As a bearded dragon owner, it’s vital to understand how often you need to feed your bearded dragon.
Underfeeding a baby or juvenile can lead to stunted growth and also cause health issues into adulthood if they aren’t getting fed correctly.
In this post, we will cover how often to feed a bearded dragon of all ages as well as looking at what can cause your bearded dragon to eat more or less than expected.
So, how often should you feed your bearded dragon? Here’s how often to feed your bearded dragon:
How Often to Feed a Bearded Dragon
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Read On to Find Out…
How Often to Feed a Bearded Dragon? (Full Guide)
Meeting the nutritional needs of your pets is vital to ensuring they remain healthy and thriving.
It can be difficult to know what exactly those nutritional needs are, particularly as they grow and develop. You can potentially cause serious harm to your bearded dragon by underfeeding, overfeeding or a poor diet composition.
The nutritional needs of a bearded dragon change over different life stages and also seasonally.
We will outline all of this information so that you can provide the best care for your bearded dragon and also answer some common questions and concerns about your bearded dragons feeding habits.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they are not picky eaters! They will eat a variety of insects using their strong jaws to crush through shells and exoskeletons.
They will also consume various plant matter such as leaves, flowers, buds and fruit. They are known on occasion to even eat small rodents or lizards! They are opportunistic feeders.
Your bearded dragon’s diet should consist of insects and fresh vegetables. Small amounts of fruit are okay also but they are high in sugars so this should make up a small amount of their diet. Great for treats or training motivation purposes.
Now let’s look at how often you should feed your bearded dragon depending on their age…
How Often to Feed a Baby Bearded Dragon – 0-6 Months
If you incubate and hatch bearded dragons you will have up to 20 or so from a clutch of eggs. These little guys will be hungry constantly and need a lot of attention and feeding.
Baby bearded dragons have a high metabolism and will digest food and absorb nutrients very quickly so they will need to be offered food often.
Hatchlings should be offered crickets constantly. Crickets should not be left in the tank in large numbers and unsupervised as they can potentially bite.
Offer food as much as you can throughout the day, but at least 5 times a day for 10 minutes at a time.
Let them eat as much as they want, they are growing rapidly and need the sustenance!
As they get older you can reduce the feedings. From 3 months to 6 months you can reduce feedings to 4x a day.
80% of baby bearded dragons’ diet should be protein from insects and 20% vegetables from the feeding of greens. With babies, offer greens constantly, chopped up very finely.
How Often to Feed a Juvenile Bearded Dragon – 6-18 Months
Juveniles are still in a stage of rapid growth so they require more protein than adult beardies.
You should still offer the same diet composition of 80% insects and 20% vegetable matter.
From 6-12 months of age bearded dragons should be offered live food 3x per day with constant access to greens.
You can then reduce feeding to 2x per day from 12-18 months of age, while still offering high-quality greens.
How Often to Feed an Adult Bearded Dragon 18+ months
Your adult bearded dragon will reach its full size at 18 months old. Their diet will change at this stage of life as they no longer need to eat to promote growth but to sustain themselves.
From 18 months onwards you only need to feed your bearded dragon 1 time per day.
At this point, their diet composition will change to be the opposite of that of juveniles. They require 20% protein from insects and 80% vegetable matter.
They should be offered live food just once a day and have fresh greens in the enclosure at all times to graze on as they please.
Keep the greens on the cold end of the tank and away from any light or heat source so as not to dry out the food and reduce its nutritional content.
Take note of when your bearded dragon eats the most and offer new fresh greens at this time of the day as they will be at their most nutritious and palatable.
A variety of insects and vegetables is ideal. Use a weekly feeding chart to monitor what they are being fed to ensure they receive a wide range of foods.
When preparing fruit and vegetables they must be cut up into a suitable size before feeding.
Pieces should not be bigger than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes. This same rule applies to the feeding of live insects.
If food is larger than this distance there is a high risk of the food becoming impacted in the digestive system and causing serious issues.
Feeding vegetables and fruit thawed from frozen is fine but greens should always be given fresh as freezing greens will greatly reduce their nutritional content.
Insects should be coated in a specialized reptile calcium powder before feeding. Calcium is vital for most physiological functions, but the most prevalent is bone development.
We have recently written an article that covers how important calcium supplements are to bearded dragons here…
The calcium supplement we recommend is Rep-Cal as it’s both high quality and an all-round great calcium supplement.
You can check out Rep-Cal directly over at amazon 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 2021-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
There is a wide range of insects and vegetables/fruits bearded dragons can eat. Some of the most nutritionally valuable are listed below.
