It’s not just enough to own a bearded dragon, as you would need to take responsibility for the health and nutrition of your new pet.
The nutrition of your pet beardie plays a role in its long term health, and so you must feed it with food that contains good amounts of protein, calcium, and other minerals.
Juveniles especially require a high source of protein, and the insects they should be fed are those that meet up their nutritional requirements, that’s why we have this article to take you through the best live food for bearded dragons.
Important Nutrients in Live Food for Bearded Dragon
Your bearded dragon requires different types of foods for its overall growth and wellbeing.
Two major components in a healthy diet for a bearded dragon are calcium and protein.
Live food is generally low in calcium content, although some have a higher percentage of calcium than others.
Calcium is important because it supports healthy bone formation and structure, so you would have to feed calcium supplements to your pet beardie.
Calcium supplements usually contain vitamin D3, which is essential for your bearded dragon to absorb calcium from food, aid in the growth of new cells, and also moderate neuromuscular functions.
So in essence, vitamin D3 helps your beardie maintain adequate calcium levels.
Bearded dragons have two sources of getting protein; from plants and animals. Each type of protein is different.
Animal protein includes those from feeder insects like crickets, hornworms, and mealworms amongst others.
It’s considered a complete protein because it contains all the 20 essential amino acids that your bearded dragon needs.
They aren’t produced naturally by your pet, and so you need to feed it to them.
Unlike animal protein, plant protein is incomplete as it doesn’t contain all of the necessary amino acids your pet needs.
Plant proteins are gotten from plant sources of food for your pet and both types of proteins are important for the healthy growth of your pet.
Best Live Insects to Feed Your Bearded Dragon
Staple Live Food
Staple live food is to be fed to your bearded dragon regularly.
For adults, they only need to be fed with live food once or twice a week as they do not need many proteins anymore.
While juveniles need to be fed live food daily.
Examples of staple live food are:
Dubia Roaches are rich in protein and moisture, making them one of the best live foods for your bearded dragon.
They have little fat content too but this isn’t a problem.
With a moderate exoskeleton, the fear of impaction is dealt with and so your pet can feed on them and have no excretory issues.
They are quieter and do not smell as bad, so you can have more than enough for a sitting at home.
You can easily contain them as they can neither fly nor climb.
They are also good for adding calcium powder due to their slow movement as compared to crickets.
Silkworms are rich in protein, calcium, and moisture so they keep your pet hydrated and healthy.
They are however small so your beardie would need to eat a good quantity to be satisfied.
They have soft bodies and it makes them suitable for juveniles as well as adults.
When it comes to nutritional value, crickets make an excellent staple food for your bearded dragon.
Keeping isn’t with a price however as they can be very noisy, a bit smelly, and can escape easily.
Their escape can be a nightmare as they would keep chirping from their hiding places.
Crickets are a great source of protein, calcium, and moisture too.
They are easily gut loaded and so feeding them to your bearded dragons would help provide the leafy greens and calcium supplements you want to be included in their diet.
Locusts are larger than crickets and are quieter too, so they can replace crickets if you can’t deal with the noise.
Bearded dragons love them and they provide a good amount of protein and moisture for your pet.
Due to their size, they may not be the best for juveniles and baby bearded dragons.
Their exoskeleton is also hard in some places, so there is a risk of impaction.
Only feed locusts to your beardie at the right temperature.
Bearded dragons digest food properly and easily when the temperature is right, and as eating locusts can cause impaction, let them feed when they can easily digest to reduce the risk.
Phoenix Worms/ Calci Worms/ Black Soldier Fly Larvae
These types of live food are a good choice to feed your bearded dragon as they are a good source of protein and calcium, and are also easy to keep.
They are however small in size and your pet would need a good amount to be satisfied, making this an expensive choice.
Their small size makes them great for babies and juvenile bearded dragons though.
Occasional Live Food
Horned worms are very nutritious for your bearded dragons, so feeding them to your pet beardie would make a great meal.
They are however high in fat and moisture, and so are to be fed to your beardie only occasionally as a treat.
Mealworms are of good nutritional value, but they are also high in chitin and have a hard exoskeleton.
Due to this, your beardie might have a hard time digesting it leading to impaction. So only feed this food occasionally.
Butterworms are appealing to bearded dragons as they have vibrant colors.
They are high in calcium content as well as fat, and so they are sold only to be fed occasionally to your pet.
Waxworms are squishy as they have no shell, and so bearded dragons love and eat them with no difficulty.
They however have high-fat content and can be addictive, so it’s best to be fed to your pet only occasionally.
These are similar to mealworms and also have a high protein and fat content.
They do have a hard exoskeleton and should be kept away from young bearded dragons.
Live Insects to Avoid Feeding Your Bearded Dragon
Wild insects are a bad choice to feed your bearded dragon as they might have been subjected to conditions that make them dangerous to your pet.
They might have parasites that could harm your pet or may have been sprayed with pesticides which are also harmful chemicals.
It’s safer to buy live food and feed your bearded dragon with these types only as they are safe.
The Best Live Food for Bearded Dragon
1. Dubia Roaches 100 Medium
Dubia roaches are one of the best live food you can give your bearded dragon due to their rich protein content and low fat.
It’s also easy to digest so you don’t have to worry about impaction.
Unlike some other live food, these are very quiet so you can store them without having sleepless nights.
They also don’t smell as bad as other insects so you can keep them at home with no discomfort to you.
If you feed your pet by dumping, then the insects mustn’t run away. Dubia roaches can’t climb and so they can’t escape from the enclosure.
You can choose to breed them yourself as its easy and will be cost-effective in the long run.
