While bearded dragons are fairly easy to keep fed, at least compared to some other kinds of pet reptiles, they do require certain types of foods and do best with regular feedings.
Raising a dragon from babyhood, especially, takes a regular bearded dragon feeding schedule that is adjusted gradually in both number of feedings and types of foods offered as the dragon grows and ages.
While it may seem a bit complicated at first, especially to somebody for whom a bearded dragon is his first reptile pet, it really isn’t. You’ll get the hang of it before you know it, especially since changes will be gradual. We’ll go over the complete feeding schedule from baby to adult.
Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
Baby beardies – Should be fed four to five times a day. When you think about it, it makes sense, as babies can’t eat as much at one sitting as an adult, and so need smaller, more frequent meals just like any baby. Remember that until your beardie gets toward the end of his juvenile stage his diet will need to consist of 75 to 80 percent live food and the rest being plant food.
During his later juvenile stage, you can start gradually changing this until the ratio is just the opposite, with 75 to 80 percent being plant-based foods. Fortunately, many dragons will gradually make this change themselves, but you will need to adjust their diet to encourage this.
The different age differences or divisions are different according to different sources. Some list the baby stage as ending at three months of age, while others extend this age to seven months. For our purposes, we’ll consider the baby stage as ending at around three months of age. At this age, he’ll be up to eleven inches long (including the tail). At two months, he’ll probably enter a growth spurt, so you’ll see how important his feedings are.
The juvenile stage – Will last until he’s around 12 to 18 months old. Some authorities split this period into two stages, juvenile and sub-adult. Babies need to eat four or five times a day. Juveniles aged three months to a year can reduce this to three feedings a day. At this stage, you can gradually change his food ratio to 50-50 live food to plant food.
Adults – Usually eat once or twice per day, and this will be 75 to 80 percent plant-based foods.
Bearded dragons need a lot of calcium in their diets. Any live food offered to him should either be gut loaded by feeding the chosen insect’s calcium-rich foods the day before they are offered to your dragon, or they should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3 supplement powder before they are put into the enclosure. Check out my article Should I Be Giving My Bearded Dragon Vitamins? for more information on vitamin’s and supplements.
Do this once per day. Your reptile or exotic pet veterinarian can give you advice on this. Using tweezers to put the insects in the enclosure will keep the powder from coming off on your hands. Also, remember that any insects should not be longer than the space between your dragon’s eyes to prevent the possibility of choking.
How Much Do You Feed a Bearded Dragon a Day?
While there is some argument about this, most sources recommend allowing your beardie to eat as many insects as he wants during a five to ten-minute feeding period. This can be extended to 15 minutes for adults. The following are just samples to give you an idea of the kind and frequency of feedings necessary.
Of course, you can adjust it to your liking and the availability of different kinds of live foods in your area. It is important to establish a routine, especially for babies. Dragons like to know when to expect feeding periods.
While there is no consensus on how many crickets or other live food to put on your bearded dragon feeding schedule, here’s an average. Babies usually can eat up to 50 crickets or similar live food per day. Of course, these insects will be very small, thus the large number. Adult beardies usually eat around 10 crickets per day.
This will vary a bit according to the types of insects you feed him. Do remove any food remaining after his feeding period. Vegetables and greens will just wilt and may eventually form mold and bacteria.
It’s important to chop up your greens and vegetables into small pieces, especially for babies. Of course, you should always wash any vegetables and greens you give your dragon. Mix it up to keep your beardie from just picking out certain things.
Also, don’t just give him the same mixture every time. Variety will keep him interested. Like any other creature, he can get tired of the same old thing. Feed him his plant foods in a shallow dish on the cool side of the enclosure so that the food doesn’t wilt so quickly. Check out my article What to Feed a Bearded Dragon [The Complete Guide] for a complete list of foods you can feed your bearded dragon.
Sample Baby Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
Monday, Wednesday, Friday – At 7 a.m., offer your baby 20-30 small or pinhead crickets. At this feeding, his water bowl should be cleaned and refilled with dechlorinated water and should be checked at each feeding thereafter. Also, any feces and uneaten food should be removed. At noon, offer five to ten small Dubia roaches.
At 3 p.m., feed him 10-15 crickets. At 6 p.m., give him half a cup of chopped, mixed vegetables and greens. Once he eats this, give him a couple of wax worms, small hornworms, or butter worms for a treat.
Some owners prefer to offer the vegetable mix to the baby first thing in the morning. This is when he’ll be the hungriest and least fussy. While plant foods are a small part of the baby’s diet, they are important, and it pays to get him used to eating them at an early age.
If he doesn’t care for the greens, you might need to experiment to see what he’ll like. Putting in a few small chunks of fruit will encourage him as well, but don’t do this too often.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – Start with 10-15 small Dubia roaches at 7 a.m., 3-4 hornworms at noon, and 15-20 tiny crickets at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., repeat the vegetable and greens mixture followed by a couple of worms. Be sure to change up the ingredients in the mixture regularly to give him a variety.