- Dubia roaches – high in protein and easily digestible
- Earthworms (rinse of the soil they come in)
- Superworms (these have a hard exoskeleton – feed in moderation to avoid digestion issues)
- Ants and beetles
- Collard greens
- Anything dark, green and leafy! (avoid chard and spinach as they can affect calcium absorption
What Can Cause a Bearded Dragon to Eat More Often Than The Average?
Adult bearded dragons will stop eating when they are full are will rarely overindulge.
It’s best to pay more attention to the quality of food they are consuming rather than the quantity, but you may find that your bearded dragon is eating more than normal. There is likely a valid reason for this.
Some reasons commonly offered up include poor quality food and parasites will cause a bearded dragon to eat more as they are looking for more nutrients.
This is not necessarily true. A bearded dragon will eat till it’s full, but if the food quality is poor or parasites restrict nutritional absorption you may see a bearded dragon with a poor body condition even though the food intake is normal.
You are unlikely to see them compensate by eating more as their digestive system is sending the signal they are full and they do not need to consume anymore.
An increase in a bearded dragons appetite will usually stem from biological reasons and changes as outlined below:
- Seasonal changes
- Diet change
- Sexual stimulation
We have also written uneasy to follow guide that goes more in-depth and shares the 10 reasons why your bearded dragon is always hungry…
Let’s now take a closer look at the common reasons why beardie might want to eat more often than usual…
Bearded dragons will be more active when they are in ideal temperatures. In the wild, this will happen seasonally as the differences will be dramatic.
In a captive setting, you should still provide them with seasonal changes to biologically stimulate them, but these changes may be more subtle.
Bearded dragons take cues from their environments and when temperatures rise and days lengthen they will become more active and search for more food as they will have the ability to digest it with the right temperatures.
These environmental cues also signal food availability in the wild and will align with the fruiting and flowering of plants and active periods of insects.
If your enclosure is going through seasonal changes, you will find your bearded dragons appetite will change with the seasons. At the peak you may find them eating a lot, preparing them for potential breeding and the onset of winter.
Change In Diet
If you have recently changed your bearded dragon’s diet or introduced a new food. Your bearded dragon may find that the change is very welcome and enjoyed.
Just like people, beardies have favourite foods they just seem to love! If you are finding your bearded dragon eating more than normal you may have discovered a favourite food, in which case the enjoyment of the food may override the part of the brain that is telling your bearded dragon they are full! (we’ve all been there).
In this case, you need to monitor that the animal is not preferentially feeding as it will fill itself up on particular foods and leave the less favoured foods.
This may result in a lack of uptake of nutrients. If so you may need to reserve some foods for treats only as not to have an issue.
In addition to food availability, certain seasonal changes also signal to your bearded dragon that it is breeding season.
Reptiles are careful with how they use their energy sources and because breeding behaviours take up an awful lot of energy bearded dragons will increase their intake leading up to this time to make sure they have enough energy and stamina!
This may be stimulated by seasonal changes but can also be a result of social dynamics. If you have multiple bearded dragons in the same enclosure, or near each other, they can result in sexual stimulation and an increase in appetite.
If you have a female bearded dragon that is housed with or was recently housed with a male and she is having a significantly higher appetite you may find she is gravid.
The energy demands of developing eggs are huge and she will need to consume a lot more food to keep up with this.
You can confirm a bearded dragon is gravid with an x-ray at the vets.
You can find out exactly how often bearded dragons will lay eggs in our complete guide…(the numbers might surprise you)
What Can Cause a Bearded Dragon to Eat Less Often Than The Average?
As well as eating more often than expected, bearded dragons can also eat less often than expected.
The reasons for this can range greatly so it’s helpful to understand why your bearded dragon is eating less than usual.
So, what can cause a bearded dragon to eat less than usual? The common reasons why your bearded dragon is eating less than usual are:
- Low temperatures
- Diet change
For a more in-depth guide check this article: The 11 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Isn’t Eating
Let’s now take a closer look at the common reasons why your bearded dragon might be eating less often than usual…
A low appetite is included on the list of symptoms on pretty much all illnesses and alignments. When an animal is sick, the body is under stress and consuming food is not a priority.
Reptiles are masters of disguise when it comes to signs of illness. As prey species, they will try to hide and illnesses and weaknesses as not to make themselves a target.
If you are noticing your bearded dragon is not eating, they are already quite ill so at which point they require vet attention to identify the issue.
Impaction is when a hard mass is blocking the digestive system. It can be caused by the ingestion of foreign matter or food that is too large to pass through.
If a bearded dragon is impacted it can cause a lot of discomfort or pain and will result in a lack of food consumption.
Low Temperatures – Light Out
Ectotherms rely on external heat to thermoregulate and manage their biological processes.