- Great source of moisture
- Easily bred
- Cant climb so they can’t escape
- Rich in nutrients
- They are quiet and non-smelly
- Some states don’t allow the keeping of roaches
- You may not be able to stand handling them
Hornworms will provide your pet beardie with all the nutrients it requires from an animal diet and this makes it one of the best staple live foods for your pet.
They are rich in moisture and provide good amounts of protein and calcium too.
They grow very quickly and can reach 4 or 5 inches in length.
If you are considering keeping them, you would be pleased as they would be ready to be fed to your bearded dragon only after some days’ growth.
- Fast growth
- Rich in moisture content
- Nutritious for your pet
- Rich in calcium
- Can cause diarrhea for your pet if overfed with horned worms
3. African Nightcrawlers
African Nightcrawlers have high protein levels as well as calcium, making them great insects to be fed to your bearded dragon.
It’s easy to keep them and so they make feeding your pet easy as you can always have a supply of the worms.
They are however quite big in size and though it’s good for adult beardies, baby bearded dragons would have a hard time eating them.
- Easy to keep
- Rich in calcium and protein
- Good source of hydration for your pet
- Breeds quickly
- They can get a bit too big sometimes
Locusts make a great meal as bearded dragons love them.
They can get quite large and it’s not a problem if you are feeding them to your bearded dragon as they would get satisfied easily.
Feeding them regularly to your pet is a great way to meet up with its protein and moisture requirements.
Note that they are not the best choice for babies and juveniles because of their size and a hard exoskeleton.
Locusts are very prone to escape so you have to contain them.
They also need places to hang from before they can shed.
Shedding helps them grow bigger and so you should try to encourage this process.
A newly shed locust has very soft skin and would be perfect for your pet if it has difficulty digesting its food.
- They are tasty to bearded dragons
- Their large size makes them satisfying to adult bearded dragons
- They are not overly noisy
- Problems of impaction may arise
5. Black Cricket
Crickets make excellent stable food for bearded dragons.
They are a great source of protein and calcium and contain other beneficial nutrients too.
You can gut load them with leafy greens and calcium supplements to ensure its diet is balanced and it gets all that a bearded dragon needs.
As beneficial as they are to your pet’s diet, keeping them can be a nightmare.
They are noisy and a bit smelly so you will experience discomfort with them.
They are also always trying to escape and will require extra caution from you.
- Easily gut-loaded
- Excellent source of protein and calcium
- A tasty meal for bearded dragons
- Great moisture content
- They can be noisy and smelly
How to Feed Live Insects to Your Bearded Dragon
Feeding by hand is easy and also builds trust between you and your pet. They will get closer to you and associate your hand with food.
You can also feed your pet by using tongs to pick the live food and are a good option for you if you want to avoid contact with the insects.
In this method, you just dump the live food and let your bearded dragon move around to get them.
To use this method, make sure the live food isn’t too fast, and ensure the enclosure isn’t too big.
Important Factors to Consider When Feeding Live Food to Your Bearded Dragon
Gut Load Live Food
Gut loading involves filling life food with other nutrients before feeding them to your bearded dragon.
It’s an important aspect of your pet’s diet as you can provide your beardie with both animal nutrients from the live food and plant nutrients that you will feed the live food with.
For gut loading to be effective, feed the live food with the nutrients you want your beardie to benefit from and feed the live food to your pet within 24 hours, as the live insects would have digested the nutrients beyond this time and it won’t be beneficial to your pet anymore.
Be Careful of the Size
The insects you feed to your pet shouldn’t be longer than the width of your pet’s two eyes.
This way your beardie can easily eat and digest the food without any problems.
Vary The Meal from Time to Time
Feed your beardie with different types of insects from time to time, and gut load the live food with different foods too.
This way, your pet would have a more balanced diet and better health.
Things to Look Out for When Buying Live Food for Your Bearded Dragon
Your beardie needs calcium, protein, and also moisture to stay hydrated, while most live foods are low in calcium content, some have good amounts of calcium and also proteins.
So choose those with good nutritional benefits to your beardie.
Live food like crickets can be very noisy, and even though they are nutritious to your pet they can make your life miserable.
Only choose such food if the noise won’t disturb you, or go for an alternative.
Except you can tolerate the smell of insects around you, go for the less smelly ones that also provide your pet with equal nutritional benefit.
Depending on the age of your bearded dragon, they are some insect sizes that may be too big for it.
So only buy insects that are not too big for your pet. Ensure also that the exoskeleton of the live food isn’t too hard for your pet to digest as it can cause impaction.
If the feeding method you wish to employ is to dump the live food in your pet’s enclosure, then choose insects that are not so fast.
This way your beardie can easily catch its food.
Commonly Asked Questions About Live Food for Bearded Dragons
Do You Have to Feed Bearded Dragons Live Food?
Yes, bearded dragons need to be fed with live food.
Live food contains better protein and other nutrients than canned food and so it keeps your pet healthy.
Besides, eating life food mimics your pet’s life in the wild.
How Many Times a Day Should You Feed a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons should be fed at least once a day, depending on their age. Baby beardies need more proteins than veggies, and they can be fed up to three times a day.
Do Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
Bearded dragons can eat mealworms but the chitin in their exoskeletons makes it difficult for baby beardies to digest, leading to impaction.
Only feed mealworms to adult bearded dragons.
Proving your bearded dragon with a balanced diet would have it very healthy, happy, and strong.
Proper knowledge of the best staple and occasional food for your pet would guide you when planning its meal as you will know exactly what each meal does.
Some of the best for your pet include Dubia Roaches, Goliath worms, and phoenix worms.
They hydrate and nourish your pet properly but remember that nothing beats having a little variety in your pet’s feeding.
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