Sunday – You can copy one of the above days or just mix it up. Do sprinkle multivitamin supplement instead of calcium over one meal, even if you gut load your insects.
Sample Juvenile Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
Monday, Wednesday, Friday – At 7 a.m., offer your juvenile half a cup of chopped vegetables and greens. At noon, offer him five to ten small Dubia roaches or three or four hornworms. At 6 p.m., give him ¼ cup of plant foods, then a couple of the above-listed worms.
Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – Start with 10-15 small Dubia roaches at 7 a.m., then five to ten crickets and 3-4 hornworms at noon. At 6 p.m., give him � cup of a vegetable and greens mixture followed by a couple of worms.
Sunday – Another day of your choice.
Sample Adult Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
An adult will eat up to a cup of plant foods in one sitting. You can offer him a few insects afterward, such as Dubia roaches, crickets or worms. You can also split this up, offering the green foods in the morning and the insects later in the day, whatever works best for you and your beardie. If your interested in breeding your own crickets read my article How to Breed Crickets for Bearded Dragons.
How Many Meals Should a Bearded Dragon Eat Daily?
Babies should eat four to five times a day. Juveniles usually graduate to three times per day, but they eat more at each meal than they did as babies. Adults usually eat once or twice a day. Some authorities suggest feeding adults every other day, but you can ask your veterinarian or rely on your own judgment. If yours wants to eat every day, by all means feed him every day.
How Much Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon by Age?
Babies can eat up to 50 tiny or pinhead crickets or other insects per day. They usually can eat around a half cup of plant foods per day. Juveniles can eat larger insects, and so may not eat as many, although they are important.
He’ll eat 25 to 50 insects per day. By this age, he can be gradually switched to a 50-50 ratio of insects to plant foods. By adulthood, he’ll be eating around 10 insects per day. Of course, this is just an average, and the number can change with the size and kinds of insects he eats.
Can You Overfeed a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons are not prone to eat too much. They eat as much as they need at the time and then quit. Your dragon won’t get fat from eating too much, but more likely from the kinds of foods he’s offered. Too much fruit or too many fatty worms will cause him to put on too much weight, not how much he eats.
That being said, it is important to have regular, limited feeding periods and not just leave a bunch of food in his enclosure. He’ll need to be supervised while eating just in case he has trouble with any one tidbit. Babies, especially, have to be limited as they may overeat a bit with the excitement of catching insects and the fact that they don’t know any better.
A five to ten-minute feeding period should be enough. You can extend this time to 15 minutes for adults. He’ll be eating greens and vegetables mostly by this age, and it will take a little longer to fill him up on greens than insects.
Do Bearded Dragons Eat Every Day?
Babies and juveniles absolutely need to eat every day, and more than once. They are growing quickly, sometimes at a surprisingly fast rate, and need food to develop properly. As far as adult dragons, some sources advocate feeding them once every other day.
Most, however, state that once per day is needed. That being said, they can go without eating for a day in case of some unforeseen circumstance prevents his being fed.
How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go Without Eating?
Bearded dragons can go without food for up to two months when brumating. This is a form of winter hibernation, during which the digestive system shuts down and he will be in a sort of deep sleep. Even his heart rate will slow. This is inbred in most dragons to help them live through cooler months.
While bearded dragons are more likely to brumate than other types of reptile pets, they don’t all do it. Yours may do this at odd times during the year, or not every year, or he may not do it at all. While brumating, a dragon will wake up to drink water, then go back to sleep.
When your dragon shows signs of an impending brumation period, it’s important to keep an eye on him. Unfortunately, many of the signs can also be symptoms of a health problem. Some owners make the mistake of thinking that their pet has stopped eating because of brumation when in fact he’s got an impaction or other problem.
If you have any doubts, contact your vet. Try to make sure he has a bowel movement before he goes into full brumation by massaging his belly if necessary. Otherwise, any food left in his stomach may actually rot.
When brumation is approaching, your dragon may seem listless, sleep more, not eat as much, and not defecate as much. He also might not be interested in being friendly or being handled. He also may hide more or burrow if his enclosure allows.
While your beardie is brumating, you can turn off his basking and UVB lights. He needs a daytime temperature of only 68 degrees and around 60 degrees at night. Make sure he has clean water available at all times. A hiding place will make him happy. Once he’s in brumation, just leave him alone.
Once he really starts to wake up, start up the lights and heating gradually back to normal. Offer a little food gradually, but don’t panic if he doesn’t eat right away. Greens or vegetables are best in this state.
How Do I Know When My Bearded Dragon is Full?
Adult bearded dragons will usually stop eating once they get full. However, it’s best not to depend on this and to limit his feeding to a certain length of time. Babies and young juveniles, especially, can get overenthusiastic about catching and eating prey insects and overeat. This can cause constipation and other problems.
Once you get into a feeding routine with your beardie, it’ll just become natural to both of you. You’ll have more time to concentrate on having fun with him rather than being worried about feeding him. Just sit back and enjoy watching him catch his insects or chowing down on his greens.