If the temperature is too low for your bearded dragon they may not have the energy or drive to find food sources and consume them.
If your bearded dragon is not eating much, check that a bulb has not blown in the enclosure. Monitor temperatures daily with thermometers and temperature guns to get onto this issue early if it arises.
We recommend using a digital handheld thermometer to independently check the temperature in different areas of the enclosure.
The digital thermometer we recommend is the ’ZooMed Digital Handheld Thermometer
You can check it out directly over at Amazon Below…
- Great for Monitoring Basking Areas, Thermal Gradients, Incubation, and Hibernation Temperatures.
- Temperature measurement Range -28° to 230°F (-33° to 110°C)
Last update on 2021-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Many things can cause your bearded dragon to feel stressed. It may be due to external factors outside of the tank including tank placement, noise or activity.
You have recently changed the habitat and moved furniture around and it doesn’t like it.
If you have multiple bearded dragons, monitor their interactions. There may be some stress caused by social interactions.
When an animal is under stress the brain sends signals to the body to prepare to react to the stress for their survival.
Food consumption and digestion go down the list of priorities so you may find your bearded dragon eating less in these circumstances.
If you have recently changed the diet or offered a new food and your bearded dragon is eating less, quite simply your bearded dragon may not like the food!
Adjusting to a new diet takes time and reptiles can be stubborn, keep persisting with new foods and you may find eventually they will give in.
If the season is changing and the weather is cooling down, your bearded dragon may have a reduction in activity including eating.
If temperatures drop low enough they may even enter brumation where they will not eat for a long period.
When identifying why your bearded dragon’s appetite changes there is a lot of different factors to consider, keep great records of everything and you will be able to identify patterns and get a big picture of what is going on.
If you are unsure about how brumation works or want to know how you can help your beardie before, during and after brumation then we highly recommend you head over to our ultimate brumation guide.
Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Bearded Dragon Brumation
What Happens If You Under Feed a Bearded Dragon?
If you do not provide your bearded dragon with enough food you can cause a range of issues.
Babies and juveniles that do not get enough to eat can have serious developmental issues.
They may have stunted growth and never reach a full size, which can cause internal issues and deformations which may result in ongoing illnesses.
Not enough food and nutrients can cause a poor immune system. A bearded dragon with a bad immune system will not be able to fight off bugs and sickness and will get sick often, causing suffering and costly vet bills.
Poor immune systems and a lack of reserve weight will mean a lack of resilience in times of unavoidable stress.
Here’s a detailed post that covers all you need to know about stress in bearded dragons…
You are likely to have issues with seasonal changes and brumation in underfed bearded dragons. They will struggle more with diet changes, habitat change and movements than well-nourished beardies.
Underfed animals will also have a visually low body condition, they may appear skinny, sunken, dehydrated and discoloured.
Can You Overfeed a Bearded Dragon?
As mentioned above, bearded dragons can have favourite foods that may overindulge. If you feed them too much of particular foods they may eat far too much and can become overweight.
Obesity can be a severe issue and cause serious problems if not taken seriously.
This is most likely to occur if you only feed the foods your bearded dragon likes the most, such as insects and do not offer enough veggies.
Overfeeding them particularly insects such as super worms that have high chitin exoskeletons can also cause an issue by becoming impacted in the digestive system.
Overfeeding doesn’t just look like too much food altogether, it is also an issue when it is too much on a particular food that may cause an issue.
Particularly insects such as super worms that have high chitin exoskeletons can also cause an issue by becoming impacted in the digestive system.
What might be an acceptable meal in summer may be considered overfeeding in cooler temperatures.
Tread carefully when feeding a bearded dragon while its enclosure is cool, whether it is night time or wintertime. The cool temperatures will slow their body functions down and digestion will be limited.
If they are overfed at this time, the food may rot inside their gut due to the lack of heat energy to digest it.
How Long Can Bearded Dragons Go Without Food?
The length of time that a bearded dragon can go without food varies. At the extreme, an adult bearded dragon in good condition may go up to 2 months without food. This is by no means encouraged in captivity, they should be fed daily.
Mature bearded dragons can go longer without food if they are in better condition and have fat reserves to sustain themselves on.
An underfed and malnourished bearded dragon will suffer a lot more going for any period without food
Bearded dragons who are brumating usually go weeks to months without eating as their body is gone into an energy-saving mode under cold temperatures.
Young bearded dragons who are growing should not stop eating as it can cause development issues very quickly.
When identifying why your bearded dragon’s appetite changes there are a lot of different factors to consider, keeping great records of everything will mean you can identify patterns and get a big picture of what is going on and how to best manage it.
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