehydration as most of the moisture beardies get is from their diet.
On the other hand, many Bearded Dragons love dried crickets, they are tasty little treats for them. Dried crickets have their uses as treats, training rewards, or and lures to get them to eat their salad better.
If fed in large quantities or in place of live feeds then dried crickets can cause some issues. They can result in dehydration, malnutrition, and damage to teeth and jaws (due to their extra crunchy texture).
Reserve dried crickets for treats only.
Here are the dried crickets we recommend for your bearded dragon…
- Great alternative to live insects
- Great for reptiles, Tropical fish, birds, hedgehogs and sugar gliders
Last update on 2022-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cricket Food?
Bearded Dragons should stick to their own natural diet and not be fed specialized cricket food. Eating some cricket food won’t harm them as they inadvertently get cricket food when they eat crickets.
Crickets don’t instantly absorb the food they are given, so many reptile keepers will gut-load their crickets by feeding them nutritional food up to half an hour before feeding them to their Bearded Dragons. This is a great way to add get extra nutrients to your beardie.
Gut loading can be done with fresh vegetables which are often part of your Bearded Dragons diet anyway but there are also many specially designed cricket foods available on the reptile markets.
These are highly concentrated sources of vitamins and nutrients and shouldn’t be directly fed to a Bearded Dragon to avoid any vitamin overdose.
Crickets will eat small, diluted amounts and pass the benefits on to your beardie. If your Bearded Dragon directly consumes the food then it will eat a lot more and get way too much of these vitamins and minerals.
These insect foods usually come in powder form and then are mixed with water to create a gel-like substance for the insects to feed on.
Both the powdered and gel forms are unsuitable consistencies to be fed to a Bearded Dragon anyway and can cause build-up inside the mouth.
Cricket food is best left to the crickets! If your Bearded Dragon manages to eat a small amount on accident don’t panic, they should be fine.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Frozen Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat crickets that have been frozen fresh. Snap freezing food retains the nutritional value of the food so it will still be beneficial. Only feed them out once they have thawed as frozen food can interfere with a Bearded Dragons thermoregulation.
Crickets are always best fed out to Bearded Dragons alive and kicking as this provides the best exhibition of natural behaviors for a beardie to promote positive welfare.
But sometimes you may have way too many crickets that are going to get too big before your beardie can eat them all. Freezing them is a good way to reduce this wastage. If they are snap frozen they still retain all their nutritional value.
Freezing is also a humane way to kill crickets as they will pass away quickly and painlessly.
It’s very important that when you feed these previously frozen crickets out that they are completely thawed before feeding. Feeding anything frozen can decrease the internal temperature of your Bearded Dragon and meddle with their natural thermoregulation processes.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cricket Larvae?
Crickets do not have a larval stage in their life cycle. Crickets grow in instars and hatch morphologically the same as an adult, just smaller! Bearded Dragons can eat crickets at any stage of their life as long as they are a suitable size.
Crickets have a different life cycle than many of the common insects we know and love to hate. Crickets do not complete metamorphosis from larvae to adult, instead, they go through incomplete metamorphosis and do not have larvae or pupal stage.
Crickets have 3 main life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. They grow in stages called instars and each instar is defined by a shedding of the exoskeleton and is a growth period.
Bearded Dragons can eat them at any stage after they hatch. As long as you only feed crickets that are a suitable size. Remember the golden rule! Do not feed anything larger than the space between your lizard’s eyes.
Anything too big can risk impaction.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mole Crickets?
Bearded Dragons can eat mole crickets. Mole crickets have been found naturally in Australia so may well be eaten by wild Bearded Dragons. Do not feed any mole crickets found outside as they may be contaminated by pesticides.
Mole crickets are another species of cricket that is technically fine for a Bearded Dragon to eat but is not commonly bred as a feeder insect.
If you can find someone who safely is breeding mole crickets then sure by all means they can be fed out.
But if you find a mole cricket in your backyard then no, do not feed them out. Mole crickets are underground burrowers that are likely to be exposed to all sorts of chemicals in the ground including pesticides and fertilizers.
Due to their underground habitat, breeding them at home may be a challenge.
Can Bearded Dragons Smell Crickets?
Bearded Dragons have a reasonably advanced sense of smell and utilize chemoreception for smelling things. Crickets are smelly insects so Bearded Dragons can smell them and track them down if they are nearby.
Crickets have a reputation for being stinky insects to keep in the home. If they smell strong enough for us to have a response to them, then Bearded Dragons can definitely smell them.
Bearded Dragons mostly rely on their excellent vision for behaviors but use their sense of smell also. They have a well-developed Jacobsen’s organ which assists in using chemicals in the air for smelling – this process is called chemoreception.
They can stick their tounges out to pick up on chemicals in the air and process them as smells. In a way, they can taste smells, which sounds odd but is a common trait of animals with an excellent sense of smell.
Your Bearded Dragon is likely to use its sight to follow crickets but may also have a response to the smell of them.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Wave At Crickets?
Bearded Dragon waving behavior is a sign of submission. If your Bearded Dragon waves at crickets then it is trying to submit to them. This may be due to being overwhelmed or scared or simply trying to communicate.
Waving is a unique communication behavior of Bearded Dragons and unfortunately, crickets don’t speak Bearded Dragon. But this is the only way your beardie knows how to communicate so you may see it waving to other species, including insects intended for dinner.
Some people think that waving at crickets is a Bearded Dragons way of tricking the cricket into thinking they mean no harm so they can eat them easier, but it’s unlikely they have this level of thought to be so sneaky.
In reality, your Bearded Dragon waving is likely due to them being mildly scared or stressed by the cricket.
Your Bearded Dragon may not like the way the cricket has been presented or the size of it is intimidating them.
Your beardie will likely be brave and overcome its mild discomfort and eat the cricket. If not, simply remove it.
Check out our new article that covers all the reasons why bearded dragons wave…
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